Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Branikald - Varg Fjerne A Tornet (1996)

Branikald is a Russian Black Metal band that emerged around 1993, as a solo project of Kaldrad. Apparently, much like the French Black Legions, Branikald was part of a community called the Blazebirth Hall. His first proper album is titled Varg Fjerne A Tornet and was released in December 1995. This is not the most unique recording around, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for with feeling and atmosphere.

The songwriting owes a great deal to the Norwegian bands, which one might expect based on the title alone. The first three songs are quite lengthy, yet very minimalist, in the style of Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger. A lot of bands have tried to implement a similar approach and many of them have failed to create anything worthwhile. However, Branikald was among the first to follow the path created by Fenriz and did very well in utilizing this sound. The first few songs consist of cold and mournful tremolo melodies that swirl around you like bitter winter winds. "Рассекая в кровь, разбивая в прах", in particular, is very sombre yet memorable. The two tracks that follow are a little darker in character, rather than sorrowful. The repetitious guitar riffs are accompanied by very basic and primitive drumming that includes very few unnecessary fills or anything to distract from the melodies. The vocals are deeper than those of Nocturno Culto, and almost sound reminiscent of some of the LLN bands. The title track stands out, lacking drums or vocals and feeling more like a Burzum instrumental. It is commendable that Kaldrad was able to create such lengthy songs that never seem to get boring, despite being so minimalist. He was also a lot more competent as a musician than Akhenaten, of Judas Iscariot, for example.

The production is perfectly suits the music on this album. It is very lo-fi, again similar to Transilvanian Hunger, drenched in a raw and obscure sound that adds to the cold and dark feeling conveyed by this material. Of course, the main focus is on the guitars, which have a somewhat sharp edge to them. The drums are audible, but still non-assuming due to the style. As for the vocals, they are a little high in the mix, but this works well as the harshness of his voice only aids in the creation of such a raw and abrasive vibe.

Russian Black Metal is not my area of expertise, so I cannot really comment on how this compares to other bands from their homeland. Either way, Varg Fjerne A Tornet is a very solid album and, original or not, is certainly worth checking out. Unlike so many other bands that have failed at this style, Branikald excelled at this cold and minimalist approach. Fans of early Darkthrone, Mütiilation and Moonblood should appreciate this.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Supplicium - Magna Atra Missa (2010)

In June 2010, the little-known French band Supplicium made an artistic statement that has still not been fully comprehended. After fifteen years of empty bands simply imitating those that came before or experimenting with alien influences and diluting the purity of Black Metal, these guys came along to show that there are still some out there that "get it". With their first (and so far, only) full-length album, Magna Atra Missa, Supplicium has taken a step toward reclaiming the true darkness that this music once possessed. While this one-hour-plus epic may be a lot for some to digest, it is exactly the sort of thing that Black Metal needs. This is not about instant gratification, rather, creating a dark and abysmal atmosphere and invoking the ancient forces that served as the inspiration for this genre from its birth.

With five of the album's eight tracks extending past the ten-minute mark, it is no surprise that this record has not yet received the amount of praise that it deserves. So few bother to truly invest themselves in music that demands so much from the listener. However, it is exactly this type of album that is worthy of such total immersion. Musically, there is a good amount of influence from classic-era Mayhem. In fact, this is the sort of music that they should be making. Rather than imitating Darkthrone, Burzum or Emperor, as so many have done over the years, Supplicium follows the lead of the brilliant songwriting found on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The compositions are very dynamic, and take the listener on a darkened journey into purest hell. Though the bass and drums are audible and are not merely background players, instead adding to the overall effect, this music is very much guitar-oriented. The songwriting is quite ambitious and is dominated by cold and sinister tremolo melodies. So few Black Metal bands are able to come up with truly evil sounding riffs anymore, so this is very refreshing to hear. At times, one can hear the sort of urgency to the riffs that exists on the old Deathspell Omega albums, but here it is done a little better and not so constant, so there is real contrast. The vocals include deeper, more bestial growls and the occasional tormented screams that seem to drift off into the shadows. As with the music, the vocals have a sense of forcefulness that few are capable of anymore. In a way, this sounds like the sort of record Watain should have made to follow up Casus Luciferi, had they not been drained of their passion for this music in the years since. With this album, there is a strong connection to those that came before and paved the way, while still accomplishing something meaningful and not mere plagiarism. The songs here move along at high speed, for the most part, though there are moments where the drums and vocals fade away, leaving only the frigid guitar melodies to pierce your spirit, before the maelstrom resumes. Occasionally, there is a melancholic vibe that comes through, but less the suffering of a solitary being and more the utter damnation of all life. The end of "Limbus Puerorum" does well to convey this feeling of desolation. This is expanded upon during "Evil Slowly Infects Our Souls", a slower-paced song that features fast passages, but centers on a more bleak and mournful feeling. Still, Supplicium opts to focus more on the evil and hellish side of things, rather than to follow the more miserable path of their French predecessors, like Mütiilation. There is a very epic vibe here, also very prevalent on "Diaboli Cultus", with the various tempo changes and the overall tone of the track. Though one might get lost in everything that is going on, during initial listens, it will soon be clear that there are many memorable and utterly haunting melodies that remain with you and keep drawing you back to the overpowering aura of nocturnal evil that is created by the music on this record.

