Album Review – Nocturnal Escape / Uncharted Pathways (2020)

This talented German horde returns with a brand new concept album marking a stylistic change from their original sound to a soundtrack-like Black Metal offering.

Brought into being in 2014 as a recording project by  Leo and Klaus Bergmann after their previous band Bleak disbanded, Augsburg, Germany-based Epic/Atmospheric Black Metal band Nocturnal Escape is back in action now in 2020 with their sophomore installment, entitled Uncharted Pathways, a concept album consisting of five songs with a combined running time of nearly 58 minutes, marking a stylistic change from the riff-laden Melodic Death Metal found in their 2015 self-titled debut album to a soundtrack-like Black Metal offering. Featuring a grim and exquisite artwork by artist Daniela Teichmann, the album also presents to the listener a new growler, Paul Perlberg (replacing Thomas Zimmermann), and a new session drummer, James Knoerl, instead of the programmed drums from their first album, providing the overall sound a more organic and, therefore, more intense vibe.

The serene keys by Leo kick off the 10-minute aria entitled Exodus, evolving into a fusion of classic Black and Doom Metal where Paul roars and gnarls in a true devilish manner, filling every single space in the air with its background choir-like sounds, ritualistic drums and scorching hot guitar riffs, ending in a climatic and melancholic manner and building an instant bridge to Forlorn, once again presenting whimsical sounds blended with the band’s most vicious and extreme side, with Leo and Klaus slashing their strings in great fashion and, consequently, providing Paul all he needs to vociferate like a demon while James dictates the song’s charming rhythm with his sluggish beats. In addition, it becomes crystal clear in this dense and distinguished tune how the band decided to distance themselves from Progressive Death and Black Metal, being now fully invested in a hybrid of Black, Folk and Epic Metal.

Then featuring guest Rüdiger Bergmann on trombone, the trio’s acoustic guitars and low-tuned, rumbling bass lines ignite the also multi-layered and vibrant Tranquillity, morphing into an obscure and crisp Black Metal extravaganza led by Leo and his venomous riffage while Paul adds an extra touch of evil to it with his deep, enraged growls, also bringing forward a few eerie, symphonic breaks to enhance the intricacy and drama of the overall result, sounding and feeling as epic and detailed as it can be. And the band keeps stimulating our senses with their classy extreme music in Insight, where all background elements generate a Stygian atmosphere that will darken your heart and soul. Furthermore, the Black Metal blast beats by James make an interesting paradox with the clean vocals by Leo, resulting in a lesson in Atmospheric Black Metal with Leo’s crisp riffs and solos being the icing on the cake. And accelerating their pace and enhancing their electricity they offer us all the closing tune Departure, featuring guest vocals by Stefan Bauer, with James hammering his drums mercilessly until gentle piano notes permeate the air intertwined with heavy riffs and dense bass lines, flowing into a very symphonic, epic and enfolding finale.

In case you think you have what it takes to face almost one hour of the atmospheric and obscure passages by Nocturnal Escape, you can take a full listen at Uncharted Pathways on YouTube and on Spotify, and of course purchase the album from Apple Music, from Amazon or from the band’s own BandCamp page, where not only you’ll be able to compare their current sound with their debut effort, but you’ll also receive an exclusive remastered instrumental version of the entire album (which means almost 58 extra minutes of instrumental and atmospheric extreme music for your avid ears). Also, don’t forget to check what Leo, Klaus and Paul are up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their music, and let the atmospheric and very detailed Black Metal made in Germany found in Uncharted Pathways penetrate deep inside your mind.

Best moments of the album: Tranquillity and Departure.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Exodus 10:20
2. Forlorn 8:35
3. Tranquillity 12:34
4. Insight 12:21
5. Departure 13:54

BandCamp Exclusive Remastered Instrumental bonus tracks
6. Exodus (Instrumental) 10:20
7. Forlorn (Instrumental) 8:35
8. Tranquillity (Instrumental) 12:34
9. Insight (Instrumental) 12:21
10. Departure (Instrumental) 13:54

Band members
Leo Bergmann – guitars, keyboards, clean vocals
Klaus Bergmann – bass
Paul Perlberg – harsh vocals

Guest musicians
James Knoerl – drums (session)
Rüdiger Bergmann – trombone on “Tranquillity”
Stefan Bauer – vocals on “Departure”

Album Review – Colosso / Apocalypse EP (2020)

Pestilence, War, Death and Famine masterfully turned into brutal and obscure Death Metal by a heavier-than-hell unity hailing from Portugal.

What if a vicious horde hailing from Portugal decided to turn the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible, the Book of Revelation by John of Patmos, into gruesome and raw Death Metal? That’s exactly what a project formed in 2011, currently comprised of Max Tomé on guitars, keyboards and vocals, Alexandre Ribeiro (Grog) on bass and Robin Stone (Norse) on drums, collectively known as Porto, Portugal-based Death Metal unity Colosso, has to offer us all in their brand new EP simply titled Apocalypse, translating into modern and sharp Death Metal all the darkness flowing from the four riders Pestilence, War, Famine and Death.

