Album Review – Circle Of Indifference / Welcome To War (2016)

A solid album by a multi-cultural band that invites us all to go to war to the sound of their sharp Melodic Death Metal.

Rating5

CIRCLE OF INDIFFERENCE - Welcome to War cover artAfter listening to the brand new concept album by Melodic Death Metal band Circle Of Indifference, entitled Welcome To War, you might not believe in what I’m going to say about this interesting project recommended for fans of bands like Death and Carcass. Founded in 2013 by Swedish multi-instrumentalist Dagfinn Övstrud in the city of Hönö, Sweden, and having already released their debut album Shadows of Light, in 2014, Circle Of Indifference are a band where none of its members have ever met in person. I’m not joking. Apart from the band’s mastermind Dagfinn on guitars, bass and additional keyboards, Circle Of Indifference are Brandon L. Polaris on vocals directly from Belgium, Tyler Teeple on lead guitars representing Canada, and Kostas Vassilakis, a member of Progressive Death/Thrash Metal band Infravision, from Greece, on keyboards and drums. They use the Internet to communicate with each other, share their thoughts and ideas, record their separate parts in their respective homes, and everything is put together at the end of the recording process.

And although those four metallers are distant around 12,000km from each other in total, the final result is really good, sounding a lot more organic than many regular bands I know. The concept of the album, which presents the lives of two soldiers in World War II on either side of the conflict, starting from their enlistment at the early stages up until they come face to face during a battle at the end, helped the band members to stay focused and follow the same path while writing their parts of the music. The beautiful and melancholic cover art by Turkish digital artist and musician Aybars Altay, who resides in Germany and has already worked with another one of the bands reviewed at The Headbanging Moose (the excellent Norwegian Progressive Death/Black Metal act Maahlas), complements the intensity of the music in Welcome To War, putting a “face” to the story told by Dagfinn and his multi-cultural army.

Without further ado, it’s time to head to the battlefield to the sound of Conscription, bringing forward the heaviness of traditional Death Metal with the modernized atmosphere of Melodic Death Metal, not to mention how perfectly guitar riffs and keyboards complement each other. It’s a bit odd the name of the following song, Einbehrufung (Conscription), is the German translation for the title of the opening track, with its warlike ambience “torturing” the souls of the two main characters. In addition, the growls by Brandon L. Polaris lean towards old school Death Metal, reminding me of the vocals by Johnny Hedlund (Unleashed). Then a gloomy intro kicks off From This I Depart, before the amazing guitars lines by Dagfinn and the progressive drumming by Kostas suddenly fill all spaces in the music, getting more melodic than both previous tracks.

CIRCLE OF INDIFFERENCE band photoThe storyline gets more and more exciting as it progresses, with the kick-ass Menschenmörder (Murderer Of Man), one of the most exciting moments of the album, also presenting a dark intro that evolves to a modern and heavy chant. Furthermore, the guitars by Dagfinn transpire electricity, effectively supporting the song’s lyrics about the torments inside the mind of a soldier (“Inside, a sea of mixed emotions that I still hide / I cannot show them what I really feel / Outside, I wear a mask of brutal terror untied / I cannot show them what I really feel / Inside”). The title-track Welcome To War begins by blasting some loud shots and explosions, giving the sense that we’re in the middle of a battle, with its straightforward Melodic Death Metal sounding working extremely well.  In other words, Circle Of Indifference keep it simple and the final result is awesome, with highlights to the additional layers brought forth by keyboards and backing vocals.

In Kein Entkommen (No Escape), which presents a solid mix of harsh growls and clean vocals, Kostas maintains the energy at a high level with his unstoppable beats, while Tyler, who is beyond superb with all his guitar solos throughout the entire album, might have reached a new level of finesse in this tune. The second to last war anthem by Circle Of Indifference, named Veil Of Despair, offers a more modernized approach than usual, while yet again another great duo of guitars and keyboards lead the musicality. Moreover, Brandon’s voice sounds more polished in this case, maybe due to the song’s sharper sonority, therefore expanding the sonic range of the band. The last track, Ein Akt Der Güte (An Act Of Kindness), is obviously an epic conclusion to the story told so far, with the exciting keyboards by Kostas once again adding fire to the music, as well as the mesmerizing riffs by Dagfinn. The lyrics to the song couldn’t be more realistic, with Brandon declaiming a soldier’s final words full of sorrow and anger (“As I rest against the wall / I take a breath and close my eyes / The British soldier takes my hand / I feel at peace it’s time to die / It’s time to die”).

As previously mentioned, how they managed to be so concise even with each band member being located in distinct parts of the world is beyond my knowledge, but that’s absolutely irrelevant when the final product sounds as compelling as Welcome To War. This is another great example of how heavy music unites us all, no matter where we come from, and if you want to know more about Circle Of Indifference go check their Facebook page, YouTube channel (where the full album is available for a listen) and SoundCloud page, with Welcome To War being on sale at the band’s BandCamp page, on iTunes and on Amazon. I guess their only “problem” right now might be finding a way to get together for live performances, because if there’s one thing that those gigantic distances didn’t stop those guys from doing was creating powerful and dynamic Melodic Death Metal.

Best moments of the album: Menschenmörder (Murderer Of Man), Welcome To War and Ein Akt Der Güte (An Act Of Kindness).

Worst moments of the album: Einbehrufung (Conscription).