"The eternal night will be our tomb!"

As for the production, there are no complaints. The sound is perfectly suits the music, with cold and evil guitar riffs, while the bass is audible enough to add a dark feeling underneath. Drums are heard but not overdone. The vocals are safely buried enough so that they retain kind of an obscure feeling, at times, and are not terribly clear. The more shrill cries are captured in a manner that sends chills down your spine. The production is very full and dynamic, without sounding plastic or too modern. Everything is aimed at making sure that the guitars dominate the sound and that they remain the primary focus throughout.

Magna Atra Missa is a very solid album of high-quality Black Metal that should be heard by anyone that still bothers to follow this sub-genre. Even those that have long ago given up on modern releases and sticks to the old classics should really put them aside for an hour or so and give this a listen. Where most modern bands completely fail, Supplicium succeeds with great ease. Not only do they maintain the traditions set forth by those that came before them, but they manage to build upon that foundation to create something meaningful and worthwhile. As the years roll by, less and less bands have any clue where this music came from and what it is supposed to represent; however, this is a group of musicians that firmly understand and have crafted something that towers above the better-known releases of commercial bands. Seek this out, by all means.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Warloghe - Womb of Pestilence (2003)

Released in 2003, Womb of Pestilence is the second full-length album from Warloghe. In the four years between releases, the band managed to correct some of the problems that plagued the previous album and held it back from being as good as it could have been. The material here sounds like more of a natural continuation of what they began with The Black Tower and Unlighted, much moreso than The First Possession. This is one of those times when a band actually realized their potential, rather than disappointing.

Musically, this is much darker than anything on their first record. This is what many were expecting the last one to sound like. The songwriting is much more focused and there are no throwaway tracks. This is clear from the moment "Opened and Tainted Graves" begins. There is a sense of urgency and, most of all, feeling to the riffs. Everything fits together, cohesively, to create a very dark and gloomy atmosphere. Songs like "Fires Burn Black" really hearken back to the old Mütiilation demos and bring forth an ancient darkness to consume you whole. The compositions are more complete and dynamic, rather than each song being rather one-dimensional. There is still a rather straightforward approach, though with subtle additions that do a lot for the music, such as the slow sections in "Illuminating Void" and "Dark Spires Swirl in the Abyss". There are also slight changes in the drumming, here and there, that help to keep the songs from being too monotonous. The vocals sound much more possessed than on the last record, particularly the hellish wailing on "Corpse-Altar-Light". The effect is reminiscent of the demonic voices from 'The Evil Dead', but in a very serious manner. While some of the tremolo melodies on the last offering were a bit generic and failed to move the listener in any way, the riffs that make up Womb of Pestilence serve to haunt you and to create a very unsettling feeling that is sure to drag your spirit into the depths.

The production is more consistent and suits the music a lot more, compared to the last album. The guitars possess a very raw and, sometimes, grating quality that are likely to make your ears bleed if you turn the volume up. This is what an underground Black Metal album should sound like, as if it was recorded in some forgotten crypt. The vocals are high enough in the mix, throughout, rather than sometimes being buried as on the previous L.P. The drums are at a more appropriate level, as well, no longer dominating the sound. The guitars are firmly in control as the dominant element, as they should be, and the music benefits greatly from this. At a time when a lot of bands were going for a completely modern and plastic production, Warloghe's sophomore effort sounds like it could have been recorded a decade earlier.

