Movie Review – Lords Of Chaos (2018)

Witness the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners in the vision of award-winning director Jonas Åkerlund, despite the annoying fact the entire movie is spoken in English.

“A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the early 1990s results in a very violent outcome.”

That’s how the producers of the good movie Lords Of Chaos, which was screened at several film festivals in 2018 and released in theaters on February 8 and on demand on February 22 this year, are promoting their version of the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners, those being Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes (also known for his revolutionary one-man project Burzum), Pelle ‘Dead’ Ohlin and, above all, Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth, the founder of and central figure in the early Norwegian Black Metal scene, the co-founder of the Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem, and the founder and owner of the Extreme Metal record label Deathlike Silence Productions and record shop Helvete. All of them were members of one of the most infamous bands of all time, Mayhem, being part of a militant cult-like group known as the “Black Metal Inner Circle”.

If you’re a longtime fan of True Norwegian Black Metal, there’s nothing new to you in the movie that you don’t already know, but it’s still interesting to see how director Jonas Åkerlund, a Swedish director and drummer known for music videos like Madonna’s Ray of Light, Rammstein’s Pussy and The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up, and a member of Swedish Black Metal institution Bathory from 1983 to 1984, portrayed all the trademark chaos, rebelliousness and violence of the Norwegian scene in the 90’s. Featuring Rory Culkin (yes, he’s the younger brother of Macaulay Culkin) as Euronymous, who did a great job trying to humanize such distinct character of the Black Metal universe, Emory Cohen as the untamable Varg, Jack Kilmer as the disturbed Dead, Sky Ferreira as Euronymous’ girlfriend Ann-Marit, and Valter Skarsgård as Emperor’s drummer and convicted murderer Bård Guldvik ‘Faust’ Eithun, as well as Anthony De La Torre as Jan Axel ‘Hellhammer’ Blomberg and James Edwyn as Kjetil ‘Manheim’ (considered by many the true founders of Mayhem in 1984, when the band was still named Musta), Lords Of Chaos is far from being a masterpiece, but it’s still a very entertaining movie that provides (to a certain point, of course) a very good view of how Black Metal changed the lives of those reckless kids that had a fairly decent life in Norway.

Despite the real Varg being completely against Lords Of Chaos, even stating in a 2016 video that Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone all denied the movie rights to their music, the movie is indeed a compelling ride that transforms Mayhem’s iconic guitarist Euronymous into a normal person like any of us, focusing on his fears and personal strugles as a young guy living in Norway, having won the jury prize best film award at the Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival in 2018 and being nominated to several other awards worldwide. However, if there’s one thing that really bothered me throughout the entire movie was the fact that all actors in the film speak in English (and with their American accents) all the time, despite the movie being entirely shot is Oslo, the capital of the beautiful Norway. In my opinion, they could have selected a few good Norwegian actors and done the whole movie in Norwegian to give it a much more realistic vibe, as it was sometimes pretty inconsistent and cringeworthy (at least for me) watching people in Norway, with the TV, newspapers and everything else in Norwegian, speaking like if they were all born and raised in Los Angeles or New York. That small but important detail doesn’t necessarily ruin the movie, but whenever you watch it I’m sure you’ll also have that feel that you’re watching a “Black Metal edition” of Beverly Hills, 90210 being aired on a Tuesday at 3pm on a random public access TV channel. I understand the use of English was somewhat essential for reaching a broader audience and having better support to promote the movie, but I still think the Norwegian language would have made the entire movie a thousand times more entertaining.

Apart from that language issue, Lords Of Chaos is extremely well produced, presenting a fantastic photography, including some stunning scenes from Norway’s unique nature and landscapes and, of course, strong colors and imagery to represent the main characters’ depression, madness and fears, and the story flows smoothly with very few plot holes (and historical inaccuracies) until the end. Furthermore, it’s nice to see how human all those musicians were, despite the fact many of their fans like to idolize them (as we pretty much do with any member of our favorite bands no matter which type of music they play). For instance, in one of the first scenes of the movie, we can see Euronymous, Dead and the others partying outdoors like any regular teenager, listening to some ass-kicking, old school metal hymns, having a lot of beer and trying to impress the girls around them. No murder, no arson, nor anything like that, only kids enjoying life and trying to find their place in society. As simple as that, just like many, many Black Metal bands reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose who focus on their music rather than on violent or illegal activities.

In addition, although Jonas Åkerlund stated in a 2018 interview that he used little Black Metal in the movie in part because “it’s kind of painful to listen to black metal music if you’re not used to it or don’t love it,” there’s still a lot of good Black Metal and other types of extreme and not-so-extreme music played throughout the entire movie. While watching it, get ready to bang your head and raise your horns to classics such as Funeral Fog by Mayhem, Inri and Satanic Lust by Sarcofago, Fast as a Shark by Accept, Stand up and Shout by Dio, Born for Burning, Sacrifice and The Return of Darkness and Evil by Bathory, Outbreak of Evil by Sodom, Serpent Eye by Cathedral, and Exhume To Consume by Carcass, among several others. Not only that, there are obviously some very entertaining scenes where both Mayhem and Burzum are either rehearsing, recording in the studio or playing live, which by the way is one of my favorite musical moments of the movie, with Mayhem’s chaotic sound mixed with the bloody and demented performance by their frontman Dead being the undisputed depiction of True Norwegian Black Metal.

Anyway, the main topic presented during the whole movie is obviously the extremely delicate relationships between Euronymous and Dead during what can be considered the first phase of Mayhem (until the always perturbed Dead loses it and commits suicide by blowing his brains out with a shotgun, with Euronymous taking a picture of his deceased friend and turning it into the disturbing cover art of their 1995 bootleg live album Dawn of the Black Hearts), and especially between Euronymous and the one who would become his arch nemesis in the end, the beyond controversial Varg. I mean, Dead was absolutely nuts from the very beginning, and apparently he’s always been like that due to a very tough childhood where he was bullied and beaten all the time at school, and Euronymous was just a regular musician until turning into a Black Metal beast with excellent sales, marketing and promotion skills, but the transformation of Varg from a chubby guy who liked Scorpions into a total lunatc who would reach the point of burning churches in the name of Black Metal is simply fantastic. For instance, pay good attention to the whole scene where Varg invites the press to his “lair” and tells them his name is “Count Grishnackh”, among other ridiculous comments and statements he makes. That’s hilarious and could have easily been included in any American teen movie.

And Jonas Åkerlund keeps humanizing all characters the entire movie, showing how Euronymous got some money from his father to open Helvete and start his record label, how Varg got money from his mother to help record a Mayhem album (and kept asking Euronymous for that money to pay his mom back), and how Faust couldn’t stop watching horror movies, which was one of the reasons why he got so interested in killing someone, or as he said, in piercing a knife through someone’s body like in the movies. And unless you come from a different dimension and knows absolutely nothing about True Norwegian Black Metal, you’ll be relatively shocked with how things turn at the end of the movie when Varg, feeling betrayed by his former friend Euronymous, who according to Varg himself turned his back not only to him but to the “Black Metal Inner Circle” and to the entire scene to focus on his musical career and on his girlfriend, decides to put an end to their relationship for good (or I should say not good at all). Let’s say Euronymous was what Dani Filth, from Cradle Of Filth, and Nergal, from Behemoth, are nowadays, an excellent performer and musician with a normal life backstage, which somehow sparks a lot of rage from the ones who consider themselves “true Black Metal fans”, got it?

There are many interviews and videos online where Jonas Åkerlund, Rory Culkin and Emory Cohen discuss Lords Of Chaos, like this one with BUILD Series NYC, and you can also find more information about the movie directly from their Facebook page, Twitter and Intagram. However, I highly recommend you avoid all that before watching Lords Of Chaos (don’t even watch the trailer below), as a few of those interviews and videos might “ruin” some important parts of the movie for you. Put differently, turn off the lights and light up some candles, turn off your smart phone, put on your most diabolical metal shirt, grab a beer or some red wine, and dive deep into the beautiful but somber Norway together with Euronymous, Dead and Varg, and become a “lord of chaos” yourself. You’re going to love this movie or completely hate it, but at least give it a try and then see what you think about it.