Released in 2016 Records Of Indifference

Track listing
1. Conscription 4:33
2. Einbehrufung (Conscription) 5:26
3. From This I Depart 5:35
4. Menschenmörder (Murderer Of Man) 5:05
5. Welcome To War 6:28
6. Kein Entkommen (No Escape) 4:22
7. Veil Of Despair 5:04
8. Ein Akt Der Güte (An Act Of Kindness) 7:45

Band members
Brandon L. Polaris – vocals
Dagfinn Övstrud – guitars, bass, additional keyboards
Tyler Teeple – guitar solos
Kostas Vassilakis – keyboards, drums

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Album Review – Maahlas / Nightmare Years (2014)

A grim mix of Black, Death and Progressive Metal, tailored for people who enjoy complex and intense music.

Rating4

MAAHLAS - Nightmare Years cover artWhen you tell someone there’s a band that plays Progressive Melodic Death Black Metal, you’ll probably have to spend a lot of time explaining exactly what you mean by putting together so many different subgenres of heavy music, unless of course you’re talking to a fan of Gojira, Death, Meshuggah, Dimmu Borgir and many other “complex” dark bands. That’s how Norwegian band Maahlas can be categorized based on their debut release, the heavy and eccentric concept album Nightmare Years.

Formed in 2013 in the beautiful city of Oslo, Norway by multi-instrumentalist Cuneyt Caglayan, also known as Cuno, Mahhlas seem to be one of those bands that enjoy surfing through different music styles (most of the time during the same song), relying heavily on their refined techniques to create a unique atmosphere and conduct the storyline behind Nightmare Years without being boring or arrogant. Quite the contrary, the way the band is capable of telling a story changing from smoother progressive music to violent Black Metal is really outstanding and one of the biggest strengths of this album.

And what a violent way to start with the very atmospheric and dark Sun of the Summerian, a Symphonic Black Metal tune similar to what’s played by bands such as Dimmu Borgir, but with more hardcore vocals and a very interesting progressive part right before reigniting the sonic massacre. Besides, despite being only a session musician working for Maahlas, drummer Łukasz Krzesiewicz is a fuckin’ beast and delivers an incredible performance with his set. A False World, a more obscure track with great vocals by Levent Ultanur, progressive synths and philosophical lyrics (“Doubt in your eyes, in your stances and your reasoning. / Weak in your seminal thoughts primed to misuse trust.”), and Morning Light, more progressive and melodic than the previous tracks, remind me of the Blackened Death Metal currently played by Behemoth plus all the progressiveness from Dream Theater; while An Ancestral Memory focus on dark Black Metal riffs, synths and drums to provide it a very symphonic atmosphere. Moreover, those guys truly enjoy adding some interesting breaks to the rhythm to freshen up their music, as you’ll notice not only in this song but in the entire album.

maahlasThen we have the excellent At the Edge of Life: this is dark progressive music at its finest, and although slower than most of the other songs, it’s a lot heavier thanks to some awesome guitar lines. After the acoustic eerie track Gliese 667 / Æra, Maahlas offer us the title-track Nightmare Years, which summarizes everything the band is, with vocals getting a little bit more demonic and huge doses of contemporary Black Metal, and The Great Divide, where Łukasz smashes his drums while Cuno delivers some great guitar riffs.  I remember a few songs named “The Great Divide” that were all ballads and I was even ready for a smooth track, but this is not the case here, as the band once again promotes an infernal music feast.

The last part of Nightmare Years does not disappoint at all, maintaining the excellent level of the whole album: Birth of Sentience is another brutal assault focused on modern Black Metal, with its last part being more direct and traditional; while Of Hypocrisy, Hate and Fall, the longest track of all, starts with a beautiful intro before turning into a dark music extravaganza, with highlights to its very interesting lyrics (“Prowling agony, blinding day. I meditate yet have a terror attack. / I see Gliese, God! So alike. / I’m alone to act, a straw man, I’ve got to let go. / I´m controlled by time.”). It’s perhaps the most progressive of all tracks, with lots of elements from bands such as Tool and Insomnium, and if you’re a drummer I suggest you watch the drum tracking for this song. And finally, Simulacrum of Reality, another technical and detailed track, closes the album in a very complex and obscure way.

The album art by Turkish / German artist Aybars Altay, representing at once the fall of Home Sapiens and the evolution of the Homo Sentient, is a great complement to this mysterious music journey, which you can purchase on iTunes and many other locations. If you’re a fan of grim music with a strong technical and meaningful background, simply embrace Nightmare Years. You will love it.

Best moments of the album: Sun of the Summerian, At the Edge of Life and Nightmare Years.

Worst moments of the album: Morning Light and Birth of Sentience.

Released in 2014 Independent

Track listing
1. Sun of the Summerian 4:31
2. A False World 5:10
3. Morning Light 4:11
4. An Ancestral Memory 5:01
5. At the Edge of Life 4:30
6. Gliese 667 / Æra 1:44
7. Nightmare Years 4:03
8. The Great Divide 3:41
9. Birth of Sentience 4:39
10. Of Hypocrisy, Hate and Fall 7:08
11. Simulacrum of Reality 4:23

Band members*
Levent Ultanur – story, lyrics and vocals
Cuneyt Caglayan – music, guitars, bass, synth and all production
Robin Berg Pettersen – guitar
Christian Svendsen – drums

Guest musicians
Łukasz Krzesiewicz – drums (session musician)
Atle Johansen – vocals on “An Ancestral Memory”