Somnus—Through Creation’s End (2001)

Somnus—Through Creation's End (2001)

Somnus—Through Creation’s End (2001)

Details

Recorded in late 2001 at Magnetic North Studios in Cleveland, OH; except “Unfulfilled prophecy” (track 8) recorded live on 16 November 2000 on WRUW 91.1 GM (with bassists Lou Spencer). Engineered and mastered by Christopher S Keffer. Produced and mixed by Christopher S Keffer and Somnus.

Band

  • Scott Hilberg—Vocals, guitar
  • Dennis M Downey, Jr—lead guitar
  • Steve Rolf—Bass
  • Rhiannon—Keyboards and vocals
  • Chris Stolle—Percussion

Tracks

  1. The gate of wolves
  2. Warlock’s feast
  3. Dawn of spirits
  4. Tribunal of woe
  5. The deceiver
  6. Lament for winter’s passing
  7. Creation’s end
  8. Unfulfilled prophecy (live)

Review

Somnus were a gothic black metal band from Cleveland, Ohio, USA, formed in 1996 they played their last show in 2003, two years after the release of this their second album.

In true gothic metal style Somnus’s sound on this album is a blend of heavy guitars, over a pad of orchestral- or organ-sounding keyboards, melodic leads, and a fusion of growling male vocals with floating and fragile female vocals. Think: Cradle of Filth and you’re about 90% of the way there.

The album opens with “The gate of wolves” (track 1), a song that begins with a deep, growl that is joined by drums and guitars and a moment later keyboards. Every time I hear it I imagine the keyboards running up behind, a little late, “Wait for me! Wait for me!”

As the album progresses, I think it gets better. It gets a little more dramatic, a little more progressive, it pulls in elements of folk and pagan metal. But it’s by no means perfect.

“Tribunal of woe” (track 4) is, I think, one of the weakest tracks on the album: the keyboard voice sounds cheap, the drums are a bit of a mess. A couple of tracks on, though, “Lament for winter’s passing” (track 6) has a nice acoustic intro, and while the spoken vocal does sound a little cheesy, it’s quite a listenable, sorrowful song.

The closing, title track has a slow keyboard intro. Growling, spoken vocals begin the narration of the end of creation, “As I walk the path through eternity / Where the stars no longer reign / Fire glows on the horizon / With a trio of moons overhead”. For all its drama, and atmosphere I can’t help but think that this is Somnus’s “Stonehenge” (Spin̈al Tap). I still quite enjoyed it though.

Conclusion

Overall, not a bad album. One reviewer gave it 87% over on Encyclopedia Metallum. I can’t be that generous. Gothic black metal isn’t really my scene, although I do have a fond spot for early Paradise Lost.

 

Review score: 55%

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Hypnosis—Shadoworld (1999)

Hypnosis—Shadoworld (1999)

Hypnosis—Shadoworld (1999)

Details

Recorded and mixed by Fred Foulquier in March 1999 at Studio Le Phare, Merignac, France. Produced by Fred Foulquier and Hypnosis. Released on Black Lotus Records, 1999.

Encyclopedia Metallum

Band

  • Cindy Goloubkoff—Guitars and vocals
  • Pierre Bouthemy—Guitars and vocals
  • Patrice Abila—Bass

Tracks

  1. Scars
  2. Introspection
  3. Dreaming
  4. Frozen shadows
  5. Fear in your eyes
  6. Garden of delights
  7. Dead souls
  8. Alone in your head
  9. Scapegoat
  10. Ashes left behind

Review

Another late review. A combination of returning to work after a three week break, but mostly because I bought Soulfly’s last two albums and found myself listening to them back-to-back on repeat (Last.fm reports 171 tracks played in the last seven days).

On my first listen through I didn’t really connect with this album; probably another reason that I’ve delayed writing a review. Giving it a second listen… I’m no closer to liking it, unfortunately. But I can’t exactly put my finger on why.

Or at least I can but I can’t quite put it into words. This album draws together various sub-genres of metal that I, if not avoid, certainly don’t entertain. It’s almost like folky pop-metal.

Conclusion

There is the odd riff or solo here or there that I quite enjoy. It’s not that any of it bad per se. It’s just that it’s not to my taste. It’s like, I could drink a can of fizzy Vimto if that is all that was left and I was thirsty enough, but generally I don’t even notice it on the shelves in the shop.

Review score: 55%

Opera IX—1995—The Call of the Wood

Opera IX—1995—The Call of the Wood

Opera IX—1995—The Call of the Wood

Details

Recorded and mixed at PKM Studio, Italy in August and September 1994. “Born in the grave” taken from The Triumph of Death EP, recorded and mixed at PKM Studio in May 1993. “Rhymes about dying stones” originally featured on Demo 92, recorded and mixed in November 1993.

