Review/Zeal and Ardor/Devil is fine

Zeal and Ardor takes bastard metal to a whole new level on “Devil is fine”; mixing bluesy spiritual chants with lo-fi black metal, samples and just a little bit of Beck and The White Stripes on top. If you think that sounds crazy, you’re absolutely right. This is crazy, crazy good.. And quite possibly unlike anything you’ve heard before.

This is the second full-length release from the one-man project by Manuel Gagneux from New York; having only released the self-titled “Zeal and Ardor” prior to this back in 2014. Having listened to the debut, it seems that Manuel has turned to the dark(er) side both music and lyric-wise since then.

In the time being, between the debut and the follow-up, Manuel has tied down some of the loose ends I found to be on the first album. Every idea seems much more integrated this time around, and he sees to have a greater idea about what the final output should be concept-wise.

 The lyrics is most about praising the devil and darker things in life, and they’re very well delivered, with the vocals changing between shrieks and the blues-like clean vocals. Don’t waste your time, trying to look up the vocal samples, as they are all written and performed by Manuel himself.

The musical arrangements are near impossible to describe; a mix of everything I mentioned in the beginning, and then some.. You’ll easily identify most  genres known to man if you decide to give the album a shot.

“a good lord is a dark one
a good lord is the one that brings the fire
the riverbed will run red with the blood of the saints and the blood of the holy
(the one that brings the fire)”

Should I choose to mention a few favourites from the album, it would have to be “Come on down”, “Children’s summon” and “Blood in the river”. Despite being very different compositions they all have a thriving riffs, catchy melodies and strong lyrics in common. If you only got ten minutes to check out an album, these gives a great impression of what to expect.

So, to sum up the above..  This is one of the most interesting things I’ve come across in a VERY long time, and the only bad thing I have to say about this album, is that it might just be a couple of tracks too short; Twenty-four  minutes playtime, from start to end is not much. That being said, this is a must-listen; whether this turns out to be your thing or not, this is not an album to miss out on. 

Being fresh and groundbreaking it deserves, at least, your honest opinion; one that’s only to be given, when you’ve heard it a couple of times. At some time, people will ask you about “that Zeal and Ardor thing” – better be prepared..

On the Zeal and Ardor Bandcamp page it says the following in the description:

“Zeal and Ardor is a project trying find new combinations of established components. The most important factor is a thematic coherence, not a musical one.”

Status: Mission completed, with excellence.

 

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Review/Sol Sistere/Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum 

A couple of months has passed since I shared the lyrics video to “Death knell”, the opening track on the debut album by Sol Sistere, on the PLBM Facebook page, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting this release ever since.

South America has given the world it’s fair share of metalbands; Brazil probably being responsible for the the majority of exports to the rest of the world. But now it’s time to turn our attention to Santiago, the captial of Chile.

“Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum” is the debut full-length by Pablo Vera (Drums), Ricardo Araya (Rhythm/lead guitars), C. (Rhythm guitars/vocals)and finally Juan Diaz (Bass); having only released the ep “I” before this, back in 2014.

If you liked, the before mentioned first single, “Death Knell” this album probably won’t disappoint, or surprise, you in any way.

In my opinion a great riff, equals one you unintentially end up humming along within the second time you hear it. Sol Sistere knows how to do just that; mixing great memorable riffs with nice melodies – resulting in an intense and dark atmospheric record.

Second track on the album, “Relentless ascension”, is the only song , being brought over from the previous released Ep. Having listened a to the the EP a few times, I would say that the guys chose wisely, by picking that track; not only being my favourite from “I” – but also among the strongest songs on this album too. Other noticable songs features “Deliver Us” and the two beautiful instrumental  pieces “Towards the morning star” and “6th Replicant”; the first one is a beautiful melodic semi-acoustic, featuring cello. The latter being a sun charged atmospheric monster.

So what’s the sum of all of this..?

With this album Sol Sistere  doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, with their melancholic harmonics mixed with take-no-prisoners-style traditional black metal..

But.. It’s so well executed that it ends up being an album, you end up playing over and over again. We are only halfway through 2016, but I have to admit, that this is one of the best things I’ve heard so far, and already a possible contestant for record of the year.

If in doubt after reading this little review – take a listen to the bandcamp audio-stream below, and judge for yourself..

“Unfading incorporeal vacuum” is out now on Hammerheart Records.

 

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Review/Antlers/A Gaze Into The Abyss

A year has past since this release. Yet another one, which passed under the radar.. But also one, that definitely deserves a mention.

