Sunday, May 14, 2017

Malleus - Storm of Witchcraft

Impressed with their solid live performance in Boston, Malleus had given me enough reason to buy their excellent album, Storm of Witchcraft. The release, portrayed in a throwback fashion to the early-mid 80's period with pen and ink drawn cover of a studded glove yielding a trio of mutated skulls circumnavigated with a deep red logo and type-face, formatively employs the hallmark sounds of Hellhammer and pre-To Mega Therion Celtic Frost to transfer the listener to that time. Though drawing drastically from this aesthetic, subtle hints of d-beat and crust maintain some semblance of influence, but barely. The powerful atmosphere I witnessed live is captured in this very natural recording.

Keeping that qualifier 'formative' in mind, this is an exceptional first release. The strength of opening track "Ire" is possibly the best evidence that Malleus, on future releases, may refine further. The track is representative of much of the release as well. Malleus' strengths are the riffs perpetrated by guitarist The Hammer, which serve as precision tools in their trade. There is a purpose to them within the composition; specifically placed for maximum effect. Different tempos live on the tape and each song, though not always entirely unique, is usually identifiable in some manner. Vocalist and Bassist The Channeler is solid in both departments, though does little on the bass front to add depth to the tracks, mostly following the guitar lines verbatim. Vocally, however he inserts some additional rhythmic layers with his vocals taking the form of small bursts splattered and dripping across the compositions. This contrasts the guitar tone which is a slurry of distortion which still emphasizes the individual riffs and melodies. Another highlight is the stoic simplicity of The Relentless' drumming. A body doesn't always need an over-complicated skeleton to be effective; a snake is essentially one long rib cage and yet survives and excels in each environment.

My largest concern going forward would be some additional depth melodically and rhythmically. Malleus have shown with Storm of Witchcraft a group capable of the sound, attack, and attitudes necessary to take this project further. There does need to be some progression towards more rewarding repeat listens, though. Much as Celtic Frost took that leap between Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion, Malleus must do the same. A track such as "Act of Faith" already my favorite on the release, would have reached a new plateau with just some minor additional accents. The foundation for something ungodly has been set in stone here, and only a few more invocations of darkness to pervade their sound will set them on the path towards something rivaling a large portion of the material that warrants listening in this era of oversaturation.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Freedom's Reign - Freedom's Reign

There exists an ironic undercurrent whenever a musician associated with legendary records resurfaces from beneath the water. In one hand, often times musicians that have disappeared want to modernize and reinterpret their innate style. In the other hand, fans normally want that musician to not veer far from the roots which they know and love. This gambit is at play with Freedom's Reign. Victor Arduini, of Fate's Warning fame, reemerges after more than twenty years with an eponymous album under the moniker Freedom's Reign. While it's easy to find similarities to Soundgarden or Alice In Chains strewn throughout the album, the material also exhibits ghostly wisps of the rhythmic and melodic originality that made Night on Brocken and The Spectre Within such landmark albums. The modern production could be enough to deter stubborn 'heads looking for another eight "Orphan Gypsies" or "Kiss Of Deaths" from appreciating this but I found it a rather strong album nevertheless.

Arduini, aside from an unsurprisingly stellar guitar performance, also provides the vocal performance on the album which makes use of that modulated effect which adorned Ozzy's vocals on his albums after No More Tears. I'm not a fan but I doubt that this would drive away other listeners and it doesn't impact me so much as to skewer the album. It may subconsciously dredge up emotions that some would link to modern metal. Performances across the board are commendable; Tommy Vumback occupies the second guitarist slot, Mike Jone's bass playing is solid across the album, particularly in "Brother," which happens to be my personal favorite of the release - probably because I'm a sucker for verses that are driven by a bass and drums alone combo. Chris Judge on drums does a solid job backing up the rhythm.

Into the round-about of thoughts on the tracks, "Believe" is one of the heavier tracks on the album but is endorsed with a more laid back jamming penultimate bass section. "Up From Down" crams a memorable chorus hard into your ear drums. "To Be" stands out as the worst track on the album, and is an augmented chord away from being pop-punk or Green Day or Sum 41 or something. "No Excuses" steps back towards Metal but is probably the best evidence on the album of influence from the 90's alternative rock, grunge period. "Long Way" is an expertly paced and arranged track that would easily catch the ear of a wide range of listeners. Lyrically, all the tracks are reflective, pointedly concerned with a variety of emotional topics, and well written in a way sure to make the already sombre more melancholy. In this regard, the album is decisively mature.

Returning back to that irony which I spoke about earlier, Arduini and Freedom's Reign has nothing to do with the material which brought him into the attention of most of those which would be interested in his music and probably this project. The unfortunate result of that is that there's a good chance that the listeners that would come across Freedom's Reign would not recognize the strength of the album. The tracks are mostly solid good hard rock, which is what I think Freedom's Reign were going for with the project. While it's a solid release with only some slight missteps, I can't claim that it will garner much rotation in my listening.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Monthly Blast: February / March '17

Florence Namirimu - Ziba Bbiri (Unknown)

Vocal and percussion heavy, this Ugandan singer has been circulating in the world music niche for years. Melody, other than vocals, is provided by what sounds to be a xylophone or some similar tonal instrument. Ziba Bbiri exhibits heavy dosages of call and and response vocal arrangements, as is common in folk music in this area, with Florence providing the call and a group responding. Also present is a constant flow of aboriginal drumming from what probably is a baksimba ensemble. The drum has an overall flat sound but, similar to tabla, can create a range of tonalities. The drumming can be powerful at times such as is third track, "Mwami Togayala" in which the drums thunder through nine minutes of music. The waves of percussion produces a meditative trance-like rhythm which is easy to fall deep into. This particular recording has the xylophone farthest in the mix, with Florence's vocals piercing the drumming which is most prevalent. Unfortunately, a lack of variety across extended tracks could sour the overall listening experience.

Glaukom Synod - Ogre (2007)

Ogre contains several definitive Glaukom Synod tracks. This album is one of the earliest experiments in the project's history and still shows some evidence of figuring out what exactly the Glaukom Synod sound would be. Opener "Passive Retro," an electro-noise Greaser jam, "Triangle Obscene (Obesism 23)," a miasma of scraping guitar riffs and mechanical clanking, "Sci-fix It," the most futurist track on the release hinting at the sounds on more recent releases, and "Intragenitose," a slowish electro-doom track that also exhibits a gurgling fleshiness all are easily appreciated by interested listeners. A handful of tracks don't have enough identifying markers necessary to make the thirty-four minute release totally engaging from start to finish but with a handful of excellent tracks the lackluster cuts fall to the wayside. Once again, a very strong output from this French project.