Best moments of the movie: Every scene where Euronymous interacts with either Dead or Varg is excellent. Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen and Jack Kilmer do a pretty solid job playing those three iconic characters.

Worst moments of the movie: As aforementioned, the fact that all dialogues are spoken in English and not in Norwegian, despite the entire movie being set in the beautiful Norway and based on Norwegian characters.

Released in 2018 Gunpowder & Sky/Arrow Films

Directed by Jonas Åkerlund

Cast
Rory Culkin – Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth
Emory Cohen – Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes
Jack Kilmer – Pelle ‘Dead’ Ohlin
Sky Ferreira – Ann-Marit
Valter Skarsgård – Bård Guldvik ‘Faust’ Eithun
Anthony De La Torre – Jan Axel ‘Hellhammer’ Blomberg
Jonathan Barnwell – Jørn ‘Necrobutcher’ Stubberud
Full cast & crew

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Album Review – Dødsfall / Døden Skal Ikke Vente (2019)

An unstoppable Black Metal force from Norway returns with their long-awaited fifth album, containing 10 new unrelenting tracks of pure hate and anger.

After four years of silence, the unstoppable Norwegian Black Metal force known as Dødsfall returns with their long-awaited fifth album, entitled Døden Skal Ikke Vente, or “death shall not wait” from Norwegian, containing 10 new tracks of pure hate and anger in its best form. And their new album is the result of a huge wave of inspiration that grew up like a snowball after the release of Kaosmakt, in early 2015, resulting in a fresh and creative album holding on to their roots and the sound that was established from the very beginning on the band’s career. It can be described as a successful combination of past and present with new elements and different sources of inspiration, sounding epic, majestic and furious with a medieval touch inspired from the cold lands of the north.

Formed in 2009 in Bergen, Norway, but currently located between Gothenburg, Sweden and Oslo, Norway, Dødsfall is the brainchild of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ishtar, who together with newcomer Telal on drums (who has been playing with acts like Troll, Isvind, and Endezzma, to name a few) created a sulfurous and dark beast in the form of their new album Døden Skal Ikke Vente. Featuring a crushing, ominous album artwork by underground artist Pazuzuh, who previously worked with the band on the artwork of their album Djevelens Evangelie, from 2013, Døden Skal Ikke Vente will take you on a journey through vast, bitterly cold Norwegian lands, proving once again why Norway is and will always be the birthplace and home of true Black Metal.

Ishatr and Telal begin disturbing all peace and order with their ruthless blend of old school and contemporary Black Metal in Hemlig Vrede (or “secret wrath” in English), sounding very melodic and aggressive form the very first second and with Ishtar’s demonic gnarls being flawlessly complemented by Telal’s brutish blast beats. Their furious and thunderous Black Metal keeps hammering our heads in Tåkefjell (“fog mountain”), another piercing composition where the guitars by Ishtar sound as metallic as they can be, also presenting lots of breaks and variations, and consequently feeling like three or four songs in one; followed by the obscure and melancholic Svarta Drömmar (“black dreams”), where their Black Metal is darkly infused with Atmospheric Black Metal elements, with its rhythm being dictated by Telal’s precise drums and with highlights to Ishtar’s anguished growls.

Putting the pedal to the metal this infernal duo delivers a vicious onrush of violent and raw sounds entitled Grå Himlar (“gray skies”), with the riffs and solos by Ishtar cutting our skin mercilessly, and therefore setting the bar high for the rest of the album. Well, the duo doesn’t disappoint at all in the following track, Kampsalmer (“battle hymns”), a headbanging, marching chant showcasing bestial riffs and demonic roars all enfolded by a truly menacing ambience, and the music remains vile and sulfurous until its epic ending. Then led by the pounding drums by Telal and displaying an inspired Ishatr on the guitar we have the full-bodied, intricate tune entitled I de Dødens Øyne  (“in the eyes of death”), a song tailored for admirers of classic Black Metal who also love to raise their horns and slam into the pit in the name of extreme music.

Continuing with their feast of incendiary and dark sounds they offer us all Ødemarkens Mørkedal (“the dark valley of the wilderness”), an ode to Scandinavian Black Metal where Ishtar growls and roars in a bestial way while Telal keeps crushing his drums nonstop, whereas the heavy-as-hell guitar lines by Ishtar ignite the flammable För Alltid I Min Sjæl (“forever in my soul”), a mid-tempo Black Metal extravaganza where Ishtar and Telal are on fire from start to finish, sounding as infernal and sharp as possible. The last song of the album, named Ondskapelse (“evil hands”), brings more of their hellish Scandinavian Black Metal infused with Melodic Black Metal nuances, with Telal smashing his drums just the way we love it in Extreme Metal, flowing like rapid fire until the instrumental outro Skogstrollet (“forest troll”) captivates our senses with the howling sound of the cold wind, ending the album on an ethereal note.

You can better explore the chilly and vile realm of Norwegian Black Metal crafted by Dødsfall by following them on Facebook, and show your support to such talented duo by purchasing Døden Skal Ikke Vente (available for a full listen on YouTube, by the way) from their own BandCamp page, as well as from the Osmose Productions’ BandCamp or webstore, and from Record Shop X. Let all the frost, hatred and evil flowing from the music found in Døden Skal Ikke Vente embrace you, leading you on a fantastic and somber one-way journey into the absolute darkness and void we learned to love in Norwegian Black Metal.

Best moments of the album: Tåkefjell, Grå Himlar and I de Dødens Øyne.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Osmose Productions

Track listing
1. Hemlig Vrede 4:30
2. Tåkefjell 4:54
3. Svarta Drömmar 5:29
4. Grå Himlar 4:29
5. Kampsalmer 4:50
6. I de Dødens Øyne 5:37
7. Ødemarkens Mørkedal 5:25
8. För Alltid I Min Sjæl 4:32
9. Ondskapelse 5:04
10. Skogstrollet (Instrumental) 1:04

Band members
Ishtar – vocals, guitars, bass
Telal – drums

Album Review – Immortal / Northern Chaos Gods (2018)

The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again to the sound of the pulverizing new album by the Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal.

The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again now in 2018 thanks to Bergen’s own Black Metal institution Immortal, who after nine long and excruciating years of the release of their 2009 album All Shall Fall are back in action with a brand new opus titled Northern Chaos Gods, a beyond fantastic comeback for one of the trailblazers of Norwegian Black Metal. The first album after the departure of founder, frontman and guitarist Abbath from the band in 2015, Northern Chaos Gods marks the longest gap between two studio albums by Immortal, but the wait was definitely worth it as Immortal sound extremely sharp and vile throughout the entire album, proving once again why they’re still an unstoppable force of frost and ice.

Featuring a dark and straightforward cover art by Norwegian artist Jannicke Wiese-Hansen, Northern Chaos Gods showcases an inspired Demonaz (Harald Nævdal) on vocals and guitar (for the first time since 1997) and a brutal and extremely precise Horgh (Reidar Horghagen) on drums, accompanied by guest bassist Peter Tägtgren. In an interview before the album’s release, Demonaz said he wanted to make the album as “grim, dark and cold as possible”, and Immortal more than succeeded in their quest for extreme music, delivering a raw piece of Norwegian Black Metal that takes the band right back to its early sound. Each and every song in Northern Chaos Gods is a lecture in darkness, pointing to a bright (or I should say obscure) future ahead of a band that might have suffered a few losses since their inception in the far, far away year of 1991, but that stands triumphant and loyal to their roots no matter what.