“A gaze into the abyss” is the debut from the four-piece Antlers from Leipzig, Germany. Members count Pablo C. Ursusson on guitar, classical guitar and zanfona – also known as a “hurdy-gurdy.” Ntx, also known from Vidargängr, on guitar, keyboards and vocals. M takes good care of the drums and Mts finishes the ensemble, playing bass and doing backup vocals.

According to the all-knowing internet, this is an experienced group of musicians – all having numerous other projects under their belts, before joining forces. Music wise Antlers is probably best described as melodic black metal, with a folk touch. Pablo is also a part of the dark folk band Sangre de Muerdago, and despite Antlers being a different kind of monster, compared to Sangre de Muerdago, the atmospheric and alluring element of folk music, shines through the darkness from time to time.

At times I’d wish, that not every atmospheric/melodic/pagan black/whatever album would open with a mellow instrumental intro – but when it’s done like “Reverence” I’m not the one to deny Antlers doing as such. The following “Carnival of freedom and betrayal” is a great introduction to the rest of the album; fast melodic guitars and roaring vocals on top of heavy hitting rhythm section.

“Hundreds” slows down the pace again, in it’s own monotonous, all most doom’ish, fashion – without ever loosing it’s grip on the listener.

“To the throats” paints the picture of the horrors that takes place on the warfield; adapting a part of the spoken passage, midway through the song, from the poem “A war song to englishmen” by the English poet William Blake.

At times this is propably the most clearcut black metal song among the six featured on “A gaze..” It doesn’t however, at any time, loose the warm organic feel that that the first couple of songs introduced.

“To the throats” is not the only song to feature lyrics rooted in litterature. The lyrics for “Carnival of Freedom and Betrayal” is adapted from the novel “Q”, published by four Bologna based writers, under the famous pseudonym Luther Blisset.

The excellent “Memories of the extinct” closes the album, and leaves me with an impression of an album that might be able to attract attention from a wide range of metalfans, as it contains recognizable elements from most (black) metal sub-genres.

Antlers have been touring this spring, and might hit the road again in the late autumn or winter; in the meantime they are focusing on writing new songs – and the plan is to start recording, when pleased with the material.

If you like the musicstream below, do yourself a favor and buy the album; currently available on cassette tape, LP, or digital download via bandcamp – and while we’re waiting for something new from the guys, keep yourself updated on their facebook page.

 

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Review/Chaoscraft/Procreation Through Disaster

It was never my intention to write reviews of “old” releases, let me start by making that clear to everybody. Once in a while it does happen, that I simply miss out on news and releases; this is what happened in the case of Chaoscraft releasing his/it’s first full-length album back in december, 2013.

Chaoscraft is the one man project of Isolator, who has written all lyrics on the album, played every note, done the vocals and programmed the drums. Despite being a former member of the death metal band Abnormal Inhumane, Isolator is no stranger to working solo; before the times of Chaoscraft he released two full length albums with another solo project, Lykauges.

“Procreation..” features eight songs, with a total playtime, of no more than half an hour all together. That leaves no time to waste – and he doesn’t. This is a full on attack from start to end.

The opening track “Broken shackles.” begins with a short elctro-acoustic intro – and from there on, it drags us straight through the blackened gates of death metal  – or the death’end gates of black metal. Who cares about genres..?

Even before I found out about Isolators past as a guitarist in Abnormal Inhumane, I’d already figured that this was the work of a guitarist; the demonically shrieky and aggresive vocals is dominant throughout the record – but it’s backed up by equally aggresive, yet high quality guitar riffs. Constantly changing between more quiet and melodic passages, and fast picked black metal riffs, it varies in the finest manner.  Take a listen to “Alternate future wires.” It’s a prime example of how all of the, above mentioned, elements melts perfectly together.

Another of my favourites on the album, “Damned roots”,  features the voice of the excellent Al Pacino in the intro sample, taken from the 2003 movie The Recruit.

There’s this parish priest, goes up to the Pope, drops down on his knees, starts weeping… asking forgiveness. “Holy father, holy father, what am I to do? What am I to do? I do not believe in God anymore. What am i to do?” And you know what the pope said… “Fake it.”

I don’t have to fake it, when promoting this release. At times I wish the vocals would leave a little more room for the musical arrangements to flourish, but it’s nothing big to notice. This is in truth a great album – and I’d recommend it to anybody who likes their metal served with a kick to the jaw..

