Album Review – Circle Of Indifference / Welcome To War (2016)

A solid album by a multi-cultural band that invites us all to go to war to the sound of their sharp Melodic Death Metal.

Rating5

CIRCLE OF INDIFFERENCE - Welcome to War cover artAfter listening to the brand new concept album by Melodic Death Metal band Circle Of Indifference, entitled Welcome To War, you might not believe in what I’m going to say about this interesting project recommended for fans of bands like Death and Carcass. Founded in 2013 by Swedish multi-instrumentalist Dagfinn Övstrud in the city of Hönö, Sweden, and having already released their debut album Shadows of Light, in 2014, Circle Of Indifference are a band where none of its members have ever met in person. I’m not joking. Apart from the band’s mastermind Dagfinn on guitars, bass and additional keyboards, Circle Of Indifference are Brandon L. Polaris on vocals directly from Belgium, Tyler Teeple on lead guitars representing Canada, and Kostas Vassilakis, a member of Progressive Death/Thrash Metal band Infravision, from Greece, on keyboards and drums. They use the Internet to communicate with each other, share their thoughts and ideas, record their separate parts in their respective homes, and everything is put together at the end of the recording process.

And although those four metallers are distant around 12,000km from each other in total, the final result is really good, sounding a lot more organic than many regular bands I know. The concept of the album, which presents the lives of two soldiers in World War II on either side of the conflict, starting from their enlistment at the early stages up until they come face to face during a battle at the end, helped the band members to stay focused and follow the same path while writing their parts of the music. The beautiful and melancholic cover art by Turkish digital artist and musician Aybars Altay, who resides in Germany and has already worked with another one of the bands reviewed at The Headbanging Moose (the excellent Norwegian Progressive Death/Black Metal act Maahlas), complements the intensity of the music in Welcome To War, putting a “face” to the story told by Dagfinn and his multi-cultural army.

Without further ado, it’s time to head to the battlefield to the sound of Conscription, bringing forward the heaviness of traditional Death Metal with the modernized atmosphere of Melodic Death Metal, not to mention how perfectly guitar riffs and keyboards complement each other. It’s a bit odd the name of the following song, Einbehrufung (Conscription), is the German translation for the title of the opening track, with its warlike ambience “torturing” the souls of the two main characters. In addition, the growls by Brandon L. Polaris lean towards old school Death Metal, reminding me of the vocals by Johnny Hedlund (Unleashed). Then a gloomy intro kicks off From This I Depart, before the amazing guitars lines by Dagfinn and the progressive drumming by Kostas suddenly fill all spaces in the music, getting more melodic than both previous tracks.

CIRCLE OF INDIFFERENCE band photoThe storyline gets more and more exciting as it progresses, with the kick-ass Menschenmörder (Murderer Of Man), one of the most exciting moments of the album, also presenting a dark intro that evolves to a modern and heavy chant. Furthermore, the guitars by Dagfinn transpire electricity, effectively supporting the song’s lyrics about the torments inside the mind of a soldier (“Inside, a sea of mixed emotions that I still hide / I cannot show them what I really feel / Outside, I wear a mask of brutal terror untied / I cannot show them what I really feel / Inside”). The title-track Welcome To War begins by blasting some loud shots and explosions, giving the sense that we’re in the middle of a battle, with its straightforward Melodic Death Metal sounding working extremely well.  In other words, Circle Of Indifference keep it simple and the final result is awesome, with highlights to the additional layers brought forth by keyboards and backing vocals.

In Kein Entkommen (No Escape), which presents a solid mix of harsh growls and clean vocals, Kostas maintains the energy at a high level with his unstoppable beats, while Tyler, who is beyond superb with all his guitar solos throughout the entire album, might have reached a new level of finesse in this tune. The second to last war anthem by Circle Of Indifference, named Veil Of Despair, offers a more modernized approach than usual, while yet again another great duo of guitars and keyboards lead the musicality. Moreover, Brandon’s voice sounds more polished in this case, maybe due to the song’s sharper sonority, therefore expanding the sonic range of the band. The last track, Ein Akt Der Güte (An Act Of Kindness), is obviously an epic conclusion to the story told so far, with the exciting keyboards by Kostas once again adding fire to the music, as well as the mesmerizing riffs by Dagfinn. The lyrics to the song couldn’t be more realistic, with Brandon declaiming a soldier’s final words full of sorrow and anger (“As I rest against the wall / I take a breath and close my eyes / The British soldier takes my hand / I feel at peace it’s time to die / It’s time to die”).

As previously mentioned, how they managed to be so concise even with each band member being located in distinct parts of the world is beyond my knowledge, but that’s absolutely irrelevant when the final product sounds as compelling as Welcome To War. This is another great example of how heavy music unites us all, no matter where we come from, and if you want to know more about Circle Of Indifference go check their Facebook page, YouTube channel (where the full album is available for a listen) and SoundCloud page, with Welcome To War being on sale at the band’s BandCamp page, on iTunes and on Amazon. I guess their only “problem” right now might be finding a way to get together for live performances, because if there’s one thing that those gigantic distances didn’t stop those guys from doing was creating powerful and dynamic Melodic Death Metal.

Best moments of the album: Menschenmörder (Murderer Of Man), Welcome To War and Ein Akt Der Güte (An Act Of Kindness).

Worst moments of the album: Einbehrufung (Conscription).