The title-track Northern Chaos Gods comes crushing mercilessly in an absolute sonic devastation blasted by Demonaz with his fulminating riffs and Horgh with his classic Black Metal blast beats, resulting in a truly old school tune but without sounding obsolete or cheesy, not to mention the excellent job done by Demonaz with his infernal roars. As violent and somber as its predecessor, Into Battle Ride is an ode to Black Metal with highlights to the lancinating guitar lines by Demonaz and the thunderous bass lines by Peter, also bringing inspiring lyrics vociferated by Demonaz (“The sword of thunder and lightning is on the rise / From the north the gods of wrath descend / The storm of war nearing, black in its sign / Now vengeance shall enter again, feared by mortals / Our yearning steel strong hands / Thundering hooves strike above dying men / Down the black valleys arise through the haze / From the mountains, hear battle and death”); whereas Gates to Blashyrkh is a lot more melodic and rhythmic, perfect for banging your head and raising your horns to the hellish duo Demonaz and Horgh. Put differently, simply ride together with Immortal to the Gates to Blashyrkh and enjoy a huge dosage of top-of-the-line Melodic Black Metal invading your senses. And Grim and Dark is another cadaveric and sinister creation by this Norwegian entity, led by the slashing riffs by Demonaz while Horgh keeps crushing his drums nonstop, flowing majestically until its crisp and ominous ending.

There’s no time to breathe with more traditional Black Metal in Called to Ice, with Demonaz’s visceral riffage being effectively accompanied by the galloping sound of drums and bass in five minutes of classic Norwegian Black Metal for diehard lovers of the genre, before a smooth and melancholic intro quickly explodes into a lecture in modern-day Black Metal in Where Mountains Rise, a headbanging tune where Horgh’s beats sound amazingly crisp and heavy while Demonaz keeps slashing his strings with sheer precision and vocalizing the song’s beautiful, poetic words (“For the mighty mountains I ride / Through the woods beyond the snow / Like a fire among the stars, beyond the clouds she rise / There’s no fire from the sun, in this dark under the moon / My blackened sight beholds the stars, and fallen suns below”). Back to a more extreme and piercing sonority we have Blacker of Worlds, where Horgh presents his violent bulldozer mode and with Demonaz and Peter delivering a storm of blackened sounds through their stringed weapons, hammering our heads until Mighty Ravendark strikes our minds like a thunderbolt, exhaling malignancy, darkness and evil. Moreover, Horgh and Peter generate a massive wall of sounds with their drums and bass, respectively, while the hell raiser Demonaz keeps growling and gnarling in a devilish manner during the song’s over nine minutes of Epic Black Metal, putting a majestic ending to one of the best comebacks in the history of metal.

In summary, Northern Chaos Gods, available in different formats from the Nuclear Blast website, is more than just a comeback as already mentioned, but the rebirth of one of the biggest exponents of classic Black Metal even when no one else believed the band could get back on track after such turbulent period in their career. Well, they’re not called Immortal in vain, and after such pulverizing album we can rest assured Demonaz and Horgh will keep the flame of Norwegian Black Metal burning bright wherever they go. Because in the end we’re talking about the true “Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal”, and they’ll keep riding into the battlefield side by side with us, fans of extreme music, until their final and bitterly cold breath.

Best moments of the album: Northern Chaos Gods, Where Mountains Rise and Mighty Ravendark.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Nuclear Blast

Track listing    
1. Northern Chaos Gods 4:25
2. Into Battle Ride 3:50
3. Gates to Blashyrkh 4:38
4. Grim and Dark 5:27
5. Called to Ice 5:06
6. Where Mountains Rise 5:51
7. Blacker of Worlds 3:43
8. Mighty Ravendark 9:14

Band members
Demonaz – vocals, guitars
Horgh – drums

Guest musician
Peter Tägtgren – bass (session)

Album Review – Dimmu Borgir / Eonian (2018)

Uninspired, lame, generic, way too orchestral and utterly boring. What happened to our good old Dimmu Borgir?

I honestly don’t know how to start this review for Eonian, the brand new and extremely boring album by Norwegian Symphonic Black Metal icons Dimmu Borgir, the tenth in their career following their 2010 album Abrahadabra, which was also quite bad. Well, first and foremost, I don’t think the low quality of the album is due to the several lineup changes the band suffered through the years, with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Shagrath and guitarist and bassist Silenoz being the only original members left, and with guitarist and bassist Galder being already a longstanding member. In my humble opinion, their biggest mistake in Eonian was trying to be way more symphonic than they should, resulting in a bland and confused version of the music by Nightwish or Epica with extremely uninspired harsh vocals and generic lyrics.

Featuring an interesting artwork by Polish artist Zbigniew M. Bielak (Deicide, Ghost, immolation, Paradise Lost), much better than some of their previous installments by the way, Eonian has everything we don’t want to listen to in a Dimmu Borgir album, from totally out-of-place orchestrations to a lame background choir. I don’t know how keyboardist Gerlioz and drummer Daray survived another round of pedestrian metal music with Dimmu Borgir after Abrahadabra, and I hope for the sake of their careers they do not accept to participate in another explosion of sheer mediocrity with Shagrath and his horde in the near future. Should the band call it quits after Eonian, or will they keep recording tedious album after tedious album while at the same time they cash in some decent money from their live concerts and merch? In the end, it seems that’s what several renowned bands only care about, right?

An orchestral and imposing start evolves to a heavier version of the Symphonic Metal played by Nightwish with Black Metal vocals in the opening track The Unveiling (and that will happen with pretty much every song of the album), not even close to their classic sonority, getting utterly tiresome after a while despite its not-so-bad lyrics (“Become through earned / And granted liberation / Rise above the secrecy / And silent deception / Clarity is determined / At the depths of murky waters / The potion of black earthed blood / Is the sludge draining the conscious”). Then yet again we have another tasteless tune that seems taken from the worst of all Epica albums, the first (and boring) single titled Interdimensional Summit, which might have worked for other Symphonic Metal bands, but definitely not for Dimmu Borgir. Moreover, as already mentioned the album’s background choir doesn’t bring any potency to the music, not to mention how low the guitars by both Galder and Silenoz sound compared to the orchestrations. In the good Ætheric, the drums by Daray finally appear amidst the excessive orchestral sounds, as well as the riffs by the guitar duo, in what’s probably the best song of the album (with even Shagrath sounding more devilish on vocals). Put differently, this might be far from being a masterpiece by Dimmu Borgir, but at least it’s Symphonic Black Metal.

In Council of Wolves and Snakes a cinematic, horror-like intro morphs into a macabre sonority, bringing a touch of Doom Metal to their dark symphony and with guests Mikkel Gaup and Martin Lopez adding a demented twist to it with their shaman vocals and voodoo beats. There’s nothing truly outstanding in this case, but it’s still a decent song, which is definitely not the case in The Empyrean Phoenix. I’m not sure what to say about this song, as it has an interesting and vibrant vibe while at the same time its instrumental pieces are again way too orchestral, lacking more aggressiveness in the end. After such unstable song we have Lightbringer, where the band shows a spark of their glorious years in a promising start that grows in intensity spearheaded by the beats by Daray, morphing into a hybrid between the band’s classic Symphonic Black Metal and the lighter Symphonic Metal that “poisons” the entire album, but fortunately in this case Shagrath and his horde sound a lot better and more cohesive.

In the horrendous I Am Sovereign, while the music itself tries to be symphonic, it feels more like a soundtrack to a very unexciting circus act, with all that’s already bad getting even worse due to its generic lyrics (“Perseverance doesn’t mean anything / Unless it’s for eternity / The real powers that will ever be / Is freedom and liberty”). Where are the guitars? What happened to Shagrath’s voice? These are just a couple of questions raised in what’s probably the worst song of all. And Archaic Correspondance doesn’t get much better than that, not knowing if it wants to be a heavy or orchestral (or even pop) song. At least Shagrath’s voice sounds slightly heavier and more demonic than in the previous tune, but the choir once again makes the whole song too soft and tiresome. In short, this is a total waste of almost five minutes of your life. Alpha Aeon Omega presents a relatively better balance between the band’s Black Metal and the infinite orchestrations in the background, with Daray’s drums sounding crisp and piercing; however, once again the guitars are almost nonexistent (which is a bummer for any fan of heavy music). And the instrumental piece Rite of Passage would have been great if the rest of the album wasn’t such a disappointment. Anyway, it’s as decent as it can be, ending the album in a somewhat whimsical way.

