Album Review – Morkesagn / Where The Darkness Never Ends (2015)

These ruthless Ukrainian metallers will take you where the darkness never ends to the sound of their raw and aggressive Black Metal.

Rating4

frontDo you want to know where the darkness never ends? Based on the cataclysmic music brought forth by Ukrainian Black Metal act Morkesagn in their debut full-length release Where The Darkness Never Ends, I should say it’s definitely the city of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. Those corpse-painted metallers are capable of blending the most refined techniques found in heavy music with the infernal aggressiveness of raw Black Metal, resulting in a must-have album for fans of Emperor, Dissection, Satyricon and early Norwegian Black Metal.

Morkesagn, whose name was taken from the Norwegian language and means “Dark Legends”, was formed in the year of 2013 in Kiev by lead vocalist, guitarist, composer and songwriter Ekvil, and although there have been significant changes to the band’s lineup since then, their music surely evolved to a much more robust and lancinating form. Add to that the content of their lyrics, based mostly on the mythology of Greece and partly on Scandinavian mythology, and there you have one of the most promising bands hailing from Eastern Europe in recent years.

Dungeons, with its smooth and sinister intro suddenly exploding into over 8 minutes of darkness and sulfur in the form of brutal Black Metal led by the demonic growls by Ekvil, presents lots of melodic elements and a somber atmosphere which end up preventing it from being too crude; whereas primeval drums set the tone for the infernal opus Heart of Darkness, the first of their three “hearts”, where Ekvil and Farn burst undistilled Black Metal riffs and solos while Lev Kurgansky (the session drummer for the album) is an unstoppable demon behind his drums.

IMG_5457-Edit_newThe following “heart”, entitled Heart of Poison, starts as very obscure and heavy Doom Metal before becoming a venomous blast of the blackest form of Extreme Metal you can think of. In addition, the devilish way Ekvil declaims the lyrics is at the same time threatening and captivating, enhancing the song’s morbidity. Heart of Flame, the third and last “heart”, will lacerate your soul with its burning Black Metal inflamed by the traditional blast beats and fills by Lev, as well as the piercing riffs by Ekvil and Farn, solidifying this complex tune full of variations as if there were three or four songs in one.

And there’s no place to hide from their blasphemous metal music, as you’ll notice in the solid and vile tune Temple, where beautiful guitar lines flourish amidst sheer carnage, and the rumbling bass lines by Heydvald simply confirm darkness will prevail after all is said and done. Finally, as hazardous as a frostbite we have Frost, an amazing “tribute” to Norwegian Black Metal that lives up to the tradition of Scandinavian extreme music, from its cold name to its hypnotizing rhythm, darkening our minds before the ominous instrumental outro Throne of Doom brings this enraged album to an end.

In conclusion, Morkesagn can undoubtedly take you on a tenebrous journey through the forbidding world of Black Metal aboard the skeleton ship portrayed in the album art of Where The Darkness Never Ends, which can be purchased at the band’s official BandCamp page. It’s just a matter of knowing if you’re brave enough to face the band’s grim musicality and, above all things, if you’re willing to accept infinite darkness into your heart.

Best moments of the album: Heart of Darkness and Heart of Flame.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Farn Black Productions

Track listing
1. Dungeons 8:20
2. Heart Of Darkness 7:19
3. Heart Of Poison 7:07
4. Heart Of Flame 7:15
5. Temple 7:31
6. Frost 4:43
7. Throne Of Doom 2:57

Band members
Ekvil – vocals, guitars
Farn – guitars
Heydvald – bass
Heisenbeard – drums

Guest musician
Lev Kurgansky – drums (session musician)

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Album Review – Grave Digger / Return of the Reaper (2014)

One of the most traditional and respected Power Metal titans from Germany return with another good album, although not as memorable or inspired as it could have been.

Rating5

coverAs a tribute to the newly crowned World Cup champions Germany, who won the final match yesterday against Argentina, a team that truly put their hearts and souls into the match and deserve our most pure respect for almost beating an unbeatable machine such as the Teutonic squad, here’s the review for the new album by one of the most influential German bands of all time. I remember back in the 90’s when German Power Metal icons Grave Digger redefined their style to a more epic and powerful musicality, releasing some high-end classic albums such as Heart of Darkness (1995), Excalibur (1999), and especially the masterpiece Tunes of War (1996), increasing their legion of fans significantly, reaching a main-eventer status and headlining important tours and festivals worldwide. That was exactly when I became a huge fan of their unique Power Metal, and until today I feel really excited whenever Chris Boltendahl and his clan announce that a new Grave Digger album is about to rock the world.

