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Another day, another big ol’ batch of black metal for your perusal…

Avaunt!

Grylle – Les Grandes Compagnies (Antiq) (November 20)

Taking Graveland’s earlier Middle Ages pagan folk sound and crossing it with the Martin Best Ensemble Thys Yool Medieval to Dark Ages mystery play style folk music, these Frenchmen eschew electric guitars and suchlike entirely while still attempting to evoke the aesthetic of black metal.

The end result is rather akin to the most recent (and quite recommended) Lord Wind effort, The Forest is My Kingdom, just with a less well thought out and accomplished instrumental end and a far more obvious (and cheesy) black metal growl/snarl vocal in place of the light and faerielike female ones.

The end result isn’t quite so Ren Faire, but neither is it very black metal, even if you’re thinking the traditional folk thing spearheaded by bands like Ulver or even early Hades. It works, but more in the sense that Austin Lunn’s Panopticon does, with banjo-like stringed instruments taking the effective fore.

Make no mistake, it’s interesting and we did enjoy it…but Lord Wind already won this particular genre and approach’s crown several months back, leaving this at best some ersatz also-ran by comparison.

Tan Kozh – Lignages Oubliés (Antiq) (November 15)

Strange effort that comes off somewhat internally inconsistent if not very obviously split. The bulk of the album is decidedly forgettable, with stolen (albeit slightly altered) riffs from Watain (“de brest…”) and Bathory (“et la haine…”) being the order of the day.

But then you get halfway through “imprecation”, and things begin to sound very different. Wait…are they finally getting an original idea? Then it all closes on the occasionally majestic “a la gloire d’Indra”, which at its best features choir chanting, busy bass and a slow, mournful vibe.

It ain’t perfect, even then…but even with all the flaws that ensue, that track and a half are a damn sight better than the rest of this, for whatever that’s worth.

Overall, meh…but without that closer, could have been an easy toss to the Pile.

Dorminn – S/T (Antiq) (September 21)

One man bedroom black metal of an extremely awkward sort.

Chanting with out of tune guitars that sound like sitar, shriek n’ scream vox over bells and tupperware to mailer box “drums”, more real sounding sitar and tabla that really go nowhere, temple bells and stoned chants.

That’s all you get, we’ve just described each of the four tracks in turn.

WHIZZZ!!!

Keep those plastic slag bits, maybe you can sell ’em as art!

Bannwald / Uruk-Hai / Druadan Forest – Kingdoms Long Gone (Antiq) (February 2)

As much as I’ve always loved Mortiis’ all too brief Era I and its respective four discs worth of material, it still comes as a surprise that it managed to inspire an entire subgenre worth of fairly slavish imitators.

As such, it’s probably easiest to judge this trio of acts by the album they swipe most from.

Druadan Forest comes off best, appropriate as they draw from the long form, uber-Pouledoris does Conan Fodt Til a Herske, which remains the first and best of our former Emperor bassist cum keyboardist’s solo work. It runs about 20 minutes, features that same processed mumbling “spoken narration” at points, even works the same Casio tone bank settings. Excellent.

Bannwald may be reaching a tad later, but still comes off quite strong, with their Crypt of the Wizardlike short and to the point distillations of the same aesthetic. It’s still Conan soundtrack goodness, just in concise, easily digestible chunks, polished and honed to say the same thing in far less of a time (and arguably with more changes, harmonic motion and bits of business to boot). Very, very good.

Uruk-Hai is, at best, the Keiser av en Dimension Utjenkt of the bunch, but in all honesty doesn’t even get that far. It’s more generic fantasy film soundtrack business than Mortiis (or for that matter, Pouledoris) worship, as if John Williams suddenly realized his scores kinda blow and tried working the deliberate primitivism as an attempt to course correct, without ever truly understanding what makes this sound work in the first place. Utterly forgettable.

Definitely one you’ll want to grab, for the Druadan Forest and Bannwald tracks…just do yourself a favor and forget the Uruk-Hai ones even exist.

ZIFIR – Demoniac Ethics (Duplicate) (January 24)

Mostly forgettable, quite Watainish black metal out of Istanbul. Only “ephemeral idols” actually had any life and drive to it, not to mention a more sinister vibe than the rest.

One worthwhile track, a whole lot of filler appended thereto.

Next?

Trépas – L’héritage du monde (Sepulchral Productions) (December 5)

Ah, here’s one of those old standby labels, back in fighting form once again.

This is Quebecois black metal in the sense of “pretty much on the level of the Finnish school”, powerful, dark, melodic, driving, anthemic.

