Album Review – Divine Element / Thaurachs Of Borsu (2017)

In the hostile lands of Borsu, witness the passage of a soldier through various levels of consciousness about the reality of war, human society and the fabric of the cosmos itself, all embraced by the fury and epicness of Melodic Death and Black Metal.

A comeback that has been slowly brewing since a few years now. Formed in 2002 in the city of Athens, Greece, Melodic Death/Black Metal act Divine Element was the first band of Spectral Lore’s multi-instrumentalist Ayloss and vocalist Antonis, releasing their self-titled debut album back in 2010. After a hiatus of almost seven years, Divine Element are finally back with the stunning Thaurachs of Borsu, the first chapter in many future ones to come under a new and ambitious conceptual undertaking, the combination of metal with fantasy literature and world-making. Featuring a classy artwork by Chilean artist Matias Trabold Rehren, Thaurachs of Borsu is based on the same-titled novel written by Ayloss, which will be unveiled not long after the album release (to be followed by short stories from Antonis), set on a medieval fantasy universe envisioned by the band.

Thaurachs of Borsu chronicles the passage of a soldier through various levels of consciousness about the reality of war, human society and the fabric of the cosmos itself, as the gritty and daring warriors of his nation, Borsu, fight to regain their ancestral homeland from a much more powerful enemy. Musically speaking, the album ties together several styles of metal to serve the higher purpose of epic storytelling, albeit taking notice to never fall into the typical clichés of “soundtrack metal”, keeping an old-school approach mostly centered around Death and Black Metal of the heavy, melodic variety. Put differently, after hitting play you’ll find yourself wandering through the lands of Borsu, ready for battle and eager for some blood, banging your head nonstop to the majestic heavy music played by Antonis and Ayloss, with the precise and masterful support of German drummer Hannes Grossman (Alkaloid, Hannes Grossman, Shapeshift) to make their sound even more enthralling.

A Realignment With Destiny is a fantastic epic intro to the battle that’s about to come, the title-track Thaurachs Of Borsu, where Antonis and Ayloss begin their crushing onslaught in total sync with the Amon Amarth-inspired beats by Hannes. In other words, this is superb metal music, dense and profound, with all instruments filling all spaces with sheer aggression and might. In addition, how not to fall in love for those monumental lyrics (“The valley folk to the mountains’ slopes withdrew / Surrounded only by unwrought stone / The sea lords to the dry desert driven / Οswan roams frenzied in a soundless plain / Mestyr hangs discouraged with a rusting blade / And all hearts bellow in a silent wailing / A resignation to oblivion”)?

In Onto The Trail Of Betrayal, Antonis’ potent deep growls keep rumbling the earth while the instrumental pieces invest in a more Black Metal sonority. Moreover, the intricate beats by Hannes go along flawlessly with the cutting riffs by Ayloss, resulting in eight minutes of the best underground Melodic Death and Black Metal you can get anywhere, where they not only play superior music but the story being told is also a work-of-art. Then in Beyond This Sea we’re treated to a calm and melancholic start before the sound of the sea and the guitar lines blend in a beautiful manner, creating a potent atmosphere for the metallic sounds that are about to come. Adding elements of Blackened Doom and Folk Metal to their menacing Melodic Death Metal, the result couldn’t sound more imposing and appealing, with highlights to how vocals and guitar follow the exact same lines.

The movie-inspired bridge Interlude (The Point Of No Return) sounds even more majestic than the album’s intro, warming up your fighting soul for the crushing Call Of The Blade, a gripping fusion of the music played by Amon Amarth with traditional Folk Metal, with Antonis sounding like a beast on vocals, enhancing the impact of the song’s already powerful lyrics (“The land speaks to me in an alien tongue / Though my blood was born in these shores / What will I find, if I dig to unearth these roots / The echo of old thoughts faints quickly here / As the collective energy rises triumphant / Powered by the fiery will of a few”). Traitor’s Last Stand is another belligerent tune by Divine Element, showcasing almost eight minutes of heavier-than-hell riffs, electrifying passages and enlivening breaks. Furthermore, Hannes brings a high dosage of intricacy to the overall musicality with his drumming, while Antonis keeps telling the story with precision and passion through his anger-fueled growls. The last part of the song exhales epicness, gradually morphing into the cinematic outro Augury For A Shapeless Future, where the gorgeous sound of a rough ocean, together with the orchestrations in the background, make it the perfect climatic ending for the album.

No words can describe with the right amount of detail how amazing Thaurachs Of Borsu is, which is why I highly recommend you go take a listen at the album in its entirety HERE, and also visit the band’s official Facebook page for more information and their YouTube channel for more awesomeness in the form of heavy music. Also, there are several locations where you can purchase Thaurachs Of Borsu, such as Divine Element’s BandCamp, the I, Voidhanger Records’ BandCamp or webstore, and the Season of Mist’s webstore, as well as on Amazon and at Discogs. And while we wait for the next chapter in the career of Divine Element, we have plenty to enjoy and absorb in this superb album where heavy music and a thrilling story-telling couldn’t be more connected, impactful and vibrant.