After years of toiling in the underground, putting out six releases of ever-evolving Death Metal such as their debut full-length opus Peaceful Abrasiveness, in 2012, and more recently Rebirth, in 2018, Colosso seem to have reached their most demonic shape and form in Apocalypse, being highly recommended for fans of the music by Norse, Morbid Angel, Nile, Incantation and Suffocation, among other behemoths of extreme music. Mixed and mastered by Max Tomé himself, and featuring a beyond obscure album art by Phlegeton Art Studio, as well as guest vocals by Guilherme Henriques of Oak and Gaerea, Diogo Santana of Analepsy, and Sérgio Afonso of Bleeding Display, Apocalypse is an undoubtedly breathtaking and refreshingly diverse album, showcasing the myriad aspects of this bold and innovative Death Metal band without compromising on their aggressive, apocalyptic sound.

And pestilence and plague permeate the air in the vicious and heavy-as-hell Pestilence, blending the violence of Death Metal with the grim and infernal sounds of Blackened Doom while guest vocalist Guilherme Henriques barks and roars like a creature from the netherworld. Not only that, Robin smashes his drums mercilessly nonstop, with that disturbing and evil onrush of sounds going on and on until the song’s visceral ending. Then guest Sérgio Afonso lends his guttural vocals to Colosso in the also Stygian tune War, with the sounds of machine guns and explosions making the whole song even more realistic, leaning towards classic Death Metal. Moreover, Alexandre’s bass jabs and Robin’s beats feel like the epitome of evil, resulting in a pulverizing display of extreme music for lovers of the genre.

Max himself is responsible for the vocal duties in Death, a lot more melodic and crisper than its predecessors while still providing the band’s characteristic rawness and darkness. Furthermore, Max is spot-on with his razor-edged riffs accompanied by Robin’s intricate drums and, as a surprise, Max fires clean, ethereal vocals instead of the album’s characteristic putrid gnarls, bringing elements from Atmospheric Black and Doom Metal to Colosso’s core savagery. And last but not least, Diogo Santana provides his share of deep guttural roars to Famine, where the band gets back to their most demented and hellish mode, showcasing all band members in total sync led by Max’s strident riffs, while Robin sounds like a stone crusher on drums and, as a consequence, flirting with Brutal Death Metal at times.

In summary, if you’re an admirer of the meanest and heaviest side of Death Metal you must give these Portuguese metallers a very good try as Max and his henchmen have all it takes to explode your mind and darken your soul with their brand new installment Apocalypse, which by the way will soon be available from the band’s own BandCamp page and from the Transcending Obscurity Records’ webstore in distinct formats such as the awesome T-shirt + CD + Digital Download bundle. Also, don’t forget to show your support to Colosso by following them on Facebook and by listening to more of their somber creations on Spotify. As the four dreadful figures in the Book of Revelation who symbolize the evils to come at the end of the world get closer and closer to us, there’s nothing better than the avalanche of Death Metal roars crafted by Colosso to provide them a warm and friendly welcome, don’t you agree?

Best moments of the album: War and Famine.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Transcending Obscurity Records

Track listing
1. Pestilence 8:14
2. War 4:07
3. Death 4:11
4. Famine 4:14

Band members
Max Tomé – guitars, keyboards, vocals on “Death”
Alexandre Ribeiro – bass
Robin Stone – drums

Guest musicians
Guilherme Henriques – vocals on “Pestilence”
Sérgio Afonso – vocals on “War”
Diogo Santana – vocals on “Famine”

Album Review – Wolvencrown / Of Bark And Ash (2019)

Close your eyes and enjoy this excellent album of Atmospheric Black Metal made in the UK, blending the obscurity and melodies of extreme music with Nature and the emotions she conveys.

From the heart of the Midlands, the central part of England, more specifically from the city of Nottingham, comes an Atmospheric Black Metal quintet that goes by the stylish name of Wolvencrown, blending the obscurity and melodies of Black Metal with Nature and the emotions she conveys, therefore being highly recommended for admirers of the music by bands like Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone and Fen. Formed in 2015, the band now comprised of Nick on vocals and guitar, Jack also on the guitar, Reece on bass, Will on keyboards and Matt on drums is unleashing upon us their first full-length opus entitled Of Bark And Ash, following the naturalistic and atmospheric path of melodies and feelings of longing and yearning of their 2017 self-titled debut EP, being packed with stunning riffs, inspiring passages and enfolding keyboards, turning it into a must-listen for anyone who enjoys the absolute heaviness of extreme music spiced up by an embracing atmosphere.

The opening tune, titled Earths Eternal Dawn, sounds brutal and grim from the very first second, with the keys by Will adding a phantasmagorical touch to the band’s classic Black Metal while Matt provides us all we need to headbang like maniacs and Nick growls and gnarls in a truly devilish manner. After such classy welcome card, the band offers us an epic composition divided in two parts, starting with 1194 pt.I, exhaling intricacy, progressiveness and obscurity, with Nick and Jack slashing their axes beautifully. Furthermore, Matt’s beats and fills couldn’t have sounded more complex and violent, while Will’s keys once again bring a delicate balance to the overall result; whereas the second part, simply titled 1194 pt.II, is as grandiose and dense as part one, with Nick leading his horde with his anguished roars while the guitars sound absolutely pulverizing and sharper than a knife, living up to the legacy of both old school and more contemporary Black Metal and with its last part being an amazing, massive sonic havoc.

