Today’s offering is from London-based black / death metal band Akercocke. The group was formed in 1997 with an initial line-up featuring guitarist / vocalist Jason Mendonca, guitarist Paul Scanlan, bassist Peter Theobalds and drummer David Gray.
Debut album “Rape Of The Bastard Nazarene” (1999) nailed the act’s colours pretty firmly to the mast with its mix of brutal death metal style riffing mixed with eerie horror interludes and a distinctly Satanic theme in the lyrics. The album didn’t boast the best production in the world so suffered somewhat from a muddy sound.
The approach on second album “The Goat Of Mendes” (2001) was to refine things musically whilst ramping up the erotic content of the still- Satanic lyrics and the end result was a definite improvement on the debut. It was 2003’s “Choronzon” that first got me listening to Akercocke. This was a quite simple brilliant album, showing more progressive tendencies whilst still being chock-full of heavy riffing and yet more eerie interludes and film dialogue samples.
By now the band had a rising profile and were notable for being a black metal band who were dressing in suits rather than studs and corpse paint while hanging out with nubile lovelies – as perfectly demonstrated in their video for album highlight “Leviathan”.
To me that visual approach, together with the Satanism and sexuality of their songs gave them an air of having stepped out of a film such as the 1968 Hammer classic “The Devil Rides Out”. Despite what this might suggest, back in 2001 they’d given an interview in which they’d discussed their Satanism at length, saying that they weren’t “…preaching Hammer Horror Satanism…”.
That same interview contained quotes from both Mendonca and Gray stating “….this band is all about Satanism, there could never be a non-Satanic Akercocke song…” (Gray) and “…no Satanism, no Akercocke…” (Mendonca). This is significant when we come to the new album. Before we get to that though there were a further two studio releases from the group in “Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone” (2005) introducing guitarist Matt Wilcock in place of Scanlan and “Antichrist” (2007) seeing Theobalds replaced on bass by Peter Benjamin. Both albums continued with the same subject matter and both showed further progression musically – though I do retain a fondness for “Choronzon” over all of their initial five albums.
The band essentially disappeared off the radar for the best part of the next decade, with only sporadic gigs followed by a period of practically no information surfacing prior to the band’s official breakup in 2012. Subsequently Gray issued new music under the banners of both Voices (with Benjamin on guitar) and The Antichrist Imperium (which also featured Wilcock).
Then, nearly ten years after “Antichrist”, came the news that Akercocke were reuniting – Mendonca, Gray and Scanlan together with new bassist Nathanael Underwood and keyboardist Sam Loynes. Gone are the suits and so is the Satanism (so much for “no Satanism, no Akercocke” eh?! ). Hmm…
First track “Disappear” begins furiously enough before transforming into a brief lighter mid-section and then back into the metal again. The musicianship is top class from all concerned, and Mendonca’s vocals take on a number of approaches throughout the record.
Highlights for me include “Unbound By Sin”, “Insentience” and the excellent closer “A Particularly Cold September”. This is recognisably Akercocke – less dense and brutal than the first few albums, certainly more death metal then black metal in style, and with the progressive elements again more evident – but Akercocke nonetheless. And on the musical front it is most definitely a success. Lyrically I’m not so sure.
I gather that Mendonca struggled massively with mental health issues during the band’s time away and the track “One Chapter Closing For Another To Begin” references his moving on fro that bleak period into more positive waters – and this has clearly fed into his songwriting in a big way, with a lot of positive phrases to be heard on this album. I do, I most confess, miss the out-and-out Satanic wordplay that adorned their previous work but that doesn’t stop this record from being a very high quality progressive death metal release. Welcome back Akercocke…
“Renaissance In Extremis” tracklist:
1. Disappear / 2. Unbound By Sin / 3. Insentience / 4. First To Leave The Funeral / 5. Familiar Ghosts / 6. A Final Glace Back Before Departing / 7. One Chapter Closing For Another To Begin / 8. Inner Sanctum / 9. A Particularly Cold September
A little over a week ago number two son and I headed off to the first concert together since catching Cradle Of Filth in Bristol getting on for two years ago, as many of the shows that I go to aren’t really his cup of tea. I think that whilst he credits me with his taste in music – particularly the really heavy stuff – he doesn’t have the appetite for experiencing some of the bluesier or lighter acts that cross my radar.
This one, however, was right up his street. San Francisco thrash legends Death Angel headlining at the intimate surroundings of Hobos in the Welsh town of Bridgend as part of their European tour that seems to be mainly made up of festival slots and low key club shows like this one.
We found the 150 capacity venue upstairs through a door between two shops in the main shopping area of the town. There’s a bar area where a merchandise table was set up and then through a door into the performance area, where we arrived as the first act of the evening, Welsh death metal band Sodomized Cadaver were getting started. The space was, even at this early stage, fairly packed so we took up a position close to the nearest PA stack situated in slightly to the side of the stage front.
