Album Review – Astral Corpse / Metsän Pimeydessä EP (2017)

Enter the forest of darkness ruled by a cold-hearted Keravian Black Metal horde and succumb to their malignancy and hatred.

From the depths of ancient Keravian burial grounds, influenced by Nordic nature and music, Finnish Black Metal horde Astral Corpse launches their first sonic onslaught, titled Metsän Pimeydessä, or “In the Forest of Darkness” from Finnish. If you love Black Metal without compromise, you’ll surely have fun listening to the 20 minutes of what the band calls “True Keravian Black Metal”, which translates into sheer obscurity, blasphemy, speed and raw sounds. Are you ready to enter the forest of darkness ruled by Astral Corpse?

Hailing from Kerava, a citiy in Southern Finland located around 40km north of the capital Helsinki, Astral Corpse have been through several lineup changes after their inception back in 2008 before reaching their current shape and form. With lead singer, guitarist and founding member AstroNuclear Agitator, guitarist Frostektor, bassist Arcane Desolator and drummer Cosmic Triumphator extracting extreme aggression and vileness from their instruments, Metsän Pimeydessä becomes more than just their debut EP, but a solid statement that Astral Corpse are among us to stay, bringing darkness to our souls and high-quality Black Metal to our ears.

The Black Metal attack led by the putrid growls by AstroNuclear Agitator begins in full force with Cease to Exist, with Cosmic Triumphator obviously delivering the most traditional blast beats you can imagine, not to mention how the song ends in a brutal way. In Drain the Blood, AstroNuclear Agitator and Frostektor accelerate their riffage, blasting sheer darkness through their guitars while Cosmic Triumphator and bassist Arcane Desolator keep a menacing atmosphere rumbling in the background, proving how loyal they are to the foundations of traditional Black Metal. And the title-track Metsän Pimeydessä lives up to its name, being an obscure Black Metal hymn spiced up with hints of Doom Metal, with the potent and precise beats by Cosmic Triumphator dictating the rhythm while AstroNuclear Agitator keeps gnarling and roaring like a demon.

Welcome to the Spirit World gets back to the band’s most demonic stage, being a furious display of extreme music where not only the guitars sound on fire, but the hatred and aggressiveness flowing from both vocals and drums is outstanding. Put differently, it can’t get any more blackened than this. Following that intense tune, epicness and blasphemy are the main ingredients in the evil chant Nocturnal Winds, inspired by the most traditional form of Scandinavian Black Metal with its old school guitar lines and bestial drums impregnating the atmosphere. Finally, how about ending the EP with a pulverizing Black Metal aria? That’s what we get in the thrilling Winds of Death, with AstroNuclear Agitator barking his last breath of malignancy while Cosmic Triumphator crushes his drums mercilessly, therefore generating a chaotic and dense musicality that aims at dragging us to the pits of hell.

All the malice, irreligiousness and odium flowing from the forest of darkness ruled by Astral Corpse can be explored through the band’s Facebook page and SoundCloud, with Metsän Pimeydessä (which you can take a listen at in its entirety HERE) being available at the Orbovoid Records’ webshop. But remember that once you enter this Keravian forest full of malignancy and hatred, there’s no way back. You’ll be trapped forever in Astral Corpse’s dark realm of old school Black Metal.

Best moments of the album: Drain the Blood and Welcome to the Spirit World.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Orbovoid Records

Track listing
1. Cease to Exist 3:43
2. Drain the Blood 3:04
3. Metsän Pimeydessä 2:53
4. Welcome to the Spirit World 2:41
5. Nocturnal Winds 3:28
6. Winds of Death 5:24

Band members
AstroNuclear Agitator – vocals, guitars
Frostektor – guitars
Arcane Desolator – bass
Cosmic Triumphator – drums

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Album Review – Tristania / Widow’s Weeds (1998)

It’s from Norway the most remarkable Gothic Metal album of all time.

Rating3

WidowsWeedsGothic Metal has always been and will ever be a very tricky subgenre of Heavy Metal, especially in terms of originality, because it can bore you at the blink of an eye. I, for instance, do not consider myself a true Gothic Metal fan, as I prefer a lot more heavier and faster material like traditional Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, and even Hard Rock rather than any Gothic music. However, once in a while there’s a band like Tristania that breaks this barrier and gains my respect in the world of heavy music.

