Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bathory - Under the Sign of the Black Mark (1987)

The room was cold and dark, illuminated only by the light of nine black candles. I recorded "The Haunted Mansion" that night, while I was in the cemetery, enjoying the solitude and the Autumn weather. Once I returned home, in the middle of the night, it was time to listen to what I had missed while I was away. On that edition of the radio show, most of the music was generic and mediocre, yet one song immediately commanded my attention and blew me away. This song was "Equimanthorn", from Bathory's third L.P. Under the Sign of the Black Mark, recorded in late 1986 and released in early 1987. I was already familiar with bands such as Venom, Slayer, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Sodom and Kreator, yet I had no idea that something like this existed. This was my introduction to Bathory. I had just recently read about the release of Blood On Ice and had quite a different impression of the band, so I was very surprised by what I heard. Within a few months, I tracked down a copy of this legendary album and was drawn deeper into the murky realm of Black Metal.

Under the Sign of the Black Mark begins with a brief intro, titled "Nocturnal Obeisance", continuing the tradition of Quorthon opening his albums in such a manner. Through the blowing of cold winds, one can hear distant sounds of torture and dread. This serves to draw the listener into a false sense of calm, before "Massacre" erupts at full speed, crushing your skull like a hammer. The song is brief yet furious, blasting all the way through. The drums seem to overpower the thin guitars, unless you turn the volume way up (which is how this should be experienced anyway). Quorthon's vocals are raspy and sinister, sounding far more evil than most others in the underground metal scene at the time. Much like the first two albums, the sound is very minimalist and would go on to become very influential. This takes the concept established on the first records and eliminates the Venom influence, creating something even darker.

"Woman of Dark Desires" is the next song, with the subject of the lyrics being none other than the band's namesake, Erzsebet Bathory. Musically, it retains a similar feeling to the previous song, until the more mid-paced chorus. The refrain is actually very memorable. The song features some use of an organ, which adds to the dark and evil atmosphere. The aura created by this album is not cold, like so many that were inspired by this but, rather, it is like burning in the pits of Hell.

The sounds of a man clawing at his own coffin lid and desperately gasping for air introduce "Call From the Grave". From the first moments, a claustrophobic feeling of suffocation takes hold. The chords are strummed openly, as the mid-paced riffs build to create an epic atmosphere. Quorthon's grim and tormented vocals are filled with despair and the lyrics are possibly the deepest that had been written by that point.

"I tear at the lid I'm suffering
In a cold and nameless grave
If Hell is what awaits me
I feel no fright"

The tone and harmonics of the lead solo are absolutely perfect and it possesses a sorrowful feeling. This song is not only a highlight of the album, but a highlight of Bathory's existence.

The next song is the one that introduced me to this band. "Equimanthorn" begins with a riff that almost creeps up upon you, from the murky shadows, and then explodes with fury and rage. The lyrics seem to foreshadow Quorthon's interest in Norse mythology, though the actual name Equimanthorn was something that he made up. This song is speed beyond speed, destroying everything in its path. Even the vocals are spewed forth with such rapidity that they are difficult to decipher. After a couple minutes, the song slows down a bit, utilizing more mid-paced thrash riffs. Again, an epic nature creeps into this song before ending with a wicked lead solo that shreds through your flesh.

Under the Sign of the Black Mark features much more variety, regarding the songwriting. This is very evident in "Enter the Eternal Fire", which is a mid-paced and truly epic masterpiece. It begins with slow and heavy riffs, accompanied by the chiming of funeral bells and some brief acoustic parts, as well as sparse keyboard use for the background. This slow doom-laden atmosphere picks up from where Hellhammer left off with "Triumph of Death", doing well to define the atmospheric tendencies of Black Metal. Though the lyrics do not deal with Norse mythology in any way, the music foreshadows the epic style that Bathory would continue to develop on later albums. Much like "Call From the Grave", the lyrics are deep and seem to convey horror and misery as a long journey leads into the depths of Hell.

"And He calls my name
First a whispering then louder
And he wants me to follow
And to Enter the Eternal Fire......"

This song is consumed by a morbid and obscure feeling of dread. Beyond the mid-way point, the song becomes even slower, as the acoustic guitar returns just before a somber lead solo cuts through your flesh while wrapping around you, squeezing the air out of your lungs. The song builds to its agonized climax as Quorthon's chilling screams haunt your mind.

"This can't be
Raging flames all over me
Inferno of heat
Oh no, oh no, oh noooooo, noooooo, noooooo......"

"Chariots of Fire" begins with some brief synth intro, much like a horror movie soundtrack, before unleashing a high-speed attack. Sharply contrasting the previous song, this one stands alongside "Massacre" and "Equimanthorn" as another blistering assault upon the senses. The song is short and to the point, never changing pace throughout.

Eerie whispers are found in the opening moments of "13 Candles", which soon explodes with devastating riffs that are fairly mid-paced and catchy, much like "Woman of Dark Desires". This song is about the birth of Satan's son, and has a dark and evil feeling, especially the demonic vocals found during the refrain. Quorthon sounds very reptilian in certain parts of this song. It is quite possible that, if he had lived long enough to record the Mayhem L.P., this is what Dead would have sounded like with proper studio recording.

The lyrics to the final song, "Of Doom", are somewhat peculiar as they make reference to the Bathory Hordes. Typically, I don't like these kind of lyrics, but it's Bathory so it gets a pass. The song, itself, is an unrelenting piece of Black/Speed Metal. Initially, I assumed that this song had some relation to the previous one, as "13 Candles of Doom" would have been an appropriate song title but, no, they have nothing to do with one another. As the song nears its end, it slows down a bit, sounding slightly reminiscent of something from Hell Awaits, in atmosphere. It fades out into oblivion, leaving its black mark upon those who have experienced this classic release. The standard, ominous, Bathory outro concludes this L.P.

Under the Sign of the Black Mark is the culmination of the evil and Satanic Black Metal era of Bathory, as the following album would bridge the gap between this and the epic Viking Metal era. Overall, this is probably the most influential of the old Bathory albums. In particular, it is said that Darkthrone took this record into the studio when they recorded Under A Funeral Moon, so that they producer would know what sort of sound they were going for, and the music reflects this very well. While Venom coined the term "Black Metal", Bathory perfected the art form and it is Quorthon's vision that went on to inspire countless legions of bands that would follow. Under the Sign of the Black Mark has stood the test of time and remains an undisputed classic of underground metal.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Morbid - December Moon (1987)

Even though the band is long history already, Sweden's Morbid established themselves more and more over the years as a cult act with only one official demo, December Moon, released in 1987. Part of the reason most certainly is the fact that their vocalist at the time was none other than Per Yngve Ohlin (better known as Dead), who quickly became an icon as a member of Norway's Mayhem and even more after he committed suicide in 1991. What a lot of people seem to forget is that Morbid featured other members, such as Lars Goran "LG" Petrov and Ulf "Uffe" Cederlund of Nihilist/Entombed fame. However, Dead was was one the founding members, starting the band with a guy called Slator back in 1986. The band members were into Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate and Bathory, in those days. Dead named the band, presumably, after the Morbid Tales E.P. Dead wrote the dismal and obscure lyrics while John Lennart, Klacke and TG wrote the songs.