Iron Hearse - Tomb Metal (2016)

Iron Hearse has taken a more minimalist approach to doom metal since my initial confrontation with the band on their eponymous release in 2006. Tomb Metal emphasizes this push. The band further separates themselves from the clutches of modern production, overly polished ghost-heaviness, and professionalism with this collection of demo material from several years back. The initial moments of the album reveal what is best described as garage doom. What Iron Hearse has always offered, however remains; quality writing, excellent riffs, and genuinely performed material. Even though segments of the tracks here are improvised and mid-completion the overall ideas are solid. For a compilation of demos and rehearsals, the clarity is impressive on most tracks with "Sonic Nemesis" and "Reborn From Ash" being the thickest of the seven tracks. This is by no means necessary listening and, really, will only appeal to close followers of Iron Hearse, whoever that may be.

Killing Addiction - Shores of Oblivion (2016)

Killing Addiction is one of those miasmas of Death Metal which doesn't seemingly land in one specific style but instead borrows a little bit from everywhere. A mixture of the cool Floridian sounds, some of the murkiness of British goliaths, and speckles of melody point towards the Swedes. Acheron's Rites of the Black Mass is a decent comparison for a large portion of this material. The rather short songs on Shores of Oblivion contain all the usual motifs and allot time for a few slick solos. Patrick Bailey, along with supporting on bass, also provides average vocals across the four tracks. Guitarists Chris Wicklein and Patrick's brother, Chad - who I was sorry to hear passed away shortly before this EP's release - put on a commendable show of ability, at their best when working off each other during leads and harmonies. "Cult of Decay" has some moments of interest in some atypical lead harmonies but "Into Shadow" is clearly the track to investigate. As Killing Addiction maneuver through several different intensities and vibes including a clean intro, doomier early section, a slammy mid section, and tremolo and faster conclusion, the capabilities of the band are on their best display. Though Shores of Oblivion is an average output, it's a quick enough foray into a band who's been around for almost thirty years.

Metal Law - Hellrider (2016)

I was not impressed with Lawbreaker, my first run in with these German Heavy Metal warriors. Hellrider is on a similar front with me right now. I really have tried to enjoy their throwback sound and references and style but if Iron Maiden didn't use these riffs on any of their recent albums, there's no explanation that will make me agree that another band using them is 'OK.' Evidence abounds but "This Dream," an intro to "Lord of Evil," is enough evidence with it's stolen Steve Harris bass pluckage and Bruce Dickinson karaoke attempt to land it among the very best of worst musical cosplay. Much like Lawbreaker, Hellrider similarly lacks energy. Most of the album is composed of restrained and overpracticed chugging chord progressions. The sole mentionable moment of the entire album for me happens to be during "Lord of Evil" as the Metal Law boys rip Enforcer's "Diamonds." Lamentably this is uninspired geriatric heavy metal.

Mordant - Demonic Satanic (2016)

Being familiar with Mordant by way of 2011's Black Evil Master album, hearing some new material from this Swedish quintet wasn't high on my to-do list - in fact, it was probably lower than just about anything on my to-do list - but as Demonic Satanic fluttered by, I figured I'd give it a listen anyway. Much like the offering on Black Evil Master we are given a fairly polished black metal album in terms of production, but unlike the endless black metal albums which are excellently produced and empty, there's a lot of depth and originality here. Mordant lie somewhere between Mayhem and Dissection with a heavy emphasis on signature Swedish melody and gritty Norwegian foundations but there's a big Heavy Metal influence to be found as well. "Demonic Satanic," is the first excellent example of this combination of influences. Mordant show themselves to be adept songwriters and experts in album construction. "Evil Impalers" touches on speed metal motifs (obviously) but more importantly keeps the album pacing varied and energetic. "Infernal Curse of Evil" has a bizarrely upbeat verse rhythm contrasted with dark leads and harmonies. Mordant have a sturdy album here and I'll be giving it more listens.

Sepulcro - Sepulcro (1989)

Peruvian obscurity Sepulcro dumped their self-titled demo out in the late 80's as the thrash wave was peaking in the US with their own take on the genre, albeit a more Power Metal influenced rendition. Opening with an instrumental, "La Prueba De Fuego," before moving into the self titled track, Sepulcro approach this demo with a certain level of focus and confidence which is noticeable in the four well-written tracks. Sounding like a mix between Medieval and Hellhammer with Iron Maiden poking through, Sepulcro definitely prove their ability and heart. It's unfortunate that they likely were held back from greater notoriety simply due to geography. This IS a demo, truth be told, and some moments are not totally spot on or fleshed out. Miguel Huamán's vocals spit energy and aggression in the Tuetonic Thrash style but are not exploited in the mix. The guitars have more in common with the sound of peeling a potato than a heavy metal guitar, but the riffs are discernable. Not a bad listen.

Slavecrushing Tyrant - Slavecrushing Tyrant (2010)

Despite having one of the more outrageous monikers, Slavecrushing Tyrant are impressive on their self titled album. Njord, with ties to the well known entity Dark Fury, is solely responsible for the material on this release from what I can tell. The album is fairly typical Black Metal in the Eastern European sense: raw and cold atmospheres, emphasis on melodic movement, and an introverted and reflective energy. After an anthemic introduction, "Woe To The Weak" launches into the brunt of the material appropriately wandering through fast riffs before fading out on a slower melody. This mixture of tempos and speeds is further utilized throughout the album. "The Gleam of His Ever Burning Eye," aside from having my favorite song title on the release, also employs this style, and emphasizes the continued strong songwriting abilities, as Njord subtly builds songs with precise compositional concern. It would be easy to write off some moments as drab or uneventful, however to do so would ignore the sense of grandiosity which Njord has fostered in a song such as "Kshatriya," which in it's ten-minutes trounces through atypical melodic movements and a thick suffocating atmosphere. 

Witchery - Dead, Hot, and Ready (1999)

Witchery's Dead, Hot, and Ready will rip your head off. From all angles, the attack is intense, gripping, and focused on all the perfect areas for maximum impact: rhythm, melody, attitude. The combination of Heavy Metal and Black Metal here is emphasized across every track, many of them short blitzes to rattle bones and break necks. Even today bands like Midnight are trying to get this right and often times coming up just short. This album doesn't come up short. It doesn't even come up big. It's a missile of gnarly wild riffs with their foundation in the 80's heavy metal and speed metal such as Accept, and Running Wild. It takes the baton, wins the race, then kicks the losers in the teeth. Consisting of a host of veterans from bands such as Seance, Mercyful Fate, The Haunted, etc, musicianship is precise and top notch. A listen to "Resurrection" or "Full Moon" will plunge riffs deep into the metal-soul. "Call Of The Coven" is one of the slickest tunes I've ever heard, rolling in and out of riffs and memorable progressions like a vampire awakening in the night. And the fangs don't hide. This is necessary listening, as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Glaukom Synod - The Hungry Transplants

You've seen the name here before, and if you've seen the name here before you know that I have been relatively enamored with Glaukom Synod's experimental industrial jesting. This was the reason I bought the entire back catalog off Nihilistic Holocaust. The sole creator of this madness, G.S, is to be applauded for this miasma of industrial noise. The Hungry Transplants shares many of the characteristics of the project's catalog: mechanical rhythms, repetitious percussion, a penchant for adopting orphaned sounds and incorporating and bending them to fit a structure or be the structure. With each track being it's own unique cacophony of unpleasant sounds and patterns, that there is still a unifying totality that glues the elements together is commendable.

