Album Review – Rise of Avernus / Eigengrau (2018)

Blending elements from progressive and symphonic music with the most obscure side of Extreme Metal, all enfolded by majestic orchestrations, here come Rise of Avernus with their heaviest and darkest opus thus far.

Eigengrau (German: “intrinsic gray”, lit. “own gray”; pronounced [ˈʔaɪ̯gn̩ˌgʁaʊ̯]), also called Eigenlicht (Dutch and German: “own light”), dark light, or brain gray, is the uniform dark gray background that many people report seeing in the absence of light.

Since their inception in 2011, Australian Dark Orchestral Death/Doom Metal horde Rise of Avernus has been making a name for themselves throughout the metal community with their unique style blending elements from progressive and symphonic music with the darkest side of Extreme Metal, all enfolded by majestic orchestrations. Within the short time since the release of their 2012 debut EP, they’ve followed a relentless touring schedule, supporting some major international acts such as Apocalyptica, Enslaved, Eluveitie, Prong, Septicflesh, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Rotting Christ and Sigh along the way. Now in 2018 it’s time for this Sydney-based blackened squad to spread their devilish wings all over the world once again with Eigengrau, their fourth studio release and, more important than that, their heaviest and darkest opus thus far.

Featuring a Stygian artwork by world renowned artist Seth Siro Anton (aka Spiros Antoniou from Septicflesh), Eigengrau is the experience of seeing a deep grey shade in the total absence of visible light, or what one may refer to as a “perfect darkness.” Upon this canvas, an individual can project their subconscious, their processes, their anxieties and their fears. Thematically, Eigengrau explores the fluidic nature of these self-created experiences, how they can be shaped and how they may change at the point of one’s own death. Other tracks go on to explore the intricacies of personal realities, influenced by external factors or via spiritual and religious indoctrination. The nature of self-realization and being forced to confront weakness to overcome it. The distinct sound of the album reflects these altered states, oscillating between delicate movements and nightmarish grandiosity.

And Rise of Avernus’ nightmare of tenebrous and imposing sounds begin in full force in the opening track Terminus, showcasing a movie-inspired start before becoming a majestic fusion of the extreme music by bands like Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth and Necronomicon with a raw Death Metal twist. Furthermore, Ben VanVollenhoven, the (black) heart and soul of the band, sounds insanely infernal on vocals, as well as Andrew Craig and his thunderous drums. Following such fantastic beginning we have Ad Infinitum (or “to infinity”), a neck-breaking, symphonic tune led by the atmospheric keys by Mares Refalaeda where Ben once again brings sheer darkness to the musicality with his demonic voice, resulting in a flawless combination of Atmospheric and Symphonic Black Metal.

Then we have a movie score-inspired beginning to yet another venomous feast by Rise of Avernus titled Gehenna, showcasing a beautiful but still obscure mid-tempo rhythm led by the guitars by Ben, who also provides a powerful performance with both his harsh and clean vocals (not to mention how awesome all orchestrations are); while Eigenlicht offers the listener almost eight minutes of a descent into the pitch black crypts of Hades, presenting smooth guitar lines by Ben and the always gripping keys by Mares, with the atmospheric break halfway through it being a thing of beauty. To sum up, this is Symphonic Black Metal at its finest, with the whole music ending in dense and ferocious fashion for our total delectation. And there’s’ still a lot more to go in Eigengrau, with tribal beats igniting another sonic extravaganza named Tempest, where Ben sounds more hellish and cavernous than before while Andrew and Mares fill all empty spaces with their burning instruments, resulting in a flawless mix of orchestral and heavy music.

Forged in Eidolon brings forward an ominous intro rising from the pits of hell directly into your mind, with the spectral orchestrations and keyboards by both Ben and Mares imprisoning your soul in the metallic realm of evil reigned by Rise of Avernus. Then serene sounds are joined by a wave of sublime orchestrations in Mimicry, creating the perfect ambience for the demonic growls by Ben and enhanced by the astounding keys by Mares. And as the closing act to this impressive album we have Into Aetherium, a wondrous composition that starts with almost three minutes of an instrumental blast of melancholic and obscure Symphonic Black Metal before all hell breaks loose, darkening our thoughts and hearts during its eight minutes of duration. Led by the bestial drums by Andrew, this fiendish hymn sets the perfect landscape for Ben to continue his path to the underworld, gnarling like an evil entity until the song’s mesmerizing and grandiose ending.

