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%

Twenty Ripped Angel—Days Full of Night (2004)

Twenty Ripped Angel—Days Full of Night (2004)

Twenty Ripped Angel—Days Full of Night (2004)

Details

Recorded at Invisible Sound Studios. Produced by Twenty Ripped Angel and Dave Nachodsky. Engineered by Dave Nachodsky. Released on Lime Records, 2004.

Website

Band

Information gleaned from elsewhere, I hope it’s correct.

  • Fritz T. Fell—Vocals
  • W. Sawczuk—Guitar
  • Cyril Charles—Bass
  • Rob Rabon—Keyboards and programming
  • S. Von Ziegler—Drums

Tracks

  1. One the way to Hell
  2. Here comes the losers
  3. Horror ride
  4. Sweet endeavors
  5. Somewhere in you
  6. She died a virgin
  7. Beautiful nothing
  8. Never ending joy
  9. Sixth
  10. The other side of me
  11. Solution 77

Review

This review has been a long time coming. I don’t think I’ve listened to an album to review quite as often as this one. There’s been a lot going down in my life just now on many levels, so I’ve been somewhat rather preoccupied with those things and not my CD collection. I’m playing catch-up once again.

But this has been a rather special CD to have as the soundtrack to these, at times, dark days. Days full of night, indeed.

Twenty Ripped Angel, on the giant Venn diagram of metal bands, fall somewhere in the area reserved by Killing Joke, Murder Inc., Circle of Dust (aka Brainchild), Ministry, and  Crowforce. This is the human edge to industrial music.

The album opens with Fell spitting out the lyrics “the devil was born in California”. Driving drums, and distorted guitars pound out the track, guitar solos cutting through the audio landscape like circular saws.

“Here comes the losers” (track 2) has a more staccato vibe that reminds me of Murder Inc. It has quite a punk feel to it.

“Somewhere in you” (track 4) has a relentlessly repetitive guitar riff that sounds somewhere between some kind of dangerous high voltage electrical equipment and a power saw. I love tracks like this.

“Beautiful nothing” (track 7) is another track with a terrific quirky riff. “Sixth” (track 9) also bounces you through the song.

Conclusion

That’s the curious thing about album. Just as you are about to dismiss the album as having run out of ideas, and about to label a track as a bit of a filler… it twists and surprises you. There is enough certainly to keep me interested from start to finish.

Even on my first couple of albums it felt like this album had always been in my collection. It just seems to fit somehow. Another keeper.

Review score: 89%

 

Jezebel—Forbidden Fruit (2003)

Jezebel—Forbidden Fruit (2003)

Jezebel—Forbidden Fruit (2003)

Details

Produced by Ralph Cardall. Released on 26 August 2003 on the Triple Silence label.

All songs by Eileen Daly except “Snow”, “Heroin”, “Kiss kiss”which were co-written with Nigel Wingrove, and “Decadence”, “Lecter and Bundy” and “Rock Chick” which were co-written with Tom Callaghan, and “Brute of Cute” which was co-written with Marvin Frost.

Eileen Daly on Facebook

Band

  • Eileen Daly — Vocals
  • [No information on other band members]

Tracks

  1. Intro
  2. Queen of darkness
  3. Kiss kiss
  4. Brute of cute
  5. Rock chick
  6. Garden of love
  7. Snow
  8. Heroin
  9. Plastic surgery
  10. Lecter and Bundy
  11. Decadence

Review

I had never heard, or heard of, Jezebel before (other than the Queen of Israel who features in the Hebrew bible, 1 Kings 16:31). The band was formed by (adult) actress and singer Eileen Daly who has apparently appeared on The X-Factor and Big Brother. But as I watch neither…

The sleeve notes claim ten tracks, my CD player claims 11. And sure enough, the album opens with a short, unnamed track which I’ve called “Intro”. That really didn’t endear me to the album before I’d even listened to it, as I had to edit the track names twice on my PC. (Oh the hardship!)

After the 57 seconds vocal scrapbook that is the opening track, “Queen of darkness” bursts into life with a heavy electronic/guitar riff. Daly’s vocals are mostly spoken which did make me wonder if this was more of a vanity project than anything genuinely musical but the rest of the album put those doubts to rest.

The album does have a dark, gothic feel to it but wrapped within an electronica and pop-metal shell. It immediately made me think of a fusion of Crowforce, Killing Joke, Depeche Mode and Efua Baker. What a combination!

Daly’s vocals do develop beyond the opening track’s multi-tracked spoken offering. In tracks like “Brute of Cute” she aims for a sensual delivery (think Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mr President”). While in “Rock Chick” and “Heroin” her vocals are more like Skin from Skunk Anansie: a little more ballsy and rocky. And then of course there are buckets of Kate Bush influence in this album, not least the album cover.

Conclusion

This isn’t a bad album as such. It’s melodic, the songs are well written. It’s gothic pop. It’s transient. It’s throwaway. But while it lasts it’s also quite fun.