Womb of Pestilence is a very solid album that deserves to be known much more than it is. This is what Mütiilation might have sounded like, around the same time, if Meyhna'ch had a real drummer and hadn't recorded his albums with such modern methods. Though some bands try very hard to proclaim themselves the standard-bearers of Black Metal, whoring themselves out in every possible way, Warloghe was simply keeping the black flame burning in a genuine manner, by creating dark and evil music that has stood the test of time. This should appeal to fans of the old LLN bands, such as Mütiilation, as well as modern Finnish bands like Sargeist and Horna. Buy this.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sargeist - Nockmaar / Heralding Breath of the Pestilence (2001)

Nockmaar is the first demo from Sargeist, recorded in 1999. Two years later, it was re-released with newer versions of two of its three songs. Even the expanded version is rather short. At this point, the project did not resemble the Sargeist that we would come to know later on.

Compared to Haudankylmyyden Mailla, the Horna album released that same year, this sounds very different. The necro sound of Nockmaar is a far cry from the almost crystal clear production of Horna's third full-length and sounds like Shatraug's attempt at creating his own Wrath of the Tyrant. The vocals are buried in the mix and the guitars possess a rather soft tone since the hissing and poor production do not allow for any sort of rawness. It sounds fuzzy, but very non-threatening, which does not help the music.

The songwriting is not all that spectacular. These tracks could be forgotten demos of any of the old Norwegian bands, really. One can definitely hear a little Burzum, during the slower open-arpeggio section of "Swords & Fire". "Heralding Breath of the Pestilence" shows influence from Emperor, one of Shatraug's favourite bands. There is nothing bad about the songs, here, though they are a bit generic. Still, for anyone that appreciates this style, there really are no complaints, other than the poor sound that seems to favour the drums over all else. The re-recorded versions are a little puzzling, as they do not sound different enough to really warrant releasing two versions. Even the sound quality is the same.

Nockmaar / Heralding Breath of the Pestilence gets no points for originality, but these are merely demos where Sargeist was still searching for its own voice. Shatraug did  good job in paying tribute to the early '90s style of Black Metal that he has done so well in keeping alive ever since. There is no experimentation, here, just grim and necro Black Metal that should please fans of the old Norwegian scene as well as the LLN.

Warloghe - The First Possession (1999)

The First Possession is the debut full-length from Finland's Warloghe. After releasing a demo and an E.P. the band managed to get into contact with Drakkar Productions, who released this album in 1999. It is rather appropriate, since their music seems to have a lot on common with the French Black Legions, at times.

The songwriting for this album is not terribly consistent. Rather than expanding upon the more grim and mournful sounds of The Black Tower or Unlighted, and following the path of the LLN bands that so inspired them, they opted for a safer and more generic approach. It starts out with a couple of unremarkable tracks, but they soon redeem themselves. "Witchcraft and Blood" is exactly what one would expect from Warloghe, though there seems to be a strong Darkthrone influence that was not present before, mixed in with riffs that sound reminiscent of Vlad Tepes. This is followed by "Tower of Flies", which is more mid-paced and possesses a morbid feeling. The vocals come through a lot better and help to create a dark and miserable atmosphere. Unfortunately, the band fails to build on the momentum. After another disappointing song, "Desecration" and "Angelreaper" at least show a bit of promise. Both are fast-paced tracks that rely on the standard high-speed drums and tremolo riffs, though the guitars are not as audible as they should be. By the time "The End of All Life" begins, the Darkthrone influence has completely taken over, sounding like something from Under A Funeral Moon. Still, one must also keep in mind that 1999 was a rotten time for Black Metal, so any band that was keeping a pure and raw sound was very much needed, even if the compositions lack originality.

The production is a bit of a detriment, as it seems the band recorded these songs in different sessions. Some of the songs are alright, but others are plagued with problems. The drums are a bit too loud, which would not be such a bad thing, except for the hollow sound that becomes very distracting and annoying. The vocals are too low, on several, reducing the grim effect that they added on the earlier releases. The guitars are just kind of in the middle, accomplishing very little. This album would have benefited from a different mix, placing more emphasis on the guitars and vocals.