Best moments of the album: Thaurachs Of Borsu, Beyond This Sea and Call Of The Blade.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 I, Voidhanger Records

Track listing   
1. A Realignment With Destiny 2:13
2. Thaurachs Of Borsu 4:52
3. Onto The Trail Of Betrayal 7:45
4. Beyond This Sea 4:54
5. Interlude (The Point Of No Return) 1:30
6. Call Of The Blade 6:34
7. Traitor’s Last Stand 7:36
8. Augury For A Shapeless Future 2:39

Band members
Antonis – vocals
Ayloss – guitars, bass, synths

Guest musician
Hannes Grossman – drums (session)

Album Review – Ghost Horizon / The Erotics of Disgust EP (2017)

Four distinct compositions that will pierce into your mind and soul in a beautiful way, brought forth by a musician that definitely knows how to transform his deepest feelings into great music.

If you’re an admirer of the most obscure and melancholic forms of Melodic and Atmospheric Black Metal, I have some very good news for you. Critically acclaimed Post-Black Metal act Ghost Horizon is back with a brand new EP, titled The Erotics of Disgust, a follow-up (but with a considerably different sounding) to the band’s previous EP Astral Possessions, released in 2016.  This time around, this Phoenix-based project consists of founder Dan Stollings on vocals and all stringed instruments, and newcomer “Frog” Magus (Norse) on drums, who together brought into being four distinct compositions that will pierce into your soul and crush your feelings in a beautiful way.

Dan commented that the EP “has been waiting in the darkness for quite a while now – it’s been completed for months. It’s been hard to let this EP into the world, because in a lot of ways, I’m sharing some pretty deep emotions that I would never talk about otherwise. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in the process of its creation, and I think that’s reflected pretty heavily in the music. The decision to do the vocals myself was also a part of this realization that in order to portray exactly what I’m thinking, I need to use my own voice. Nothing on this album is perfect. I didn’t want it to be perfect. At first I went into writing with the mentality that this will be the best produced thing I’ve ever done, but after finishing the vocals, I realized this thing needs to be raw. And so it was.” After reading such powerful words by Dan, I’m sure you’re more than curious to listen to The Erotics of Disgust, but once again let me warn you that the music might be too dark for the average listener.

Radiant Eyes presents an introspective beginning for this new phase of Ghost Horizon, gradually morphing into a dark amalgamation of Blackened Doom and Post-Black Metal with hints of progressiveness enhancing the song’s depressive sonority. Moreover, “Frog” Magus does an amazing job on drums, maintaining the song’s dense rhythm flowing smoothly. In So Hollow, not only Dan surprises us with his clean vocals supported by a gentle ambience, but the song’s lyrics also prove that he’s definitely a skillful poet of darkness (“You can take it all / Everything we know / You can break it all / You chose a path I cannot follow / You left a heart in me so hollow / Changing skies above / Breaking hearts below / On again / True love / Off again / Bruised love”). This is modern and gripping Atmospheric Black Metal that brings at the same time peace and hopelessness to our hearts, making us eager for more of the music by Ghost Horizon.

Following a similar pattern to the previous song, This Forever Flow also presents delicate guitars and bass lines together with the Doom Metal-inspired beats by “Frog”, with its last piece getting heavier due to the harsh growls by Dan without losing its core subtlety. Besides, how not to get touched by its profound lyrics (“Fading from my heart is the will to be one / Fear in my words – last words to my love / Fire fading quickly, your lips have left me cold / The ending of a romance with the ending left untold”)? Lastly, featuring guitarist and composer Tyler Allen on guest vocals, Ghost Horizon deliver a full-bodied darkened composition bursting with anguish, despair and melancholy entitled Whispers, with its Black Metal riffs and blast beats bringing an extra dosage of obscurity to the overall musicality. In my humble opinion, it’s the best and most complete of the four songs of the EP, the type of music I would like to see Dan explore even more with his future releases.

In summary, although many people have a lot of difficulties to talk about their deepest feelings, it seems that Dan has simply mastered how to express his own feelings through the music by Ghost Horizon. However, you have to be very open-minded and absorb each second of The Erotics of Disgust in order to fully understand the whole message delivered by Dan this time, letting your mind and soul minutely merge with the music found on this fine album. And you can always get to know Ghost Horizon in more detail through their Facebook page and listen to their music on Spotify, as well as purchase your copy of The Erotics of Disgust on BandCamp, at the Tridroid Records’ webshop, on Cd Baby, on Amazon or on iTunes. The Erotics of Disgust is certainly not Dan’s last stint with his Ghost Horizon, which means there’s still a lot to come from such distinct act, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Best moments of the album: Whispers.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Radiant Eyes 4:11
2. So Hollow 4:05
3. This Forever Flow 5:01
4. Whispers 4:34

Band members
Dan Stollings – all stringed instruments, vocals
“Frog” Magus – drums

Guest musician
Tyler Allen – additional vocals on “Whispers”

Album Review – Through Chaos & Solitude / The Thawing Winds Of The Morning Sun EP (2017)

A classy and meaningful Melodic Black Metal project aiming at opening our eyes and show us that we, mankind, are our own blessing and our own curse.

“The thawing winds of the morning sun is us. Mankind. We are our own blessing and our own curse. We are the stroke of wing which causes these winds to blow. We try to become god ourselves while declaring him for dead and still we deny our nature. We subdue the earth and its children and still we strive for more. By now we already realized our purpose and we willingly choose to neglect it. We’re flying directly into the sun and still we’re accelerating…”

These dark, poetic words perfectly summarize the music you’ll find in The Thawing Winds Of The Morning Sun, the debut demo by German Melodic Black Metal project Through Chaos & Solitude, led by multi-instrumentalist Tim Rule (Forward to Eden) with the help of Sebastian D. (Castigator) on drums. Featuring a serene cover art by Pottriot Illustrationen, and written, recorded and mixed by Tim himself during this past winter in the city of Ruhrpott in North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state of Germany, The Thawing Winds Of The Morning Sun brings beautiful, melancholic and dark music in the vein of bands like Woods Of Ypres, Agalloch and Falls Of Rauros, with each one of its three songs sending a thoughtful message about life and death, our souls, our existence and our struggles.