Opening the album is "Formol Junkie," a track which appears elsewhere in the discography in different forms; Glaukom's anthem, if you could offer it a prize. The Hungry Transplants is more mechanical and less organic than some other recordings. It is also not as abrasive as say Covered In Semen and Slime. Even the fastest blasting is cut and corrupted with slower aspects such as in "The Perfect Nucleus (Always Deeper)". What I'm always impressed with is how tempting Glaukom Synod is to the ear and senses. It is not something which is appalling, even though it's foundations should not be construed or regarded as outwardly enjoyable. Somehow, the transcendent nature of these mechanical rhythms and staccato programmed sixteen-bit samples are yet calming and warm.

To me, Glaukom Synod is the factory come alive, the conveyor belts working in perfect unison, autonomous robotic engineers producing tiny receptors, diodes, and components in total harmonious programmed unison. A symphony o metallic existence motoring on incessantly into the distance for unknown reasons and goals. The Hungry Transplants is an ideal jumping point for Glaukom's discography. Several demos and a couple albums prior have been enough for refinement and yet it is still somewhat minimalist compared to some recent output. You get a very good understanding of what makes Glaukom Synod, and G.S., tick. Tick. Tick. Tick...

Friday, February 10, 2017

Black Grail - Mysticismo Regresivo (Re-Recorded Live Ceremony)

This version of Mysticismo Regresivo is a "re-recorded live ceremony." There isn't much information available as to what this actually consists of but I have answers. Apparently Black Grail, perhaps unhappy with the sound and structure of their debut album, wanted to approach the material from a more natural angle and include some content which was not a part of the full length version of the album. The defining pacing element of spoken word and tolling bells was absent in the original and a separate entity has been utilized to realize these additions. This is essentially a more representative release as to the band's wishes. Along with the re-imagined overall structure, Black Grail provide the seeker a host of questionable aspects to ruminate over. While seemingly promoted with the aesthetics you'd find define a form of ritualistic black metal, I neither get much black metal, nor auditory ritual here. More-so it sounds like Thrash with a hint of black metal in line with a band like Mortuary Drape or Master's Hammer. For all the spoken introductions and the reoccurring bell cue, even some group chanted vocals, musically there isn't a ritualistic feel to this anymore than there is any band rehearsal. Just because a band perceives their rehearsals as if they are ritualistic or ceremonial doesn't warrant the ritual black metal label. 

Drifting away from issues of categorization and definition, Black Grail's Mysticismo Regresivo is quite creative and unique. There are a lot of original segments, ideas, and riffs across the release. The spoken intros are interesting in that they aren't "spooky" or "demonic." Instead, they are simply spoken, seemingly, as anyone would speak to another and so, ironically, in a more accurate ritualistic sense then is often touted or produced in black metal releases. The release is heavily atonal and melodically taxing from the outset of "Dialogo Entre..."; a lack of normality in this regard makes mental recreation and recall difficult. Memorability is a factor. Where atonality has often existed in extreme metal, it is often utilized in the way adverbs are used to describe verbs. Black Grail use atonality as the actual verbs; the actual moving and doing component of their music is atonal. Some of the more structurally off putting pure riffs appear in "Plegaria Catartica." 

When we talk about about structure in metal, the majority of bands utilize the same overall approaches. Verse-Chorus is still highly prevalent but we also see linear/narrative structures becoming more prominent in extreme and hybrid genres. Black Grail fall into that later format, yet twist it into something new. Using markers to signal the audience - in Black Grail's case a bell between songs - links everything together into a single narrative and yet also signals separation between each track. 1349 did something similar on Hellfire and Acheron has done this on numerous albums similarly where each track was prefaced with cues to both link and separate. This formatting rarity usually falls flat, as it breaks up the pacing of an album too often. In the case of Mysticismo Regresivo the pacing is non-existent from the outset and so the bell, i.e. cue, can be appreciated as meaningful and not be regarded as a hindrance.
The promotion for the album promises "a philosophic-spiritual perspective that you should discover." Maybe that's what we are being given as we question numerous components of the whole. Unsure exactly where to place the band or how to approach their bizarre creation forces the listener to openly question categorization as a method overall. My version of the release was a tape sent to me by Divergent, who also sent me the Rid tape - another bizarrity, as I like to call these 'fit nowhere' releases - a while back and I'm thankful that he did because I will likely be coming back to this tape as reference for other material in the future. It's a singularly unique offering that presses the listener to look for abstract explanations for the irregularities that we occasionally find within the metal genres. While definitely not for everyone, I can envision the appeal to veteran explorers in the genre.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Monthly Blast: January '17

This month, Apteronotus joins the fray as we do our best to articulate thoughts on a myriad of genres and bands. Black Metal takes up quite the amount of space and time with bands from across the globe including Poland, Portugal, Iceland, and Croatia. Two bands, Infinite Earths and Teleport both draw comparisons from each of us to Australia's Stargazer, which is an odd and yet interesting development in what we determine to be an ever-increasing influence in style. Heavy Metal is given it's moment to shine as I give thoughts on Girlschool's '82 album, Sweden's Instigator, and Argentina's Steelballs. There are also a couple oddballs, as Apteronotus pokes around at the dissonant wizards of Lorn and I give some time to accommodate French rockers Wolve.

