Album Review – Paths / In Lands Thought Lost (2018)

An impending opus of Scandinavian-inspired Black Metal infused with the bitterly cold and somber sounds of the Pacific Northwest, generating a stunning and vicious atmosphere that will beautifully embrace your soul.

Formed in 2013 in the city of Victoria, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Michael Taylor, Atmospheric Black Metal project Paths has evolved from its psychedelic-laced Black Metal beginnings to embrace more of a grand in scope atmosphere, more properly upholding and defining the beauty of their surroundings through the dense music they create. Hence, that evolution in the music by Paths is beyond clear with their impending third full-length album, entitled In Lands Thought Lost, a powerful and dense fusion of Scandinavian-inspired Black Metal with the bitterly cold and somber sounds of the Pacific Northwest, generating a stunning and vicious atmosphere that will beautifully embrace your soul.

Featuring an austere artwork by Sólfjall Design, as well as Austin Lunn from Panopticon as a sessions drummer (who by the way volunteered to re-record drums for the album to replace Michael’s carefully constructed synthetic drums for a more organic result), In Lands Thought Lost can be considered the most stylistically developed full-length from this crushing musical entity known as Paths, uniting melody and atmosphere in a puissant Black Metal vibe that summons your spirit back to the 90’s in each of its five distinct but thoroughly connected songs, showcasing how focused Michael was when writing this amazing album of extreme music.

In the opening track, a multi-layered and visceral creation titled Nights Tomb, a short intro explodes into brutal and atmospheric extreme music, with Michael becoming a beast with his demonic gnarls and crushing riffage while Austin makes sure the music flows demonically with his blast beats, invading your mind like a giant dark wave of sounds. Then we have To Brave The Storm, another classic and vibrant Atmospheric Black Metal extravaganza sounding and feeling more melodic and anguished than its predecessor, with Michael being flawlessly supported by the unstoppable Austin and his rhythmic beats and fills, with the song’s visceral guitar lines emanating a mesmerizing and creepy vibe from start to finish. And the song’s abrupt finish sets the stage for the melancholic Creaking Boughs, also traveling through the realms of modern Atmospheric Black Metal, with the intensity of the beats growing together with the lancinating growls by Michael, who also fires some delicate guitar solos embraced by the song’s furious ambience. Furthermore, a gentle break provides the listener some time to breathe, before the music once again bursts into blackened sounds and tones.

The following tune, entitled The Everbright Land, kicks off in full force with Austin taking the lead with his demolishing beats, while Michael makes sure his growls and gnarls are in total sync with his obscure guitar lines and background phantasmagorical keys. Moreover, his bass lines also bring thunder to the musicality in the most Black Metal of all songs, with the music remaining disturbing, harmonious and electrifying in its entirety for our total delight. And finally, ethereal sounds ignite the longest and most intricate of all songs, South Ever South, blending the introspection of Doom Metal with the band’s characteristic Atmospheric Black Metal, with its bass lines presenting a mournful tone in contrast with the enfolding sound of the keyboards. Sometimes their most Black Metal side dictates the rhythm, sometimes it’s their doom-ish and atmospheric vein that takes the lead, until desolate and Stygian sounds put a climatic end to Paths’ obscure journey.

In summary, In Lands Thought Lost is not only a top-of-the-line album of Atmospheric Black Metal highly recommended for fans of the genre, but the precision and dedication the mastermind behind Paths, the aforementioned Michael Taylor, put in the development of the album is so compelling to the point all of us fans of extreme music should start beginning him to turn Paths into a full-bodied group or at least into a live band, allowing us to admire his music in the most organic way possible, which is on stage. I have no idea if that’s ever going to happen, but we can all go “bother” Michael on the project’s official Facebook page, and of course inspire him to write more music by purchasing In Lands Thought Lost as soon as the album becomes available on the Bindrune Recordings’ BandCamp and webstore in digital format or as a red vinyl (limited to 500 copies). As a matter of fact, if you’re an admirer of Atmospheric Black Metal, I’m pretty sure you’re already well aware of that, eager to have such inspiring album on your metallic hands.

Best moments of the album: Nights Tomb and The Everbright Land.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Bindrune Recordings

Track listing    
1. Nights Tomb 7:32
2. To Brave The Storm 8:40
3. Creaking Boughs 8:43
4. The Everbright Land 9:11
5. South Ever South 12:33

Band members
Michael Taylor – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Austin Lunn – drums (session)

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Album Review – Progenie Terrestre Pura / starCross EP (2018)

Embark on an exciting journey across the stars with the new concept album by this Italian Atmospheric Black Metal act, representing a further evolutionary step in their distinct career.

Initially announced as a complementary EP to last year’s album oltreLuna, the new album by Italian Atmospheric Black Metal act Progenie Terrestre Pura (which translates as “Pure Terrestrial Progeny”), entitled starCross, turned out to be an even more powerful and impressive opus than this Veneto-based band comprised of Emanuele Prandoni on vocals, Davide Colladon on guitars, drum programming and synths, and Fabrizio Sanna on bass could have imagined. Featuring a classy artwork by visual artist Kuldar Leement, starCross uses its 30 minutes to tell a precise story, as the EP is an all-round concept release based on a tale written by the band’s mastermind Davide Colladon.

In order to make the release fully understandable beyond the Italian borders, the band decided to use English for the first time in their career. The music, either, is very different from what could be heard on everything Progenie Terrestre Pura (also known as “q[T]p”) ever released since their inception in 2009. “starCross represents a further evolutionary step for qTp”, says Colladon, “its sound is extremely connected to the story it tells, which is pretty dark. My intention was to recall thrilling sci-fi masterworks such as Ridley Scott’s Alien, Grant Morrison’s Nameless and the Dead Space videogame saga.” In other words, get ready to embrace fear, madness and despair in the darkest Progenie Terrestre Pura release to date, and prepare yourself for what might be your last trip across the stars.

