Friday, 1 August 2014

Hammerstorm - The Lonely Wanderer (2013)

The Lonely Wanderer is the debut offering put forth from the two man atmospheric black metal project Hammerstorm. Hammerstorm is a collaboration between Surtur (Lifeless Within, Ars Veneficium) and Slikver (a.k.a. Josh Young of Astral Winter, Atra Vetosus). Slikver takes control of all of the musical compositions while Surtur handles all of the lyrical, vocal duties. The Lonely Wanderer was actually released in November 2013 by Obscure Abhorrence Productions but since I've closed down the site I haven't written any new reviews until now.

Though Hammerstorm is based around atmospheric black metal there is clearly some heavy folk influences in the repetitive, sweeping use of the harmonic scale. It gives it that epic, fantasy type of feeling. The sound and feel borrow from Josh Young's other projects as well as bands such as Summoning, Caladan Brood and Ensiferum though the music is slightly more black metal based than these aforementioned bands. The production is pretty solid, especially for an underground release and the cover artwork is another nice feature done by Dina Dark Art.

The opening track "Mystics of His Soul" is our formal introduction into this atmospheric, fantasy world of Hammerstorm. It's not too long and is comprised of just keys and screams. It leads into the title track "The Lonely Wanderer" which hits full force with a furious onslaught of blackened screams and tremolo picked guitars over a black metal blast beat. One of the better tracks on the album is the third song "Along the Shades of Darkness". The combination of Summoning style, prodding drums, medieval keys and acoustic guitars mixed with sweeping guitar harmonies ushers forth visions of a great and epic journey. Hammerstorm continues to delve into the more folkish realms with "Whispers From the Depths of the Forest" before taking a breather with a short, acoustic Interlude. The music continues on with another personal favourite of mine "When Darkness Falls Upon Me". This is the longest song on the album but like the previous tracks it is diverse and never boring. It's catchy - a term that isn't very metal but there's no other way to describe it. The last two tracks "Forest of Despair" and "As I Give My Life to the Dying Lands" continue on in much the same fashion as their predecessors.

The Lonely Wanderer was a bit of a surprise for me. I really expected more of a traditional atmospheric black metal sound. I certainly did not expect the heavy folk, epic fantasy aspect. Hammerstorm blends these various elements in effortless unison. The production is a step up from both of these collaborators previous works and the song writing and delivery is very solid.

Rating: 9/10

Track listing:

1. Mystics of His Soul  02:22      
2. The Lonely Wanderer  06:35       
3. Along the Shades of Darkness   09:14       
4. Whispers from the Depths of the Forest  07:58       
5. Interlude  02:10
6. When Darkness Falls upon Me  11:12       
7. Forest of Despair  09:15       
8. As I Give My Life to the Dying Lands  09:50

Released November 2013 by Obscure Abhorrence Productions

Official Hammerstorm Facebook

Friday, 23 May 2014

Perpetual Dawn - Pale Blue Skies... (2013)

Perpetual Dawn is a one-man project from Adelaide, Australia. I have never heard of this band from Down Under before, but that should not amaze somebody, because this young band released until now only one Demo 2009 called "...And Become the Essence of Night" (available for free download on their bandcamp page) and 2013 the current EP "Pale Blue Skies..." which should be reviewed here. As I wrote, Perpetual Dawn consists of only one member, who`s name is Daniel Kuzmanovski. He makes everything alone and had before only a guest-appearance on vocals at the maybe better known Astral Silence in their Album "Winter Enthroned". So Australia has compared to the relatively small number of inhabitants, a high rate of bands who play extreme Metal. I don`t want to mention names here. You should know some of them by yourself.

Perpetual Dawn does not especially sound like other Australian bands or try to clone them. Moreover the inspiration comes from the European scene. "Pale Blue Skies..." contains 6 songs with a total playing-time of 26 minutes. So the titulation "EP" apts. As I said Perpetual Dawn is a solo-project, but the drums and keyboard were played by some other guys, which maybe improves the quality on these instruments (I don`t know how good Daniel Kuzmanovski can play them by himself). The style of the band is quite interesting and can be classified nearest as Folk Metal with some melodic Black Metal and Epic touches. Anyway most of this is more Folk than Black and has also influences from traditional Heavy Metal (if you call it like that ... I don`t mean Manowar :-) ). There is no band which I think about after few moments. So Perpetual Dawn can be attested something like a personal sound without being super innovative or doing somewhat really new. This EP won`t blow someone away with it`s innovation.

Heart of the music are the folk-influenced melodies. Most times they are created by the guitars, but sometimes by keyboard or vocals. In between you can hear traditional instruments or the music is freshened by acoustic guitars. As you can expect, this EP was made with much love in detail. The guitar-work is nice and you can listen to memorable melodies throughout the album. Maybe they are not loud enough. By the way the production is not optimal for the material. For a usual Black Metal release this would suffice, but this one is much more melodic and would have needed a clearer mixing of the instruments. At some points keyboards and vocals are too loud, during you have to listen very carefully to hear some drums. Anyway as I said this one is self-released and you should not expect a good production, but honest music done with the heart. If you don`t expect too much, "Pale Blue Skies..." won`t disappoint you.