Morbid only recorded one official demo. They saw that other bands sold their demos at a record store in Stockholm so they thought why shouldn't they do that as well. Sandro from the band Mefisto introduced them to the guys in Heavy Load who had a studio and they gave them a good deal. The whole thing took about 16 hours. They just let the studio guy control most everything really. Afterward, they didn't really send out the tape so much. It seems like this recording grew when Dead died, which is sad as it is a very good recording.

Like many others, I first heard of this band due to Dead's involvement in Mayhem and I was finally able to hear these songs when I got the bootleg A Tribute to the Black Emperors. Originally, I was seeking the two studio tracks that Dead recorded with Mayhem, but I was soon blown away by the first four songs, taken from Morbid's December Moon demo.

"My Dark Subconscious" begins with Dead saying something in Swedish, making reference to a kids' show that featured monsters, of all things. The guitars fade in from the darkness and unleash very grim-sounding thrash riffs. This is very primitive and Dead's vocals truly embody the band's name; Morbid. This possesses more of a Black Metal atmosphere, mostly due to the production and the vocals, but the band themselves didn't really consider themselves Black or Death Metal, specifically. The riffs are mostly thrash, with some excellent lead solos thrown in as well.

"Winds of Funeral" starts with demonic death screams taken from "The Evil Dead", leading into an acoustic intro that then gives way to sinister thrash riffs. The vocals are done in sort of a hoarse whisper, sounding like a zombie that crawled out of a grave, half-rotten. Dead's performance is truly ghoulish and morbid, perhaps taking some influence from Quorthon. The bass and drums are done in kind of a subtle way, leaving the guitars to dominate this recording, much as it should be. The closing riffs of the song are much more Death Metal than Thrash, finishing with a nice solo.

Doom riffs, reminiscent of Candlemass, introduce "From the Dark". For a band that existed for only a short period of time, Morbid really showed a lot of promise. Had they remained together, there is no telling how much they could have accomplished, though they may have been a few years ahead of their time. This song features a mixture of thrash and doom riffs, creating an unexpectedly complex and epic atmosphere. Halfway through, there is a very slow section that features only an eerie acoustic guitar and Dead's desperate moaning, in the distance. There is a great variety in tempo and the demonic vocal effects, near the end, are well done.

"Disgusting Semla" erupts at full speed. Dead's vocals hiss over shredding guitar riffs. Everything builds to a climax where the solos rage back and forth like poisonous serpents and the song becomes mid-paced. Dead clearly loses his fucking mind with the twisted sounds emitted near the end. It soon becomes a chorus of complete insanity and no other word can accurately describe this. Upon first listen, it seems ridiculous, yet it really works for the song. As December Moon concludes, one gets the feeling that they just got a glimpse into the long forgotten past at what could have been... what should have been. Some time later, an integral member left the band and Morbid fell apart. Dead soon left Sweden for Norway and the rest is history...

Mayhem - Deathcrush (1987)

After a handful of demos, Mayhem released the now legendary Deathcrush E.P. in August 1987. This was years before the band would be consumed with controversy. Back then, Mayhem was simply the most extreme band in Norway. In fact, they were the first Norwegian Black Metal band, though their sound owed much more to Venom in those days. Deathcrush fits in well with releases like Sarcofago's INRI more so than old Bathory.

My first exposure to Mayhem came from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, so I was quite surprised when I heard Deathcrush, some months later. The music was uglier and more barbaric, while also being very primitive and unrestrained, as opposed to the precision that is found on their debut L.P. I was initially put off by Maniac's vocals, though they grew on me with time. It's too bad Dead hadn't joined the band by this point, as the live versions done during his tenure with the band had a nice feel to them.

The E.P. begins with an odd intro, "Silvester Anfang", composed for the band by Conrad Schnitzer. It doesn't possess a very evil atmosphere, at all, but it is strange and that may be the effect that they were striving for. It kind of has the feel of a nightmarish war march.

This leads in to the first proper song, "Deathcrush". The opening riff sounds like something inspired by early Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. The vocals are made up of indecipherable screams, though it doesn't really matter as they simply become like another instrument, adding to the overall feeling. As the song speeds up, everything has kind of a sloppy feel but it works well enough within the context of this mini-album. There are brief glimpses into what would come on their L.P.

"Chainsaw Gutsfuck" is the next song, beginning with a very slow doom riff. It slowly builds up, creating a sense of dread, before the riff changes. This mid-paced song is actually pretty catchy for brutal, maniacal Norwegian Black Metal. Perhaps Venom's rock tendencies are shining through, here. Maniac's shrieks sound very desperate as the fuzzy guitars rumble beneath.

The next song is a pretty horrible cover of Venom's "Witching Hour". Messiah's vocals are more fitting for this song, but the fact that it is sped up so much kind of takes away from the feeling and it is over far too quickly. It's not bad, but it could have been executed better.

"Necrolust" is next and it features more doom riffs from Euronymous, as well as Necrobutcher's rumbling bass. The opening riffs are similar in feel to the early moments of "Deathcrush" and "Chainsaw Gutsfuck", though the song does speed up. This song is filled with raw energy and goes straight for the throat, tearing it open and reveling in the fresh spray of blood. Maniac's anguished wailing is like a precursor to what Varg Vikernes would do on the Burzum albums.

"(Weird) Manheim" is an unsettling and eerie instrumental that creates a dark and obscure atmosphere. It is all too brief, however, and is overpowered by the thrashing Hell that is "Pure Fucking Armageddon". This song features Messiah on vocals, once more, and it is a raging and relentless display of high-speed mass destruction via insanely distorted guitars and schizophrenic drumming.

Deathcrush has its flaws, like anything else, but it is a solid E.P. of 80s Black Metal and can easily be enjoyed on its own merit, regardless of the hype that later surrounded Mayhem and the whole Norwegian scene. Many may only pick this up just to have it in their collection because of its historical significance, but if you are letting it sit on a shelf and collect dust then, not only are you a horrible poser, but you're cheating yourself out of something that is well worth listening to.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tormentor - Anno Domini (1988)

Tormentor was formed in 1986, in Hungary, among the first Black Metal bands of the 1980s. In the mid to late 80s, Tormentor had a lot of famous gigs in Hungary. After the first demo The Seventh Day of Doom (1987) the band had more and more attention. Then, in 1988, they recorded Anno Domini which was definitely a highlight of the extreme metal scene at the time.

For many reasons (e.g. old political system, censorship, state dependent labels) it was impossible to release it, as a proper album, in Hungary in 1989 but thanks to the fans it started to be distributed in the old underground way: copied by the fans from tapes to tapes and soon it arrived to Scandinavia and Norway. The band was offered a deal for it on Euronymous' cult label Deathlike Silence Productions, but due to a lot of difficulties it was delayed. Tormentor's vocalist Attila Csihar, who is now quite famous for his insane and inhuman way of using his voice, was later asked to do the vocals on Mayhem's then long awaited De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album. During Attila's stay in Norway more concrete things were sorted out between Tormentor and DSP, so finally Deathlike Silence were ready to put the album out, but before they came that far Euronymous was murdered, and the whole thing fell apart.