The initial sound of the howling wind in the first song of the demo, titled The Intransigence Of The Soul, is suddenly joined by an onrush of heavy guitars and blast beats, with the demonic gnarls by Tim giving life (or I should say death) to the song’s poetic lyrics (“Constant struggle of the mind and the heart / Constant suspense of the body and the mind / Persistency in the thought – restlessly moving on / Intransigence of the soul…”). Furthermore, anguish, despair and loneliness are just a few of the emotions explored by Tim in this piercing Black Metal chant, ending in an acoustic and pensive manner before we face the second piece of the demo, A Heart Of Eternal Winter (And The Longing For Your Warmth), which builds a direct bridge to the opening track, beginning in a slow-paced rhythm inspired by the obscurity of Doom and Gothic Metal, also showcasing acute Black Metal blast beats by Sebastian D. and a somber ambience. Tim’s phantasmagoric vocals embrace us in darkness at first, shifting to his hellish growls and back to melodic clean vocals and, therefore, creating a nice paradox of voices inside our minds.

Also connected to its predecessor, If This Is The Best We Can Get Then I Am Disappointed brings forward obscure acoustic guitars and once again the haunting sound of the wind while Tim darkly grasps the song’s austere lyrics, which present his personal view of mankind (“Evolution has brought us so far / And still – look where we are / Creating life and taking life / All in the same conceited breath / We are appointing ourselves to gods / Whereas declaring him for dead / If this is the best we can be / Then please let it end with me / Evolution has brought us so far…”). In addition, this composition is another excellent sample of the clash of distinct sounds Tim enjoys putting together, displaying slow and steady beats à la Doom Metal during its first half, whereas the second part of the song brings an explosion of heavy and dissonant sounds that lives up to the legacy of Scandinavian Black Metal, until it finally reaches its lugubrious ending.

In summary, Tim and his Through Chaos & Solitude are not only offering us well-crafted, harmonious and dark heavy music, but he also discusses important topics about the dangerous direction mankind is taking, pointing to our dread but inevitable extinction. If you’re a metalhead that’s always in pursuit of high-end music coming from independent artists and bands who also care about the content and message transmitted through their creations, Through Chaos & Solitude might be exactly what you’re craving, and obviously don’t forget support this brand new project by purchasing The Thawing Winds Of The Morning Sun at the Bound By Modern Age Records’ BandCamp or webstore (in tape or CD format), at the Mark My Words Records’ BandCamp or webstore, or at Discogs. Let’s hope Tim goes on with Through Chaos & Solitude, a classy project with a meaningful message that only brings more energy to his already excellent Melodic Black Metal, and that mankind finally opens their eyes for all the wrongful things that are happening in our world before it’s too late.

Best moments of the album: The Intransigence Of The Soul.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Bound By Modern Age Records/Mark My Words Records

Track listing
1. The Intransigence Of The Soul 7:58
2. A Heart Of Eternal Winter (And The Longing For Your Warmth) 5:10
3. If This Is The Best We Can Get Then I Am Disappointed 6:37

Band members
Tim Rule – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards
Sebastian D. – drums

Album Review – Misteyes / Creeping Time (2016)

Which side will you chose in the never-ending battle between Light and Dark Metal brought forth by this distinct symphonic band from Italy?

Rating4

creeping-time-front-cover-artwork“Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.” – Heraclitus

The never-ending battle between good and evil, day and night, light and dark, heaven and hell, life and death or whatever other philosophical depiction you want to give to the two opposite worlds that guide our thoughts and actions has just been transformed into high-end music by Italian Symphonic Death/Gothic Metal act Misteyes in Creeping Time, the debut full-length album by a band that definitely knows how to put together the best elements from Light and Dark Metal, enhancing their contrast and, consequently, their impact on the listener.

Misteyes started back in 2012 in the city of Turin, Italy as a five-piece group, playing what could be considered Melodic Death/Black Metal before changing their music direction in 2014 to what exists today, including the addition of a female vocalist and a keyboardist to the band. The next couple of years were very fruitful for Misteyes, who not only started working on Creeping Time, but also shared the stage with renowned names in the Gothic scene such as Cadaveria, Opera IX, Lunarsea and Elegy Of Madness. The band’s approach and musicality can already be sensed through the obscure artwork by Italian artist Alessandro Alimonti (Overload Design Studio), but it’s when the music starts that you’ll find yourself in the middle of the fight between light and dark, getting completely mesmerized by the music that flows through your ears.

