Album Review – Himiltungl / Öden (2017)

An unconventional album by three high-skilled musicians who want to share their inner Swedish darkness with others through their haunting mix of Black and Viking Metal with folk melodies from the deep forests of Jamtland.

Rating5

cover-digitalFormed in 2013 in Gothenburg, the second-largest city in Sweden and the fifth-largest in the Nordic countries, and inspired by the traditional Folk, Viking and Black Metal creations by bands like Týr, Vintersorg and Woods of Ypres, Folk Metal band Himiltungl (which means “the fucking moon” in ancient Swedish) weaves a haunting mix of Black and Viking Metal with folk melodies from the deep forests of Jamtland, a historical province in the center of Sweden. The band consists of three high-skilled musicians who want to share their inner Swedish darkness with others, and in that way invoke a sense of dread, joy and wonder, primarily singing in Swedish and Jamtlandic with lyrics conflictingly revolving around the majesty of nature interspersed with reflections on the terminality of life and death.

If all that explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, simply hit play and enjoy the music found in Öden (which translates to “fates”), the long awaited follow-up to their debut album Svart Ravin, from 2013, telling stories of blood, loss and tragic ends while continuing to explore the folk-inspired path that was initiated with their first album, always moving towards heavier and more progressive sounds. Each song will sound completely different to your ears, sometimes bursting with anger and aggressiveness, sometimes being as smooth as the sound of a placid lake, and that’s exactly what Himiltungl wants you to feel while listening to Öden. This is not your average Folk Metal album, so you better sharpen your senses for the freakish amalgamation of sounds and emotions found in Öden in order to understand what the Folk Metal by Himiltungl truly means.

In Myrens Gäst, the trio starts blasting their dark music with folk elements from the very beginning, with the somber vocals by Jens being complemented by the also melancholic voice by Magnus. It’s quite difficult to label this as only one subgenre of heavy music, but I would personally say it sounds like some sort of “Melodic Dark Folk Metal”. Anyway, in The Dying War, one of the few songs in English from the album, Jens and his hellish gnarls perfectly fit the unusual and modern Folk Metal instrumental, with drummer Mattias bringing the necessary groove and progressiveness to the musicality. And Skogstokig brings forward Scandinavian guitar lines and minstrel-like vocals in a very traditional folk way, with its last part getting more metallic with potent riffs and beats alternating with harmonious vocalizations.

Paying homage to their tribal roots, the band offers the listener Eldsjäl, a touching blend of Folk Metal and ancient soundings where both Jens and Magnus deliver passionate performances on vocals, with some harsher moments to spice up the final result; followed by Shadows Crowd, their most contemporary composition, getting closer to Blackened Folk Metal. Mattias and Magnus craft the base to this melancholic and powerful chant with their beats and bass lines, while Jens once again delivers solid vocal lines throughout the entire song. In Kung Jorum a melancholic intro flows into heavier traditional music with all folk elements sounding crystal clear, also presenting interesting acoustic passages, whereas in Cerebration Gate an inspiring beginning quickly morphs into a mid-tempo Folk Metal hymn, presenting raspier gnarls by Jens and heavier guitar lines. This is in my opinion one of the best songs of the album, showcasing an effective combination of progressiveness and feeling.

himiltungl_oden-42

Photo by Paul Wennerholm – http://paulwennerholm.com/

In Tångsal, a song made to be played and sung around the fire pit, Jens grasps the song’s lyrics like a demonic entity while the instrumental parts feel like a blend of Folk and Pagan Metal with hints of Black Metal, before Sökaren brings forward medieval and folk elements added to its heavy and electrified guitars, with the backing vocals as well as the precise drumming by Mattias elevating the overall quality of the song. And Glöd, their most complex aria and the longest of all tracks at almost nine minutes, displays over two minutes of distorted noises before the music reaches its final shape and tone. Moreover, when the guitar by Jens gets heavier than usual, the song gets a lot more obscure and impactful.

