Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2013 albums you may be missing out part 3

Vallendusk: Black Clouds Gathering

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: Origin

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!

Monday, December 9, 2013

2013 EPs, Demos, Splits, Covers, Singles worth checking out Part I

Malthusian: Demo MMXIII

I was completely crushed when Altar Of Plagues called it quits earlier this year. There had been rumors about it, but I simply didn't believe in them. As it finally happened, I was gutted when I missed their gig in Finland last year in Helsinki...I was at the same time catching Amon Amarth thinking these guys are still young, so I have plenty of opportunities catching them live...boy was I wrong.

Malthusian is a Black/Death metal beast from Ireland featuring members from Mourning Beloveth, Altar Of Plagues and Wreck Of The Hesperus. The demo I have to offer you completely demolished me upon first listen: brutal, bleak and full of relentless power. I would compare it to Antediluvian or Mitochondrion kinda caveman style with a bit foggy production and molten sounds, but they deliver big time. When the songs reach their peak they are capable of unleashing an ugly, full force bulldozer that will run over you, no questions asked. 

I hope this project stays alive and a full length is emerging soon...this three song demo is really a keeper!

Listen and support here:

The Great Old Ones: Bachelorette (Björk cover)

Hailing from Bordeaux, France The Great Old Ones completely floored with this Björk. Now Björk ain't metal, but an oddity from the mighty Iceland, but believe me Bachelorette cover is very much metal. When I first heard it, I kept pressing repeat over and over again. They have beautifully incorporated black metal elements into a song that used to be poppy making it completely their own. The song is pretty much perfect in length and offers variations in tempo and melody.

If you are not familiar with this band before, I highly recommend checking the debut album as well.

Listen below:

Vestiges / Panopticon Split

Vestiges are a post-black metal band from Washington influenced by hardcore, black metal, crust, d-beat, screamo and post-rock. The odd combination works beautifully in my ears and their two opening tracks set the mood just about right. VII is an instrumental slowly setting the pace and listener ready for the main track VIII which explodes in your face like a bucket of napalm. VIII clocks well over ten minutes, but the songwriting is stellar, so you will not be bored. At first I wasn't completely blown away with it, but I realize now that I have been returning to it every once in a while. Especially when I make my long walks in the woods, this music is an easy choice for the playlist. Vestiges have their entire discography up on Bandcamp, so you might wanna check it out. All albums are currently free (name your price).

Panopticon is a one-man brainchild of Austin L. Lunn from Louisville, Kentucky. Mr. Lunn is an environmentalist supporting nature, paganism and spirituality. He is a multi-talented musician and a hard working man and now also a brand new dad. Panopticon plays atmospheric black metal with a bit muddy production, but the emotions boils over like a kettle on a stove with incorporated flutes and banjos. Especially this year he has made its way to being one of my most played artists in black metal. When I heard about this split, I was naturally excited as what he has to offer now. The split has three recordings, two new songs and one cover. Usually his songs have the tendency to linger over ten minutes, but this time he keeps them under than mark and displays some new elements in his sound. My favorite is currently The Eulogy.

Listen and support below:

Ash Borer: Bloodlands (EP)

One of the absolute highlights this year was seeing both Ash Borer and Fell Voices live in club PRKL, Helsinki in spring. I could not believe my eyes both underground gems on a same gig in Finland!! The club was not packed, but luckily there were enough maniacs to make them feel welcomed. I grabbed immediately the new Fell Voices on vinyl (tour edition) and two Ash Borer CD's.

Bloodlands continues where Cold Of Ages left off. There is a progression in songs and since these guys are sucker for keeping it long and riffy, both songs are well over ten minute mark. Typical to their sound the vocals are pushed back, leaving more air for the drums and guitars to breathe. The songs are based on building the atmosphere using endless riffs and relentless drumming, no short one-liner choruses here. I would play this EP especially on a cold, gloomy winter night when the wind is howling in the corners and you are comfortably enjoying your whiskey by the roaring fire.

Listen and support below:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Top Finnish metal albums 2013

Omnium Gatherum: Beyond

Omnium Gatherum made its way to my heart permanently with their previous effort New World Shadows. It had basically everything you can hope for from melodic death metal album: catchy riffs, great melodies, great compositions and memorable choruses. The thing that still separates them from the elite is probably the vocalist Jukka Pelkonen. He joined the OG ranks in 2006 and as far as I am concerned he has improved with each album. His style and technique might not be the most versatile in the world, but he can adopt to the songs beautifully and with the new album he has improved and shows even his (excellent) clean vocals.

Beyond continues where New World Shadows left off, so if you like the previous album you can jump on this immediately. Everything is the same: stellar guitar work from Markus Vanhala and Joonas Koto, excellent harmonies and killer songwriting from Mr. Vanhala. I cannot stop admiring how Mr. Vanhala can pull off two topnotch melo death bands at the same time: Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium, but somehow he is capable of doing that.