What are you waiting for to show your support for Rise of Avernus and purchase your copy of Eigengrau, one of the best extreme albums you can find out there, blending the aggressiveness of Death, Doom and Black Metal with the finesse and epicness of orchestral music? Eigengrau is available through Rise of Avernus’ own BandCamp page or Big Cartel (where by the way you can also find an album + patch + shirt bundle and an album + patch + pin + shirt + canvas/artwork bundle), as well as through the Aural Music webstore as a regular CD format or as a very special woodbox edition, if all of those versions of the album are still in stock, of course (which I doubt due to the insanely high quality of the music in question). Also, don’t forget to pay a visit to Rise of Avernus on Facebook for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about the band, and to listen to more of their classy music on YouTube. This is not only the band’s boldest, darkest and heaviest release to date, as aforementioned, but a lesson in extreme music that will certainly figure among the best metal albums of 2018 not only at The Headbanging Moose, but in several other publications all over the world where dark music always prevails.

Best moments of the album: Terminus, Eigenlicht, Tempest and Into Aetherium.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Code666

Track listing 
1. Terminus 5:43
2. Ad Infinitum 4:54
3. Gehenna 5:59
4. Eigenlicht 7:33
5. Tempest 4:51
6. Forged in Eidolon 5:56
7. Mimicry 3:53
8. Into Aetherium 8:03

Band members
Ben VanVollenhoven – vocals, guitar, orchestrations
Mares Refalaeda – vocals, keyboards
Andrew Craig – drums, percussion

Album Review – Subliminal Fear / Escape From Leviathan (2016)

A collection of boundless and modern Melodic Death Metal creations, which together represent the next step in the evolution of the music by this excellent Italian band.

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Subliminal_Fear-cover640While listening to the brand new full-length album by Italian Modern Melodic Death Metal band Subliminal Fear, entitled Escape From Leviathan, I realized how dynamic, fresh and ravishing the mixture of Extreme and Cyber Metal with electronic music can be when brought forth by a high-skilled and honest band like these Italian metallers. Following the steps of renowned acts such as Sybreed, Mnemic and Fear Factory, this band from the cities of Barletta and Bari put all their passion for heavy music and their futuristic vision in the conception of the album, surpassing their debut album Uncoloured World Dying (2007) and their latest release One More Breath (2012) in quality and feeling. Put differently, Escape From Leviathan is undoubtedly Subliminal Fear’s finest release to date.

There are two additional ingredients that make the album so special, bringing more value to the already gripping music by Subliminal Fear. First of all, the participation of three international guests in different songs add extra layers to the musicality and concept of the album. Guillaume Bideau (Mnemic, One-Way Mirror), Jon Howard (Threat Signal, Arkaea) and Lawrence Mackrory (Darkane) lend their potent voices to some of the best tracks of the album, always in sync with what the band is firing through their instruments. And secondly, the beautiful artwork by Seth Siro Anton, the Greek artist and musician also known as Spiros Antoniou (Septicflesh) who has already worked with bands like Moonspell, Arch Enemy, Paradise Lost and Old Man’s Child, is based on the lyrics concept, which present a futuristic and apocalyptic vision of the world and the society inspired by movies like Terminator, Alien and Matrix. A subtle but very important detail that only proves how focused those guys were while composing the album.

Phantoms Or Drones is industrialized from the very beginning, presenting electrified riffs and a futuristic ambience as expected, as well as a good mix of clean and harsh vocals, with guest singer Guillaume Bideau bringing an extra dosage of aggressiveness to this progressive and groovy tune. The accelerated beats by Ruggiero Lanotte guide the high-octane Industrial Metal chant All Meanings They’ve Torn, featuring Lawrence Mackrory, where once again Carmine Cristallo and Matteo De Bellis make an effective and balanced duo with their clean vocals and visceral growls, respectively; followed by the alternative and mechanized Nexus, an excellent blend of dark and violent soundings with very melodic passages thanks to the electronic effects in the background and its polished riffs. In addition to that, fans of the genre will definitely enjoy the song’s lyrics, in special its excellent chorus.

