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 – Lorn / Arrayed Claws EP (2017)

Absorb the music found in these five psychotic and violent tracks that perfectly exemplify the evolutionary path within the Black Metal field of this distinguished Italian act.

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ivr068-lorn-arrayed-clawsListening to the distinct Atmospheric Black Metal engendered by Italian act Lorn feels like contemplating a work-of-art by an unusual modern artist, changing its shape and form and bringing forward new elements every single time you stare at it. Since its inception in 1999, this alluring band from Bolzano, a city in the South Tyrol province of north Italy, has been delivering fresh extreme music through each of their releases, never sounding repetitive or outdated, with their full-length albums Towards the Abyss of Disease (2006) and Subconscious Metamorphosis (2013) being their most remarkable works to date. Now in 2017 Lorn are back with Arrayed Claws, featuring five psychotic and violent tracks that perfectly exemplify their evolutionary path within the Black Metal field.

If Subconscious Metamorhposis was a transcendental mental journey towards a superior illumination, Lorn’s new album looks more like a physical and desperate odyssey through the regions of Death. Featuring a classy artwork by Joel Angelini, with layout by Francesco Gemelli, Arrayed Claws will disturb your peace of mind and take you to the obscure realms of Black Metal crafted by the band’s mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Radok. Hence, as aforementioned, every instance you take a listen at such eccentric album you’ll experience different thoughts and feelings, expanding your comprehension of what atmospheric and experimental Extreme Metal truly means and, therefore, enhancing your personal connection with the music by Lorn.

In the opening track, titled Disharmonic Feticism, a darkened squall of brutal, extreme music hits the listener without clemency, with drummer Chimsicrin discharging furious old school Black Metal beats while Radok showcases all his skills through his demonic gnarls and violent riffs, not to mention its beautifully deranged lyrics (“Intentness / So that nothing correspond / Intolerance to the familiar / Orgasmic grate”). After seven minutes of violence and chaos, we face four minutes of a calm atmospheric passage to help soothe our souls, proving how broad extreme music can be when played by the right musicians (especially if they come from Italy, a never-ending source of high-end Black Metal). Their sonic demolition comes back in full force in Abstract Trap, a solid display of vicious Black Metal with Death and Thrash Metal elements to make it more aggressive, with the beastly Chimsicrin being unstoppable behind his drums. Moreover, this is another long, complex composition where again after around four minutes the band transitions their demonic music to an eerie atmospheric aura, with the difference that this time their havoc returns after a short while, with its ending feeling phantasmagorical and menacing.

lorn-logoThe second half of the album offers the listener two songs inspired by the Altaian mythology, two stages of a purification path. Toybodim, a fast-paced high-end Extreme Metal tune showcasing possessed vocals and lancinating guitars, takes its name from a black lake where the souls of the dead fall and become larvae, which can be seen in its lyrics (“Miserable parasite / The cowardice inebriates your void / Hidden haughtiness / Allegiance frighten your rotten self”); whereas the multilayered instrumental tune Sut-aq-Kol is a lake of milk where the spirits get purified, a placenta for the newborns. Musically speaking, this second song continues with Lorn’s banquet of extreme music, once again displaying boisterous drums and infernal riffs. The transition between these two tracks to the atmospheric Aus Nebel Turm aims at leaving the listener beaten and dismayed, with the painful awareness of being only a grain of nothing, lost in mysterious fogs of existence. After an ominous beginning, the music flows into pure Atmospheric and Experimental Black Metal, concluding the transcendental journey proposed by Lorn.

As mentioned in the beginning of this review, every single time you take a listen at the music by Lorn you’ll feel different,  and if you’re ready to experience and absorb all the fury and complexity found in the five tracks of Arrayed Claws, simply go to the I, Voidhanger Records’ BandCamp or webstore to purchase this unconventional and extremely well-crafted album. Also, in order to keep track of such distinguished act, go visit Lorn’s Facebook page to know more about their music, future releases and other details, as a project like this that can unite harmony and disharmony in such enthralling way definitely deserves our sincere support.

Best moments of the album: Disharmonic Feticism and Toybodim.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 I, Voidhanger Records

Track listing
1. Disharmonic Feticism 10:53
2. Abstract Trap 10:15
3. Toybodim 6:09
4. Sut-aq-Kol 4:56
5. Aus Nebel Turm 6:40

Band members
Radok – guitars, bass, synth, vocals
Chimsicrin – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Dr. Mikannibal

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I Live You Die… Your Life Is Mine.

If you have never, ever in your entire life heard or seen anything about the jaw-dropping, unusual and skillful Japanese goddess Dr. Mikannibal, the saxophonist and also one of the lead singers of Japanese Black/Avant-garde Metal band Sigh, you have no idea of what you’re missing. Furthermore, nothing that you will read here is fake or made-up: Dr. Mikannibal is indeed a unique performer, and I dare you to find another woman so off-the-wall in music, even in the weird realms of Industrial, Gothic and especially Black Metal. For instance, she loves to record topless, has the odd habit of eating bugs and also enjoys drinking blood. Do I need to say more?

