Flight of Sleipnir – Skadi

Here’s another example of a black metal(ish) masterpiece that operates totally in it’s own soundworld. I wanted to post this one right after Black Anvil because I think these two albums really showcase how brilliant black metal can be with very different examples.

Flight Of Sleipnir plays a hybrid of black metal and stoner metal that doesn’t sound strangely juxtaposed or awkward. It sounds natural and totally ungimmicky. The music compositionally leans in the stoner metal direction with emphasis on simple riffs with lots of repetition but has many aesthetic elements from black metal like the screamed vocals and the buzzsaw guitars. There’s also elements of 70s prog and psychedlic rock on here as well. I would also check out their cover of Pink Floyd‘s “Echoes”.

This is not an incredibly dense band. What I love about these songs is that they use simple music to convey complex emotions. They need not use parlor tricks to make you feel deeply. That’s one reason why this album may be my album of the month and a contender for album of the year. It’s full of beautiful music that takes you to a different realm.

Take the first track for instance where just a few riffs get repeated and transported into different guitar tones with various drum set supports until finally, the music comes to a breath-taking halt and we hear two otherworldly voices in harmony (in fact, they sort of remind me of Fleet Foxes, ON A METAL RECORD!!!) lull the listener into comfort and warmth. Then, as the tension peaks, the riff comes back. While the guitars are powerful here, the real star is drummer, David Csicsely, whose amazing fills completely fulfill what all that tension built us up for. Every track maintains it’s own identity and never leaves you wanting to skip any of it.

This music is beautiful, sparingly aggressive, always emotionally powerful, full of variety, and mesmerizing in it’s simple, yet effective approach. I highly recommend it.

https://theflightofsleipnir.bandcamp.com/

 

 

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Black Anvil – As Was

Black metal comes in all shapes and sizes. Like the Flight of Sleipnir (review coming soon), Black Anvil synthesizes many influences like melodic black metal, melodic death metal, thrash metal, heavy metal, hard rock, and even a little metalcore, into a single, cohesive sound that sound smooth and unique.

The clean vocals on this album have been the main talking point of many other reviews. They do, in fact, provide a very unique aspect to the album. However, I think the new vocals are just the icing on the cake. For those wondering, the vocals range from a sort of melodic metalcore style you would hear on a mid 2000s Killswitch Engage or All That Remains album to Viking metal-esque vocals to some more robotic sounding, Paul Masdival vocals.

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Black Anvil still provides the great riffs and melody they are known for, but the overall tone is very different than other albums. As a black metal band on the more thrashy/melodic side, Black Anvil has always worshiped the riff as the centerpiece of most of their songs. On As Was, though, the atmosphere and slow build seems to be the main aspect of the music. Now, I’m not saying they’re trying to be Panopticon. Their music still remains very riff-based and concrete. I guess the change I’m trying to describe is this: instead of relying on riffs, constant energy and brutality, things that immediately, and often times, cheaply, tell us “HEY THIS MUSIC IS INTENSE”, Black Anvil dials back their sound and relaxes into a more powerful version of themselves that isn’t afraid to be human and beautiful. After a blast beat section, guitarist Jeremy Sosville will bless our ears with a gorgeous, reverby clean section. The songs build toward bigger moments. The tone is slicker and more appealing. Unlike, a lot of black metal, this music makes you want to listen to it. It doesn’t make you uncomfortable. It’s well-written, sophisticated, and maintains it’s sense of passion and feeling without resorting to genre-cliches or lazy, unthoughtful maximalism. This is hard rock/black metal album Satyricon wishes they made.

Check out their music here:

 

 

 

 

Code Orange – Forever

I haven’t posted here in a while. Between all day school and all night rehearsal, it’s been hard. But I have been writing for a different blog, Indy Metal Vault, which is sort of still crazy to me that someone else likes my writing. Thanks to you guys! Anyway, this blog is part of my New Years resolution to keep a journal of sorts. I like the idea of using that journal to both document the music I’ve liked over this year as well as promote bands that I think deserve attention. I don’t think I’ll ever post negative reviews here as I usually try not to focus on music I don’t like. So, rest assured, if something is here it’s probably because I like it.