More rhythmic and atmospheric thanks to the outstanding job done by both Will and Matt, Infernal Throne presents Stygian vociferations by Nick that will penetrate deep inside your soul, while their riffs blacken our hearts mercilessly, and Wolvencrown keep hammering our heads and darkening the skies with their top-of-the-line Atmospheric Black Metal in  the title-track Of Bark and Ash, filled with folk and epic elements. Moreover, the beats by Matt are powerfully complemented by Reece’s thunderous bass lines, resulting in a full-bodied aria that’s at the same time an ode to darkness and Nature, which in the end obviously coexist in perfect harmony, not to mention Nick’s furious screams to make things even more intense and disturbing, just the way we like it in extreme music.

Leaning towards classic Atmospheric Black Metal, Towards Broken Depths mixes scorching riffs with ambient keys and blast beats, again bringing to our avid ears the demonic gnarls by Nick while Reece keeps the atmosphere as dense as possible with his bass lines. Then the cryptic keys by Will ignite the also furious and melodic Destined, perhaps the most epic of all tracks, with all instruments sounding austere and flammable throughout the entire song and with both Nick and Jack stealing the spotlight with their unstoppable riffage, whereas endless melancholy flows from the closing tune titled S.A.D., a lot more melodic and atmospheric than its predecessors while at the same time working as a grim “goodbye” or “farewell” by Wolvencrown, with the violent and harmonious sound of guitars crushing our minds in great fashion, ending in a contemplative and ethereal way.

You can enjoy this precious gem of underground extreme music in its entirety on YouTube, purchase your copy from the Avantgarde Music BandCamp page or from several other locations such as ImportCDs, Barnes & Noble, FYE and Sound Cave, and follow Wolvencrown on Facebook to stay up-to-date with everything related to their music and upcoming tour dates. Every single time our good old Black Metal is infused with the delicate but powerful sounds of Mother Earth, the final result is extremely pleasant to say the least, and Wolvencrown simply nailed it in Of Bark And Ash, showing once again how Atmospheric Black Metal is always the perfect choice for those times in your life where all you want to do is escape from your everyday life and dive deep into the wild.

Best moments of the album: 1194 pt.I, 1194 pt.II and Of Bark and Ash.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Avantgarde Music

Track listing
1. Earths Eternal Dawn 4:14
2. 1194 pt.I 4:54
3. 1194 pt.II 6:42
4. Infernal Throne 4:08
5. Of Bark and Ash 6:43
6. Towards Broken Depths 5:09
7. Destined 7:27
8. S.A.D. 5:46

Band members
Nick – vocals, guitars
Jack – guitars
Reece – bass
Will – keyboards
Matt – drums

Album Review – Arx Atrata / The Path Untravelled (2019)

Close your eyes and enjoy this Atmospheric Black Metal beast by a talented UK-based one-man army, bringing the beauty of vast and unspoiled landscapes and cold, cleansing winds to our hearts.

Wherever you may be in your life, the music by British Atmospheric Black Metal one-man band Arx Atrata can open a window onto that moment of hope and clarity you have always been searching for, bringing the beauty of vast and unspoiled landscapes and cold, cleansing winds to your heart, therefore being highly recommended for fans of the music by Winterfylleth, Ashbringer, Imperium Dekadenz and Agalloch, to name a few, or simply for those who still seek magic beneath the trees and under the stars. Formed in 2010 in Nottingham, a city in central England’s Midlands region, by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ben Sizer, Arx Atrata is offering to your avid ears and soul now in 2019 his third full-length opus, entitled The Path Untravelled, the follow-up to his debut album Oblivion, from 2013, and his sophomore installment Spiritus in Terra, from 2016, featuring a darkly stylish artwork by British artist Ellie Mowforth (Namurian Visions). With The Path Untravelled, Ben has unveiled even more of the qualities that have delighted fans and reviewers so far on his journey, digging deeper, reaching further and dreaming in even more vibrant colors to create something truly special.

The soothing sounds of nature and acoustic guitars invade our senses and grow in intensity in the instrumental intro MCMLXXVII until To Be Reborn comes crushing with its strident, razor-edged guitars and Doom Metal-inspired beats in an absolutely atmospheric, captivating and aggressive manner, also presenting lyrics that exhale melancholy (“A once-proud people, now brought to their knees / Their downfall created by their own hand, it seems / The end was coming quicker than foretold / The tears of young and old were heard throughout the land”). In An Undying Verse, the talented Ben keeps blasting his obscure and melodic Black Metal for our total delight, generating an enfolding ambience full of somber passages, demonic roars and crisp riffs, and let me tell you that Ben does a fantastic job matching the sharp sounds of his guitar with his anguished gnarls, with all background keys and ethereal elements bringing an extra touch of delicacy to the overall result, building an instant connection with the title-track The Path Untravelled, a grandiose display of classic Atmospheric Black Metal that instantly darkens our hearts and fills our souls with melancholy and grief. Moreover, the song also brings forward minimalist piano notes amidst potent doomed beats and hellish vociferations, resulting in a voyage through dark and desolate lands that goes on for over ten minutes of awesomeness.

