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%

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.

Website | Bandcamp | Facebook

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%

Man of the Hour—Destroy the Machines of Slaughter (2007)

Man of the Hour—Destroy the Machines of Slaughter (2007)

Man of the Hour—Destroy the Machines of Slaughter (2007)

Details

Produced by Man of the Hour and Mike Brown. Engineered by Mike Brown. Recorded at Seagate Studios, Dundee in April 2006. Mastered by Jeff Waters at Watersound Studios.

Band

  • Tommy Concrete—Vocals and lycanthropic enemy of the cyborgs, second guitar solo of “Spores of the black unicorn”
  • Stevie Power—Lead guitar, reefers and backing vocals on “I only give a shit…”
  • Matt Justice—Lead guitar and steel
  • Soo C Diamond—Bass, bongs, bombs, bucky and erm… bumming (?!)
  • Bud—Drums and vocals on “The troll king”

Tracks

  1. The whirlpools of Hades
  2. I only give a shit…
  3. Destroy the machines of slaughter
  4. Werewolf lover
  5. Red nails
  6. The hideous mummified corpse
  7. The final battle
  8. We’ll show you the way to the wolves
  9. Stealing from the dealer
  10. Spores of the black unicorn
  11. Fang bearing brother
  12. Beware of the gnomes

Review

The difficult second album. That familiar psychological barrier that grips many a band following a successful first opus doesn’t appear to have phased Man of the Hour in the slightest. Like Iron Maiden before them album number two appears to be even more focused, even strong than their debut.

For outing number two Man of the Hour seem to have embraced their doom roots with a bit more vigour but also taken things a little gothic. There is more than a little Danzig in there. Particularly on tracks like the title track “Destroy the machines of slaughter” (track 3) which could have been lifted from pretty much any of the Evil Elvis’s post-millennium albums.

This is a strong album. While Skull Orchard (2004) was good, it did feel a times like Man of the Hour were really pushing things to the limit in terms of tongue-in-cheek homages to the genre. But like a pupil who has been coasting through class and has suddenly become aware of their potential, here they’ve knuckled down and delivered the album of their lives.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. The lyrics are still pure metal nonsense. Take “Red nails” (track 5), a track inspired by a story by Robert E Howard.

Axes. Sledgehammers. Conan the destroyer.

Red nails! Red nails! Red nails!

And the album cover and booklet aren’t great. The artwork has no continuity, there’s an annoying variety of often illegible fonts superimposed over confused photographs.

Conclusion

But do you know what? None of that matters. because the music is great! It’s uplifting. It’s heavy. It’s melodic. It’s delivered with passion and self-belief.

This is a Scottish band that I can be proud of. The only thing is… where are you? Your hour may have come and gone… but what an hour!

And who can argue with a band whose final recorded track is called “Beware of the gnomes”?

Review score: 97%

Man of the Hour—Skull Orchard (2004)

Man of the Hour—Skull Orchard (2004)

Man of the Hour—Skull Orchard (2004)

Details

Produced by Matt Justice and Man of the Hour. Engineered by Matt Maguire. Recorded at Studio 24, Edinburgh in sporadic bursts from April to July 2004.

Encyclopaedia Metallum

Band

  • Tommy Concrete—Vocals
  • Stevie Power—Lead guitar
  • Matt Justice—Lead guitar
  • Soo C Diamond—Bass
  • Engine—Drums

Tracks

  1. Friendship through steel
  2. Hey baby
  3. Enter the drug fuelled domain
  4. They’re never gonna take away our voice
  5. The crawling chaos suite part 1 — skull orchard
  6. The crawling chaos suite part 2 — beware the unseen
  7. The crawling chaos suite part 3 — quest for the unknown
  8. Spinal pressure
  9. Terminate / dominate
  10. Whip of fire (come lash me)
  11. The death throws (of choice)
  12. We all hail

Review

Judging by the “R.I.P.” on their MySpace page it’s probably safe to say that Edinburgh heavy metal band Man of the Hour’s hour has come and gone. Their legacy consists of two full length albums, this one and Destroy the Machines of Slaughter (2007), which I’ll review next week.

Man of the Hour is a band that knows their heavy metal heritage: crushing riffs, screaming Rob Halford-style vocals, and lyrical tales of drinking, sex and fantastic mediaeval battles.

Many of the lyrics are very much tongue-in-cheek, from the Spinal Tap-esque innuendo of “Hey baby” (track 2) and the Carry On style “We all hail” (track 12). But they are clearly written with a great deal of respect and love for the genre.