Okay, story time. Once upon a time, I experimented with Metalcore. That’s right. I went to Vans Warped Tour one year ON PURPOSE. Mostly, I just really liked the more “metal” than “core” bands. It was a short phase in my life that, while a little embarrassing, certainly broadened my horizons and taught me that it’s okay to have a breakdown here or there. I ended up getting into a lot of bands like Protest The Hero, Killswitch Engage, and Converge that I wouldn’t have gotten into had I just stuck to more traditional metal. It made me a more tolerant listener. I thank that younger version of me because now I get to tell you about Code Orange (and maybe another metalcore-ish band sometime soon).

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Code Orange delivers a collection of great metal riffs along with some truly brutal breakdowns. Their guitar tone is absolutely perfect: thick, bassy, but never causes the guitar to lose clarity. Over the guitar work, we get a variety of vocals including some believable and distinct hardcore screams via Eric Balderson and some clean vocals from Reba Myers as well. There’s also a heavy electronic influence on this album creating a unique sound world for these songs to take shape. Think less Aphex Twin or more harsh noise kind of electronic. Each song maintains its own identity with creative compositions that, on top of everything I already mentioned, will often abruptly transition into something totally different like a new tempo, a new riff, a spoken word section, or just silence. These drastic transitions would weaken a different album but in this raucous, car-wreck-esque thrill ride, it fits perfectly and keeps you away from any source of comfort. If you care to follow along with the lyrics, you’ll find a fragmented collection of rebellious and angsty thoughts that flow poetically and beautifully despite the harsh delivery. This album is what metalcore should be: brutal, unpredictably angry, while still thoughtfully composed.

 

 

Lo-Pan – In Tensions

Lo-Pan packs a lot of fun into this short EP. Based on the lyrics, I believe this to be a concept EP, as a lot of the lyrics seem connected through themes of the ocean, personal development, and journeys. You can hear those themes, not only in the lyrics, but in the music itself with its swaying and rocking that keeps your head bobbing the whole time. I wouldn’t call this album straight stoner metal but it certainly uses the stoner metal aesthetic as its main color. There’s lots of other colors though: sludge metal, progressive rock, classic rock. Lo-Pan does a wonderful job of presenting all of them, never relying on the boring cliches of any of them. The closest comparison I can make is if Baroness went further in the direction that they’ve been going, got groovier, and got a higher vocalist. Which brings me to…

I think the highlight of the EP is Jeff Martin‘s voice. His vocal style might be commonplace in a power metal or traditional metal band, but here, his clean, soaring highs combined with the grittier, doomier instruments makes Jeff quite the unique feature. Jeff knows when to lay on the swagger and when to fall back into a more emotional tone. His voice perfectly compliments the work of guitarist Chris Thompson who creates beautiful, melodic waves of chords as well as hard-hitting riffs. Skot Thompson and Jesse Bartz provide a groovy backdrop for these two, making this album more of a heavy rock album.

Overall, I would love to see what these guys do on their next full length. This EP was enjoyable and left me wanting more.

 

Carbon Colossal – The Disassembly of Earth

Boy, I really spoke too soon when I said I don’t listen to too much death metal.

Carbon Colossal is a California based extreme metal project. The reason I leave the genre as vague as “extreme metal” is because you really get a little bit of everything with this band. There’s certainly a technical death metal aspect to them. This short EP has plenty of machine gun riffing that will make your head spin but they’re not so much the typical Necrophagist or Suffocation clone. They’re more in the line of Gorguts or even Deathspell Omega. The band describes themselves as a “project of passion and honesty” and I think that is an accurate description. Beyond the death metal, there’s also a good amount of black metal and doom metal moments, which I think is what adds the emotion to this EP.