Warloghe's debut album is not as good as it could have been. Some of the songs seem underdeveloped and include ideas that do not mesh well with the rest. The arrangement of the record is poor, also, starting out with two of the weaker tracks. Nonetheless, the bulk of the material delivers grim, old school Black Metal that does well to live up to the potential shown on the previous releases. During a time when many bands were experimenting with various outside influences and others were going toward a total synth route, The First Possession was a refreshing dose of uncompromising darkness that held true to those that came before.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sargeist - Tyranny Returns (2001)

Sargeist first came to my attention with their debut full-length, Satanic Black Devotion. I was very glad to find a band that was still being faithful to this style of Black Metal, while also actually possessing talent and creating exceptionally good music. It was only several months after the release of the band's second album that I sought out their earlier material. Thankfully, Tyranny Returns had just been reissued on CD not long before then. Originally released in 2001, this demo shows a very rough version of what Sargeist would become.

Speaking of rough, the production is very low-quality, though not in a way that would make your ears bleed. After the over-produced Sudentaival, from Horna, Shatraug's subsequent efforts seemed to get more raw and to go in the opposite direction. That is certainly the case, here. While sounding very necro and hellish, the guitar tone is softened by the hissing and almost comes across as soft. One can still follow what is going on, despite the distortion, but the drums often fade into the background. At times, the bass seems to drown out the guitar, which is certainly detrimental to the overall sound. The vocals are a little low, though this is for the best as Shatraug's voice is not always the best.

There are not a lot of surprises, regarding the songwriting. Anyone familiar with Satanic Black Devotion or Disciple of the Heinous Path would not have a hard time guessing what most of this sounds like, being demo material that was written around the same time. However, "Night of Sacred Wisdom" is likely to shock most listeners and stands out from the rest of the songs. From the keyboards to the goth-inspired clean vocals, this might be enough to have some people double-checking to make sure the right CD is playing. Other tracks, such as "Anti-Human Black Metal Wrath" and "Dark Fortress" show a band that is still searching for its own voice, coming off as rather generic when compared to their later efforts. There is a lot of Darkthrone influence in the songwriting, especially noticeable on "The Impaler Prince", which immediately calls to mind "Over Fjell og Gjennom Torner" from Transilvanian Hunger. In fact, it sounds like outright plagiarism, at times. Nonetheless, this is probably the best song on the demo. Similarly, "Iron, Blood & Blasphemy" sounds like a mix between "Born for Burning" by Bathory and "In Holocaust to the Natural Darkness" by Vlad Tepes. Still, being an early demo of a new project, it is only normal that Shatraug was toying with various influences, in his search for the appropriate voice that would enable him to express that which he wished to, without necessarily sounding just like his primary band. "Sinister Glow of the Funeral Torches" sounds a bit different from the later version, due to the washed-out production and the addition of synth. Thankfully, this element was dropped prior to the first album.

Tyranny Returns is an interesting look at the earliest stages of Sargeist's existence. It is certainly not essential, but may prove worth a listen for fans of the band. Whether or not it is more of a curiosity thing or if it warrants repeated listens depends on your taste. There is very little here that foreshadows the brilliance of their later offerings and even the best song on this demo is a total rip-off of Darkthrone. Regardless, if you are not seeking something all that great and just want to hear some gritty Black Metal, this may satisfy you. Just do not expect the same quality as found on Satanic Black Devotion.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Watain - The Wild Hunt (2013)

Nearly ten years have passed since the release of Casus Luciferi, the record that really cemented Watain's place in the underground. Yet, in all this time, they have failed to live up to the potential shown on that effort. This is a band that has disappointed for some years now. The first strike was the much more accessible Sworn to the Dark, its release coinciding with a huge jump in popularity for the band. Every goth girl-turned-Black Metal-expert was on the bandwagon, along with countless others that were eating up the band's Orthodox philosophy. It got even worse when they released the watered-down Lawless Darkness, with the Black Metal parts seeming to be rehashed ideas from the previous albums while the obvious leanings toward a more traditional Metal sound were clear. I have long opposed the spiritual beliefs held by the band members, mostly due to the fact that their popularity among the recently initiated have been helping to breed a new kind of Black Metal fan, one that is accepting of the Great Lie of Judeo-Christian mythology, rather than rejecting it all and opposing every aspect of its existence. However, with their fifth album, Watain has relieved me of this worry as they have fully stepped away from the realm of Black Metal, despite continuing to use the aesthetics and rhetoric. Released in August 2013, The Wild Hunt marks the official coming out of the closet of this once-relevant band.