The band wastes no time in starCross by offering us Chant of Rosha, an atmospheric, futuristic intro from outer space, enfolding us and taking us to the whimsical world of Progenie Terrestre Pura, warming up our senses to the breathtaking Toward a Distant Moon, an explosion of the most disruptive elements from Black Metal led by the razor-edged guitar lines by Davide, with Emanuele’s enraged growls creating an electrifying paradox with the excellent background choir, remaining vibrant, ethereal and aggressive from start to finish for our total delight. And that electricity keeps permeating the air, as the music builds a cinematic connection with the also impactful Twisted Silhouette, starting in an eerie manner with a dark narration before all hell breaks loose, with the song’s demolishing beats together with Davide’s crisp riffs and Fabrizio’s thunderous bass building the perfect stage for Emanuele to fire his harsh growls, also adding tons of progressiveness to its core. In the end, you’ll get deliciously lost in all the madness, wicked noises and flammable sounds blasted by the band throughout the entire song.

Progenie Terrestre Pura starCross A5 Digipack Edition

The Greatest Loss also showcases a modern and creepy intro that morphs into a blend of Atmospheric Black Metal with Industrial Metal, with all mechanized elements and nuances bringing an extra touch of lunacy to the overall result. Furthermore, Davide does a superb job with his guitar and synths by generating a menacing ambience perfect for Emanuele’s growls, with the last part of the song being a heavier version of the industrial music played by bands like Ministry and KMFDM. And finally, q[T]p’s last blast of obscure, futuristic movie-inspired music comes in the form of a bizarre outro named Invocat, where future meets past with electrified and cold, mechanic sounds being complemented by a background Gregorian chant.

Do you have what it takes to join q[T]p in their metallic space odyssey? If the answer is yes, you can get to know more about the band, their tour dates and future plans on their official Facebook page, and purchase starCross (available for a full and detailed listen on YouTube and on Spotify) from their own BandCamp page, as well as from the Avantgarde Music’s BandCamp page or Big Cartel as a very, very special A5 Digipack CD, showcasing a brand new  artwork (courtesy of Italian artist Ballak., who gave a face and a spaceship to the main character of the starCross concept, Robert I.C. Cross) and including the storyline of the EP in its entirety. You can also buy it from other regular retail places such as iTunes, Amazon and discogs (in vinyl or CD format), but if I were you I would certainly go for the A5 Digipack edition of the album, because if you’re going on a musical voyage through the stars, you better be armed with the best weapon and soundtrack available at the same time, right?

Best moments of the album: Toward a Distant Moon and The Greatest Loss.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Avantgarde Music

Track listing 
1. Chant of Rosha 2:22
2. Toward a Distant Moon 6:41
3. Twisted Silhouette 8:02
4. The Greatest Loss 7:50
5. Invocat 4:31

Band members
Emanuele Prandoni – vocals
Davide Colladon – guitars, drum programming, synths
Fabrizio Sanna – bass

Album Review – Et Moriemur / Epigrammata (2018)

Transcending the perceptions of the death and doom styles and bringing back forgotten elements from the past, the new opus by this talented Czech band perfectly depicts our attempt to cope with the death of those we loved.

Founded in 2008 in Prague, in the Czech Republic, Atmospheric Black/Death/Doom Metal supergroup Et Moriemur, featuring members of legendary bands like Dissolving of Prodigy, Self-Hatred and Silent Stream of Godless Elegy, has been spreading what they like to call “Existential Doom” all over the world ever since. The name of the band, which is Latin for “and we will die”, already says a lot about how obscure and damned their music sounds, with their brand new album Epigrammata, the third in their already solid career, transcending the perceptions of the death and doom styles and bringing back forgotten elements from Gregorian chanting, delving into the rich European history and using Latin and ancient Greek to convey their message. Featuring an array of amazing guest musicians, Epigrammata has all of its song names in Latin taken from the Requiem Mass, notable for the large number of musical compositions that it has inspired, including settings by Mozart, Verdi, Bruckner, Dvořák, Fauré and Duruflé. Originally, such compositions were meant to be performed in liturgical service, with monophonic chant.

The band, comprised of Zdeněk Nevělík on vocals, piano and keyboards, Aleš Vilingr and Pavel Janouškovec on the guitars, Karel Kovářík on bass and Michal “Datel” Rak on drums, had a few interesting words to say about their new album. “Epigrammata represents our attempt to cope with the dying or death of those we loved. To create a solemn and classical atmosphere we used lyrics in ancient Greek (the title itself means epigrams) and in Latin, more precisely from the Mass for the dead – the album follows the typical Requiem structure, i.e. Introitus, Requiem Aeternum, Dies Irae etc. – and of course the traditional, unisono male Gregorian chant. In any case we tried not to do a uni-dimensional record. So apart from the inevitable grief there is gratitude as well for having had the chance to share our life with them and hope that they are well – wherever they are.”

Whimsical waves invade our senses in Introitus (or “prelude”), with guest Kostas Panagiotou bringing epicness to the intro with his enigmatic words before a massive wall of sounds crushes us all in Requiem Aeternam (“eternal rest”), with the doomed, sluggish beats by Datel and the imposing background choir generating a truly Stygian ambience. Furthermore, Zdeněk sounds as demonic as he can be, not to mention the potency of the music coming from the violin and cello. Then the piano by Zdeněk kicks off a Blackened Doom extravaganza titled Agnus Dei (“lamb of god”), a song that reeks of sheer darkness where cavernous growls get deeper and deeper in a delicate paradox with the smother background elements. In addition, Guest musicians Labrini Karousou and Vangelis Mertzanis provide another anguished and eccentric narration, feeling more doomed than atmospheric, and absolutely haunting and dense from start to finish. And their somber mass of Doom and Black Metal goes on with another fantastic hymn titled Dies Irae (“day of wrath”), with the band’s stringed trio Aleš, Pavel and Karel being extremely precise with their scorching, damned riffs and punches, and with the keyboards by Zdeněk sounding beautifully eccentric and wicked.