Urmoder not only has an excellent pace and intensity, but the symphonic elements present in it also bring more darkness to the overall musicality, with all band members delivering a precise performance (in special Mattias with his potent and rhythmic beats) in what’s one of the most gripping of all songs. Ivolin, another blast of Folk and Pagan Metal, proves that when Himiltungl craft their modern and heavy version of minstrel-like music they effectively reflect their core essence and their inspirations; and in the introspective Hatarens Sång, minimalist guitar sounds generate the ambience for Jens and his bandmates to tell a story through their grim vocals, with all instruments being progressively added to the music for a climatic ending.

After listening to the multilayered Öden, available on iTunes and on Amazon, you’ll certainly agree with what I said in the beginning of this review about how difficult it is to label the music by this up-and-coming Swedish trio. You can definitely try giving a name or definition to their music, by studying more about the band and their creations through their Facebook page, YouTube channel, BandCamp and SoundCloud. As previously mentioned, I like to call their music as “Melodic Dark Folk Metal”, simply because it is indeed very melodic, constantly dark and always folk, but anything I say won’t be enough to describe their unconventional canticles.

Best moments of the album: Shadows Crowd, Cerebration Gate and Urmoder.

Worst moments of the album: Kung Jorum.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Myrens Gäst 6:32
2. The Dying War 3:10
3. Skogstokig 3:34
4. Eldsjäl 5:22
5. Shadows Crowd 4:41
6. Kung Jorum 7:18
7. Cerebration Gate 5:32
8. Tångsal 3:09
9. Sökaren 3:44
10. Glöd 8:55
11. Urmoder 3:58
12. Ivolin 4:03
13. Hatarens Sång 3:25

Band members
Jens – vocals, guitars
Magnus – bass, vocals
Mattias – drums

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Album Review – Horn / Turm am Hang (2017)

One of the most respected underground musicians from Germany returns with more of his nature-themed, medieval style Black Metal bound to pagan roots and tribalism in another remarkable album.

Rating4

coverSince its creation in 2002 by German multi-instrumentalist Niklas “Nerrath”, Teutonic one-man army Horn has aimed at creating nature-themed, medieval style Black Metal bound to pagan roots, focusing on the relation of man and nature in a regional context. And this excellent project, hailing from Paderborn, a city in eastern North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, has been extremely successful in its journey, delivering high-end extreme music always with a meaningful concept behind it and always singing in its mother tongue German. Now, in the beginning of 2017, we have Horn’s seventh studio album, the folk, dynamic opus Turm Am Hang.

Inspired by the classic German folk song “Es ist ein Schnitter”, from the 17th century, as well as lansquenets (a gambling game of German origin), wars of the past, tribalism and the spirit of masculinity, Turm Am Hang will stimulate your most primeval senses with its distinctive ambience and powerful music. Furthermore, the artwork, layout and visual concept, all brought forth by German illustrator Timon Kokott, perfectly visualize the album’s combined musical and lyrical themes, complementing the already thrilling experience of listening to the music crafted by Nerrath.

After a pleasant folk intro in the opening track, titled Alles in einem Schnitt (which would translate as “everything in one cut”), Nerrath offers us his thrilling Black Metal with Folk and Pagan Metal elements, all sung in German as aforementioned to make things even more aggressive, not to mention the uniqueness of his tribal and stylish guitar lines. The title-track Turm am Hang (“tower on slope”) also begins in a serene way, again exploding into what can be called Blackened Folk Metal, with Nerrath blasting his enraged growls, potent beats and blazing, rhythmic riffs; followed by Verhallend in Landstrichen (“ranging in landscapes”), with the folk elements in the background adding a lot of epicness to the musicality together with its menacing drums. Furthermore, simply close your eyes and you will be able to feel all the energy flowing from the folkloristic sounds generated by Nerrath in this brilliant composition.

primarA song with an impactful name like Die mit dem Bogen auf dem Kreuz (“the one with the bow on the cross”) couldn’t sound less amazing than this, with its somber intro being gradually joined by guitars until all becomes an Extreme Metal extravaganza, perfect for drinking a few pints of beer together with your friends. Ä(h)renschnitter (“spices”) kicks off at full speed, with Nerrath going berserk with his fast-paced beats and riffs while powerfully vociferating the song’s lyrics at the same time. Moreover, hints of old school German Punk Rock are a very welcome addition to the overall musicality, enhancing the song’s effectiveness. And in Totenräumer (“Mortimer”), a fantastic fast-paced creation by Nerrath, our one-man army is startling on vocals, giving life to the song’s epic lyrics. Leaning towards sheer Pagan Metal, it never slows down, keeping the listener fully entertained from start to finish.