All songs produced by Opera IX. Engineered by Paolo Baltaro. Remastered at Massive Arts in March 2001.

Remastered edition released on Peaceville Records, 2009.

www.operaix.it

Band

  • Cadaveria—Vocals
  • Ossian—Guitars, keyboards on “Burn in the grave” and “About dying stones”
  • Vlad—Bass
  • Silent Bard—Keyboards on “The call of the wood”
  • Flegias—Drums

Tracks

  1. Alone in the dark
  2. Esteban’s promise
  3. The call of the wood
  4. Al Azif
  5. Sepulcro
  6. Born in the grave (bonus)
  7. Rhymes about dying stars (bonus)

Review

If you’re not particularly keen on black metal then this could be a long experience for you listening to this album. The first song is over 18 minutes long, tracks 3 and 5 are 11:06 and 13:39 respectively. If it turns out I don’t like Opera IX, I realised, then it’s going to be an even longer ordeal for me as I have to more albums of theirs to review after this one.

The album begins gradually with strange ambient noises—the usual cliches: animals, screams, moans and groans. The opening lyric isn’t entirely hopeful:

Eternal suffering.
Everlasting oblivion of tears falling into the dust.
I want to die.

The production isn’t great on this album. The drums sound a bit like a bag of spanners being shaken, and during the first track there is an overdubbed piano tinkling at various points that sounds a bit out of place until around 3:30 the piano takes the fore and reassures us that it was all part of the plan.

With such lengthy songs it’s inevitable that this album has quite a progressive feel; can you imagine nearly 19 minutes of verse/chorus/verse/chorus?!

The introduction to “Sepulcro” (track 5) is a welcome break from the onslaught of the previous tracks. Discordant clean arpeggios, padding keyboards and melodic bass runs leads to the inevitable stomp onto the distortion pedal, and the vocals flip between barking and singing, but it’s probably my favourite track on the album.

Conclusion

I understand that Opera IX have quite a cult following, particularly in Italy. This album just doesn’t connect with me terribly. While I wouldn’t go as far as “eternal suffering”, I think it’s safe to say that I might feel called by a different wood.

I have a further two albums to listen to Sacro Culto (1998) and The Black Opera: Symphoniae Mysteriorum in Laudem Tenebrarum (2000). I’m intrigued to find out how those compare with this debut album from Opera IX.

Review score: 55%

Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8d2cXO4fmt8]

Der Gerwelt—Human Breed (2003)

Der Gerwelt—Human Breed (2003)

Der Gerwelt—Human Breed (2003)

Details

Recorded September–December 2002. Produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Lazar at CDM Records, Moscow. All music written by Lazar. Ally lyrics by Herr Mathias Stalhammar. Layout and cover design by Lazar.

Band

  • Alex Duke—Vocals, conception
  • Lazar—Guitars, bass
  • Yanarrdakh—Drums

Tracks

  1. Intro
  2. A shred of me I cannot reach
  3. Newborn world
  4. Into mayhem
  5. A bleeding path
  6. Dreaming with the dead
  7. Human breed (ripped open to a new reality)

Review

To be honest, I expected to dislike this more than I do. Mostly because of the artwork, I think. It strikes me of new age crystal shops that sell authentic native American dreamcatchers and terrible wolf t-shirts. They would have done themselves more of a favour if they had just taken the first image from Flickr’s Last 7 Days page.

The album opens, as many black metal albums do, with a short, spooky-sounding ‘atmospheric’ track. It made me think of that level in Call of Duty 4 when you’re a sniper in Pripyat. Then the album-proper kicks in and it’s nothing like the intro.

A lot of this album I found to be dark metal-by-numbers. Loud and fast means heavy… right? But before I could dismiss the album outright each track seems to surprise me with something that stands out:

  • ‘A shred of me I cannot reach’ has a riff around 1′ 20″ that has an old-school feel.
  • ‘Newborn world’ has a nice melodic intro and a really interesting, screeching Whammy-pedal heavy riff.
  • ‘Into mayhem’ has a duelling melody played on two guitars between verses which adds interest.
  • ‘A bleeding path’ has an arpeggio which changes the direction and feel of the song.
  • ‘Dreaming with the dead’ has some echo-y, whining guitar riffs.
  • ‘Human breed […]’ has a spooky, acoustic arpeggio. The title track was the best of the lot to my ears.

I really liked the singer’s/growler’s voice. He had a good tone, a nice timbre even if by the end of the album all the songs were beginning to sound the same.

Conclusion

This is definitely a band with potential, I just don’t think they’ve got there yet; at least, not on this release. Each song had an interesting moment or two but it just wasn’t enough for me.

Review score: 55%