In Offertorium (“offering”) we’re treated to a Phantom of the Opera-like vibe blended with the band’s otherworldly sounds and tones, with Datel simply smashing his drums slowly and flawlessly while the choir keeps mesmerizing our minds, remaining dark and vibrant until its grand finale; whereas in the slightly faster and more piercing Communio (“communion”), Et Moriemur continue to fire their low-tuned, demonic tones intertwined with the church-like choir and a huge dosage of melancholy, maintaining the album at a vibrant and perturbing level. And in Libera Me (“rescue me”) an eerie organ together with the cavernous growls by Zdeněk generate a truly enfolding atmosphere, evolving into a lecture in Blackened Doom infused with church music elements. Furthermore, the entire band is utterly focused and energized, extracting the most damned but at the same time melodious sounds you can think of from their instruments, with every single second of this aria being beyond captivating (especially the final recitation by Zdeněk).

Then the piano by Zdeněk dictate the rhythm in Absolve Domine (“release lord”), complemented by his pensive words and cinematic-epic-imposing background sounds, with the music growing beautifully until darkness is upon us once again in the Blackened Doom aria Sanctus (“spirit”), a headbanging mass led by the crawling, gloomy beats by Datel. Hence, this amazing composition will elevate your senses with its potent sonority, not to mention how the entire band is capable of sounding so devilish and gentle at the same time. Lastly we have In Paradisum (“in paradise”), a 10-minute voyage through the realms of Existential Doom where its first part is pure old school Doom Metal, until anguished lamentations permeate the air in one of the most obscure and hypnotizing metal masses I’ve ever listened to in my life. In addition, the song’s sluggish drums, serene guitars and epic keys will penetrate deep inside your soul, with an ethereal feminine voice ending this top-notch album of Atmospheric Doom Metal majestically.

Et Moriemur are one of those bands you won’t listen to anywhere but only during your moments of introspection and melancholy, with Epigrammata representing everything the band stands for in terms of music and lyrical themes. And in order to show your support to such distinguished band, go follow them on Facebook and grab your copy of Epigrammata directly from their BandCamp page or from the Transcending Obscurity Records webstore in a Digipak CD + sticker bundle, as well as from iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and Discogs. However, if you prefer an exclusive and more stylish version of the album, I highly recommend you go after the Epigrammata Gold-embossed and UV-laminated Box Set, containing the digipak CD with booklet, an A3 size poster having a special artwork, a fridge magnet having the album artwork, two stickers of the album artwork + emblem artwork, and an individual hand-numbered certificate of ownership for your copy. It can’t get any better, more doomed and more obscure than this, and I’m sure you’re going to love it.

Best moments of the album: Agnus Dei, Libera Me and Sanctus.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Transcending Obscurity Records

Track listing
1. Introitus 1:41
2. Requiem Aeternam 5:15
3. Agnus Dei 5:14
4. Dies Irae 4:12
5. Offertorium 5:44
6. Communio 6:14
7. Libera Me 5:18
8. Absolve Domine 2:47
9. Sanctus 6:05
10. In Paradisum 10:41

Band members
Zdeněk Nevělík – vocals, piano, keyboards
Aleš Vilingr – guitar
Pavel Janouškovec – guitar
Karel Kovářík – bass
Michal “Datel” Rak – drums

Guest musicians
Kostas Panagiotou – vocals on “Introitus”
Nikos Vlachakis – vocals on “Agnus Dei”
Labrini Karousou & Vangelis Mertzanis – recitation on “Agnus Dei”
Jaroslav Klvaňa, Karel Russ & Lukáš Pavlovský – choir
Andrea Michálková – cello
Zuzana Králová – violin
Jindřich Bešťák – trombone
Honza Kapák – acoustic guitar

Album Review – Isgalder / To The Hall Of The Stars EP (2018)

Enjoy the story about the journey of a man, wandering old forgotten paths in search of nature and solitude, told by a newcomer German Epic and Pagan Black Metal hailing from the Thuringian Forest.

Founded in 2017 by vocalist and guitarist Grimwald (Dauþuz, Wintarnaht) and drummer, bassist and keyboardist Moppel to hail earth and iron, German horde Isgalder has just emerged from the Thuringian Forest with a splendid piece of Epic and Pagan Black Metal influenced by early Falkenbach and Bathory, titled To The Hall Of The Stars, their debut EP that tells a little story about the journey of a man (the journey to the hall of the stars), wandering old forgotten paths in search of nature and solitude. Comprised of three original songs taken from the band’s forthcoming album and alternate versions of those same songs, the EP will provide you a very good taste of what Isgalder, which by the way is Old-High-German/Germanic and means “cold incantation” or “icy chant”, are capable of. Furthermore, although Grimwald and Moppel played all instruments and vocal parts in the EP, Isgalder are now comprised of the aforementioned dynamic duo plus VRCHTR on rhythm guitar and Aussen Geist on bass, meaning we can definitely (and hopefully) expect to witness the extreme music by Isgalder be materialized in the form of one or more live concerts in the near future.

The keys by Moppel kick off the epic and imposing tune The Ravendale, bringing an interesting “duel” of clean vocals and harsh gnarls, also presenting piercing guitar lines and lyrics that exhale Folk and Pagan Metal (“On farthest shores, there rest my fate / Far from mankind, the morbid, the pale / Native is that soil; silent and primordial / Astute raven summon me, to the hidden vail / The Ravendale / Forgotten and forsaken / The Ravedale / In solitude awaken”), all topped off by a climatic finale. Elder Wisdom, a very detailed and melodic creation by the duo, already starts in full force, bringing elements from Atmospheric Black Metal to their core Pagan and Black Metal, with Grimwald growling and gnarling nonstop while Moppel delivers brutality through his beats and some sort of “peace” through his keys, all at once; and as atmospheric and dense as both previous songs, Soaring Mountains showcases an old school Black Metal base solidified by  the band’s blast beats and scorching riffs, but with a strong Pagan Metal vein present in Grimwald’s growls and Moppel’s keys. Moreover, you’ll certainly feel compelled to sing its lyrics along with Isgalder (“Great soaring Mountains / Grey stone mystic monument / Arise against the sky / Wilderness defend”).

