Bonus: Not Above Evil—Always Darkest Before (2016)

Not Above Evil—Always Darkest Before (2016)

Not Above Evil—Always Darkest Before (2016)

Details

Written by Not Above Evil with Damien Levette (tracks 4, 5 and 9). Mixed and mastered by Daniel Mucs. Drum recording at Big City Jacks Studio. Engineered by Martin Corral.

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Band

  • Sideeq Mohammed—Vocals and bass
  • David Gwynn—Guitar and vocals
  • Daniel Mucs—Percussion

Tracks

  1. When the day comes
  2. Adrenaline
  3. Unleashed
  4. Fibre and sinew
  5. Elevation of the form
  6. The close
  7. Doors and desolation
  8. Compression
  9. Turning over
  10. And the skies return

Review

About a year ago I reviewed Not Above Evil’s second album  The Transcendental Signified (2011). I was impressed

“This is definitely a keeper for me. […] This is an album that I would seek out to listen to, not just not-skip-over if it came on random play. Good work Manchester metallers! ” (85%)

I kind of got that right. Three-piece melodic death metal outfit Not Above Evil hail from both Manchester, UK and Stockholm, Sweden.

In October, drummer Daniel Mucs messaged me on Twitter asking if I’d like to hear the new album. A few weeks later a CD metaphorically dropped through my letterbox. (It actually arrived at reception and I picked it up from my in-tray.)

Thanks to the madness that is wardennial work in a university hall of residence, the CD has been sitting on my desk teasing me for the last six weeks or so. What was I thinking?! I should have stuck it on straight away, because it’s brilliant!

“When the day comes” (track 1) begins quietly . I forget this every time and end up turning up the volume and getting a fright when the drums kick in about 20 seconds in. After that it’s a stately plod to the end. There is a slightly ‘doom’ feel to the song as it trundles along at around 76 bpm, but that gives it weight and it’s by far the heaviest thing that I’ve listened to all day.

“Adrenaline” (track 2) speeds things up a bit, with a straight forward, barked vocal and thundering tempo. The song breaks down about half way before building from a terrific riff that you can’t help but bang your head to.

“Unleashed” (track 3) has a horror feel from the start. Like the souls of a thousand death metal vocalists are trying to communicate something. This track lasts until about three-quarters of the way through before shaking things up a little. Then it’s back to the original riffs until it’s over the finishing line.

“Fibre and sinew” (track 4) begins with a delicate and harmonised guitar lick that sounds very old school Testament – someone has been listening to their copy of The New Order (1988) – before punishing the listener with another slice of modern, hi-gain over-driven death metal.

“Elevation of the form” (track 5) sees Mucs pounding about every drum on his kit as the song builds up to a no-holds-barred rich-sounding riff. It’s by far one of my favourite tracks on the album and they kept it for half-way through.

After such a huge song, it seems quite natural that the next track, “The close”, should be short, instrumental and contemplative. There is no indication on the sleeve notes, however, who the keyboardists/pianist is.

“Doors and desolation” (track 7) resets the proceedings to the to the original programme and we’re back into a fairly standard death metal offering.

Then just as you suspect the album may just see itself out with a few album fillers, the stop-start magnificence of “Compression” (track 8) begins. It has a slower, looser feel, but like the opening track it’s really heavy. It’s definitely one of my favourite tracks on the album.

“Turning over” (track 9) opens with a tremendous bouncing riff and drums that could summon an army of the dead. Not Above Evil demonstrate  yet again that they are not a one-trick pony when it comes to song writing. They introduce new elements and riff after riff that twists the song in different directions. It does follow a bit of a pattern though with the song quietening in the middle, heading off on an interesting meander before returning to a pounding riff.

Finally, “And the skies return” (track 10) closes out the album in style. Like the opening track this has a feeling of grandeur, but it soon steps aside to let out the churning, maniac of a riff that it has clearly been trying to control. Towards the end of the song, the guitars slow down and wail, and the song walks over the finishing line at a steady pace. Like that scene of the soldiers entering the sports arena towards the end of Black Hawk Down (2001).

Conclusion

Not Above Evil certainly seem to be finding their voice but it is in the slower, more progressive numbers like “When the day comes”, “Elevation of the form”, “Compression” and “Turning over” that I feel they have most to say. The song writing is layered and complex and, essentially, very interesting. More like this please.

If you are into heavy music, definitely check out Not Above Evil. Definitely another keeper for me.

Review score: 90%

Twin Obscenity—For Blood, Honour and Soil (1998)

Twin Obscenity—For Blood, Honour and Soil (1998)

Twin Obscenity—For Blood, Honour and Soil (1998)

Details

Recorded and mixed at Sound Suite Studio from May to June 1998. Produced by Atle Wiig, Knut Naesje and Jo Arlid Toennessen. Engineered by Terje Refsnes. Mixed by Terje Refsnes and Twin Obsenity. Mastered at DMS, Marl, Germany.

Encyclopedia Metallum

Band

  • Atle Wiig—Vocals and guitars
  • Jo Arlid Toennessen—Bass
  • Knut Naesje—Drums

Guest musicians

  • Mona Undheim Skottene—Keyboards and vocals
  • Alexander Twiss—Guitars

Tracks

  1. In glorious strife
  2. The usurper’s throne
  3. For blood, honour and soil
  4. Upon the morning field
  5. The wanderer
  6. Riders of the Imperial guard
  7. The thrice-damned legions
  8. The 11th hour
  9. Lain to rest by the sword

Review

Well, here it is… four and a quarter years after I began this project I’m staring at the cover of the final CD: For Blood, Honour and Soil the second of three albums by Norwegian black/pagan/death metallers Twin Obscenity.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this album isn’t your usual black metal release. It’s strangely melodic, and has echoes of Celtic Frost’s early work, with avante garde flourishes and female vocals weaving in and out of the riffs and solos. The guitars are strummed quickly, the drums beat and crash at a m, and the bass rumbles beneath it all. The album is dark but grand, melodic but atonal in places (there are a few solos like this), and keyboards gentle tinkle a haunting melody.

Melodic black metal isn’t really my thing, so to me this isn’t a great album, but it is played with passion and conviction. I can see why someone might really enjoy this.

Conclusion

I had hoped for an outstanding album to be my last review of this collection of CDs. But I guess you can’t have everything (I mean, where would you put it!—Steven Wright). If I was played my albums on random and this one came on then I certainly wouldn’t skip it, I’m just not certain that I’d go hunt it out.

Review score: 70%

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%