The opening track, “Ignition”, kicks things off with a foreboding blackened-doom chug fest that transitions into what could easily be a 1349 track but then concludes with a sludgy, grimy coda. “Ascension” achieves what I like to call the “locust effect” where there’s just so many layers of dense, distorted, and dissonant guitars that you brain just hears one swarm of sounds not unlike approaching insects. There’s an interesting moment on this track where the fury stops and there’s a very short clean guitar interlude. It’s almost as if this horrifying monster takes a breath to gather itself before you continuing the nightmare. You think you’re off the hook for a minute, but nope.

The last track “Culmination” has a slow, doomy build before rapidly shifting tones into a the most furious moment on the EP. The chaos finally focuses into a great death metal riff at around the 4 min mark and the song starts spiraling into an emotional finale. The vocalist shows off his most impressive screams at this moment as the music pounds forward. Finally, the clean guitars come back to trick you into tranquility but, of course, the monster awakens and we get one last tornado-ass, blast-beat section.

This album is a promising debut and I can’t wait to see what a full length will be like.

PS: The album cover is sick too.

https://www.facebook.com/CarbonColossal/

Hate Unbound – Plague

We live in a wonderful era of metal where any variation one could want is out there somewhere. Ambient Progressive Blackgaze? Jazz Slam Deathcore? Speed Doom? We got it. With all the fancy variants, it can be easy to desire something straight forward.

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Hate Unbound is a death/thrash band from Detroit. They deliver some tight, fist pounding modern thrash metal. I was fortunate enough to get to hear their new album, Plague, in its entirety before it drops in February so I’m here to tell you to pick it up. The band lists Lamb of God and Death as some of their main influences. The Lamb of God influence is easy to hear right away as vocalist Art Giammara could easily replace Randy Blythe tomorrow. Guitarists, Daryl Mitchell and William Cundiff, drive the band forward with their outstanding riffing and shredding especially on tracks like “Suffering” which sounds like Chuck Schuldiner co-wrote a song with Gojira. The rhythm section keeps things modern sounding with a tight kit and plenty of shifts in groove and emphasis that keep your head bobbing the whole album.

 

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The recent thrash revival has given us lots of great bands but many of them borrow mostly from the 80s sound. Hate Unbound is different. They sounds like the natural progression of thrash in the late 90s and 00s. Think Legion of The Damned, Dew Scented, and Hatesphere. This is a style that doesn’t get glorified too much these days. They aren’t afraid of downtuning, using tight, clean production, and adding some groove and melody to their thrash. What we end up with is an album that really encompasses a lot of the basic virtues of metal:  driving, aggressive playing, grooves, great riffs, and, of course, screaming.

Their new album, “Plague”, drops February 17 via Inverse Records. You can preview the first track, “Baptised in Lies” it on their bandcamp:

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/HateUnbound

 

 

 

Draugsól – Volaða Land

I’ve been looking for a recent black metal album to review as the first black metal album on this blog. I love the new Laster album but it just didn’t feel right picking something that could easily be classified as progressive metal or even post-metal as the first black metal album. Perhaps, I’ll review that one soon. No, I wanted something both of high quality but also of something more old school sounding.

Draugsól is one of the many Icelandic metal bands to gain some traction in the last few years. It makes sense that Iceland would be a hub for black metal since the name of the country is basically already a black metal band. Interestingly enough, it was actually Misþyrming’s recent album that got me interested in the more underground side of extreme metal. That album really shook me in a way that a lot music hadn’t yet. Up until that point, I had liked a lot of black metal but it had mostly been black metal that was related to other styles I already loved like symphonic black metal or progressive black metal or Bal Sagoth (power metal with a wee bit of screeching). That album showed me a whole new way of listening to metal. I’ll get into all of that later because its actually a topic I have a lot more to say about it. The point is: Iceland has some damn good music coming out of it.

If you liked Misþyrming and you want something exactly like it, you won’t find it here (look another waaaaay). Draugsól is a very different animal but an animal still worth trying to tame. If Misþyrming is a wild boar in a tornado, then Draugsól is a vulture gnawing on the remains of some roadkill. In other words, this band makes you admire its elegance while at the same time reminding you of your inevitable demise.