Tormentor, from the very beginning, played Black Metal. They were influenced by the ancient Black Metal gods of the early 1980s, but they certainly have their own unique originality. Some has even linked some parts of their sound to Hungarian folk music. Tormentor consists of a strong musicianship, even though this is Black metal in the old vein, it is being performed with great professionalism. In songs as the instrumental track "Lyssa" you can hear some really amazing guitar work. In Tormentor's music you can hear everything from raw and intense parts, both primitive and technical, to the more atmospheric type of themes with synth and a slower, mid-paced tempo. Tormentor was in fact maybe one of the first Black Metal bands to compose atmospheric songs with for example the use of synth. There are not many bands back in the late 80s who have created such music.

Anno Domini begins with an eerie intro, revisiting the main theme from "Phantasm". The band manages to maintain the creepy and epic atmosphere that this theme has always had. This leads into the unrelenting speed of "Tormentor I". This song is a combination of tremolo and thrash riffs, joined by very obscure and evil-sounding vocals. The sound is somewhat muffled, yet the brilliance still shines through. This is especially true of the great old school lead solo. There is absolutely no question as to what decade this was recorded. It is utterly consumed with the spirit of 1980s underground metal.

"Heaven" sounds very chaotic upon first listen, but if you examine it a little closer you will be able to hear what it really going on. Influences from old Slayer and Possessed are very apparent. As on the previous song, the lead solos really stand out. The song ends in a very classic way, with the slow build up and the violent crash.

The next song is, probably, Tormentor's best known. The cover version found on Dissection's Where No Dead Angels Lie E.P. was actually my introduction to this band's music. "Elisabeth Bathory" is more mid-paced and atmospheric than the songs that came before it. There is somewhat of an epic feeling contained here as this seems to be one of the most thought-out pieces on the album. The aura is very morbid and sinister. There are many tempo changes throughout the song, taking you on a journey into the deep and murky forests of Eastern Europe.

"Damned Grave" speeds things back up, keeping the focus on the guitar riffs. This song is pretty straight-forward, featuring more great solo-work near the end. Anno Domini was released at a time when many of the Black Metal bands of the 80s had transformed into something else. Bathory was transitioning to the more epic, Viking Metal sound while Sodom went to pure Thrash Metal and Celtic Frost had completely sold out and begun to seek the approval of the mainstream rock fans, failing miserably. Tormentor was among the few bands around this time, such as Mayhem and Samael, that were keeping the black flame burning during the most obscure years of Black Metal.

The song, "In Gate of Hell", embodies the foggy and obscure feeling of late 80s Black Metal. The intro is eerie and possessed of horror. Once the song gets going, the pace is unrelenting and violent, and its influence on later bands is very obvious. About midway through, the pace slows down and the riffs seem far more reminiscent of early 80s metal, rather than anything going on around the time when it was recorded, in 1988. Attila's morbid vocals and the haunting lead solo really work to make this a very memorable song.

This old school feeling continues on "Transylvania", which is one of the shortest songs on the album. After an odd build-up, the song unleashes its fury and vanishes as quickly as it appeared.

"Tormentor II" begins with more classic riffs that wouldn't be out of place on an old Mercyful Fate album. The vocals are extremely hateful on this song, while the chaotic drums blast away in the background. Halfway through, the pace changes as great thrash riffs play underneath a maniacal laugh.

The next song is "Trance", which is a brief song based off of "The Evil Dead", featuring sinister chants and the possessed laughter taken from the movie. One of the good things about 80s metal was the connection to the classic horror films. It really did well to tie in common interests. This song features a wicked tremolo riff that is gone all too soon, and ends with another killer solo.

"Beyond" is mid-paced and morbid, utilizing some synth to add to the atmosphere. This is one of the more hauntingly epic songs on the album, and it will remain creeping through the dark recesses of your mind for years to come. The solo is masterful and it seems odd how solos were, more or less, omitted from most Black Metal albums that came in the early 90s when they can do so well to add to the aura created by the song.

The thrash riffs return with "Apocalypse", which seems to owe something to bands such as Kreator and Slayer. For an album with so many songs, it is amazing that there is no filler. Typically, you get a few decent songs in the beginning and then a bunch of boring nonsense to fill out the album, ending with something more memorable just so that you are left with a good impression. In the case of Anno Domini, the album contains many more surprises as you go along.

"Lyssa" begins with great guitar work, almost reminiscent of old Iron Maiden. This instrumental really displays the excellent musicianship of the band, and makes one wonder what could have been if they had managed to record a couple full-length albums, rather than splitting up and fading into obscurity.

"Anno Domini" begins with something very similar to the "Phantasm" theme used for the intro, before turning into pure and utter chaos on tape. Attila's demonic howls sound truly possessed.

If you don't own this album, you should go to any lengths necessary to acquire it. Don't just talk about the band because you know the vocalist was in Mayhem and that Dissection covered one of their songs. Don't get the album and just listen to the original version of "Elisabeth Bathory". Take the time to really listen to this and experience all that it has to offer. This rare gem should not be as unknown as it seems to be.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Death - Leprosy (1988)

Leprosy is the second full-length album from Death. Recorded in Morrisound, this L.P. was released in November 1988. For this outing, Chuck Schuldiner recruited three members of Massacre. This album takes what was created on Scream Bloody Gore and continues in that vein, though retaining less of the aggression and fury found on that classic. Death's second album is primitive and raw, and it is the embodiment of Death Metal.

This was actually the first Death album that I purchased. I was seeking their debut, but found this instead. I obtained this around the same time as Slowly We Rot and Blessed Are the Sick, so it is forever linked to those albums as well as the season of decay in which I bought it. These songs possess the atmosphere of cold autumn nights, for me, since that is when I spent most of my time soaking this all in. I would go on to buy many more Death albums, in the following years, yet none of them had the same effect as Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy. For me, these albums are the epitome of Death Metal.

The L.P. begins with the title track, unleashing heavy, doom-filled riffs that create an aura of decay. After a mid-paced beginning, and Chuck's dead and rotting vocals, things speed up a bit. The fast parts don't seem quite as fast as those found on the previous release, however. There are a variety of tempos found in this song, alone. Also, the feeling is somewhat reminiscent of old Slayer. This is primitive, yet epic in its hideous glory. The lead solos really add to the song as well. This is a good example of less being more, as Death accomplishes quite a lot within this limited framework.

"Born Dead" is a little faster, containing eerie solos and very memorable riffs and vocal lines. "Evil" Chuck's screams are very primal and sound as if his throat is rotting or sliced open and bleeding in the night. Unlike later Death Metal albums, the focus of this is the guitar riffs and nothing else. The drums are simply there to keep time, rather than being the driving force behind the music.