As already mentioned, side B of To The Hall Of The Stars contains an alternative version of the EP, without keyboards, varied vocals and a different mix. For instance, The Ravendale sounds rawer and more piercing, closer to traditional Black Metal, while Elder Wisdom is even more devastating and epic and Soaring Mountains goes straight-to-the-point as well, displaying an enhanced Black Metal vibe and feeling slightly less Pagan Metal. You can compare the regular and alternate versions of each song by listening to the full EP on YouTube, and don’t forget to follow Isgalder on Facebook and on YouTube. In a nutshell, To The Hall Of The Stars (on sale at the band’s own BandCamp, at the Hellthrasher Productions’ BandCamp, at the Naturmacht Productions’ BandCamp and at the Narbentage Produktionen’s BandCamp, as well as at Discogs in CD or cassette version) is a fantastic “appetizer” to what we can expect from Isgalder when they release their first full-length opus, and as soon as that happens we will be able to happily and willingly succumb to their cold incantations.

Best moments of the album: Elder Wisdom (both regular and alternate versions).

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Hellthrasher Productions

Track listing
1. The Ravendale 7:06
2. Elder Wisdom 7:54
3. Soaring Mountains 5:33
4. The Ravendale (alternate version) 6:51
5. Elder Wisdom (alternate version) 7:44
6. Soaring Mountains (alternate version) 5:27

Band members
Grimwald – vocals, guitars
Moppel – bass, keyboards, drums

Album Review – Altars of Grief / Iris (2018)

Highly influenced by the desolate landscapes and the solitude of long, prairie winters, here comes one of the biggest names in Canadian Blackened Doom with a superb new album narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter.

Formed in November 2013 in Regina, the capital city of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, Blackened Doom act Altars of Grief has worked over the years to develop a weighty concoction of Death Metal, Sludge Metal, Funeral Doom and Atmospheric Black Metal along with a strong focus on storytelling and the desire to convey authentic emotion, highly influenced by the desolate landscapes and the solitude of long, prairie winters that inspired the moniker of “Prairie Doom Metal”. After the release of their 2014 debut fill-length album This Shameful Burden, the band returns in full force with the bold and multi-layered Iris, narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter, named Iris.

Featuring a stunning artwork by Travis Smith from Seempieces, brilliantly depicting Iris’ final moments as she kneels before the winter beset church and embraces her fate, and the mesmerizing cello by Raphael Weinroth-Browne (who by the way played cello for Canadian Folk/Melodic Black Metal band Thrawsunblat on their amazing 2016 opus Metachthonia), Iris is not just an album of heavy music, but an amalgamation of emotions that will transport your mind and soul to the desolation of the prairies. “The story of Iris is very much rooted in our prairie surroundings and deals with the struggles of addiction, sickness and religion. A father finds himself unable to connect with and care for his young daughter, Iris, who has fallen seriously ill. Spiraling deeper and deeper into his vices, and feeling rejected by Iris’ new found and unwavering faith, he gets into his car and decides to leave her behind. Somewhere along the icy road, he loses control of his vehicle and perishes. His purgatory is to watch helplessly as Iris slowly succumbs to her illness without him”, comments the band’s lead singer Damian Smith.

Melancholy and grief permeate the air in the opening track Isolation, a masterpiece of darkness led by the strident and somber guitars by Erik Labossiere and Evan Paulson, while Damian obscurely declaims the song’s lyrics through his anguished gnarls, proving why he’s a poet of the underworld. Hence, the music flows majestically until its grand finale, setting the tone for Desolation, where a Stygian atmosphere is suddenly joined by heavy-as-hell riffs and the crushing Black Metal beats by Zack Bellina, also presenting introspective and touching words (“I opened my eyes / To the night sky / The unending storm / Revealed itself before me / Weightless in my resolve / But, still a burden remains / With this final breath / Please, forgive me”). Moreover, it’s simply impressive how Altars of Grief can sound so distinct from one song to another, also bringing forth a perfect balance between harsh growls and deep clean vocals.

The title-track Iris brings forward more of the band’s enfolding musicality, blending the aggressiveness of Atmospheric Black Metal with the obscurity of Doom Metal, also presenting very subtle nuances of Melodic Black Metal. In addition, Erik and Evan once again fire a mix of rage and harmony through their flammable strings, enhancing the taste of this very complete and bold composition. Then we have Child of Light, where an epic and melancholic intro evolves into a full-bodied sound, and with Zack together with bassist Donny Pinay building a massive, atmospheric wall of sounds with their instruments, generating the perfect ambience for all vocal styles used by the band; followed by Broken Hymns, another captivating, neck-breaking tune where Raphael is truly outstanding with his cello, adding a marvelous touch of delicacy and melancholy to the overall musicality. In other words, this is a song tailored for closing your eyes and letting the band guide your mind and soul to their dark and mournful world.

And Altars of Grief personify the grievous, obscure voices of the bitterly cold winds of winter in the Atmospheric Black Metal extravaganza titled Voices of Winter, with Damian’s growls being delicately complemented by Raphael’s stunning cello sounds and the whimsical guitars by Erik and Evan, whereas in Becoming Intangible the sound of the cello and the acoustic guitars walk hand in hand in the smoothest way possible before morphing into contemporary extreme music, sounding very atmospheric, gripping and bold until its beyond piercing ending. Zack is once again a beast on drums, not to mention the latent poetry found in the song’s lyrics (“I can barely see the sun / I guess this path was truly flawed / Judgement comes with revelation / And, I’ve never felt so close to God”), flowing into one of the most beautiful outros in underground extreme music, titled Epilogue, performed by Raphael and his always astounding cello.

You can listen to Iris in its entirety on YouTube, follow Altars of Grief on Facebook, and purchase your copy of this masterpiece of the underworld from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp or webstore in distinct bundles (Iris CD, Iris CD + Nachtterror / Altars of Grief – Of Ash and Dying Light vinyl split, Iris CD + shirt + patch, and Iris CD + Nachtterror / Altars of Grief vinyl split + shirt + patch), as well as from iTunes or from Amazon. If you were not familiar with “Prairie Doom Metal” before listening to Iris, now you have a very good reason to get to know more about such distinct sub-genre of extreme music. But if Altars of Grief are already a recurrent part of your playlist, the emotional story told in Iris will simply make you even more addicted to their desolate and imposing sounds.