Duch Czerni - Reality Of Black Spirits (2016)
Polish Black Metal group Duch Czerni have been around for a few years now with a handful of demos and minor releases out. Reality of Black Spirits is a more recent effort. Most impressive here is the overall atmosphere given off by the release. Depressive Black Metal is a clear influence and bands like Silencer or Trist are a good point of reference. Duch Czerni steer clear of falling off into truly ambient territory making this a listen that would not be well received by those that have approached the style from that trajectory. Present are the common twangy dust-coated guitars, upfront drums, shrieking high pitched vocals, and noisy sub-melodies. Momentary bursts of shouted vocals add some variety. The release drifts in and out mostly, particularly second track "Grim Night of Eternity," leaving the listener with the sense that guitarist Azazoth and vocalist Wened Wilk Sławibor were mostly focused more on the atmosphere than the impact of the release. "Dismal Aura of Melancholy" is probably my preferred track here as the six-minute offering crawls through slow building layers of atmosphere into a final faster climax and culmination, but the general sameness of the tracks and their structures would be served by some variety. Though relatively enjoyable, probably skippable unless you approach depressive black metal from an aficionado position. (Orion)

Girlschool - Screaming Blue Murder (1982)
The longest running all female rock band's early catalog is ripe with killer tunes and their third album, Screaming Blue Murder, is no exception. The opening title track sets the tone straight off - upbeat and punkish NWOBHM infused Heavy Metal - and throughout the entirety of the album, a driving and powerful wallop of riffs is thrown at the listener. For me, top tracks are the memorable "Don't Call it Love", the almost Motorhead rip-off "Hellrazor", and slick "Don't Stop". The outlandishly sensual "Flesh and Blood" is the single most interesting track on the album, with sultry spoken verse and breathy almost whispered choruses but dumped at the end of the release relegates it to the b-side of a b-side band's album; a footnote for a footnote. While this is an enjoyable listen, it's nothing special to me other than the tracks mentioned. Shakin' Street is a comparable in sound but superior in song with Ross the Boss providing guitars. A fun throwback listen. (Orion)

Infinite Earths - Into The Void (2016)
Florida's Infinite Earths play a progressive style of Black Metal which, possibly due to high-notoriety releases from bands like Stargazer and to a lesser degree Blood Incantation, has becoming increasingly noticeable. For Infinite Earths the comparison to Stargazer is strongest; both bands utilize bass guitar as the central melodic instrument and guitars are often windswept yet add technically diverse segments throughout. This will appeal to a swath of the metal spectrum who find engagement in Gorguts, Cynic, and Vektor. Vocally, Josh Joel Mazorra presents his vocals like buckshot, all over the place, intense, and in myriad shapes and forms as Into The Void sees five tracks presented as individual acts to form a concept based on a comic book of his own creation. As the tracks swirl through structures and riffs, we're given numerous segments and ideas to ponder over. "Act 2: Amalgam of Madness" contains a particularly striking section where Mazorra does some nasally singing behind a guitar lead before reverting back to his raspy screams. "Act 3: Chaotic Good" opens with a breakdownesque riff and drums. Final track, "Act 5: Grave New World," ends on a high note with a melodic guitar line for a minute or so before noodling it's way towards the end of the track in a Dream Theater-esque fashion. A Strong EP, but it doesn't quite
capture my attention the way other bands are doing this style. (Orion)

Lorn - Arrayed Claws (2017)

Lorn is the kind of band that may come across as pure dissonance worship at first glance, but if a bunch of janky sounding chords won't scare you off their EP Arrayed Claws has a lot to offer. At the outset, it's important to revel in the band's song structures because they have a lot in common with traditional black metal's hypnotic tremolo picked repetition. While there are quick flourishes peppering the melodies, the changes are often incremental and obscured by an underlying sense of flow - making the music simultaneously smooth and harsh, it's whiskey. It makes Lorn a difficult band to pin down and that's a great thing, especially with how different all of the tracks are from another. After listening to metal obsessively for years upon years it takes a special band to stand out from the coma-inducing hordes of mediocrity and adequacy. Lorn though is a special band, have a listen to "Abstract Trap" and tell me that the harmonics that pop into the song at three minutes in don't absolutely slap you in the face. Really fascinating band, the relaxed outro reminds me of Vorde with the lush retro science fiction kind of sound. (Apteronotus)

Lux Ferre - Excaecatio Lux Veritatis (2015)
Another Portugese entity, Lux Ferre's Black Metal is not unique but is competent. The opening moments of Excaecatio Lux Veritatis should cause some minor salivation and a desire for a few additional sessions with their no-nonsense worshiping of Black Metal motifs. The ten minute long "A Luz Ofuscante da Verdade" opening, the length and relative lack of variety in the track, and the additional two minute long intro draws out and slows down the listener's ability to familiarize. The best tracks are shorter in nature, to emphasize Lux Ferre's intensity without a seemingly perpetual wall of sound. The overall best track here is "Miséria" with it's doomy intro, pendulistic melody, and even some variation in the vocal performance of Devasth in the form of a groaning yell in contrast to his more predictable screams. The track has a little bit of everything. Overall, I think that Lux Ferre's main conflict will be differentiating themselves from others, as the recording is quite generic. (Orion)

Pogavranjen - Jedva Čekam Da Nikad Ne Umrem (2016)
Weird Black Metal from the outset, Pogavranjen start the listener off running for their lives with a noisy cacophony of cymbal hits and guitar noise. The rest of Jedva Čekam Da Nikad Ne Umrem's six tracks and fourty-four minutes is a unique and airy mixture of Black Metal and Jazz. Deathspell Omega appears to be an influence throughout but at a snails pace. Into The Woods and Ved Buens Ende should be considered as well. There is little velocity in most of these tracks. Pogavranjen take, instead, an awkward pace through uncomfortable melodies, similar to Emanation but with a greater focus on clarity and less utilization of ritualistic ambient formations. The percussion is quite an interesting component throughout and is the jazziest component, evident in the usage of poly rhythms. Vocalist Ivan Eror is a mixture of clean shouted vocals and the sporadic harsher black metal screams. With nine different musicians contributing the record, it's difficult to offer praise to each, however as an ensemble praise is due. A good listen for fans looking for inventive and avant-garde black metal. (Orion)

Instigator - Bad Future (2015)
A strange Swedish Heavy Metal / Thrash mashup reminiscent of Master's Hammer without the classical music bombasticism, Vektor with stripped down instrumentalism, and Voivod's late 80's wackiness. Bad Future is four tracks peaking at fifteen minutes making this a quick listen and demonstration of the band's style. The inclusion of samples, numerous guitar tones and effects, and the kitchen sink all emphasize either a marked disinterest in being typical or an obsession with being different. "Black Magic" has a decisive Heavy Metal flair to it more than the thrashier "Anabolic" and  "Inseminoid." "Undetectable" closes the release with a running bass line that gives me déjà-vu. It's also a little long-winded for my taste. Instigator have a heavy personality and identity present here that's probably too wacky. Kind of like the class clown in elementary school, toned back a little bit, they might be in a sweet spot, though, and grow up to be famous comedians. (Orion)

Sinmara / Misþyrming - Ivory Stone / Hof (2017)