Elmet is another stunning creation by Ben, showcasing a very melodious and pleasant rhythm where his riffs sound more acute and austere than ever, not to mention his blast beats and whimsical keys, inspiring us all to close our eyes and let his music embrace us completely. Brethren And Betrayer, the second to last aria in The Path Untravelled, presents the most gentle intro of all songs, evolving into a heavy but utterly harmonious display of extreme music where Ben once again delivers a lesson in Atmospheric Black Metal with his deep gnarls and endless obscurity, whereas the final song The Wraith already beings in full force, setting the tone for Ben to darkly declaim its pensive lyrics (“Beyond our knowledge there is a lost place / And none who reach there will ever return / Here he stands / Stalwart protector of all his lands / Until the end / At his hand, enemies were vanquished / Until he could fight no more / The spirit endures… the body is weak”). All instruments are in perfect sync throughout this superb composition, where not even a single space is left empty in its over ten minutes of metallic, ambient and Stygian sounds and tones, majestically flowing until an epic and somber finale.

Once again we’re having the pleasure of facing a multi-talented, hardworking musician that “multiplies” himself in order to generate full-bodied and dense musical beasts to metalheads like us, and if I were you I would definitely show my appreciation and support to Ben and his Arx Atrata by purchasing The Path Untravelled from his own BandCamp page and by listening to it in full on Spotify, as well as by following him on Facebook. If Ben’s main goal with his Arx Atrata is to take us all to unexplored, bitterly cold lands where we can isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and finally find our inner light or darkness, let’s say he more than succeeded with The Path Untravelled, leaving us stunned and, consequently, eager for the next step in his vibrant musical journey through the vast world of extreme music.

Best moments of the album: An Undying Verse and The Wraith.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. MCMLXXVII 2:27
2. To Be Reborn 5:52
3. An Undying Verse 8:17
4. The Path Untravelled 10:15
5. Elmet 8:51
6. Brethren And Betrayer 6:44
7. The Wraith 10:41

Band members
Ben Sizer – vocals, all instruments and synths

Album Review – Crest of Darkness / The God of Flesh (2019)

Expanding the feel, variety and depth of their music, this talented Norwegian Black Metal triumvirate returns with the heaviest, darkest and most personal album of their undisputed career.

Conceived in the mid-nineties, more specifically in 1993 in the city of Gjøvik, Norway, by vocalist and bassist Ingar Amlien (when his former band Conception was still at its peak) as a product of his own passion for sheer sonic brutality and devotion to the satanic ideology according to Anton LaVeys’ Church Of Satan and the Satanic Bible, Atmospheric Black Metal horde Crest of Darkness is moving barriers once again with their brand new opus entitled The God of Flesh, expanding the feel, variety and depth of their music, showing to be as much at home with more progressive elements as they are with the aggressive and dark, brutal side for which they are known. In other words, get ready to be dragged into pitch black darkness together with Ingar and his henchmen Rebo on the guitar and Berhard on drums, not to mention guest keyboardist Kristian Wentzel, in what’s the heaviest, darkest and most personal album of their undisputed career.

Arising from the pits of the underworld, Crest of Darkness comes crushing our souls in the opening track The God Of Flesh, where Bernhard slams his drums manically while Ingar fires his Marduk-inspired demonic gnarls in a pulverizing display of old school Norwegian Black Metal. If that wasn’t infernal enough to you, it’s time for The Child With No Head with its psychological, grim lyrics (“Forever it will stay alive / This memory has filled your mind / Forever it will drag you down / Happiness you cannot find / Selfish greed / Religious views / The smell of death / The sound of thunder / No forgiveness / No escape / You know your world is going under”) and absolute madness and evil flowing form all instruments, with Rebo sounding absurdly satanic with his riffs, followed by Endless Night, where a more serene, melancholic atmosphere evolves into a mid-tempo ode to hell, with Ingar vociferating the song’s Stygian words while blasting his bass chords at the same time, supported by the rhythmic drumming by Bernhard.

Enhancing their aggressiveness and rage with hints of classic Death Metal added to their crude sonority, the band offers our avid ears the disturbing The Spawn Of Seth, a full-bodied creation by Crest of Darkness where Rebo is on fire with his razor-edged riffs and solos, also showcasing demonic lyrics as usual (“You are walking the earth as ghosts / You are flying on the wings of death / The human race is your host / As long as it can draw its breath”). And blending obscurity, despair and sadness, the ominous and ethereal bridge Forgotten sets the tone for Euthanasia, a neck-breaking, incendiary tune led by Rebo’s hellish riffage and Ingar’s Mephistophelian roars, perfect for headbanging like a bastard in the name of darkness while Bernhard’s pounding drums bring even more violence to the overall result.

Blood, one of their most ritualistic creations, unites the sulfurous blasphemy of traditional Black Metal with the harmony and intricacy of contemporary Melodic Black Metal, sounding at times as if Danzig went full extreme, and after such fantastic exhibit of extreme music, the trio from the netherworld captivates our senses once again with more of their Stygian sounds in Godless Evil Eyes, again presenting cutting riffs and classic beats, spearheaded by Ingar and his harsh, crude vocals. And last but not least, Salvation In Hell brings forward total devastation in the form of Black Metal to close the album on a high note, with all band members demolishing their instruments mercilessly, in special Bernhard with his complex and vibrant beats and fills.