The vocals vary between clean and harsh vocals, which is shown exemplary in the first song "Pale Blue Skies Burn" (with 2 minutes more an intro, but with all a song needs, so maybe a "practise" for a whole song). They sound OK, though in my opinion here is potential for improvement. At some clean passages it sounds as if the vocalist is bored by himself. Nevertheless this is no cause to worry earnestly. This music is no crap.

In my opinion the whole EP is a bit too "soft" and there are too many keyboards and too slack-sounding guitars without power. Anyway this is throughout melodic and very folk-influenced with some epicness. In between there are great melodies. Just listen to the sample "Disclosure (and Loss)" chosen by me. It is a quite short but beautiful track only with clean vocals. On the other hand the ending-track "Perpetual Dawn" goes a bit on my nerves with the honey-sweet melodies over long 7 minutes. Anyway this is only an early effort of this band, for which I can see some potential. I suppose the next release will be much more professional. If you are interested in this EP you can get one of the 500 copies. For sure not a bad idea. If you are not sure if this is something for you, then you can download the first Demo "...And Become the Essence of Night" on their bandcamp page for free.

An interesting EP of this Folk Metal project from Australia.

Rating: 7.5/10

Marcus for Midwinter Fires

EP, Self-Released 2013

1. Pale Blue Skies Burn First 2:06
2. Moment of Apprehension 4:22
3. Submerged 5:49
4. Insomnia 3:02
5. Disclosure (and Loss) 3:27
6. Perpetual Dawn 7:23
Total: 26:09



Carpe Noctem – In Terra Profugus (2013)

Iceland, a country consisting only of bleak landscapes and long nights in winter, must be the home of some dark souls. Of course there are some good extreme bands from there (especially if you see the proportion to the small number of inhabitants), which I don`t have to mention here. One of is Carpe Noctem, translated from Latin to English something like “enjoy the night”. I never heard before of this band, but after listening to their first full-length, they convinced me to play in the first league of extreme metal generally. Before “In Terra Profugus” the band only released one Demo and one EP, so you don`t have to wonder why I didn`t knew the band before. The name says everything what this band is about. Not the daylight is praised, but the night. In short it expects you a journey through life and death. A soundtrack for the apocalypse, but that`s not the only thruth. Based in a quite deep and complex philosophical concept of death and rebirth, the music of “In Terra Profugus” has more than only a slight progressive and chaotic touch. Maybe not such dissonant and complex as Deathspell Omega, but anyway this French Avantgardistic Band has to be named as a big influence of Carpe Noctems “In Terra Profugus”. Maybe “Blessed Extinction” by Cult of Erinyes - which I reviewed some months ago on this site - is a good comparison. Anyway both albums have more than enough own advantages, while “In Terra Profugus” has more structure and diversity in my opinion. For disgrace I didn`t made the effort to understand this concept, which is maybe unimportant for this review or the music, but shows that the band spent much time for this album. Some of the members are experienced musicians from well-known bands like Árstíðir Lífsins, Dysthymia or Skendöd. Unfortunately the last two ones are split-up. Here I want to give a hint to you: listen to Skendöd`s only album “Vanskapt”, a real gem of atmospheric and depressive Black Metal.

As a gimmick (and I suppose because of their concept of death and rebirth) the numeration of the songs is different from usual concepts. It begins with III to go to I in the middle and to end with III again. For simplification: III – II – I – II – III. Very interesting, however in the end uneven for the music. The song titles are in Latin and as far as I can judge it, the texts are in Icelandic, the native tongue of the band members.
The instrumentation is well done, but you can`t hear all instruments clear out of the more hectic moments. For sure these moments are not such numerous, I only want to mention it. As a whole the more doomy passages prevail. Throughout there is some resonance in the sound to make you feel distant to the music. For sure this is wanted by the band. Anyway an apt production for this dark piece of art. This is far away from being a cheap lo-fi production.

The label warns you that the music is “raw, chaotic and apocalyptic”. Well that`s right for most of the music which you can hear here. Anyway the guys know what to do and all is not such chaotic as it first seems. I would say this is systematic chaos. There are longer instrumental passages especially in the beginning of the different songs to take breath and bring you nearer to the apocalypse. The music can raw be described as atmospheric. This atmosphere is very cold, sometimes sterile, unhuman and somehow industrial. So this is no music for kids. This journey is only for the experienced Black Metal listener. All five songs have a minimum playing-time of 8 minutes up to 13 minutes, which makes in the end around 52 minutes, so you have to bring patience with yourself to make the experience of enjoying something like “In Terra Profugus”. These 52 minutes are still long for an album. There are no real big highlights and you have to enjoy this music as a whole, including their philosophical concept. I chose the central track “VITRIOL” for the sample because it shows the character of the album and because of the good anticipated structure. The beginning is quiet but threatening for the listener, just to break out in a chaotic eruption. It goes on with progressive mid-tempo. All structures (quiet, mid-tempo, fast) can be found again in the second half of the song, but in different forms, which can change very fast. That is just typical for the whole album. The band has only a quite small amount of “types” of music (=style), however never gets boring because you don`t know what comes next. The structures are repeated at some point in each song, but this in another manner you expect. So that`s just more than slight progressiveness, without being really avantgardistic or unlistenable. As I wrote I miss real highlights, however the middle-part of “Metamorhoses Maleficarum” is very good.

