Bonus: Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Details

Mixed and mastered by C. Brandes at Iguana Studios. Drums recorded at S. Egli and Hardbeat Studios. Vocals recorded at R. Beier and Ashburn Productions. Released on 16 September 2016 as an independent release on Bandcamp.

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Band

  • Vocals—Bryan Berger
  • Guitars—Nic Gruhn
  • Guitars—Toby Koelman
  • Bass—Arran McSporran (session musician)
  • Drums—Diego Morenzoni

Tracks

  1. The cypher supreme
  2. Earthwork
  3. Illuminance
  4. Ad rigorem
  5. Tentacles of the sun
  6. Elemental shift
  7. I: A new journey awaits
  8. II: A final warming shine: ascension and trespassing

Review

Illuminance is the debut album from Swiss progressive death metal band Virvum, who hail from Zurich and it’s really rather good.

The album opens with instrumental The cypher supreme (track 1) which initially doesn’t seem to promise anything new. It begins with an intricate, chopping riff but then opens up into a harmonised passage that reminded me of something from early 90s Steve Vai or latter-day Devin Townsend. The instruments dance around one another, they swoop and vie for attention. The track ends with a chugging, proper old school death metal riff that wouldn’t seem out of place on an Obituary album.

Earthwork (track 2) introduces us to Berger’s vocals, which are – as you might expect – deep, and gruff, so-called ‘Cookie Monster’ vocals. But in places they are double-tracked with a more metalcore, shouty vocal. The song showcases their progressive leanings with avant garde solos, and a song structure that twists and turns. Curiously, it stops suddenly around four minutes in and plays out as an ambient introduction to the title track Illuminance (track 3).

Tentacles of the sun (track 5) is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It beings at breakneck speed and promises to be a fairly standard death metal track, with an interesting preces and response-style vocal. But around a minute in to the 4:54 song, things slow down. A fabulous bass run weaves around clean arpeggios, until even that slows to a trickle, before exploding to a luscious chord sequence. It sounds like how dawn should sound every morning.

The album closes with a pair of songs, I: A new journey awaits (track 7) and II: A final warming shine: ascension and trespassing (track 8). The new journey begins instrumentally. It is peaceful and regal, it is grand and pompous.

(Oddly, MusicBee reports that the song is 3:10 but it ends at 1:42 then leaps to 3:10 before moving to the next song.)

The final track is more of the same but draws on elements from track 7. Around three minutes in things slow down again, for what is quite a recognisable pattern. And then the build… Around 7 minutes in the song takes another meandering twist which plays itself out, but for a brief thematic return to the death metal vocals and thrashing of earlier.

Conclusion

I’ve listened to this album quite a bit over the last few months. So I’ve come to appreciate it rather well. While it’s not my favourite album of the year, it is rather good. It has a few really beautiful moments suspended in an opus of fairly stock progressive death metal. But it’s those beautiful moments that transform this album from being just another death metal album.

It’s hard when listening to the album that this is just Virvum’s debut offering. This is a band, I suspect, who are still finding their voice. I’m excited to see where they go next, because as a start this is a fabulous place from which to begin.

Review score: 85%

Toxic Bonkers—Seeds of Cruelty (2004)

Toxic Bonkers—Seeds of Cruelty (2004)

Toxic Bonkers—Seeds of Cruelty (2004)

Details

Recorded at P J-Reda Studio in April 2003. Mastered at Kutno in February 2004.

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Band

  • Qboot—Vocals
  • Mumin—Guitars
  • Sme—Guitars
  • Grela—Bass and vocals
  • Klimer—Drums

Tracks

  1. Seeds of cruelty
  2. Homeless
  3. TV god
  4. Wrong way direction
  5. Weep
  6. Poisoned
  7. Can you see
  8. Free world
  9. Liars
  10. Don’t be afraid
  11. Vision

Review

Seeds of Cruelty represents album number three of five for Polish death/grindcore  metallers Toxic Bonkers and it is quite tremendous.

They sound like a perfect fusion of Florida’s Entombed with Brummie grindcore pioneers Napalm Death, certainly from the turn of the millennium.

The production on the album is a little poor, it’s very quiet which I particularly noticed while switching between Obituary, Napalm Death and Toxic Bonkers albums to compare them. The better supported artists certainly enjoy a clearer sound. But it’s nothing that turning up the volume doesn’t fix!

But the playing is fabulous. Not a note out of place. The bass and drums are tight, the guitars produce a wall of sound, which Qboot yells over.