Featuring a profane, cult-like artwork by Norwegian artist Marius Engli Andersson, and available for a full listen on Spotify, The God of Flesh is another solid and electrifying pillar in the satanic church of Black Metal built by Ingar and his horde, pointing to a bright (or maybe I should say completely dark) future for such amazing traditional act hailing from the beautiful Norway. Hence, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook, to purchase The God of Flesh from their own BandCamp page (or click HERE for all options available in the market), and also to watch Ingar himself commenting about each and every track from the album on YouTube in three special videos (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). In a nutshell, darkness is upon us thanks to this bloodthirsty, talented Norwegian triumvirate, proving once and for all evil always results in first-class extreme music.

Best moments of the album: The Child With No Head, The Spawn Of Seth and Blood.

Worst moments of the album: Endless Night.

Released in 2019 My Kingdom Music

Track listing
1. The God Of Flesh 4:08
2. The Child With No Head 3:45
3. Endless Night 5:40
4. The Spawn Of Seth 5:06
5. Forgotten 2:24
6. Euthanasia 5:40
7. Blood 4:13
8. Godless Evil Eyes 3:47
9. Salvation In Hell 4:24

Band members
Ingar Amlien – vocals, bass
Rebo – lead and rhythm guitar
Bernhard – drums

Guest musician
Kristian Wentzel – keyboards

Album Review – Forlet Sires / Holy (2019)

The “abandoned forefathers” of Switzerland continue their explorations of uneasy, heavy music with their excellent sophomore opus of Atmospheric Black and Doom Metal.

Brought into being in late 2013 in Winterthur, a Swiss city northeast of Zurich, near the German border, Atmospheric Black/Doom Metal unity Forlet Sires might have started out as a conventional Atmospheric Black Metal project, but soon the band started to incorporate influences from several distinct styles such as classic Black Metal, Doom Metal and even Progressive Metal, consolidating a new approach on the genre without any boundaries while keeping a grief aspect in every tone. Now in 2019 the band comprised of Kilian Schmid on vocals, Tobias Kalt and Sebastian Vogt on the guitars, Matthias Menzi on bass and Daniele Brumana on drums returns in full force with Holy, the follow-up to their 2016 debut album Journey Towards Ruin and a lesson in atmospheric and utterly dark music.

Recorded by Forlet Sires at Gaswerk Winterthur with assistance from Pascal Pendl and George Necola, mixed by Billy Anderson, mastered by Justin Weis and featuring a stylish artwork by Adam Burke that perfectly depicts the album’s sense of death, abandonment and hopelessness, Holy presents an evolved version of Forlet Sires (by the way, an old English expression that roughly translates to “abandoned forefathers”, expressing how mankind has lost its way in various aspects) continuing their explorations of uneasy, heavy music, creating an elusive net of insecurity and surpassing music barriers while following the band into their sonic abyss. These words might sound a bit too poetic for some of you, but as soon as you start listening to Holy I’m sure you’ll realize no words can effectively describe the dark and atmospheric poetry flowing from Forlet Sires’ music.

Melancholy permeates the air from the very first second in the opening track Carnage and Candor, with Tobias and Sebastian taking the lead with their somber guitar lines, suddenly exploding into visceral Atmospheric Doom Metal for our total delight with Kilian roaring like an infernal beast. Moreover, this multi-layered aria brings forward tons of progressiveness and obscurity, getting more and more infuriated as the music progresses with Daniele adding a touch of evil with his Black Metal blast beats, ending in a truly grim and vile manner just the way we like it in Doom Metal. Then in Where Nothing Shall Thrive we’re treated to a classic display of Atmospheric Black and Doom Metal that leans towards the most vicious form of Blackened Doom you can think of, all enhanced by the physiological and somber lyrics vociferated by Kilian (“You’re alive, alone. You’re afraid, you tried. Devils are in your mind, lining you up to die. Fade away, longing for more. Feel the void, mourn the waste of life. Youth was lost, faster than you thought. Midlife has passed, all you did was dreaming. Gently conditioned, ambition repressed by degrees.”). And to make things even better, the stringed trio Tobias, Sebastian and Matthias exhale heaviness and evil from their axes throughout the entire song, not to mention the lesson in intricacy and darkness given by Daniele on drums.

Dead Skin, a demonic hybrid of Progressive Metal and Blackened Doom by the quintet, sounds and feels as wicked as it can be,  with Kilian leading his horde with his demented growls and gnarls while the sound of guitars penetrates deep inside your skin and Matthias delivers tons of groove from his bass, resulting in a full-bodied composition that will please all fans of the genre without a shadow of a doubt. And lastly, the thunderous bass by Matthias together with Daniele’s drums generate a beyond aggressive atmosphere in We Roam This World Alone, the epitome of Atmospheric Doom Metal showcasing Stygian words that carry a message of anguish and grief growled by Kilian (“Cold sorrow claims all hope. Live on, for reasons unknown. Falling. Fallen. While I’m bleeding unappealing strands of purulence, I am feeding off a cyst on this dry cunt.”). Hence, keep banging your head nonstop to Tobias’ and Sebastian’s crushing riffage until the song’s climatic finale, overflowing desperation and evil.

