Album Review – Altars of Grief / Iris (2018)

Highly influenced by the desolate landscapes and the solitude of long, prairie winters, here comes one of the biggest names in Canadian Blackened Doom with a superb new album narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter.

Formed in November 2013 in Regina, the capital city of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, Blackened Doom act Altars of Grief has worked over the years to develop a weighty concoction of Death Metal, Sludge Metal, Funeral Doom and Atmospheric Black Metal along with a strong focus on storytelling and the desire to convey authentic emotion, highly influenced by the desolate landscapes and the solitude of long, prairie winters that inspired the moniker of “Prairie Doom Metal”. After the release of their 2014 debut fill-length album This Shameful Burden, the band returns in full force with the bold and multi-layered Iris, narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter, named Iris.

Featuring a stunning artwork by Travis Smith from Seempieces, brilliantly depicting Iris’ final moments as she kneels before the winter beset church and embraces her fate, and the mesmerizing cello by Raphael Weinroth-Browne (who by the way played cello for Canadian Folk/Melodic Black Metal band Thrawsunblat on their amazing 2016 opus Metachthonia), Iris is not just an album of heavy music, but an amalgamation of emotions that will transport your mind and soul to the desolation of the prairies. “The story of Iris is very much rooted in our prairie surroundings and deals with the struggles of addiction, sickness and religion. A father finds himself unable to connect with and care for his young daughter, Iris, who has fallen seriously ill. Spiraling deeper and deeper into his vices, and feeling rejected by Iris’ new found and unwavering faith, he gets into his car and decides to leave her behind. Somewhere along the icy road, he loses control of his vehicle and perishes. His purgatory is to watch helplessly as Iris slowly succumbs to her illness without him”, comments the band’s lead singer Damian Smith.

Melancholy and grief permeate the air in the opening track Isolation, a masterpiece of darkness led by the strident and somber guitars by Erik Labossiere and Evan Paulson, while Damian obscurely declaims the song’s lyrics through his anguished gnarls, proving why he’s a poet of the underworld. Hence, the music flows majestically until its grand finale, setting the tone for Desolation, where a Stygian atmosphere is suddenly joined by heavy-as-hell riffs and the crushing Black Metal beats by Zack Bellina, also presenting introspective and touching words (“I opened my eyes / To the night sky / The unending storm / Revealed itself before me / Weightless in my resolve / But, still a burden remains / With this final breath / Please, forgive me”). Moreover, it’s simply impressive how Altars of Grief can sound so distinct from one song to another, also bringing forth a perfect balance between harsh growls and deep clean vocals.

The title-track Iris brings forward more of the band’s enfolding musicality, blending the aggressiveness of Atmospheric Black Metal with the obscurity of Doom Metal, also presenting very subtle nuances of Melodic Black Metal. In addition, Erik and Evan once again fire a mix of rage and harmony through their flammable strings, enhancing the taste of this very complete and bold composition. Then we have Child of Light, where an epic and melancholic intro evolves into a full-bodied sound, and with Zack together with bassist Donny Pinay building a massive, atmospheric wall of sounds with their instruments, generating the perfect ambience for all vocal styles used by the band; followed by Broken Hymns, another captivating, neck-breaking tune where Raphael is truly outstanding with his cello, adding a marvelous touch of delicacy and melancholy to the overall musicality. In other words, this is a song tailored for closing your eyes and letting the band guide your mind and soul to their dark and mournful world.

And Altars of Grief personify the grievous, obscure voices of the bitterly cold winds of winter in the Atmospheric Black Metal extravaganza titled Voices of Winter, with Damian’s growls being delicately complemented by Raphael’s stunning cello sounds and the whimsical guitars by Erik and Evan, whereas in Becoming Intangible the sound of the cello and the acoustic guitars walk hand in hand in the smoothest way possible before morphing into contemporary extreme music, sounding very atmospheric, gripping and bold until its beyond piercing ending. Zack is once again a beast on drums, not to mention the latent poetry found in the song’s lyrics (“I can barely see the sun / I guess this path was truly flawed / Judgement comes with revelation / And, I’ve never felt so close to God”), flowing into one of the most beautiful outros in underground extreme music, titled Epilogue, performed by Raphael and his always astounding cello.