The somewhat relaxed thrash riffs continue on "Forgotten Past", though things do speed up as before. It is amazing to see how much can be accomplished within the boundaries of this musical style. The songs sound very similar, yet they are completely identifiable from one another. This song features a very nice tremolo riff that doesn't get quite enough time to evolve, though the excellent lead solo that follows it more than makes up for this.

As the title indicates, "Left To Die" features lyrics that are quite morbid and bleak. The opening riff is godly, especially as it transitions into the slower riff that accompanies Chuck's death-scream. Leprosy truly is filled with nothing but classic songs. It is odd that the pioneers of this sound managed to do so much, yet those that followed released piles of monotonous garbage. Everything about this song is great, from the killer solos to the primitive riffs and the undead vocals. Chuck Schuldiner doesn't get enough credit for the performances from the first two Death albums, as too few people regard these albums as highly as they should.

The next song is well known, among fans of the band, and remained a staple of live shows for the duration of the band's existence. "Pull the Plug" begins with more mid-paced riffs. The tempo actually changes several times, taking the listener on a dark journey. You can feel your lungs rotting from the inside, as you are unable to breathe. The lyrics resonate in your mind as you fall into the realm of decay.

"...Release me from this lonely world
There is no hope..."

"Open Casket" begins with crushing riffs and a building sense of tension as you are carried forth toward the endless graveyard. The slower riffs in this song are filled with doom and dread, accentuated by Chuck's vocals which are consumed by the stench of decay. This feeling continues on "Primitive Ways". Again, with regard to the solos and overall production, one cannot help but be reminded of the early Slayer albums. The song arrangements are somewhat complex, compared to Scream Bloody Gore, yet still raw and simplistic.

This classic album concludes with "Choke On It", which really does feel like the ending of an epic journey through a foggy landscape of forgotten crypts and decaying flesh as the moon illuminates the night sky. The opening riffs are slow and serve to imbue the listener with a sense of doom, before speeding up for a bit. Again, the song slows down to a morbid crawl, as emaciated hands reach up from the damp soil, pulling half-decayed bodies from their shallow graves in search of mortal blood. This song features some of the best riffs of the whole album, which says a lot considering the high quality of this release.

Leprosy is a classic album that should be owned by anyone claiming to listen to this style of music. It belongs to an elite group of albums that also includes Scream Bloody Gore, Altars of Madness, Slowly We Rot and Consuming Impulse, among many others. The first two albums from Death are essential and these are the first records that come to mind when I think of Death Metal.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grotesque - Incantation (1990)

Grotesque was spawned out of the abyss in September 1988, rising from the ashes of Conquest, a Death/Thrash Metal band first formed in early 1986 by guitarist and songwriter Necrolord (Kristian Wahlin). However, this band didn't become totally twisted, insane and serious until unholy screamer Goatspell (Tomas Lindberg) joined in March 1988. When Grotesque hit the local scene that autumn, there were absolutely no other Death Metal bands around in the Gothenburg area and there were literally just a few people into underground Death and Black Metal. Grotesque soon got a maniacal reputation of being devoted Satanists, grave desecrators, blasphemers and a very brutal live band.

The original line-up featured Goatspell - vomits, Necrolord - high priest of distortion and Nuctemeron - 4-string damnation as well as two other members who soon left due to wimpdom. Rehearsing in the basement of Necrolord's house they soon got together their first violent pieces of death and mayhem. "Moondance Prophecy" was a slow song reminiscent of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost.

In the early months of 1989 the drummer, Offensor, joined the order of blasphemy and desecration thus completing the Grotesque line-up. They rehearsed heavily and decomposed more complex and evil Death/Black metal material like "Ascension of the Dead", "Blood Runs From The Altar" and "Fall Into Decay". On the 4th of May they recorded the blasphemous rehearsal/demo The Black Gate Is Closed, an avalanche of death and hate preparing the weak for Grotesque's first studio recording. The coming months were spent writing new songs like the epic "Angels Blood" and "Submit To Death" as well as playing a few crazy live shows. The legendary November recording of In The Embrace Of Evil featured five songs - this was originally ment to be the first five songs of a full length album on Dolores Records, another three tracks to be recorded later on. Therefore, the recording was never released as a demo. In August 1990, Grotesque released the Incantation E.P.

The E.P. begins with the foggy and dismal epic, "Incantation". A brief intro, sounding like something torn from a horror soundtrack, leads into powerful riffs that fade in, crushing all in sight. A haunting solo flows through your brain as a sinister tremolo melody seeps beneath the surface. The riffs shift toward something reminiscent of Treblinka/Tiamat, as the vocals creep in. The song speeds up as before Goatspell's sickening screams send chills up your spine. There are many tempo changes, as the song takes you on a blackened journey through the darkest shadows, far away from the light. This takes the legacy of Bathory, Slayer and Hellhammer even deeper into the depths of Hell, only to emerge darker and more malevolent. The spirit is closer to what Morbid accomplished on the December Moon release, and is much more evil than the bands in Stockholm, such as Nihilist or Carnage.

"Spawn of Azathoth" begins with very disturbing and sickening sounds, before the tremolo melodies and blasting drums assault the listener. This song is short yet still manages to leave an impression. The solos almost seem influenced by old Slayer, while the ghoulish vocals are certainly unholier than anything else going on in Sweden around this time.

The next song is "Nocturnal Blasphemies", which begins with an ugly thrash riff and a horrid scream, followed by a very fitting solo. Soon, the song builds in speed, as the thrash riffs are replaced by tremolo melodies that slice through your flesh like rusted blades. While it may have been released in the summer of 1990, this release embodies the underground scene of the late 1980s. This song, in particular, has a feeling similar to Hell Awaits.

"Submit to Death" is not as possessed as the previous songs. The riffs are more thrash-oriented and the atmosphere is not as dark. It has a lot of energy and contains very memorable riffs. The pace is fairly fast, though it slows down near the end. Again, this song is dominated by the thrash riffs. It displays variation in the style of Grotesque and fits in well, here. It serves as a break from the more dismal and suffocating feeling that permeates the rest of the songs.

This is ephemeral as "Blood Runs From the Altar" bursts forth, from the bowels of Hell, destroying all in its path. The demonic screams and the blasting drums gives this more of a Black Metal feeling than anything else. This song is unrelenting, during the first part. Near the middle, it slows down and Goatspell unleashes tormented screams. This is later followed by an unholy chorus of demons, right before the haunting lead solo. The song then speeds up again, before ending with a chilling scream that fades into oblivion.

Not long after Incantation was released, Grotesque played their last show and due to contradictions they split up shortly afterwards. What they left behind was an obscure legacy of evil. They remain alongside such bands as Merciless and Mefisto, being relatively unknown and unappreciated. It is a shame that they did not manage to keep things together long enough to release a couple proper full-length albums. Some of the spirit of Grotesque carried over into the first releases from At the Gates, before they went for the more simplistic sound that they would later embrace.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness (1989)

Altars of Madness is the first full-length album from the legendary Florida Death Metal band, Morbid Angel. Recorded at Morrisound and released in early 1989, this L.P. features many songs that had been previously recorded on various demos and even an unreleased album from 1986. Fate determined that it would be this unholy release that brought together the evil forces that inspired Black, Death and Speed Metal to create a timeless classic.