On this split Sinmara and Misþyrming prove that there's nothing quite like Icelandic black metal. While a lot of bands across the world have tried to jump onto the dissonant bandwagon many of them miss the mark and land firmly in wanky mathcore territory.  Not so for this two-song split. The riffs are distinct, abrasive, and most importantly carry forward melodies that have an energetic structure. Sinmara in particular really pushes the edges of clarity in mixing - the broad sound from layering dissonance and heavily distorted guitar lines somehow never feels messy. Misþyrming comes across a fair amount dirtier but it just hardens the band's edge rather than muddying up the sound. While I prefer Sinmara's razor sharp approach, there is a special charm to how Misþyrming's beefy percussion helps create order to a lot of the delightfully shrill chords and tamer sections throughout their song.  (Apteronotus)

Steelballs - Steelballs (2016)
Argentinian Heavy Metal in the vein of early Blind Guardian, Helloween, etc. Goofy name aside, this is relatively inoffensive to the taste of fans of this style of metal. It's a heartfelt rendition and manifestation of typical influences into original material. While "Steelballs" opens the EP, second track "Farewell" is better and more nuanced. More attitude is to be found in the more monotone melodies and sharper attack. Guitarists Juan Manuel Herrera and Lucas Galarza rip through well composed solos in all the tracks and Juan Pablo Churruarin's - who also provides accordion duties in Folkearth - vocal performance is hopeful. Final track "Inquisitor of Faith" is the most intricate of the album with a handful of dueling harmonized guitars. The Witches Brew version also has a competent cover of Helloween's "Starlight." Overall, probably an unnecessary listen unless your loins ache for this style of Power Metal. (Orion)

Teleport - Ascendance (2016)

If you like your thrash metal on the technical/progressive side then you absolutely have to at least check out the track "The Monolith" on this EP. Thrash always seems like an existential disappointment in metal, a genre whose best days are long since gone and plagued by heartless imitators and those who fail to take their music seriously (I believe the appropriate technical terms are re-thrash and pizza-thrash). This EP on the other hand has a lot killer riffs throughout its songs and the kind of pacing variety that, you know, actually thrashes about. This isn't cheap fast/slow music/ambient-bullshit variety either - check out how "Realm of solar darkness" transitions later in the song and the creepy intro to "Path to omniscience." A really good example of the band's smart ear for melody is how the solo in "Artificial divination" weaves into and plays off of the main melody rather than the lead guitar player just whipping out his fastest runs and swinging them around. Some of Teleport's sexier bass moments remind me a bit of a toned down kind of Stargazer. Not to imply the band is second rate, but their approach is more straightforward and traditional - at least in terms of progressive/technical thrash. (Apteronotus)

Wolve - Lazare (2016)

Lazare is Wolve's October 2016 released four song EP. It follows 2014's Sleepwalker album. This French rock band incorporates elements of soundscape and world music into their rock foundation. This is evidenced by the tabla playing in the title track and rhythmic approach which shows through in other tracks. Wolve are at their best when they incorporate these elements into their tracks. Wolve are likely to burst into big alternative rock choruses as well. Guitarist Julien Sournac's vocal performance is commendable. He mixes between soft and dreamy and laced with more emotion and aggression but is always within the pop-rock realm style. "Porcelain" is the most standard track on the release yet still incorporates an adventurous vibe through the a fuzzy bass and a playful panned percussion mix. The forty second long "Inferno" is a unique mash-up track with an edge compared to the other material. "Far" is an effective alternative rock song which toys with an experimental ambient interlude competently but the opening title track, "Lazare" is the most interesting on the record. Wolve's half-rock half-world/soundscape can be unique and rewarding. (Orion)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

An Empirical Look at 2016's Top Metal Releases

Just like we did for 2015 and 2014, Contaminated Tones has gathered up a bunch of data on what people generally think the best albums are for 2016. The data this year is from 37 different year end lists/polls. While not scientifically rigorous, this is probably the broadest data available on what people "think" is the best, along with information on information on which sub-genres were most popular and what labels did best in terms highly regarded albums.

Orion: One thing to note this year, is that it was fairly difficult to find dedicated lists that fit the guidelines of our year end analysis. In 2014, Apteronotus worked off of 40 lists and in 2015, 47 lists were used. Compiling the lists this year was increasingly difficult as I noticed a decisive drop in the amount of blogs, sites, and zines that were putting out best of lists for the year. 37 lists were available at the close of December, 2016 including those that were last minute additions to the data set. Whether this number is a sign of an overall drop in coverage of the genre or an outlier will be a question to review next year.

Top 2016 Metal Releases:

This graph shows the top 23 metal releases for 2016, based on what percentage of lists the release appeared on in the data. Only bands clearing the 10% threshold are shown. These top 23 bands comprised 35% of the top ten list occurrences, and the top 8 bands comprised 18% of the occurrences (both of these figures indicate a more diverse field of bands compared to 2015 and 2014).

Khemmis's Hunted took the top spot this year, appearing on 29.7% of the lists, which for comparison was essentially identical to how popular Ghost's Meliora was in 2015.

Here are the top 2016 metal releases in list format:

Khemmis - Hunted
Opeth - Sorceress
Oranssi - Pazuzu - Varahtelija
Gojira - Magma
Metallica - Hardwired to Self Destruction
Blood Incantation - Starspawn
Nails - You Will Never Be One of Us
Cobalt - Slow Forever
Destroyer 666 - Wildfire
Haken - Affinity
Inquisition - Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith
Neurosis - Fires Within Fires
Vektor - Terminax Redux
Abbath - Abbath
Alcest - Kodama
Anthrax - For All Kings
Dethspell Omega - The Synarchy of Molten Bones
Deftones - Gore
Hammers of Misfortune - Dead Revolution
Inter Arma - Paradise Gallows
Megadeth - Dystopia
Oathbreaker - Rheia
The Dillinger Escape Plan - Dissociation

Top 2016 Sub-Genres:

This graphs shows a breakdown of the same data while looking at the sub-genre of the entries. The numbers add up to over 100% because bands can have more than one genre. Having multiple genres was the most common arrangement this year by a fair margin at 31.5%, which is on par with 2015's figure of 30.25% for the same variable.

Overall, black and death metal continue to be the most popular genres, at rates comparable to last year. You'll notice that non-metal releases were more popular than many of the other sub-genres. Non-metal releases were similar to 2014's 12% rate, at 12.9%, and down from 2015's 17% rate. A pretty interesting trend toward stability in the data. Thrash and progressive metal however are both up compared to last year.

Orion: One trend to notice is the attention paid to the Heavy Metal and Power Metal genres. Power Metal has had poor showing three years in a row, but a consistent rise is notable, with 2.25% of the overall selection in 2014, 4.26% in 2015, and 6.9% in 2016. This trend is one to take notice of; over the past few years, interest in US Power Metal in particular has increased, with notable Germany-style festivals appearing in the US. Death Metal, in contrast, seems to be on the decline the past three years with 35.25%, 23.62%, and 21.8% showings in 2014, 2015, and 2016 respectively. I wonder if this can be correlated with the changing composition of Maryland Deathfest, arguably the largest metal festival in the US. The inclusion of more USPM bands, Doom bands, and Heavy Metal bands in their roster has been notable over the past four or five years.