The melancholic intro The Last Knell, which begins with the sound of a baby crying, grows in intensity until the title-track Creeping Time arises from the depths of hell in a feast of Symphonic Black and Gothic Metal. Denise “Ainwen” Manzi is the beauty on vocals while Edoardo “Irmin” Iacono provides his beastly growls, perfectly depicting what the band wants to say with the “Light and Dark Metal” concept, with keyboardist Gabriele “Hyde” Gilodi being the one responsible for giving the song its operatic vibe. Then it’s time for some heavier riffs by Daniele “Insanus” Poveromo and Riccardo “Decadence” Tremaioni in the dense Brains in a Vat, an amazing composition filled with passion, hate and agony featuring the creepy spoken words by guest musician Mattia Casabona (Aspasia), sounding like a hybrid of the music by the early days of Cradle of Filth with Epica, resulting in a masterpiece of underground Symphonic Metal. Moreover, it’s interesting how Hyde maintains the mystery in Misteyes’ music through his keyboards no matter how fast and heavy the music is, which is the case in Inside the Golden Cage, where the vocals by Ainwen are once again heavily inspired by the diva Simone Simons whereas Irmin leans towards pure Black Metal, not to mention the thrilling beats by Federico “Krieger” Tremaioni.

Lady Loneliness, a beautiful atmospheric power ballad focused on the gentle voice of Ainwen with some pianos notes giving it an extra touch of delicacy, showcases a good story told through its lyrics (“If you are here, I cannot be overtaken by fear / Only this eternal silence is what can soothe my pain / In darkness I can find you, this time will be forever / Come! Come to me, my lady! Lady Loneliness!”); followed by The Prey, with the whole band getting back to a more brutish mode. Irmin effectively enhances the song’s aggressiveness due to his deranged harsh growls, with Insanus, Decadence and Hyde delivering sheer madness while bassist Andrea “Hephaestus” Gammeri brings forward his share of insanity through his low-tuned punches. Their operatic and dark vein becomes evident once again in Destroy Your Past, a song full of progressive passages thanks to the intricate lines delivered through guitars and bass and all tempo changes led by Krieger, as well as in the operatic metal hymn The Demon of Fear, where guest musician Roberto Pasolini (Embryo) complements the menacing keyboards by Hyde with his enraged growling. This excellent song, displaying a Symphonic Black Metal vibe with hints of Gothic Metal and Melodic Metal, is another good example of the fight between good and evil proposed by Misteyes, proving one more time how connected to the concept of opposition all songs are.

misteyes-2016Special guest Mattia Casabona is back in action, this time with clean vocals, in the two-part aria entitled “Awake the Beast”, starting with the operatic A Fragile Balance (Awake the Beast – Part 1), with its eerie piano intro and Ainwen providing her Tarja-inspired vocals. Almost “a capella”, it sounds like a horror flick soundtrack, leading to the furious and blackened Chaos (Awake the Beast – Part 2), a high-octane tune tailored for fans of obscure and harmonious music where Progressive and Symphonic Black Metal are flawlessly united. Krieger and Hyde are yet again the architects of the musicality, generating the perfect ambience for the sick riffs by both Insanus and Decadence to shine.

In the gripping Decapitated Rose, guest vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) steals the spotlight by blasting his infuriated declamation of the song’s dark lyrics (“When life is withered …There is no water which can bring it back! / Ivy smothers your soul! Petals fall and you are alone! / All beauty is gone! Only the thorn is what remains! / In this garden of madness … Decapitated rose! Decapitated rose!”), with Hephaestus firing some thunderous bass lines that end up increasing the song’s creepiness while the keyboard sounds by Hyde will pierce your head and haunt your soul. And last but not least, the talented Nicole Ansperger (Eluveitie) and the awesome sound of her violin add the word “epic” to the powerful Winter’s Judgement, a Symphonic Gothic Metal feast that blends elements from the music by Dimmu Borgir, Nightwish, Epica, Moonspell and other prominent bands. In addition, the growls by Irmin get deeper than ever, guiding the listener into a journey through the realms of darkness and light until the song’s soulful ending.

In summary, it doesn’t matter which side you choose in the battle between Light and Dark Metal proposed by Misteyes, you’ll certainly win due to the sensational quality of their music. Thus, you can get in touch with these Italian metallers and get to know more about their music through Facebook, YouTube, ReverbNation and SoundCloud, and acquire your copy of Creeping Time at several different places such as their BandCamp page, the Maple Metal Records’ BandCamp page or Big Cartel, on iTunes, Amazon or CD Baby.

Best moments of the album: Creeping Time, Brains in a Vat, The Prey and Decapitated Rose.

Worst moments of the album: Destroy Your Past.

Released in 2016 Maple Metal Records

Track listing
1. The Last Knell (Intro) 1:40
2. Creeping Time 6:29
3. Brains in a Vat 5:39
4. Inside the Golden Cage 5:24
5. Lady Loneliness 4:37
6. The Prey 7:03
7. Destroy Your Past 5:02
8. The Demon of Fear 6:55
9. A Fragile Balance (Awake the Beast – Part 1) 3:41
10. Chaos (Awake the Beast – Part 2) 5:26
11. Decapitated Rose 4:48
12. Winter’s Judgement 8:05

Band members
Edoardo “Irmin” Iacono – growl and scream vocals
Denise “Ainwen” Manzi – clean and operatic vocals
Daniele “Insanus” Poveromo – lead guitars
Riccardo “Decadence” Tremaioni – rhythm guitars
Gabriele “Hyde” Gilodi – piano, synth and orchestrations
Andrea “Hephaestus” Gammeri – bass and fretless bass
Federico “Krieger” Tremaioni – drums

Guest musicians
Björn “Speed” Strid – additional scream and clean vocals on “Decapitated Rose”
Nicole Ansperger – violin on “Winter’s Judgement”
Roberto Pasolini – additional growls and scream vocals on “The Demon of Fear”
Mattia Casabona – spoken words on “Brains in a Vat”, additional clean vocals on “A Fragile Balance (Awake the Beast – Part 1)”, and additional growls and scream vocals on “Chaos (Awake the Beast – Part 2)”

Album Review – The Astroplex / The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar (2016)

In the distant world of Azhul’Tar, who will reign supreme in the battle between the young and brave Satis and the tyrannical emperor Zarkhonn? Only this excellent Canadian band can answer you that through their cinematic blend of Melodic Death and Black Metal.