Neither of us were remotely familiar with the band or their material but were both impressed by what we saw. The band started life back in 2013, and these days drummer Gavin Davies is the sole remaining founder member. Completing the line-up are bassist / vocalist Charlie Rodgers and diminutive guitarist Jordan Roberts.
The three-piece outfit got an enthusiastic response – one chap headbanging in front of the stage like his life depended on it – from the audience for numbers with typical death metal titles such as “Half Dead Burial” and the delightfully-named “Lords Of Rape”. There was a nice mixture of pace on display from the fast and frenetic death metal to more doom-like passages. For whatever reason the group had to leave out the final two tracks of their planned set – whether they were late starting or were just overrunning their allotted times. Regardless, the band gave is a good start to the evening’s entertainment…
1. Chapel Of Unrest / 2. Vampire Of Düsseldorf / 3. Martyrdom / 4. BKTC / 5. Skull Fracture Massacre / 6. Torture / 7. Rapid Guttural Disfigurement / 8. Lords Of Rape / 9. Half Dead Burial
1 and 4 origin unknown but perhaps as 8 / 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9 originally from “Verses Of Putridity” (2016) / 6 originally from “Vorarephilia” (2014) / 8 from yet to be released “Morbid Tales Of Mutilation” (2017)
After a short break and equipment changeover it was the turn of main tour support act Warbringer. Formed in 2004, Wabringer are a thrash metal band from Los Angeles who have had a relatively high turn over of members in the subsequent thirteen years. Alongside founding members John Kevill (vocals) and Adam Carroll (guitars) are Chase Becker (guitars), Carlos Cruz (drums) and Jessie Sanchez (bass), the last two of which have only been with the group since last year.
Despite that the group’s performance was tight and polished. On tour to promote their fifth album “Woe To The Vanquished” the band didn’t look like one that had nearly imploded completely following the previous album and tour cycle a couple of years ago.
Of the “big four” thrash bands I suppose my initial impression was that Warbringer have to most in common with Slayer sound-wise. Our position close to the PA stack meant that whilst Becker certainly looked skilled with his guitar we were only really able to hear Carroll’s contributions to the onslaught. Kevill got the now-expanded crowd involved and a mini circle-pit going too and I suspect the group will have made a good few new fans with their performance in Wales.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what the band’s setlist for the night was, and my direct request to them has gone unanswered, so below is my best guess, using the tracks played two days earlier in Wolverhampton…
1. Silhouettes / 2. Woe To The Vanquished / 3. Remain Violent / 4. Shellfire / 5. Descending Blade / 6. Shattered Like Glass / 7. Hunter-Seeker / 8. Living In A Whirlwind / 9. Combat Shock
1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 originally from “Woe To The Vanquished” (2017) / 6 originally from “Worlds Torn Asunder” (2011) / 7 originally from “IV : Empires Collapse” (2014) / 8 originally from “Waking Into Nightmares” (2009) / 9 originally from “War Without End” (2008)
Finally, as 9:20pm came around, the main attraction appeared. Drummer Will Carroll took to his stool first, followed onto the stage by bassist Damien Sisson, rhythm guitarist Ted Aguilar and band founder Rob Cavestany (lead guitar) and lastly long-serving vocalist Mark Osegueda as the group launched straight into the one-two of a snippet of “The Ultra Violence” leading into “Evil Priest” – both from their 1987 debut album.
Immediately it was apparent – and this is no disrespect to what we’d witnessed before – that Death Angel are a class act. The sound was really good (though rather loud where we were standing. It would be two days before I could hear normally again after the show was over!) and you could see that whilst these men were seasoned pros they also clearly love what they do.
One could perhaps argue that Osegueda laboured the themes of “unity in metal” and “being true to yourself” etc. and could have arguably left out some of the talking – particularly the over-long band introductions – but he can certainly belt the songs out with the best of them! (Also number two son was more than a little chuffed to have fist-bumped the man twice during the show).
I found myself watching Cavestany most as the gig progressed, impressed by his mix of technical prowess and flair for showmanship as he cranked out a succession of excellent thrash metal riffs and blinding solos in a set showcasing tracks from last years’s excellent “The Evil Divide” record as well as a selection from the majority of their back catalogue releases and a great Black Sabbath cover too.
