Album Review – Zohamah / Spread My Ashes (2019)

Combining Black, Death and Doom Metal into a poisonous but intoxicating musical cocktail, here comes an Israeli one-man band armed with his excellent debut opus.

An intentionally cryptic band from Israel, Black/Death Metal one-man army Zohamah, which by the way is an expression taken from the Kabbalah that translates to “darkness” or “pollution”, a form of evil that results in kilkull (or spiritual damage), is unleashing upon humanity its first full-length opus, entitled Spread My Ashes, a follow-up to its debut EP Manic Depression, from 2017. Combining Black, Death and Doom Metal into a poisonous but intoxicating musical cocktail, Zohamah is the brainchild of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist H.M. (also known as Hezi Menashe), known from several underground bands such as Romuvos, Spawn of Evil and Immaterial, with all lyrics and music being written by H.M. himself, not to mention the album was also recorded, mixed and mastered by this extremely talented Israeli metaller.

The howling wind warns us all there’s a Black and Doom Metal storm coming in the opening track New World, generated by the somber gnarls and damned riffs blasted by H.M. It couldn’t have sounded more devilish than this, with H.M. also showcasing his superior skills on drums. Then presenting a Black Sabbath-inspired main riff enfolded in absolute obscurity we have The Darkness Whispers in My Ear, where H.M. is once again on fire with his demonic roars and intricate beats amidst the song’s hypnotizing rhythm; followed by Zohamah’s 2017 single, named Emptiness, a feast of the most Stygian sounds a man can generate, with his scorching hot guitar lines blending beautifully with his rumbling bass and rhythmic drumming, bringing elements from the most diverse types of classic extreme music.

A lot more Death Metal than its predecessors, which is noticeable specially on H.M.’s deeper growls, Black Cloud offers three minutes of aggressive, sulfurous and ruthless sounds, and the music remains vibrant and grim until all fades into pitch black darkness, whereas Broken Mirror is another demented creation by H.M., presenting the most melancholic and obscure elements from underground Blackened Doom. In addition, H.M. growls in a true desperate manner, bursting his lungs in pain and anguish. The title-track Spread My Ashes is a disturbing and harmonious instrumental bridge, building the ambience for the song that carries the name of the project, Zohamah, to captivate our senses with its neck-breaking pace, infernal screams and blast beats, ending the album on a high (and visceral) note just the way we love in underground extreme music.

It doesn’t really matter if you appreciate the works of one-man bands like Zohamah or not, you should definitely take a shot at Spread My Ashes, available in its entirety on on YouTube and on Spotify, as this is one of those albums that perfectly represent all the talent, hard work, passion for heavy music and darkness found in the independent Extreme Metal scene. If after listening to Spread My Ashes you feel like you want to know more about H.M. and his Zohamah (and I’m sure you will), you can follow him on Facebook, and show him your utmost support by purchasing the album from the Redefining Darkness Records’ BandCamp page, from the Hells Headbangers’ webstore, from iTunes or from Amazon. In the end, H.M. is not only spreading his ashes on us with Zohamah’s brand new album, but also showing all of us fans of metal music that the Israeli scene is a lot more interesting, vibrant and obscure than we can imagine.

Best moments of the album: The Darkness Whispers in My Ear and Broken Mirror.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Redefining Darkness Records

Track listing
1. New World 4:45
2. The Darkness Whispers in My Ear 4:38
3. Emptiness 5:04
4. Black Cloud 3:14
5. Broken Mirror 4:29
6. Spread My Ashes 1:52
7. Zohamah 5:42

Band members
H.M. – vocals, all instruments

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Album Review – Khandra / There Is No Division Outside Existence EP (2018)

Progressing in their own unique interpretation of desolation, this cryptic Atmospheric Black Metal entity from Belarus are unleashing upon humanity their second revelation.

Hailing from the Belarusian capital Minsk, Khandra (or Хандра), the Russian word for “melancholy”, are an Atmospheric Black Metal duo comprised of vocalist LDZMR (Vladimir Borodulin) and multi-instrumentalist DMTR (Dmitry Romanovsky) who sparked a bit of interest with their 2017 debut two-song EP All Is of No Avail. Progressing in their own unique interpretation of desolation, those two cryptic entities holed themselves up in the winter of 2018 to invoke and expel their second revelation, a somber and malevolent four-track EP entitled There is No Division Outside Existence, and they had a few interesting comments about their newborn spawn. “The concept of the project is the flaw and inability of consciousness to reflect the boundlessness of the nothingness in the frames of reality that (reality) only exists within and in the sanity. It is a sort of an attempt of exceeding the limits of imagination, which makes the lyrics unavailable for criticism from the point of view of logical thinking. The musical vessel here is a result of expression that has no bonds with any personal emotion of social nature.”