My kids think that the CD cover looks “freaky”. This afternoon they hid it at the bottom of a pile of CDs on my desk. They stuck the CD for Immortal Sense Call it anything at the top. My middle boy said, “It says call it anything… so I’ve called it Bob.”

Review score: 60%

Opera IX—The Black Opera: Symphoniae Mysteriorum in Laudem (2000)

Opera IX—The Black Opera: Symphoniae Mysteriorum in Laudem (2000)

Opera IX—The Black Opera: Symphoniae Mysteriorum in Laudem (2000)

Details

Recorded and mixed at Studio Underground, Sweden in January 2000. Produced and engineered by Pelle Saether. Assisted by Magnus Soderman and Lara Linden. Mastered at Massive Arts.

www.operaix.it

Band

  • Cadaveria—Vocals
  • Ossian—Guitars
  • Vlad—Bass
  • Lunaris—Keyboards
  • Flegias—Drums

Tracks

  1. Act I: The first seal
  2. Act II: Beyond the black diamond gates
  3. Act III: Carnal delight in the vortex of evil
  4. Act IV: Congressus cum daemone
  5. Act V: The magic temple
  6. Act IV: The sixth seal
  7. Bela Lugosi’s dead (Bauhaus cover)

Review

And so to the conclusion of my introduction to Opera IX, to their (and my) third album The Black Opera: Symphoniae Mysteriorum in Laudem.

I took a few days off before listening to this album, having had a bit of an Opera IX overload last week. I also had my first ocular migraine, which I’m still suffering from as I write this—the headache has gone for now but the visual anomalies are still very much present. To misquote someone on Twitter this week, having a migraine is a bit like staring at the sun, with concussion, listening to black metal! Anyway…

Of the three albums I’ve listened to this is by far the most palatable. The song writing is more mature, the musicianship is more accomplished, the production is better. All in all this is the best of the three, which is a bit of a relief as I was feeling a bit down about not terribly enjoying the last two albums.

Musically the album makes me think of Paradise Lost meets Arch Enemy, with elements of Celtic Frost’s more avant garde moments: it’s gothic metal with a black heart.

Whereas with previous albums the songs seems to go on for ever quite needlessly, this time around there seems to be more of a journey, more of a purpose. It’s more interesting.

I imagine that the lyrics aren’t the cheeriest, but given that I can’t focus just now I’m not even going to attempt to read them. It’s hard enough typing this on a keyboard that seems to melt in front of my eyes. For accessibility considerations on future releases black metal bands may wish to consider not printing their lyrics in red on black in the most unreadable script typeface. Just a thought boys and girls.

Conclusion

All in all, a much, much better release than their previous two offerings. This has been quite a fun recording to listen to as I’ve pottered rather blindly around the house in a migraineous haze. Good work Opera IX, more like this please.

Review score: 90%

Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVx7Nv9RUS8]

Hanging Doll—Reason & Madness (2008)

Hanging Doll—Reason and Madness (2008)

Hanging Doll—Reason and Madness (2008)

Details

Produced by Greg Chandler and Hanging Doll. Assistant Engineer Alex Cooper. Recorded at Priory Studios, Sutton Coldfield and Madhouse Recording Studios, Birmingham between 2006–2008. All songs written by Hanging Doll.

www.hangingdoll.co.uk

Band

  • Sally Holliday—Vocals
  • Daniel Leddy—Guitars and vocals
  • Kev Wilson—Bass and vocals
  • Aryan Amoli—Keyboards
  • Alex Cooper—Drums

Tracks

  1. Reason and madness
  2. Blood ridden skies
  3. Hope springs eternal
  4. Sweet retribution
  5. Echoes of sorrow
  6. A formidable mistake
  7. Forlorn
  8. Twist of a deity
  9. Iniquity
  10. Silence in solitude

Review

I often wonder why I insist on spending an entire week trying to ‘get inside’ each album I listen to. I play it to death via headphones on my phone, or on my PC at home and work, or in the car. In truth, most of the time, the opinion that I make on my first listen through rarely changes. I suppose I want to give the artists a fair run: after all, they have taken the time and effort to write and record these songs, the least I can do is listen to it more than once.

Hanging Doll join the long list of UK bands that hail from Birmingham, arguably one of the birthplaces of UK heavy metal (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Napalm Death, anyone?). Wikipedia describes them as “a British orchestral gothic metal band”. They are gothic in the vein of Within Temptation and Evanescence rather than Paradise Lost or Danzig.

While you can’t deny that vocalist Sally Holliday has a good voice, I do find the songs really a bit over the top. There is only so much drama you can handle in one album: real life simply isn’t an opera!

The album opens with a church bell. Of course! Could it be a gothic album, otherwise? (Yes, yes it could.) And then a rather pretty piano arpeggio, which sounds like it’s being played in a graveyard.