As with the recent Blood Ceremony show in Bristol, which was in a similarly small venue, I can’t help wondering how bands can play gigs like these. Assuming this one was a sell-out, at £12.50 a ticket (excluding costs) that gives a total take of £1,875.00. This is to pay for venue hire, coach and truck hire, PA, crew wages, living costs etc. even without the three sets of band members getting anything. With just four shows in the UK in four days – covering London, the Midlands, Wales and Scotland – its hard to see the artists making much out of it financially. And as all four were small venues this trip is clearly not about fame and fortune – its about dedicated metal musicians reaching the fans who love the music. So, on that front this show must be considered a huge success…
1. The Ultra-Violence / Evil Priest / 2. Claws In So Deep / 3. Father Of Lies / 4. Caster Of Shame / 5. Thrown To The Wolves / 6. Seemingly Endless Time / 7. Breakaway / 8. Lost / 9. Falling Off The Edge Of The World / 10. Kill As One / 11. The Moth
1 and 10 originally from “The Ultra-Violence” (1987) / 2 originally from “Relentless Retribution” (2010) / 3, 7, 8 and 11 originally from “The Evil Divide” (2016) / 4 originally from “The Dream Calls For Blood” (2013) / 5 originally from “The Art Of Dying” (2004) / 6 originally from “Act III” (1990) / 9 cover of Black Sabbath song from “Mob Rules” (1981)
A band that have recently assaulted by senses for the first time are Norwegian band The Wretched End. Formed in 2008, the group initially comprised just guitarist Tomas Thormodsæter “Samoth” Haugen and guitarist / bassist / vocalist André “Cosmo” Søgnen.
Samoth had previously been a member of black metal band Zyklon and has been in black metal legends Emperor since the early 1990s. For his part Cosmo is also a member of Mindgrinder, another black metal band.
By the time the band’s debut album “Ominous” was recorded and hit the shelves in 2010 the pair had been joined by drummer Nils “Dominator” Fjellström of black metal act Dark Funeral.
Second album “Inroads” followed in 2012 and now, after a four-year gap, comes album number three “In These Woods, From These Mountains” – a title that evokes imagery similar to that seen on the album cover before you even see it.
Despite the band members’ backgrounds the sound of The Wretched End is probably best described as simply extreme metal, containing, as it does, elements of black metal, death metal and thrash metal. That said, now that I’ve had a chance to hear their back catalogue too I reckon that the new album is the most black metal sounding, to me, of the three. Indeed Samoth has been quoted as saying that “It’s great to finally have this album ready for release. It took us some years for various reasons; different things in our every day and professional lives that took a lot of focus on our parts. We never felt any great pressure. Looking back, I think the whole process affected the album in a positive way. I personally feel I’ve almost come full circle with this new album, bringing more elements rooted in the darkness of black metal.”
The album kicks off with the furious sounding “Dead Icons”, a fabulous slice of black metal with all the requisite glacial guitar sounds, blastbeat drumming and guttural vocal delivery. This leads into the slightly more sedate “Primordial Freedom”, before “Old Norwegian Soul” brings the first guest appearance on the album with Attila Csihar, vocalist with fellow Norwegian black metallers Mayhem, lending his pipes to the track.
The other guests crop up on the final track “Dewy Fields”, which is a cover of a track by Norwegian pop act Bel Canto. This features vocals from Leprous member Einar Solberg and programming work from Lars Sørensen of Red Harvest. This particular track feels somewhat out of place stylistically to be honest and I’m not sure that the album wouldn’t have been better without it tacked onto the end.
However, prior to that, the rest of the album continues with some solid black metal tunes, the best of which are probably “Atheos”, “Generic Drone” and the fabulous “The Decline And Fall”. Granted there’s nothing really groundbreaking to be found on this record but this is nonetheless a worthwhile black metal album that could easily soundtrack a journey down from the mountains of Norway and into the woods on a particularly bleak day and I’d say that it’s the best of the band’s work to date…
“In These Woods, From These Mountains” tracklist:
1. Dead Icons / 2. Primordial Freedom / 3. Old Norwegian Soul / 4. Misery Harbour / 5. Atheos / 6. The Decline And Fall / 7. Burrowing Deep / 8. Dewy Fields
New from Swedish death metal band Amon Amarth is their tenth studio album, entitled “Jomsviking”.
Originating from a previous band named Scum, Amon Amarth came into being in the early 90s with a line-up of vocalist Johan Hegg, guitarists Anders Hansson and Olavi Mikkonen, bassist Ted Lundström and drummer Martin Lopez.
The group’s debut album “Once Sent From The Golden Hall” was released in early 1998. Hansson and Lopez left the band the following year, to be replaced by Johan Söderberg and Fredrik Andersson respectively. This new line-up would remain stable until 2015 when drummer Andersson departed.
Joining Hegg, Mikkonen, Lundström and Söderberg on the new record is session drummer Tobias Gustafsson.
Long associated with the Viking metal genre, the band’s material is more accurately termed death metal, or even melodic death metal, with the lyrical themes of Norse and Viking mythology and pre-Christian times the reason that the band are often labelled Viking metal.