Apologists will likely cling to the belief that the band's core values have gone unchanged and that people only criticize the new album due to the fact that it is released by Century Media, a label known for low-quality mainstream filth. The truth is that Watain sold out long ago and the strategic move to a larger label is yet one more step in their evolution as a purely commercial entity. The Wild Hunt is so completely laughable that one can hardly take this seriously. This has to be a joke, yet these guys seem serious about it. The songwriting is so wretched that it is shocking that they took so long to write and record this. It couldn't be more generic if they tried, with the typical recycled thrash riffs and Black Metal parts that are so watered-down that you may drown from listening to it. From the opening moments of the record, it is clear that Watain lost any and all inspiration to make good music a long time ago. Even the first real song, "De Profundis", blatantly rips off old Tormentor. Worse than this musical theft is the amount of effects on the vocals, trying to cover up the fact that Erik's voice has been weak and destroyed for several years now. Trying to cover this up with studio trickery only makes it more apparent. The drumming is incredibly overactive, all throughout the album. It seems as if Håkan was so bored with the tired riffs that he was just doing anything that he could to keep from falling asleep. The songs "All That May Bleed" and "The Child Must Die" were the first to be released, and should have been enough to serve as a firm warning that the band that crafted Casus Luciferi had long ago died. The latter is dominated by riffs that would not have been out of place on Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil.

A lot of controversy seems to center around the weakest track on here, "They Rode On", and for good reason. This has to be the cheesiest thing that I have heard in a long time, from the songwriting to the ridiculous lyrics and the utterly hilarious vocal performance. There is no problem if someone has varied musical taste. By all means, listen to as many different things as you wish. But when you are trying so hard to be the modern epitome of underground Black Metal, recording a goofy ballad with crystal clear production is just asking for a negative reaction. If a musician needs to express himself in other ways, that is what side projects are for. Chances are, this is the sort of song that these guys have been dying to record for a long time, just now getting up the courage to do so. Perhaps, they realized that most of their fanbase is made up of girls and that they would eat this garbage up. They try to salvage their image by placing a more intense song immediately after this, "Sleepless Evil", but it is so drenched in effects and generic riffs that it is easily forgettable and makes no impact. The same can be said of the album closer, "Holocaust Dawn", which tries to hard to be epic and brutal but fails in every way. By this point, even a less critical listener should realize that it is all for show. Whatever fire Watain once possessed was extinguished a long time ago. They even seem to be courting the wannabe thug/hardcore crowd with the jungle beats that dominate "Outlaw". One has to wonder what the hell they were thinking in recording this nonsense. 

Special mention has to be made of the further raping of Bathory's corpse, which Watain has taken to in recent years in some fantastical hope to proclaim themselves as heirs to Quorthon's legacy as well, with the title track. However, instead of imitating the style of "The Return...", they have decided to take a stab at incorporating the Viking Metal approach of Blood Fire Death or Hammerheart. The vocals are especially awkward and horrible, though this is in part to the putrid lyrics. It seems that, with this album, the band has no idea what style they want to play, so they are just throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks.

Anyone that supported this band from its earliest days, back when no one outside of Sweden had heard them, has every right to feel wronged. Personally, I feel shame for ever having contributed anything to their cause. With the left-turn they took with Sworn to the Dark, there was a sense of denial about what was happening. However, if Lawless Darkness did not make it clear enough, The Wild Hunt has certainly proven that this band possesses no relevance for the Black Metal scene. This album is a farce, yet the joke is on those of us who supported them during the days of Rabid Death's Curse and Casus Luciferi. As for the members of Watain, they will be laughing all the way to the bank, cashing large checks from Century Media for sales of this mainstream, accessible garbage that they call music, as well as all of the merchandise that they continuously pump out with their logo feces smeared all over it.