Best moments of the album: Isolation, Iris and Broken Hymns.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Isolation 9:19
2. Desolation 6:15
3. Iris 6:20
4. Child of Light 7:02
5. Broken Hymns 8:11
6. Voices of Winter 7:26
7. Becoming Intangible 9:17
8. Epilogue 2:05

Band members
Damian Smith – vocals
Erik Labossiere – guitars, vocals
Evan Paulson – guitars, vocals, programming
Donny Pinay – bass, vocals
Zack Bellina – drums, vocals on “Broken Hymns”

Guest musician
Raphael Weinroth-Browne – cello on “Isolation”, “Child of Light”, “Broken Hymns”, “Voices of Winter” and “Becoming Intangible”, all instruments on “Epilogue”

Album Review – Skognatt / Ancient Wisdom (2018)

An onrush of Atmospheric Black Metal as raw, aggressive, melodic and obscure as it can be, from the undergrounds of Bavaria directly into your mind.

Hailing from Augsburg, one of Germany’s oldest cities and the third-largest city in Bavaria (after Munich and Nuremberg), here comes a very sinister and interesting Atmospheric Black Metal/Dark Ambient one-man project named Skognatt, who have just unleashed darkness upon humanity with its first full-length album Ancient Wisdom. After its inception in 2016 by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Danijel Zambo, Skognatt released the demo Landscape of Ice in 2016, followed by the EP Stargazer that same year, and another EP in 2017 titled Ancient Wisdom (with the same name as the new album, but only featuring two songs that would be part of it). With the help of guest multi-instrumentalist Gerileme (Asche der Welten, Osteon) on drums and drum engineering, Skognatt brings forth six otherworldly compositions in Ancient Wisdom, living up to the legacy of old school Black Metal but with an atmospheric and eccentric twist added to its already somber musicality.

Macabre and phantasmagoric from the very beginning, the title-track Ancient Wisdom brings forward acoustic guitars intertwined with the sinister, demonic gnarls by Danijel, flowing smoothly and darkly until its ending, all boosted by creepy keyboard notes. Then the steady drumming by Gerileme and the lugubrious guitars by Danijel set the pace in Xibalbá, an Atmospheric Black Metal tune with hints of Symphonic Black Metal and Middle-Eastern nuances, with the vocals by Danijel sounding more devilish and anguished than before; followed by World Apart, showcasing blast beats and flammable guitar riffs (and therefore leaning towards traditional Black Metal), but also bringing a touch of delicacy and melancholy to the overall musicality through its very melodic and sometimes acoustic background sounds and tones.

More obscure than its predecessors, Thanatos alternates between melancholic, serene passages and more aggressive moments led by the piercing growls by Danijel, resulting in a Stygian hymn that can be used as the soundtrack to your deepest nightmares. As a matter of fact, Thanatos was the personification of death in Greek mythology, just to give you a sense of how dark this song is. Moving on with the album, Dark Star presents a movie-inspired intro before an explosion of demonic sounds fills the air, with Gerileme sounding even more infernal on drums in a hybrid of contemporary Ambient and Experimental Black Metal. Put differently, it can’t get any more underground, visceral and crude than this, being definitely not recommended for the lighthearted. And closing this somber and eccentric album we have another blast of Atmospheric Black Metal titled Fallen, spiced up by peculiar and whimsical sounds and featuring spoken words taken from the work of English nobleman and poet Lord Byron (1788 – 1824). Furthermore, Danijel does a great job both on keyboards and on vocals, enhancing the song’s already distinct taste until the music fades into a mesmerizing semi-acoustic outro.

In summary, Ancient Wisdom (which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube) is one of those albums of extreme music that perfectly represent what underground metal is all about, being raw, aggressive, melodic and obscure, all at the same time. And in order to show your true support to an independent act like Skognatt, you can pay a visit to the band’s official Facebook page, and of course buy your copy of Ancient Wisdom from its BandCamp page, keeping the fires of Black Metal burning inside the dark soul of Mr. Danijel Zambo and his devilish alter ego Skognatt for years and years to come.

Best moments of the album: Xibalbá and Thanatos.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Ancient Wisdom 5:17
2. Xibalbá 5:09
3. World Apart 5:19
4. Thanatos 4:06
5. Dark Star 4:50
6. Fallen + Outro 6:44

Band members
Danijel Zambo – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Gerileme – drums

Album Review – NONE / Life Has Gone On Long Enough (2018)

Lose yourself on a journey through eight organic tracks of foggy mountainous atmosphere and bleak music by this unknown Atmospheric Black Metal entity, devouring and nourishing a hopeless life.

Written and recorded throughout the latter half of 2017, Life Has Gone On Long Enough, the brand new album by American Atmospheric/Depressive Black Metal entity NONE, takes its haunting shape through eight organic tracks of foggy mountainous atmosphere and bleak music. On this new chapter, NONE delves deeper into the blackest woods to find abandonment, and developing its tortured personality further. Moving in and out like the long shadows of an ancient forest, the harsh musical passages of Life Has Gone On Long Enough intertwine and die through forlorn atmospheres, devouring and nourishing a hopeless life.

Presented in a six-panel digipack with gorgeous panoramic photography, Life Has Gone On Long Enough represents a huge step forward in the career of this unknown, almost nameless creature, bringing all elements that made their 2017 debut self-titled EP so compelling and mesmerizing, but also showcasing new details and nuances that only make their music even more engaging than you can imagine, being highly recommended for admirers of the atmospheric creations by bands like Woods of Desolation, Coldworld, Shining, Gris and Sombres Forêts.