Morbid Angel was one of the first Death Metal bands that I got into, so many years ago. At the time, I had only discovered a few others, such as Cannibal Corpse and Deicide. I immediately associated the vocal style with those bands but, musically, I thought of old Slayer. I remember sitting there, in the record store, previewing the album. I was supposed to just give it a quick listen and get the general idea; however, I ended up going through the entire L.P. right then and there, reading along with the evil and Satanic lyrics. Not only was I still young, but I was still fairly new to Death Metal, so Altars of Madness was very important in my musical development and my understanding of that particular sub-genre. I became obsessed with the album, listening to it every night, many times over. Naturally, I vandalized many school desks with my crude rendering of the Morbid Angel logo, as well.

"Immortal Rites" begins with the main riff being played backward. The guitars possess a hellish tone, similar to that found on Hell Awaits or Seven Churches. Sinister tremolo riffs flow throughout like blood from an open wound. The vocals are higher-pitched and raspier than the Death Metal vocals that I had experienced up to that point. David Vincent's ghoulish approach is far better than the deep and guttural style utilized by the legions of generic vocalists that came after him. Trey Azagthoth and Richard Brunelle unleash Hell through their guitar riffs, as the dark melodies haunt your mind. Of course, Pete Sandoval earns his keep as drummer, being quite proficient. As everything progresses, it manages to create an epic feeling, despite the relative brevity of the song.

The next song is "Suffocation", which wastes little time in breaking into a furious speed. There are a few tempo changes, as well as a razor-sharp solo near the end. In the grand scheme of the album, it serves to heighten the level of intensity.

"Visions From the Dark Side" begins with a brilliant tremolo melody. This hearkens back to the first Possessed album, in particular, "The Exorcist". It would seem that this album managed to influence many Scandinavian bands that were soon to begin releasing albums. As already mentioned, David Vincent's vocals are in top form, on this album. This is, certainly, his best performance. It is difficult to choose a favorite song, but this one definitely contains one of the best riffs on the whole album.

"Maze of Torment" starts out with a very memorable riff that will creep into your brain at the strangest times. Within moments, the song bursts into a high speed frenzy, unleashing Hell and suffering. Already, by this point, it is amazing that there is no filler on this album. It is rare for a Death Metal release to be so consistent. As the song progresses, the pace slows down to a ghoulish crawl, creating an eerie feeling.

The next song is "Lord of All Fevers and Plague", which is a bonus track for the CD version of this album, ever since the original release. This song is very fast-paced, for the most part, though it features changes in tempo and Trey's identifiable solos weaving in and out. The lyrics were written by Azagthoth, displaying his interest in Sumerian mythology. Late in the song, the tempo shifts again, reverting to more of an old school drum beat underneath the solo. It is very apparent that the songs on this album were crafted over time and perfected before being recorded.

"Chapel of Ghouls" is next, and is one of the most recognizable Morbid Angel songs. The song begins fast enough, though it slows down a little and includes a brief solo before resuming the previous speed. Around the 2:00 mark, there is a mid-paced and epic riff that creates an eerie atmosphere of old graveyards and murky forests. Trey's solo adds to this effect. AS the song build to its climax, a chorus of demonic vocals erupts from the bowels of Hell:

"Demons attack with hate
Satan in the fires of Hell awaits
Death against you all
God hear my death call"

This classic album continues with "Bleed For the Devil", which maintains a fast pace, throughout. It is relatively short. Vincent's vocals sound even more hoarse and raspy, containing the essence of death and evil.

"Damnation" carries this feeling on, though being a little less straight-forward than the previous song. The vocals are scathing and the guitars embody the 80s sound, especially the lengthy solos. Despite being recorded at Morrisound, this does not have the generic and boring production job usually associated with that studio. The overall sound is very reminiscent of early Slayer, especially the abysmal feeling of Hell Awaits.

Rapid-fire gunshots begin the next song, "Blasphemy", with the furious drumming of Pete Sandoval coming in and emulating this with precision. The original version of this song appeared on the Thy Kingdom Come demo, though is rawer form. This song is unrelenting in speed and aggression; however, the solos still maintain a lot of feeling, unlike many other Death Metal bands that toss solos in as if they were obligatory and meaningless.

This unholy classic concludes with the song "Evil Spells". This was originally recorded for the 1986 album, Abominations of Desolation, under the title "Welcome To Hell". The pace is neither fast nor slow; rather, it is more relaxed. There are sections that speed up a bit, yet these are brief. This song possesses a haunting atmosphere and serves well to bring such a monumental album to its conclusion.

With Altars of Madness, Morbid Angel established themselves as one of the elite bands in the underground scene of the late 1980s. This legendary album set a standard that has not quite been matched by any Death Metal band, before or since. In the liner notes, it says that "this album is dedicated to the underground and all Speed, Death, Black Metal fans everywhere." Altars of Madness is truly the point where all of these styles converged to create something memorable and special; something that Morbid Angel has not been able to repeat. Few albums stand the test of time like this one has. If you don't own this, impale yourself and rid the world of your feeble stupidity.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Deicide - Deicide (1990)

Deicide formed in 1987, then known as Amon. After recording a couple demos, they were signed by Roadrunner Records. The band was encouraged to change their name, since Amon was the name of the house on the King Diamond album "Them". By early 1990, Deicide entered Morrisound to record their debut L.P.

I discovered this band back in high school, after the release of Once Upon the Cross. The title track from that album was enough to get me interested in the band but, as usual, I chose to start from the beginning. Within a week or so, I went out and purchased the first one, instead. At that point, Hell Awaits was the most evil album that I possessed, so this didn't have a lot of competition. Religion was never pushed on me as I grew up. I was aware of Christianity, but it wasn't anything I really put much thought into. In the couple years before I got this album, I had really started to think about it and to analyze the effects that the great Judeo-Christian lie had on the world around me. Within no time, after finally taking a look at this filth, I was filled with utter hatred for it. During this period, bands like Slayer and Deicide did well to echo the harsh sentiment that I held for this feeble system of beliefs.

The album begins with what sounds like the gates of Hell opening and pure evil bursting forth. Thrash riffs and mid-paced double bass lead into faster, more typical Death Metal on "Lunatic of God's Creation". This song would appear to have something to do with Charles Manson. Glen Benton's demonic vocals stand out, here. The style that he utilized on this L.P. is far superior to the 'ultra brutal', too-deep-to-understand nonsense that he spews these days.

"Sacrificial Suicide" features more hateful and unholy vocals, as well as some catchy and memorable sections that remain in your brain. The guitar tone is pretty standard for Morrisound, sadly, dulling the edge to an extent. The sound is pretty similar to other albums recorded there, around the same time, such as Harmony Corruption. Some of the faster parts of the album are found on this song.