“Jomsviking” is a concept album that was inspired by the legendary Viking mercenary order Jomsvikings who operated in the tenth and eleventh centuries. A pagan group who worshipped Thor and Odin, they would fight for whomever could afford their not insubstantial fees.
Hegg took this as his springboard to come up with a story that, written as a screenplay, eventually took form as the band’s latest and most ambitious album. The tale itself concerns a man who wants to run away with the woman he loves (who just happens to be promised to another) but when he kills the Earl’s right-hand man during their attempt to get away the woman decides not to go and so he ends up joining the Jomsvikings. There is, however, a twist in the tale…
Produced by Andy Sneap, the album was preceded by lead single “First Kill” which kicks the record off and gives an excellent taste of the sound of the whole album. As usual Sneap has done an excellent job. Each instrument is clear and punchy and the album positively shines, such is the sonic sheen that adorns the record.
Personal highlights here would include “Wanderer” with it’s Iron Maiden-esque twin guitar intro, the fabulous “Raise Your Horns” – very definitely a Viking metal tune – “At Dawns First Light”, “Vengeance Is My Name” and the closing “Back On Northern Shores”. Elsewhere “A Dream That Cannot Be” features legendary German metal singer Doro Pesch, putting in a trademark performance as the object of the protagonist’s affections.
All told, whether you want to call it death metal or Viking metal, this is a great album that stands repeated listening and is one of the best that the band have unleashed to date…
1. First Kill / 2. Wanderer / 3. On A Sea Of Blood / 4. One Against All / 5. Raise Your Horns / 6. The Way Of Vikings / 7. At Dawn’s First Light / 8. One Thousand Burning Arrows / 9. Vengeance Is My Name / 10. A Dream That Cannot Be / 11. Back On Northern Shores
Back in 1987 Swedish multi-instrumentalist and composer Christofer Johnsson formed death metal band Therion. Over the subsequent years that band moved away from death metal into the realms of symphonic metal, including choirs and orchestral instruments to their performances.
Lyrically the band have focussed on themes of ancient traditions, magic, the occult etc., with Swedish author Thomas Karlsson penning all of the group’s lyrics since the mid Nineties.
Both Johnsson and Karlsson are members of a left-hand path organisation called Dragon Rouge, led by Karlsson, which has existed since 1989.
In 2015 Johnsson unveiled an occult-based side project under the banner of the Luciferian Light Orchestra. The project’s self-titled debut album was released on 30 April 2015. This date was perhaps no coincidence as Walpurgis Night falls on 30 April each year. In Sweden this is traditionally a celebration of the coming of Spring but in wider Europe there are connections to witchcraft etc.
Details of the Luciferian Light Orchestra are deliberately thin on the ground. Johnsson revealed that, aside from himself (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals) and his girlfriend Mina Karadzic (backing vocals), a further twenty-two musicians were involved in the recording of the album. There were apparently four lead vocalists, five backing vocalists, five guitarists, five keyboardists, two drummers and one bassist which included a mix of current and previous members of Therion.
However, Johnsson decided to keep the specific identities and roles under wraps as he was keen that people concentrate on the music itself rather than the personnel. The lyrics are again penned by Karlsson and whilst on the one hand they are fairly typical occult rock lyrics there is also a depth and detail therein that reflects Karlsson’s knowledge of the subject matter.
Musically the album is steeped in a Seventies style vibe and is far more classic hard rock than one might expect given Johnsson’s background in death and symphonic metal. Opening track “Dr. Faust On Capri” sets out the project’s stall straight away. Catchy guitar riffs, Hammond organs, choral backing vocals in places, some fairly deep but perfectly understandable male vocals and all topped off with the a beautifully sweet female vocal.
The latter is especially effective on “Church Of Carmel” where the singer (possibly Mari Karhunen) sings “…take off your dress, join us in the Sabbath, become the Master’s mistress…”. I remarked to my wife that if all occult and / or satanic music was as melodic, catchy and, frankly, seductive as this then there would be a lot more people investigating that path!
“Taste The Blood Of The Altar Wine” talks of bowing “…before the black crucifix, hear the demons sing… for the Lord, the goat of Mendes, Baphomet…” and elsewhere you will hear references to the “…Lord of Topheth…” (a place in Jerusalem where followers of the early Canaanite religions sacrificed children to Moloch and Baal by burning them alive) in “Moloch”, as well as “…Astaroth…” (the Great Duke of Hell) alongside unnamed incubi and succubi in “Sex With Demons”
There are hints of the likes of classic Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin to be heard, particularly on tracks such as “Dante And Diabaulus” and “Venus In Flames” (which declares that “…we hail Sathanas, Venus, Lucifer…”). There are also parallels with other occult bands around at the moment, such as Blood Ceremony and Purson (not to mention the sadly missed The Devil’s Blood) in terms of the vintage vibe and female vocals.