After their self-titled EP Tristania (1997), it was time for this Norwegian Gothic Metal band to release in 1998 their first full-length album called Widow’s Weeds, which in my opinion is the best Gothic Metal album of all time. In fact, Widow’s Weeds cannot be considered only Gothic Metal, as it contains elements of many other subgenres of heavy music such as Symphonic, Death and Doom Metal, which explains why this album is so difficult to understand, and consequently so delightful.

Widow’s Weeds is a tsunami of obscure themes and dark lyrics, all full of the most uncomfortable emotions such as depression, sadness and madness, and of course everything is wrapped up by a very precise and dense musicality. Do not expect to hear crazy riffs and solos, or even fast drums with lots of double bass, but lengthy and slow songs where all instruments together form a complex sonority, in parallel with Vibeke Stene’s angelic voice and Morten Veland’s roars.

Right after the intro Preludium…, the band shows all its powerful musical range with the beautiful Evenfall, by far the most amazing composition of their entire career. Vibeke’s performance in this song is awesome, as well as the drums by Kenneth Olsson, and the final result portrays perfectly how pleasant sadness can be when transformed into music. The following track keeps the bar extremely high: Pale Enchantress can be considered another of the band’s classics, a lot faster than the previous one with great melancholic lyrics (“Enchanting all my dreams / A beauty and her flood of tears / Nightfall embrace my heart / Mesmerized and ravendark”).

December Elegy and Midwintertears are examples of what I previously said about the trickiness of Gothic Metal, as both can easily make you feel bored due to their length and lack of speed or changes in rhythm. However, they’re pretty good songs, it’s just that they’re not tailored for MTV or radio. On the other hand, even the more skeptical heavy music lovers will enjoy the next two tracks: Angellore has many interesting goth elements from the 80’s that match perfectly with the band’s style, with the addition of Østen Bergøy doing the clean vocals, and the final result was so good that it was probably the reason why he joined the band full-time from 2001 until 2010; while My Lost Lenore is considered by many Tristania’s biggest masterpiece. Here we have not only Vibeke and Morten doing a superb job, but above all the talented Einar Moen on his synth and piano giving a huge boost to the song.

tristania7The (almost) last track, Wasteland’s Caress, is for me the weakest of all tracks, and the outro …Postludium ends this amazing album, unless you have the special edition which contains two excellent bonus tracks called Sirene and Cease to Exist. The front cover of the album simply summarizes how dark and mysterious the music by Tristania is, fully complemented by the band’s sinister outfits.

Unfortunately, there have been way too many changes in the band’s lineup and musicality until today, provoking an immense drop in the quality of their material. Maybe if Vibeke Stene and of course Morten Veland, the mastermind behind Tristania’s eerie and mesmerizing music and currently with Sirenia, were still with Tristania, the whole story would have been a lot different. Nevertheless, based on Tristania’s most recent albums, I don’t believe we’ll see anything close to Widow’s Weeds again.

At least there are some good news about Vibeke returning to the world of heavy music after years of privation, and when she actually returns she deserves a special “Metal Chick of the Month” post for her and one or more reviews of the music projects and/or bands she joins in a near future. She’s a truly underrated musician, and I hope she comes back kickin’ ass as she used to do in her years with Tristania.

Best moments of the album: Evenfall, Pale Enchantress, Angellore and My Lost Lenore.

Worst moments of the album: December Elegy and Wasteland’s Caress.

Released in 1998  Napalm Records

Track listing

1. Preludium… 1:09
2. Evenfall 6:51
3. Pale Enchantress 6:31
4. December Elegy 7:31
5. Midwintertears 8:32
6. Angellore 7:16
7. My Lost Lenore 6:23
8. Wasteland’s Caress 7:40
9. …Postludium 1:12

Limited edition bonus tracks
10. Sirene 3:22
11. Cease to Exist 9:17

Band members
Vibeke Stene – vocals, choir
Morten Veland – harsh vocals, guitars, choir
Anders H. Hidle – guitars, choir
Rune Østerhus – bass
Einar Moen – synths, programming
Kenneth Olsson – drums, choir

Guest musicians
Østen Bergøy – clean vocals on “Angellore”, choir
Pete Johansen – violin
Hilde Egeland, Marita Herikstad, Hilde T. Bommen – choir