Released in 2016 Records Of Indifference

Track listing
1. Conscription 4:33
2. Einbehrufung (Conscription) 5:26
3. From This I Depart 5:35
4. Menschenmörder (Murderer Of Man) 5:05
5. Welcome To War 6:28
6. Kein Entkommen (No Escape) 4:22
7. Veil Of Despair 5:04
8. Ein Akt Der Güte (An Act Of Kindness) 7:45

Band members
Brandon L. Polaris – vocals
Dagfinn Övstrud – guitars, bass, additional keyboards
Tyler Teeple – guitar solos
Kostas Vassilakis – keyboards, drums

Album Review – Marduk / Frontschwein (2015)

The Babylonian gods of Black Metal return with more of their blasphemous and apocalyptic war-themed music.

Rating3

coverWhen Swedish Black Metallers Marduk added interesting topics such as Third Reich history and World War II to their lyrical/conceptual themes, starting with their 1999 album Panzer Division Marduk, I guess many of their diehard fans weren’t really sure what was going to happen to those guys that once stated they wanted to become the most blasphemous band in the world. If you look at their very first demo, the controversial Fuck Me Jesus, which was banned in several countries following its release due to its explicit cover art, and look at their brand new album, Frontschwein, it’s noticeable they’re not as blasphemous as before. But who said that change wasn’t for good?

Following their excellent 2012 release Serpent Sermon, Frontschwein (their thirteenth studio album) is not only a lesson in Black Metal, but also in Military and World War History, and let’s face it: no other music genre can represent the agonies and destruction caused by any war better than Death/Black Metal. Frontschwein is a war-themed concept album with every single song talking about a specific fact related to war, all of course impregnated by Marduk’s obscure musicality. If you love reading and studying about war, and if you’re a metalhead whose blood boils to the sound of nonstop blast beats and harsh growls, this album is perfect for you.

Despite its melodic intro, the opening track Frontschwein (which by the way means “frontline soldier”) quickly turns into badass Black Metal, with the unstoppable drumming by Fredrik Widigs and the truly devilish vocals by Mortuus (especially during the chorus) making sure any candy-asses stay away from this album. On the other hand, I have no idea what the band wanted to do with The Blond Beast: what the hell are those horrible “pop music” drums? I mean, the riffs and vocals are quite decent, but those lame commercial beats ruin the entire song.

bandFortunately, that’s the only mistake the band made in Frontschwein. In the bloodcurdling Afrika, Marduk offer us an extremely dense music carnage, with Morgan and Widigs redefining the word “wicked” with their sick guitar lines and bestial drumming respectively. The slower but completely demonic tune Wartheland, which talks about a Nazi German administrative subdivision formed from Polish territory annexed in 1939, focuses on the desperate screams by Mortuus boosted by a maleficent atmosphere. Following that lesson in vileness,  in Rope of Regret the band returns with their “heavy artillery”, and in spite of all the sonic insanity their music is far from being a mess, as you can perfectly listen to and enjoy each instrument throughout the entire song.

Between the Wolf-Packs couldn’t sound more traditional, displaying all those unique elements that fans enjoy in Black Metal, whereas Nebelwerfer (or “Smoke Mortar”, a World War II German series of weapons) emanates darkness, with an incredible Doom Metal ambience mainly due to its slow-paced grim rhythm. And Falaise: Cauldron of Blood gets back to straightforward Black Metal, with highlights to the interesting addition of some slower breaks amidst the furious blast beats, and to Mortuus sounding even more amazing with his 100% barbaric guttural vocals.

mediabook

Frontschwein Mediabook Limited Edition

The longest track of all, Doomsday Elite, is another “anthem of despair” without a single second of peace, with all band members giving their best and adding a lot of power to the song, while the excellent 503, which I believe talks about German Tiger Tank Battalion 503 in World War II, sounds actually like a tank: it’s slow, extremely heavy and very imposing, with its Doom Metal elements and gruesome bass lines by Devo turning it into an outstanding moment of the album. And finally, the last regular track in Frontschwein, Thousand-Fold Death, makes sure no one survives the band’s brutal assault. It’s a nonstop tune that will put a huge smile on our faces and an even more gigantic pain in our necks, with kudos to Morgan for his awesome guitar riffs.

The mediabook limited edition of Frontschwein comes with a very generic bonus entitled Warschau III: Necropolis (a variation for the city of Warsaw, Poland), an instrumental track with some obscure growls, but nothing that adds any value to that version of the album. Anyway, it doesn’t matter if you’re a huge fan of Black Metal or not, the new album by Marduk is worth a listen. If you don’t know the band that well, you’ll be surprised by how entertaining their apocalyptic dark music can be, and if you’re a longtime fan of the band, I guess I don’t need to say this is a mandatory addition to your evil collection.

Best moments of the album: Frontschwein, Afrika, 503 and Thousand-Fold Death.

Worst moments of the album: The Blond Beast.

Released in 2015 Century Media Records

Track listing
1. Frontschwein 3:12
2. The Blond Beast 4:26
3. Afrika 4:00
4. Wartheland 4:17
5. Rope of Regret 3:52
6. Between the Wolf-Packs 4:28
7. Nebelwerfer 6:17
8. Falaise: Cauldron of Blood 4:58
9. Doomsday Elite 8:11
10. 503 5:12
11. Thousand-Fold Death 3:46

Mediabook Limited Edition Bonus Track
12.Warschau III: Necropolis 2:59

Band members
Daniel “Mortuus” Rostén – vocals
Morgan “Evil” Steinmeyer Håkansson – guitar
Magnus “Devo” Andersson – bass
Fredrik Widigs – drums