Ignoring the lyrical direction this is a great, concise (just over thirty-eight minutes in length) album with some superb musicianship and very high quality vintage sounding hard rock songs. Add in the occult imagery and you have an irresistible package and one of the most instantly rewarding albums of the year. Excellent!
“Luciferian Light Orchestra” tracklist:
1. Dr. Faust On Capri / 2. Church Of Carmel / 3. Taste The Blood Of The Altar Wine / 4. A Black Mass In Paris / 5. Eater Of Souls / 6. Sex With Demons / 7. Venus In Flames / 8. Moloch / 9. Dante And Diabulus / 10. Three Demons
I believe I first discovered Swedish progressive metal band Opeth through a magazine cover mounted CD around the time of the release of the band’s breakthrough fifth studio album “Blackwater Park” in 2001.
Starting out in 1990 as a death metal band with progressive tendencies, singer / guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt and his group had gradually incorporated more texture into their material leading up to 1999’s anti-Christian concept album “Still Life” which drew the attention of Steven Wilson, then leader of Porcupine Tree.
Wilson became involved in the production of the follow-up “Blackwater Park”, leading to a shift further away from the band’s death metal origins and having no small part in the eventual success of that album. The influence ran both ways, however, with a marked change in Porcupine Tree’s sound being noticeable on their music from 2002’s “In Absentia” onwards. It was no surprise, therefore, that Wilson was again on board for the recording on Opeth’s next musical creation.
In 2002 he joined the band – Åkerfeldt, guitarist Peter Lindgren, bassist Martin Mendez and drummer Martin Lopez – in Gothenburg once the sessions were underway to help with production and contribute musically too.
The result of around six weeks of recording was not one, but two albums of new material. Each showed a completely different side to the band. The first of them, “Deliverance”, co-produced by Åkerfeldt and Wilson, with mixing handled by the band and Hell guitarist Andy Sneap, was released in November 2002 and was the band at their heaviest.
A few months later, in April 2003, the second record “Damnation” was released. Again co-produced by Åkerfeldt and Wilson, this time mixed by Wilson and the band, it was the sound of Opeth at their most gentle and reflective, with no harsh vocals present at all for the first time on an Opeth album. It seems that the records were originally intended to form both parts of an ambitious double album, but for whatever reason (record company issues presumably) that didn’t happen.
Subsequently Opeth went on, with a few line-up changes, to release ever more successful and progressive sounding records with “Ghost Reveries” (2005), “Watershed” (2008), “Heritage” (2011) and “Pale Communion” (2014), the latter two again featuring Wilson in a production capacity.
Now “Deliverance & Damnation” has been issued as a complete double album and the original plan has finally been realised. Crucially, however, both original albums have been remixed. The “Damnation” record has been remixed by Steven Wilson and “Deliverance” by Pineapple Thief founder Bruce Soord.
Taking for granted that the original albums in this case are classics, in my opinion, the big question is whether the remixes are worth having? Simply put, yes. I do not have a 5.1 system so cannot judge the new 5.1 mixes and am instead listening to the new stereo mixes. The sound is clearer, with each instrument more audible than previously and both albums seem to be bursting with new life.
“Damnation” was the better sounding record of the two when they first appeared, so I would have to say that it is “Deliverance” that has benefited most from this reassessment. Tracks like “A Fair Judgement”, the simply stunning “Deliverance” and the crushing “Master’s Apprentices” were brilliant to begin with but sound even better now.
The best of “Damnation”, such as “Death Whispered A Lullaby”, “In My Time Of Need” and “Windowpane”, again sound superior to the original versions and leave me wondering if I will listen to those original albums much now that this edition has seen the light of day.
If you have the original releases then I would still recommend adding the remixed double set to your collection. If not, why not?! Containing excellent, interesting material, top drawer performances all round and now state of the art immersive mixes, whether together or apart these are two essential records…
“Deliverance & Damnation” tracklist:
1. Wreath / 2. Deliverance / 3. A Fair Judgement / 4. For ABsent Friends / 5. Master’s Apprentices / 6. By The Pain I See In Others / 7. Windowpane / 8. In My Time Of Need / 9. Death Whispered A Lullaby / 10. Closure / 11. Hope Leaves / 12. To Rid The Disease / 13. Ending Credits / 14. Weakness
1-6 originally from “Deliverance” (2002) / 7-14 originally from “Damnation” (2003)
OK, the first new release to catch up on is the eighth studio album from South Carolina based death metal band Nile.