You can listen to Iris in its entirety on YouTube, follow Altars of Grief on Facebook, and purchase your copy of this masterpiece of the underworld from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp or webstore in distinct bundles (Iris CD, Iris CD + Nachtterror / Altars of Grief – Of Ash and Dying Light vinyl split, Iris CD + shirt + patch, and Iris CD + Nachtterror / Altars of Grief vinyl split + shirt + patch), as well as from iTunes or from Amazon. If you were not familiar with “Prairie Doom Metal” before listening to Iris, now you have a very good reason to get to know more about such distinct sub-genre of extreme music. But if Altars of Grief are already a recurrent part of your playlist, the emotional story told in Iris will simply make you even more addicted to their desolate and imposing sounds.

Best moments of the album: Isolation, Iris and Broken Hymns.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Isolation 9:19
2. Desolation 6:15
3. Iris 6:20
4. Child of Light 7:02
5. Broken Hymns 8:11
6. Voices of Winter 7:26
7. Becoming Intangible 9:17
8. Epilogue 2:05

Band members
Damian Smith – vocals
Erik Labossiere – guitars, vocals
Evan Paulson – guitars, vocals, programming
Donny Pinay – bass, vocals
Zack Bellina – drums, vocals on “Broken Hymns”

Guest musician
Raphael Weinroth-Browne – cello on “Isolation”, “Child of Light”, “Broken Hymns”, “Voices of Winter” and “Becoming Intangible”, all instruments on “Epilogue”

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Album Review – Paroxsihzem / Abyss of Excruciating Vexes MLP (2016)

A mini-album of Extreme Metal made in Canada that will suffocate you heartlessly, savagely and diabolically, or everything you always look for when in pursuit of evil music.

Rating5

Paroxsihzem - Abyss of Excruciating Vexes [cover art]If you don’t know what suffocating Black/Death Metal is even being very fond of extreme music, I highly recommend you take a listen at Abyss of Excruciating Vexes, the new release by Canadian metallers Paroxsihzem. For instance, the name chosen by this talented horde formed in 2007 in Toronto, Ontario derives from the word “paroxysm”, which means “a sudden attack or violent expression of a particular emotion or activity”, an honest and precise epitome of what their music represents and all the emotions that will arise when it starts penetrating your mind.

Although Abyss of Excruciating Vexes is a mini-album containing only four brand new compositions and a cover song, you will be able to witness the band moving towards a new and exciting direction in its 25 minutes of the fastest, most violent and most vicious material they have ever done. Featuring a visceral and disturbing artwork by the band’s own lead singer Krag, Abyss of Excruciating Vexes has all the elements we crave in Extreme Metal and more, turning this quick and incendiary album into a must-have item for the collection of any admirer and connoisseur of the darkened heavy music crafted in the underworld.

The dissonant beginning in Dillanties Torture warns the listener of the massacre that’s about to come, a gruesome Black and Death Metal onslaught led by the deep and sick growls by Krag where drummer Abyss seems to be under some kind of evil spell, blasting his furious nonstop beats and fills. In other words, this tune presents a demonic sonority forged in the pits of hell that will please all fans of traditional Black Metal. Then in Bellicose Psychosis you will face bestiality in the form of music, where Impugnor shows how he masters the art of creating wicked riffs, consequently building a dark atmosphere for Krag to fire his vociferations. I would say this is a fusion of pure Black Metal instrumental with pure Death Metal vocals, and the result couldn’t sound more impactful.

Paroxsihzem - photoImpugnor and Abyss are on their satanic mode in BZ Experiment, a song inspired by the Edgewood Arsenal human experiments conducted from 1948 to 1975 by the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, which musically speaking is presented by the band as a feast of blast beats and aggressive riffs and solos, with absolutely no signs of modernity or alternative elements, just plain old school devastation “made in Canada”. Then in the excellent Isolation the band needs less than five seconds to break your spinal cord with their brutal assault of Black Metal, with highlights to the awesome job done by Krag who goes from the deepest guttural a la Chris Barnes to vicious screams closer to what George “Corpsegrinder” Fischer does. Put differently, a powerful “tribute” to ancient and contemporary Cannibal Corpse in what’s the most insane tune of the MLP (and obviously the best).

Lastly, Paroxsihzem have a special gift for us entitled D.C.M., also known as “Dead Cunt Maniac”, a top-notch cover version for a classic song by French Black/Death metal act Arkhon Infaustus, but adding their own touch to the sounding. The song’s growls and riffs get to a truly Stygian level, with its ending leaving you completely disoriented so obscure it is. And you can listen to the entire MLP on the official Hellthrasher Productions’ YouTube channel, if you have an uncontrollable inner desire to experience that disorientation yourself.