In my opinion, one of the biggest issues in Eonian, if not the biggest one of all for a huge part of fans of metal music, is that pretty much all songs drag for way too long. There are countless bands that can make a 15-minute song sound like if it had only a minute or two so compelling their music is, but in the case of Dimmu Borgir they managed to do the exact opposite in Eonian, with almost every song in the album being an endless torture even if they have less than five minutes in duration. Furthermore, after surviving listening to Eonian for a couple of times (trying to find something good in it), I was going to give it a 2.0, but after listening to the first single from the upcoming album by Eric Peterson’s furious and epic Symphonic Black Metal project Dragonlord, the sensational title-track Dominion, I was “forced” to lower Eonian’s rate to 1.5. I have no idea if you agree with me or not, perhaps I’m being too demanding, but if you truly think Eonian is a good Symphonic Black Metal album I highly recommend you go take a listen at Dragonlord. Then I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Eonian unfortunately sucks big time. Needless to say, I’ll never listen to it again of my own free will.

Best moments of the album: Ætheric and Lightbringer.

Worst moments of the album: The Unveiling, Interdimensional Summit, I Am Sovereign and Archaic Correspondance.

Released in 2018 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Unveiling 5:47
2. Interdimensional Summit 4:39
3. Ætheric 5:27
4. Council of Wolves and Snakes 5:19
5. The Empyrean Phoenix 4:44
6. Lightbringer 6:06
7. I Am Sovereign 6:48
8. Archaic Correspondance 4:55
9. Alpha Aeon Omega 5:18
10. Rite of Passage (Instrumental) 5:16

Band members
Shagrath (Stian Tomt Thoresen) – vocals, bass, keyboards, orchestral arrangements,
effects
Galder (Tom Rune Andersen) – lead guitar, bass
Silenoz (Sven Atle Kopperud) – rhythm guitar, bass
Gerlioz (Geir Bratland) – keyboards, additional orchestral arrangements
Daray (Dariusz Brzozowski) – drums

Guest musicians
Mikkel Gaup – shaman vocals on “Council of Wolves and Snakes”
Martin Lopez – voodoo percussion on “Council of Wolves and Snakes”
Schola Cantorum – choir vocals
Francesco Ferrini – orchestra
Gaute Storås – choir and orchestral arrangements

Interview – Stein Akslen (Minneriket)

Let’s talk about the darkness with the multi-talented Stein Akslen, the mastermind behind Norwegian Romantic Black Metal project Minneriket.

Stein Akslen (Minneriket)

The Headbanging Moose: Can you please start by introducing yourself to our readers? Who is Stein Akslen, and what is Minneriket? Why and when did you decide to start such distinct project, and where do you want Minneriket to be in the following years?

Stein Akslen:   Minneriket is a solo project I started a few years ago to be able to create music focusing solely on atmosphere and an internal dialogue with myself. It’s about being nostalgic but still innovative, rooted in tradition but walking new paths and carving out a whole new beast. As some might know, I started in Blodsgard long before Minneriket and I saw great success with that band where we hold our art to the highest standards truly representing the elite of the genre, but I needed another outlet – something more egocentric, minimalistic and completely without ambitions. With Blodsgard we have goals, but in Minneriket there are no goals – there are only soundscapes, audio therapy and a straight-to-the-core kind of songwriting. The only thing I know about the future for Minneriket is that it will continue to evolve, that no ground is too sacred to tread upon, and that there are no barriers for sound, message or aesthetics.

THM: As mentioned in our review to your latest album Anima Sola, Minneriket plays what can be called “Romantic Black Metal”. Can you explain us what such distinct label truly means? What’s the real definition of it? And do you enjoy having your music categorized this way?

SA:   Well I coined the term, so of course I enjoy it. The Romantic era was an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century. The Romantic art had an emphasis on strong emotions, individualism and a glorification of the cultural past and the nature that surrounds us. This is a philosophy that resonates with what I do with Minneriket.

Romance is so much more than just the popularization of love. Romance is strong and deep emotional desires, a yearning to connect to something and to grow emotionally attached. This approach, trying to convey the deep longing for something outside of yourself, either in nature or spirit, is the essence of what I wish to achieve with Minneriket.

THM:  The title and artwork (designed by Czech artist Anna Marine) in Anima Sola (or “lonely soul” in English) are based on the catholic imagery of the lonely spirit burning in purgatory. In addition to that, you mentioned you composed Anima Sola because “we need to talk about the darkness”. Can you tell us more details about that?

SA:   “We need to talk about the darkness” become like a tag-line for this release. You know, Black Metal music has become this watered-down version of itself: people compose music in a certain way and sing about certain topics because they’re expected to – because they have this blue-print of what an album should look and sound like. It’s a very shallow understanding of art, and I oppose that with every fiber of my body. You can spew out album after album claiming you’re the Antichrist incarnate, and nobody bats an eye because that’s just “how it’s supposed to be”. I need to make something that’s real. That will speak directly to your emotions. To make you question your existence and reflect on your life and values.

I’m a melancholic person by nature, and decided to dwell in that mental basement for a lot longer than usual when crafting this album. A lot of Black Metal listeners have a very superficial understanding of the darkness they pride themselves in representing and that’s what makes this an uncomfortable album for many; it’s true, it’s real, and it’s challenging. There’s no aggression here, no hatred or other lyrical “staples” – no easy way out – it’s solitude, depression, anxiety and a yearning for something outside of your reach. We all feel this from time to time, some more than others, but I wanted to take the time to really explore this. I don’t respect either taboos nor your perfect presentation of life on social media – I want what’s real, what’s uncomfortable and the raw and untainted emotions… And that is why we need to talk about the darkness.

THM: In Anima Sola, you offer the listener the chance to enjoy your classic Black Metal in both English and Norwegian, with pretty much half of the album being in one language, half in the other.  How do you decide if a song will be sung in English or Norwegian? What’s your process to write the lyrics for a song?

SA:   Earlier I used to think that it was a conscious choice I did. That the songs in Norwegian perhaps were closer to heart, and that the ones in English were more directed outwards to an audience. But I’m not so sure anymore. I prefer Norwegian myself, but I’ve got to be pragmatic about it too – some things just sound better in English. I can’t force it into one way or another, if a translation would diminish the value of the lyrics. So I really just let the songs decide the language themselves.

I always start with the lyrics, or at least some half-finished lyrics. Maybe just a title or a few sentences. Then I build the words and the music around this idea. I’m looking for “What was the essence of this word?”, “What were I feeling when I wrote this sentence?”, then I revisit that place inside myself time after time until the lyrics are done and I can start creating an audio representation of the words, which then turns into the whole song. I go back and forth a lot of course, but that’s the main framework I work within.

Album Review – Minneriket / Anima Sola (2018)

THM:  Although Minneriket is considered a one-man band, you had the help of guest musician Fredrik Rex (Blodsgard) on guitars and bass in two songs of the album, An All Too Human Heart and Det lyset jeg ikke kan se (“the light I cannot see”). How did you invite Fredrik to be part of the album, and how was the recording process with him?

SA:   Well I’ve worked with Rex in Blodsgard for about 10 years now, so it’s only natural that if I’m looking for creative input that he’s my go-to-guy. He’s got a whole other kind of musical understanding than I have, and he’s both very creative and have good techniques. I have pretty deep trust-issues when it comes to my art, so it’s best for me to use him because we’re able to communicate well. So I just invited him over one day, played him some of music I was working on, it was mostly finished already and just needed the right kind of flavor and seasoning, so I asked him for a few lead-guitar parts and a bass-line. Very low-key and informal, just how it should be. After using about 30 minutes to tell me how weird it is that I tune my guitars a half step down, he took about 15 minutes to record the parts.