The whole album weighs in at just a little over half an hour and it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome. I would quite happily have listened to an album twice its length.

Conclusion

While I’m not overly fond of the band name, or the album cover, the music is fabulous and that, after all, is what it’s all about. If you like your grindcore to have a socio-political and anti-nazi slant, then I thoroughly recommend Toxic Bonkers.

Other than the production, I really can’t fault this album. It’s going up there with my favourites from this project.

Review score: 100%

BONUS Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self EP (2016)

Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self (2016)

Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self (2016)

Details

Release 12 February 2016 on GS Productions (Russian).

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Band

  • Charalabos Oikonomopoulos—Vocals
  • Filippos Koliopanos—Guitars
  • Dimitra Zarkadoula—Guitars
  • Giannis Koskinas—Bass
  • Aris Nikoleris—Keyboards
  • Thomas Motsios—Drums

 

Tracks

  1. Spiritual fortress
  2. House of misery
  3. Futile regrets
  4. Drowned in nostalgia
  5. The birth of chaos

Review

Back in May I received a kind email from Phil Koliopanos inviting me to review his band, Ocean of Grief’s new EP Fortress of my Dark Self. Here’s the review, a couple of months later. Sorry about that.

Melodic doom/death metal band Ocean of Grief were formed in Athens, Greece in late 2014 drawing inspiration mostly from Saturnus and Slumber. This is their first official release.

My immediate response after listening to the album on Soundcloud was to email their guitarist saying simply “Wow! This is great! Loving is so far.”

Overall the EP reminds me very much of early Gothic-era Paradise Lost. And that, for me, is a good thing. A very good thing.

The EP opens with “Spiritual fortress” (track 1).  A grand organ sound introduces the song, over which the guitars weave a lamentful melody. Gutteral, deep, growling vocals carve their way through the music. It is a doomy, gothic, lamentation.

“House of misery” (track 2) begins with a descending guitar arpeggio that builds to another beautiful and simple guitar melody. “Futile regrets” (track 3) is an up-beat and rocky number that employs another simple melodic guitar line that carries the song. About halfway through the band drops out for a guitar-only middle eight that introduces a new tick-tocking riff.

“Drowned in nostalgia” (track 4) opens slowly and gently. It’s the eeriest, most haunting track on the EP. Which is built on later as the vocals descend to a whisper.

The EP closes with “The birth of chaos” (track 5), another upbeat (for doom!) track

Conclusion

If I was looking for some criticism, I might say that there is not much variety in the EP. One song almost blends into the next. But on a release of this quality I can’t fault it on that. The songs are solid, tight and hold enough interest and individual character that it simply reminds the listener that these songs are part of a coherent collection by the same band—part of the family. Albeit a dark and lamentful family that sings tales of death and doom.

All in all, a brilliant first release that took me back to everything that I loved about Gothic (Paradise Lost) but to which Ocean of Grief added their own character and other influences.

More like this please.

Review score: 95%

Second Shadow—Line Up (Execution Style) (2005)

Second Shadow—Line Up (Execution Style) (2005)

Second Shadow—Line Up (Execution Style) (2005)

Details

Recorded by Hans Eidsgard at Jailhouse Studios, Vennesla, Norway in June 2005. Mixed by Hans Eidsgard and Second Shadow. Produced by Second Shadow.

Band

  • Jon Vassbø—Vocals
  • Preben Mosfjell—Guitars
  • Ramses Argento—Bass guitar
  • Stig Reinhardtsen—Drums

Tracks

  1. Torture
  2. Line up (execution style)
  3. Murder v2.0
  4. Third floor malevolence
  5. Hands of murder
  6. Mind devoured

Review

This six track EP from Norway’s Second Shadow represents their only official release, other than a three track demo in 2004. Unlike many bands their EP doesn’t rework or try to improve any of the tracks on the demo.

Their sound reminds me very much of the Florida death metal scene from the mid- to late-90s. Think: Morbid Angel, Death, and especially Obituary. There is a meatiness to the guitar tone, the bass guitar lurks just beneath the guitars, drums and cymbals rattle alongside, and Vassbø growls away in the foreground.

Like many death metal albums I’ve listened to this is quite formulaic. There’s not much that is new. They don’t seem to bring anything particularly unique on the genre. It’s solid, listenable, but probably quite disposable death metal.

Conclusion

Despite sounding a bit like Obituary-wannabes I rather enjoyed this short slab of Norwegian death metal. If it came on, I certainly wouldn’t switch it off.

One thing about this album to note, however, is that it really does sound much better played loudly. The way metal is supposed to be listened to, right?