Unfortunately, this time I’m a little sad to say that their new album, Return of the Reaper, is not as good as I was expecting. Despite having some very traditional and powerful moments with those characteristic elements we learned to love in the music by Grave Digger, most songs of the album sound way too generic and uninspired. They seem to be suffering from the same “sickness” as Arch Enemy with their latest release: the album is far from being a disaster, but we all know they’re capable of delivering something a lot more creative and thrilling than that. Where are those Heavy Metal anthems such as “The Grave Dancer”, “Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching)” or “Excalibur”?

However, there’s no need to panic: Return of the Reaper might not be a memorable album, but it is quite enjoyable and sufficient enough to keep Grave Digger relevant in the world of heavy music. The intro Return Of The Reaper, which is a heavy version of Frederic Chopin’s Funeral March enhanced by some desperate screams, followed by the most traditional Grave Digger musicality you can find in this album (and by far the best song of all), the violent Hell Funeral, are together an excellent way to kick things off with lots of  Power Metal riffs, a catchy chorus and Chris Boltendahl’s voice sounding as awesome as usual even after so many years on the road. War God is another fast tune most fans will enjoy, with Stefan Arnold always precise on drums, but the chorus could have been a little more powerful and less repetitive (which by the way is a constant during the rest of the album); while Tattooed Rider has a name that simply asked for a more Hard Rock sonority, and albeit being a good song it’s kind of generic, especially in regards to the lyrics.

Grave-DiggerThen we have two of the worst tracks of the album: Resurrection Day, despite some good riffs and drumming, has horrible lyrics that don’t mean anything and a really bad chorus; while Season Of The Witch sounds like a rip-off of “The Last Supper” (especially the riff), getting really tiring after a while. At least the following track, the boisterous Road Rage Killer, speed things up with its really awesome heavy riffs, sounding similar to some of their old classics and, consequently, becoming one of the top moments of the album.

The following tracks will probably create mixed feelings among all fans of the band, alternating really good moments with lots of cheesiness and lack of creativity. Although Grave Desecrator offers us a good mix of Hard Rock and Power Metal, its horrible lyrics hamper it from becoming an excellent song; on the other hand, Satan’s Host is another good song with a very traditional approach and direct lyrics, and I’m pretty sure it will be one of the chosen songs by the band to be played live due to its intensity. Dia De Los Muertos slows things down a little with its simple but effective 80’s Hard Rock, even with its “creative” Spanish name that doesn’t add anything to the song (“Day Of The Dead” would have been a much better choice); while Death Smiles At All Of Us has an interesting keyboard intro that turns into a nice Power Metal tune, complemented by the best guitar solo of the whole album. And finally, for a band with so many outstanding ballads such as “Dolphin’s Cry”, “The Ballad Of Mary (Queen Of Scots)” and “Emerald Eyes”, closing the album we have the boring Nothing To Believe, which sounds truly uninspired and too generic compared to what Grave Digger are capable of doing.

At least the album art, once again created by Gyula Havancsák of Hjules Illustration and Design, who has been responsible for all of the band’s artworks since The Last Supper (2005), lives up to Grave Digger’s name, even if it’s not as majestic as The Last Supper or Heart of Darkness. In conclusion, if you’re a long-time fan of Grave Digger you can go ahead and buy their new album, you’re probably going to enjoy it. But if you are not fond of their most recent releases, Return of the Reaper will just be another reason for you to keep complaining about what the band is currently doing and keep going back to their old classics for some truly inspired Power Metal music.

Best moments of the album: Hell Funeral, Road Rage Killer and Satan’s Host.

Worst moments of the album: Resurrection Day, Season Of The Witch and Nothing To Believe.

Released in 2014 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Return Of The Reaper (Intro) 1:16
2. Hell Funeral 3:02
3. War God 3:47
4. Tattooed Rider 4:04
5. Resurrection Day 2:59
6. Season Of The Witch 5:05
7. Road Rage Killer 3:19
8. Grave Desecrator 4:23
9. Satan’s Host 2:56
10. Dia De Los Muertos 4:16
11. Death Smiles At All Of Us 3:52
12. Nothing To Believe 4:34

Band members
Chris Boltendahl – vocals
Axel Ritt – guitars
Jens Becker – bass
Stefan Arnold – drums
H.P. Katzenburg – keyboards