One may wonder what sub-genre that Deicide belongs to. By the old 80s definitions, the Satanic lyrical themes would make this Black Metal, without question. Of course, stylistically, the band fits in with the rest of the Florida Death Metal scene. Despite disliking them, even those in the Norwegian scene labeled them as 'commercial Black Metal'. To make things even more difficult, this album was released before bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone really set the standard for what the Second Wave of Black Metal was to sound like. Listening to the catchy thrash riffs of "Oblivious To Evil", it is difficult to really call this Black Metal, so it is best to simply leave this to each individual to decide on their own, if there is a need to categorize the record. Either way, it is Satanic, hateful and anti-Christian and that is all that matters.

Next up is, probably, the best known song by the band; "Dead By Dawn". Inspired by The Evil Dead, this song rages forth with intensity from the very beginning. The wicked solo, early on, is very reminiscent of Slayer. The drumming is very accurate and the guitars are well played, but the vocals really make this. The layering and demonic effects really do a lot to add to the Hellish atmosphere, even if it possesses more of a horror movie feeling, rather than a nocturnal ritual.

"Blaspherereion" is a bit faster than the previous songs, which is a welcome thing. Despite the fact that Deicide became a caricature of themselves, later on, the self-titled debut features many well-crafted songs. Enough cannot be said of Benton's possessed screams. He displays a great deal of force and variation. Everything is executed more than adequately, from the vocals to the musicianship.

The song "Deicide" begins with an epic build-up from the Hoffman brothers. It may seem strange to use such a word regarding an album which doesn't feature a single song near the four and a half minute mark, but this certainly describes the feeling created in the opening moments of this song. Despite the bland Scott Burns production job, the songs still manage to grab the listener by the throat and pull them into Hell.

"Carnage in the Temple of the Damned" was inspired by cult-leader Jim Jones. The intro is very interesting. Musically, this song displays less of the band's Thrash Metal roots than many of the other songs. None of the songs on Deicide overstay their welcome. They progress toward their logical conclusion in a timely manner and end before becoming repetitive.

The album continues with "Mephistopheles", which begins at full speed. A short time later, mid-paced thrash riffs and relentless double bass drumming dominate the song for a while. The layered, demonic vocals and Hellish lead solos come together to create a very unholy atmosphere, though the song is much like the rest on the album; catchy and memorable.

Deicide was never as inspired and filled with creative energy as they were when they created this album. "Day of Darkness" begins with several indecipherable screams of burning agony. As with the rest of the songs, this one wastes no time in accomplishing what it set out to do, doing a decent job of leading into the final song.

This classic debut album concludes with one of the best songs that the band recorded; "Crucifixation". A brief, thrashy intro builds up to somewhat of an epic section that features Slayer-esque soloing and a brilliant vocal delivery by Glen Benton. The lyrics are so utterly Satanic that one cannot help but appreciate it in the same manner as a good 70s or 80s horror movie. Once the song gets going, it maintains a pretty furious pace throughout. This is the most straight-forward and evil-sounding song on the album, and a perfect way to bring things to an end. Words simply don't do it justice. As the song finishes, the gates slam shut, once more, containing the evil for the time being.

Regardless of Benton's foolish statements or the band's rapid deterioration, after this, Deicide's self-titled L.P. is a classic slab of Satanic Death Metal and is worthy of the praise that it has received over the years. If you only listen to one album by this band, it should be this one. This release is not only important for establishing this band, but it had a strong influence on other Satanic Death Metal bands that came later, such as Hypocrisy and Necrophobic.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obituary - Slowly We Rot (1989)

Obituary began their career in 1985, as a Thrash Metal band named Executioner. Even from their earliest stages, one could hear influences ranging from old Metallica, Slayer and Celtic Frost. The following year, after realizing that another band was already using this name, they changed the spelling to Xecutioner. Also influenced by bands such as Venom and Possessed, the band's sound shifted to Death Metal and they went on to be signed by Roadrunner Records, based on the tracks that they contributed to the Raging Death compilation, on Godly Records. They then changed their name, one last time, to Obituary.

Slowly We Rot is the first Obituary album, recorded in Morrisound Recording and produced by Scott Burns. Hailing from Tampa, Florida this band was part of a new metal scene that included the likes of Morbid Angel, Death, Nocturnus, Massacre, Malevolent Creation and Deicide, among others. However, Obituary seemed even more vicious than these bands. This was, as Monte Conner put it, truly "the legacy of Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost and Slayer reborn into something which was nastier, leaner and altogether more extreme."

It was back in high school when I discovered this band. I often engaged in tape trading with some acquaintances. I exchanged a tape filled with various Testament songs for one that contained Obituary's second album, Cause of Death. I was immediately hooked and I purchased the album as soon as I could. Becoming greedy for more, I quickly sought out their first album and it was even more appealing, being rawer and possessing a great old school feeling. The razor logo, dripping with blood, turned out to be very fitting, as well.

An ominous intro sets the stage for a classic piece of Death Metal history. As "Internal Bleeding" begins, John Tardy's unique vocals vomit forth, accompanied by the thundering drums and gritty guitars. It is like being hacked to pieces by blood-rusted axes. The guitar tone is pure Celtic Frost and the vocals are absolutely sick. It is sometimes strange to see how different bands interpret those that came before them. To listen to a Darkthrone album, such as Panzerfaust, you hear a well-done imitation of Celtic Frost, though somewhat darker. With Obituary, there is the same strong influence from this band, yet they do not simply imitate them; they take what they began and carry it forward to new extremes.

"Godly Beings" begins at full speed, though it features slower sections. The fact that this was recorded on a mere 8 tracks does nothing to hinder the power and force behind this music. The first seven songs actually sound better than the last few, recorded later on 24 tracks.

The guitars on "Til Death" are like scythes slicing through your torso and severing your limbs. Tardy's sickening vocal delivery is quite unprecedented, not really sounding like anyone that has come before him. The scathing speed is contrasted by slow doom riffs and eerie guitar solos. This imbues the listener with a feeling of morbid lust, luring them into the graveyard to walk among the tombs.

Possibly the best song on the album, "Slowly We Rot" begins with a slow and doom-filled riff that is very reminiscent of Celtic Frost, remaining true to the morbid and ghastly atmosphere, while the originators of that sound were busy trying to sell out and appeal to mainstream posers. The opening riffs of the song are very memorable, as are Allen West's lead solos. The song shifts to a blistering speed, showing influences from Slayer's Show No Mercy.

"Immortal Visions" opens as full speed before slowing down to a morbid crawl. The song features various tempos and even a wicked, yet brief, guitar solo. This song is slightly overshadowed by the one that precedes it, as well as the following song; "Gates To Hell". Beginning with high speed ferocity, this song alternates between slow and fast riffs. The vocal lines are completely insane. As the song slows down, John Tardy's screams are morbidly hellish.

"Words of Evil", despite a few screams, is more or less an instrumental track. The one complaint that I would make about the album, thus far, would be that the songs are a bit too short. However, Obituary manages to accomplish what they set out to do, so perhaps the songs are just long enough.