Ethereal sounds penetrate deep inside our minds in the intro Bleak, Damp, and Dead, transporting us to a different dimension and time titled A World, Dead and Gray, where the band’s melancholic and dark sonority fills every single empty space, with the song’s Doom Metal-inspired beats together with its lancinating riffs setting the perfect stage for the song’s uncanny gnarls coming from the unknown. In short, this is a superb exhibit of modern-day Atmospheric Black Metal, which can also be said about Bed the Cold Earth, where hopelessness and grief are the only two emotions crafted by NONE from start to finish, with their slow and steady beats and delicate guitar lines building a disquieting wall of Stygian sounds, flowing majestically until its somber finale. And in Hypoxic we face a gentle and introspective intro to another Depressive Black Metal feast, with the music remaining as lugubrious as possible with the deep, harsh laments complementing the overall obscurity. Put differently, this is one of those songs recommended for getting lost with your own deviant thoughts.

The somber Corroded creates an instant connection with the previous tune, where its mournful and gray background noises are thoroughly blended with the bitterly cold and melancholic sounds of guitars and keyboards, suddenly exploding into flammable Atmospheric Black Metal in Desiderate, with its crisp guitar melodies creating an interesting paradox with the song’s angelic keyboards. Moreover, also presenting a beyond obscure ambiance that will certainly blacken your heart and mind, the music flows into a desperate ending that lives up to the legacy of contemporary Ambient and Depressive Black Metal. Sluggish, creepy and macabre, Life is Long Enough showcases mysterious laughs intertwined with a pensive and heavy atmosphere, in a beautiful and captivating exhibit of the most outlandish and gloomy sounds you can think of, therefore dragging you to the palest and most ominous corner of life, and with its delicate, ethereal ending being the icing on the cake. And as a “bonus” to the listener we have a cover for Burzum’s Illa Tiðandi, an instrumental work-of-art by NONE presenting the cold winds of winter accompanied by a gentle piano just like the original by Mr. Varg Vikernes, which you can check HERE.

You can travel through the realms of Depressive and Atmospheric Black Metal ruled by NONE by taking a full listen at Life Has Gone On Long Enough on YouTube and on Spotify, and by purchasing the album from several locations such as the Hypnotic Dirge Record’s BandCamp or webstore in distinct formats (as a regular CD, as a Life Has Gone On Long Enough + their self-titled debut EP bundle, as a CD + shirt + sticker bundle, or as a Life Has Gone On Long Enough + self-titled EP + shirt + sticker mega bundle), as well as from CD Baby or from Discogs. Life might be long enough as masterfully depicted by NONE in their new album, but we can never get enough of their multi-layered, somber creations, proving Atmospheric Black Metal can be just as (if not more) exciting and vibrant than any of your regular metal genres.

Best moments of the album: A World, Dead and Gray, Desiderate and Life is Long Enough.

Worst moments of the album: Corroded.

Released in 2018 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Bleak, Damp, and Dead 2:51
2. A World, Dead and Gray 7:46
3. Bed the Cold Earth 7:44
4. Hypoxic 6:59
5. Corroded 5:17
6. Desiderate 7:52
7. Life is Long Enough 7:56
8. Illa Tiðandi (Burzum cover) 6:03

Band members
*Information not available*

Album Review – Ophe / Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude (2018)

An avantgarde and experimental album of Black Metal infused with dark atmospheres and nuances, meticulously put together by a one-man army hailing from France.

Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude, or “letter to the sad comfort of solitude” from Latin, is not only the brand new album by French Avantgarde Black Metal one-man army Ophe, but also a very avantgardish and experimental piece of Black Metal fixing without any doubt a new limit to the borders of a sound that is a personal mix of Extreme Metal, avantgarde music and dark atmospheres. Recorded and mixed by Edgard Chevallier at Lower Tones Place Studio, and featuring a glamorous artwork painted by the talented French artist Jeff Grimal, Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude will bring an obscure joy to the hearts of fans of the music by bands such as Fleurety, Blut Aus Nord, Manes, Anorexia Nervosa and Aevangelist.

Formed in 2015 in Châtillon, a commune in the southwestern suburbs of Paris, by multi-instrumentalist Bargnatt XIX, better known for being the voice and guitar for French Avantgarde project Område, Ophe will certainly crush your senses throughout the 36 minutes of distorted passages, wicked noises and eerie gnarls in Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude, with the sonic extravaganza crafted by Bargnatt XIX being beautifully complemented by the saxophone schizophrenia delivered by guest musician Val Dorr (of Aevangelist). In other words, open your mind, let the music by Ophe penetrate deep inside your soul, and the way you view extreme music will never be the same again.

In the opening track, titled Somnum Sempiternum (which means “everlasting sleep” or ‘eternal sleep” from Latin), Bargnatt XIX begins firing Stygian riffs and blast beats together with his hellish gnarls in a vibrant and classy display of Atmospheric Black Metal, with the music getting darker, more fiendish and more demented as time goes by. Furthermore, the wicked saxophone sounds by Val Dorr add a touch of lunacy to the overall result, making the whole song even more delightful. Then we have Decem Vicibus (or “ten times” from Latin), a very obscure composition with the spoken words by Bargnatt XIX sounding smooth but perturbing at the same time, not evolving to any regular type of music you might be accustomed to. Well, that’s the beauty of Ambient Black Metal, as the creepiest sounds can become high-quality music just like that. And medieval, somber background noises set fire to an uncanny creation by Ophe named in XVIIII, with the sax by Val Dorr sounding even more disturbing than before, while Bargnatt XIX’s deep, enraged roars match perfectly with the hypnotizing heavy sounds emanating from all other instruments, in special the delicate and electrified guitar riffs and solos.

Missive Amphibologique D’Une Adynamie A La Solitude, a long and stylish song name that means “amphibological missive of an adynamy to loneliness” from French, is an 11-minute phantasmagoric aria that can easily be used as the soundtrack to your darkest nights, with its blast beats and ferocious growls bringing total chaos to our souls. And the song’s intense insanity goes on and on, with no sign of happiness or joy, courtesy of Bargnatt XIX and Val Dorr who generate a wall of strained, striking and grim sounds and tones in what can be considered a “controlled chaos”. Lastly, after such grandiose havoc it’s time to slow things down in Cadent, where Bargnatt XIX soothes our souls with his semi-acoustic lines embraced by an apocalyptic background to give it a beyond atmospheric vibe, closing the experimental journey by our skillful one-man army in a beautiful way.

