Drowned – Idola Specus

(Sepulchral Voice Records, 2014)

Drowned is an old band, over 20 years old. Their discography is filled with demos, one Ep, and now this first full-length. The guitarist, who is an ex-guitarist of Necros Christos, has been in the band since the beginning (the other two members are also in the band Essenz among other things). The band used to have Mors Dalos Ra of Necros Christos, and music wise these two bands have had of course (because of these two members) some things in common. These two bands now also share the same label Sepulchral Voice Records, which has some similar sounding bands in their ranks, although they all have an atmosphere of their own, and Drowned is also something original in it’s own way.

The album starts with a calm ominous intro-like song “Die Niederen Weihen” (reminiscent of the latest Ruins Of Beverast album with it’s spoken but growling vocals, which may or may not have something to do with the vocalist and bassist being also a live member of Ruins Of Beverast), and as the song continues in a very slow manner, this is what we might expect the album to be at first, but we soon find ourselves to be mistaken. As the drums change gradually to faster beatings in the second song “Antiprism”, we are reminded of stuff like early Obituary with it’s slower and faster changes, but Drowned has a lot more tricks up their sleeve.

The album continues in completely gripping and interesting ways, keeping the listener hooked at all times. Sometimes you get the feeling you are in Florida in the early nineties, sometimes you are taken to Sweden of the same era, but always in a Drowned way. The songs are filled with amazing riffs throughout the album, never going too fast to sound like anything else than pure fucken old-school death metal, but never going slow enough to make us feel wanting a change in the parts. Perfect symbioses.

The tremolo-like guitars mix with the damps and the slower strokes fantastically, and the technical abilities of the guitarist are shown in many parts without being too performing. Just the right amount of technicality and groovy deathly doom. Also the bass-performance is of magnificent quality. The drummer does his job just as well as the guitarist and bassist, staying always in the concept of the music style, but keeping things interesting with small details here and there. The vocals are done kinda in the same manner as in Necros Christos, sounding spoken like more than loud growls, with just the right amount of reverb and echo.

The overall sound of the album is great, not too murky and not too clear. Drowned does not sound low-fi enough to be in the deep underground, or too produced to sound boring in that sense.

The music doesn’t venture anywhere outside the realm of death metal at any point, but using only this formula, Drowned manage to sound amazingly fresh, intriguing and multifaceted. This album is a great example of music being preformed in the limits of a particular music style but showing you something new at every turn. The album has so much material in it, it keeps us interested for numerous listens ahead.

If you are looking for the death metal album that made you worship this style of music in the early nineties, or if you just wanna find out what the hell is all this fuzz about old-school death fucking metal, this album will give you exactly that, with updated production.

Only Death Is Real.

9/10 – Antti Mikonmäki

Drowned

Sepulchral Voice Records

Abigor – Leytmotif Luzifer

(Avantgarde Music, 2014)

Abigor – a band belonging to the infamous ABMS during it’s earlier years – did a series of great releases in the early- and mid-nineties, with albums like “Nachthymnen (From The Twilight Kingdom)” being special to me when they came out. Masterpieces of melodic and majestic Black Metal. I must confess though, I didn’t get interested in their albums at the change of the millennium (due to lack of interest in the current state of BM in general during those times). With this in mind, I have little to say about the style of their last material featuring only one founding member, PK.

However, in 2007 the band returned with another founding member TT, having rediscovered themselves (I guess), with a new full-length and a new sound, with “Fractal Possession”. I loved this album when it came out, with it’s sheer coldness and technicality, almost non-human to my my ears. With it’s electronic samples and great intelligent vocals and lyrics, the album brought forth all the hate and scorn towards these realities of the Christian Creator God only a Black Metal band can, with a fresh sound quite unheard of (at least to me personally).

The band continued along these cold experimental and often electronic lines with “Time Is Sulphur In The Veins Of The Saint”, and their next releases consisted of revamped old material which unfortunately escaped my attention.

But now, they return with a new full-length “Leytmotif Luzifer”, and what a return it is! The style is quite similar to the material of “Fractal Possession”, in fact identical in the style of the riffs and the logics of the song-structures, but there is something new to the mix.