Review score: 70%

Scythian—Suffering to the Conquered demo (2007)

Scythian—Suffering to the Conquered demo (2007)

Scythian—Suffering to the Conquered demo (2007)

Details

Recorded and mixed by S. Vrath at Pulse and NLE Studios between7 December 2006 and 7 May 2007.

Encyclopaedia Metallum | Bandcamp

Band

  • S. Vrath—Vocals and bass guitar
  • A. Satyruss—Guitars
  • J. C. Volgard—Drums and backing vocals

Tracks

  1. Astral assassins
  2. Shattered idols
  3. Pray to war
  4. Spires to ashes
  5. Suffering the conquered
  6. Holocaust (Bathory cover)

Review

England isn’t particularly renowned for its death metal bands. Scythian appear to have come to put a stop to all of that. And to be fair, given that this is only their demo (they have since been signed to a label) they did a pretty decent job of it.

On Encyclopaedia Metallum this release received two reviews, both gave it 100%. What did I think about it, well, a little history first, I think.

The Scythians were a nomadic tribe of Iranian Eurasians who dominated the central European steppes (from modern Czech Republic in the west to central China and south Siberia in the east) from around the 9th to the first centuries BC. They were amongst the earliest peoples to master mounted warfare.

As a demo this is an impressive release. The production is great, it doesn’t sound too tinny (which is my biggest criticism about many a metal album), there is a depth to the sound and enough bass to get a sense of how powerful they might sound live.

“Astral assassins” (track 1) opens with an eerie soundscape for 50 seconds before launching into a fabulous double-kick-drum-led riff. However, no sooner had I uttered the words “Oh… I like that” out loud, the band hit the Tasmanian Devil button and they upped the pace and went all-out thrash-style mental on the track. They bring the pace back to that opening riff about three and a half minutes in, and that’s where I think they are best and the heaviest. I like fast, thrashy music. But in those few moments they sound heavier and nastier than almost anything I’ve ever heard.

“Shattered idols” (track 2). Ah, good! They’ve been listening. It opens with a doom-like riff that chugs away at the bottom end, and then… no! They’ve done it again. Someone has flicked the switch from 33 to 45 rpm. For the majority of the song, however, they play around riff that grinds away like some kind of underground drill boring through granite.

And so the rest of the demo goes with Scythian morphing from thrashing moments of breakneck speed to ponderously heavy moments of doom-laden riff upon bouncing doom-laden riff. The music sounds like a fusion of death, thrash, black and doom metal. And for the most part it really works.

The final track is a cover of black metal Bathory‘s “Holocaust” (from their Blood Fire Death album, 1988). It has an authentic early thrash/black metal production to it, which is nice, with the bass levels rolled back a bit.

Conclusion

Overall, I enjoyed this. It doesn’t quite the spot for me but there are some brilliant moments that genuinely made me smile when I heard them for the first time. I’d certainly be interested to check out their newer material on Bandcamp.

Review score: 80%

Runemagick—Voyage to Desolation / Dawn of the End (2008)

Runemagick—Voyage to Desolation / Dawn of the End (2008)

Runemagick—Voyage to Desolation / Dawn of the End (2008)

Details

Recorded at Magick Sound Studio / Los Angered Recording 2006. Mixed and mastered by Ricklas Rudolfsson and Emma Rudolfsson at Los Angered Recording 2007.

Additional recordings for this release made at Magick Sound Studio 2007.

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Band

  • Ricklas Rudolfsson—Vocals and guitar
  • Emma Rudolfsson—Bass guitar
  • Daniel Moilanen—Drums

Tracks

  1. Preludium—enter the circle
  2. Voyage to desolation
  3. Chthonic temple smoke
  4. Retaliation
  5. Volcano throne
  6. Incantation 444
  7. Magus of fire
  8. Dawn of the end

Review

I’ve been trying to play catch-up on my reviews this week, setting myself an ambitious target of four or five releases to review (I’m actually writing this in late April). And then I got to this album and like the music everything slowed down.

Three-piece Runemagick hail from Surte, Sweden (a town of nearly 6,000 residents about 15km north of Gothenburg. Their style is mid-tempo doom-inspired death metal; think Hellhammer, early Celtic Frost or Bathory. Their music is funereal and atmospheric, plodding and crushing, dreary and murky. But it ain’t half good!

That was the problem. When I find an album that I really enjoy listening to, I end up playing it again and again. And the albums queued up behind it get neglected for a bit.