The eerie instrumental Lanz und Spieß (“lance and spear”) works as an intro for Bastion, im Seegang tauber Fels (“bastion, in the sea of deaf rock”), a voyage through the realms of experimental and atmospheric extreme music, bringing forward elements of Black and Pagan Metal with an obscure rhythm. Ad lastly, as a “bonus” Nerrath offers the listener his excellent version for The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way, a melancholic and introspective journey of ambient music by American Ambient Black Metal band When Bitter Spring Sleeps, from their 2013 album Coven of the Wolves. Not only this is the only song in English in the album, but it also features guest vocals by American Lord Sardonyx, the mastermind behind When Bitter Spring Sleeps himself.

In order to enjoy everything Nerrath and his amazing project Horn have to offer, simply follow his steps on Facebook, and go to Horn’s BandCamp page or Big Cartel to grab your copy of Turm am Hang. As mentioned before, the experience of listening to an album by Horn is beyond unique, connecting you to the pagan and tribal origins of man and embraced all the time by superior metal music. As this is always the main goal of ambient and experimental extreme music, I must say Turm am Hang triumphs brilliantly hands down.

Best moments of the album: Alles in einem Schnitt, Verhallend in Landstrichen and Totenräumer.

Worst moments of the album: Bastion, im Seegang tauber Fels.

Released in 2017 Iron Bonehead/Northern Silence Productions

Track listing
1. Alles in einem Schnitt 5:42
2. Turm am Hang 5:09
3. Verhallend in Landstrichen 5:10
4. Die mit dem Bogen auf dem Kreuz 5:00
5. Ä(h)renschnitter 5:35
6. Totenräumer 5:34
7. Lanz und Spieß 2:09
8. Bastion, im Seegang tauber Fels 4:44
9. The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way (When Bitter Spring Sleeps cover) 8:12

Band members
Nerrath – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Lord Sardonyx – additional vocals on “The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way”

Album Review – Thrawsunblat / Metachthonia (2016)

Welcome to Metachthonia, the electric and modern world crafted by an amazing Folk and Melodic Black Metal band from Canada.

Rating4

CDI101_1P_insert.epsMetachthonia:
(meh-tah-KTHOH-nee-ah) n. [< A.Grk meta- ‘after’ + chthoni- (stem of chthon ‘earth’ + -ios adj. suffix) + -a;]
1. the epoch after the age of the earth; this current electric age.

Dear metalheads from all over the world, welcome to Metachthonia, the brand new concept album by Canadian Folk/Melodic Black Metal act Thrawsunblat. Metachthonia is ancient Greek for “the age after that of the Earth”, referring to today’s modern world where we find ourselves under fluorescent light more often than sunlight, and so yearn for the natural world. Firing a unique blend of Folk and Black Metal inspired by bands such as Amon Amarth, Borknagar and Ensiferum, being even labeled as “Folkened Black Metal”, this extremely talented band from the city of Fredericton, the capital of the province of New Brunswick, puts no limits to their creations, offering the listener an eccentric and fresh version of extreme music that will captivate you from start to finish.