When I first heard the album I was convinced that no other album cannot simply top this. As the year has progressed I have to confess they don't make my number one spot, but most likely enter my TOP 10. What is notable about the album that it is very consistent throughout. There are no bad songs or failures. from the moment the beautiful intro Luoto starts till the minute White Palace ends you will not be skipping tracks or yawning: the album will hold you for the entire hour and I am pretty sure you will be spinning this a lot when you crave for excellent melodic death metal.

Watch the first single here

Amorphis: Circle

Amorphis has been one of the most consistent bands to me over the last ten years. I wasn't really familiar with their earlier death metal style albums back in the 1990's, but I have been following them ever since Tomi Joutsen joined their ranks in 2005. I have nothing against the previous vocalist Pasi Koskinen, but somehow Mr. Joutsen just sounded perfect on Eclipse. His presence with the long dreadlocks and tattoos is manly as hell, but on top of that goddamn he delivers on the mic: both cleans and harsh vocals are delivered precisely and emotionally.

When the first single from Circle was aired, I have to admit that I wasn't impressed. The song was alright, but somehow it left me cold and a bit puzzled. The next single was totally opposite: I kept listening to it over and over again and finally could return to the first single realizing what it was all about. Ever since I picked the album from the record store I have been forced to limit myself listening to it. Why? Because I don't want to get too familiar or bored with it. I am not even sure if that could happen, but I know myself too well.

Labelling Amorphis genre wise is a bit hard today, but I would say they play progressive metal. There are elements of power, heavy and even some death metal but in the end their sound is not heaviest in the world. I feel it is a natural progression and welcome it with open arms, for some trve metal fanatics this might put them off, but the holy hell the songwriting is crazy good. I cannot stop wondering how in the hell are they capable of writing such good songs with the busy touring scOhedule. Somehow they are able to pull it off and the result is one of the finest Finnish metal albums this year.

Oranssi Pazuzu: Valonielu

My first encounter with Oranssi Pazuzu took place in 2011. I guess it was the reviews where Kosmonument was hyped as one of the most interesting Finnish underground metal albums and also the band's name which didn't seem to make any sense to me. I listened to Kosmonument for a few spins and I could relate to the hype, but somehow it didn't fully grab me by the balls. The story is different with Valonielu: from the first single I knew he guys have improved (in my ears) and their psychedelic black metal(ish) sound is totally unique and mesmerizing.

Valonielu consists of six songs and for me the long, epics Uraanisula and Ympyrä On Viiva Tomussa display beautifully how they are capable of writing intriguing songs when is time and space for the songs to grow. On the other hand I don't dislike the shorter songs, so for me the entire album is a triumph from start to finish. The vocal style might not please everyone, but it fits the atmosphere like clockwork. The biggest high point for me is the combination of sounds and the atmosphere they build together with guitars and keyboards. There are some psychedelic runs and sounds throughout the songs, but the overall sound it still toned down so you don't feel as being totally lost.

I guess it is safe to say that Valonielu is one of the biggest surprises to me this year. I just witnessed their first gig in Tampere a few months ago and they didn't disappoint me either live, so I have nothing but praise for these talented musicians.

You can stream (and buy) the entire album below:

Lost Society: Fast Loud Death

I found these young guys by accident through social media. They had been performing in a national talent show and one active music lover and blogger had posted a song from their upcoming debut album on YouTube. I am a fan of good and energetic thrash metal and that is exactly what these guys deliver. It is almost as listening to your old favorites from the 1980's coming back to life. There is Overkill, Anthrax, Slayer, Death Angel and Exodus written all over these guys, but they hot damn they deliver. I cannot remember when I had been amused in a good way as listening to this album. It is almost like the producer needed to tell these guys to settle down for a bit before they wrap-up the next song.

Fast Loud Death is filled with short thrash anthems: memorable riffs, great boyish sing-alongs and killer songwriting. They don't necessarily hit every mark in the books, but the accuracy is high enough to make my wanna buy Adidas sneakers again and start sowing those patches to that denim vest. Lost Society is fun, it is full of energy and most importantly they show that music is something to live for. I have also witnessed them playing live and I have to admit that the fun doesn't stop in the studio: they deliver live on stage too! Highly recommended for any thrash metal fan or a metal fan in general.

Mörbid Vomit: I Breathe Hell (EP)

Mörbid Vomit hails from Lahti and I Breathe Hell is their first EP. My friend is this band's manager and has been promoting them on Facebook. I decided to press play on his link and found out five minutes after Engulfed By The Plague that I had ordered the I Breathe Hell EP. Even though the band's name may sound they are some sort of rip-off comedy band, the reality is something else. Old school death metal with good songs, memorable riffs and great energy. They remind me of Swedish death metal legends like Dismember and Entombed, but once again they possess their own sound.

I Breathe Hell consists of four onslaughts and there is not a dull moment. The opener might be the best song the band has crafted so far (according to the vocalist V. Ryöti), but I am pretty sure we can expect a lot from this young and talented band. Finnish metal fans, grab your copy before they ran out!