Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Yfel - Dark Hymns Of The Underworld


Dark Hyms Of The Underworld follows Yfel's debut, The Depths of Hell, and dials in on some major improvements in some important areas. The Depths of Hell was under siege in no-man's land between black metal and death metal and consequently suffered a defeating identity crisis. Where Dark Hymns... makes significant strides is in the push towards a solidly black metal effort. Gone are some of the Armonisms which appeared on the previous album: overly syncopated vocal choruses, goofily groovy riffs that manifest out of nowhere, and laughable lyrics about dead prostitutes all come to immediate mind . What has remained is his solid ear for compelling melodies and his instrumental prowess. Additionally, Armon's mid register screams are a boon to the focused black metal attempt, generic as they still are.

Without picking apart each track, the most powerful - and promising - song for me is tertiary track "Char and Ash" which could be considered a poor man's "As I Wander," a comparison to the must hear track on Primitive Graven Image's Traversing The Awesome Night. It rolls and roils for the first several minutes similarly but without as much grandeur and little sense of imagery. It also falls prey to the "black metal must have fast parts" mentality and instead of being a beastly slow-to mid tempo track, we get some blast beats and faster parts which sap what was a unique change of pace on the mostly single-minded album. But the slower doom parts are big, stomping, marching black metal. "Char and Ash" is followed by the out-of-place "Covalent Bonds" which doesn't fit thematically with the other material and which opens with a riff more akin to Control Denied than Immortal or Emperor. While the content of the track is a minor slip, the dip in black metal focus betrays some of Armon's underlying non-black metal influences.

As usual, Armon has recorded and mixed this project himself and he's done a commendable job in accomplishing the goal of getting clarity without being polished. All the parts have their space and show forth in the mix with the guitars still being most in your face and the drums - still programmed - being in your boots. I'm not sure the production is "black metal" at heart; the bass is less pronounced compared to the seminal productions in the genre, the guitars aren't quite as buzz-saw or incognito, and the programmed drums do push away from the necessary natural tones I prefer. Regardless, for black metal done Armon style - this is a shift more in the correct direction. I'm curious to know if Armon can replicate the black metal feeling with Yfel on future releases, especially considering the positive changes here on Dark Hymns of the Underworld. My biggest concern is still whether Armon can string a bunch of songs that fit within the genre's parameters and yet still be memorable and interesting.
 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Whipstriker - Die In Rape


Check out one of the Whipstriker tracks from the Whipstriker / Hell's Bomber split tape. You can preorder the tape HERE.

Preorders ship out on September 6th. Price will jump up to $6.50/tape instead of the $4.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hell's Bomber - Bombers Of Hell


Uploaded a sample track from the Whipstriker / Hell's Bomber split tape. Whipstriker sample will be up shortly. Preorder tapes through the usual methods: either via email at orion_metalhead@hotmail.com or also through the storenvy page for the product. Buy other shit while you're there also.. I want to clear stock so I can get fresh product in.

Monday, August 8, 2016

CTP-032-I: Whipstriker / Hell's Bomber Split Tape Preorder Available Now


Brazil's Whipstriker and Croatians Hell's Bomber meet on this split tape of four tracks of blistering metal. Old School fans of the usual culprits rejoice. You can preorder for $4 + Shipping on the Storenvy page.

These are moving so don't miss out on it. Pro Tapes for this one. Tapes will jump up to $6 after preorder period. Expected release date is first week of September (I expect the tapes by that point).

http://contaminatedtones.storenvy.com/products/17516225-whipstriker-hells-bomber-beyond-the-empty-graves-evil-forces-on-the-l

You can always order via email too: orion_metalhead@hotmail.com

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

CTP-031-L: Fiakra - Alive At Ravenforge Out Now


New Jersey Epic Heavy Metallers, Fiakra, and their Alive At Ravenforge rehearsal EP are out now. $6. For fans of Omen, Manilla Road, Axe Battler, Greek shit. $6. Buy at the online store or via old-school email communication.