Ominous sounds rising from the pits of hell ignite the atmospheric and menacing intro titled Into the Absolute Nothingness, before demonic, austere waves invades our ears in Decaying into the Ascended, where Dmitry shows no mercy for his stringed weapons, delivering cutting riffs and thunderous bass lines while Vladimir gnarls like a true creature from the underworld. Put differently, it’s a very melodic and electrifying hybrid of old school Black Metal with contemporary Atmospheric Black Metal, with its hellish blast beats adding an extra touch of aggressiveness to the overall musicality, ending in a tribal and visceral way. And the duo continues to fire their Stygian sounds and vociferations in the title-track There is No Division Outside Existence, another infernal creation where the crisp and metallic sounds of the guitar together with the rumbling bass roars create the perfect atmosphere for Vladimir to growl and bark rabidly. And lastly we have Progressing in Desolation, offering the listener almost nine minutes of the darkest form of Atmospheric Black Metal you can think of, spiced up with Doom Metal nuances and the creepy, harsh vocalizations by Vladimir. Moreover, Dmitry is truly infernal with his phantasmagorical guitar, not to mention how well they move from an enraged sonic havoc to more harmonious and mesmerizing lines and then back, with the music remaining dense and strident until its lugubrious grand finale and, therefore, being highly recommended for lovers of the darkest side of metal.

In a nutshell, Khandra are more than just your regular metal band, and There Is No Division Outside Existence, available for a full listen on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sales from their own BandCamp, from the Redefining Darkness Records’ BandCamp, from the Possession Productions’ BandCamp, from iTunes or from Amazon, is the ultimate representation of what the duo is capable of and how deep they can crawl inside your mind. Because, in the end, Khandra are a musical manifestation that can only be illuminated through experience, and all you have to do is listen and absorb.

Best moments of the album: Decaying into the Ascended.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Redefining Darkness Records

Track listing    
1. Into the Absolute Nothingness 3:27
2. Decaying into the Ascended 7:44
3. There is No Division Outside Existence 5:59
4. Progressing in Desolation 8:31

Band members
Vladimir Borodulin – vocals
Dmitry Romanovsky – guitars, bass

Album Review – 1914 / The Blind Leading the Blind (2018)

It’s time to head into the battlefields of the Great War together with these talented and obstinate Blackened Death and Doom Metal infantrymen from Ukraine.

It’s time to head into the battlefields of World War I together with Ukranian Blackened Death/Doom Metal infantrymen 1914 and their brand new opus, the breathtaking The Blind Leading the Blind. World World I might not get explored as it should very often, as World War II typically overshadows it, but this Liviv-based squad, formed in 2014 at the 100th anniversary of World War I, makes a damn solid case for its historical significance (click HERE for an in-depth interview regarding the band’s ideology), with their unique and incendiary fusion of  Black, Death, Doom and even Sludge Metal being stomping, heavy-as-hell, therefore inspiring the strength and bravery within to march towards death.

Comprised of 2.Division, Infanterie-Regiment Nr.147, Oberleutnant – Ditmar Kumar on vocals, 37.Division, Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr.73, Wachtmiester – Liam Fessen and 5.Division, Ulanen-Regiment Nr.3, Sergeanten – Vitalis Winkelhock on the guitars, 9.Division, Grenadier-Regiment Nr.7, Unteroffiziere – Armin von Heinessen on bass and 33.Division, 7.Thueringisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr.96, Gefreite – Rusty Potoplacht on drums, 1914 pay homage to all that fell fighting the Great War, with their themes covering topics such as the Battle of Gallipoli (and the involvement of Ataturk), the Brusilovsky breakthrough, the Battle of Verdun and the gas attack at Ypres, not being political nor warmongers, but just telling the tales of war, injustice, fear, hopelessness and endless death as they happened. Featuring a deadly, lugubrious artwork by Czech artist Vladimir “Smerdulak” Chebakov, The Blind Leading the Blind is a precious gem of extreme music, positioning 1914 not only as one of the best underground metal bands of the current scene, but of the past decade without a shadow of a doubt.