Rating4

the-astroplex_artwork“Way beyond our stars, lies a world in ruins. Kingdoms where people are left fighting over basic needs. Independent groups of space explorers, named Travelers, are hired to look for such resources throughout the different planetary systems.

One band of Travelers, led by the young Satis, has struggled for years to find such scarce goods. Flying an old war vessel, the Astroplex, Captain Satis and her crew are about to see their fates changed.

A monumental event that will take its toll throughout the entire galaxy…”

Deeply rooted into science fiction soundtracks from the 80’s such as the masterpieces Alien, Blade Runner and Terminator, creating a cinematic blend of that vintage sound with contemporary extreme music, Canadian Modern Melodic Death/Black Metal act The Astroplex will take you on an exciting journey to a world far, far away in their debut full-length album The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar. From the opening credits to its climatic ending, The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar tells a compelling and epic post-apocalyptic story of survival and death, all embraced by high-end metal music.

Born inside the minds of two former band mates in 2014, Herr Nox (lead singer, lyricist, keyboardist, graphic designer and instrumental composer for the project) and Commander John Steele (guitarist, bassist, drummer and the one responsible for the background story in The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar), The Astroplex aim at blurring the line between science fiction and heavy music, bringing forward a fresh and exciting experience to the listener. As the third member of the project we have the charming Lindsay Schoolcraft, keyboardist for British Extreme Metal titans Cradle of Filth, who beautifully portrays the story’s main character Satis and, consequently, makes you more and more attracted to the events happening in the distant world where the story takes place.

Just like in any good sci-fi movie, The Astroplex provide us all the Opening Credits, an instrumental intro from outer space (sounding like the iconic Terminator theme at times) informing the journey is about to begin, before Prophecy explodes into a modernized version of Melodic Death Metal led by the bestial growls by Herr Nox. At this point, the story already starts to take shape and form (“The world is changing / The suns are rising / Light fills the empty ship / Darkness is gone / There may be hope, there may be One / Time is running out / Life is running short / ‘Tis Azhul’Tar that you’ll behold”), and the music itself couldn’t sound more perfect for the whole concept proposed by the band.

In the atmospheric instrumental track Travelers, our brave captain Satis leads her crew in pursuit of a spacecraft named Xenova-2, guiding the listener to A Dying World, with additional elements from Groove and Progressive Metal giving the song more stamina and heaviness. Herr Nox has a precise performance, blasting some deep guttural vocals while the guitar riffs by Commander John Steele pierce your brain until the song’s ferocious ending. Modernity blended with old school Death Metal is offered once again by the band in The Red Emperor, where Commander John Steele and the stunning Lindsay beautifully craft the futuristic ambience needed for Herr Nox to tell the story through their magnificent guitar riffs and solos, potent beats and operatic backing vocals, turning this into one of the best compositions of the entire album.

the-astroplexVa’Hel (The Prison Moon) is another sci-fi movie-inspired instrumental track that shows us Satis became a prisoner to Zarkhonn (also known as the Red Emperor, ruler of Azhul’Tar and its three moons, master of the Life Stream, to the people of Earth), an exotic voyage through space and time in the form of music with highlights to the crisp sound of its keyboards and synths; whereas the epic and gripping composition The Rise and Fall of Satis presents a melodic approach of Extreme Metal with the exciting guitar lines by Commander John Steele guiding the musicality, while Herr Nox continues to translate the world of Azhul’Tar into words.

And as the story advances to its ending, we have Battle for Azhul’Tar, another epic hymn where you can feel the agony and pain of all characters of the story being told and the perfect soundtrack for an intergalactic war, with its lyrics depicting the brutal devastation caused by this sanguinary battle (“The sky is burning, bombs are droping / Lazers blazing, who’ll get out of here alive / Such suffering, greed is causing / People dying, who will see the next sunrise”). Moreover, Commander John Steele lets his beast arise through his Black Metal-ish blast beats and sick guitar solo, only making things even more exciting. Lastly, the cinematic outro The Heir (End Credits), highly inspired by classics such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner and many others, leaves us questioning what will happen next to the newly crowned empress Satis, to the fallen emperor Zarkhonn and to the entire world of Azhul’Tar. If this will become a trilogy, only time will tell.

While we all wait for the next episode of such metallic saga (if it happens, of course), you can go check The Astrpolex’s Facebook page, YouTube channel (where you can listen to The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar in its entirety) and SoundCloud page to know more about the band, their music and their plans for the future. You can also buy this movie in the form of heavy music through their BandCamp page, and if you don’t do that, well, I have a special message from Zarkhonn himself (wherever he is now) telling you what he will do to you in case you “forget” to buy your copy of The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar. He seems to be a very reasonable guy, don’t you agree?

