Friday, November 30, 2012

Wizard Smoke - The Tickler (EP) (2012)

It would seem that the US has become the home for all things stoner doom, both in music and life. With marijuana being legalized in two states this year, with many more to follow, the culture is growing at an equally impressive rate. Enter Wizard Smoke, from Atlanta, Georgia. With six members in tow, they easily dwarf bands cut from the same cloth. And with a two song EP that spans over twenty minutes of smoky distortion and lyrics, it wouldn't be out of bounds to say they are painting a pretty large picture in the process. But where there is smoke, there had better be fire, something that you may spend a litte extra time looking for on 'The Tickler" and beyond.

The electronic aspect of the music is immediately on display in the opening to "Christian Cross," igniting an uptempo bit of psychedelia. The groove laden instrumental is interrupted only by a round of coarse screams that ma, or may not, actually fit the music. But very quickly, and without warning, the tempo slows to a crawl which sets up an entirely different dynamic between each of the moving parts. Between the booming drum beats and the rattling distortion of two guitars, you may be left floating on the layer of hazy feedback that emanates from your speakers. That groove that was so integral to the first movement hasn't disappeared entirely, but has moved backwards in the mix. There is still a defined melody to the whole thing as well, but its role is diminished amidst a more assertive lead. And, in typical stoner doom fashion, an extended outro takes over far too early and cruises to a rattling finish.

Unlike its predecessor, "Old Snake," has no delusion of grandeur. Right from the onset, you get a taste of what is in store. The vocals stray from the screams of before, and go for a more basic yelling pattern, devoid of melody or any real notes whatsoever. But as the song progresses, you do wander into and out of some more ambient moments, where synthesizers paint and entirely different picture than before, with a bizarre combination of dipping bass lines and thunderous, crunching guitar riffs. The only constant is change, with beats, tempos and levels coming and going at will. There are times where old Pantera riffs will come to mind, minus the raw power. And rather than coast to a finish as they did before, the outro hear is a ripping affair packed with crashing cymbals and solos coming from every direction. You are now surrounded by the music, as opposed to sitting in front of it.

Not everything in the world of music has to be complicated and complex to be good. I would venture t say that the old adage about keeping it simple is still applicable here. So, for me to say that Wizard Smoke don't do enough to keep your attention isn't entirely fair or accurate. But for two songs to occupy twenty or so minutes of times, an extra turn or twist every now and then may have been beneficial. Every second of the material presented does exactly as it was intended, and it is all done with the skill and gusto that you would hope for. But even more than that, it opens up a window, a door, and a wall for what comes next. If "The Tickler" becomes the foundation for a full length album in the near future, we might all be in for a treat. But standing on it's own, the cloud of smoke that follows it may have us questioning our place in the universe.


Official Site -
Bandcamp -

Read more ...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Artist Profile: Malnatt

We don't find all of our new music by spending hours a day cruising the interwebs, doing random Google searches. No, unfortunately there are day jobs that get in the way of that. Sometimes, we have to rely on bands, labels and fans for help. It was about a year ago that we starting corresponding with Enzo, from Bakerteam Records. And through his e-mails, we have been introduced to a slew of new bands; some great, some not. So, when his name pops up in our e-mail, it means we have something we have to hear.

On November 9th, we received a promo of the new album from Malnàtt, a four piece avant black metal band from Italy. Admittedly, with black metal not being my favorite genre, it took far too long for me to sit down and listen to the album, "Principia Discordia." But when I finally did, something clicked in my head that had never really happened with a black metal album before. It all made sense, despite having a lyric sheet that was written completely in the Bolognese dialect. The production values were excellent, leaving each layer with a crystal clear place in the mix. There were melodies, there were thrashing guitars, and there was a vocalist who either didn't know his limits, or simply didn't have any. I read their two paragraph bio over and over, trying to figure out what it was about this band that was different from my previous black metal experiences.

Malnàtt is an Italian black metal band formed in Bologna, Italy in 1999. They are the first and only extreme metal band who have introduced an accordion in the line up and, and before many others, female screaming vocals, trumpets and lyrics in Bolognese dialect. People were astonished by the extreme contrast between their humorous approach and obscure lyrics, focused on decadent poetry, death and nihilism. The band was also chosen to play themselves on a very successful episode of the popular Italian TV show ‘L’ispettore Coliandro’, a crime fiction broadcasted on the national TV networks.

‘Principia Discordia’ was recorded and mixed at Domination Studios in San Marino, with the artistic supervision of renowned musician Simone Mularoni (DGM, Empyrios). ‘Principia Discordia’ moves away from the folk approach of the early albums to focus on much more extreme and experimental sounds. The lyrics take their inspiration both from the great Italian poets and the band’s mastermind Porz himself, who enjoys writing hermetic songs struck between suicide and irony. 

Whatever it was, the album had struck a chord with me, and reinvented the way I listened to not only black metal, but metal in general. It asserted two things that I had always suspected, but never had proof of; first, black metal is evolving and changing day to day, and there simply isn't room to be complacent. Second, Italy may very well be the home for the future of metal. With hundreds of great new bands cropping up almost every day, we need only look to the country shaped like a boot for the next big thing.

In the meantime, buy this album and enjoy it. I know that I did. And I have Enzo and Malnàtt to thank for it.

Read more ...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Malnatt - Principia Discordia (2012)

The accordion. That is the answer to a question you may, or may not, have been asking. The question? What sets Malnatt apart from the slew of other black metal bands coming out of Italy? But it isn't just the instrument made famous by two men with the last name Yankovic that makes Malnatt intriguing. With lyrics in the Bolognese dialect, an inherent sense of humor, and focus on innovation, this four piece is taking a fresh and avant approach to one of the most raw and misunderstood sub sects of metal. Moving into their second decade of existence, and moving away from the heavy folk influence that dominated their early work, "Principia Discordia" is every bit as entertaining as you would hope; and even more epic. The only real question that remains is what lasting impression we will have when the music is over and done.

It takes no time for "Manifesto Nichilista" to leave your head in a state of shock. A crystal clear mix rings through your speakers, carrying with it a mass of pounding drums and guitars. But this is more than standard black metal fare; the blazing speed and precision of the guitars leave you feeling like you are in the middle of a thrash exhibition. A never ending sea of kicks and snares fuels the fire, and a harsh vocal lets it all go up in flames. The first show of pure strength comes on "Lamor Sen Va," where a funk inspired bass line shines through a crowded but balanced attack. It is in the guitar work that the genius lies, with a catchy riff dominating our ears time and again. The variations from the typical are at a high here, spotlighting all of the subtleties that so often go unnoticed. There is something about the way an accordion syncs up with bass and guitar that is both amazing and awe inspiring. And with an outro that is as unearthly as this one, the momentum is like that of a runaway train. Leaning more to the traditional, "Il Canto Dell'Odio" begins with an absolutely deadly alliance of guitars, bass and drums, pulverizing you with every stroke. But as you move into the second half, you have a variety of changes coming at you. A catchy, almost intoxicating guitar melody trades blows with an aggressive chugging one. But even more incredible is the short use of clean vocals, with singer Porz showing off a bit of versatility along the way.

Furthering that notion, the opening moments of "Iper Pagano" show an excellent use of contrast, using clean guitar chords to lead into blistering passages of distortion. The vocals go deep, releasing guttural growls that may convince you Satan is speaking to you from below. And despite the heavy use of percussion, there is some kind of melody driving it all forward. Chanting vocals join the abrasive screams for a devilish harmony. A bizarre two minute interlude, "Intermezzo Erisiano," is a mood setter. With the sounds of a whimpering baby meeting with a haunting set of strings, and eventually consoled by a spooky music box, you are sure to experience chills. The choir that leads the track to an end is amazing, if not altogether terrifying. The synthesizers on "Nel Di Dei Morti" are absolutely key to making the track a success. With an added layer of eerie noise attached, you get the band at their absolute best. Every guitar riff comes through with clarity and crispness, which is what allows the band to wander off on tangents, as they around the midway point here. By avoiding stereotypical structures, there is room for beautiful melodies to be inserted. Following a great bass line, guitars ascend and unleash a chanting vocal section that shows off a daring melodic sensibility.

With a screeching piece of feedback and great set of rolls courtesy of drummer Lerd, "Don Matteo" takes over your consciousness. Easily standing out as the best track on the album, this is a showcase of every ounce of talent the four band members possess. This is an evolved take on black metal and its subsidiary styles, infusing a healthy dose of melody to a blissfully heavy track. Everything you could want from heavy music is contained here, from borderline operatic vocals, to the harshest of screams; earthquakes of percussion, both flowing and crushing distorted guitars, and a display of bass work that eclipses the majority of the genre. When things finally break down, a majestic outro of acoustic guitars leaves a lasting impression. As if a catchy guitar riff wasn't enough, the bass line that opens "Ave Discordia" might very well stick with you for days. With a sound that sounds like modern Enslaved, there is a balance between light and dark thathas to be heard to be appreciated. Chanting vocals are a nice touch, especially when contrasted with a verse of Italian screeches and growls. A highlight comes in the bridge section, where the top notch production can be fully sppreciated, allowing every note, string, drum, and cymbal to share equal time.