Our electrifying Asian bombshell, whose real name is Mika, was born on January 23 in the city of Sendai-shi (also known as “The City of Trees”) in Miyagi, Japan, located around 350km from the capital Tokyo. Dr. Mikannibal is in a long-term relationship with Sigh’s multi-instrumentalist Mirai Kawashima, and although she suffered a miscarriage three months into pregnancy in 2013, in April 2014 she took the stage of Inferno Metal Festival in Oslo, Norway with “Baby’s In Here” written on her belly. I wasn’t able to find anything online about her pregnancy after that, so let’s hope that Mika and Mirai had a beautiful and healthy baby together (which is probably what happened) and are now enjoying their parenthood to the sound of heavy music.

Named one of the “Sexiest Women in Metal” by Revolver Magazine, the title of Doctor added to her stage moniker is far from being jest, as she actually has a Ph.D. in Physics and still finds time to work as a scientist at her home in Florida, where she has been living for the past few years. Moreover, as expected from any person that’s at the same time a scientist and a black metaller, Dr. Mikannibal is an atheist (as well as Mirai) and whenever the band sings about hell she said in one of her interviews there’s no religious meaning behind it. It’s simply a representation of human beings going through hell, describing those scenes through their music.

In regards to her music career, Dr. Mikannibal has been playing saxophone since she was 12, being able to play the alto, tenor and baritone sax. She mentioned all are basically the same and she does that to add more power to her music, although it’s more difficult than playing just the alto sax, of course. However, it wasn’t until she joined Sigh that she took her saxophone skills to the studio and on stage at a professional level. Before joining Sigh she only did vocals for different metal bands, starting with indie Japanese Melodic Death Metal band 29Jaguar, with whom she recorded the demo 29Anger in 2005, and Japanese Melodic Thrash/Death Metal band Providence.

Dr. Mikannibal joined Sigh back in 2007, having already recorded with the band the following albums: A Tribute to Venom EP (2008), Scenes from Hell (2010), The Curse of Izanagi EP (2010), the split album Swine of Hades (2011), and more recently In Somniphobia (2012) and Graveward (2015). From all those releases, the only one where our metal goddess did not play her wicked saxophone was A Tribute to Venom EP, but anyway you can enjoy her devilish vocals in their cover versions for the Black Metal classics Countess Bathory, Black Metal and Witching Hour. If you want to take a listen at her skills as both the vocalist and saxophonist of Sigh, a few suggested songs are The Transfiguration Fear and Far Beneath The In-Between and Kaedit Nos Pestis. Lastly, after joining Sigh, she recorded sax and vocals in the 2012 album Worms in the Keys by international Avant-garde Rock/Metal project Self Spiller, and was also a guest saxophonist on track Boiled In Hell Broth & Grave Dust (Intro), from the 2010 album The Murder of Jesus the Jew by British Experimental Black Metal band The Meads of Asphodel, and on A Hollow Bridge, from the album Mapping the Moment with the Logic of Dreams by Romanian Progressive Black Metal band Bloodway. Apart from her career as a musician, Dr. Mikannibal has also ventured in the world of journalism, as for example her interview with At The Gates vocalist Tomas Lindberg in Tokyo, Japan on August 5, 2013 for the Metal Moment podcast.

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Nonetheless, it’s on stage that our sexy doctor really stands out with her lunatic vocals and ferocious saxophone playing, her skimpy lingerie, skirts and dresses, and of course her infamous hot wax bath. Yes, that’s exactly what you have in your mind right now: a provocative Asian girl dripping hot wax from candles all over her attractive body. Check these two videos on YouTube where you’ll be able to see how wild she’s when performing live, the first playing the song The Soul Grave at the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands in 2013, and the second showing you her hot wax bath in Taipei, Taiwan in 2012. Isn’t she adorable?

But wait, there’s still a lot more to talk about our fearless diva: because she loves her pet lizards (or geckos) and was really curious as to what they eat, she started to gather more details on bug eating, attended a “bug eating party”, learned how to cook roaches and other bugs properly and voilà! There you have a sexy bug-eater woman! Oddly enough, Dr. Mikannibal explained everything she does is not meant to attract the attention of anyone. “Some people in Japan traditionally eat grasshoppers. In the north part of Japan, they eat bugs. Eating roaches is not common in Japan, but it’s not a made-up story to get attention. It’s just something I do.”, she said in one of her interviews.

Obviously, a woman like that who wears such revealing see-through outfits in front of thousands of people has to be very comfortable with her body and appearance. She accepts and embraces the idea of being a sex symbol, although such distinction is not one of her main goals in her career. Not only that, when our gorgeous Nipponese lady is about to record anything new at home or in the studio, she does that topless (yes, topless!), simply due to the fact that she feels a lot more comfortable that way as she hates sweating a lot. She mentioned once the first thing she does when she arrives home is taking off her clothes, saying that’s something very natural and pleasant for her. Well, I guess there are lots of people who would love to attend the recording sessions by Sigh and be face-to-face in the studio with Dr. Mikannibal, one of the most remarkable women in contemporary Extreme Metal.

Dr. Mikannibal’s Official Facebook page
Dr. Mikannibal’s Official Twitter
Sigh’s Official Facebook page
Sigh’s Official Twitter 

“I do wear sexy costumes, and I wear less clothes than other metal chicks do in other bands. It’s not intentional. I don’t do it to try and get attention from men. I just wear what I wear because I like it. I love myself, my looks and my body, and I like to show it off on stage. That’s the whole idea.”  – Dr. Mikannibal