orion_metalhead@hotmail.com

Tapes are pro-dubbed silver cassettes:



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Alkerdeel - Lede



Alkerdeel is one of the many bands that follows the traditional Norwegian black metal path, but their album Lede also adds in a bit of an unconventional approach, and it’s fairly decent. In general terms, there is a really strong Under a Funeral Moon vibe here. It’s worth mentioning because Alkerdeel has a much stronger than average Darkthrone influence. More specifically, the amount of repetition and the bass’s prominent position in the mix harken back to the sounds on that particular Darkthrone album. Since the band goes off the rails a bit, you almost get a subdued Furze vibe, but the release isn’t quite so experimental as that, so maybe it’s just the cover art creating a superficial connection (“fürze” means “farts” in German after all.) The well placed contributions from Mories (of Gnaw Their Tongues etc. fame) also give the album a small push away from conventional sounds.

Outside of the traditional influences in the dirty primitive riffing, a couple of stylistic deviations pop up throughout the release. Alkerdeel’s particular take on dissonance shows up both in tremolo picking atypical intervals and inharmoniously placed bass notes. These bass lines often follow a shuffling kind of rhythmic pattern that further pulls them outside of the main harmony - it’s an interesting effect. One of the better, but dragged out, moments has a spoken word interlude. There, the bass slowly marches notes over a quietly pulsing and crackling wall of guitar notes. Sometimes the tremolo picking jumps from the low end with quick flashes onto the higher frets and strings. The main feel though is a familiar one, like the vibe you get from the simple descending four-note pattern on the track “Lede.”





The intro and effects on “Gråt Deleenaf” are by Mories, and they fit into the music quite well. The distant howling notes especially create a strong sense of tension and discomfort, a clear break from Mories’ usual habit of mixing unadulterated chaos into his effects. His restraint here meshes into the album’s overall atmosphere and mirrors the effect’s light touches elsewhere on the release. It’s a clear hallmark of genuine and thoughtful collaboration, rather than a mere guest appearance solely for the sake of padding the liner notes, but the song itself is still a tepid affair. On the topic of Alkerdeel’s weakness, it boils down to creating songs from a bunch of riffs that are only just “fine” or serviceable. It will work at any given moment because of the interesting mood, but too many ideas seem to circle in on themselves.

Lede’s quality and atmosphere make it good enough to be engaging throughout the entire runtime, but it unfortunately doesn’t leave much of an impression afterwards. It’s only particularly strong point is how the vocal performance is cleverly panned with reverb to create a huge amount of depth to the vocals during sustained screams. So file this one under “likeable but forgettable.” It’s coherent and has its interesting moments, but almost nothing other than it’s somewhat unique approach sets Lede apart from the incalculable volume of other releases out there.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sassu Wunnu Live at The Wreck Room, April 30th, 2016


Sassu Wunnu, one of New Hampshire's few high-quality metal acts, released a sad announcement fairly recently. The band is planing to go on an indefinite hiatus, and luckily enough I was able to catch them live during what may be one of their final shows. Below is a brief write-up on their performance.



Sassu Wunnu is the kind of band that blurs your usual genre lines, so it's not ridiculous to take note of their metal influences ranging from doom, black, and sludge. There are moments where they bask in big fuzzy sounds, rhythmic stop and starts, wild tremolo picking, and carefully arpeggiated melodies. Despite the fuzzy tones of the power trio's strings, they were fairly tight in their timing which was further highlighted by the crisp drumming of Puke Commander as his furious movements animated the glorious tattoos across his chest. 

The key strength of the band though, and something rather rare, is how well the bass and guitar play against each other. Trading off melodies like they were both guitar players, but never delving into the bass wankery of technical bands, Lykos and King Trash held a great sense of pacing. Some call and response, a nice guitar solo, bass taking the high melody, it was all really cool stuff that never stifled the band's sound. It was even more surprising how well this worked live, because threesomes often struggle to simultaneously maintain a big sound and dynamic song structures. Sassu Wunnu played well and the show was an admirable sendoff for an interesting piece of New England metal.