Showing off a blast of unbridled aggression, "Ho Sceso Dandoti Il Braccio" is the most in-your-face track on the album, beating you down with a tidal wave of distortion and rage. Don't confuse aggression for sloppiness, however, as the band remains as tight as ever, delivering near flawless instrumentation as every turn. You are left hanging on every note, including a sharp inhale before yet another low growling section. A perfectly designed clean to distorted bridge comes through on every level, giving you one last gasp before a flurrying finish. Just when you think the opening riffs of "Ulver Nostalgia" are going to be the beginning of a straightforward black metal affair, an amazing clean voice comes through. The combination is breathtaking in so many ways, a true joining of beauty and the beast. As if that wasn't enough, the instrumental that occupies the three minute mark and beyond is one of the most complete and enjoyable that these ears have ever heard. The bass and guitar work alone are award worthy. A short acoustic passage takes over most of the bridge, leaving you in the midst of a haunting lullaby before you the explosion wakes you. Without hesitation, you move directly into the final track, "Il Sentiero Dei Nidi Di Ragnarok," that is the perfect summation of the album. What better way to end things than with an overhwelmingly picturesque finish?

Music has been reinvented for me many times in my life. There are bands that simply amaze me (and you) with the way they take everything we know, and turn it upside down. On this day, Malnatt did it for me once again. There are moments where you are flooded by basic black metal tenets, executed to perfection; but these aren't what will stick with you. What lasts beyond the music itself is the notion that there can be, and is, so much more to be had in this and any other style. Melody and horror, humor and drama, light and heavy; they can all live together in a fractured harmony that elevates all, rather than tearing any one of them down. No gimmicks; no flash in the pan, one off experiments. The songs on "Principia Discordia" are good enough and strong enough to change the way we see black metal for centuries to come.


Official Site -
Facebook -
Read more ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Playlist 11/27/12: Behind every successful man, is a woman

November 27, 2012

For fans of metal, old and new, the easiest way to convert outsiders is through the use of female fronted metal. Our wives and girlfriends may be resistant at first, but when a smooth, accessible voice comes pouring through the speakers, it is both comforting and intriguing. And for a genre that is still widely considered to be a "boys club," what better time than now to give you a playlist full of female fronted metal, done right.

The tracklist:

Lacuna Coil - Swamped
Nightwish - Nemo
Nemesea - In Control
Within Temptation - Frozen
Avantasia - What Kind Of Love
Unleash The Archers - Dawn Of Ages
Delain - We Are The Others
Lethian Dreams - Raven
Dotma - Legend Of Blackbird
Nightwish - Bye Bye Beautiful
Read more ...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Aleph Null - Dale (EP) (2012)

In true global metal style, you can travel far and wide, and find bands doing the same thing. From the farthest reaches of North America, to Asia and Australia, there will always be common ground. So it goes for the subgenre of stoner doom, a fast growing evolution of the classic sound pioneered by Black Sabbath. No matter where you call home, you are sure to find a handful, or boat load, of bands bringing this sound back to the fore. In Germany, a three piece band is doing exactly that, starting with an EP titled "Dale." Dusseldorf based Aleph Null may note be the first European band to carry the psychedelic sludge torch, but with the showcase of talent on this collection, they have potential to be the best. It isn't about how fast or how heavy the songs are, but how deep they drill into your head.

Sometimes you have to live with the hum, and sometimes you can enjoy it. The squealing feedback that opens the title track, "Dale," is a fitting place for things to start, evolving into a psychedelic groove. Harmony best describes the way the guitars and bass lock together in verse and chorus, forming a thumping level of low end that is completed by an airy, yet gritty, vocal line. Oddly enough, it is the murkiness of the mix that elevates the track, making the imperfect sound whole. Rarely does a spoken word clip fit more squarely into a metal track as the one that begins "Kill The Colossus." Much like the track itself, the clip is memorable if not a bit off the wall. But it is around the two minute mark that the band hits their stride, laying down a crushing mix of drums and bass, while also adding a healthy dose of infectious guitar riffs. They balance the inherent melody of the song with the chaotic touches, a difficult task that can be rewarding or devastating. In this case it is the former.

By the time the first real notes of "Protogrammar" flood your ear drums, you already have a good idea of where things are going. It is in the down tempo portions where the band succeeds the most; not just in the chugging distortion, but in the overall delivery of each instrument. It allows for every kick drums, every individual pluck of a bass string to be heard loud and clear. Even the vocals are more at home in the slower pace, doing a style of raspy crooning that brings to mind not only classic metal, but also the height of the grunge era. The airy singing and the low end groove form quite the formidable duo, resulting in one of the strongest tracks on the album. But it isn't until "Noah" that the band gives you a glimpse into some of the more avant visions they have for their music. They find a more artistic home in the midst of a battery of drums, incorporating more elements of post metal into the melodic guitar work. By no means is this saying that their foot has come off the pedal, or that they have traded in distortion for effects. But there is a deeper sound here that wasn't present before. And in those added layers, you find a wealth of tempo and tone changes, some more satisfying than others.

As the only track that fails to reach the five minute mark, don't dismiss "Sidewinder" until you have taken the time to listen to it two, three, or twelve times. Everything you could ever want from classic psychedelic doom is packed into this one offering, beginning with a guitar riff that is simple but wholly memorable. The vocals are at their best here, both in the more subtle verses and the bridge sections. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what sets this one apart from the others, but there is something significant that will make this a favorite for many a listener. Conversely, the staggeringly long closer, "Corridor," is a series of victories, strung together to form a whole. There are portions that are tremendous, groove heavy stoner metal. But at the same time, there are so many instances where a quicker turnover may have helped drive home each section. When a song begins and ends with thirty seconds or more of feedback, it is easy to identify areas that could be trimmed for time. This is not to say any of the aforementioned pieces are tedious or boring, but this is the only song that doesn't fly by in a blink. Preference is the only deciding factor.

When you put the screws to it, it is nearly impossible to find anything not to like from Aleph Null. What they give you is something straightforward, enjoyable, and something easy to listen to over and over again. Instead of tying themselves in knots, trying to put new and exciting twists on the old formula, they deliver an all systems go version of stoner doom that doesn't need bells and whistles to be good. A simple combination of bass, guitar, drums and vocals is all you need to build a wall of sound that could dwarf some of the bands that used to define the genre. And if the six songs on "Dale" are any indication of the future, we haven't heard the last of these three gentlemen. The future looks bright... and murky.


Facebook -
Bandcamp -
Read more ...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blizzard At Sea: The Interview... The Sequel

In the year between albums, a lot of things have changed in the world of progressive sludge three piece Blizzard At Sea. As if the Iwoa City based band weren't turning enough heads with their debut EP, "Invariance," they have added even more depth of sound and ingenuity to the follow up. We sat down to see how we got from point a to point b, and how "Individuation" came to be.

In the year or so between the release of "Invariance" and "Individuation," there were some changes going on in the Blizzard At Sea camp. Tell us a little bit about that, and how Pat came to join the band. 

Blizzard At Sea:
After recording Invariance last year and going on a short tour, the previous drummer let us know that he was no longer going to be able to commit time and effort to the band, and he left to pursue his studies. We were lucky enough to be sharing our practice space with some other musicians at the time and Pat was one of them. We had met through a mutual friend and just started jamming.  It was very fortunate for us.

With that in mind, how did the writing and recording process differ from the first EP, into "Individuation"?

Blizzard At Sea:
The writing process was similar for both albums. Steve would come up with a structure and some guitar parts and then bring that to the other guys. From there they wrote their parts and we usually did some re-arranging and fine-tuning of the song before we considered it done. Pat also offered a greater range of sounds from the drums, so we were able to try new approaches to the songwriting. As for recording, we were better prepared going in the second time around, and much more open to experimenting with each others inputs while in the studio. We recorded our parts simultaneously in the same room to try and preserve the live dynamics that compliments our music. We added additional instrumentation this time to widen the sound to really make the songs something different from what they were to start. Our engineer Dustin Sisson also took some time to work up some rough mixes while there in the studio, and that helped us understand what we needed to do to get the songs to really feel the way we wanted them to.

With two tracks topping the 10 minute mark, you packed a lot of different elements into a three track EP, with a lot of it showing a mastery of the heavy side, and the progressive side. Is the new balance of sound, and the way it sets you apart from other bands, the meaning behind the name "Individuation"?

Blizzard At Sea:
That's a good interpretation, but we again approached the lyrical and visual themes of the music through the lens of science fiction.  

Tell us about the lyrical content on the album. What are the main themes in the three tracks?

Blizzard At Sea:
Individuation is an album that contemplates, among other things, the future of how we will interact with the machines around us, and how our lives will be effected by the increasingly swift tides of technological innovation. Aside from our own speculative sci-fi elements, there are references to string theory, the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, and the idea of the technological singularity.