Metallum Encyclopaedia categorises Man of the Hour as “Doom/stoner metal”. They certainly have a bass-heavy, sludgy sound but there is huge dollop of new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM). Think Judas Priest meets Saxon meets Manowar meets Black Label Society meets Down.

Derivative it may be, but it’s written and played very well. They were clearly having a great deal of fun while writing and recording this.

Conclusion

This is the kind of old school heavy metal album that requires you to always write ‘heavy metal’ rather than just ‘metal’. It generates visions of grown men banging their head in sweaty clubs, adorned in denim and leather, singing suggestive songs of conquests (either romantic or against dragons and castles).

It’s the epitome of what many people think they understand heavy metal to be. They’re wrong. But it’s certainly a small part of it. And in this small corner of the heavy metal kingdom Man of the Hour have a self-prophesying name.

Review score: 70%

Koreisch—This decaying schizophrenic Christ complex (1999)

Koreisch—This decaying schizophrenic Christ complex (1999)

Koreisch—This decaying schizophrenic Christ complex (1999)

Details

Recorded in the year of your Lord MCMXCIX [1999] in Sheffield, north England. Calculated Risk products. Catalogue number: Risk #3.

Band

  • Koreisch — Lyrics, music, noise, tape hiss, backward programming, experimentation and improvisation

Tracks

  1. Justification by faith
  2. Forced attrition
  3. Submerged Tao fixation
  4. A premonition of life’s erosion
  5. 1 inch stab wound
  6. Caress this violation
  7. Eclectic powder burn
  8. Preordained incarceration
  9. The Kevorkian solution
  10. Evolution through pessimism
  11. Archaicathodemission
  12. 4,000 years of suppressed dissection
  13. Bleed like Christ
  14. The eating of food sacrificed to idols

Review

Encyclopaedia Metallum classifies Koreisch as “doom metal/grindcore”. But not in the traditional sense are they. While this album contains elements that lean in the direction of doom and grindcore, it is predominantly an experimental album.

I think I have only one other CD in my collection that comes close to the experimentation that permeates this release and that’s Faith No More / Fantômas / Tomahawk front man Mike Patton’s 1996 album Adult themes for voice.

My four year old, Isaac describes the music as “naughty music”. He said while cowering in the corner of the room, through hands protecting his face. “Put it off! It’s horrible!” he exclaimed.

To be fair, I did play him perhaps one of the creepiest tracks on the album “The Kervokian solution” which sounds like a series of Jurassic Park dinosaurs break through a plate glass window while a motorbike purrs in the background, only to discover themselves in a choir rehearsal.

The album is a hotchpotch of noise, hiss, screams and shouting, blasts and riffs. It’s more art than music, at times it feels like it’s almost verging on therapy.

Conclusion

The compact disc itself has a white label with a black ink scribble. This seems to be also a perfect analogy for the music it contains.

It’s certainly not an easy listen, and as much as I appreciate what they’ve done I’m not sure I would choose to listen to this terribly often.

Review score: 50%

 

Desolatevoid / The Last Van Zant / The Parish—A Crimes Against Humanity Split Release (2010)

Desolatevoid / The Last Van Zant / The Parish—A Crimes Against Humanity Split Release (2010)

Desolatevoid / The Last Van Zant / The Parish—A Crimes Against Humanity Split Release (2010)

Desolatevoid

Recorded by Jamie Hansen, November 2008. Mixed throughout 2009.

  • Andy Howard—Vocals
  • Mark Stolp—Guitar
  • Brent K—Guitars
  • Nick Carroll—Bass
  • Tim Smith—Drums

The Last Van Zant

Engineered by Matt Morgan at Sit N Spin in June 2008.

  • D Dill—Vocals
  • B Leslie—Guitars
  • A Glenn—Bass
  • C Leslie—Drums

The Parish

Recorded at Garagemahall, Appleton, WI fall of 2009. Tracked and mixed by Grp.

  • Ryan—Vocals and guitars
  • Grp—Guitar
  • Jon—Bass
  • Fred—Drums

Review

The CD says “A Crimes Against Humanity split release” but I can’t decide if this is supposed to be a true split album or more of a label-released taster to generate more sales. (It’s hard work being this cynical.) Whatever the truth I can’t help thinking that The Parish got a bit of a raw deal with only two tracks on the disc. (That said, their two tracks do last 14′ 43″.)

I reviewed  Desolatevoid in October. Their album was oddly prophetic: No sign of better times. I mean, it’s not awful but then again it’s not that great, either. More forgettable riffs, shouty vocals and  more than half-decent playing.