In light of the band's forthcoming hiatus, it's worth mentioning that you can also check out Malacath. Malacath is the solo project of Sassu Wunnu's vocalist and bassist Lycos, and the project is currently quite active. According to the project's Facebook page, it looks like we should keep an eye out for two upcoming splits.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Oranssi Pazuzu - Värähtelijä


This is an absolute beast of an album. Värähtelijä is an entrancing psychedelic black metal experience that has more highlights in its hour-plus run time than seems possible. It’s an almost overwhelming amount of remarkably cool moments, but they are melded together so well that the album’s hypnotic feel never wavers even in the slightest. Incredibly, three of the tracks are over ten minutes long but you’ll end up feeling the album’s magnitude rather than its duration. In a way, Oranssi Pazuzu also flips the normal expectation of how black metal, and metal generally uses instruments. Värähtelijä is something special.

This album is heavily dominated by the rhythm section, to the point where the trance-like drumming is often the focal point. It’s not some kind of dull tribal drone either, the beats are far too unusual and addicting. Calling the syncopation on this album creative is as much as an understatement as saying Escher was creative with drawing stairs: the repetition always seems to be progressing onward. Bass lines are the other side of how the band flips the usual order of the instruments. They fill in the melody for long stretches, weaving into the drum’s rhythm and pulling the listener into the low-end of the mix. Vocals and guitars don’t sit idly by however, they pop into more traditional melodic roles, and also often accompany the music as trippy echoey ornaments.




If it wasn’t clear from reading about the album’s hypnotic qualities and rhythmic focus, this isn’t the kind of release that has many riffs to speak of. Still, there are a handful of incredibly strong moments in the guitar work. “Hypnotisoitu viharukous” for example has a really cool interchange between a fast riff and a slower chord progression. Both parts are somewhat stripped down versions of what the bass is doing, but an octave higher (see, I told you they flip things upside down). The guitar’s contribution makes a huge impact though because it add a harsher and chaotic element to the melody, which is then taken to the extreme in the song’s effects laden outro. It’s a role the effects play really well throughout the album in how they always fit just right into the composition rather than sticking out like a guitar player just screwing around with a fancy new effects pedal. See for example how all of the howls, beeps, and noises fit into the earlier part of “Vasemman käden hierarkia.”

Some exceptionally cool bits are worth pointing out individually. On “Lahja” rhythmic interaction between the strings, the xylophone, and tom drums is nothing short of stunning. It also shifts the song’s flow in a really intriguing way when the xylophone’s chimes go from a 4/4 to 6/8 feel, a simple touch that adds worlds of interest. The way that “Vasemman käden hierarkia” swings back into the earlier motif at about twelve minutes in by incrementally adding drums, bass, and vocals to the flanged tremolo-picked note is absolutely brilliant. It simultaneously brings back the song’s earlier mood in the bass melody while also creating a new feel to keep the track engaging. Then closing it off with cracked out yelling, screaming, and eventually plain old fire noises really drills home the song’s thematic progression.

Värähtelijä is a hell of a ride because it has such an earthy rhythmic side to its vast spacey sounds. Even the relatively weaker track Havuluu is really strong, it’s repetitive two-note theme mutates into a howling mess that’s so unhinged that you have to love it. The album’s mellower sections and the tame closer “Valveavaruus’s” drum free parts are stern reminders of how compelling overall pulse is. I remember the band’s debut release having two really powerful tracks, here it’s all seven. Oranssi Pazuzu abandoned a lot of the traditional rules of making metal, and still crafted a top notch release.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Otargos - Xeno Kaos

Otargos - Xeno Kaos

After being fairly impressed by Otargos’ No God No Satan album from 2010, I was initially excited to give a listen to this 2015 alum, Xeno Kaos. While it's not the biggest letdown around, I was fairly disappointed to find that this once interesting blackened death metal band had tried and failed to recreate Behemoth’s Demigod album. Hell, it even has the vaguely eastern sounding lead guitar work, similar vocals, and triplet chugging patterns; but it ultimately falls short of that influential album. To be clear, there is nothing really shoddy or awful about the performance or production, but the composition has the stale taste of rehashed material and uninspired ideas.