What inspired the heavy dose of melody in the new songs? Did you have any reservations or difficulty at all in the writing or recording of the clean vocals?

Blizzard At Sea:
Although brief, we really liked the melodic moments in our first EP Invariance, and wanted to explore that side of our sound more on Individuation. The only reservation was that we knew that the melodic sections had to be used appropriately within the larger context. We needed to retain the heaviness of the rest of the album, while presenting it in an unexpected way. We were also a bit skeptical about what our singing voices were actually going to sound like, as Jesse put it: "I sound weird to myself." Going into the studio, we had already mapped out what we wanted to hear, so there were no unexpected problems recording. We're pretty excited with the results.

I hate to use the word "maturity" to describe these tracks, but I can't seem to escape it. If you had to pick one word to describe the evolution of your sound on this EP, what would it be?
Blizzard At Sea:

When it comes to your albums, we always have to talk artwork. The images you have released so far are just.... surreal. What is the story of this group of images, and how do you think they represent the work you did on "Individuation"?

Blizzard At Sea:
As with Invariance, there is a piece of art to accompany each song on Individuation. The art, much like the lyrics, are meant to encourage contemplative thought. We don't want to have a ultra-specific message to shove at people, or anything like that. We want to encourage people to put in a bit off effort on their own, fill in the gaps, and find some sort of meaning themselves.

Where did the idea to use Kickstarter to fund the album come from? Now that the project made it's projected $2000 goal, how do you feel about the process, and the people that contributed?

Blizzard At Sea:
We were actually pretty skeptical about kickstarter at first, but after some persuasion from our engineer Dustin Sisson, we saw what a useful tool it can be. After successfully raising the funds for our album, we are in full support of the website. It's a great tool for independent artists and musicians to get their projects exposure and funding. In the right hands, Kickstarter seems to be and important part of the new music industry landscape and for DIY supporters, but we've also seen how it can be abused; the potential for misuse is there as well.

One of the interesting aspects of the Kickstarter method is the ability to offer "rewards" based on the donations given. How did you decide what rewards you would offer, and which one seemed to draw the most interest?

Blizzard At Sea:
We wanted to offer our music and merch at reasonable prices so that anyone could help for just a few bucks. We've never had the intention of making a certain amount of money or selling a certain amount of merch, which is why we wanted to keep the reward tiers reasonable. The most popular was the $25 tier, which included both of our albums, a shirt, and stickers.

The CD release show is scheduled to take place on December 21, 2012 at Gabe's in Iowa City. What do you guys have planned to celebrate the special occasion? 

Blizzard At Sea:
 Excessive head banging and an extremely energetic show! Also for the first time, we're planning on some video installations to accompany our music. We're hoping to have a lot going on visually to really get people into the Blizzard at Sea world.
Read more ...

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Masquerade - Redemption (2012)

There has never been any doubt as to how I feel about cover bands. It has been my firm belief that cover bands, tribute bands, or any band playing any material other than their own are the bane of the music industry. But when Deimos crept into my periphery, my eyes were opened. They were a cover band at first, and took time to develop their own sound. The same goes for The Masquerade, another Italian band looking to move from one side of the coin to the other. Having played top 40 rock and metal covers for nearly a decade, the band has stepped out from the shadow of mediocrity to launch a career of their own talents. With a story based on the constant tag of war between self and society, "Redemption" is a hopeful first step into the light.

With an intro track featuring a fairly stunning use of pianos and ambient weather noises as background, the album immediately sets the bar high. There is something entwined into "Of Wax..." that has you holding your breathe at the moment you change over to "The Hero." A thunder of drums forces a deep exhale, and a breakneck pace keeps you gasping for more. You have a solid joining of drums and guitars, with the latter left a bit low in the mix at times. What stands out, however, is the vocal delivery. Walking the fine line between old school metal like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, singer Alfonso Zurlo has a style that is not easy to digest at first. When flanked by the backing voices of his guitarists, his voice is even more puzzling. This is not to say it lacks punch; but the off key harmonies don't echo the force of the instrumental. An extended, and impressive, drum solo caps off the track in a big way. The problems of the previous track are forgotten early on in "Bloodlust," a track that seems to have gotten the ship righted, more or less. The combination of dueling guitar riffs, pulsing bass lines and a backing synthesizer provides a stable foundation. It is this instrumental prowess that carries the track, even when the vocals are slightly awry. Those same oddly pitched vocal curves stick out far too often, both the lead and the backing to blame.

In the more down tempo songs, like "Only Dust," a weak vocal can be a true killer. In the early verse, as his voice stands with little accompaniment, Zurlo struggles. Thanks to a set of galloping guitars, performed by Davide Gallo and Fabrizio Abrate, there is a positive swing in energy as the track progresses. But with only so much help along the way, even a trading solo section falls a bit flat and lifeless. One of the common themes throughout is the use of keyboards and synthesizers as the glue that holds things together. Never is it more obvious than on "Hard Times," a song that relies heavily on those electronic notes to move the melody forward. With a mix that often leaves the guitars sounding slightly muffled, bassist Luca Cristofaro even fills a lead role in select portions. But here, his fast fingers can do only so much, and a catchy main riff is the only positive takeaway. A simple, yet wholly effective set of keys opens "Hell Inside Me," before being pushed backwards by a thumping kick drum. It could never be said that drummer Matteo Maselli is bored behind his kit, as he pounds out track after track of blistering rolls and booming fills. His heavy handed approach keeps the tracks moving at a steady pace, and even adds a much needed layer of originality. With the choir vocals outperforming the lead, things have gone slightly pear shaped.

The longest and most ambitious track, "7 Deadly Sins," may also be the most successful. Divided into several different sections, there is a fair amount of contrast to the instrumental here. In one span, you have softly played clean guitars, followed by a high speed, almost power metal, set of guitar work. Each section is well played on its own, but actually finds a good sense of flow throughout the track. The same cannot be said, however, for the performance of Zurlo, which is uneven and lacking. His voice never gets to the same level of expertise as his bandmates. His best showing comes on "Behind The Mask," where he takes a more subdued delivery option, instead of belting out his parts at a staggering level. The song, on the whole, is one of the more simplistic pieces on the album, relying on basic riffs to flesh out a short four minutes. A vocal savior arrives on "Lady (D)Evil," as a daring female voice gives you a view of how the band would function under different circumstances. On her own, she commands the microphone, allowing voice to become one with the instrumental beneath. With Zurlo, she elevates his voice, while also highlighting his shortcomings. With keyboards doing a bulk of the heavy lifting, the track is a step away from a symphonic duet, including a beautiful outro. The keys that end here, also begin the closing track, the lightly played but perfectly mixed "...And Chronicles."

Writing music and performing music written by others are two entirely different animals. being able to do one, does not guarantee success at the other. For The Masquerade, a decade as a cover band hasn't rendered them incapable of writing a masterpiece of their own, but it hasn't helped. There are a lot of bright spots scattered throughout these ten songs, but they aren't nearly as frequent as they need to be. When your three best songs are the intro, outro, and a piece with a guest vocalist, there is a lot of work left to do. While the instrumental and production issues are easily fixed, the most difficult problem to address will be that of the sub par vocals. With a story and structure that is ambitious and hopeful, you need a voice at the mic that can accentuate both. Perhaps they should have waited to call their second album "Redemption."


Official Site -

Read more ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Morodh/People Are Mechanisms - Lost In Life (Split) (2012)

Something is stirring in the darkness. Somewhere in Russia, among the shadows, a new wave of depressive black metal is building. When you take two of the newest, and most talented, bands from the frozen east and put them together on a single disc, something good is bound to happen. People Are Mechanisms, from the city of Ryazan, and Morodh, from the city of Vladimir, both have a crushing grip on the principles of classic black metal. But where they have similarities, particularly in the art inspired pieces, there are also key differences. On this split EP, "Lost In Life," both bands have a chance to show their grim outlook on black metal past, present, and future.

Leading off, Lesnik Stasik - the sole member of People Are Mechanisms - gives you a lasting first impression. A torrential downpour gives birth to a haunting piece of synthesizer for "Unfamiliar Trails." There is a rich, ambient quality here, rising from nothing to a wall of distorted guitars and the tapping drums. It isn't the lightning fast, reckless style that has come to be associated with black metal, but a more thoughtful one. The recording, while rough around the edges, doesn't go to waste in a sea of murky feedback. Even the heavier moments remain focus and straight forward, even finding a balance between a roaring thunderstorm and the layers that surround it. A lot of that artsy quality isn't present on "Empty Midnight Streets," opting for a mix of traditional tones and shoegaze inspired riffs. The drum beat, while simplified, is the perfect framework for the guitar lead. A raw feel dominates this track, shedding off the thin layer of polish that worked so well on the previous effort. This isn't a mistake, necessarily, but a departure in vision from one track to the next. There are numerous tempo changes over the course of seven-plus minutes, some shining a light on explosive percussion, while other turn more to a pained scream. Where the two track unite is in their ability to come full circle; quiet to loud, and back again.