SubliminalFear-promo_pic1An ominous intro is gradually enhanced by each instrument in the title-track Escape From Leviathan, building a futuristic aura while Ruggiero gets quite progressive behind his drums, adding more intricacy to the overall result; whereas Evilution, featuring guest singer Jon Howard, is a robotic heavy hymn depicting the evolution of man into a greedy and devilish machine. Industrial and Melodic Death Metal are nicely blended in this exctinig song, with the “special effects” in the background together with the industrialized and violent drumming turning it into one of the best moments of the entire album. And if you’re a fan of cover songs, you’ll simply love Living In Another World, an amazing version for a classic from the 80’s by English post-progressive band Talk Talk. The band was capable of keeping the magic from the original version and mechanizing it with their own industrial touch, with guitarist Domenico Murgolo having a great share of responsibility for such a pleasant result due to his powerful guitar lines.

Yet again the band fires a solid Industrial Metal tune with hints of Melodic Death Metal entitled Dark Star Renaissance, with Matteo and his evil growls driving the song’s effectiveness up while Carmine maintains the smoothness in the musicality, before Self-Proclaimed Gods, with its metallic drumming, a brutal industrial atmosphere (even Carmine gets robotic), its lyrics about the arrogance of man (“Killing the parthenogenesis I’ve created / And still living always into the other truth / I’m born on this land for deny / I don’t want to look like you”) and Domenico’s riffs complementing the futuristic keyboards (and vice-versa), brings forward all core elements of the genre, which consequently make it the most exciting of all tunes. Lastly, we have the Melodic Death Metal with industrial elements of Limitless, showcasing a good riffage by Domenico while bassist Alessio Morella and Ruggiero take care of the “structure” of the music, and an eerie outro about the inevitable ending of mankind in a not so distant future named The Disease Is Human Emotion, with its movie-like start (as many industrial bands enjoy doing) and an ominous narrator giving the details about the disease that exists inside every man.

Enjoying this futuristic album by Subliminal Fear and knowing more about the band’s day-to-day activities and music is quite easy, as you can find them on Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, as well as purchase Escape From Leviathan at their BandCamp page, at the Inverse Records’ webstore, at Record Shop X, or on iTunes. In a nutshell, Subliminal Fear are paving a solid and prospering path to stardom with their boundless and modern creations, with Escape From Leviathan being the next step in the evolution of their music.

Best moments of the album: All Meanings They’ve Torn, Evilution and Self-Proclaimed Gods.

Worst moments of the album: Limitless.

Released in 2016 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Phantoms Or Drones (feat. Guillaume Bideau) 6:17
2. All Meanings They’ve Torn (feat. Lawrence Mackrory) 4:45
3. Nexus 5:00
4. Escape From Leviathan 4:55
5. Evilution (feat. Jon Howard) 5:51
6. Living In Another World (Talk Talk Cover) 4:56
7. Dark Star Renaissance 4:07
8. Self-Proclaimed Gods 5:22
9. Limitless 4:48
10. The Disease Is Human Emotion 3:09

Band members
Carmine Cristallo – clean vocals
Matteo De Bellis – harsh vocals
Domenico Murgolo – guitar
Alessio Morella – bass
Ruggiero Lanotte – drums

Guest musicians
Guillaume Bideau – additional vocals on “Phantoms Or Drones”
Lawrence Mackrory – additional vocals on “All Meanings They’ve Torn”
Jon Howard – additional vocals on “Evilution”

Album Review – Moonspell / Extinct (2015)

While this distinguished Portuguese Dark Metal band is among us, we can rest assured good and meaningful music is far from being extinct.

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moonspell_extinctIt’s definitely not an overstatement to say Portuguese Dark Metal pioneers Moonspell are the best music group in the history of Portugal, and of course, the best Dark/Gothic Metal band of all times. They’re not just a Heavy Metal band exploring the darkest and deepest emotions with their matchless music, but over the course of their more than 20 years of career they reshaped and redefined Gothic Rock/Metal worldwide, taking it to a whole new level. And even after so many years on the road they still have a lot of creativity and electricity flowing through their veins, culminating in the Goth masterpiece Extinct, their eleventh full-length album and undoubtedly one of their best to date.