Best moments of the album: Prophecy, The Red Emperor and Battle for Azhul’Tar.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing 
1. Opening Credits (instrumental) 1:53
2. Prophecy 4:29
3. Travelers (instrumental) 0:56
4. A Dying World 5:17
5. The Red Emperor 5:51
6. Va’Hel (The Prison Moon) (instrumental) 4:00
7. The Rise and Fall of Satis 6:14
8. Battle for Azhul’Tar 6:11
9. The Heir (End Credits) (instrumental) 3:26

Band members
Herr Nox – male vocals, synthesizers
Commander John Steele – guitars, bass, drums, additional synthesizers
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals and voices

Album Review – Axxen Conners / Nowhere to Escape Sins EP (2016)

And the calm and turquoise waters of Antalya will never be the same after the turmoil of extreme music generated by this up-and-coming masked duo from hell.

Rating5

album-coverThe Turkish city of Antalya, the country’s biggest international sea resort located on the Turkish Riviera and a gateway to Turkey’s southern Mediterranean region, known as the Turquoise Coast for its blue waters, is about to have its peaceful and breathtaking landscapes intensely disturbed by a wicked turmoil of extreme music crafted by a new dynamic duo known as Axxen Conners. If you’re planning on visiting the city anytime soon to enjoy its beaches and atmosphere, you better watch out because Axxen Conners might be hiding in the shadows just waiting to attack you when you least expect.

Formed in 2015 by the sinful outlaws Bilge Ozce (known as Serpent) and Serdar Evren (known as Croc), Axxen Conners somehow managed to turn all the usual inspiration that comes from a place like Antalya upside down. In other words, instead of playing any type of beach-like smooth music for teenage girls, they decided to join the dark side of music and fire a high-octane fusion of Progressive Black and Death Metal upon humanity. Hence, the result of their rebelliousness and passion for heavy music can be seen in Nowhere to Escape Sins, the technical and very enjoyable debut EP by this unstoppable masked duo of darkness.

And now, ladies and gentleman, get ready to dance with Serpent and Croc in the first of the three tracks of the EP, entitled Behind The Walls Of Primal Existence, where an atmospheric intro by guest keyboardist Brook gradually morphs into a metallic blend of Melodic Death, Black and Power Metal. While Serpent begins spilling his venomous gnarls, Croc focus on his harmonious and aggressive riffs and solos, bringing more balance to the overall result. The special musicality generated by Axxen Conners in this tune is what happens when progressiveness and obscurity meet in metal music, I should say.

_mg_9239Not only Serpent is Axxen Conners’ lead singer, but he’s also the drummer and bassist for the project, and as you’ll notice in the puissant and extremely belligerent Creator Became Absolute he simply loves to smash his drum set and his four-stringed low-tuned weapon. Flirting with contemporary Black Metal (especially its demonic aura and high-pitched demon growls), this devilish hymn showcases all the refined skills of the duo, sounding like an established full-bodied band even being two brand new guys from the independent scene. That alone deserves a lot of respect from us headbangers, no doubt about that.

In the third and last composition, beautifully named Cursed Messiah For Doomed Society, the guitar lines by Croc lean towards pure Melodic Death Metal the likes of Arch Enemy with hints of Amon Amarth, resulting in a musicality absolutely opposed to what we call “mainstream”, which by the way is always a good thing in Extreme Metal. Moreover, the right amount of progressiveness led by Croc’s ominous synths and the beats and fills by Serpent are exactly what Serpent needs to vociferate the song’s lyrics, which as excpeted do not point to a happy ending (“Fuelled by fear / All living things will perish / The lost from the world above / have nowhere to escape sins / Feel the Hellish dreams / Death to those who stray from the path / hear the voice of dark destruction / your body  will rot in pain”).

I personally consider Nowhere to Escape Sins a debut way beyond expectations for Axxen Conners taking into account the limited resources Serpent and Croc have available for generating music in their homeland, and I’m curious to know what those masked metallers could offer the world of heavy music with proper support. Well, I just saw that they became part of the Butcher Records family, which means we now should patiently wait to see what surprises that will bring to us all and the impact that will have on their musicality. In the meantime, don’t forget to like their Facebook page, enjoy their music through their YouTube channel and on Spotify, and if possible purchase Nowhere to Escape Sins through their BandCamp page.

Best moments of the album: Creator Became Absolute.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing  
1. Behind The Walls Of Primal Existence 4:03
2. Creator Became Absolute 3:24
3. Cursed Messiah For Doomed Society 4:58

Band members
Serpent – vocals, bass, drums
Croc – guitars, synths, backing vocals

Guest musician
Brook – keyboards on “Behind The Walls Of Primal Existence”

Live musicians
Brook – keyboards
Oni – guitars
Todd – drums

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”

Album Review – Vindland / Hanter Savet (2016)

Directly from the French region of Britanny, here comes a Black and Viking Metal power trio that effectively knows how to blend aggressiveness, history and culture into extreme music.

Rating4

Vindland-Hanter-Savet2016Breton, the old native Celtic language spoken in Brittany, a cultural region in the north-west of France that became an independent kingdom and then a duchy before being united with the Kingdom of France in 1532, also referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain (as opposed to Great Britain), might not be the most commonly used language anymore by the Bretons, but it still plays an important role in this distinct region of France. One of the most interesting usages of Breton in modern days is undoubtedly in music and arts, like what you’ll find in Hanter Savet, the brand new album by Black/Viking Metal power trio Vindland.