For Morodh, there is a common ground in moments of "Desperation," but not with their split mates. Instead, some of the haunting melodies are more akin to French post-black artists Alcest, finding a nearly impossible home between glowing and grave. A layer of screeching vocals comes and goes, leaving a trail of howling distortion in its wake each time. The moments where merely the instrumental remains are some of the strongest, painting a picture out of grays and black shades that is both somber and beautiful. Vocalist Astaroth completes the portrait with harsh shades of red in every grating scream he emits. And while it makes sense for a depressive band to have a song titled "Hopelessness," this particular one is anything but. Light drum beats and a clean guitar open the track, forming the foundation of a melody that is rarely heard in the darker metal styles. This is where the guitar work gets to shine the brightest, creating a mood that only a smoothly played riff can do. In a flash, the world catches fire, and a devastating set of double kicks blasts through the mix and into your waiting ears. This is the black metal that most of us know, but with a refined twist. Rather than wear you down with a sea of reverb, they choose to go back to that same stripped down piece that started it all.

Fans of black metal, there is an entirely new world of music waiting for you. More importantly, for those who have yet to explore the darkest of the dark, this split may in fact be your opportunity. Both artists contained here embody the three objects that we all crave: the scrapbook, the mirror, and the window. Both People Are Mechanisms and Morodh, as the scrapbook, flex the more traditional muscle throughout their respective  halves. As the mirror, they show mastery of what black metal has evolved into, including a much more clear production and writing process. But, most important of all, they are both the window; with each song they write looking out into the world, at what their art form could be going forward. Maybe "Lost In Life" is exactly where we need to be.


People Are Mechanisms
Myspace -
Soundcloud -

Official Site -
Facebook -
Read more ...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Playlist 11/20/12: Katatopeth

November 20, 2012

It's no secret that we at Sorrow Eternal are fond of the works of Katatonia and Opeth. And what better way for us to give thanks at this time of year than to put together a playlist celebrating some of their best? A combination of b-sides and modern classics, this one is a great introduction for those who haven't listened before, and those who love both.

The Tracklist:

Katatonia - Sold Heart
Opeth - Would?
Katatonia - Code Against The Code
Opeth - Soldier Of Fortune
Katatonia - My Twin (Opium Dub)
Opeth - Ghost Of Perdition
Katatonia - Displaced
Opeth - The Grand Conjuration
Katatonia - Dissolving Bonds
Opeth - Heir Apparent
Read more ...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gorath - The Chronicles Of Khiliasmos (2012)

It is never easy to pull the plug on your band. But for Filip Dupont, the founding father of blackened doom band Gorath, it was his call to make. Alone under the moniker for nearly eight years, Dupont crafted a series of records that defied clear genre tagging. After expanding the line-up to include three other members in 2008, the arc of his work began to take shape. Over the course of six albums and twelve years, the tale of the end times has unfolded musically. But with one album left to release, the story must come to end, for both the Apokalypsis, and for Gorath itself. On "The Chronicles Of Khiliasmos," Dupont and company fail to give you the explosion you were hoping for, settling only for a final whimper.

The first part sees the band adopting a much more subdued, mature vision. With the pacing kept slow and the drum beats crushing, there is an ebb and flow. It isn't until passed the two minute point before the first sign of vocals comes in, with some devilish, agonized scream taking things down a decidedly darker road. But, unfortunately, the mix is somewhat murky, leaving the track sounding clouded at times. The low end, crowded with bass, kick drums and ringing distortion, becomes one solid mass. This leaves the vocal track feeling stilted and off center. The even greater issue is in the lack of lateral movement for a track that nearly tops the ten minute mark. A single riff does the lion's share of the heavy lifting, with very little variation. It seems likely that half the run time would have been equally effective, especially taking into account the trudging outro. Were it not for a sign of life in the final thirty seconds, it may seem as though the band had simply lost interest.

The same can not be said for part two, which sees a far more aggressive, albeit simplistic, instrumental taking control early and often. Fans of hammering drums are sure to be satisfied, as the percussion takes a lead role through a series of rolling double kicks and oddly timed snare hits. The vocals hit a low here, with almost entirely incoherent screams and growls coating the track in a filmy haze. And with the levels favoring bass and eliminating the high end, it becomes hard to digest. It makes it that much harder to sell you on a twenty minute part 3, which is ambitious for even the best of bands. But on they march, with a single riff repeated in the quiet early going. The dominant force in the body of the piece seems to be the more traditional, down tempo doom the band had successfully experimented with on their previous release. They even take a moment to show off a softer side with some clean guitars and more delicate picking. The true failure is where things go from here; the buildup of distortion and rage never makes it back to a head, falling into a bizarrely sparing drum and scream pattern that is simply stagnant. And with nearly four minutes of distortion and effects s your last impression, the album ends on a sad note.

After the four horsemen of "Apokalypsis" had run roughshod over all of our collected minds, the hopes were high for the final installment in the Gorath catalog. But with lofty expectations, and a set of songs that never seem to be fully realized, it's as if the horsemen just got tired, and decided to head home for a night in. There is a lack of creativity, and even more than that, a lack of any sort of signature at all. The reckless guitar work of their earlier efforts is completely absent, leaving the three pieces of this saga feeling flat and uninspired. Whatever the case may be, the legacy of Gorath may be doomed to a scuff or scratch. For fans of Filip Dupont and his collected works, it might be better to pretend this one just never happened.


Official Site -
Facebook -

Read more ...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Weekly Rant 11/18/12: Exercise Caution

However you choose to find new music, there is a need to use caution when trying to find out more info on your favorite new bands. If you, like most, go right to the infamous Googles looking for tidbits, bios, and background... remember how the internet actually works. People are flooding the 'net with content at an alarming rate. Despite what some of our more naive brethren may believe, not everything you find there is accurate.

Case in point; I was listening to the new album by Malnatt, an avant black metal band from Italy (review coming soon). After digesting the music thoroughly, I decided to pass it on to a friend who might enjoy it, and her boyfriend, a fellow metalhead. She loved it; he did not. In finding out why, he accused me of spreading "hate music." Why? Because a Google search of Malnatt brought up several results. Half of them were for Malnatt, the avant black metal band from Bologna, Italy. The other half, including MANY YouTube links, were for Malnatt, the Oi punk band from Milan... a famous Italian Neo Nazi skinhead band. The two are not related in any way, other than the country of origin.

The fact of the matter is, if you want more than basic information about a band or artist, the best place to find it is their official site or satellite sites. No one is more likely to tell you what a band is all about than the band itself. If they are poetry nuts, who like construct polyrhythms and blast beats, they will say that. And, chances are, if they are hate mongers who want to spread the gospel of white power, they will probably say that too. Time to go back to getting it straight from the horse's mouth instead of relying on the chickens for gossip.
Read more ...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Carneia - Sons Of The Sea (EP) (2012)

The end is inevitable. And whether they burned out too soon, or we arrived too late, we missed it. The now defunct Carneia, a five piece from Ottawa, put an end to their existence only a year after forming. Siting their differing goals and life plans, the band played their final show on the 20th of October. They leave behind a single EP, a five song offering that will become their legacy, their legend, their epitaph for metal fans in the years to come. But with a few close listens to the tracks on "Sons Of The Sea," you may choose not to mourn their quick departure, but celebrate the possible futures of each member. Things can only get better from here.

The acoustic guitars and thunder storms that open the title track are merely a rouse, fooling you into thinking you are on a peaceful journey out to sea. But when the first blast of distortion cuts through your ear canal, you will know it's too late to turn back. There is a heavy handed approach to the instrumental, one that is pummeling and rewarding, all at the same time. The deep, guttural vocals of Dan Rogers are grating to the ears, with each word slicing its way into your rib cage. The unfortunate breakdown not withstanding, there is some deft guitar work on display, both singularly and together. The way each pluck of the bass echos and rings on "Adgcea" is almost haunting, setting the stage for distorted, and somehow atmospheric, guitars to take things further. But a sharp left turn is what you get, taking that building instrumental and turning it into a thrashing, bruising beatdown. It is as if the track itself has an identity crisis. On one hand, you have a melodic death metal song that stands out through waves of fret work and double kicks. On the other, you have a murky hardcore chug fest, one that leaves you puzzled and searching for the rhyme and/or reason.

A change in production values seems evident in the opening riffs to "Ketos," where the guitars have tightened up, and a sliding bass line lives and dies. The problems remain a constant, with this track also suffering from schizophrenia. When vocals are added, everything takes a decidedly choppy tone, with Rogers' incoherent growls dragging down an otherwise impressive backing band. The mid point here is the perfect example, with a wealth of memorable guitars falling victim to a failing, one dimensional  vocal. It pushes the instrumental into a corner, and forces it to become shallow in the process. Not to be deterred completely, guitarists Brendan Snow and Remi Croussette continue to dole out healthy doses of solo work on "The Inhuman." The solo, and surrounding backing, at the two minute mark is a promising sign of life, flanked by a battery of drums and, perhaps, a few two many double kick patterns. But they are all left drowning in an uninspired grunt fest, which crowds the mix, and leaves the entire track feeling top heavy. Rather than cater the vocal to the music, the band does the opposite on "Depths," which results in a throwaway as the closer.