And here’s where I need to admit a mistake… He actually played on “Tro, håp og kjærlighet” and not “An All Too Human Heart”. That’s a typo in the booklet!

THM: One of my favorite songs of the album, the full-bodied aria Det lyset jeg ikke kan se, feels like a 13-minute descent into the pits of hell. How was it for you to compose such bold song? And is the final result exactly what you wanted it to be after listening to it now that the album is out?

SA:   I’m glad you like that one! It was a very challenging song to do. I needed it to be this kind of huge sonic behemoth, and it’s difficult to maintain the claustrophobic atmosphere throughout 13 whole minutes. The music had to fit the lyrics, which really takes you to the dark corners of your mind. It needed to be repetitive and monotonous, a feeling of hopelessness but still dynamic and drive the song forward, and at the same time without becoming boring or losing the listener on the way. But I think that the way the guitars blend with the different vocal techniques I used here really makes it work.

Hindsight will always be 20-20 (to do some Megadeth-paraphrasing), but looking back on it I’m really proud of that song. It has a little of everything that Minneriket is about, and it’s objectively a great piece of music too.

THM: The closing song of the album, Time for Suicide, seems to deal with a very delicate and controversial topic. The lyrics for this song are dark, pensive and somewhat disturbing, like “Headaches taunt me with flashbacks of the past / Call it fear, but I think it runs deeper / an infection that eats away at my soul / furthering my suffering and doubling my agony”. What details can you tell us about this song? What were your main goal when you wrote it?

SA:   I guess this is a song with no hidden meaning, haha! It’s a pretty obvious thing. “Time for Suicide” is just that, a song about suicidal thought patterns and self-destructive behavior that may have risen above you and become its own entity. The moment where you lose your autonomy and your control. This all goes back to what I said initially about how we need to talk about the darkness. These things build up inside of a lot of people, and it’s controversial, it’s taboo, and even hidden away in shame. That’s not healthy, not at all. We need to face it, own it, and in that way rise above it and take back control. It’s not a song that advocates suicide or self-harm, not at all, but it’s a song that let’s you know that it’s out there, that we shouldn’t hide it just because it’s uncomfortable. There’s no reason to be ashamed of who you are or what emotions you’re experiencing, and I find it very important to shine some light on these subjects. Nothing good comes from keeping quiet.

THM: Now let’s talk about the musician Stein Akslen. Who are your biggest influences in music? And what other sources do you usually go to while crafting your Black Metal music?

SA:   I always credit the ambient albums by Burzum and Mortiis/Vond with being my initial inspiration to start making music myself. This extreme minimalistic synth atmosphere was something unlike anything I’d ever heard when I first experienced it, and I instantly knew that I would be able to convey emotions in a similar manner. The “Stormblåst” album by Dimmu Borgir (the original one of course, not the re-recording) meant a lot to me with how it balances harmonies with rhythms, and “Pentagram” by Gorgoroth have some of the best rock’n’roll drums you’ll ever hear within Black Metal, that was a bold choice and really lifted that album to a new bar.

Lyric-wise I don’t look so much to other bands, as I honestly believe most of the lyrics – especially in the metal genre – is complete and utter crap. There’s a few exceptions, but they are few and far between. I rather look to older poets, like Ulven, Jonsson, Crowley, Ibsen, etc., to see how it’s possible to say a lot with few words. To really grasp just how minimalistic you can be and still present a mountain of meaning.

Stein Akslen (Minneriket) at the legendary Nidarosdomen in Trondheim, Norway

THM: Do you envision Minneriket playing live one day as a full band, with other musicians helping you take your music to the stage? Or is it always going to be a pure studio project? And do you dream of touring with any specific renowned Black Metal band in the future with any of your bands or projects (Blodsgard, V0id&Khaos, Vakslen or Minneriket)?

SA:   I’ll go live with Minneriket when I can co-headline with Burzum and have Darkthrone as supporting act.

THM:  What’s your view of the current metal scene in Norway, the birthplace of Black Metal? Is it pointing to an exciting future? What other underground acts hailing from Norway like Minneriket can you recommend to our readers?

SA:   Mostly just a bunch of self-obsessed drunken party-rockers who thinks spikes and corpse paint gives them some sort of credibility or validity. Doing their best to re-enact the music they like themselves, while completely failing to grasp or present anything of integrity or artistic value. I can’t recommend anyone in good conscience.

THM: Thank you very much for your time, and I hope to hear more from Minneriket in a not-so-distant future as your music is truly captivating. Please feel free to send your final words and considerations to our readers, and to invite everyone to join the dark world of Minneriket.

SA: Thank you. I released the last video from Anima Sola for the song “Alle hjerter banker ei” (Not all hearts beat) a few days ago for a fitting celebration of Valentines day… And after popular demand I also made Minneriket merchandise available for the first time ever, and everything can be ordered through the links on www.minneriket.com.

Links
Minneriket Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | BandCamp

Album Review – Minneriket / Anima Sola (2018)

A scorching extravaganza of Norwegian Black Metal that will consume your soul, thoroughly put together by a one-man army of darkness.

Norwegian Romantic Black Metal one-man army Minneriket is the work of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Stein Akslen, who created the project back in 2014 for as much a philosophical and spiritual channeling as a musical outlet. Drawing on influences as various as punk and goth yet steeped in the intensity of the early Norwegian Black Metal scene, Minneriket, which translates as “the kingdom of memories”, is honest and real, reflecting both self and society, knocking down barriers and ignoring taboos, breathing new life into the genre in a completely uncompromising manner. After the releases of the albums Vargtimen in 2015, Stjerner, speil og svartebøker… in 2016, and more recently the Burzum tribute From the Veins of a Nearly Dead Boy in 2017 (which officially received inclusion on the Vikernes Burzum website), Minneriket returns in full force, unleashing upon humanity the project’s latest opus Anima Sola.

The title of the album, which means “lonely soul” in English, and the artwork, designed by Czech artist Anna Marine, are based on the catholic imagery of the lonely spirit burning in purgatory. The soul which is burning forever, but is never entirely consumed by the flames. It’s the war between spirits and matter, and fire as both a destructive force of nature and the kindle in your heart. Musically speaking, Anima Sola is a scorching extravaganza of Norwegian Black Metal that will consume your soul, with Stein doing a fantastic job on vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards throughout the whole album, leaving you completely disoriented after each of its ten piercing compositions is over, it doesn’t matter if sung in English or in his mother tongue Norwegian.

Tro, håp og kjærlighet (Norwegian for “faith, hope and love”) brings a somber, melancholic intro that keeps growing darker and darker, until Stein arises from the crypts of hades with his hellish gnarls, with his Stygian guitars generating a mesmerizing rhythm. In other words, this is Atmospheric Black Metal at its finest. And things get even better in An All Too Human Heart, featuring guest musician Fredrik Rex  (Blodsgard) on guitars and bass. Offering the listener that strident Black Metal riffage we all love so much, Stein attacks our souls with an infernal storm of old school Norwegian Black Metal, sounding absolutely bestial on vocals and, consequently, more obscure than anything or anyone you can imagine. Furthermore, it’s impressive how he masterfully blends the sheer obscurity of Black Metal with the smoothness and delicacy of ambient music, which is exactly the case in When Life Gets Sick, the Dead Grow Strong, always sounding and feeling pugnacious and chthonic, with the song’s riffs and beats being in full diabolical sync, effectively boosting its overall impact.

