About This Site

The original Midwinter Fires Webzine has been shut down and is no longer active. This is an archive of all reviews, interviews and news from the original site.

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/perpetualdawn

Bandcamp: perpetualdawn.bandcamp.com


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: www.facebook.com/carpenoctemiceland
Bandcamp: carpenoctem.bandcamp.com/


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: www.facebook.com/defragemusic


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

Official: http://www.shearofficial.com


The Chant - New Haven (2014)

This seven-member band from Finland was already formed in 1999. But i first of them in 2012 when they released their LIFEFORCE debut "A Healing Place". Their sound was already very cinematic on that on. Full of emotion, ambience and progression. But it was not as sparking as this genre can be and other bands showed in the past.

Now they're going to release their second full-length on LIFEFORCE. It's called "New Haven" and first of all it shows a really nice artwork. Somewhere in a hotel room or something like this. Looking out of the window where the city lights glow. When i started listening i was blasted by the latent sadness and melancholic nuances that really fits with the cover and gives you moments to think about this scene and life itself. The elements and emotions that i missed on the forerunner are now very strong and mind-blowing. This album is a must have in 2014 for every lover of melancholic and progressive rock music like ANATHEMA, ALCEST or KATATONIA. THE CHANT really shows unforgettable impressions! You want to plunge into this ambience over and over again. And it's possible to forget the world around you for a while. That's what an album out of this genre has to be in my opinion.

The only thing why it doesn't get the high score is because some songs are filled up with moments that feel like they are only there to stretch the song. And in some parts the singing parts are decline a little bit and are not as powerful and intense like in the rest of the album. So it's not perfect but still great.

Rating: 9/10

Chris for Midwinter Fires

Release Date: June 10, 2014 by Lifeforce Records

01. Earthen
02. Minotaur
03. Playwright
04. Falling Kind
05. Drifter
06. Cloud Symmetry
07. Until We Witness
08. Come To Pass

Official: www.thechant.net


Black Space Riders - D:rei (2014)

BLACK SPACE RIDERS are a band from Münster, Germany that was founded in the winter of 2008/2009. Their self-titled debut was released in 2010 and the second album came in 2012 with the title "Light Is The New Black". So this year they came up with their third full-length "D:rei" which means simply "Three". Their style can be located somewhere between Space Rock, Psychedelic, Classic Hard Rock, Doom and Stoner Jam Rock.

The beginning of this album "Stare At The Water" delivers some great melodies made by the guitars to the listener. "Rising From The Ashes Of Our World" has a very dark atmosphere with many Doom Metal influences. Even the singer comes up here with some growls. "Give Gravitation To The People" has some drums at the beginning that remind me of Sepultura and mildly vocals. "Way To Me" is a smooth rocker with the dry Stoner Rock atmosphere and a really good guitar solo at the end. "The God-Survivor" has the right mood and lines to sing along and could really be a single output. "I See" is the song with the most silent song that could be called Post Rock. The vocals here are often spoken words that make this one really intense. "Leave" shows the Alternative Rock side of BLACK SPACE RIDERS with a mixture of emotional silent parts and more heavy outbursts that could be called even Grunge in some way. But the best song comes nearly at the end. "Space Angel (Memitim)" is a great breathtaking monster that holds you with its claws for ten minutes and wonderful psychedelic melodies.

I made this review to be grasped by a little Track-by-Track so show the variety of "D:rei". Mostly every song is stamped by another genre or at least influences. The best on this album are really the work of guitars and drums that give this release a wonderful energetic drive. The singer also tries different styles in singing from growls to spoken words and everything that is in-between. But i also have to say that he destroys many songs on this album for me. Without vocals the tracks could unfold their whole beauty. But overall it is an interesting release that should be listened once by every fan of rock and/or metal that has no fears for an album that is different and can lead you to so much emotions in only one run.

Rating: 7,5/10

Chris for Midwinter Fires

Release Date: January 23rd, 2014 by BSR/Cargo

01. Stare At The Water
02. Bang Boom War (Outside My Head)
03. Rising From The Ashes Of Our World
04. Give Gravitation To The People
05. Way To Me
06. Temper Is Rising
07. The God-Survivor
08. I See
09. Leave
10. Space Angel (Memitim)
11. Major Tom Waits
12. Letter To A Young One
13. The Everlasting Circle Of Infinity

Official: www.blackspaceriders.com


Finnr`s Cane – A Portrait Painted by the Sun (2013)

Canada has in the last years a very vital scene in perspective of all forms of extreme metal. Especially the franco-canadian Quebec-scene is productive. But not only this one. Finnr`s Cane is another band from Canada. This time not from Quebec, but from Sudbury in Ontario, where for example As Autumn Calls comes from. This band  - a trio - is the first one to compare Finnr`s Cane with, even if both play different styles of metal, but both are very atmospheric and doomy (As Autumn Calls more). Finnr`s Cane released 2010 per Frostscald their first full-length “Wanderlust”, which was quite successful. And I have to admit, that I liked it, too. Because of that success, the band grabbed the attention of some bigger labels. In the end, they had a treaty with famous (and good) German label Prophecy. Of course that, Finnr`s Cane now has the chance for a broader and bigger audience, as well as a more powerful production.