As explained in the methodology below, genre information, including metal versus non-metal, was decided using the Metal Archives, rather than relying on the opinion of anyone at Contaminated Tones.

Top 2016 Record Labels:

This final graph shows which labels were most common on year end lists, representing each label as a percentage of the total possible spots. In other words, a 100% means that a label released every release on every single top ten list etc. Unlike previous years, where Nuclear Blast and Century Media were neck and neck,  Century Media had a bit of a decline in popularity in regards to top releases. Keep in mind that there can be a lot of variability in a label's release schedule. This is perhaps best illustrated by Season of Mist's jump from the 14th most dominant label in last year's data up to second.

No label data was attached for non-metal bands, and this fact in conjunction with the entire point of the research (top ten lists only) means that these figures should not be read as reflecting total sales of any particular label for a certain year. The above 20 bands took up 58.38% of the available year end list slots. From an economics standpoint, this data is highly competitive, and more competitive than the prior two years with a Herfindahl-Hirschman Index of .0223. This indicates a diverse field of labels, similar to the top spots for individual bands. Interestingly, this happened while unsigned/independent bands dropped in frequency compared to last year.

  •  Information on genres, whether a band was metal or not, and label data were pulled from the Metal Archives.
  • No bands were excluded for not being metal. If a list included a band, we included it. Otherwise we may as well just be posting our own lists.
  • Only the top 10 from any list were included. This was done to have some continuity across websites in terms of the weight of their data. We excluded sites with lists of less than 10; this way each website is on equal footing.
  • Since different websites can have in-house tastes, websites with multiple lists were selected only once, and at random.
  • Other than looking at only the top 10, rankings were not considered or averaged. Rankings like these are what is known as ordinal data and typically cannot be averaged in a meaningful way.
  • As a quick example, suppose List 1’s author thinks we had a weak year and would rate their #9 album at 73/100 and their #2 spot only 75/100. We can’t meaningfully compare this with List 2’s author rating their #9 album a 80/100 and their #2 100/100 because we have only rankings, and not ratings.
  • No individual website’s list is reproduced here, neither is the entire dataset.
  • Label data was gathered only for metal bands. It’s also important to keep in mind that not every label releases music every year.
  • The list of websites accessed is in the spoiler tag below.
Websites Accessed:

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Attacker - Sins Of The World

Before reading onward, if you're not familiar with Attacker, go find copies of 1985's Battle At Helms Deep and 1986's The Second Coming immediately. Both albums are essential Heavy Metal and belong in every record collection. Then buy Sins of the World.

It's been three long years since Giants of Canaan, Bobby Lucas' first showing with Attacker, one of New Jersey's legendary US Power Metal bands. The combination of the ex-Seven Witches, Ex-Overlorde and Morbid Sin vocalist with Attacker has proved to be a match made in Heavy Metal heaven. Not only does Leatherlungs Lucas' range and ability surpass the majority of other local singers, but he has brought a new dose of energy to Attacker. This energy has been recognized throughout the local area as younger metal heads are increasingly embracing more traditional metal, especially older veteran bands, such as Attacker. On their new album, Sins of the World, Lucas is once again flanked by original drummer Mike Sabatini, original guitarist Pat Marinelli - who retired shortly after the recording of this album - and veteran Mike Benetatos who was part of the original reformation in the dawn of the millennium. Brian Smith fills the bass position.

I'm of the opinion that Sins of the World is an improvement over the strong effort on Giants of Canaan in terms of overall impact. Stylistically, Sins of the World is a perfect blending of Second Coming's more thrash influenced style and the NWOBHM-inspired melodicism of Battle at Helms Deep. A perfect example of this would be "Choice of Weapon",  "Archangel", or the album's title track. Giants of Canaan employed the same tactics of mixing the band's formative styles but was not as totally successful. There is a higher memorability factor, stronger dynamic presence, improved pacing, and a sense of urgency. This could be in part to a better mix and clearer production. I felt there was a dullness present on Giants... Attacker are wielding a sharper blade now. "Carcosa" and "Garuda" show off this clarity early on the record with punchy and aggressive riffs helped in no small part by an absolutely crushing bass presence and performance by Smith. Liner notes reveal that Benetatos wrote the majority of the material here and I can't help but admit that I'm extremely impressed at the revitalization back to full health of the early styles which made Attacker an important US Power Metal band in the early 80's.

Though the first half of the album is great with "Carcosa" leading me to buy an old copy of Ambrose Pierce's Can Such Things Be and "Garuda" making me want to go back and re-watch Mystery Science Theater episodes, The second half yields as strong a set of B-sides as I think exists on an album. I felt that "Glen of the Ghost" was the most prominent track on the last album for it's campfire story. Even better is the similar storytelling finishing off Sins of the World with the Conan inspired duo of "By The Will Of Crom" and "Where The Serpent Lies". I do wonder why they were separated into two tracks but the transition is not hampered in anyway by the split. "Archangel," is my favorite pie on the table here due to the entirely different approach of extremely catchy and memorable contrasting verse-chorus form with an extended instrumental section to split the song. Lucas' powerful vocals scream across big chords and barely noticeable progressive metal influenced rhythmicism. Also the song is about aliens which gets extra points in my book because not enough bands approach the material-ripe subject of aliens, extraterrestrials, UFOs and human breeding programs thousands of years in the past by the Grays.

"We Rise" is the only dud - if you could call it such - but I get it's inclusion from the point of view of the German audience who loves these types of anthems. It wouldn't have been as bad if it wasn't for the constant repetition of the chorus awkwardly at the end of the track. Whatever.

Sins of the World is not only Attacker's best album of their catalog but to be completely blunt, this is as close to perfect Heavy Metal as I've heard in years. The riffs and rhythms and passion well up in your bones, flesh, and teeth. The melodies and progressions unravel in ways as to inspire emotive face-wincing and nose scrunching throughout every song as the need to whip your head and bang your fists increases. Far-flung vocal pronouncements speak both to the heart and mind through Lucas' lyrics which, at times poignant and elsewhere purely innocent, propel songs into territories of quality reserved for only the strongest of warriors. There is that New Jersey edge - a sense of opinionated arrogance, attitude, and virility - that inexplicably hardens the material. It's as if Attacker literally walked into the local bar, fearlessly pushed their way through all the regulars, and just planted themselves in their seats without asking.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Interview With Witch Mountain's Nathan Carson

Nathan Carson is as close to a modern day renaissance man as one could come. He hasn't discovered any new planets, developed important new theories in physics, or sculpted masterpieces of stone or marble (...yet) but the combination of Drummer, Writer, Artist, Promoter, and all-around nice guy should be enough for anyone to support the honorific. Having witnessed the power and impressive performance that has been a constant throughout Witch Mountain's history, and read Nathan's most recent weird-fiction novella, Starr Creek, there were forces beyond my understanding compelling me to get in contact with Nathan and draw some attention to his artistry.