Formed in 2009 by multi-instrumentalist Joel Violette (ex-guitarist for Woods of Ypres) as a side project together with David Gold, the lead singer and drummer for Woods of Ypres, and having released their debut album named Canada 2010 that same year, Thrawsunblat became Joel’s main band following David’s tragic death in December 2011 as a result of an automobile accident. In 2013, the band released their second album, entitled Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings, already featuring Brendan Hayter on bass and Rae Amitay on drums, as well as fiddler Jeff Mott (and obviously Joel), presenting a more complex side of their music. Now in Metachthonia (which by the way has each one of its songs divided in three parts as you can see HERE), not only Jeff and his fiddle were replaced by cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, but the band also decided to venture through darker paths, sounding more blackened than before and, therefore, more intense and thrilling.

The 11-minute hymn Fires That Light the Earth is a beautiful start to the album. Although the strong sound of the cello is very captivating, it’s when the music explodes into the “Folkened Black Metal” proposed by the band, with Rae setting fire to the music with his bestial beats while Joel is anger incarnate, that the journey truly takes off. In addition, the clean vocals add epicness to the musicality, with the guitar lines by Joel and the bass lines by Brendan creating an ocean of sounds and vibrations. When the smoother and more melodic She Who Names the Stars begins, Joel and his crew are waiting for the listener at Metachtonia with arms wide open (“All you, welcome to Metachthonia. / It’s like the rustle of leaf to ground against the industrial sound. / All you, welcome to Metachthonia. / It’s like the sun on your skin while the diodes draw you in.”), with the cello by Raphael providing a good balance with Rae’s furious drumming. The music flows flawlessly throughout the almost ten minutes of the song, arising all types of emotions until its harmonious ending.

thrawsunblat logoIn Dead of Winter, a short choir-like intro morphs into sheer madness, a Blackened Folk Metal feast where Joel and Rae steal the spotlight with their awesome harsh growls/clean vocals alternation and infernal beats, respectively. It’s interesting how they prepare the listener for the sudden eruptions of Extreme Metal, with acoustic folk sounds bursting into an avalanche of blackened music. Hypochthonic Remnants is more violent and visceral than all previous tracks, mainly due to the thunderous guitar lines by Joel, enhanced by the song’s endless progressiveness and the hints of traditional Heavy Metal and even Power Metal added to its main riff. Furthermore, its second part is a solid blend of the Folk Metal by Ensiferum with the darkened sonority of Borknagar and Old Man’s Child, which then flows into an melancholic acoustic ending.

Tribal drums ignite another obscure voyage of progressive folk music named Rivers of Underthought, the least violent of all songs where the unique sound of the cello by Raphael yet again adds a lot of beauty to the overall result. It’s a lot more inclined to the harmony of Folk and Pagan Metal than to the savagery of Extreme Metal, all embraced by a strong progressive ambience during the song’s almost nine minutes. And finally, In Mist We Walk kicks off in devastation mode, with the sound of the guitar by Joel together with the galloping bass lines by Brendan not leaving a single space empty in the music. Its second piece is pure high-octane Pagan Metal with atmospheric and acoustic passages, whereas its third part is made for enjoying the excellence of its lyrics (“I walk the banks of the stream of electric thought. / I cross to the warmth of where I once was. / I look down to see a sixfold flame in hand. / Sing me the dark songs of Chthonia. / Sing life immense in passion and pulse.”).

The fantastic concept of Metachthonia can be explored in more detail at the band’s official Facebook page, and if you want to provide your full support to such a distinct band you can purchase the album (which can be relished in its entirety HERE) at their BandCamp page. The electric and modern world of Metachthonia presented by Thrawsunblat might seem really dangerous at times, but we must admit it’s a lot easier to face any type of challenge or fear when the music behind it is as awesome as what’s found in this classy  and multilayered album.

Best moments of the album: Fires That Light the Earth and Dead of Winter.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Ignifera Records/Broken Limbs

Track listing
1. Fires That Light the Earth 11:01
2. She Who Names the Stars 9:33
3. Dead of Winter 9:50
4. Hypochthonic Remnants 8:32
5. Rivers of Underthought 8:56
6. In Mist We Walk 11:56

Band members
Joel Violette – vocals, guitars
Brendan Hayter – bass
Raphael Weinroth-Browne – cello
Rae Amitay – drums, additional vocals on “Dead of Winter”