The album opens with an atmospheric track (“Preludium—enter the circle”) featuring sparse drums, a bell and chanting. It leads into “Voyage of desolation”, which has a doomy Candlemass feel.

The rest of the album follows in the same vein: thick doom riffs, heavily carving their way through the songs. There is atmosphere, there is gravitas, there is space. Ricklas Rudlofsson’s vocals have a baritone gruffness like Tom G Warrior (Hellhammer Celtic Frost/Triptykon).

Conclusion

This album conjures images of dark Scandinavian winters. This could be the soundtrack to the apocalypse (had Slayer not got there first).

I’ve been really impressed with this album. This is definitely going to be grouped amongst my favourites from this project.

Review score: 100%

Resurrecturis—Non Voglio Morrire (2009)

Resurrecturis—Non Voglio Morrire (2009)

Resurrecturis—Non Voglio Morrire (2009)

Details

Recorded at Acme recording studio and slept upon for months by Davide Rosati (a real professionist!). Mixed and salvaged at Potemkin Studio by Paolo Ojetti and Alessandro Vagnoni (mixing assistant).

Band

  • Janos Murri—Vocals and guitar
  • Carlo Strappa—Guitar
  • Manuel Coccia—Bass
  • Alessandro Vagnoni—Drums

Tracks

  1. The origin
  2. Prologue
  3. Fuck face
  4. Corpses forever
  5. The artist
  6. Save my anger
  7. Calling our names
  8. After the show
  9. The fracture
  10. Away from the flock
  11. Where shall I go from here?
  12. Walk through fire
  13. In retrospective

Review

Straight off the bat, with “The origin” (track 1) this album has a rough and ready old school thrash feel to it. They call themselves death metal, but this definitely sounds more like thrash.

And that’s perhaps what I like most about this album: just as soon as you’ve settled on one definite genre and neatly pigeonholed them Rusurrecturis wriggles and squirms and they morph into something else. Which makes for one interesting album.

“Prologue” (track 2) is heavy song, but it’s melodic with a guitar solo played through a phaser pedal which gives it a bit of a space age feel. And beneath it is a delicate, tinkling piano. The song morphs into “Fuck face” (track 3) which is back to an in-your-face thrashing metal stab in the faccccccce.

“Corpses forever” (track 4) is a very straightforward death metal song featuring a gutteral Cookie Monster vocal. “The artist” (track 5) has a latter-days Celtic Frost feel. It is slow and brooding, it is heavy and avant-garde with melodic female vocals. Then it’s back to largely generic death metal with “Save my anger” (track 6) apart from the almost nu-metal style shouty-melodic chorus.

Track 7 introduces us to another face of Resurrecturis. “Calling our names” is a ballad, in the style of a Pantera ballad. It is fragile and melodic but heavy as.

“After the show” (track 8) initially feels like ‘proper’ death metal, in the tradition of Chuck Schuldiner and Death, but in typical Resurrecturis style they throw in a few other influences, and a melodic chorus gets barked down in a very call-and-answer way. Good stuff.

“The fracture” (track 9) is a solid metal song with mostly clean vocals, a cracking melody, and a enough kickdrums to keep most metalheads happy. “Away from the flock” (track 10) has quite an ‘acidic’ guitar intro, and it’s back to the growling vocals. This is probably the darkest-sounding song on the album.

“Where shall I go from here?” (track 11) has quite a nu-metal feel but does feature a fantastic interweaving dual-guitar duel halfway through that segues into a passionate solo.

“Walk through fire” (track 12) follows in the vein of track 9, with clean and growling vocals trading lines. This has a more traditional melodic death metal vibe to it.

“In retrospective” (track 13) opens with an ambient soundscape, like a restaurant or drinks evening. Cue acoustic guitar and heartfelt vocals. It’s not at all what I expected.

Conclusion

Never judge an album by the cover. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about putting this album on but boy! I’m glad I did.

Review score: 70%

DVD

It was only while I was adding the CD details, having already written the review, that I remembered there was a DVD with this release.  “The Fracture (videoclip)” is a bare-chested display of testosterone-fuelled metal. “Making of” is… shows a few behind-the-scenes clips of the making of “The Fracture”; I didn’t find it particularly interesting, to be honest.

There follows a photogallery and video credits, and then the DVD finishes with 17 minutes of Resurrecturis live at Luckau, Germany from 26 May 2006. More bare chests and the drummer for some reason has an elastoplast on his forehead! The playing is good enough, the sound isn’t great, and the stagemanship is a little dull but it’s certainly nice to see the band playing live.

DVD score: 30%