The band were formed in the town of Greenville back in 1993 by vocalist / guitarist Karl Sanders, bassist / vocalist Chief Spires and drummer Pete Hammoura. Debut album “Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka” followed in 1998.
During the period between the band’s first album and 2007’s “Ithyphallic” release there have been a number of different band members come and go, but will “Ithyphallic” the band’s line-up stabilised around Sanders, guitarist / bassist / vocalist Dallas Toler-Wade and drummer George Kollias. Bass player Brad Parris has joined the band since the recording of the new album, which is titled “What Should Not Be Unearthed”.
As with the rest of the band’s catalogue, the majority of the music, and all of the lyrics have been written by Sanders and reflect his deep interest in Egyptology and sometimes other Middle Eastern cultures and history. This gives Nile’s music a distinctive difference from many of their death metal contemporaries, with perhaps only Melechesh offering a similar output.
The album begins with the appropriately named “Call To Destruction”, which is fast and heavy as hell. Topically, the lyrics of this track sound as though they could be from the point of view of today’s Islamic State as it talks about the annihilation of “all that is pre-Islamic… burning a vast accumulation of ancient knowledge existing long before the Quran…”. However, the lyrics are actually inspired by, and quote directly from, the Sunni leader (and Bahrain’s president of National Unity) Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud who was reported to have called for Egyptian authorities to demolish the pyramids and continue the Islamisation process of the Egypt begun by Amr bin al-As when he led an Muslim conquest of the country in the year 640. The band have been at pains to point out, however, that this is not a perspective that they endorse. As you can probably tell, simple songs these are not!
Musically, straight away I can see that although this is a technically accomplished band at work this record isn’t as technical or clean in delivery and sound as the previous album “At The Gate Of Sethu”.
The next two tracks deal with aspects of the ancient Egyptian deity Apep, who was the greatest enemy of Ra (the sun god) and known as the Lord of Chaos.
Track four, which begins with the most obvious Middle Eastern musical influence so far on this record, is “In The Name Of Amun” – referring to another major Egyptian deity – and is followed by the title track, the longest and (to my mind) best track here. Exceptionally heavy guitar riffs mesh with some superb drumming and very menacing sounding death metal growls.
“Evil To Cast Out Evil” is another brutally heavy track, and initially reminded me a little of Polish black metal legends Behemoth, such is the level of aural violence and evil blasting out of the speakers!
After “Age Of Famine” comes the atmospheric instrumental track “Ushabti Reanimator” evoking the funerary figurines used in ancient Egyptian tombs before the furious and malevolent “Rape Of The Black Earth”.
The record then concludes with another epic death metal number in the form of “To Walk Forth From Flames Unscathed” which, along with the title track and “Evil To Cast Out Evil”, is one of the highlights for me on this superb album.
Sanders stated that “…the goal for the new record was sheer epic brutality. The focus this time around is on brutal Heavy Metal riffing and songwriting…”. I think it’s fair to say that the band have most definitely fulfilled that aim. Extremely heavy, dense, intense, intelligent, technically accomplished and simply very very good…
“What Should Not Be Unearthed” tracklist:
1. Call To Destruction / 2. Negating The Abominable Coils Of Apep / 3. Liber Stellae Rubeae / 4. In The Name Of Amun / 5. What Should Not Be Unearthed / 6. Evil To Cast Out Evil / 7. Age Of Famine / 8. Ushabti Reanimator / 9. Rape Of The Black Earth / 10. To Walk Forth From Flames Unscathed
Today I have been listening to the new album from a new band – that is to say they’re new to me – Belgian metal band Thurisaz.
Formed back in May 1997 as Modilium, the band changed their name to Thurisaz around 2000, since when they had released three studio albums, “Scent Of A Dream” (2004), “Circadian Rhythm” (2007) and “The Cimmerian Years” (2011).
The band line-up comprises of original members Peter Theuwen (grunts / clean vocals / guitars), Mattias Theuwen (screams / guitars), Pepijn De Raeymaecker (drums), Kobe Canniere (keyboards / clean vocals) plus new boy Nick Meganck (bass).
Four years further on from “The Cimmerian Years” comes album number four, “The Pulse Of Mourning”. Described as avant-garde doom, black and death metal, this definitely does not fall into the easy listening category.
It’s challenging music and it demands attention. It’s bleak and dense and forlorn yet also strangely uplifting. The introductory “Longing…” is atmospheric and low-key but gives way to the furious blastbeats and screams of “…For A Change”.
First single, the quite epic “Patterns Of Life” is both intense and expansive, really quite progressive metal, showcasing differing aspects of the band’s sound – harsh and clean vocals, symphonic keyboards, heavy guitar riffs and a sample from Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” film too.