The Last Van Zant are a band that I had never heard of before. On balance, I don’t think I’ve missed out too much living in ignorance of them until now. They have quite a punk feel to them with the kind of guitar solos that I was able to pull off after only a few months of picking up a guitar. They have a big sound: rasping distortion leaking out of those poor amp cabinets, and a lot of shouting. A lot.

And so that leaves only The Parish. Only two tracks but boy! did they leave the best ’til last. “Suffer” opens with a southern groove-style riff that is shortly joined with growling death-metal vocals. It’s like Down and Gorefest jamming together. It’s wonderful!

“Dark Days” proves that the previous track was not just a one off. It opens with a mournful Black Sabbath-style riff that slowly builds to a trundling groove. This track lasts 10 minutes but not once does it overstay its welcome.

Conclusion

I wish I could split these EPs and review them one by one. If that were the case then The Parish would score considerably higher than the other two; perhaps even in the low- to mid-90s.

As I need to take into account the other 11 tracks on this release I will use a simple average: Desolatevoid: 50%, The Last Van Zant: 40%, The Parish: 90%

Review score: 60%

Decayor—Re-occurring times of grief EP (2009)

Decayor—Re-occurring times of grief (2009)

Decayor—Re-occurring times of grief (2009)

Details

All music composed and performed by Decayor. Engineered, mixed and mastered in Firetech Studios, Donegal by Kevin McCloskey and Decayor. CD kayout and photography by Grace Kennedy.

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Band

  • Pauric Gallagher—Voice, guitars, keyboards
  • Kevin McCloskey—Bass guitar
  • Gary Byrne—Drums and percussion

Tracks

  1. Stir of echoes
  2. Veil of despair
  3. The sacred heart is bleeding
  4. Weeping willows

Review

Last week was a rather busy one for me so I managed only to listen to the first two tracks of this EP all week. The last 24 hours has been a bit of a Decayor-fest.

My excuse? Well, I went back to work for a couple of full days on my phased return to work, and then I looked after our three boys (5, 5 and 3) from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon while my wife was in Northern Ireland. Which, rather conveniently, is where Decayor hail from. The album, which appears to be self-financed and released, reveals that it was recorded in Donegal in the west of Northern Ireland—south west of Derry, due west of Belfast.

The only other Northern Irish metal band that I have in my collection, that I can think of straight away, is Therapy? So it’s good to hear something else from there.

First up, the CD artwork is fabulous, which is really surprising given its homemade nature. It looks far more professional than many a release. There’s a mournful atmosphere to the cover artwork, alongside the almost obligatory illegible band title. All that lets it down is the off-the-shelf font for the album title.

This album is a curious mixture of death and doom metal influences. There are the slow, ponderously heavy riffs fused with gruff, shouty vocals. There are moments that hold a funereal soberness next door to thrashing riffs of fury.

There may only be four tracks on this EP, but boy! do they know how to craft long songs. The atmospheric piano and keyboards opening track “Stir or echoes” lasts only 1′ 20″ but that’s then the only sung under nine minutes long!

“Stir of echoes” ends with a peal of thunder than rolls into track two “Veil of despair” that reminds me in equal part of early Paradise Lost and early Candlemass. It clocks in at an epic 12′ 06″.

There is definitely a prog element of these songs. “Veil of despair” for example moves into a steady, clean arpeggio that then builds through to a heavier and darker riff and death metal growls. I’m not entirely convinced of the transition but it gets the job done. And to complete the bell curve, around nine minutes in the band returns to the original riff again. It’s quite a journey and while I did wonder on my first listen whether they had tried to cram in too many ideas, on subsequent listens I’ve quite enjoyed it.

Track three, “The sacred heart is bleeding”, has a rather pleasant riff. Definite echoes of early Paradise Lost again, right down to the growling vocals. This song has dynamics, crushing guitars and melody. There is a moment around halfway through the song where as part of the riff it sounds like Gallagher strums his guitar strings the other side of the nut. I’ve never heard that before in a metal song: good work!

The EP closes with “Weeping willows”, which in many ways is a more straight-forward, lamentful doom metal song… until it picks up some pace around halfway through but even then it doesn’t lose its doom-esque timbre. Again, references to Gothic (1991)-era Paradise Lost are easy to make.

Conclusion

When I started listening to this EP I was a little hesitant, uncertain about what I might hear. But I was very pleasantly surprised. This is a keeper for me.

Sure, there were a few moments that didn’t excite me but overall I can see beyond those to the larger picture and all in all this is a pretty decent collection of death/doom metal from the UK.

Review score: 80%