It's hard to say why bands ultimately decide to call it quits. Whether it be musical or personal differences, or simply just different life goals, all things good and bad, must come to an end. Reasons aside for Carneia, the end came one vocalist too soon. With a change at the mic, the remaining four members could have salvaged their talents and made a push for the top of the heap. Instead they join a flood of other bands as a statistic, a mere footnote on the history of metal. Where these five musicians go from here is a mystery for now. But wherever both Brendan Snow and Remi Croussette end up, there is sure to be a bright future.


Bandcamp -
Facebook -
Read more ...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Artist Profile: Appalachian Winter

When Sorrow Eternal began on a warm March night in 2011, we never would have predicted the amount of fun and great music we would be exposed to. There have been a cast of characters that we have encountered, with some of them earning a place in our mental Hall Of Fame. And, perhaps more than anyone else, Dan Klyne has not only earned enshrinement, but is the first name that comes up when people ask us about our work.

From his cabin in the Pennsylvania wilderness, this multi-instrumentalist has been creating symphonic black metal for years... and giving it all away for free! The moniker of Appalachian Winter has become synonymous with the "beauty and the beast" dynamic we mention so often, combining a wide array of guitars, mandolins, keys, drums, and vocals. And the beauty of it all is that Dan has garnered praise from all over the globe, without a single second or dollar of promotion to get there. If that doesn't speak volumes, I don't know what will.

But take away the music, and what you have is a man who loves what he does. That alone would earn him a place in our Hall. And if you still haven't heard him, or simply aren't convinced, listen to the interview below. You will laugh. And you will enjoy every second of it. Keep your ears open for what comes next. You won't want to miss it.

Read more ...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Temple - On The Steps Of The Temple (2012)

When you look at the genre tags on the Bandcamp site for Phoenix, Arizona based Temple, it looks like a list of every subgenre in modern metal, hoping to attract a new listener or two with style alone. To the contrary, this is actually a summary of what this two piece band actually does in each and every track. With no vocal track within a hundred miles, this hour long instrumental album dabbles into all of the deepest and darkest corners of metal. Not in the "something for everyone" sense; but rather forming a new conglomeration of heavy elements. "On The Steps Of The Temple" is a diamond in the rough, with just enough polish to shine through.

In the opening segments of "Mountain," as the solemn guitars gives way to a pounding beat, you would think you fell head first into a modern black metal dream; pulverizing riffs and percussion, but with an above average production job. Even more than that, though, is the focus on finesse amidst the chaos. As they wind and weave through melody and mayhem totaling eight and half minutes, there are numerous instances where catchy and crunchy come together into one synchronized movement. There are clear divisions between the stanzas, with tempo and tone changes coming fast and furious. It would be a lie to say there aren't moments that feel unnecessarily long, but they are few and far between here, and easily redeemed. The machine gun snares and kicks just passed the midway point give you that perfectly timed flurry. Building on the same framework, "Rising From The Abyss" may be the strongest track on the album, taking on some of the most attractive elements of doom along the way. The slow, deliberate riff construction is a highlight, allowing the track to build organically. Tying it all together is a air of evil, something tangled in the lead that has you thinking a visit from Satan might not be too far away. Whether it is in the density of the chugging, or the light cymbal touches that float throughout the song, there is a lot going on, and even more to celebrate. The biggest victory is the contrasting styles thrust together; softer plucked guitars come head first into harshly distorted ones time and again.

At just over four minutes, the beautiful "Final Years" is the shortest track on the album but certainly not one to skip. There is a similarity in the way the intro is played that brings to mind the Opeth track "Isolation Years," though the two wouldn't be mistaken for one another. Atmospheric keyboards lay down a perfect backing for the post metal track, giving an added dimension to the mix. And while there isn't a massive metal riff until the final minute, this is one that may find a way into your ear canals time and time again. Quick to change gears again, "The Mist That Shrouds The Peaks" is the kind of bruising slug fest that can become the foundation for for albums to come. Far from one dimensional, however, there is a fusion of melody and morose in the building verses. Even the brief solo work takes on a life of its own, painting a dark picture with each note. Despite the crawling tempo, things seem to progress quickly over the ten minute span of the track. The instrumental is almost too good, waving and winding through every piece with ease and a delicate sense of balance. The fact that it stands on its own is incredible. Adding a vocal, in the form of a deep guttural growl, might prove to be too much for one mind to take. Even a minute of screeching distortion is a welcomed effect.

The depth of sound on "Avaritia" is sure to fool you into thinking you have an army at work, complete with spoken word sound bytes layered on top of it all. Once you remind yourself that this is, in fact, the work of two men, it becomes all the more impressive. Multiple layers of guitar and bass come together in a solid way, growing in strength as the track progresses. In one of the most fool proof tests, the lead riff that forms the backbone here gets the head moving, while the drumming gets one or both of your feet tapping along. There is a tremendous amount of effort put in to make something like this seem easy, but they do exactly that in the span of nearly ten minutes. And after the blasting body of the song has passed, a lightly played outro takes you into your destination, the eleven minute epic closer, "On The Steps Of The Temple." Without detracting from the previous five songs, this is the most complete composition on the album by a long shot. Through all the twists and turns, you are punished in the most satisfying way, beaten down by heavy handed percussion and violent distortion. Aggressive, daring, and insanely rich, every sliding guitar chord adds fuel to an already raging fire. It never spirals out of control; instead, this is a controlled blaze, heating up your speakers.

When you identify your sound with a laundry list of styles, the way Temple has, you are setting the bar abnormally high. Meeting expectations, then, becomes an entirely unlikely endeavor. But these two musicians do exactly that, delivering on every promise their tag line suggests. Having six tracks that draw dangerously close to the hour mark is intimidating, but the reward is more than worth it. Hidden in each of these opus' is a veritable what's what in metal. Fan of blaring distorted guitars? Got it. Lighting fast percussion? Check. The fact of the matter is, if you are looking for anything and everything, "On The Steps Of The Temple" has it; except for vocals. We don't need no stinkin' vocals.


Bandcamp -
Facebook -
Read more ...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Playlist 11/13/12: Beauty, minus the beast

November 13, 2012

It has become a life goal to dispel any and all inaccuracies that people have about metal music. In my years as a fan of heavy music, I have heard them all; all growling, no singing, can't understand a word. But with the help of playlists like this one, we can show that metal is more than a one dimensional scream fest. This is the lighter side.

The tracklist...

Opeth - Hours Of Wealth
Eluveitie - Anagantios
Katatonia - Departer
Elvenking - Ophale
Opeth - Hope Leaves
Apocalyptica - Faraway, Vol. 2
Nightwish - The Islander
Orphaned Land - In Thy Neverending Way (Epilogue)
Opeth - Isolation Years
Read more ...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Aphelium - Demo (2012)

If you were to ask some of the world's biggest metal bands where there favorite place to play live is, a growing number of them would point to Latin and South America. Known for fans that are rabid for well played melodies and ripping solos, it would make sense that the bands originating there would have the same passion for creating music. Venezuelan power metal five piece Aphelium aren't just committed to playing the same old thing; they are ready to give the rest of the world a taste of the flare and punch that comes along with their desire to go global. On their 2012 demo, a three track offering, they show you why you should keep your eyes to the south for some of the next great bands, and why the language you speak doesn't matter when the music starts playing.

Keyboardist Cristhian Zambrano sets the stage on the opening track, a short but flowing intro. Without pause, it rolls directly into "Cleopatra," and now the full band has a chance to come through. Vocalist Joan Pabón has a voice that is both dynamic and versatile, delivering his Spanish language lyrics with the gusto of some of the best in the business. Surprisingly, this is a one guitar outfit, something that may become even more shocking when you hearing the depth of sound the instrumental has. This is thanks, largely, to some amazingly played bass work. But the explosions of percussion and distortion take center stage more often that not, with guitarist Ismael Mendonça painting the sky with riff after riff, backed solidly by precisely timed snares and cymbals. After a slowed down jazzy bridge, piano keys start the track building back to a boil. A bouncing gallop erupts from the ashes, and you are pushed to a slamming conclusion. Perhaps the most complete of the two main tracks on the demo, "Fate Of A Promise" sees Pabón venturing into completely English lyrics, a bilingual attack that makes a deep impact. Guitars and bass, locked together, have a constant hold on your ears. Thanks to the strong instrumental, the track flies by, leaving you wanting more.

Aphelium has something woven into their music that many bands should take note of. They lack the sense of rock star entitlement that plagues the world music scene, particularly in America. It isn't about making millions of dollars, chicks, and booze. In the most basic form, music is made for the love of making it. And every ounce of talent is magnified when the musicians pour themselves into their craft. By bringing the focus back to the music itself, rather than the stereotypes and the lifestyle, Aphelium have three tracks to their name that are sure to resonate with fans from North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Demos like this one remind us that music, and metal specifically, are a universal language. And there is no app or program, not even Rosetta Stone, necessary to remind us that we all speak power metal.