With beautifully disturbing cover artworks designed by Greek artist Seth Siro Anton (also known as Spiros Antoniou, leader of Greek Symphonic Death Metal band Septicflesh), a different one per album version by the way, Extinct has an impeccable overall production that only increases its magnitude. Furthermore, the album feels like it’s purposely split in two distinct parts, the first leaning to a more Heavy Metal sounding whilst the second pays homage to pure Gothic Rock. And it doesn’t matter which “part” you prefer, it’s impossible not to enjoy Extinct in its entirety.

moonspellWhen Breathe (Until We Are No More) starts, you can already feel Extinct is going to be a great album. With the keyboard notes by Pedro Paixão providing that ominous atmosphere we love in Gothic music and its progressive riffs blended with a very ferocious chorus due to the harsh vocals by lead singer Fernando Ribeiro, you’ll feel embraced by the band’s unique musicality for sure. The title-track, Extinct, is a work of art of darkness and passion, offering the listener powerful headbanging riffs, beautiful guitar solos and keyboard passages, an incredible job done by Fernando on vocals, as well as a chorus that is beyond phenomenal  (“Before the lights go out / Before our time is gone / A taste of your lips / Before we go extinct”). In addition, the official video to the song, which you can see below, perfectly depicts its musicality, and if it doesn’t give you a thrill maybe you should go listen to Justin Bieber or One Direction, because you’re not worthy.

Medusalem is not only the fastest and the most metallic of all songs, but the addition of Middle-Eastern elements electrified it even more. I would love to listen to this more-than-perfect epitome of Gothic Metal live, with highlights to Fernando kicking ass on vocals once again. Following that amazing dark attack we have the touching rock/metal ballad Domina, with its thoughtful lyrics enhanced by a mesmerizing atmosphere and more soulful guitar solos, and a brilliant song entitled The Last of Us: with lyrics tailored to drive any girl crazy (“Let me touch you where’s forbidden / And test the limits of your sanctity”), this song kind of kicks of the Gothic Rock extravaganza in the album, focusing on the same musicality that elevated bands like H.I.M. to stardom.

moonspell_extinct02

Extinct Limited Mediabook Edition

The next track, the beautiful Malignia, is even darker than all previous songs, with its name, keyboards, background effects, the depth of the vocal lines and everything else in this Goth anthem being as somber as possible, while Funeral Bloom is a song that could easily be played on any radio station so catchy it is. Besides, the way drummer Miguel Gaspar, bassist Aires Pereira and keyboardist Pedro Paixão are in sync is remarkable. A Dying Breed is another exciting Gothic Rock song where Fernando varies between his clean vocals and deep growls perfectly, with the rhythm flawlessly following his vocal lines from smoother passages to heavier moments thanks to the excellent job done by Ricardo Amorim and Pedro Paixão on guitars.

moonspell_extinct03

Extinct 2-LP Gatefold

There’s so much beauty found in The Future Is Dark it’s hard to explain it in just a few words: it has another very passionate and melancholic chorus that will get stuck in your head for days (“Gotta breathe in, gotta breathe out / Up on your feet, gotta think twice / The future is dark, the future is vile / Without you there’s no tomorrow”), and what can I say about the blackened ambience the band brings forth in this song, mainly due to its guitar lines and solos? That’s simply amazing. And lastly we have the weird French song La Baphomette, which despite not being a disaster it doesn’t keep up with the awesomeness of the rest of the album. It’s important to say the deluxe edition of Extinct also brings four high-quality bonus tracks, and unless you’ve just waken up from a coma you might not have noticed yet they’re alternate versions for four of the songs of the regular album. In my opinion, the best of those tracks is the passionate semi-acoustic Doomina, which is a word play of “Doom” and the original song “Domina”, got it?

To sum up, calling Extinct the best album of 2015 even if we’re still in March, with many months to go until the year is over, is not an overstatement either. An awe-inspiring album like this one truly deserves to be appreciated by all music lovers, it doesn’t matter if you’re a metalhead or not. In other words, go listen to Extinct with the person you love the most, or simply close your eyes and savor it by yourself, resting assured that while Moonspell are among us dark and meaningful music will never be extinct.

Best moments of the album: Extinct, Medusalem, Malignia, The Future Is Dark and the bonus track Doomina.

Worst moments of the album: La Baphomette.

Released in 2015 Napalm Records

Track listing
1.Breathe (Until We Are No More) 5:33
2.Extinct 4:42
3.Medusalem 5:06
4.Domina 5:09
5.The Last of Us 3:26
6.Malignia 5:06
7.Funeral Bloom 4:10
8.A Dying Breed 4:29
9.The Future Is Dark 5:09
10.La Baphomette 2:48

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
11.Until We Are No Less 7:02
12.Doomina 4:49
13.Last of Them 5:24
14.The Past Is Darker 5:43

Band members
Fernando Ribeiro – vocals
Ricardo Amorim – guitars
Pedro Paixão – keyboards, guitars
Aires Pereira – bass
Miguel Gaspar – drums