“Tangram” shows the band in a more introspective light, whereas “One Final Step” is another progressive tinged epic, and is almost cinematic in places.
The delicate acoustic guitar piece “Enslaved Dreams” leads into another very varied piece “In All Remembrance” before the closing “Stargaze” brings the record to an altogether more gentle ending.
This album is in some ways reminiscent of recent releases by Enslaved, Shining and A Forest Of Stars. Whilst it isn’t quite as impressive as either of those, this is still a strong sounding record and one well worth checking out…
“The Pulse Of Mourning” tracklist:
1. Longing… / 2. …For A Change / 3. Patterns Of Life / 4. Rays Of Light / 5. Tangram / 6. One Final Step / 7. Enslaved Dreams / 8. In All Remembrance / 9. Stargaze
Friday 12th December 2014 – my second gig within a fortnight. It’s been a few years since I attended two concerts so close to each other! This one was for the penultimate show on Polish black metal band Behemoth’s “UK Satanist Tour 2014 E.V.” I hadn’t previously attended an extreme metal show, so no matter what, this was going to be an interesting experience.
Following the (presumably unintended) comedy security ensuring that the fans queuing up outside left a big gap, enforced by crowd barriers, for the entrance to the closed (and therefore unlikely to be used) car rental business next door, the doors of this 3,000 capacity venue opened at 6:00pm – showtime starting early to accommodate four bands before the venue’s curfew of 10:00pm – in place, it seems, to allow for the regular club night.
Having perused the merchandise stands and found a suitable vantage point to the side of the light and sound desks, at 6:15pm the show opened with Winterfylleth, a black metal band from Manchester. The band got together in 2007, and are dedicated to spreading the word regarding England’s historical ancestral past, folklore, and landscapes – indeed their name is derived from the Old English for “Winter Full Moon”. These themes definitely strike a chord with me, and I have enjoyed their four albums so far, from 2008’s “The Ghost Of Heritage” up to this year’s “The Divination Of Antiquity”
Unfortunately, and I cannot put my finger on why, Winterfylleth just didn’t come across very well live, to me. Visually, it’s a case of four guys wearing plain black t-shirts (and in the case of frontman Chris Naughton a plain black baseball cap too) and little in the way of movement. One might argue, fairly, that this is to allow the music to do the talking. On this front, though, their short set was a little too samey, not really allowing for much of the light and shade that graces their recorded output. With just 25 minutes to fill, the band’s tendency to the expansive soundscape meant that they were able to fit in a mere four tracks. This wasn’t helped by the guitars seemingly needing retuning between each number, which in itself caused momentum to slip a little.
1. Over Borderlands / 2. The Swart Raven / 3. The Divination Of Antiquity / 4. Whisper Of The Elements
1, 3 and 4 originally from “The Divination Of Antiquity” (2014) / 2 originally from “The Threnody Of Triumph” (2012)
Next up, after a very short break, were Swedish three piece heavy metal band Grand Magus. A more traditional sounding metal style, not a million miles from the likes of Manowar, with clean vocals and impressive and melodic guitar solos.
Although I had not connected greatly with Grand Magus on record before, I was familiar with some of their material – which is easily more instantly accessible than the extreme metal of the other bands on tonight’s bill.
Guitar retuning was again a feature here, though less so than with Winterfylleth, but the biggest issue I had here was that, because Grand Magus are your basic power trio – guitar, bass and drums – it meant that the lack of continued rhythm guitar underlying the sparkling guitar solos left an audible hole to fill.
Nonetheless, and despite the short space of time they had to fill, the band got the crowd singing along, and were very well received.
1. I, The Jury / 2. Like The Oar Strikes The Water / 3. Steel Versus Steel / 4. Triumph And Power / 5. Hammer Of The North
1 and 5 originally from “Hammer Of The North” (2010) / 2 originally from “Iron Will” (2008) / 3 and 4 originally from “Triumph And Power” (2014)
Following another short break it was the turn of Decapitated, a technical death metal band from Poland. Formed by guitarist Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka in 1996, the band have released a series of impressive albums, culminating in their latest two albums, 2011’s “Carnival Is Forever” and 2014’s “Blood Mantra” achieving top twenty status in the U.S. Heat chart.
A very impressive light show accompanied the band’s brutal riffing and Rafał “Rasta” Piotrowski’s death growl vocals, and helped to visually accent some relentless drumming. Not an easy listen by any means, but I felt quite captivated by the sheer power and ferocity being exuded from the stage.
1. Veins / 2. The Blasphemous Psalm To The Dummy God Creation / 3. Blood Mantra / 4. Pest / 5. Exiled In Flesh / 6. Instinct
1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 originally from “Blood Mantra” (2014) / 4 originally from “Carnival Is Forever” (2011)
At 8:40pm the house lights went down again, which was greeted with a huge roar from the crowd. The atmospheric intro tape began to roll the for the headliners, black metal giants Behemoth.