Facebook -
Reverb Nation -
Read more ...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weekly Rant 11/11/12: A tale of two paths

Everything is cyclical. Yes, everything. What is old will become new again at some point down the line. The same is true for metal, where classic styles are always be rehashed by new artists, sometimes decades after they first debuted.

This year, in particular, has been flooded with bands taking notes from their forefathers - particularly Black Sabbath - and bringing them back into the limelight. Take From Beyond, for example. Their EP, "One Year," was a revelation for modern metal. They managed to combine the old school psychedelic flair with a more refined, updated flow. Meanwhile, some 2,000 miles away in Rhode Island, Balam were doing the same thing on their self titled offering. Both bands have clearly defined love of what was once king, but without ever coming off as wasted hero worship.

On the flip side of this coin is the question of where metal will go from here. We have discussed it at length over the last year or so. Will the dominant styles of death, folk, and power metal continue well into the future with minor tweaks along the way? Or will new, less imaginative takes like doomwave and the dreaded mess of "core" subgenres take over and carry the torch into ridiculous new directions?

The real question is a matter of taste: do you want your music to stay the course, or change dramatically?
Read more ...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Solisia - UniverSeasons (2012)

One look at the artwork for "UniverSeasons," the second studio album by symphonic metal band Solisia, and you may get the impression that you are in for something special. This five piece, completed by recent addition Elie Syrelia on vocals, are wading through a crowded and competitive Italian metal scene that seems to churn out female fronted metal by the truck load. But not content to drown in the sea of their peers, they seek to separate themselves with this follow up to 2010's "Ordinary Fate." What you get is a blend of progressive power metal, splashed with keyboard arrangements and a frontwoman who is only learning how to lead the charge.

In the title track, there is a clear statement of where the band fits in to a complex and growing metal community. There is an emphasis on percussion, in the form of rapid double kicks, cracking snare drums and the metallic ring of cymbals. The guitar work is tight without being overbearing, allowing Syrelia to construct some creative melodies on top of it all. As an opening track, this has it all, starting things out on a high note. This puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the album to follow suit, and, in particular, the following song. Luckily, "The Guns Fall Silent" not only keeps the momentum going, but even helps to build it further. Atop a sea of explosive percussion is a ave of keyboards, one that sounds as off the wall as you could imagine. With the tempo at a new found speed, accuracy is at a premium. In these blistering segments, any misplaced note could throw the whole operation off. but the band keeps it together, delivering a progressive splash overflowing with guitar riffs aplenty. The sheer power of the instrumental helps to carry Syrelia, who has a wealth of effects weighing down her voice. When left to her own devices, she shines brightly, as she does on "Kiss The Sky." A strong keyboard presence does wonders for the overall sound of the track, which takes a more simplistic, stripped down approach. That is, of course, until guitarist Gianluca Quinto breaks the sound barrier with a ridiculous solo.

One of the more interesting pieces on the album comes in the form of the heavy handed "Mind Killer," a mixed bag from start to finish. The instrumental is excellent, taking off the chains and allowing the entire band to show off the heavier aspects of their sound. But for Syrelia, there is an on and off struggle. Her voice is lost in the verse in odd timed, and even odder sounding sections. For every misstep there, she redeems herself with a powerful chorus. And while it sets a dangerous precedent, she holds her own, even in the very off beat bridge. But with Quinto and keyboardist Wilson Di Geso on standby, a rescue is never far away. The haunting music box effect at the start of "All I Want" is almost disturbing, but seems to inspire the band going forward. What results is a chorus that sounds reminiscent of more recent Within Temptation, bordering on a dance beat. But hidden in the bridge and breakdown is a "Phantom Of The Opera" tribute of sorts, one done with a thunderous drum set backing it all.

Unlike the rest of the album, there is something heartfelt and emotional about "Betrayed By Faith," a track that could be considered a ballad by all accounts. The combination of Syrelia's voice and a solemn piano is stunning, even moreso when joined by a distorted guitar. The track would be a rousing success, even without a driven guitar solo to tie it together. And despite the title that may have led your mind astray, "Dirty Feeling" is an all out attack, unlike anything the rest of the album has to offer. Finally, the instrumental holds nothing back, bludgeoning your ears with rolling double kicks, winding guitar riffs, and an uncharacteristic stomp in the bridge. And, after being drowned out, the keyboards return with an atmospheric opening on "From Dusk Till Dawn." The arrangement here is short, but sweet, setting the tone for the track to come. Unfortunately, what follows is a trip to the generic side, with Syrelia taking a radio friendly approach to the vocal lines. There is something missing from the mix, an element that just doesn't make it into the song. Call it what you will, but this four minute effort lacks heart, something that is hard to quantify but impossible to ignore.

One of the more impressive moments for Syrelia comes on "Symbiosis," where her layered vocals deliver both strength and grace. For the first in several tracks, the intensity of the clean singing is matched by that of the instrumental, a well balanced attack of drums, guitar, bass, and light synthesizer touches. It is, undoubtedly, one of the achievements of the album. Don't let the beginning antics of "The Queen's Crown" fool you; what follows is actually a solid vocal track disguised as a novelty. With the band taking a back seat for this three and a half minute period, it allows the frontwoman to stand on her own two feet, something she hasn't been asked to do very often to this point. Syrelia responds well, carrying the melody, and the track. When a track like "I Loose Myself" fills the role of the closer, it is sure to have mixed results. Starting out as a very tame ballad, with that same female voice/piano combination we heard earlier, it isn't fully realized. With little more than an electronic inspired beat joining in sparingly, it seems like a very odd choice as the summation of your work.

Whatever your profession, you always want to be the absolute best at what you do. For metal musicians, the goal is always to stand out above the rest of your contemporaries. For Solisia, that was a daunting task before they ever picked up their instruments. With female fronted metal bands cropping up all over Italy, breaking through takes even more than it would elsewhere. Unfortunately, the eleven tracks the band are offering don't do much to call attention to their craft. There isn't anything glaringly wrong with the album, necessarily; but there isn't that signature moment that hits you like a nine pound hammer. Instead, what you get is some well played, well executed, but wholly generic metal with a frontwoman that, while exceedingly talented, hasn't yet found her true voice. Rome wasn't built in a day; and "UniverSeasons" won't be the end for Solisia.


Official Site -
Facebook -
Read more ...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Artist Profile: Sam Locke

Not everyone has the chance to travel the world. But for us, a trip to Australia would rank high on the list of choice destinations. With some of the most talented and versatile metal bands in the world, it would be reason enough for any metalhead to make the trip. First stop, Launceston. Never heard of it? Neither had we... until, that is, the first EP by Sam Locke made it's way into our inbox.

When his debut EP hit our speakers, we knew then and there that we were witness to something special. The five songs on "Era" were one part progressive metal, one part djent, and one part virtuoso guitars. Written, recorded and produced by the man himself in his home studio (i.e. his desk), you would never believe that an accomplished engineer wasn't behind the knobs. Without a second of filler to be found, this was as strong a debut as you would find in metal today, and was the inspiration for the launch of our first sampler, which featured "Epoch" as the opening track.

But with experience comes evolution. And the same applies to music. Locke returned, more focused and more impressive than ever with his full length album "Crossing The Barrier." Everything that had been so positive on "Era" is enhanced here, taking his talent and songwriting to new levels. And though the drums were programmed, no one would know... or care. With nine songs of pure guitar driven metal, including the personal favorite "Secondary Fires," this young Australian is on the verge of tearing down the walls of global metal. The album was so good, in fact, that is made it to the Top 10 for the first half of the year. With his video for "Squared" available on various outlets of the internets, including the YouTube link below, it is time for you to be introduced to the face of the land down under.

Read more ...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Riverlust - Innocence (EP) (2012)

Hungarian symphonic metal band Riverlust have had more than their fair share of trials and tribulations. Formed in mid-2008, then known as Leaf Storm, they have only three of six original members still in tow. Lineup shuffles not withstanding, the now fully formed and fully functional six piece are wasting no time making the most of their new found unity. On their debut EP, they go beyond the standard, almost too common, female fronted metal into more unique territory. With two guitars playing melodic, yet powerful riffs, a madman behind the drum kit, and a growing voice at the helm, "Innocence" may be the right way to launch themselves into the spotlight.

Despite a snare drum that sounds like that of Lars Ulrich on "St. Anger," the intro track "Never Ending Fall" is a beautiful beginning. With rich symphonics accompanying that tin can beat, it leads flawlessly into "End Of Innocence." There are imperfections in the mix that make it seem overly crowded at times. But as vocalist Zsuzsanna Paréj enters, everything seems to materialize into a well rounded attack. Pairing her voice with guitarist András Barta's frightening screams in the chorus is a perfect use of contrast, reviving that beauty and the beast dynamic that has work so many times before. But even minus the vocal leads, the band do an excellent job thundering ahead at break neck speeds. The drumming matches the intensity of the guitars, coming together in a flurry of activity that might leave you dizzy trying to keep up. The closing of the track is the prime example of the "big finish" style, surely the closer of any live show.