In case you want to join the eccentric world of Bargnatt XIX and his Ophe, you can visit the project’s Facebook page for more details about such distinct endeavor, listen to Litteras Ad Tristia Maestrum Solitude on Spotify, and purchase the album from Ophe’s own BandCamp page, from My Kingdom Music’s Big Cartel page, from the Season of Mist webstore, and from the JPC webstore, as well as from your regular retailers iTunes, Amazon and Discogs. And if this enticing album is Bargnatt XIX’s personal letter to the sad comfort of solitude, I can’t wait to see who or what he’s going to write a letter to next.

Best moments of the album: Somnum Sempiternum and XVIIII.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 My Kingdom Music

Track listing
1. Somnum Sempiternum 8:38
2. Decem Vicibus 4:33
3. XVIIII 5:45
4. Missive Amphibologique D’Une Adynamie A La Solitude 10:40
5. Cadent 5:16

Band members
Bargnatt XIX – vocals, all instruments, programming

Guest musician
Val Dorr – saxophone

Album Review – Lumnos / Ancient Shadows Of Saturn (2018)

Contemplate an ancient life born from a star longing in Saturn changing and elevating everything around, embraced by the ethereal and delicate sounds of Atmospheric Black Metal.

Atmospheric Black Metal act Lumnos is the solo project of the talented Breno Freire, a Brazilian multi-instrumentalist based in Vitória da Conquista, a city located in the state of Bahia, who’s been working in outer space since 2015 under the nickname Putrefactus. As brutal and austere as his nickname might be, the work by Putrefactus is completely immersed in distant nebulas and quasars lights year away from home, with the sound by Lumnos drawing inspiration from the most recent cosmic currents and bands such as Mesarthim, Lustre and Midnight Odyssey. The contemplative melodies by Lumnos draw pictures of distant planets, ancient celestial bodies, and the endless distances that separate them from us, small creatures scurrying around in haste.

After several digital releases in a span of just two years, Putrefactus took his fascinating work to a complete new level with his brand new album entitled Ancient Shadows Of Saturn, a journey through the deepest universe. Hosting multi-instrumentalists B.M. (from Russian Atmospheric/Post-Black Metal act Skyforest) and Unknown (from Russian Ambient/Atmospheric Black Metal project The Lost Sun) as session members, Ancient Shadows Of Saturn is a landmark album in Lumnos’ career, a mature work which will accompany your astral journeys through this solar system and beyond. The main idea behind this peculiar album is to create a history around Saturn since the very beginning to the fatal end, showcasing an ancient life born from a star longing in Saturn changing and elevating everything around.

Ethereal, atmospheric waves invade our senses from the very first second in the opening track I am Born From a Star, a modern and vibrant Atmospheric Black Metal aria where B.M.’s anguished gnarls match perfectly with the eccentricity of the lyrics (“I’m in a cosmic limbo / There’s no answer, there’s no escape / You won’t rest until you die / I’ll sink through my fade / Where I will go / What will I find / When pain gets too real / You simply can’t hide”). Furthermore, when this multi-layered musical voyage is over, you’ll certainly feel your soul wandering outside your body. Then gentle piano notes and a melancholic background set the stage for another eccentric creation by Lumnos titled Primordial Darkness, evolving into a piercing fusion of Atmospheric and Depressive Black Metal with highlights to the amazing job done by Putrefactus with all instruments, in special his steady, mournful beats and somber guitar lines. And the music remains whimsical, hypnotizing and dark from start to finish, creating a smooth and gripping bridge with the title track Ancient Shadows of Saturn, with its cinematic keys and pensive vibe kicking things off before morphing into an atmospheric and experimental journey that goes on for over four minutes. After that “extended intro” it’s time for B.M. to begin blasting his somber gnarls while the music flows gently and melancholically until its end.

Actually, you can consider all songs as one single entity if you prefer, as No Soul is Near continues from where its predecessor ended, an instrumental extravaganza thoroughly put together by Putrefactus with a strong focus on the balance between his gentle keyboard notes and his Stygian guitar lines, all embraced by slow and steady drums and an aerial vibe. Lastly, we face another instrumental blast of heavenly sounds and unorthodox experimentations entitled Existentialism, flirting with pure ambient music until after five minutes traditional Atmospheric Black Metal riffs invade our ears, giving the song a darker vibe and guiding it to a beautiful grand finale; followed by a bonus track that comes exclusively with the limited edition of the album (which you can by the way listen in its entirety HERE), named Crystal Clouds, Diamond Sun, a 9-minute instrumental tune that continues to showcase Putrefactus’ undeniable ability to craft high-quality ambient music.

The primordial darkness was gone and ancient shadows of Saturn were set free to conquer the entire galaxy, and in order to join Putrefactus in his otherworldly expedition, simply go check what he’s up to on Facebook, listen to his music on Spotify, and buy Ancient Shadows Of Saturn from Lumnos’ own BandCamp page, as well as from the Flowing Downward’s BandCamp page. Ancient Shadows Of Saturn is Ambient Black Metal at its finest, courtesy of a multi-talented Brazilian metaller who doesn’t seem to care about any boundaries when creating his musical universe, and that’s why he more than thrives in his endeavors.

Best moments of the album: I am Born From a Star and Primordial Darkness.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Flowing Downward

Track listing  
1. I am Born From a Star 12:09
2. Primordial Darkness 10:43
3. Ancient Shadows of Saturn 10:35
4. No Soul is Near 9:08
5. Existentialism 8:59

Flowing Downward Limited Edition bonus track
6. Crystal Clouds, Diamond Sun 9:46

Band members
Putrefactus – all instruments

Guest musicians
B.M. – vocals (session)
Unknown – clean vocals, additional Synths on “I am Born From a Star” (session)

Album Review –Tamerlan Empire / Age of Ascendancy (2018)

Behold the rise of a metal empire and their marvelous fusion of Symphonic Black Metal with Central-Asian and Middle-Eastern melodies and rhythms.