It’s quite impressive how Forlet Sires are capable of crafting lengthy, complex and sorrowful compositions without sounding tiresome or repetitive; quite the contrary, each one of the four songs found in Holy, available in full on Spotify, will keep you mesmerized, dragging you into a downward spiral of darkness together with the band, which in the end means they were more than successful in their aforementioned duty of generating fresh and at the same time mournful music. If you want to show your true support to this talented Swiss army of doom, go check what they’re up to on Facebook and grab your copy of Holy from their BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon, preparing your blackened mind and soul for the most desolating and melancholic moments in life.

Best moments of the album: Where Nothing Shall Thrive and We Roam This World Alone.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Cruel Bones

Track listing
1. Carnage and Candor 12:37
2. Where Nothing Shall Thrive 7:45
3. Dead Skin 8:59
4. We Roam This World Alone 11:23

Band members
Kilian Schmid – vocals
Tobias Kalt – guitars
Sebastian Vogt – guitars
Matthias Menzi – bass
Daniele Brumana – drums

Album Review – Mavradoxa / Nightmarrow (2019)

The final breath of dark and heavy sounds by a now extinct metal unity will take you on a journey of isolation and hopelessness through the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal.

Let me begin this review by saying that I was absolutely shocked when I read earlier this year that the beyond promising and talented Rochester, New York-based Atmospheric Black Metal band Mavradoxa was calling it quits after only a few years of existence. Fortunately for all of us, fans of dark and atmospheric music, the band left us with three excellent full-length albums, those being their 2016 debut opus Sojourners, their fantastic 2017 release Lethean Lament, and more recently Nightmarrow, released earlier this year via Hypnotic Dirge Records. Although related to the tonal atmosphere and character of their previous albums, Nightmarrow sees the band developing and intensifying their song-writing ability, crafting simultaneously cohesive yet unpredictable songs with a progressive hue that is still rooted in Atmospheric Black Metal.

Engineered by Nicholas Alan at Subterranean Studios, mixed by Stephen Parker (Pillorian, Maestus), mastered by Justin Weis at Trakworx Recording, and featuring a stunning artwork by American artist Dylan Garrett Smith, Nightmarrow represents a meditation on the isolation and hopelessness of our age (particularly in the realm of the urban), and the consequences of technology and voracious consumption of resources. Mavradoxa’s founding duo Zachary Smith, also known as Nival, and Monica Finger, also known as Lux, together with guitarist Tyler Stasierowski (from The Highest Leviathan) and bassist Josh Mason (from Wandering Oak and Acrylazea), perfectly depict that feeling of solitude and desperation in Nightmarrow, positioning the unfortunately now defunct band as one of the most creative and interesting bands of the underground scene in the United States.

Featuring guest vocals by Matt Greenwood and an additional guitar solo by Nicholas Alan, the opening track Maple begins in full force with the razor-edged riffs by Zach and Tyler and the intricate beats by Monica generating a rumbling ambience perfect for Zach’s anguished roars, sounding as powerful and grim just the way we like it in Atmospheric Black Metal. Furthermore, the song’s progressive ending flows smoothly into the even darker musical voyage entitled The Carrion Shade, where Josh and Monica make the earth tremble with their respective instruments while the entire band darkly intones the song’s cryptic lyrics (“Black sun, black moon / In shadows, entombed / Flame, gold, & rust / slowly coalesced / in the pale of the / last winter sunset”). This is Progressive Black Metal at its finest showcasing all band members in absolute sync, therefore delivering a crushing wall of blackened sounds for our total delight, in special Zach and Tyler with their flammable guitars.

Matt Greenwood returns in the title-track Nightmarrow, where the music gets closer to what was offered to us in Lethean Lament, presenting more introspective and atmospheric sounds and passages. Zach sounds utterly enraged and acid on vocals, with Monica’s gentle clean vocals bringing more balance to this dense and bold feast of extreme music. Then an acoustic, ethereal bridge named Rustling Leaves soothes our souls and warms up our senses for Black Crystal Snowfall, featuring guest vocals by Swamp and sheer poetry flowing from its lyrics (“Ancestral whispers beckon us back / to a starless womb, to a time before / this place where all is languishing, / where all is ensnared by the grasp / of synthetic hands, becoming, / and ripping our bones from within”), also bringing forward elements from Blackened Doom added to their core atmospheric music. Monica’s steady beats and Zach’s and Tyler’s crisp riffs will undoubtedly embrace your soul from start to finish, reaching a climatic and piercing grand finale that gently morphs into a melancholic outro titled Umbra, where Zach and Tyler deliver a passionate performance with their acoustic guitars, concluding Nightmarrow on a high and pensive note.

If Nightmarrow, which by the way is available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, is indeed the last breath of Atmospheric Black Metal by Mavradoxa no one knows for sure. The band might decide to come back from their “retirement” one day to smash our senses again with their somber music, who knows? Until that day arrives (if it arrives,  of course), you can keep in touch with Zach and Monica on Facebook, and purchase your copy of Mavradoxa’s final journey through the realms of atmospheric and extreme music from the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp page (or click HERE for all details about the band and where to buy their music), as well as from your regular retailers such as Apple Music, Amazon, CD Baby and Discogs. Having said that, it’s with a heavy heart that I finalize this review (or maybe I should call it a tribute), as heavy, ominous and splendorous as the music by the now extinct Mavradoxa. Thank you for your music, Zah and Monica, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing from you two again in a not-so-distant future.