The difference in sound is immediately noticeable, once "Suffocation" begins. Yet, within a few moments, the excellent songwriting draws the listener in and erases any thoughts regarding the superiority of the production job accomplished on the first half of the album. It is odd that the 8 track managed a better sound than 24, but sometimes less is more. At any rate, the musicianship is still top-notch as heard on the following song, "Intoxicated". That song features some of the heaviest riffs of the album, completely crushing all in their path. As the song concludes, the Slayer influence becomes more apparent.

"Deadly Intentions" starts with more of a mid-paced approach. The riffs get slower as the song progresses, accompanied by John Tardy's utterly repulsive vocals. The song speeds up for a bit, as West's razor-sharp solos slice through your flesh, before slowing down once more.

The next song is "Bloodsoaked". Again, this song is mid-paced from the outset, but it gets a bit faster in a short span. The riffs possess sort of an epic feeling, preceding the lead solo. A sense of dread and tension is building, as the vocals become more desperate and the solos sound more tortured. The end is truly near.

This classic album ends with "Stinkupuss", which begins with Celtic Frost-inspired riffs. As the song progresses, one finds old school drum beats, common in early 80s Metal, before blasting at full speed for a brief time. The slow pace returns, as the drums roll across like a tank, destroying all in their path. As the song fades into oblivion, anyone with a keen ear will be able to recognize that they just experienced something rare. Unlike many bands that form one day and record an album the following week, Obituary labored away in the underground for years before recording a full-length and it shows in the quality of the musicianship and songwriting. Rather than simply imitating those bands that inspired them, they took the influences and forged them into something new and violent. With Slowly We Rot and the album that followed, Obituary created a musical legacy that will never be forgotten.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Merciless - The Awakening (1990)

The Awakening was the first release from Sweden's Merciless. It was also the first album released on Deathlike Silence Productions, run by Euronymous of Mayhem. The album was recorded in the summer of 1989, predating most of the classic Swedish Death Metal albums from bands like Entombed and Carnage, though it was not available until February 1990. The music found on this L.P. is a mix of Black, Death and Thrash Metal. The influences range from early Possessed and Death to Bathory and Mayhem and even German Thrash Metal bands, such as Kreator. In many ways, this album is very reminiscent of Endless Pain.

The vocals are very much in the vein of 80s Black Metal, possessing a similar feel to Mille (from Kreator) or Dead (from Morbid). The vocals are not static; rather, there is a decent amount of variation, including higher-pitched shrieks and certain vocal lines being filled with a sense of desperation and others being consumed with utter hatred. The sound is very raw, far more so than the Swedish Death Metal albums being recorded at Sunlight Studio. The only one of their contemporaries that they might be adequately compared to would be Grotesque. Perhaps there are also similarities with some of the faster moments from Samael's debut album. While the sound is raw and aggressive, this is not used as an excuse for all of the songs to sound the same. There is a lot of variation in tempo and several riff changes. Each song is different from the next, maintaining an identity of its own, displaying excellent musicianship.

"Pure Hate" and "Souls of the Dead" truly bludgeon the listener with fury and malice. The title track has a slight epic feeling to it, due to the arrangement. The memorable riffs found in such songs as "Dreadful Fate" remain in your mind long after the album has concluded. These songs are very powerful and crushing, laying waste to the weak and inferior souls that dare to listen. The average song length is around three or four minutes, resulting in the album clocking in at just under half an hour. This is probably the one point worth complaining about. Songs like "Realm of the Dead" mix Speed and Thrash Metal well, creating a dark and occult feeling, yet still dripping with a traditional Metal sensibility. The lead solo in this song is perfectly placed and leaves the listener wishing that there were a few more like it, throughout the record. While this album is filled with a lot of aggression and energy, there are slower moments such as the doom riffs found in "Dying World". As the album nears its conclusion, "Bestial Death" features intense speed and nice guitar harmonies, along with hellish screams. This builds up to the climax of the entire L.P.

"Painfully awaiting the night
Never to see the light
Is this the price I must pay
A stench of dirt and decay"

These lines are found in the beginning of "Denied Birth", which was the song that made me completely obsessed with Merciless, upon discovering this cult Swedish band. This song really does well to blend together the sounds of 80s Black, Death and Thrash Metal. There is an epic feeling to this song, in particular, and it is fitting that it was chosen to end this classic album.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Archgoat - Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration) (1992)

In 1992, Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration) was spewed forth by Finland's Archgoat. The overall sound is quite similar to old Beherit, and it shares the aforementioned band's influences, to an extent, owing much more to the Brazilian Black/Death scene of the mid to late 80s; bands such as Sarcofago, Sepultura, Vulcano and Holocausto as opposed to Venom or Bathory.

Musically, some may get the sense that there is an influence from Death, yet this is Finnish Black Metal. Despite the vocals being a bit deeper than those utilized by many of their contemporaries, the atmosphere is dark and occult. The fast, grinding parts aren't expecially interesting; however, it is during the slower, doom-filled sections where the band seems to shine. The intro is neither good nor bad, rather it is simply there. The opener, "Rise of the Black Moon", sets the pace for the entire release, which is quite brief. As the E.P. continues, "Death and Necromancy" sticks to this formula, while also incorporating a nice guitar solo. At just over three minutes, this is actually the longest song on here.

"Soulflay" begins with a very good doom riff, though the song quickly returns to the fast and generic-sounding riffs that are found all over. There is a short section that includes some sort of organ, but it passes far too quickly. "Black Messiah" carries on with more mediocre riffs, with ephemeral slow parts, almost similar to Immolation. The music isn't bad. It's just kind of there. It could have been quite a bit better, had they put forth the time and energy to really work on the songs. The only feeling of any kind is during the slow riffs. The fast riffs are pointless and bereft of any evil feeling. It is as if the guitars are there only to make background noise for the vocals to bark out over. This is where the Death Metal influence is most prevalent. Both "Jesus Spawn" and the outro are entirely pointless.

This brief E.P. would have served the band better by being even shorter. This is vastly inferior to the output from other Finnish bands, such as Beherit or Impaled Nazarene. Once you have heard "Rise of the Black Moon", you have heard enough to get the general idea behind Archgoat.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Impaled Nazarene - Suomi Finland Perkele (1994)

Suomi Finland Perkele is the third L.P. from Impaled Nazarene. It was recorded in the misty depths of Finland, during the summer of 1994, and released that October. As one who prefers a certain level of seriousness with music, I found it difficult to get into this band, for years. I had heard the opening to "Total War" and was put off, more or less. However, I came to realize that what Impaled Nazarene embodied was a more traditional Metal attitude, similar to Venom, Motorhead and so on. At least, that was the impression that I had gotten. Once I finally gave this album a chance, I discovered that this was only one aspect of the greater whole. This album seemed to hold more than a few surprises.