This is the epitome of generic songwriting, a disgusting abandonment not only of Black Metal but of anything remotely underground and features an over-produced and plastic sound that suits the theatrical and disingenuous approach of the album. However, those within the Black Metal scene can rest easy now. There is no longer any need to expose Watain for the false entity that it has become, for their most recent musical statement is shouting from the rooftops that they have nothing to do with the underground and never belonged in the first place. Perhaps, their whole career has been a strategic plan to dupe listeners and to ride the coattails of cult bands like Mayhem, Burzum and Dissection, earning a reputation that would put them in a position to sell out, cash in and make fools of us all. By all means, avoid this at all costs.

Cannibal Corpse - Eaten Back to Life (1990)

Cannibal Corpse has always been a controversial and polarizing band. Not so much for the reasons one might think, such as all the attention that they received for their gory cover art and graphic song titles. But within the underground, a lot of people hated these guys just for the fact that their records were considered to be inferior to those of many of their peers, yet they became the most popular Death Metal band in the world. Though Cannibal Corpse was never the best, and even their classic years produced albums that were only half-developed, their debut is a different beast altogether and is often forgotten. Released in August 1990, Eaten Back to Life sounds almost nothing like those records that followed it.

Musically, this L.P. is much more varied and interesting than the band's later recordings. The songwriting shows a fairly strong Thrash Metal influence, owing a bit to the likes of Slayer, Sodom and Sepultura. One can also hear similarities to the second Death album, Leprosy. Rather than being driven by the vocals and percussion, as is the case with Butchered at Birth and Tomb of the Mutilated, at times, Eaten Back to Life is very much a riff-oriented album. The guitars are the dominant feature of this recording and there are many memorable riffs to be found. In particular, the opener "Shredded Humans" includes riffs that will probably remain with you for years, even if you were to never touch the album again. The same can be said for  "Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains" and "Born in a Casket", both of which feature riffs that actually create a dark atmosphere, something that th band soon after forgot. There are plenty of high-speed sections, but they rarely last for too long and often give way to thrashier parts. This is probably a good thing, as the drumming gets somewhat sloppy when the pace quickens. The vocals of Chris Barnes are much different than the more guttural approach that he would adopt for the next release, utilizing more of a dry and raspy sound that really gives the impression of a half-rotted corpse that has just clawed its way from the damp soil of an ancient grave. This adds so much more to the deathlike atmosphere of the album, it is really unbelievable that so many Death Metal bands preferred the deeper and more useless vocal style that Barnes used after this. He sounds somewhat like a more demonic version of Evil Chuck, here. Also worth noting is the presence of Glen Benton (and some other guy) doing guest vocals on a couple of songs. The songwriting, overall, is much stronger than one would expect and never gets too dull. The less interesting songs actually clock in at under two minutes, so they never get the chance to become too boring or to annoy the listener. While much of the compositions are different than what they would later do, "Buried in the Backyard" very much foreshadows the direction that was to come.

In this case, credit should be given to the often-horrible Scott Burns for managing to give the album a powerful and yet sharp production job. This was before he decided to make the guitars on every record blend into the background and sound weak and ineffective. On Eaten Back to Life, the guitars are heavy and the drums are forceful, without distracting, and the overall sound is very similar to Sepultura's Beneath the Remains. The Slayer-esque solos are clear and carve through you, while the vocals are at an appropriate level, not rising too far above the rest and yet not getting buried in the mix. Perhaps, if the band utilized this sort of production for the following releases, they would have been more enjoyable and less bland.

All in all, Eaten Back to Life is a solid old school Death Metal album. For anyone that has written this band off, without hearing this, you should give it a chance. It fits well among the likes of Leprosy, Persecution Mania, Consuming Impulse, Resurrection Absurd, Beneath the Remains and Slowly We Rot and should appeal to fans of late '80s Death Metal as much as the more vicious Thrash that was still being released at the time. While not exactly a classic, this is probably the best album that Cannibal Corpse ever recorded and the one that possesses the darkest atmosphere, from the vocals and riffs and even the nocturnal graveyard on the cover. If you are looking for a good mixture of horror and Metal, this is certainly worth a listen.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Warloghe - The Black Tower (1996)

Released in 1996, The Black Tower is the first official recording from Finland's Warloghe. Emerging from the depths of the Black Metal scene just a year earlier, these guys sound nothing like most of the other bands from their country. One should not expect the chaotic sounds of Beherit, Archgoat or early Impaled Nazarene. As well, this really does not possess the level of Norway-worship that is present in the old recordings from Horna and Behexen, among others. There is an element of that, but mostly Warloghe seems to take inspiration from the French Black Legions.

