How many black metal bands do you know from Indonesia? Well, I used to know none but not anymore: enter Vallendusk. They are a young Jakarta-based band where the guys are in their late 20's or early 30's and they play atmospheric black metal where guitars take the lead. I guess it might be safe to say that Black Clouds Gathering contains some of the most intriguing and versatile guitar work I have heard this year. The tone is actually not heavy or downtoned, but more like crispy and melancholic. It's not groundbreaking, but the atmosphere they can create with the lengthy songs clicked with me immediately.
I found these guys totally by accident via Pest Productions newsletter, but I am so glad I did. I am now at my 23rd or 24th time spinning the album as I am writing this, so you could say there is something magical about it. I can't really put my finger on it, but I am totally enjoying this. The vocals are pretty atypical for the genre, it's not actually growling but more aggressive and raspy yet far from sounding hardcore or metalcore. What I like the best is that the mix is not too much in the back, the production is pretty airy and gives plenty of room for the songs to breathe and grow. This album is one of the biggest highlights and surprises for me so far and I have nothing but good news about this band.
Listen to the entire album below and support this excellent band!
Ataraxie: L'Être Et La Nausée
What is the first thing that gets your attention in this? Correct: the totally awesome cover art. If I were to choose the Album Of The Year solely based on the cover, this would be fighting for the top positions. Luckily the fun doesn't stop with the illustration: the entire disc is an absolute killer.
Ataraxie hails from French Normandy and they deliver some of the most fierce and crushing funeral doom metal 2013 has seen. L'Être Et La Nausée features five songs on a double disc and the entire running time is close to 80 minutes. It was actually pretty funny that their first single, Face The Loss Of Your Sanity, lasts longer than the entire average hardcore album. Now don't get me wrong: I love my hardcore and the quantity doesn't always replace the quality but here you have plenty to chew.
What is notable about this album that it requires your absolute and undivided attention. The songs are heavy, dark and weary. Most of all the shortest track, a prelude like, lasts three minutes where the closing monster, Nausée, lasts almost half an hour. It is not something you casually put on while driving to the supermarket to buy diapers for your baby or groceries for your family, this is something you listen home alone. Loud. In the darkness. Probably sipping some fine beer or maybe a shot of whiskey.
If you are ready to have some majestic, black doom in your life, get a hold of this album. You will not regret it.
Light Bearer: Silver Tongue
I found Light Bearer by accident (like many of my new favorite bands) totally by accident. Then again following all my posts and links and emails is not entirely based on luck, but sometimes I just don't have the energy to click on that link. I am more than happy I did that with these guys. Lapsus was one of the biggest surprises for me in 2011 and I was eagerly waiting for the sophomore album. Silver Tongue came out already in February, so I have had plenty of time to analyze it.
First thing you notice is that the guys have really focused on polishing the sound and are incorporating new instruments like cello that it fits to the mix beautifully. Album starts where Lapsus left off and it actually the second chapter in the trilogy. Beautiful Is This Burden sets the mood for the entire album and it's safe to say that if you like it, you're going to love the entire album. Once again this band will not let you go easily: six songs and total playing time 80 minutes. You see the pattern already? I only like albums with ridiculously long songs, having gross or provoking artwork? Ha, well that is not the case: I actually liked pretty much the new Stryper album too, let's see if I end up writing about that too.
There is a lot to take in with Silver Tongue and Alex CF's vocals are angry and consuming, but they fit the music well. Light Bearer is another genre breaker with elements from sludge to hardcore and post-rock to metal. The only complaint I have is that some songs could have more variation, so I sometimes tend to skip them. On the other hand the trio Beautiful Is This Burden, Aggressor & Usurper and Silver Tongue offer some the finest moments in metal music this year, so I would be crazy not promoting these guys to you.
Still not convinced? The guys are offering the entire album on their Bandcamp site totally free (or pay what you will option). Listen, go crazy and support below:
In Vain: Aenigma
Norway's In Vain does not necessarily win awards with the choice of band's name or the cover art, but musically these guys are something to watch out for. They have been active for ten years now and Ænigma is their third release. When I heard the first single, Against The Grain, and the chorus was stuck immediately in my head for days. Soon I found out the CD arrived in the post and I was able to fully take advantage of their sound. In Vain plays progressive death metal in the vain (see what I did there?) In Mourning, Borknagar or Pressure Points. The songs offer variation in vocal style, both growls and clean vocals and an interesting mix of instruments including piano, organ, cello, violin, trombone and saxophone. Think they went overboard with it? Rest assured, I think they found a perfect balance and everything keeps nicely together.
What is great about this album that there are no weak tracks, so there is no need of getting up from your seat and reach for the remote you can blast the entire album from start to finish. The songs are melodic, catchy and most of them have a chorus you can relate to easily. That makes the album instantly more accessible, yet not too boring thanks to good songwriting. The lyrics are mostly in English, but in Hymne Til Havet they sing proudly in Norwegian and the result works beautifully. Highlights of the album for me are Against The Grain, Image Of Time, Hymne Til Havet and Floating On the Murmuring Tide (that saxophone just gets me every time). I would recommend this album to every metalhead who is interested in skillful songwriting and progressive metal.
Listen and support below:
Enshine was born from the ashes of Slumber in 2009. The mastermind Jari Lindholm created the band together with Sebastien Pierre (ex-Inborn Suffering) and Origin is the result and their debut album. First of all I have to state that Slumber's Fallout from 2004 is one of my all-time favorite death doom albums. It has pretty much everything you can hope for in that genre and the album is nothing but amazing. Naturally my expectations were sky-high with Origin and they pull it off in my books. It is not flawless album, but very satisfactory indeed.
Origin is controlled by stellar guitar work and keyboards together with the suiting vocal delivery from Mr. Pierre. The songs continue pretty much where Fallout left off, offering a little over 40 minutes of melodic death doom metal. It's easily accessible album as the melodies are easy to follow and the songs are kept pretty dynamic and consistent. I used to listen to this album a lot and if you would have asked me about six months ago I would surely put it in my top 5. Then my everlasting hunger for new music took over and I kind of forgot to listen to it. However returning to it from time to time proves this band are capable of crafting fine songs and atmospheric space driven melodic metal.
Listen and support below:
Cnoc An Tursa: The Giants Of Auld
Cnoc An Tursa from Scotland has been around from 2006 and deliver their first album now via Candlelight Records. Their sound could be described as Celtic black metal due to the lyrical content dealing with Scottish history and poetry. Cnoc An Tursa play melodic pagan metal including traditional folk arrangements using pipes and whistles. This is what makes the difference with these guys. The folk elements are beautifully inserted inside the songs and they feel honest and fitting. If you have been reading my posts earlier, you'll know that I am a sucker for folk metal having violins, flutes, whistles or pipes but it is not a setting by default.
The Giants Of Auld is highly enjoyable debut from this Scottish horde. The good things is that there are really no bad songs on the album, but the bad thing is that since the album is pretty consistent it is hard to recommend any particular song as everything is good. The same applies to the vocals, the delivery is fitting to the sound of the band, but it feels a bit too monotonous if you listen to the album on repeat. However, my personal favorites are The Lion Of Scotland, The Spellboud Knight and the folklore cover Blar na h-Eaglaise Brice. I look forward to following the musical career of these guys and hopefully I can witness their first show in Finland too (or somewhere else).
Stream and the album here and support if you like!