For a musical reference point, this new album shares a similar production quality to Mgła’s Exercises in Futility. It’s gritty and Burzum-esque but with more clarity like a thin layer of fog around the whole album. They also take influences from current atmospheric black metal as well so there is a tinge of uplifting triumph in some songs. You get pounding riffs, longing melodies, and some great artwork from Moonroot Art, what more could you want from a black metal album? I only wish I knew what the words meant. 

Buy it.

Favorite Tracks: Track 3 and 5

Legendry – Mists of Time

I don’t know what I want to do with this blog. So far, I’ve chosen to review 3 vastly different albums. Maybe in the future, I’ll keep it to a specific theme, or maybe I won’t. Who knows? Let me know what you want to see.

2016 saw the emergence of many “traditional” metal bands utilizing sounds from old school bands like Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, and the likes. I’m glad this sound is coming back and I truly hope we see this new trend become bigger. Sometimes I get worried when I sift through all the shit I see on bandcamp that’s tagged “power metal”. Sometimes, though, you sift through the shit and you are rewarded.

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Being a power metal fan for so long has made me very picky. Something that sometimes turns me off from even the most brilliantly crafted power metal, like Blind Guardian and Rhapsody, is the sheer intensity of it all. Sometimes you want a dungeon adventure but you want something rounder and lighter. That’s something I miss about the early Fates Warning albums and Manilla Road: it’s not so in your face at every minute. Sometimes, they just let you enjoy the tone on the guitar or a sweet riff for a while. Legendry presents similar textures in their music though they augment the classic heavy metal with 70s prog rock, and psychedelic influences while also having some thrashier moments. The tones aren’t too chuggy and everything is played beautifully, not fast or aggressive.

Okay, rant time. I think one reason this style is making a come back is that power metal musicians might finally be sick of being perfect. Power metal suffers from overly produced, loud mixes, that have perfectly spliced together solos, vocals with all the imperfections taken from them, and click-track drums that might as well be a machine. One could argue that since power metal is basically metal’s escapism, that sounding inhuman is the point but consider the following questions, power metal nerds:

Which one do you prefer? Lord of the Rings or Hobbit trilogy? Or if you’re a Star Wars fan: Original trilogy or prequels?

I’m sure all of you said Lord of the Rings and Original trilogy and if you didn’t, you can get out. A huge part of what makes these movies amazing is all the practical effects. Of course, there are other factors too like acting and writing and adding a fucking girl elf for no reason and “I hate sand” but that’s a different rant. The point is, the effects are probably more flawed in both the original sets of movies, but they are still more believable, life-like, and human.

That’s why we love Manilla Road and all their friends. I’m gonna break something to you. Manilla Road actually sucks in a lot of ways. His voice is nasally and out of tune. The riffs are simple. The production is horrible. And yet, they are an amazing band that we all love. Legendry, along with their contemporaries who are bringing this style back, understands this and presents plenty of human, flawed moments. The singer/guitarist/bassist, Vidarr, does a great Mark Shelton impression, but he also adds his own spin. It’s not so much of an impression as a humble nod, like Tim Owens to Rob Halford without the bigotry. The riffs are sweet and there’s good variety. The solos are super 70s and funky which really helps to set this band apart. The drummer, Kicker, provides power and drive and has some very Sabbathian fills that add a lot of energy to the music. The production has plenty of reverb to add to the vintage sound and the overall epicness.

If I had a complaint about Mists of Time, it’s that it struggles to find a unique identity at times. It’s well written music but I really want to see what they do on the next album to go further into their own sound. Sometimes, the album tries too hard to sound Manilla Road-ish, and at that point why not just pop in the old albums? In fact, their Manilla Road cover might do a better job at being Manilla Road than Manilla Road. The funky solos, the symphonic moments on “Winds of Hyboria”, and the thrashier moments like on the title track give me hope that this band, given enough support, will grow into something truly unique and amazing. GO SPEND MONEY ON THEM!