Out of the darkness came the slowly building opening of “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” with bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski and guitarist Patryk “Seth” Sztyber standing, hooded, on platforms either side of Zbigniew “Inferno” Promiński’s massive white drum kit in front of a huge backdrop depicting the band’s sigil, whilst frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski stepped up behind his elaborate microphone stand – like some kind of cross between a church lectern and a Roman standard – and began to unleash an epic performance.
Started by mainman Nergal in 1991, Behemoth have gone from strength to strength, with each album being, to my ears, musically and sonically superior to that which had gone before it.
Latest album “The Satanist”, the band’s first since Nergal’s successful fight against Leukemia, is a superb recording. Sprawling, grandiose, intense and brutal with orchestral and choral backing adding even further colour to the intricacies of the band’s music.
I must confess that my initial reactions, as I discussed the gig with my wife the next day (she didn’t come with me, with extreme metal not really being her thing) were that there were too many intro tapes between songs and not enough interaction with the audience.
On reflection, however, and having spent the past week with “The Satanist” on regular rotation on my virtual turntable, I now feel somewhat differently about the whole experience.
From the moment the lights went down just before Behemoth’s set began, the show became almost a religious experience.
If you weren’t aware of the lyrical content of the band’s material, the message was quite clearly visually presented. There was a lot of symbolism – the sigil backdrop, the band’s double headed eagle on the platforms, the hoods that they wore when they came on stage, the corpse paint and blood, etc. Add to that a fantastic light show, with the reds being particularly effective in adding to the aesthetic I feel.
Musically, however, is where things count the most. And it’s here that Behemoth really triumphed. I believe that something that detractors of heavy metal, and extreme metal in particular, often overlook is the sheer technical ability of many of the musicians involved. Well, Orion’s fluid bass playing anchored everything perfectly, meshing with the phenomenal drumming of Inferno.
Having played drums myself, I can honestly say Inferno’s speed and technique is frankly awesome! To play the way that he does, utilising all four limbs simultaneously at breakneck speed may not be unique in this genre of music, but still his performance was very impressive.
On the guitar front, both Nergal and Seth played with ferocity and precision. Razor sharp rhythms and devastating leads all combining to an all out attack on the senses.
Finally, Nergal’s vocals. Whilst black metal lyrics are often near impossible to decipher without a lyric sheet, Nergal’s delivery is one of the most accessible that I have heard, without sacrificing any of the “nastiness” required. Behemoth performed a brilliantly paced set, visually and musically compelling from start to finish.
The encore brought the closing track from “The Satanist”, the excellent “O Father O Satan O Sun”. As the track reached the midway point, the lights dimmed for a moment whilst the music continued, and when the red lights shone on the stage again it felt akin to a kind of black mass.
All four band members were wearing horned masks (like those on display in their “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” video), Seth and Orion standing back up on their respective platforms whilst Nergal stood still directly in front of Inferno’s kit, playing the hypnotic final section of the song whilst the spoken word part was played:
“O Lion-Serpent Sun, The beast that whirlest forth, a thunder-bolt, begetter of life! Thou that flowest! Thou that goest! Thou Satan-Sun, Hadith, that goest without will! Thou Air! Breath! Spirit! Thou without bound or bond! Thou essence, air swift-streaming, elasticity! Thou wanderer, father of all! Thou wanderer, spirit of all!
Hear me, and make all spirits subjects unto me; so that every spirit of the firmament and of the ether, upon the earth and under the earth, on dry land and in the water of whirling air, and of rushing fire, and every spell and scourge of god may be obedient unto me.
Thou spiritual sun! Satan, thou eye, thou lust! Cry aloud! Cry aloud! Whirl the wheel, O my Father, O Satan, O Sun!”
1. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel / 2. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer / 3. Conquer All / 4. Decade Of Therion / 5. As Above So Below / 6. Slaves Shall Serve / 7. Christians To The Lions / 8. The Satanist / 9. Ov Fire And The Void / 10. Furor Divinus / 11. Ludzie Wschodu / 12. Alas, Lord Is Upon Me / 13. At The Left Hand Ov God / 14. Chant For Eschaton 2000 / 15. O Father O Satan O Sun!
1, 2, 8, 10, 11 and 15 originally from “The Satanist” (2014) / 3 and 6 originally from “Demigod” (2004) / 4 and 14 originally from “Satanica” (1999) / 5 originally from “Zos Kia Cultus (Here And Below)” (2002) / 7 originally from “Thelema.6” (2000) / 9 and 12 originally from “Evangelion” (2009) / 13 originally from “The Apostacy” (2007)