The lyrics, song titles and even the album title are all written in Breton, showing how much this talented band based in the city of Paimpol is connected to their roots, therefore making the whole album more organic and heartfelt. The band was formed in 2004 and, after releasing a demo, an EP and after playing a few concerts, the band split up. In 2010, however, the band was reformed and started working on what would be Hanter Savet, and based on the potency of the music found throughout the entire album I believe this time Vindland are here to stay, delivering a well-balanced mix of the brutality found in Black Metal with the epicness and emotions of Viking and Folk Metal. Although you might not understand a single word sung by the band, I’m pretty sure you’ll have a good time listening to this Breton opus.

The aforementioned aggression of Black Metal and the burning passion of Viking Metal are already united in the opening track, named Orin Kozh. The voice by frontman Romuald is that type of devilish and strident growl perfect for extreme music, supported by a musicality that’s always evolving through time due to all tempo changes without sounding tiresome or being too lengthy in duration. Treuzwelus continues the attack from where the first song ended, presenting several Folk and Pagan Metal elements in a very creative form, with Marc being precise and energetic on drums and, consequently, providing all support Romuald and Camille need for their vocals and galloping riffs, respectively. And Serr-Noz brings forward a melodic atmosphere that captures the listener’s mind and takes him on an epic Black Metal journey, with Camille discharging a high level of excitement due to his amazing guitar lines. Moreover, its magic aura only grows in intensity as the music progresses, with innumerous elements from all types of music added as a “bonus” to the listener in the background.

vindland-bandIn Pedenn Koll, its smooth intro works as “the calm before the storm” of Melodic Black Metal that suddenly arrives, with highlights to its infernal growls contrasting with the harmony built by the guitars and to another outstanding performance by Marc on drums; while in Skleur Dallus the heavier riffs by Camille, which sound a lot closer to traditional Heavy Metal, ignite this rhythmic Pagan Metal hymn. Furthermore, the music only keeps expanding its boundaries until it embraces you completely, with even its serene breaks having a lot of energy flowing. The high-end Folk Metal composition Morlusenn displays a characteristic sonority from Scandinavian music, but with the band’s own French touch, and despite focusing a lot more on its instrumental parts it’s important to say the anguished growls by Romuald sound truly amazing and are exactly what the music needed.

The band’s versatility becomes evident in Skorneg Du, as they mutate from Folk Metal to pure old school Black Metal with Viking Metal elements in a 7-minute battle chant that lives up to the tradition of the Norsemen, as well as in Skeud Ar Gwez, an epic 11-minute aria that starts in a very progressive and atmospheric form that lasts for over three minutes until it explodes into a feast of Extreme Metal. Albeit technical and professionally composed, in my opinion the music takes too long to take off, and maybe a shorter version of it in a similar format as all other songs would have been a lot more effective. And closing the album we have the bonus track And The Battle Ended, a re-recording of the original song from their 2009 EP named Ancestors’ Age, still containing the brutality and harmony of the original version but with an updated sonority following the band’s current approach.

In summary, the region of Britanny couldn’t be in better hands in terms of heavy music than with this excellent power trio, and Hanter Savet is a very good example of how history, culture and aggressiveness always work really well when combined in music and arts in general. If you want to know more about Vindland, go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel, where you can also listen to Hanter Savet in its entirety, and if you want to purchase the aubm simply visit the Black Lion Productions’ BandCamp or Big Cartel.

Best moments of the album: Treuzwelus, Serr-Noz and Skleur Dallus.

Worst moments of the album: Skeud Ar Gwez.

Released in 2016 Black Lion Productions

Track listing
1. Orin Kozh 4:32
2. Treuzwelus 6:20
3. Serr-Noz 5:55
4. Pedenn Koll 4:39
5. Skleur Dallus 4:59
6. Morlusenn 4:58
7. Skorneg Du 7:06
8. Skeud Ar Gwez 11:30

Bonus track
9. And The Battle Ended (2016 Version) 5:37

Band members
Romuald – vocals
Camille – guitars, bass
Marc – drums

Album Review – Ghost Horizon / Astral Possession EP (2016)

An excellent Black Metal release exhaling agony, torment and depression, crafted by a promising American duo that has all it takes to succeed in the world of extreme music.

Rating5

Album CoverStraight from the city of Phoenix, located in the southwestern state of Arizona, in the United States, comes a band that aims at bringing pitch-black darkness not only to their precious Valley of the Sun, but also to the rest of the world with their unconditional rage and hopelessness. This wrathful band is called Ghost Horizon, and the quality of the music they offer us metalheads during the 12 minutes of Melodic and Atmospheric Black Metal found in their debut EP, entitled Astral Possession, is undoubtedly beyond what anyone could expect from such a fresh new act.

Formed in 2015 by ex-Severed Receptors and Psychobliss guitarist Dan Stollings, the obscurity crafted by Ghost Horizon will definitely please fans of bands such as Wolves in the Throne Room, Woods of Ypres and Alcest, among other eccentric Extreme Metal groups. Moreover, when you listen to the music in Astral Possession, you can rest assured you’re listening to truthful music and not to any type of shenanigans many bands tend to deliver just to sound badass or evil. “Ghost Horizon, to me, is everything I ever wanted in a band. I can express both my anger/depression and happiness to whatever degree I wish, while also allowing the two opposite emotions to marry.”, commented Daniel on the direction of the band.