Currently, a couple of years after this album saw the light of day, Isolator is doing rehearsals with some session musicians, in order to doing some live performances, promoting “Procreation through disaster.” After that, writing a new album could be a real possibility.

Until then, I think you should go and support Isolator and Chaoscraft. Download or order the physical version of the album on Bandcamp, and if you find yourself anywhere near Athens, and Greece in general, look out for upcoming concert dates.

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Review/Show Me A Dinosaur/Self-titled

You shouldn’t judge a book (or an album) by its cover – but if you choose to do just that, in this case, you will know just what to expect; something pretty..

The self titled album, is the second full length release from the four-piece Show Me A Dinosaur from St. Petersburg, Russia. The beautiful pastel colored painting on the cover is done by Andrey Gorshkov, father of guitarist Pavel Gorshkov, and in addition to just being a eye catching beautiful piece of art, it fits the music perfectly.

To be honest, I had never heard of this band before the unusual cover art caught my attention, when I was looking through my Facebook news feed one day. Among all the black and grey videolinks – this one stood out. So, whats hiding behind all those pretty flowers?

The band consist of the, before mentioned, guitarist Pavel Gorshkov, vocalist/guitarist  Artem Selyugin, the drummer Aleksandr Vershinin  and Anton Gataullin on bass. Anton is also a member of TRNA, which  Show Me A Dinosaur has just finished a short European tour together with.

The album kicks off with a scream. The opening track “Rakev” barely gives a hint of what’s to come; Artem Selyugin screams from the top of his lungs, as the blasting drums and thriving guitars picks up –  in an absolute post black frenzy.

The second track,”Vjuga”,  introduces the listener to the rest of the album. A much more complex, atmospheric and melodic experience, than you might have expected after hearing the first song. “Ochag” picks up from there; being the first of two beautiful slow paced  instrumentals. The instrumentals acts as perfect interludes, and doesn’t interrupt the story of the album, rather than binding it nicely together; emphasizing the diversity, in which the band excels.

Despite the strong ambient atmosphere throughout the 41 minutes playtime, these guys will kick you in the teeth numerous times, and it never gets boring with the constant change of intensity and pace.

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“Wojna” is the powerful closing track, and if you haven’t been won over by then, you propably won’t, because this is not for everybody. Trust me. Every trve kvlt’ivist in town will let you know that this has NOTHING to do with black metal. On the other hand, fans of post blackened shoegaze like Deafheaven and Ghost Bath will be in for quite a treat.

If you’re among the  last mentioned group of fans, then make sure to pick up this masterpiece on their Bandcamp, where tapes, cd’s and a “pay what you want” download are available.

…and if you don’t like it – I’ll just keep them to myself.

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Review/Jarun/Pod niebem utkanym z popiołu

Few countries, if any,  have caught more attention than Iceland and Poland over the last year, when it comes to making headlines on the metal scene. With that in mind, it wasn’t without a glimpse of optimism that I dowloaded the promotion file I received a couple of weeks ago, from the polish band Jarun.

Besides a few bandphotos and a short bio, it contained their 2015 release “Pod niebem utkanym z popiołu.” (Under the sky woven from the ash) Despite the fact that it’s the bands second release, this is the first time I’ve personally heard of them. Shame on me.

In their bio, the band themselves, tells the story of what began as a solo project of guitarist Zagreus, and his wish to combine traditional folk music with black metal. The transition from one-man-band to a full fledged band setup took place in 2010 – resulting in the release of the debut album “Wziemiozstąpienie,” a couple of years later, in the early autumn of 2012.

The material on “Pod niebem utkanym z popiołu” is much more of a band effort – contrary to the first release that relied mostly on Zagreus solo writings.

From the first to the second album they have have undergone some stylistic change; the folk elements have been tuned down, leaving room for a more progressive inspired style of black metal. The influence of  traditional slavic folk music can be heard in the more quit passages – mostly in terms of the extensive use of acoustic guitars. The beauty of the heavy strung acoustic riffs mixes frequently with catchy melodic lines on top.

The “progressive” label comes to justice in the structures of the songs – leaving enough space for harmonies, great melodies and especially the excellent musicianship itself to flourish. There is even such black metal oddities as guitar solos, to be found on this record. A great example of how they manage to mix, all of the above mentioned elements, is to be found in the song “Zawołaj mnie, a przyjdę.”