With things now in full swing, "Razor's Edge" sees the band in a more pleasing balancing act. Paréj shows her mettle, carrying much of the weight in the verse sections, with drummer Attila Pécz hammering out a busy collection of kicks, snares and toms. Once again, the occasional growl heightens the overall arc of the track, giving way to a perfect dueling solo that is both daring and cohesive. Rather than disrupting the track with an extended show of talent, they craft a short section to accent things. The final ten seconds alone are a triumphant finish. With a keyboard and clean guitar intro, "The Curtain Falls" feels every bit like the show stealer it turns out to be. The light use of synthesizers in the background is just enough to register, without leaving a film on the track itself. What you have is a ballad, of sorts, that strays away from the traditional structures. Yes, Paréj's voice sees center stage more often than not. But the separation comes in the way the instrumental plays out, never relaxing and settling into a generic beat. In fact, Pécz may prove to be too dynamic at times, rivaling the guitar work in both speed and tone.

The same can be said for "Melodies Of Life," which boasts a heavy back beat that is far from the typical, watered down "kick kick snare" that usually accompanies female fronted metal. The guitar work varies, sometimes adopting a thunderous gallop, and other times darting up and down the neck in a whirlwind of distorted notes. For the first time, the bass shines through, laying down a rattling line as Paréj gets mixed results in her arias. She hits the most difficult notes, while sometimes faltering on the more accessible parts. But for the few stumbles along the way, "Passage" is a track that you won't soon forget. Barta sees an increased vocal role, screaming and growling his way into her frontal lobe, while a pulverizing drum beat bears down on you. When you think the foot is off the gas, thanks to an airy keyboard solo, you are thrown head first into the best fretwork on the album. The rolling double kicks that carry you from solo to bridge shake your speakers before coasting into the outro, one that sees Paréj let out one final high note.

Minus a few technical flaws, Riverlust have a lot to be happy about. For a band that has been changing and growing every step of the way, this debut is a strong one, and a good measuring stick to where they are going. With a little more focus on the balance of sound in the recording process, most, if not all, of the glitches can be corrected. The six tracks on "Innocence" represent a starting point, or a baseline for years to come. if they continue to grow as a band, there is no telling how far they can go. With "Innocence," they prove that they are on the right path to success, even with a few stumbles along the way.


Facebook -
Soundcloud -
Read more ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Playlist 11/6/12: Change of season, change of mood

November 6, 2012

The leaves have dropped from the trees, especially if you, like us, were in the path of a certain hurricane who shall remain nameless. As the temperature dips, there is a change in the way we work, we sleep, and the way we listen to music. So, to celebrate the move into winter, here is the playlist for the week.

The Tracklist:

Baroness - Board Up The House
Alcest - Autre Temps
Black Sabbath - The Devil Cried
Ihsahn - The Eagles And The Snake
Wintersun - Son Of Winter And Stars
Atoma - Rainmen
Ex-Deo - I, Caligvla
My Dying Bride - Scarborough Fair
Beck - Ramshackle
Read more ...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wheelfall - Interzone (2012)

Somewhere along the way, there came a common misconception that true genius takes time. So, when you sit down to digest the first full length album by four piece Wheelfall, don't let the 13 day recording session fool you into thinking this is some half baked, sloppy recording. This French collective from the city of Nancy are making waves with an album that, clocking in at 50+ minutes, is not for the faint of heart or hearing. Finding their niche in a variation of stoner doom, bassist Niko El Moche, guitarist Cactus Flo, guitarist and vocalist Wayne Furter, and drummer Niko Elbow have a common love for slow, plodding metal and the science fiction works of some of the greats. Completed by the accompanying artwork of Terry Hellrider, "Interzone" is a mind trip, with or without the drugs.

The two minute long "(prelude)" that opens the album isn't as much a full on intro as it is a collision between music and reality, building from low level noise into what will be the first real song, "Howling." What you get in the opening riffs is something is that intensely catchy, and insanely heavy, all meshed into one seamlessly executed piece of booming grunge. To say the production is scratchy would give an impression of low quality, which is not the case at all. Instead, it sounds natural, a rare feat for a modern metal album. Every massive kick drum is like a hammer to a nail, driving it home with power and precision. The guitars, in all their glorious distortion, range from basic heavy chords to wild solo work, accompanied, sparingly, by raspy vocals screams. The scarcity of vocals, in the latter stages most notably, turns the track into a rousing instrumental. But without question, "Holy Sky" steals the show as a sonic masterpiece. The mix is so crowded, but with every member occupying his own platform. The vocals have changed dramatically at time, moving from the standard yelling into more devilish growls. It's the staggering amount of bass that pours through your speakers that might pull you in further, but it's the bending, flowing guitar riffs that will keep you hooked for the eight minute duration. The balance of power seems to be part 70's prog, and part classic doom which, together, form a  unique style.

Within all of the heavy down beats and slower than death tempos, there is a really impressive flow from track to track, especially into "The Parasite Ravages." Without using a sea of effects or pitch correction, the band lay down a thumping array of chunky riffs and rattling bass lines. The same could be said for the vocal style, which is as raw as you could want, without seeming out of place or muffled. But what stands out is that the vocal track, lyrics included, aren't the main focus of any segment. The instrumental, with its deep grooves and crashing cymbals, is the one and only star. The way the instruments come together in the bridge is evidence of that, with a flailing, dangerously intoxicating guitar solo cutting through layer upon layer of distorted bliss. And like our ancestors, they don't waste anything, taking you down to the final seconds before lifting their foot from your throat. A certain degree of congratulations are in order for a track like "It Comes From The Mist," which has the ability to leave the straight edge and sober feeling as though they are under the influence of many a hallucinogenic drug. It's as if the dual riffs have the power to pick you up and move you around. Seemingly simple and basic structures relax your mind and body, only to be struck back to life with the changing pace. While the leads are flashy and impressive, it is the work of the rhythm section that makes this track so successful, providing not just a backing track to play to, but elevating everything with well constructed melodies. Things can be built up or torn down at will, leaving you sitting, along for the ride.

Far be it from me to call a track that eclipses the twenty minute mark "daunting," but there is always a certain degree of worry when something that massive stares you in the face. For the title track, "Interzone," to not only span that time frame but to close the album, is even more intimidating.  The key to making it work, as you soon find out, is to let the track build organically. There is no need to force the square peg of musical vision into the round hole of time constraint. Elements of the track come and go, carefully building up layers like the most intense Jenga game imaginable. Every sudden blast of guitar, or speaker shaking drum beat brings the mix to near collapse, but never allows it to fall. It isn't a display of  instant gratification, mind you. They string you along, minute after minute, by giving you just a small taste; a great riff that leaves your head nodding, or even just a massive kick drum. But a mere five minutes in, a raw bass line provides the lead in to the stomping good time you always thought you'd have. With the eruption at hand, the floodgates are open to anything and everything. For the next fifteen odd minutes, you descend into pure madness at the hands of these four men, until you end up shaken, scared, and right back where you started: low level noise.

There aren't enough adjectives to accurately describe what Wheelfall does. Somewhere between doom guitars, stoner tendencies, and melodic grooves, they have found a home all their own. It isn't as though they are rewriting the rule book on psychedelic doom or stoner metal, but each movement is executed with such precision that it certainly raises the bar for anyone looking to enter than arena. The tracks are heavy, but well conceived, which is a success in and of itself. And even more than that, they are long without ever feeling overbearing or stilted. With the journey that "Interzone" takes you on, it's hard to imagine what these guys will come up with next. Though, I suppose it is less a question of what, and more a question of where it will take us.


Official Site -
Bandcamp -
Read more ...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Weekly Rant 11/4/12: The brotherhood of metal

I had the opportunity to see Henry Rollins on his current "Capitalism" spoken word tour, something that I do whenever the chance presents itself. What I have found over the last 15 years of seeing Mr. Rollins speak is that every show has a message. Sometimes it is obvious, other times it is subtle. With the US presidential elections around the corner, his message was clear and powerful. "No matter who wins the election, we still have each other." Every time he said it, it hit me like a ton of bricks. And while Henry Rollins is an icon in the punk scene, that sentiment rings so loudly in metal that I thought it deserved mention.

Over the last 18 or so months, the existence of Sorrow Eternal, I have been so lucky as to talk with some of my favorite bands, bands I never knew existed, labels, fans, and everything in between. And the central theme of all of those conversations has always been brotherhood; the idea that no matter where you are from, what you look like, or how you got here, we are all united under the banner of heavy metal. There is a shared respect for one another, big or small, that is refreshing and completely unique.

If you haven't already, the documentary "Metal: A Headbanger's Journey" tackled this thought with a great deal of detail and thought. Sam Dunn's travels to explore the beginnings of the genre and it's growth around the world turned up an interesting sociological trend. The idea that metal fans, at some point in time, were considered to be outsiders couldn't be more false. With the legions worldwide, we have become the majority. We are no longer isolated or "weird"; our lifestyle and musical choice is becoming the norm.

