Thursday, August 13, 2015

ColdWorld - The Stars are Dead Now (2006)

When the topic of German Black Metal comes up, ColdWorld is a project that would often get recommended, as if to suggest that it was actually good. In fact, this is the exact sort of filth that has given so many a low opinion of bands from the Fatherland. Released in January 2006, The Stars are Dead Now proved yet again that Germany is rarely a place that is conducive to good Black Metal, for one reason or another. 

This is just horrible. The original release was via cd-r, and it was clearly something that this guy recorded in his bedroom. ColdWorld is nothing more than the German version of Xasthur. Everything sounds so sickeningly modern. The vocals are drowning in digital effects, thus leaving them bereft of any and all possible feeling. The guitars do not possess any raw, sharp edge at all. In fact, the guitar tone is very soft and warm. That is a positive thing in this case, as it seems that the riffs were only meant to be a background element. The synth is dominant over most other aspects, making one wonder why this guy didn't just create some lame horror themes instead of adding yet another stain to the name of Black Metal. As for the drum programming, it is very obvious from the sound and the various patterns that are unlike anything that an actual drummer would have done. This adds just one more layer of false modernity to the whole thing. 

ColdWorld is a joke, period. The Stars are Dead Now is crystal clear proof of this. Even if you are seeking something on the more depressing side of Black Metal, this is laughably bad. Though Germany has given rise to the likes of Moonblood, Katharsis, Desaster and a few others, good quality bands such as those have always been the exception to the rule. Garbage like this is far more indicative of what one will find when listening to bands from this region, unfortunately. Avoid this and anything remotely like it. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Skuggmörker - Härskare av den svarta natten (1995)

Skuggmörker was a rather unknown Black Metal project from Ingelstad, Sweden that displayed a fair amount of potential. Unfortunately, only two demos were released before it seemingly faded back into obscurity. With several of the more established bands deteriorating and many others emerging from the scene that simply did not belong, it is a shame that 1995's Härskare av den svarta natten marked the early demise for Skuggmörker.

The first thing that one may notice is the thick layer of tape hissing, which will put some off while serving only to entice others. In a strange way, it actually adds to the dark and gloomy feeling created by the music. The tone of the songwriting is rather morose, with a rather relaxed pace that is neither fast nor all that slow. It feels kind of lifeless in a way, and there are times when the pace slows down and then quickens in a random manner. This may be on purpose, or just the result of bad timing, but it works within the context of the songs. The playing is primitive and the compositions are rather simplistic, while the vocals sound like tormented howls from a distant cavern. In other words, this is just the sort of ugly and primal Black Metal that I find appealing. This demo features only five real songs, as "Nifelhel" is a morbid interlude of some sort of funeral organ and a spoken word bit, though it actually does accentuate the atmosphere of the recording as a whole. The final track, "En stig till helvete", is quite similar but also includes drums and some harsh screams mixed in. In theory, it may seem weird for a synth outro to be accompanied by drumming, but the execution is not awkward at all, possibly assisted by the poor sound quality. 

Härskare av den svarta natten (Swedish for "Ruler of the Black Night") is the sort of demo that would appeal to fans of early-'90s Norwegian Black Metal, or even the output of Moonblood or the LLN bands. Sadly, as these guys vanished back into the nothingness, one can only imagine what a proper full-length from Skuggmörker may have sounded like. Definitely search for this and give it a listen.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Azhubham Haani - On a Snowy Winter Night (1992)

My introduction to this band came in the form of a tape passed to me by a friend in Stockholm, which featured four different demos. On one side was Horna's Varjoissa and Carpathian Curse from Belthan, and the other side was comprised of At the Mountains of Northern Storms by Throne of Ahaz and Azhubham Haani's 1992 demo On a Snowy Winternight. In all honesty, the name of the project put me off a bit, noticing its non-European origin. After digging the tape out of a box, a few years later, I gave it a chance anyway. 

Quite different from the other releases on the cassette, On a Snowy Winternight is much more lo-fi and primitive. The low quality of the production really adds to the gloomy and obscure feeling that this material possesses. The songwriting on this rather short demo is very basic and simplistic, with a lot of sloppy power chords reminiscent of the old Countess material. It is not one-dimensional, though, as the first half of "Where Death Reared Itself a Throne" consists of only a mournful clean guitar and miserable vocals, before the rest of the instruments come in and the song builds a somewhat epic feeling. This track, in particular, feels a little ahead of its time. Here and there, the typical northern tremolo riffs weave their way into the songs, but are never really the prime component. As for the drumming, it is fairly minimalist, keeping time in the background, as it should be. The dark atmosphere of this recording is also accentuated by the periodic clean voice that haunts from a distance. 

On a Snowy Winternight is a rather interesting release. Azhubham Haani certainly did not share a lot in common with the other Black Metal projects that were emerging from Sweden at the time. The closest comparison might be with the early recordings of Abruptum, but even that is kind of tenuous at best. Despite the sometimes poor musicianship, this material possesses a genuine feeling and is definitely worth seeking out. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Setherial - A Hail to the Faceless Angels (1994)

For those that have never been all that impressed with the output of Setherial, it might be recommended that you set aside twenty minutes or so and give a listen to their first demo. A Hail to the Faceless Angels is probably the best thing that these guys ever released. While such praise may only be in relation to the descending level of quality from this point on, these tracks do possess some merit of their own. 

The sound is what one would expect from a demo of this time period. This quality of production really suits the music moreso than the somewhat cleaner sound of the following full-length, Nord. It is a little difficult to say for sure, as my tape is a bit worn, but it works for me. Stylistically, the songwriting is a little less complicated and could stem from the band having not yet fully acquainted themselves with Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse. That said, there are still regular tempo changes, with a seemingly equal amount of slower sections mixed in with the more fast-paced riffs. The music possesses more of the typical Swedish sense of melody, as demonstrated by tracks such as "The Reborn Darkness" and "As a Shadow", which are clearly influenced by Dissection. The latter does include a more Death Metal-oriented passage that does not fit in with the rest, however. The vocals really seem to shine on "The Ancient Sphere", during the slower parts, one can detect a sense of sincerity in the delivery. There are still bits of synth in use, but it is kept to a minimum and never really detracts from the rest of the instruments. There are times when the drumming is a little overactive, but the nature of the recording means that they are sufficiently buried in the background. 

A Hail to the Faceless Angels is an average offering of mid-90s Black Metal. It should certainly appeal to fans of Dissection (which the band members certainly were). Setherial were absolutely not alone in creating a musical project more to emulate those which they appreciated, in an attempt to simply make music in that vein. They were never really the best, but this demo is worth giving a shot.