“In Terra Profugus” is basically a pure Black Metal album. As I mentioned, there are some rawer and progressive moments. In between some parts of the “first” song “Odium Somniferum” reminds me of the newer Deathspell Omega Releases “Paracletus” and “Diabolicus Absconditus”. On the other hand you can hear some doom-touches which appear throughout the album. Threatening. Anyway this is no black-doom-hybrid. Even Death Metal is there, which lies mostly on the vocalist and the faster passages. The vocalist has a wide spectrum: From tortured Black Metal shreaks to gurgling or well-done growls.

For sure a band which you should not forget for the future. I wait for the next apocalypse in the future. Recommended, but only for the CVLT! (well, the sound and they are musically too good to be called CVLT) … or experienced listeners. An ambitious and diversified work, which makes many things very good, without overwhelming me. I know this sterility is wanted by the band for the cold atmosphere, but I wished a bit more organic sound (=life?) or some great moments / riffs. Anyway I like this album very much and I give very good 8.5 points to this Icelandic rising gem. Check it out.

Rating: 8.5/10

Full-length, CODE666 2013

Marcus for Midwinter Fires

1. III. Odium Somniferum 8:53
2. II. Ars Moriendi 8:19
3. I. VITRIOL 10:16
4. II. Metamorphoses Maleficarum 11:01
5. III. Hostis Humani Generis 13:47
Total Playing-Time 52:16

Official Facebook:

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Defrage - The Sick Letter (2013)

As I went home from work some weeks ago four guys crossed my way. They asked me which kind of music i'm listening to. And as i answered with rock and metal they were really joyful. So they told me that they are a metal band from Estonia touring around Europe to promote their music because they don't want to have a music label. Good thoughts and so i bought both of their albums from them. At first i was doubtful if this would be really music or just some demo crap. As i listened to the debut "Jackal" i read a little bit about these guys and detected that they already won a MTV award for the music video "Save Us From Religion".

As the first album was a little bit more rock "The Sick Letter" comes up with more harder parts and even more shouts and growls, too. I'm really pleased and at some parts blown off with the music these guys created here. They have a very unique clean singer and the shouts are much stronger than on "Jackal". Massive riff walls mix up with silent melodic parts. Granted this concept is nothing new, but DEFRAGE are providing something special to their songs. Technique and arrangement are on a high level for an in-house production. Here I have to say that their plan really adds up. So if you are a fan of Alternative Rock with metal influences you really should check out this young and purposeful band.

My highlights are "Bulgaria", "We Are Metal", "Video Games" (a cover of Lana Del Rey's song) and "Men of Honor 1914".

Rating: 8/10

Chris for Midwinter Fires

Release Date: May 25th, 2013 by in-house production

01. Bulgaria
02. The Sick Letter
03. Turn Back Time
04. We Are Metal
05. Secret of Life
06. One World, One Dream
07. Anti-Ballad
08. Video Games
09. Sign of the Times
10. Bonfire Song
11. Men of Honor 1914
12. Lullaby
13. Re in Carnations
14. The Facebook
15. Etiquette 2

Official Facebook:

Shear - Katharsis (2014)

SHEAR is this Power Metal band from Finland that just arrived in my musical knowledge as they took part in the New Blood Award final at Summer Breeze some years ago. The samples just catched and the live gig was some amazing blast. For me Power Metal always was some genre that not existed in my interest. The only exception ever were Sonata Arctica. Just because they were one of the first metal bands i listened to and they smoothed my way into the rock and metal genre.

But this really should change with SHEAR. The EP and first album were really exciting and ambitious releases. So my expectations for "Katharsis" were really big. After an instrumental, spheric intro this turns into a metal output that mesmerizes from the very beginning. Singer Alexa Leroux ist not just a finnish beauty. Her voice has become more varied and intense since the last album. Within the music you can hear the keyboards with interesting melodic contours, riffing guitars and silent moments. In my opinion the new songs became more progressive than before in some points. But it's still not intricate like you know it from some great artists that combine Power with Progressive Metal. What makes this record not as cheesy as some others is the voice of Alexa Lerous that moves between angelic tones and powerful moments. Sometimes high, sometimes low. But I also have to give a special compliment to the musicians behind her. They involved their style really enjoyable. But it's still remarkable SHEAR that you're listening to.

In case of "Katharis" SHEAR should be able to arrive more listeners in the metal world outside and so become much more famous. They would deserve it.

Rating: 8,5/10

Chris for Midwinter Fires

Release Date: March 21st, 2014 by Lifeforce Records

01. Katharsis
02. Last Warning
03. Home
04. Heaven Into Hell
05. Hollow, Black & Cold
06. I Care
07. A Hopeless Tragedy
08. Whispers Follow You
09. For The Restless
10. Not Myself
11. Turmoil