The intro is rather brief, yet does well to build up a bit of tension. This is the sound of a horde of barbarians preparing for war. "Vitutuksen Multihuipennus" begins with fast tremolo riffs and blasting drums, not sounding too distant from their Norwegian counterparts, despite the supposed hatred that they had for them. The song maintains a fast pace throughout, though managing to incorporate a couple memorable riffs. The lyrics are in Finnish, and the vocals are slightly reminiscent of Master's Hammer. The only complaint about this song is that it is over too soon.

"Blood Is Thicker Than Water" is more mid-paced than the opener. The bass is very audible on this album, which suits it just fine. The main riff of this song is very similar to a riff found on Samael's Ceremony of Opposites album. Regardless of which one came first, Impaled Nazarene probably manage to make better use of it. The melodies in this song create kind of a depressive feeling. The lyrics follow suit, though one has to wonder if this is serious or not.

The pace picks up, once more, with "Steelvagina". Odd song titles, such as this, probably influenced my opinion of this band, long before I bothered to really give them a chance. The cold and epic tremolo riffs and venomous vocals are proof enough that I made an error in judging this band. For a group that professed some sort of negative opinion toward the Norwegian Black Metal scene, they certainly have a bit more in common with them as opposed to fellow Finnish bands, such as Beherit or Archgoat.

"Total War - Winter War" begins with a cheesy part that features a lot of shouting and cursing. This is where the less-than-serious Venom influence seems to come through. As the song really gets going, it maintains the fast pace that was heard on the previous song. The tremolo riffs are mixed with a lot of open chords, carried forward by the steady, blasting drums. This song, in particular, possesses a lot of the 80s metal spirit, especially toward the end.

The next song is "Quasb / The Burning", which begins with slight keyboard use that accompanies the slow, doom riffs. At 4:07, this is actually the longest song on the album. It maintains the feeling of a slow and painful death by suffocation, throughout. Some double bass comes into play, near the end of the song, though the pace never really goes beyond a funeral march.

This feeling is completely destroyed with the blasting fury of "Kuolema Kaikille (Paitsi Meille)" which is one of the fastest (and shortest) songs on the album. At :50, it is more of a chaotic interlude than an actual song. It serves its purpose well enough, breaking up the bleak atmosphere created by the previous song and setting the stage for what is to come.

"Let's Fucking Die!" returns to the oldschool 80s approach of Venom. This is the kind of song that one headbangs to, while driving at high speeds down dark stretches of highway. It even features a pretty wicked guitar solo, near the end. Strangely enough, this is really the only song that lives up to the preconceived notions that I had about this band.

The build-up to "Genocide" is fairly reminiscent of several old thrash albums from the 80s, feeling eerily similar to Slayer's "Hell Awaits". The song then blasts forward at full speed, complete with memorable tremolo riffs and sinister vocals. As with all of the songs on this record, it is over pretty quickly, never having the opportunity to overstay its welcome.

The next song is the one that got me interested in really checking out this album. "Ghettoblaster" features brilliant harmonies that remain embedded in your brain for years. The cold, tremolo melodies, the snarling and hateful vocals and the blasting drums all come together to create probably the best song on this album, as well as some great lyrics:

"Kill! Fucking kill!
No mercy for scum!"

It doesn't get much more straight-forward than that. The song is kind of short, though that may add to its appeal as it leaves the listener wanting more.

Suomi Finland Perkele concludes with "The Oath of the Goat". This mid-paced effort is the second-longest song on the album. All in all, it has kind of a bizarre feeling to it. It seems as if it is building toward something that never really comes. For brief moments, it appears that it will, yet it is almost as if they are holding back. The album ends with a very strange, choppy version of the war cry that begins the album, which only adds to the strange feeling this song possesses.

This album is very enjoyable, as Impaled Nazarene does well to blend their old school roots with the sounds of the Second Wave Black Metal bands. This is actually the only L.P. of theirs that I am familiar with, but I recommend it for anyone that doesn't already own it. The songs display a wide variety of tempos and each maintains its own identity. Even the 50 second song serves a purpose in the overall structure of the album. This is quality Finnish Black Metal. Buy this or kill yourself. Better yet, just go ahead and kill yourself.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sargeist - Disciple of the Heinous Path (2005)

Disciple of the Heinous Path is the second full-length from Sargeist. Written in 2001, at the same time as the material on Satanic Black Devotion, this maintains the same atmosphere created on their first album. It would seem that, along with other Finnish bands like Clandestine Blaze, Sargeist is keeping more true to the old Norwegian sound than the current output from that country. The feeling from Darkthrone's Under A Funeral Moon and Transilvanian Hunger is still present, much like on their debut L.P.

The album begins with "Black Treasures of Melancholy". The song starts with a fairly fast pace, featuring mournful and introspective tremolo-picked harmonies. Torog's vocals are much the same as on the previous album, though maybe slightly less reverb. There is more of a gargled quality to them, rather than screaming. Shatraug's trademark songwriting is present, and this could not be mistaken for another band.

"Remains of an Unholy Past" begins with a slightly faster tempo than the previous song, and the tremolo melodies are dark and haunting. These depressive harmonies will take root in the murky recesses of your mind and obsess you. Lyrically, this is definitely a tribute to bands such as Mayhem and Darkthrone. After a few minutes, the pace changes, in sort of an unpleasant way. The galloping riffs aren't so bad, yet the one in between them is entirely pointless and the song is sort of derailed. A couple minutes later, the main theme returns and the cold and hopeless feeling returns.

The next song is "Cursed Blaze of Rituals". This is much slower than the previous two, and imbues the listener with a sense of misery. The open-arpeggio riffs are reminiscent of Burzum. The vocals on this one are very obscure. This possesses the morbid atmosphere of cold graveyards. Halfway through, the song speeds up to kind of a gallop. This doesn't last too long, as the song returns the the previous riff.

The title track is another mid-paced affair, beginning with a very memorable and miserable open-arpeggio riff. The feeling of despair is thick in the dark fog that surrounds you. A few minutes into the song, the riffs change, building sort of an epic feeling before the song speeds up. At no point does the atmosphere if the song get lost, through any of these changes. Everything flows together well.

The cold and grim feeling continues on "Heretic Iron Will". Your feeble spirit is trapped within a swirling black cloud of utter torment. The slow riffs transition to faster ones, alternating back and forth with a catchier riff, which is typical of Shautraug's style. This seems to be pretty standard for Finnish bands, in general. Keeping within the established framework of early 90s Norwegian Black Metal, Sargeist manages to make things interesting, as each song is easily identifiable.

"Echoes From a Morbid Night" is the final song of the album, beginning with fast tremolo riffs and blasting drums. The song alternates between faster and slower riffs, always keeping an epic feeling. There is truly a sense of finality to these harmonies, and it would serve well as the soundtrack for one who is left to lay on the freezing ground, deep in the forest, bleeding in the moonlight.

Other than one odd riff that seemed out of place, there is nothing to complain about, regarding this album. If you appreciated Satanic Black Devotion, this should be no different. The only exception may be that these songs are more mid-paced. If you are looking for a morbid and melancholic atmosphere, then you should get this.