Contaminated Tones: Hey Nathan, I really want to get into your awesome book, Starr Creek, but since this is ultimately a Metal site, let's get some short questions about Witch Mountain out of the way first. You did a US tour with The Skull and Saint Vitus in the fall. How do you feel the tour went? Was this the first large scale tour with new vocalist Kayla Dixon?

Nathan Carson: Kayla and our bassist Justin Brown both joined in early 2015. We almost immediately went on tour with YOB that Spring. It was quite the trial but the new members handled themselves really well. Then in October 2015 we were hand-selected by Glenn Danzig to support on his Blackest of the Black tour. So this 2016 trip with Saint Vitus and the Skull was the third large-scale tour we’ve done in the last 18 months. This lineup has done more shows than any other in the band’s 19-year history. I’d be very happy if we never have another member in the group, unless we add an organ player or something.

CT: It seems the band took a little break since the tour. What is planned for 2017?

NC: Well we got home from a rigorous 28 shows in 30 days just before Halloween. We all needed a break after that. But we just played a very festive New Year’s Eve show here in Portland—ushering in 2017 on a note of profound doom--and will immediately get back into writing mode. It’s time to make the best WM album yet, the first full-length with Kayla and Justin involved, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band.

Witch Mountain Live at Saint Vitus Bar during North American tour with Saint Vitus and The Skull
 CT: Describe the typical Witch Mountain creative process in forming
and crafting your songs.

NC: Well, as the drummer, I have a lot more to do with dynamics and arrangement. I have written songs for WM in the distant past, but generally our guitarist Rob Wrong writes the music, and the singer writers the lyrics. Then we bat GarageBand demos back and forth before finally jamming on the tunes in our rehearsal space. That’s when I tend to speak up if there’s something I believe can be improved. There have been exceptions along the way, but this process seems to work very well for us.

I trust my band mates entirely to generate great music, and I have so much say as manager and booker that I don’t have any ego issues with how the band operates. However, it’s obvious that the drums are not a melodic or lead instrument. That’s why it’s important for me to have other creative outlets. The many years I have spent making collaborative art with groups of people has really inspired me to take my fiction writing to the forefront so that I can share my voice with the world in a way that is unfiltered.

CT: What bands have been major influences for Witch Mountain?

NC: Rob and I have always cited the classics: The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top. You can’t really make the best music if you’re only listening to the radio hits of today. Of course we also have added in dashes of early Judas Priest, Uli Roth-era Scorpions, and liberal doses of Candlemass. But each of us has our own specific influences as well.

To my ear, John Bonham and Keith Moon didn’t live long enough to be as good as Dale Crover. I love a spectrum of drummers from Ringo Starr’s brilliant minimlism to Simon Philip’s session work on Judas Priests Sin After Sin.

CT: Leading into your writing and Starr Creek, is there any direct crossover between Witch Mountain and your writing? Do any specific songs from Witch Mountain connect to the book or other writing?

NC: Not really. The main crossover is that I have been selling a ton of books from the merch table on tour, for which I’m exceedingly grateful to our fans and my band mates. Reading my work at bookstores is nice, but aside from my release party at Powell’s, I’ve tended to sell a lot more books at concerts than I have at readings.

I’m not the lyricist for Witch Mountain and, aside from naming the South of Salem and Cauldron of the Wild albums, I tend to be more of an executive producer and art director rather than a songwriter. I would say that the WM song that most closely resembles Starr Creek would be “Aurelia.” And perhaps that’s because the lyrics were written by Uta Plotkin, who grew up in the same small Oregon town that I did.

CT: What inspired you to start writing?

NC: I’ve been writing since I was six years old. When I was nine or ten, I wrote a bizarro western story about an anthropomorphic loaf named Billy the Bread. In high school I wrote a ton of Lovecraft/Barker pastiches that were godawful. When I was 19, I read a Damon Knight book called Creating Short Fiction in which he implores young would-be authors to go out into the world and gather some wisdom and life experience before attempting to write. I took his advice to heart, and didn’t really get serious about my fiction until shortly after my fortieth birthday. By then, I had an opinion on everything, haha. And I’d traveled a great deal and met and interacted with thousands of people. Of course, I’ve also been a professional music journalist for about 15 years. That hasn’t hurt. I always excelled in English over, say, math and science. So it was natural that I would eventually try my hand at short stories and longer works. The key is to not be a hobbyist.

CT: Starr Creek is such an enjoyable read for fans of weird fiction. The characters all had awesome personalities and the relationships between everyone in the book were well thought out and propelled me through the pages more than the plot, which was also teeming with vivid details and intrigue. For those that haven't read Starr Creek, can you give a quick summary of what the reader could expect to experience?

NC: Here’s the blurb from the back of the book: "Starr Creek is the debut novella by Portland writer and musician Nathan Carson. Set in 1986 rural Oregon, Starr Creek features Heavy Metal teens, Christian biker gangs, and hopped up kids on 3-wheeled ATVs. They all collide when strange occurrences unveil an alien world inhabiting the Oregon woods."

CT: You have a knack for description. At times it's subtle nuanced implications and other times you go all out with the descriptive. One of my favorite chapters was Ethan and Charles riding around on the ATVs thinking they were badasses but in reality they were these two kids in plastic costume helmets and shit. When deciding on how to describe different parts of the book, where does the inspiration come from? What is your favorite description in Starr Creek and why?

NC: The first two chapters of Starr Creek were written (in rough form)
many months before I decided to expand it into a novella. Because of that, the language is a bit more florid in the very beginning. Once the story starts to unfurl, I consciously ran it as clean and fast as possible.

So to answer your question, I really enjoy some of the first descriptions of Puppy’s life. Readers can enjoy an excerpt here on Vice’s science fiction site Terraform.

CT: The dog food eating contest opens the book essentially. Where did that come from? Did you have Puppy's name decided on before or after that scene?

NC: When I was in third, fourth, and fifth grade, I lived in Monroe, Oregon. The Long Branch tavern (it’s still there) had a marquee that advertised these dog food-eating contests. Of course, as a youth, I could only imagine what they were like. I wondered, “Is this what adults do?”