Best moments of the album: The Carrion Shade and Nightmarrow.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Maple 7:41
2. The Carrion Shade 9:25
3. Nightmarrow 9:34
4. Rustling Leaves 1:45
5. Black Crystal Snowfall 10:57
6. Umbra 3:40

Band members
Zachary Smith – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars
Monica Finger – drums, vocals
Tyler Stasierowski – electric guitars, 12-string acoustic guitar
Josh Mason – fretless bass guitar

Guest musicians
Matt Greenwood – guest vocals on “Maple” and “Nightmarrow”
Swamp – guest vocals on “Black Crystal Snowfall”
Nicholas Alan – additional lead guitar on “Maple”

Album Review – NONE / Damp Chill of Life (2019)

Accept hopelessness and succumb to the brand new opus by this unknown entity from the Pacific Northwest, picking apart your psyche and destroying your seasonal optimism with their oppressively bleak atmosphere.

Since their introduction in the spring of 2017, the enigmatic and anonymous Atmospheric/Depressive Black Metal unity NONE, from Portland, Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, has crafted disturbing and emotionally devastating music that have garnered the attention of many listeners of the genre. After having released their self-titled debut opus on April 11, 2017, a thick shroud of piercing guitar interwoven with haunting synth and tortured vocals marching in despair towards an empty void, followed by Life Has Gone On Long Enough exactly one year later, on April 11, 2018, developing its tortured personality further, NONE returned this spring like clockwork, once again on April 11, with their brand new effort entitled Damp Chill of Life, weaving visionary soundscapes with first-class Depressive Black Metal, picking apart your psyche and destroying your seasonal optimism with their oppressively bleak atmosphere.

As atmospheric and cold as possible, the intro Fade embraces our souls in darkness and sets the tone for the chilling and piercing sounds from the 10-minute aria The Damp Chill of Life, with its Doom Metal beats, melodic riffs and an ethereal background generating the perfect ambience for NONE’s desperate, raspy gnarls. In other words, this is a lesson in Depressive Black Metal, alternating between serene passages and aggressive and dense riffs and vociferations, and flowing majestically until its melancholic ending. Cease also begins as mournful as a lonely morning in the woods, with the music exploding into the most Stygian form of Atmospheric Black Metal you can think of after four minutes of pure serenity, all enfolded by beautiful piano notes and anguished vocals, once again showcasing a touching finale and building an instant connection with You Did a Good Thing, where the uncanny duo delivers more of their delicate but at the same time crushing music. Furthermore, eerie voices exhale anger, despair and the feeling of loss, matching flawlessly with the music to give the listener a true and deep melancholic taste.

It’s Painless To Let Go brings forward another visceral hybrid of Depressive and Atmospheric Black Metal, this time infused with Doom Metal and Blackened Doom nuances, with the duo delivering somber guitar lines, creepy vocals and endless obscurity for our total delectation; whereas I Yearn to Feel is a semi-acoustic composition by NONE that will penetrate deep inside your mind and take you on a journey through vast, gelid lands, always led by crystalline piano notes and showcasing an enfolding aura. And the music remains bold and inspiring, reverberating into A Chance I’d Never Have, beginning with acoustic guitar lines and growing in intensity and fear until an avalanche of dark and crisp sounds invades our ears. In my humble opinion, this is perhaps NONE’s record with the most introspective vocal lines, and this song is the perfect depiction of that, with its second half offering the listener sheer melancholy and rage in the form of top-of-the-line contemporary Depressive Black Metal.

I’ve already had the utmost pleasure of reviewing all albums released by NONE since the inception of such idiosyncratic and mysterious entity, and I must tell you NONE definitely know how to transform all the solitude, wilderness and bitterly cold winds of the Pacific Northwest into the best Depressive and Atmospheric Black Metal one can ever imagine, showing how connected they are with their homeland. Hence, you should take a good listen at Damp Chill of Life in full on YouTube (especially on your loneliest days), and grab your copy of such bitterly cold album of extreme music from the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp or webstore (by the way, you can find all special bundles of the album and all of NONE’s previous releases by clicking HERE), as well as from Apple Music, Amazon, CD Baby or Discogs. Simply succumb to the music by NONE, accept hopelessness, and finally realize you are no one, nowhere, and nothing.

Best moments of the album: The Damp Chill of Life and It’s Painless To Let Go.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Fade 1:58
2. The Damp Chill of Life 10:30
3. Cease 8:50
4. You Did a Good Thing 5:08
5. It’s Painless To Let Go 5:56
6. I Yearn to Feel 3:45
7. A Chance I’d Never Have 7:57

Band members
Anonymous – vocals
Anonymous – all instruments

Album Review – Waldgeflüster / Mondscheinsonaten (2019)

The perfect soundtrack for those crystalline winter, woodland walks, courtesy of a Bavarian heathen horde armed with their Folk-drenched Black Metal.