War In is a beautiful, wicked and dark intro that takes us to the horrors of World War I, exploding into visceral Blackened Death Metal in Arrival. The Meuse-Argonne (inspired by the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the greatest American battle of the First World War, where in six weeks the AEF lost 26,277 killed and 95,786 wounded), led by the pulverizing drums by Rusty, while Ditmar roars the song’s lyrics manically (“Arrival / The Meuse-Argonne offensive started like clockwork / We planned to break through the Hindenburg line / I know what we are fighting for / Hopefully to end the war”), also bringing the most Stygian elements from classic Doom Metal. Then we have A7V Mephisto, a World War I German tank masterfully translated into a brutal and heavy tune where the entire band showcases their heavy artillery by blasting sheer obscurity inspired by old school Black Sabbath and Celtic Frost, in special Liam and Vitalis with their lethal riffs, but with a more demonic twist; followed by High Wood. 75 Acres of Hell, an infernal display of Black and Death Metal spearheaded by Ditmar’s growls while Armin and Rusty keep the ambience as dense and grim as possible with their respective instruments, displaying the battle for High Wood’s 75 acres, which started on July 14 and raged nearly continuously for 64 days, coming to be known as “The hell of High Wood” or “The rottenest place on the Western Front.”

Bagpipes ignite a sinister and pulverizing cover version for The Exploited’s all-time hit Beat The Bastards, sounding as rebellious and fun as the original version, but of course with a more metallic and crushing vibe, with highlights to the beautiful job done by both Liam and Vitalis with their hellish guitars. In the interesting bridge Hanging On The Barbed Wire, the infantry sings while marching under a heavy storm (“If you want to find the General, / I know where he is, / If you want to find the General, / I know where he is / He’s pinning another medal on his chest / I saw him, I saw him / Pinning another medal on his chest.”), setting the tone for the superb Passchenhell, a wordplay with The Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, a campaign of World War I fought by the Allies against the German Empire. Musically speaking, it’s another flawless display of Blackened Death Metal infused with Doom Metal nuances, also featuring the beyond special guest vocalist David Ingram (Benediction, Bolt Thrower, Just Before Dawn). Furthermore, Rusty is once again bestial on drums, whereas Ditmar together with David will haunt your soul with their demonic growling.

“Hello there, soldier! Ready to kill more Germans?” Those warlike words ignite a fantastic sonic havoc by 1914 titled C’est Mon Dernier Pigeon, leaning towards pure old school Black Metal, feeling and sounding as thunderous and menacing as possible and ending in the most demolishing way you can think of; followed by Stoßtrupp, the German word used to describe shock troops or assault troops created to lead an attack, where another eerie, obscure narration suddenly explodes into a darkened feast of Black and Death Metal tailored for cracking your neck headbanging, with Armin sounding vicious with his rumbling bass punches. Lastly, we have The Hundred Days Offensive, an Allied offensive that lasted from August 8 to November 11, 1918, ending World War I, and 1914 turned that battle into 10 minutes of first-class Blackened Death and Doom Metal where you can feel the horrors of the battlefield in the music, remaining very introspective, melancholic, and flowing infernally until the music morphs into the sensational and creepy outro War Out, the perfect ending to such brilliant album.

In summary, The Blind Leading the Blind, which by the way had as its official release date the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month (Central European Time), marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, is a must-have not only for admirers of Extreme Metal, but also for anyone who wants to learn more about World War I in a very unorthodox and exciting way. Available for purchase from the band’s own BandCamp page, as well as from the Archaic Sounds’ BandCamp page, from the Redifining Darkness Records’ BandCamp page, from iTunes and from Discogs, The Blind Leading the Blind definitely redefines the career of 1914, propelling them into a more-than-promising future. Having said that, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, grab your weapons and be prepared to face death in the battlegrounds of the Great War.

Best moments of the album: Arrival. The Meuse-Argonne, Beat The Bastards, Passchenhell and C’est Mon Dernier Pigeon.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Archaic Sound/Redefining Darkness Records

Track listing
1. War In 1:14
2. Arrival. The Meuse-Argonne 6:20
3. A7V Mephisto 8:13
4. High Wood. 75 Acres of Hell 5:27
5. Beat The Bastards (The Exploited cover) 5:02
6. Hanging On The Barbed Wire 2:28
7. Passchenhell (feat. David Ingram) 7:01
8. C’est Mon Dernier Pigeon 5:22
9. Stoßtrupp 6:13
10. The Hundred Days Offensive 10:01
11. War Out 1:55

Band members
2.Division, Infanterie-Regiment Nr.147, Oberleutnant – Ditmar Kumar – vocals
37.Division, Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr.73, Wachtmiester – Liam Fessen – guitar
5.Division, Ulanen-Regiment Nr.3, Sergeanten – Vitalis Winkelhock – guitar
9.Division, Grenadier-Regiment Nr.7, Unteroffiziere – Armin von Heinessen – bass
33.Division, 7.Thueringisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr.96, Gefreite – Rusty Potoplacht – drums

Guest musician
David Ingram – vocals on “Passchenhell”