This sieges into “Blood ridden skies” an atmospheric song that twists and weaves, builds and falls. It has everything you might want from a gothic metal song: piano, orchestra, stabbing chords, growls, melody, angst, pain and beauty. It’s not a bad song, to be honest.

The next couple of songs, “Hope springs eternal” and “Sweet retribution” I found a bit tedious, to be honest. The vocal melody in both songs pretty much sums up what I don’t like in a song.

“Echoes of sorrow” builds from a clean guitar arpeggio, in the style of Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates”. It’s not a bad song, even if it does get a bit OTT and melodramatic towards the end.

Conclusion

And that about sums up the rest of the album for me. There are moments of real beauty, and the playing is superb but these musical ideas are packaged and decorated in a way that just doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t touch me, it doesn’t move me, it doesn’t excite me.

But… I can appreciate why some people might enjoy this. If you like your metal served with black lace, dark eyeliner, and with spoonfuls of over-the-top emotion then I could whole heartedly recommend Hanging Doll.

For me, though, this is very much my cup of tea. And I don’t drink tea.

Review score: 58%

Video

Paradise Lost—In Requiem (2007)

Paradise Lost—In Requiem (2007)

Paradise Lost—In Requiem (2007)

Details

From the liner notes: “In 2006 Paradise Lost signed a worldwide deal with Century Media Records and started working on something new that will soon become another classic: “In Requiem”. Produced by Rhys Fulber (Fear Factory) and mixed by Mike Frazer (AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica).

Band

  • Nick Holmes—Vocals
  • Greg Mackintosh—Lead guitar
  • Aaron Aedy—Rhythm guitar
  • Steve Edmondson—Bass
  • Jeff Singer—Drums

Tracks

  1. Never for the damned
  2. Ash & debris
  3. The enemy
  4. Praise lamented shade
  5. Requiem
  6. Unreachable
  7. Prelude to descent
  8. Fallen children
  9. Beneath black skies
  10. Sedative god
  11. Your own reality

Review

This is the first Paradise Lost album that I’ve listened to since 1991’s classic second studio album Gothic, a cassette that I literally wore out from listening to it over and over again, and on first listening I was really quite disappointed. “When did Paradise Lost become a pop band?!” I exclaimed on first listening.

In Requiem is studio album number eleven and, well, they’ve changed. Which isn’t surprising really given that 16 years and 8 studio albums separate the two. I had to remember that I’ve changed somewhat in that time too, from a naïve and timid undergraduate in 1991 to a married, ordained, father-of-three in 2007.

Maybe I needed to distance myself from the memories and emotions that I have wrapped up in Gothic and approach this as from essentially another band. I don’t have the benefit of hearing the path that Paradise Lost have taken in the intervening decade and a half.

The liner notes from this preview copy of the album quotes lead guitarist Greg Mackintosh talking about this album,

Musically: In Requiem is about finding the balance between brutality and empathy, between horror and beauty. Neither a celebration nor a lamentation. Simply the emotions that arise, being surrounded by life and death.

This is a solid album. It sounds like an eleventh album: more mature, more polished than Gothic.

It also feels less, well… gothic. It sounds brighter and more hopeful. To me it sits a lot closer to beauty than horror, using Macintosh’s comparison. It’s certainly very melodic, the kind of album that I could let my mum listen to quite easily (is that really the criteria for a great metal album?). It reminds me of the likes of Lacuna Coil, Evanescence, and Nightwish, Bands that probably list genre pioneers Paradise Lost themselves as an influence. As a result somehow this album sounds less distinctive and a little more generic.

The album opener “Never for the damned” begins slowly, a riff grows, like the sun dawning on an epic landscape. This is an album that sounds big; the songs feel as though they come from somewhere deeper, as though there is a history to them. Which fits with Nick Holmes’ writing style: he usually writes a lot more lyrics and then cuts them back to the key phrases to fit the melody, leaving them feel much more cryptic and epic.

It’s difficult for me at this point to pick out a stand-out track. I suspect that this is an album that will grow on me more as times goes on. For me this is one of those albums that works best as an album, listened from start to finish as one body of work. And that, for me is a good thing. I never really was a fan of singles for the sake of singles.

Conclusion

I have to admit that my initial impression was wrong. This is a great album. Whether it becomes regarded as “another classic” remains to be seen, but it probably deserves to be. There really isn’t one weak track on it.

I’m glad I stuck with it. It was one of those albums that I just kept coming back to. Just one more listen. And another and… ah! Now I get it. I like albums that you have to work at to get inside. Brilliant!

Review score: 90%

Video

Official video for the first single from this album, “The Enemy”. Not a particularly cheery video, to be honest.

Nick Holmes comments on the track: “Nothing to do with young guys in different uniforms killing each other. In this song I was thinking about different levels of hatred, and if a dislike for someone can actually be classed as hatred. Also how people can forgive people after unspeakable acts, yet other people become estranged over very small arguments.”