There’s nowhere like Germany in winter time. The forests, the castles, the markets and the “gluhwein” (a type of mulled wine from German-speaking countries made from red wine with cinnamon and other herbs and spices), all offer solace for the wandering winter soul, as well as the music as you’ll be able to enjoy in Mondscheinsonaten, the brand new opus by Munich, Bavaria-based Black/Folk Metal horde Waldgeflüster. Both the name of the band (German for “forest whisperings”) and the album name (which translates as “moonlight sonatas”) already give you a very good idea of how powerful their new Folk-drenched Black Metal eyries are, melting the coldest of hearts, but it’s after hitting playing and immersing yourself in their music that you’ll finally understand what Bavarian heathen music is all about.

Formed in 2005 as a one-man project by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Winterherz (whose full name is Jan van Berlekom), Waldgeflüster evolved into a full-bodied band in 2014 when guitarists Dominik Frank and Markus Frey, bassist Arvagr and drummer Thomas Birkmaier joined Winterherz in his quest for metal music for good, after having played with him either as studio or live musicians in previous albums and concerts. Building strongly on the band’s heathen foundations, melding clean and harsh vocals seamlessly and integrating folk instrumentation sparsely enough to augment (but never over-embellish the exceptional blackened metal grounding), Mondscheinsonaten is perfectly pitched to fuel those crystalline winter, woodland walks with its immensely infectious melodies and haunting refrains, with the entire band sounding extremely crisp, mature and cohesive throughout the album’s over 60 minutes of stylish and enfolding music.

Embraced by the sound of the howling wind, the melancholic, acoustic Einleitung (“introduction”) warms up our hearts for the dense and thrilling Der Steppenwolf (“the steppenwolf”), with Winterherz growling deeply while Domink and Markus extract sheer darkness from their guitars. In other words, this is a journey through the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal and Blackened Folk Metal where the music keeps growing in intensity as time goes by, while Thomas, armed with his classic blast beats, makes sure not a single space is left empty. Then get ready for over twelve minutes of a flawless fusion of folk and extreme music entitled Gripfelstürme (“summit storm”), where the band’s guitar duo once again hypnotizes us with their scorching riffs and with Winterherz being on fire with both his demonic gnarls and his obscure clean vocals, also showcasing ethereal passages and backing vocals that add a touch of finesse to the overall result.  And Waldgeflüster continue to invade our minds and captivate our senses with the atmospheric Rotgoldene Novemberwälder (“red golden November forests”), uniting the most visceral elements from classic Black Metal with the melancholy of Atmospheric Black Metal, with strident guitar lines, intricate beats and pitch black darkness flowing nonstop from this bitterly cold aria.

In Und der Wind… (“and the wind…”), a serene intro explodes into sheer aggression and rage in the form of old school Black Metal with Thomas sounding bestial on drums while Arvagr delivers thunder through his bass lines. Moreover, your soul will certainly get lost throughout the song’s ten detailed and dense minutes; whereas in Von Winterwäldern und Mondscheinsonaten (“from winter forests and moonshine nights”) we’re treated to more flammable sounds flowing from all instruments, in special from Dominik’s and Markus’ guitars, with Winterherz roaring with all his strength while the music brings hints of Progressive Black Metal to make things even more entertaining. Then closing the regular version of the album we have the delicate Staub in der Lunge (“dust in the lungs”), beginning in the most serene way possible with its clean vocals and acoustic guitars dictating the rhythm before the entire band comes ripping one last time with their refined Black Metal sonority. In addition, Dominik and Markus once again steal the spotlight with their piercing guitar lines for our total delight. And if you acquire the black/grey double vinyl version of the album, you’ll also get the acoustic version for Der Steppenwolf as a bonus track, a beautiful and very delicate alternate rendering of one of the best songs of the album.

In case you’re already prepared to get lost in the heathen lands of Bavaria together with Waldgeflüster, you can enjoy Mondscheinsonaten in full  on YouTube and on Spotify, and purchase your copy of the album from the band’s own BandCamp page or from the Nordvis Produktion’s official webstore (as well as from several other locations by clicking HERE). In a nutshell, as aforementioned the “moonlight sonatas” by this talented horde of musicians hailing from the stunning Bavaria are the perfect soundtrack for a cold and pensive winter walk, proving once again Folkened Black Metal is more than just a subgenre of extreme music, but an intrinsic part of the lifestyle and culture of the coldest parts of earth.

Best moments of the album: Der Steppenwolf and Gripfelstürme.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Nordvis Produktion

Track listing
1. Einleitung 3:08
2. Der Steppenwolf 7:51
3. Gripfelstürme 12:21
4. Rotgoldene Novemberwälder 6:28
5. Und der Wind… 10:52
6. Von Winterwäldern und Mondscheinsonaten 9:51
7. Staub in der Lunge 5:48

Black/Grey Double Vinyl bonus track
8. Der Steppenwolf (Acoustic version) 7:57

Band members
Winterherz – vocals, mandolin, keyboards
Dominik Frank – guitars, backing vocals
Markus Frey – guitars
Arvagr – bass, backing vocals
Thomas Birkmaier – drums

Guest musician
Johannes Schermaul – cello