The drum sounds are a bit warmer and organic to my ear compared to “Fractal Possession” (and perhaps “Time Is Sulphur..”), while the guitars sound mostly as silky cold as ever, with maybe more layers and events in general. Flowing, almost surreal leads are usually in control of the atmosphere, with some other styles scattered here and there in the audial dance of Luciferian revelations. The style of the melodies and riffs bring to my mind classical music in it’s “illogicality” compared to traditional metal riffs. Both the drums and guitars are played with great skill and detail, which keeps the listener highly alert and interested throughout the whole album.

Compared to the couple of last releases, there are less electronics or synths around, or they are at least mixed to the background more.

The vocals are a marvel to behold in themselves. This time around Silenius (of Summoning among other bands and projects) return after many years (he used to be in the band on most of the nineties releases), backed up by Protector (of Summoning as well). The vocals sound amazingly similar to the vocals performed by AR on the previous releases, with more additional background-choirs and even clear singing. This method of almost spoken grim vocals suit Abigor most likely better than some more traditional BM screams. So, fans of AR’s vocals feel at home here, while being positively amazed with the new vocals fresh heights.

Without having seen the album-artwork in detail, or not having read the lyrics, it’s hard to dwell deeper into this masterpiece, but it is nevertheless obvious that Abigor today will not appeal to the average metal listener. This is higher art for the truly Luciferian mind. I believe all the “right” people know of Abigor and their recent offerings quite well, but if you happen to be someone who hasn’t yet heard of their unique style of BM, and happen to like stuff like Antaeus and DHG’s “International 666” in the same time, this album might be perfect to you.

I give my points out of sheer respect to the talents behind creating this amazingly detailed, original and majestic music, as well as to the memory of the old glorious times!

9/10 – Antti Mikonmäki

Abigor

Avantgarde Music

Revenge – Attack.Blood.Revenge

(Nuclear War Now! Productions, 2014)

When speaking of Revenge, I’m sure most fans know the backgrounds of the band’s members throughout the years in bands like Conqueror, Blood Revolt, Order From Chaos etc. In fact this Canadian “scene” is maybe most known for it’s seriously aggressive fuck you attitude, punk-like in it’s own way, but metal as hell. The mainman of Revenge is however the vocalist and drummer James Read, who has played for many other bands as well, but if you want experience the whole spectrum of his merciless furious storms of hate, you have to listen to bands like Revenge or Conqueror.

This reissue of their first 2001 Ep with bonus tracks serves as a perfect introduction to Revenge if you are not yet familiar with the band. Right from the start sirens howl before the machine-gun drums shear your sanity to pieces. Read attacks with almost grindcorish hellish speeds and cursing screams. This is pure fucken armageddon in form of spikes and bullets, no one is spared from this revelation and revolution, aimed toward all sheepish flocks and herd of weaklings.

The unnatural beats of Read are undoubtedly hard to imitate in their original off-beat but militaristic precision. They bring to ones mind perhaps Napalm Death’s “Scum” or Sadistik Exekution, to say the least. The vocals come sometimes though weird filters of effects and rhythms not usually heard in death or black metal, although they are mostly just sharp chainsawlike raging, where you can make sense of a sentence or two, adding to the atmosphere of the band. Although skillfully played the massive basslines and the steadily killing guitars usually buzz in the background, before some hellish lead attacks out of nowhere (reminding me of early Deicide), letting the sounds concentrate on the insanity of the drums.

Revenge propably appeals to anyone attracted by truly original and aggressive music, whether they might be into grindcore, noise or power electronics, death or black metal, breakcore (or whatever). If you’re not intimidated by the bands “fascistic” imagery (and start shouting “nazis!” with your finger pointing and right hand held high), and want to hear something really powerful and aggressive, you should check this out. Even the singer of the experimental hip-hip group Death Grips has been wearing a Revenge shirt.

A great reissue for sure, which of course fortunately featured a truly Revengeful version of Bathory’s “War”!