Xeno Kaos is the kind of album whose aggression is clearly unquestionable; it’s rhythmic, heavy, crisp, and keeps a consistently crushing atmosphere throughout. It just feels so soulless. If you take the bleak approach of looking at the songs in strictly a melodic sense, they are very predictable and flat. Simple cadences occasionally broken up by inconsequential chugging fills. Sometimes the high end is filled up with tremolo picked notes for entire bars of music, but in a way the removes the melody from black metal and the rhythm from death metal. The quick palm muted 8-note chug patterns sometimes help give the impression of creating more dynamic parts, but it’s ultimately still very predictable.



If it seems unfair to chalk up Xeno Kaos as a second (or third) rate imitation of Demigod, then just give “Dark Mechanicus” a quick listen. This has to be the epitome of dumb homogenized lowest common denominator blackened death metal. Triplet triplet rest trip-trip-chug bullshit rinse and repeat. It’s a half decent bridge or two painfully stretched out into the length of an entire song. Also, you can tell without even listening to the album that I’m not overplaying the Behemoth influence, one of the songs is titled “Chariots ov the Godz” after all.

As noted above, Dagoth sounds a lot like Nergal, barking out each extremely compressed line with a steady, rather monotone, delivery. A more dynamic approach would have really helped flesh out the album’s straightforward approach without detracting from the band’s blunt force trauma approach to music. Speaking of which, the blasting kick drum really bleeds into the space the bass ought to operate in. It makes it seem like the double bass bits have a constant and clicky open-e bass strumming pattern. Frankly, this isn’t all that far from how parts of the songs are actually written, so it’s likely a composition issue rather than a mixing problem.

In the end it averages out as a wash of an album. The unremarkable songwriting plus the hyper produced and competent musicianship makes for a perfectly neutral experience that’s well suited to situations where your attention is focused elsewhere. I don’t mean that as some kind of veiled insult either, it truly is a very moderate experience. Aside from how bad “Dark Mechanicus” is, I struggle to remember much of anything about this release. Sure, bits of some of the songs have their moments and it’s heavy overall, it’s just not the kind of music you’d expect to come back to after hearing it once.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Nyciene - S/T


Nyciene is a black metal project whose debut demo starts off with a striking intro melody. Its main riff has this ridiculously addicting 8th-note slide at the end of it that keeps drawing you into the song. With a raw but quite full sound, the band clearly flirts with Burzumesque minimalism by delving into trance-like repetitive riffing. It’s simple, but the melodies have an added layer of tension by hiding under the steady pulse of the lower notes. This makes the intro in particular much more intriguing than a simple droning riff would be, which makes a lot of sense because the rest of the music is relatively dynamic and high energy in comparison.



This demo is around 20 minutes long, but still pretty lush with ideas. The initial Burzum feel is fleeting after the first track. It’s an interesting facet to the band’s minimalism; they conjure up a great deal of atmosphere by tapping into both first and second wave black metal riffing styles. The production’s clarity and the doomy atmosphere however make the demo feel very much like a modern release. In fact, despite all of the fuzzy-crunchy tones in the wall of sound, a lot of care has been put into making this mix work quite well. You can hear it pretty obviously earlier on in “Mercy in Quietus” with it’s strong (but not attention seeking) bass and well placed synth noises.

Naturally, when the music dips into the more straightforward riffs, the drums and vocals are there to flesh out the musical space. It works well because the guitars are a smidge low in the mix, which helps to highlight the band’s dynamics. For example, check out the really cool cymbal work during the bass part on “Mercy in Quietus.” After what seems like too short of a time, this demo closes out with some droning notes and ethereal effects. Even as someone with little patience for ambient nonsense filler, the finale makes complete sense in the context of the demo’s minimalist approach and rich atmosphere.