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

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 – 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

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.

Rating3

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

Album Review – Maahlas / Nightmare Years (2014)

A grim mix of Black, Death and Progressive Metal, tailored for people who enjoy complex and intense music.

Rating4

MAAHLAS - Nightmare Years cover artWhen you tell someone there’s a band that plays Progressive Melodic Death Black Metal, you’ll probably have to spend a lot of time explaining exactly what you mean by putting together so many different subgenres of heavy music, unless of course you’re talking to a fan of Gojira, Death, Meshuggah, Dimmu Borgir and many other “complex” dark bands. That’s how Norwegian band Maahlas can be categorized based on their debut release, the heavy and eccentric concept album Nightmare Years.

Formed in 2013 in the beautiful city of Oslo, Norway by multi-instrumentalist Cuneyt Caglayan, also known as Cuno, Mahhlas seem to be one of those bands that enjoy surfing through different music styles (most of the time during the same song), relying heavily on their refined techniques to create a unique atmosphere and conduct the storyline behind Nightmare Years without being boring or arrogant. Quite the contrary, the way the band is capable of telling a story changing from smoother progressive music to violent Black Metal is really outstanding and one of the biggest strengths of this album.

And what a violent way to start with the very atmospheric and dark Sun of the Summerian, a Symphonic Black Metal tune similar to what’s played by bands such as Dimmu Borgir, but with more hardcore vocals and a very interesting progressive part right before reigniting the sonic massacre. Besides, despite being only a session musician working for Maahlas, drummer Łukasz Krzesiewicz is a fuckin’ beast and delivers an incredible performance with his set. A False World, a more obscure track with great vocals by Levent Ultanur, progressive synths and philosophical lyrics (“Doubt in your eyes, in your stances and your reasoning. / Weak in your seminal thoughts primed to misuse trust.”), and Morning Light, more progressive and melodic than the previous tracks, remind me of the Blackened Death Metal currently played by Behemoth plus all the progressiveness from Dream Theater; while An Ancestral Memory focus on dark Black Metal riffs, synths and drums to provide it a very symphonic atmosphere. Moreover, those guys truly enjoy adding some interesting breaks to the rhythm to freshen up their music, as you’ll notice not only in this song but in the entire album.

maahlasThen we have the excellent At the Edge of Life: this is dark progressive music at its finest, and although slower than most of the other songs, it’s a lot heavier thanks to some awesome guitar lines. After the acoustic eerie track Gliese 667 / Æra, Maahlas offer us the title-track Nightmare Years, which summarizes everything the band is, with vocals getting a little bit more demonic and huge doses of contemporary Black Metal, and The Great Divide, where Łukasz smashes his drums while Cuno delivers some great guitar riffs.  I remember a few songs named “The Great Divide” that were all ballads and I was even ready for a smooth track, but this is not the case here, as the band once again promotes an infernal music feast.

The last part of Nightmare Years does not disappoint at all, maintaining the excellent level of the whole album: Birth of Sentience is another brutal assault focused on modern Black Metal, with its last part being more direct and traditional; while Of Hypocrisy, Hate and Fall, the longest track of all, starts with a beautiful intro before turning into a dark music extravaganza, with highlights to its very interesting lyrics (“Prowling agony, blinding day. I meditate yet have a terror attack. / I see Gliese, God! So alike. / I’m alone to act, a straw man, I’ve got to let go. / I´m controlled by time.”). It’s perhaps the most progressive of all tracks, with lots of elements from bands such as Tool and Insomnium, and if you’re a drummer I suggest you watch the drum tracking for this song. And finally, Simulacrum of Reality, another technical and detailed track, closes the album in a very complex and obscure way.

The album art by Turkish / German artist Aybars Altay, representing at once the fall of Home Sapiens and the evolution of the Homo Sentient, is a great complement to this mysterious music journey, which you can purchase on iTunes and many other locations. If you’re a fan of grim music with a strong technical and meaningful background, simply embrace Nightmare Years. You will love it.

Best moments of the album: Sun of the Summerian, At the Edge of Life and Nightmare Years.

Worst moments of the album: Morning Light and Birth of Sentience.

Released in 2014 Independent

Track listing
1. Sun of the Summerian 4:31
2. A False World 5:10
3. Morning Light 4:11
4. An Ancestral Memory 5:01
5. At the Edge of Life 4:30
6. Gliese 667 / Æra 1:44
7. Nightmare Years 4:03
8. The Great Divide 3:41
9. Birth of Sentience 4:39
10. Of Hypocrisy, Hate and Fall 7:08
11. Simulacrum of Reality 4:23

Band members*
Levent Ultanur – story, lyrics and vocals
Cuneyt Caglayan – music, guitars, bass, synth and all production
Robin Berg Pettersen – guitar
Christian Svendsen – drums

Guest musicians
Łukasz Krzesiewicz – drums (session musician)
Atle Johansen – vocals on “An Ancestral Memory”