Then disturbing sounds permeate the air in I am the Serpent Son, a song tailored for lovers of the darkest form of Norwegian Extreme Metal where Stein uses his voice in an otherworldly way to distill its stylish lyrics (“I submit to your beauty and wisdom / I will learn all your black arts / Mother Lilith! / See to all my needs / so that I may grow and conquer this world”). And there’s not a single second of peace or hope in over seven minutes of extreme music in Between Infinity and Melancholy, where Stein keeps firing his blistering guitar lines and enraged vociferations, with the musicality feeling extremely raw and primeval, but still very polished due to the above average production of the album. Then in Det lyset jeg ikke kan se (or “the light I cannot see”), also featuring Fredrik Rex, we face over 13 minutes of a descent into the pits of hell full where thunderous bass punches and steady beats steal the spotlight for the first three minutes, before a sonic onrush of traditional Black Metal lacerates our minds mercilessly. In addition, Stein and his Minneriket don’t let our souls rest not even during the atmospheric break in this full-bodied blackened aria, proving how precise he is with his instruments.

Stein then treats us with a wicked beginning and his disturbing, Satanic vocal lines in Sorger er tyngst i solskinn (“sorrow is the heaviest in sunshine”), all effectively supported by the song’s somber instrumental pieces, feeling extremely metallic, inhuman and bizarre from start to finish; while Alle hjerter banker ei (or “all hearts beat one” in English) leans towards vile Blackened Doom, where once again Stein delivers hypnotizing riffs and beats that will drag your soul to the underworld, with endless grief and despair flowing from all instruments. And his most damned and depressive side keeps dominating his mind in the desperate hymn Smerte, skjønnhet og Satan (“pain, beauty and Satan”), being slow and steady as good Doom Metal should be without forgetting the project’s old school Black Metal core, before a sonic havoc of putrid sounds entitled Time for Suicide comes crushing our hearts, with its lyrics being as perturbing as they can be, especially through Stein’s evil gnarls (“Headaches taunt me with flashbacks of the past / Call it fear, but I think it runs deeper / an infection that eats away at my soul / furthering my suffering and doubling my agony”).

In summary, Anima Sola, which can be enjoyed in its entirety on Spotify, might be considered by many Minneriket’s strongest work to date, proving how focused, professional and passionate about extreme music Mr. Akslen is, always moving forward and never sounding outdated or bland. You should definitely check his other albums, news and future plans on Facebook and on YouTube, and grab your copy of Anima Sola through the project’s own BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon. Stein himself commented that the album was created because “we need to talk about the darkness”, also saying that the album “speaks of solitude and ineptitude, loss and yearning; humorless Black Metal with music and lyrics equally painful and raw.” Well, let’s face it, the man behind Minneriket more than succeeded in sending his dark message to the world with Anima Sola.

Best moments of the album: An All Too Human Heart, I am the Serpent Son and Det lyset jeg ikke kan se.

Worst moments of the album: Smerte, skjønnhet og Satan.

Released in 2018 Akslen Black Art Records

Track listing  
1. Tro, håp og kjærlighet 5:40
2. An All Too Human Heart 3:33
3. When Life Gets Sick, the Dead Grow Strong 3:59
4. I am the Serpent Son 4:34
5. Between Infinity and Melancholy 7:35
6. Det lyset jeg ikke kan se 13:25
7. Sorger er tyngst i solskinn 6:10
8. Alle hjerter banker ei 4:52
9. Smerte, skjønnhet og Satan 3:30
10. Time for Suicide 2:27

Band members
Stein Akslen – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards

Guest musician
Fredrik Rex – guitars and bass on “An All Too Human Heart” and “Det lyset jeg ikke kan se”

Album Review – Magick Touch / Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire (2018)

A “magickal” music journey to the golden years of rock and metal, reminding us all why we love those electrifying sounds so much.

In these times where trends seem to come and go on an almost monthly basis, sometimes it’s never more satisfying than to simply sit back and rock out. And that’s exactly what Norwegian Hard Rock/Rock N’ Roll power trio Magick Touch will make you do with their highly anticipated second full-length album, entitled Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, a beyond exciting follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut endeavor Electrick Sorcery, released in 2015. In other words, there are no tricks, no special effects nor any other type of shenanigans in Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, just three skillful musicians declaring all their passion for classic rock and metal through their music.

Formed in 2014 in Bergen, a southwestern coastal town in Norway, Magick Touch are HK Rein on guitar and vocals, Christer Ottesen on bass and vocals, and Bård Nordvik on drums, blending in their music several elements from the most classic forms of Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll with a strong focus on the synchronicity between their vocal lines and the slashing power of their guitar riffs. This Norwegian trinity of rock will take you on a journey to the golden years of rock music through the 10 electrifying tunes featured in Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, always reminding you why you love the gripping sounds of rock so much in your life.

And the Rock N’ Roll running through their veins becomes latent in the opening track, the upbeat Under The Gun, bringing the purest form of rockin’ riffs and the high-pitched, electrified vocals by HK, with the bass punches by Christer knocking us out within seconds, and keep banging your freakin’ heads nonstop and raising your beers to the soulful guitar lines by HK in The Great Escape, while Bård keeps pounding his drum kit mercilessly. Following such electrified start to the album we have Midnite Sadusa and its Cat Scratch Fever-inspired main riff, an ode to 70’s and 80’s Rock N’ Roll where Christer and Bård are responsible for creating a massive wave of rumbling tones perfect for the classic vocals by HK. Put differently, this is one of those songs that would have been an all-time classic if written 30 years ago.

Leaning towards more contemporary Hard Rock with hints of the sonority by bands like Nickelback and Breaking Benjamin (but also showcasing the band’s old school core essence), Believe In Magick is a song tailored for dancing together with your boyfriend or girlfriend at a rock n’ roll party; whereas the roaring bass by Christer takes the lead in this potent fusion of Southern Rock, Stoner Metal and Hard Rock titled Polonium Blues, which will certainly please all fans of the golden years of Southern Rock. In Siren Song we’re treated to a thrilling intro that keeps growing in intensity until groovy Rock N’ Roll fills our ears, presenting sharp guitar lines with psychedelic elements while the vocal lines sound hard and heavy just the way we all love in rock music. And speeding up their pace, Magick Touch deliver a flammable rockin’ chant named Lost With All Hands, with its guitar and bass slashing our brains while the beats by Bård don’t let us stop dancing for a single second.

Slowing down again and bringing elements from Blues Rock to their sonority, the band offers us After The Fire, a radio-friendly composition with a solid drumming and a catchy rhythm, despite losing its grip after a while, followed by Electrick Sorcery, the second to last Hard Rock comet by Magick Touch and, more important than that, their personal tribute to 70’s and 80’s Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal, showcasing amazing performances by all band members (especially HK with his passionate vocals and spot-on riffs), and with its backing vocals adding an extra touch of awesomeness to the overall result. Furthermore, the last part of the song is absolutely fantastic, with the band paying homage to KISS, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Dio, Motörhead and other rock and metal idols through the song’s clever lyrics. At long last we have a song which name could have been easily used by Manowar in one of their songs, the title-track Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, a mid-tempo heavy-as-hell hybrid of pure Rock N’ Roll with the most rumbling form of Southern Rock and Metal, also displaying an amazing chorus accompanied by the lowering bass by Christer and the slow, steady and fierce beast by Bård, even presenting some Iron Maiden-ish moments effectively inserted throughout its faster and more complex passages.

I guess I don’t need to say you should definitely let your rockin’ heart be touched by the electrifying and magical waves crafted by Magick Touch in Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, and in order to do that simply go visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel, Spotify and SoundCloud for news, tour dates, videos and, above all that, first-class Rock N’ Roll. Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, which is already on sale through several online stores such as the band’s own BandCamp page, the Edged Circle Productions’ webstore (in CD or LP format) and the Season of Mist’s webstore, as well as on Amazon, on iTunes or at Discogs, doesn’t aim at revolutionizing rock and metal music. Quite the contrary, Magick Touch’s main goal with their new album is simply to remind the whole world how awesome our good old Rock N’ Roll is and will always be, and the band not only nailed it, but they also provided us all a “magick” soundtrack to our days and moments on the road, at work, at school or anywhere else good music is needed.