Oddly, the only track that fails to deliver on the melancholy and spirit of true black metal? Is the title cut, which blows.  I mean, come on…this track sucks some serious ass, you name your entire record after it? Especially when literally everything else here not only works, but works really well?

Top notch…just a real head scratcher about that horrific title cut.

Must have been a bad batch of drugs that day.

Next?

SIJJIN – Angel of the Eastern Gate (Sepulchral Voice) (November 13)

Hmm.

Well, the vocals aren’t exactly the greatest, to be nice about it. There’s enough reverb on ’em and they fit just well enough with all the riffing and crazed leads to stay just this side of passable…but it’s very much Cookie Monster crossed with Bob Goldthwait. “is…is your DAUGHTER home? slurp snort…”

The good part is, these guys ape Morbid Angel with touches of…hell, the promo writeup wasn’t a million miles off citing Incubus (aka Opprobrium) or even Frank Blackfire’s stint in Sodom here. It’s not “great playing”, but it’s flashier than you’d expect, and certainly both crazed and busy enough to tickle the fancy of vintage thrash and deaththrash fans.

Overall, despite laughing a bit at the weird vox? Definitely one for the good column.

REVEAL – Scissorgod (Sepulchral Voice) (November 29)

Wow, wait a minute, hold up, what the absolute fuck?

(long stunned pause)

uhhh…

No. Just…no.

No idea what kind of substances these Swedes are habitually imbibing, ingesting or injecting themselves with, but all I know is I want none of it.

You won’t either.

NEXT?!?

Lunacy – My Favourite Dreams (Valse Sinistre) (November 25)

Sad radio rock.

There’s a vague crossover appeal to the more pop radio-oriented gothic metal crowd or even the Mazzy Star diehards out there, as frontwoman Morena sounds a lot like Krypteria/And Then She Came’s Ji-In Cho with her nasal alto delivery, while composer/sideman “Stone” works something generically gloomy but sweet enough for mass consumption behind her on guitar, piano and rhythm section.

It’s catchy as all get out, her voice is certainly quite pleasant…it’s just very mainstream audience baiting.

If acknowledgment of that fact grates on you, it’s probably not for your ears, no.

Nocturnal Depression – Tides of Despair (Sun & Moon Records) (November 25)

DSBM, but hardly as dark, moody and trance inducing as, say, Shining.

This one’s more light and airy, before going all femme-o screamo (“muse of suicide” sounds particularly femme-fronted emo/metalcore).

As you might expect, it’s midtempo to sluggish, sadly melodic and filled with sad violin swells and such…it’s really the screaming vox that kill the mood. If anyone kills themselves over this? It’s out of sheer protest! “My ears! I can’t take any more of this shit, won’t you just SHUT UP?”

Remove the vocal track entirely, you’d have some sad Romantic music to sigh a sunny afternoon away to.

As is, nah.

Siculicidium – Utolsó vágta az Univerzumban (Sun & Moon Records) (November 25)

Wow, look, they have Bela Lugosi on vocals!*

Gee, doesn’t sound like ol’ Bela…more like a third rate Attilla Csihar, actually.

* Seriously. Not joking, the guy calls himself “Bela Lugosi”.

Well, the star of such amazing Decadent cinema as The Black Cat, The Raven and the first and greatest sound-era adaptation of Dracula is apparently fronting the guys who gave us the previously reviewed A Halál és az iránytu.

What we’re hearing herein is a band that sounds like a far more straightforward and less experimental band than either Tormentor or Master’s Hammer, though at least they come off a whole hell of a lot better than Maniac Butcher this time around!

Wasn’t bad, but if you’re looking for weird stuff from nations behind the former Iron Curtain, you’d be better off with the first two bands aforementioned, Frozen Ocean, Negura Bunget, Arkona, Triumph, Genus…the list goes on.

I was OK with it, and definitely an improvement over last time around.

Svart1 – Monotono (Mask of the Slave)

Pointless ambient drone. As in entire tracks where nothing happens beyond an ominous wind of held tone and some paper rustling or steam being released.

Why does stuff like this even exist?

…next?!?

 

FAUSTIAN PACT – Outojen Tornien Varjoissa (Werewolf) (February 14)

A Finnish Cultes des Ghoules, these oddballs bring weird choked witch gargle vox and combine them with Tulus-style female chants and oddly 80’s pop music bridges (“saastainen valo lintutomissa”) or jaunty Celtic tin whistle choirs (“kuulas musta aika”), resulting in something that feels like a cross between Trollhammeren-era Finntroll, Master’s Hammer and the two acts aforementioned.

Very strange stuff indeed, but not without a bizarre Eastern European-style charm.