So, if there is one thing to think about in all of this, it is that one word: brotherhood. That bond between all of us that may begin with the music itself, but goes so far beyond it. And remember that no matter what is going on in the world - elections, war, natural disasters - we are all in this together. We will always have metal, and we will always have each other.

- Darrell

Read more ...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Three Rooks Records: The Interview

I think the majority of the fans of music, be it metal or otherwise, often forget about the men and women behind the scenes that make this stuff happen. And while they may be vilified time and time again, labels are still a central cog in the music industry. We had a chance to get the label point of view in our conversation with Iain from Three Rooks Records. Enlightening, to say the least.

What is the story behind Three Rooks Records? When did the idea to form a label strike you,
and how did the label come to be?

Basically I got fed up of the brick walls encountered while being a musician. I was trying to do the work of a label and a band, without being one, yet it was in a very narrow direction - just my own music. I discovered I actually enjoyed helping promote other people’s work more, it was more social, I made more connections and it was not as self destructive. So in March 2012 I put my guitar down in order to focus on building up the skills I’d need to run Three Rooks. I’ve only just returned to writing my own music on the side, with the label my priority, it way well appear as a project again in the not so distant future.

In today's music industry, labels seem to come and go almost daily. So, why get into the label

Very true! I remember when I was in bands of my own looking for underground labels to send my unsolicited demo's to, a lot of the links on search engines were dead, the internet is like a graveyard for defunct small labels. The best reason to start a label is always going to be for the love of the music itself. If you are talking underground genres, money has be a secondary aspect, that’s being realistic, but also true to the nature of the sector you are dealing with. Being part of keeping alive the music you are passionate about is also great motivation, if you can be even a small part of what keeps a scene going and make your own mark on it, that is great a reason too.

How much work goes into the day to day operation of a budding record label? How difficult is it to promote yourself and your stable of bands online and in the everyday world?

Enough work as you humanly have time for! Promotion is one of those things you can never do enough of, especially online you need to put in a lot of work to get any return on your effort.

For example, say you somehow manage to reach eight hundred people with an album promo, around one hundred or so might actually get your message, out of that you can expect around ten to become dedicated fans, with maybe a handful of part-time fans making up the ranks a little.

Bigger labels succeed in this area through sheer force of budget, we can't match their ad campaigns in terms  of how much money they can throw at it, yet still that is what we would be competing against in terms of getting a potential fan's attention.

Real world promotion is more effective on a person-to person basis, but it has much less scope for us due to being based in the UK, so the internet is our friend!

I think being blatantly underground helps, because people only really find us if they are looking for specifically underground music, also its really the most honest approach for what we can deliver.

What do you look for in an artist/band? Would you say you are trying to stay focused on black metal?

With a new artist we are looking for an original sound that grabs us, whether that is something polished or that has potential but needs development. One of the approaches that sets us apart is that we are not afraid of working with bands to help them develop and grow when they are at an early stage. I'm always willing to help with production by mixing and mastering a band's work in my own studio, I don't mind putting the hours in with this because it benefits us both to have a great sound.

When doing this I always listen to what the artist has in mind and put together an improved master mix of that concept, including raw sounding black metal, it is possible to have a raw sound that is well balanced and mastered, I'm against over-produced music. The main ingredient in making music great is the passion and vision put into it by the artist. The same applies to artwork, if a band is struggling to put together their own cover art I can step in and design them something myself if they wish.

I think partly it's a case of the label's identity being formed by the bands who make up the roster, it just so happens that the majority of better demo's we get are from the black metal subgenres, especially a lot of depressive black metal. As a long-term appreciator of Black Metal, this of course is a good thing.

At the start we set out to try and cover a broader spectrum, including death metal, but now, making black metal and its subgenres our main focus seems to be the direction it’s going in, for now at least. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of working with a death metal related artist at some point, but certainly no deathcore! The backbone of the roster will remain black metal.

There are some genre gaps in our roster that I would like to recruit some new artists into. We currently have artists at each end of the black metal spectrum - ambient/symphonic stuff coupled with some raw depressive stuff, what I'm looking for now would be a band or project in the middle ground - straight up black metal.

How does the review process, both through the infinite number of online blogs and from printed media, affect your relationships with your bands? And, one of the ongoing discussion among critics, how does a negative review get handled?

Online blogs, E-zines and printed mags are incredibly valuable to any label without them what we do would be basically impossible. Our artists generally trust us to handle contact with music journalists in a way that represents their best interests. We haven’t had any problems with this... yet. It's very important for a label to discuss with bands first how you are going to write about them. I like to get in my head, all the terminology that is accurate musically for a band and get a writing style developed that gets across both their music and ideology fully to the reader.

I'm fine with a negative review as long as it is constructive criticism, obviously a needlessly obnoxious slating of your artist doesn't rub well but its possible to limit the damage especially if it's just an isolated case. I’d encourage bands not to rant about a negative review online, as that just attracts people’s attention more, nor would I write a snotty letter to the magazine, there really is no point. Learning from mistakes is always the best policy. I think being picky about who you ask for coverage is the best approach, I'm not going to send some raw black metal to an E-zine that gives glowing reviews to bands who churn out over-produced 'core' mush.

Metal labels seem to be less glitz and glamour, and more about the music itself. What it is about the various forms of metal that make it so popular?

Metal in its various forms, to me embodies the core human aspects that are repressed in society and by the monotony of ’normality’ in life. We need this more than ever! I think because this is the heart of what runs through all metal subgenres, that popularity, although not comparable to mainstream music such as pop, will continue to remain constant.

There always seems to be sympathy for bands from cynical music fans, but rarely for the labels. Do you feel that the mistakes of major labels in the past have made things harder for small labels today?

If anything, their loss is our gain! The old systems of mass-commercialising music are slowly crumbling away, in part due to file sharing but also due to other factors, some of them economic. Music as a creative entity will never die though, so as the influence of the major labels fades away, hopefully this will give smaller labels like ours room to flourish.

How do you balance the business side, making profit and all, with keeping your integrity and personal goals in tact?

At this stage in our development as a label, we are yet to take any of the bigger monetary risks, so making a profit has yet to conflict with any of our original values. 2013 will see us pushing things forward more. I think being honest and upfront about your aims and what you can deliver is the best policy. Also sticking to promises with artists. I don’t believe that a smaller label should have any contracts that really tie down an artist, so when we tackle this, our agreements will be to-the-point and in plain English, on a release-by-release basis as to be as flexible as possible. I believe if our musicians are happy and not caged in, that better music will be the result. I’m probably inclined to this approach due to my own experience as a musician, being offered small-time record deals but with all the clingy contracts of a big label deal and none of the advantages, I thought to myself - that’s the wrong way to run a small label. I hasten to add this is not how most small labels are, just one of my experiences.

How has the rise of digital media through sites like iTunes or Band camp helped or hurt your cause?

There is such a massive sea of digital music online, from both underground and commercial sources, cutting through that to reach fans is challenging to say the least, there is just so much competing for a listener's attention.

Bandcamp is actually rather useful, especially in terms of presenting a newer artist who has free promo tracks, to new fans. Personally I have no issue with digital music if the files are of high quality, for example our artists only put out mp3's of 320kbps quality, which is as high as mp3's go. Some formats such as FLAC which is becoming more popular due to bandcamp, are pretty high quality. The problem is, that there is also a lot of low quality mp3 around, so people associate that sound with the digital approach.

The CD album is still king, it tops anything in file form and it's an irreplaceable part of metal culture. I believe the best albums are those you can listen to from start to finish direct from a CD or indeed a vinyl. You get that cohesion and interplay between the tracks in the album format that allow them to flow together and tell a story almost, many of the greatest black metal albums are testament to this.

I find that some fans and reviewers are starting to demand physical releases more than we originally expected, so we are going to gear up that aspect of our label in 2013.

What does the future hold for Three Rooks Records? What other bands can we expect to see coming from your stable, and what releases are on the horizon?

Plenty! Late October-November is turning out to be a really busy time. On October 30th is the Morodh EP release. These guys are a depressive black metal band from Russia with some very impressive musicianship and song writing. The EP ’Lost in Life’ is a four track split with another Russian project - ’People Are Mechanisms’, I’ve recently finished mastering the EP myself!

Then, as November kicks in, two new artists to reveal demo’s from! Bergelmir is raw depressive black metal from Texas, really cold sounding and with stripped back recording that adds to the harsh atmosphere, a three track EP ‘Infernal Solitude’ will arrive soon.

Also, something very different - a project called Miseria Visage, avant garde black metal from the UK, a well-crafted melodic wall of sound with all the weirdness you would expect from something like Sigh, but with a blasphemous edge to it. Expect their demo soon, and an appearance on a new split we are planning.

That just about wraps it up for now, thanks for taking the time to interview me about my label!
Read more ...