Musically, this is very dismal and bleak. The guitar melodies are cold and somewhat depressive, emphasized by the bass lines. Of the three real songs on here, only two are well-developed. "Nightly Storms" is rather dynamic, though more fast-paced. The drumming can be a bit sloppy, at times, but this really does not matter. The haunting and melancholic tremolo riffs, as well as the extremely grim vocals, are the main focus and create a very dark feeling. "He Who Comes With the Dawn" is more mid-paced and possesses a very morbid atmosphere. It speeds up, later on, but never for too long. This is the sort of Black Metal that there should be much more of, these days. Grim, ugly and dark.

The production is fairly alright, for a demo. It sounds pretty rough, though is clear enough for the riffs to be heard while still possessing a raw feeling. The guitars are kind of thin, but this helps provide a sharp and cold sound. Drums are not really much of a factor. The bass is, surprisingly, more audible than is often the case. The vocals are a little high, but not so much as to take away from anything. All in all, everything comes together very well.

Warloghe is a band that should be better known in the underground. Fans of Mütiilation and Moonblood would likely appreciate the sort of raw and mournful Black Metal that is present on The Black Tower. It is a shame that these guys vanished after only a few recordings, as they had a much better sense of what this music is about than so many others that will seemingly never die. Seek this out in whatever manner that you must.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sargeist - Funeral Curses (2005)

Funeral Curses was released in September 2005, by Adversary Productions, just weeks before Disciple of the Heinous Path emerged from the shadows. This collection was only available on cassette and featured six Sargeist songs that had previously been released on various compilations and splits, up until that point. The general idea was a good one, to gather up these tracks all in one place for fans of the band, yet a limited cassette release was not really the best way to go about doing this.

The songwriting is very similar to that found on Satanic Black Devotion and Disciple of the Heinous Path, though there is an even stronger feeling of melancholy in some of the tremolo melodies. "The Rebirth of a Cursed Existence", for example, features a mixture of fast and slower parts, though the vibe is sombre throughout. The thrashier riffs are alost reminiscent of old Mütiilation. "Sinister Glow of Funeral Torches" possesses a very morbid atmosphere, consisting of slower and darker riffs than some of the other tracks on here. "Reaping With Curses and Plague" features Shatraug on vocals, sounding more tormented than Hoath Torog and hearkening back to the first Horna demo. At times, it feels like Sargeist started out as a continuation of the style that existed on Varjoissa, and this song really brings that to the forefront. The closing moments of the song really has a sorrowful and epic feeling, something that will haunt your mind long after the tape has finished. As for "Cursed By the Flesh I Have Spared", this song previously appeared as a bonus track on the L.P. version of the first album, which makes little sense as it is just as strong as the rest of the material on there, so there was no reason to limit its inclusion. The only forgettable song on here is "Vorax Obscurum", which has more of a punk vibe and does not really fit in with the rest. "Wraith Messiah" makes up for this, being much more in line with the other compositions, yet maybe even more melancholic. During the more down-tempo parts, you can almost feel icy claws reaching into your chest and squeezing your heart, soon to rip it right out. It may be the highlight of this whole collection.

The production is not exactly the same, from song to song, so it is likely that they come from different recording sessions. Over all, they sound rather similar to the first album, though not nearly as powerful and somewhat quiet by comparison. This sounds very underground, though not exactly necro. There is a little hissing over the music, but not a lot. Every riff can still be easily heard and there is never a time when things run together and become a noisy mess. The bass is a bit more audible than usual, during some of the slower sections, though this kind of helps add to the dreary atmosphere.

This tape shows, again, just how creative Shatraug is and one has to be impressed with the fact that, though some similarities exist between this and his primary band Horna, it also possesses its own identity. Funeral Curses is very much worth seeking out, as it contains rare songs that are mostly high-quality. The only downside is that this compilation, itself, may also be a little hard to track down. Either way, this is essential listening for Sargeist fans or those into the early '90s style of Black Metal.