Anyway, I’ve still never witnessed a real contest like this, so I just imagined what it might be like. As for Puppy’s name, that was sort of a lucky coincidence. I knew I wanted to do animal names, and I knew I wanted to have a dog food-eating contest. When I got to that point in the story, it just felt like one more favor my subconscious mind had done for me.

CT: Other than being a fun overall read, was there any deeper themes you wanted to get across to the reader?

NC: Well I’d hope everyone would get something different out of it. It’s a work of fiction. But I certainly wanted to create characters that would act in believable ways, even during unusual or
fantastic situations. I was very inspired by characters like the kid in Phantasm who tapes a bullet to a hammer in order to escape his locked bedroom, and the Frog Brothers from Lost Boys who fill their Uzi squirt guns with holy water.

As for themes, I guess one of the main points of the book is that entropy is unavoidable. My AP English teacher once told me that if you’re ever writing an essay and you need to pull a theme out of your ass, “Man’s Inhumanity to Man” will work 99% of the time. So I’ll pass this tip along to you and your readers.

CT: There are a host of paranormal and controversial weird science topics mixed into the book but I think one of the most surprising twists was the inclusion of UFOs and Cult Imagery that appeared later on. Heaven's Gate is hinted at with Rex's cult. Where does your interest in these subjects come from? What are your opinions on UFOs and Extraterrestrial life?

NC: I grew up near Starr Creek. I’ve seen some weird and unexplainable shit. Having said that, I do not subscribe to the idea that we are descendants of lizard people or that Area 51 is full of alien corpses. I do know that the universe is unimaginably huge. Of course there is extraterrestrial life out there, though I assume it’s weird and abstract, and nothing remotely like anything we have yet considered. The reason I put a cult on Starr Creek road is because there WERE cults on Starr Creek road. I just decided to invent my own, based loosely on concepts from The Golden Bough.

CT: What authors do you look to for inspiration? Who has influenced your writing style?

NC: My favorite author is Gene Wolfe. Reading 30 of his novels has probably done more for me than any writing class or workshop. I would stay Starr Creek was also specifically influenced by Richard Brautigan, particularly his short gothic western novel, The Hawkline Monster. My editor also asked me to read some Raymond Carver before doing my final edit.

CT: What other material have you written? Do you have any future books or novels planned?

Photo: Jon T Cruz at 1369 Photos
NC: I have short stories in the anthologies Cthulhu Fhtagn! (Word Horde), Swords v Cthulhu (Stone Skin), Eternal Frankenstein (Word Horde), and The Madness of Dr Caligari (Fedogan & Bremer). There’s also a story in an issue of Strange Aeons magazine but it’s out of print. In all of these anthologies, I’m in the company of some of the best writers currently working in underground horror. Each has been an honor to take part in.

I’m currently working on my first comic script. That’s due to be available in time for Halloween of 2017. I have ideas for several short stories that are ready to write. And of course I plan to follow Starr Creek with a proper novel set in the same universe, only 76 years later.

CT: Where can people buy your book, Starr Creek?

NC: I prefer to direct people to their local independent bookseller. But you will honestly get the most immediate results from

CT: Nathan, Thanks for taking the time to do this interview! Hopefully we'll see Witch Mountain here in NYC again real soon!

NC: Thanks for taking the time, and especially for reading and
supporting Starr Creek!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Furia - Księżyc Milczy Luty

Black Metal can take many forms. Furia are a veteran outfit who, with Księżyc Milczy Luty, if not already landing fatal blows are within striking distance of that elusive perfection which so many strive to grasp. What makes Księżyc Milczy Luty such an endearing and impacting listen is how each element bonds with the other elements to form a totality while simultaneously maintaining individual importance and identity. Far from being a muddy atmospheric mess, Furia create atmosphere in the way a classical composer would approach atmosphere - with melody, percussion, and clear dynamics. If there was a top black metal album for me in 2016, Księżyc Milczy Luty stands on that summit and the rest are still at a base camp far below.

The LP version of the album has a different cover compared to the CD.
The approach taken on Księżyc Milczy Luty is refreshing. Space is given for the listener to find an angle into the material and each listen can be approached from a new trajectory**. There are as many gentle gifts to lure the listener into Furia's world as there are massive black metal explorations to stir up fury - the english translation of the band's name. It is apparent from the first two songs this is not going to be a normal predictable listen. The first salvo of "Za ćmą, w dym " and "Ciało" start as a building bass-heavy plod, an inverted pointer finger motioning to come closer, hinting at secrets and rewards. Often songs have this opening technique, much the same way as Iron Maiden has used clean guitars and introductions on recent albums to set the melodic mood. Furia have a knack for this and twist it mischievously. "Zabieraj Lapska" and "Tam Jest Tu" also incorporate this method. Each of these four tracks is wholy unique and enticing.

The other two songs, "Grzej" and album closer "Zwykłe Czary Wieją" are the album's more immediately impactful tracks. "Zwykłe Czary Wieją" has a more blackened doom vibe throughout, making use of Nihil's incredible barking vocal style. It's an uncommon ornamentation that makes Księżyc Milczy Luty more involved and dynamic than the endless screams and shouts normally hanging all over ninety-percent of the other black metal albums out there. "Grzej" is the album highlight for me. It has everything that one would want in a black metal track. The memorability factor is astronomical. Opening with a viciously alien bass line over atmospheric guitars, the song ebbs and flows between the bass line like wind whipping through trees on a mountainside. The song slows and builds dynamically throughout, particularly midway through as tremolo guitars take prominence leading into drawn out harsh clean guitar chords and feedback. Drummer Namtar's snare work in the song is excellent and driving. The song effectively "ends" but continues in silence, periodically accents of melody pierce. The song is truly mammoth.

With so much going on in each song, it would have been very easy for Furia to over-reach, for the album to seem disjointed. Instead it's as if they held back in spots and culled ideas specifically to make sections seem more minimalist and raw. The whole central section of "Tam Jest Tu" for example would have been a perfect place for a lesser band to simply fill it with ideas and shit but instead Furia left it practically completely empty. The silent sections of "Grzej" is another example. Few bands, especially in a genre that prides itself on being noisy and harsh, have the skill to utilize these voids in a way in which they become part of the atmosphere and songs themselves. Amidst all the awesome riffs and ideas and music, the incorporation of these lulls comes across in a manner that one could easily say Furia were truly inspired in the creation of this album. It's because of this totality of songwriting that Księżyc Milczy Luty is truly impressive, even to seasoned listeners. Furia have presented an old gilded chest full of remarkable treasures; each object unique and finely crafted, the heirlooms telling stories and stirring emotions.

** Orion's Note: Sars' bass playing on this album is absolutely incredible. I've listened to this four or five times in it's entirety just listening to the bass lines.