Best moments of the album: Under The Gun, Midnite Sadusa and Electrick Sorcery.

Worst moments of the album: After The Fire.

Released in 2018 Edged Circle Productions

Track listing
1. Under The Gun 2:53
2. The Great Escape 2:56
3. Midnite Sadusa 3:39
4. Believe In Magick 3:36
5. Polonium Blues 4:17
6. Siren Song 4:30
7. Lost With All Hands 3:13
8. After The Fire 4:10
9. Electrick Sorcery 4:26
10. Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire 6:18

Band members
HK Rein – guitar, vocals
Christer Ottesen – bass, vocals
Bård Nordvik – drums, vocals

Album Review – netra / Ingrats (2017)

The perfect soundtrack for late-night walks in the city, combining several different music genres into a coherent stream of melancholy, might be right in front of your eyes thanks to this exquisite Urban Black Metal one-man project.

Conveying images of a grey, boring and anxiogenic city life, Urban Black Metal one-man project netra is back with its third full-length album, titled Ingrats (which is French for “ungrateful”), the perfect soundtrack for late-night walks in the city, combining several different music genres such as as Ambient Black Metal, Trip-Hop and moody Jazz into a coherent stream of melancholy. Put differently, the music found in Ingrats is highly recommended if you like bands such as Manes, Katatonia or Burzum, and especially if you are not afraid of trying something truly new that will defy your senses and concepts in music.

Formed in 2003 by French multi-instrumentalist Steven Le Moan in Quimper, a citiy located in Brittany, in northwestern France, netra relased its first album Mélancolie Urbaine in 2010. Two years later, netra presented the highly claustrophobic Sørbyen, recorded after relocating to the city of Gjøcik, Norway over the course of a year. In addition to that, netra also collaborated with Californian rap duo We’rewolves in 2013 to create a true hybrid between Hip-Hop and Black Metal, the EP entitled Dreading Consciousness. Now in 2017, after moving to Auckland, a major urban city in the North Island of New Zealand, Steven and his netra found the right amount of inspiration to mesmerize us once again with the Depressive Black Metal and all other styles featured in Ingrats.

Gimme a Break, a Jazz-like intro with smooth piano and drums, introduces us to the universe of Ingrats before netra’s Black Metal strikes the listener like a lightning bolt in Everything’s Fine, a dark and aggressive composition where netra manically grasps the song’s lyrics, full of anguish and hatred. Furthermore, the song’s hints of Jazz and Experimental Metal, together with some clean vocals by the end of the song, make the whole experience of listening to this multilayered tune even more exciting. In Underneath My Words the Ruins of Yours, an atmospheric instrumental composition alternating between electronic music and sheer obscurity, simply close your eyes and savor its musicality, getting ready for the melancholic Live with It, continuing with netra’s wicked fusion of sounds and proving music doesn’t need to be heavy and fast all the time to be good. Its clean vocals are spot-on, not to mention the gentle balance between acoustic guitars and electronic elements, turning it into one of the top moments of the album in my opinion.

Infinite Boredom, an instrumental bridge displaying gentle piano notes under the rain, paves a gray and sorrowful path for Don’t Keep Me Waiting, a movie-inspired creation by netra where all instruments keep growing in intensity, transpiring melancholy and pain. It’s interesting to notice how the saxophone somehow “replaces” the vocal parts, with a dense background voice, as well as the song’s Atmospheric Black Metal beats, enhancing the overall darkness present in the music. And A Genuinely Benevolent Man, the most modern and electronic of all songs, blends Trip-Hop with Atmospheric Black Metal elements, with the music gradually increasing in intensity while netra delivers only a few sick growls throughout the whole song.

The hopelessness depicted by netra continues in the ambient Paris or Me, where subtle hints of Jazz and Black Metal coming from the piano and guitar lines add to this instrumental piece a delicate feeling of solitude; whereas in Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve I highly recommend you keep your eyes closed and follow netra in his walk through the dark and hazy urban streets where he lives. Bringing forward Industrial and Alternative Metal nuances, there’s no sign of happiness in the music, which can be felt through his clean but acid vocals, reminding me of some of the best creations by Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. And how about a sweet Jazz song as the closing act of this unusual album? In Jusqu’au-boutiste you’ll not only get that, but netra also offers trenchant riffs and blast beats in the best Atmospheric Black Metal style imaginable, like a sharp razor cutting our ears while the piano parts give peace to our souls, ending the album in a tempestuous fashion.

Only time will tell what’s next for the urban black metaller netra, but based on the amazing quality of the music found in Ingrats (which you can listen in its entirety HERE), I don’t think he’ll take too long to release more of his eccentric music. While we all wait for another blast of his multilayered creations, let’s keep in touch with him through his Facebook page, and purchase a copy of Ingrats through the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp (where you can find some interesting bundles like the “ultimate netra listener pack”) or official webstore in a 4 panel sleeve with 8 page booklet format or as a fantastic package containing the CD, a 11cm x 7cm all-weather vinyl netra sticker and a beyond awesome “Urban Black Metal” shirt, as well as on Amazon and on CD Baby. Now please excuse, as I’m going for a lonely walk through the dark and cold shadows of Toronto, and I guess you know which album I’ll be listening to.

Best moments of the album: Everything’s Fine, Live with It and Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve.

Worst moments of the album: A Genuinely Benevolent Man.

Released in 2017 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Gimme a Break 1:19
2. Everything’s Fine 5:24
3. Underneath My Words the Ruins of Yours 3:36
4. Live with It 4:30
5. Infinite Boredom 0:44
6. Don’t Keep Me Waiting 4:32
7. A Genuinely Benevolent Man 5:10
8. Paris or Me 3:32
9. Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve 5:00
10. Jusqu’au-boutiste 5:55

Band members
netra – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Abbath / Abbath (2016)

The one and only Abbath takes a new step in his career with a brand new band and an album that will definitely be among the best releases of the year.

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abbathsoloface_638Olve Eikemo, Abbath Doom Occulta, or simply Abbath, you name it, is one of the most iconic musicians in the Norwegian Black Metal scene since the 1990’s as frontman of Immortal. However, in 2015, fans got caught by surprise when Demonaz announced Abbath’s departure from the band and they would legally battle for the naming rights of Immortal. According to Abbath’s side of the story, he wanted to rehearse and record a new album, but Demonaz and Horgh, now with families and children, didn’t want to enter the studio that soon. On the other side, Immortal members said that Abbath’s personal problems ruined the band’s plans. What could have meant the end of something really amazing such as Immortal’s legacy turned out to be the beginning of a new era when Abbath announced he was forming his self-named solo band.

To join him on this new project, Abbath recruited the well known bassist King ov Hell (Gorgoroth, Ov Hell, God Seed) and a mysterious drummer called “The Creature” – which we found out in December, when he left the band, to be Kevin Foley, the French drummer who has been playing with bands like Benighted, Disavowed, Sepultura, Sabaton and others. The band debuted live in June 2015, at Tuska Open Air, in Finland, even before the recording of the album and during the second half of 2015 they released a few songs to the fans. A few days after Creature’s departure, Per Valla, the Norwegian guitarist that played on their live concerts also left the band. Some might think this is not a good start for a new band, and it really isn’t, but they promised that their very first album was to be released on January 22, 2016, and here we have Abbath, a great Black Metal piece that every fan of this genre should take a listen at.

To War opens the album showing right from the start that Abbath is not here to delivery low quality music. It has an amazing work on bass and drums, great riffs adding melody to the song and the main man’s growls sounding better than ever. There is even time for a great melodic guitar solo. Winter Bane comes next and keeps all the heaviness going on, again with all the band members working in harmony – Creature brought to songs such as this one a lot of rhythm by coming from outside Black Metal, and the result is great. Next, the first seconds of Ashes of the Damned might trick you that this is a slow song, but in reality it is fierce and raw with the addition of fast guitar riffs, double bass and even some keyboards.

abbathband2015promo1_638After a start of pure destruction, Abbath slow the pace just a little bit with Ocean of Wounds, but you still know you’re listening to some really good Black Metal. All the anger comes back on the next track, Count the Dead – this song was released as a single in December in a very special 7” vinyl edition, limited to 500 copies worldwide. Fenrir Hunts is the heaviest song of the album and it was the first one played live to the fans, back in Finland. It is impossible to stay insensitive to this masterpiece and probably you’ll bang your head until your neck hurts.