 

Since the release last year the line-up has only undergone the minor change, that Dawid Wierzbicki has taken over the bass-duties from Damian “Radogost” Szpiłyk, who features on this record. Dawid share the history with two other current members, vocalist Meph and drummer Pazuzu – who all used to be part of Formosus together.

One of the privileges of running your own blog is choosing what’s on it – and as I write on the “About” page, my reviews are to be seen as recommendations. I just don’t feel the need, nor do I have the time, to write about shit that doesn’t interest me or that I don’t like. With that in mind, it may come to no surprise that this album gets my honest recommendation.

According to Zagreus they are currently in the process of writing the follow up – hopefully to be recorded and released later this year. Until then, check out their bandcamp or facebook page, if you’re not afraid of diversity on the black metal scene. If you don’t  – You might miss out on something truly great – just like I did..

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Review/Batushka/Litourgiya

A couple of months ago I came across this band totally unknown to me.. Batushka it said on the bandcamp profile. A quick google-session revealed that it supposedly consisted of members from other well know bands; their identities well hidden behind their orthodox (?) robes.

About a month later, I got my hands on the cd-version of the album. The cover of the debut album “Litourgiya” gives us only few hints of the members real identities – but perhaps it’s enough, for us to solve the puzzle. Кристофор (bass, guitar and vocals), Мартин (Drums) and Варфоломей (vocals) are the names credited on this excellent album.

If you run the three cyrillic spelled names through Google translate, you end up with Christopher, Martin and Bartholemew. There is great consensus on some of the metal-boards I follow, that the latter is in fact Bartłomiej Krysiuk – the owner of Witching Hour Productions, and vocalist of the Polish symphonic black metal band Hermh. The album is also released through Witching Hour Productions.

Should one choose to speculate on the identities of the other members, then it’s propably worth noticing, that the guitarist in the latest known lineup of Hermh, is named Krzysztof Drabikowski; adding fuel to the rumour that Batushka is probably Hermh in new feathers.

The religous imagery makes sense the second you push play;  orthodox chants dominates this record from the beginning to the end – creating a dark and intense, yet, highly spiritual atmosphere.

The first track that  personally caught my attention was Yekteniya III. The track starts of with the subtle sound of bells and chants, but quickly gets overtaken by aggressive guitars and powerful blastbeats. A minute and half through the song, THE riff of the album kicks in; groovy as f***..

My obsession with the track led me to neglecting the rest of the album – and in the beginning, I almost forgot to play the album to the end; replaying the same track over and over again. What a mistake, because this album really starts growing the minute you begin to see it as a whole. Everything melts together: the doomy and gloomy passages, the never ending flow of massive riffs, the more traditional black metal vocals and shrieks. On top of all that, the chants and choirs..

I’m not going into a debate whether these are samples, or not. I’ve seen people argueing that the orthodox chants doesn’t sound organic enough, and might be performed in different languages. In my case it’s a matter of “don’t know – don’t care.” I think it suits the cold atmosphere just fine, and works as an integrated part that binds the whole thing together – samples or not..

This is a great metal record, and it might just be one of those boundary breaking releases, that ends up attracting more people to the black metal scene.

The Big question now is, where should they go from here? Right now they’ve released a quite succesful album; is it possible to create a follow up to this record, without repeating it self – the distinct sound and image in mind? The band addressed this issue themselves on facebook a couple of weeks ago, in a link to an interview done by Noise Magazine.

So, how great is your Polish?

“Płyta Litourgiya poszła po internetach, wytworzył się wokół was szum, z nieodłącznym sieciowym hejtem, ale też zebraliście laury jako jeden z najlepszych, jeśli nie najlepszy debiut na polskiej metalowej scenie roku 2015… No i co teraz? Jaki jest pomysł na następną płytę?
-Takiej samej płyty na pewno nie ma sensu nagrywać. Nie wyznaczamy sobie jakichkolwiek konkretnych celów czy planów. A pomysł na następną? Nie ma żadnego pomysłu na następną. Zresztą na Litourgiyę przed rozpoczęciem rejestracji śladów też nie było pomysłu. Na razie nic nie wiadomo.”

As I perceive it, after running the above through google translate, there is no immediate plan or intentions to do a “Litourgiya II.” Instead we should might expect something different on the next release.
Until then you should do them justice – and go buy one of the most refreshing (black) metal albums of 2015.
Update!!! Still want to know the the true identities of the three guys behind Batushka? I think I have solved the puzzle.. The blog is in Danish, but feel free to ask in English if you don’t understand a word, or the Facebook translation fucks up.. Direct link below..