The music is difficult to classify (but somehow this has to be done), well I will try it. Most components of the style can be found in melodic Black Metal and Doom Metal, but nevertheless somehow a bit “Post” Metal (Oh, how I hate this word...) or Sludge with some influences from the Ambient genre which makes it all very atmospheric and at some points beautiful. In this case nothing really chanced in comparison to “Wanderlust”. I was really looking forward to it and happy as I got the digital version of the album to write a review. But how is their new Album from 2013 called “A Portrait Painted by the Sun”? To make it short: good, atmospheric and beautiful like I expected it, but I miss great moments. So this album is without question worth to listen, but not such great as it could have been. Why?

The production and song writing are good, however both have too less power to grab me by my heart. Of course this is the aim to be somehow “powerless”. The songs are throughout atmospheric, but only in the same level, without highlights. The song writing is mature. The instrumentation is solid. Everyone of the trio knows how to play them, but you won`t find musician expertise. I guess all this is wanted, too, and subjected to the atmosphere. That`s all in all no problem for me. I love atmospheric albums, though here all goes on and on without coming to the eruption of feelings or atmosphere. Surprisingly the keyboards are used relatively rare (for atmospheric music). The screams and clean vocals are intelligent used and not too overacted. Over most  of the playing time there are not much vocals. They get even less till the end of the album. On the one side good, because the atmosphere is supported by this matter, on the other way sad, because the vocals are really well done. Yes, the clean vocals remind me a bit of Agalloch (listen to the decent vocals in the end of “Tao”), which can be understood as a compliment. Agalloch is another good comparison for Finnr`s Cane. First one are more folky and progressive, but in song writing in the widest sense similar (BUT: Agalloch has highlights, for example the second part of “Our Fortress is Burning Part II” from the album “Ashes against the Grain”, a real eruption of emotions and atmosphere).

Now to the songs:
“A Portrait Painted by the Sun” begins with “This White Oak”. This one is a very melodic piece of art with throughout clean vocals and a relative monotonous speed and guitar- riffing. It ends with a nice and memorable guitar-line. Very atmospheric and one of my favourites. Just beautiful, but exemplary for the album: It lacks of “power” (or “pressure” or however you may call it; in German you would say “balls”). This song reminds me of the more melodic Agalloch songs. The guitar work is definitively one of the rare highlights of the album. The next song “Gallery of Sun and Stars” is the longest one with around 7 minutes and the most diversified one. It begins relatively fast with harsh vocals and gets in the middle-part a bit slower and atmospheric with clean vocals up to typical (viking-era) Bathory choir. The last 2 and a half minutes are calm with acoustic guitars and ambient sounds, just to get over to harsh vocals and faster played “Black” Metal like the  beginning of the song. Definitively the best song in my opinion. That`s why I chose it for the sample. Listen to it and it will convince you. Why I described this in detail? These were the highlights of the album. Nevertheless the rest is not bad, on the contrary, all is well done, but no big highlights follow. The next song “A Promise in Bare Branches” is another good one. It shows all, what you expect from the genre: harsher parts, melodic ones, acoustic guitars, atmosphere, melodic riffing. In the end it feels a bit more folky like the other songs. “Wind in the Wells” is a calm instrumental interlude, not bad, but taking breath is not essential in the album. The listener gets in between enough time for it, perhaps dispensable. The last three tracks bring nothing really new to the album. “Time Is a Face in the Sky” is a very melodic and atmospheric song without vocals. Here Finnr`s Cane shows that they can write good instrumentals. Sometimes I think, that I already have heard these things. In the end the 40 minutes of playing-time are almost normal for a full-length, but in this case they feel a bit less than that. Not because it is such boring or interesting. I guess it`s because of the lack of highlights in the end. It somehow bobs up and down (I know this expression thanks to leo.org) – on a high level - until the end (compared to the first two songs).

All in all anyway a good – if not very good – release of this Canadian trio. Most of the things I complained about is complaining on a very high level. “A Portrait Painted by the Sun” has many positive aspects – much more than negative ones – but maybe I expected a bit too much after the signing with Prophecy. The production is a bit powerless and the rest of the sound a bit washy. If you like atmospheric music instead of riff-ladden extreme Metal, you will like this album, too. Nevertheless there are many beautiful melody-lines (guitar), but because of the production they get a bit in the background. So I can recommend it without any bad conscience to all, especially to those who hadn`t liked extreme Metal until now or to those who are generally in atmospheric music. Beautiful music, which could have been better and even essential, if the band works on the contras. Maybe the next one will be more than “only” (very) good.

Rating: 8/10

Marcus for Midwinter Fires

Full-length 2013, Prophecy Productions

1. This Old Oak 5:40
2. Gallery of Sun and Stars 7:19
3. A Promise in Bare Branches 5:33
4. The Wind in the Wells 3:18
5. A Great Storm 6:51
6. Time Is a Face in the Sky 5:41
7. Tao 6:14
Total: 40:36

Homepage: www.finnrscane.ca