All the brutality and doom ignited by Paroxsihzem can be enjoyed by visiting their Facebook page, while Abyss of Excruciating Vexes (which by the way serves as a bridge to the band’s next full-length album) is on sale at the Hellthrasher Productions’ BandCamp page or webshop, released exclusively on 12” vinyl and limited to only 250 copies. This is  high-end Canadian Extreme Metal that will suffocate you heartlessly, savagely and diabolically, or everything you always look for when in pursuit of evil music.

Best moments of the album: Isolation.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Hellthrasher Productions

Track listing
1. Dillanties Torture 7:06
2. Bellicose Psychosis 3:37
3. BZ Experiment 4:52
4. Isolation 4:00
5. D.C.M. (Arkhon Infaustus cover) 4:57

Band members
Krag – vocals
Impugnor – guitars, bass, backing vocals
Abyss – drums

The Walking Dead Review – Episode 403: Isolation

Tyreese goes crazy and Carol finally does “something”. Oh, and there were over 7,500 walkers!

***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***

If you haven’t seen Isolation yet, I suggest you scroll down to the end of this post first and watch the entire episode before reading the rest of the text.

twd_s04e03_01Although Isolation might not have had as much action as the two previous episodes, there was a lot of improvement in terms of the storyline for some characters, especially for Tyreese and Carol. And that mega-herd of walkers was amazing! I’m hoping it will head to the prison before everybody leaves, and then we’ll see if those fences will be able to hold over 7,500 zombies eager for some human flesh! While that doesn’t happen (if that happens), let’s discuss about each relevant item of this episode and what to expect for the next one.

First of all, I’m happy to see that Tyreese is finally becoming more important for the whole story. In my opinion, he was a bit lost in the low-card before the end of the Infected episode, but now with the death of his beloved Karen and the likely death of his sister Sasha he’s moved to the mid-card and will probably play a crucial role in the next few episodes, just like everyone else in the show that either takes an unexpected decision or simply goes crazy (or both, which is his case). He’s at least more violent now: he punched Rick in the face, threatened Daryl, and killed dozens of zombies with just a small hammer (being crowned as the “zombie killer of the week”), things that no one was expecting from an easy-going guy like him before.

Then we have Hershel, the most clearheaded character of all, trying to help as many people as possible putting himself into a lot of danger by getting exposed to the deadly virus. I bet everyone got worried about Glenn being one of the infected, but the way Beth and Maggie reacted to Hershel’s decision made me think that we won’t probably see our wise elderly friend for too long. Hershel gave us a lot of “clues” about his ending, with those speeches about making choices and risking your life for this or that reason. Let’s just hope he’s “wrong” about it and we can see him until the end of this season, because when he’s gone it will be a huge mess for the rest of the group.

Carl not killing two zombies and Rick’s gratuitous violence were also great improvements to their characters, but the most shocking development last night was with no doubt what happened to Carol. I’m sure no one saw that coming! Everybody was thinking about Dr. S or that other black dude being responsible for killing and setting fire to those two bodies, but Carol? What happened to her? The Walking Dead’s “Jamie Lee Curtis” suddenly revealed herself as a cold-hearted person, or at least she has become that within the past few episodes. I honestly don’t know what Rick will do about Carol’s actions or what will happen to her, but at least we can celebrate she has finally done “something relevant” to the show after so many episodes being almost useless.

twd_s04e03_02And last but not least, there was that amazing mega-herd of zombies blocking the super-team’s way to the hospital! The sequence of the car accelerating over the heads of some walkers and the following fighting scenes were pretty cool, and as I said it was awesome to see a fierce zombie-killer Tyreese in action. However, did you notice why over 7,500 walkers and a lot of killing were added to that scene all of a sudden? Think about it: Daryl, Tyreese, Michonne and the other black dude were all paying attention to that weird radio transmission about a “sanctuary” a few seconds before the action started, but nobody could actually reason anymore about it when the massive herd of zombies appeared. Will they remember to tell about it to Rick when they get back to the prison? What the hell was that? Is it going to be their true salvation, or maybe it’s just part of a gruesome ambush being prepared by the Governor?

Oh, I almost forgot about a VERY important part of the whole thing: right after last night’s episode, there was the nice show Talking Dead, but unfortunately this time with Marilyn Manson as one of the guests. It was a torture for anyone with at least two neurons working listening to what that stupid motherfucker was mumbling all the time. That freak is an annoying joke! The person responsible for inviting him to the show should be fired! I’d rather be eaten by a zombie than watching one more minute of Marilyn Manson talking again, and thumbs up to the host Chris Hardwick for being able to handle that fuckin’ idiot so well in the end.

Isolation (FULL EPISODE)