Ghost Horizon pic2The ominous intro in Pale Apparition warms up the listener for a brutal fusion of Doom and Black Metal effectively fired by the duo, with the desperate vocals by Uræus being exactly what the music needs to be more imposing. In addition, string-man Daniel keeps delivering flammable guitar and bass lines until the music flows into a melancholic ending. Spectral Threnody gets even more somber, sounding like Blackened Doom with deeper growls and a sorrowful ambience where Uræus does a superb job on drums with all his tempo changes and blast beats. And lastly, the demonic composition Astral Possession (The Cold Years Unearthed) closes the EP  in a powerful way, bringing forward modern but at the same time raw Black Metal perfect for fans of old school extreme music who are looking for something new in their lives. It’s indeed a feast of classic Black Metal riffs by Daniel which do not sound outdated at all, while Uræus keeps spreading electric darkness through his devilish vocals.

All the agony and torment provided in the form of extreme music by Ghost Horizon can be relished at their Facebook page and SoundCloud, and Astral Possession can pretty soon be purchased through their BandCamp page or on Amazon. Put differently, if you love extreme music exhaling anger, depression, anguish and sorrow all at the same time in a solid and convincing way, don’t waste your time and go check the high-end Black Metal by this dynamic American duo right now.

Best moments of the album: Astral Possession (The Cold Years Unearthed).

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Pale Apparition 4:31
2. Spectral Threnody 3:08
3. Astral Possession (The Cold Years Unearthed) 4:08

Band members
Uræus – vocals, drums, additional instruments
Daniel Stollings – guitars, bass

Album Review – Vorna / Ei Valo Minua Seuraa (2015)

A stunning expedition through the depths of human mind, crafted by proficient Finnish metallers whom no light follows.

Rating3

vorna_cover640As I stated earlier this year in the review for the self-titled debut album by Stoner/Progressive Metal band Sata Kaskelottia, and also in the review for the 2005 classic Metallitotuus, by Power Metal band Teräsbetoni, anytime I receive material from a band from the land of ice and snow that’s sung in their mother tongue I get quite excited about what I’m about to listen to. It couldn’t be any different with Finnish Black/Pagan Metal orchestra Vorna (named after a character from the Finnish folklore), who have just release their second full-length album, an incredible full-bodied expedition through the depths of human mind entitled Ei Valo Minua Seuraa (or “No Light Follows Me”, in English).

Dealing with themes like nature, myths and struggles of mind, this ascendant six-piece group formed in 2008 in Tampere, Finland are an exquisite treat for all fans of Black, Pagan and Folk Metal, and their new album will blow your mind no matter how much you love (or even hate) those subgenres of metal music. From its minimalistic and gorgeous artwork, designed by Jarno Lahti (KAAMOS Illustration & Design Studio), to its intricate passages and somber atmosphere, Ei Valo Minua Seuraa offers all metalheads a memorable feast of darkness, all spiced up by the uniqueness of the Finnish language, of course.

The name chosen for the album is already legitimated by its opening track, the pleasant and dark Harmaudesta (“Away from Grey”), where the orchestrations blend perfectly with the harsh vocals by Vesa Salovaara, while the obscure keyboard notes by Saku Myyryläinen, together with the precise drumming by Mikael Vanninen, boost the song’s impact significantly. In Jälkemme (“Heritage”), a sense of epicness emanates through its soaring ambience, inducing a strong feeling that the battle is about to begin. In addition to that, Arttu Järvisalo and Henri Lammintausta do an excellent job with their flaming guitars by adding elements of Black and Viking Metal to their riffs.

vorna_promophoto_2015Their symphony of darkness goes on with a fusion of Melodic Black Metal and the band’s core Pagan Metal in Itsetön (“Soul Shriven”), a hellish waltz flawlessly crafted by the entire band until everything morphs into a melancholic ending; whereas Sieluni Varjossa (“In the Nightside of Self”) presents a sharper sonority thanks to the beats by Mikael and to the solid and resonant bass lines by Niilo Könönen. Moreover, the second half of the song is pure obscurity, perfect for afflicting your soul before the serene Vaipunut (“Of Life Descended”) arises full of melancholy and sorrow. It’s almost like a Dark Metal ballad, very interesting and gripping, showcasing the band’s versatility and Vesa’s clean vocals, which sound as powerful as his guttural.

All that sorrow keeps flowing in the amazing Yksin (“Alone”), with Saku leading Vorna’s metallic orchestra while Arttu and Henri continue to darken the music with their riffs, turning this song not only into the best of all tracks but, more important than that, into a beautiful aria of solitude, fear and sadness. And Vorna lead the listener to one final fight in Hiljaiset Rauniot (“Silent Ruins”), an emotive and razor-sharp chant with an inspiring intro and atmospheric keyboards, and where you can feel death is imminent through both the growls and clean vocals by Vesa, efficiently ending such a distinct album.

This proficient Finnish orchestra can be reached at their official Facebook page and YouTube channel, and their Stygian concerto Ei Valo Minua Seuraa can be purchased through the Inverse Store, Record Shop X or CDON.COM. Indeed no light follows Vorna, but that doesn’t mean their music is dull or unreverberant. Quite the contrary, Ei Valo Minua Seuraa is doubtless one of the brightest releases of the year.

Best moments of the album: Jälkemme, Vaipunut and Yksin.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Harmaudesta 3:57
2. Jälkemme 7:37
3. Itsetön 8:07
4. Sieluni Varjossa 6:58
5. Vaipunut 3:47
6. Yksin 6:40
7. Hiljaiset Rauniot 8:48

Band members
Vesa Salovaara – vocals
Arttu Järvisalo – guitars
Henri Lammintausta – guitars
Niilo Könönen – bass
Saku Myyryläinen – keyboards
Mikael Vanninen – drums