8/10 – Antti Mikonmäki

Revenge (Facebook)

Nuclear War Now! Productions

Mortuus – Grape Of The Vine

(The Ajna Offensive, 2014)

On their 2007 debut-album “De Contemplanda Morte” Mortuus (physically from Umeå, Sweden) offered to the fires one of the most atmospheric and upscale “religious / spiritual” black metal yet to be heard. To me it sounded at first like a slower version (although going fast at times, but working better at slower pace) of the similar perhaps typical Swedish stuff (embodied in bands like Funeral Mist or Dissection), or maybe a more Watainic version of the old Norwegian Thorns. This album was excellent on all areas. The Swedes always have had class and style in all genres of music, that’s for sure.

On their awaited second full-length seven years later, Mortuus delivers quite the similar tasting wine with a very slight new differences in mouthfeel and aroma.

What makes Mortuus interesting is their use of personal rhythmic stroking or picking guitar riffs in conjunction with quite minimalist drumbeats. In comparison to the older material, I might be hearing a bit more damping riffs here as well. Almost hypnotic in repetition, this music is the perfect black metallic version of a meditative ritual, which most likely is one of their agendas in the first place.

Although very simple in basic nature (with no extra technicalities), the drums are played with great skill and feeling. Each song has it’s own feelings / personal beats, enough to separate the individual vessels from each other on this tree growing in it’s beautiful negative plane.

The vocals are again truly majestic yet suffering, raspy shouting full of feeling, a pleasure to hear at all times. Although relying almost solely on the riffs, vocals and drums, a piano part or choirs suddenly appearing increases the atmosphere tremendously.

The sounds are quite similar to the older recordings, just the right amount of reverb and distortion to keep your mind warm and “cozy” in that ritual chamber, inside that magick circle the music creates.

The lyrics – dealing in my mind mostly in Satanic / Luciferian, Gnostic and Qliphotic themes – are written in the same vein as before, intelligent and full of spiritual feeling. Biblical in nature, bringing us to the roots of the whole “Satanic” ideology. This is as far from the superficial “metal evilness” as true Gnosticism or Kabbalah is from literal interpretations of “modern” Christianity. At least in my book.

I’ve always been aware of the greatness of Mortuus, but these days I definitely worship (with) the band. One of the better ones, in the increasing ocean of bands doing this kind of stuff, but the truly honest and strong ones will endure.

9/10 – Antti Mikonmäki

Mortuus (Facebook)

The Ajna Offensive

Thaw – Earth Ground

(Witching Hour Productions, 2014)

Polish Thaw have been around for some years, but have already played alongside big and diverse names, so their career has had a very good start, which comes as no surprise when listening to their original yet easily approachable blend of sludge and black metal.

Their latest full-length starts with an ominous spectral bass-part, after which one might think to hear some hipster-melancholic post metal, but instead we are stricken with a massive wall of ferocious blasting drums, huge bass and guitars, and vocals that sound surprisingly evil (for this kind of music-genre).

If the riffs would be more typical, Thaw on their black metal parts would sound like any band from the early nineties to here, but the riffs are quite abstract and eerie, sometimes reminding of the more “artistic” black metal style brought famous by bands like Deathspell Omega.

On their sludge parts – where the bass player especially can sludge and jam away quite freely – they often sound more like early Mastodon than the more stonier sludge like Eyehategod. The changes between sludge and black metal work very well. Also the guitar has a very sludgy sound, a necessity for a union of this sort I guess.

The vocals have lots of texture, combining black metal screams and shouting with clearer shouting, maybe a bit hardcorish in nature. The drum-sounds are massive and full of crashing sounds, very well played. There are lots of depth in the drums, as the velocities of the hits can be easily heard, making this a very organic sounding ride.

The whole album is filled with pretty much the same diverse and interesting heavy material, but if something negative must be said, the only thing this album suffers from are longish parts of ambient like noisy parts (usually using the same instrument sounds that are in use in the “normal” parts, but sometimes using electronics as well), but this is a question of taste. A lot of people most likely appreciate these small artistic breathers between the intense ramming.

I can imagine this band playing very well alongside bands like Dragged Into Sunlight and Altar Of Plagues (which they have done already), and bigger names like Converge as well. This should hit home to all intelligent and open-minded black metal listeners as well as to the hordes of people from hardcore and sludge mentalities who are into black metal.

8/10 – Antti Mikonmäki

Thaw (Facebook)

Witching Hour Productions