In Root of the Mountain, we can recover our breath after all the aggressiveness delivered with another amazing melodic Black Metal track with a darker atmosphere. But the album couldn’t end in a better way than with more loudness to our ears in Eternal, closing this cycle with the same heaviness it all started. But wait, there is more! For those who got the “Count the Dead” single vinyl, as a B-side there’s a cover of Riding on with the Wind, byJudas Priest, also available on digital version. This is not the best of covers but, well, it is a good tribute to the Metal Gods. There is also a second cover as a bonus track: Nebular Ravens Winter, by Immortal, and if you think you know what to expect, you’re wrong. This version, recorded live in studio, sounds even louder than the original song.

Abbath is already available in its entirely for streaming on Soundcloud, and you can order your copy at the Season of Mist webstore and on iTunes. The band will embark in January and February on a tour around Europe, and then, in March and April, in North America, as headliners of the Decibel Magazine Tour, alongside with the bands High on Fire, Skeletonwitch and Tribulation – for both tours, Abbath named Gabe Seeber (The Kennedy Veil) to fill the place left by The Creature. So, keep an eye on Abbath’s Facebook page for more news and updates and if you have the chance to see this concert, please go! This is a must see in 2016. Will Abbath ever work with Immortal again? Who the f*ck knows? It is something we really can’t predict. But with this new band and the album, the man didn’t disappoint and showed he still has a lot of creativity flowing through his veins and a lot to deliver to his fans.

Best moments of the album: To War, Winter Bane, Count the Dead and Fenrir Hunts.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Season of Mist

Track listing
1. To War 5:35
2. Winter Bane 6:49
3. Ashes of the Damned 3:51
4. Ocean of Wounds 4:44
5. Count the Dead 4:57
6. Fenrir Hunts 4:38
7. Root of the Mountain 5:40
8. Eternal 4:36

Special Edition bonus tracks
9. Riding on the Wind (Judas Priest cover) 3:04
10. Nebular Ravens Winter (Immortal cover) 4:16

Band members
Abbath Doom Occulta – vocals, guitars
King ov Hell – bass
The Creature – drums

Album Review – Vingulmork / Chiaroscuro (2015)

Surrender to the dark side of Thrash Metal, offered to you by one of the most promising Scandinavian bands of the past few years.

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VINGULMORK - Chiaroscuro cover artAlthough the year of 2015 is almost coming to its end, it seems there are still tons of awesome metal bands with considerable amounts of fuel to burn, providing us fans unbounded reasons to keep banging our heads nonstop like maniacs. This is precisely the case with Norwegian Blackened Thrash Metal desecrators Vingulmork, who before the curtains of this chaotic year close are releasing their cataclysmic debut full-length album entitled Chiaroscuro. The name of the album might be the junction of the Italian words “chiaro” (clear or bright) and “oscuro” (dark), but don’t expect to find any light in their music. It’s sheer darkness, architected in such a thrilling and virulent way you’ll be mercilessly knocked out like Ronda Rousey before the album is over.

Forged in 2012 at the very depths of Oslo, Norway, Vingulmork released their debut EP named The Long March at the beginning of 2014, but it’s now with Chiaroscuro that this talented quartet aims at conquering the world of heavy music with their inhumane combination of the unquestioned verve from Thrash Metal with the evildoing and perversity of Black Metal. If you hold true passion for the music by bands such as Skeletonwitch, Old Man’s Child and Dissection, the music by Vingulmork (which translated from Old Norse means “the forest of fescues”) brings forward all the elements needed to foster that darkest side of yours.

And Vingulmork don’t give you a single second to breathe before their sonic devastation begins in the magnificent Collapse and Rebuild, a brutal composition that summarizes their music style by blending the riveting riffs from Thrash Metal with the obscure growls from Black Metal. In addition, Frontman Jostein Stensrud Køhn sounds like he’s possessed by an evil entity so aggressive his vocals are, while drummer Simen Kandola delivers beats inspired by the greatest drummers from the Bay Area Thrash. As destructive as the opening track, Hold Your Ground provides an accelerated feeling as if a heart attack is about to come, with guitarist Martin Kandola offering the listener his evil-inspired riffs amidst pure Thrash Metal music. And that’s just the beginning of Chiaroscuro, my friends.

Don’t get deceived by the calm acoustic intro from the chant beautifully entitled (I Am) The Darkness You Can Touch, as it quickly morphs into a dark sounding with elements of Death Metal that will violently kick you in the head. Jostein growling like a demon, together with some interesting breaks leading into some pure Black Metal moments and its lugubrious lyrics (“I will lay waste to your sense of belief / Replace all pleasure with anguish and grief / I will demolish all ways to control / I will take hold of and bury you”), turn this ode to obscurity into one of the top moments of the album without a shadow of a doubt. In The Haunting, the band delivers a melodic and ferocious onslaught of metallic music in less than 3 minutes, reminding me of the high-octane Thrash/Death Metal by Skeletonwitch, while Old Hate flirts with Melodic Death Metal but with extra dosages of wickedness added to the sounding, not to mention the great job done by Martin with his sick guitar riffs accompanied by the intricate bass lines by Steffen Grønneberg.

VINGULMORK band photo (3)With an enraged Simen on drums, their dark metal machine keeps rolling and smashing everyone and everything in From Promise, a straightforward tune that will ignite some serious mosh pits during their live performances, with highlights to the beyond bestial vocals by Jostein, and don’t stop banging your head or slamming into the pit because Vingulmork offer us all Painting Lives, another insane track where there’s even time for a catchy chorus that will stick into your mind for a long period of time (“Every moment counts / And everything amounts / To pull apart is not an art / And so we count all that amounts”).

The two last arias in Chiaroscuro are just as nefarious as the rest of the album, starting with the striking White Dress, Black Heart, with yet another demented performance by the entire band, in special by Jostein and Simen. This is at the same time the most Thrash Metal and the most Death Metal of all tracks, which obviously elevates its quality to a whole new level of carnage, also presenting thoughtful lyrics that make total sense if you know how harsh the winter can be (“The winter is grinding knives / It will take another life / Cutting through frozen flesh / Claims a mark in every bone”). And closing this top-notch album we have their most obscure and disturbed tune, It Will Suffice, where the band definitely embraces darkness by showcasing their strongest Black/Doom Metal vein. A lesson in extreme music by this incredible Norwegian act, where the music cuts like a sharp razor until it fades away into a melancholic and demonic finale.

To get a taste of what Vingulmork have to offer in Chiaroscuro, you can visit their Facebook page or take a listen at the official album preview by Crime Records, but I’m pretty sure you’ll almost instantly go grab your copy of the album at the Crime Records webstore or at CD Baby. Forget about the never-ending war between darkness and light, simply surrender to the dark side of Thrash Metal offered to you by one of the most promising Scandinavian bands of the past few years. You will not repent that.

Best moments of the album: Collapse and Rebuild, (I Am) The Darkness You Can Touch and White Dress, Black Heart.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Crime Records

Track listing
1. Collapse and Rebuild 3:38
2. Hold Your Ground 3:17
3. (I Am) The Darkness You Can Touch 5:24
4. The Haunting 2:36
5. Old Hate 2:59
6. From Promise 3:29
7. Painting Lives 3:34
8. White Dress, Black Heart 2:23
9. It Will Suffice 5:45

Band members
Jostein Stensrud Køhn – vocals
Martin Kandola – guitar
Steffen Grønneberg – bass
Simen Kandola – drums