It’s time to travel once again to Sydney, Australia to behold the rise of a metal empire that will leave you speechless after listening to its marvelous fusion of Symphonic Black Metal with Central-Asian and Middle-Eastern melodies and rhythms. I’m talking about Tamerlan Empire, a savage horde formed in 2011 by drummer Khan, with the band’s name and lyrical content being inspired by Tamerlan (also known as Timurlan, Amir Temur, Timurleng or Timur Khan), a powerful Mongol/Turkish emperor from the 14th century. Not only their songs are about the emperor’s battles and conquests, but they have also drawn a much deeper influence from his dark brutal side and strategic mind, with his detailed forward-thinking always being many steps ahead of the enemies and allies.

Playing what can be called “Turkic/Uzbek Middle-Eastern Symphonic Black Metal”, an aggressive and very unique atmospheric style of Black Metal, Tamerlan Empire are releasing their highly anticipated debut album entitled Age of Ascendancy, perfectly describing the overlord’s meteoric rise and his great interest and contribution to science, politics, architecture, astronomy and literature during his reign, as well as the era in general where empires strove for dominance through war, bloodshed and destruction. And this distinct band, comprised of Ghorr on vocals and guitar, Ferus on the guitar, Vezir on keyboards and orchestrations, and Khan on drums and percussion, more than succeeded in translating the grandiosity of the empire ruled by the aforementioned warlord, creating an unparalleled, multi-layered sound that will certainly please all fans of the orchestral vein of extreme music.

The title-track Age Of Ascendancy is an epic, cinematic intro that effectively sets the stage for the symphonic onslaught titled Battle Of Tyrants, a song that begins in full force with the orchestrations by Vezir enhancing the overall impact on your ears and mind. Put differently, this grandiose, intricate hymn will make you feel you’re in the middle of the battlefield, with Khan sounding impressive behind his drums. Even more atmospheric and imposing, Vengeance In Blood presents Ghorr and Ferus delivering melodious and aggressive riffs nonstop, while Khan keeps smashing his drums mercilessly. Furthermore, Ghorr’s enraged growls live up to the legacy of Symphonic Black Metal, sounding vile and piercing, and therefore making me think if we can call Tamerlan Empire the “Dimmu Borgir from the East”. And be prepared for another feast of blackened sounds entitled Ottoman’s Demise, a headbanging tune led by the blazing guitars by Ghorr and Ferus, spiced up by the uniqueness of Middle-Eastern music and sounding utterly dense and bold from start to finish.

Slightly less epic and a lot more devastating, Ascension of Iron showcases all band members in their fastest and most furious mode, with the musicality being led by the classic blast beats by Khan while Ghorr keeps barking like a demon; whereas in Behest Of The Chosen we’re treated to a whimsical intro where classic Middle-Eastern elements and percussion are suddenly joined by a gripping and dark sonority, feeling very rhythmic, mesmerizing and detailed until its atmospheric grand finale. Tribal beats ignite another superb metal extravaganza by Tamerlan Empire named Winter March, the perfect soundtrack to an epic adventure presenting what’s perhaps the strongest balance between Black Metal and Middle-Eastern music, with Vezir sounding absolutely fantastic with his keys and orchestrations, followed by Dominion Of Ashes, leaning towards modern Symphonic Black Metal and also presenting elements from traditional Norwegian Black Metal, but with its core essence still bringing the band’s unique Middle-Eastern Black Metal. In addition, the deranged vocals by Ghorr remind me of Marduk’s Mortuus, which of course translates into sheer violence and awesomeness.

Then phantasmagoric keys kick off the demolishing Marauder’s Mark, taking the band’s onrush of blackened sounds to a whole new level and also presenting some interesting breaks and variations to add a few extra layers to the overall result; and Of Dust Returned, which sounds similar to its predecessor but bringing even heavier and darker nuances. In other words, this is contemporary Black Metal blended with Symphonic and Atmospheric Black Metal, with its in-sync keys and guitars generating a truly Stygian ambience. And there’s time for one last blast of their unparalleled Black Metal with the magnificent Scattered Sands, a climatic conclusion to such incredible album of extreme music showcasing an interesting paradox between Ghorr’s devilish gnarls and the ethereal sounds emanating from Vezir’s keys. Furthermore, what I’m about to say might sound weird for some of you, but I can easily visualize a lustful woman doing a heavier-than-usual belly dance to this amazing metal tune.

If you have what it takes to join the empire of flammable and epic Black Metal ruled by this up-and-coming Australian horde, simply go check what they’re up to on Facebook, listen to their music on Spotify and on ReverbNation, and grab your copy of Age of Ascendancy (which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube) from the Metal Hell Records’ BandCamp or webstore (as a regular CD version or as a special bundle that includes the CD plus a metallic gold embroidered logo patch, a 1.25″ pin back button, a vinyl logo sticker, and a download code for the digital version of the album), as well as from CD Baby, iTunes or Amazon. And after putting your hands on such distinct album, I dare you to not get completely addicted to the band’s vibrant and bold Middle-Eastern Symphonic Black Metal.

Best moments of the album: Vengeance In Blood, Ascension of Iron, Winter March and Scattered Sands.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Metal Hell Records

Track listing
1. Age Of Ascendancy 1:57
2. Battle Of Tyrants 4:49
3. Vengeance In Blood 5:02
4. Ottoman’s Demise 5:44
5. Ascension of Iron 4:54
6. Behest Of The Chosen 7:39
7. Winter March 7:00
8. Dominion Of Ashes 4:54
9. Marauder’s Mark 5:32
10. Of Dust Returned 5:13
11. Scattered Sands 7:10

Band members
Ghorr – vocals, guitars
Ferus – guitars
Vezir – keyboards, orchestration
Khan – drums, percussion

Live musicians
Yassa – vocals
Ramz – bass