Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crowned in Earth - Visions of the Haunted (Shadow Kingdom Records 2010)

I’ve been waiting for this album ever since Tim at SKR told me about this new act he had picked up last fall. My curiosity was peaked when I found out that this was actually a one-man doom project by this English guy, Kevin Lawry, who had also pulled of an epic solo doom project Silent Winter, and is also involved with English Doom act Kthon, both of which I’d recommend checking out.

I really didn’t know what to expect with this release: classic styled Pentagram/Vitus/Trouble/Revelation Doom; Epic Candlemass/Solitude Aeturnus/Solstice Doom; Evoken/Ahab/Esoteric Funeral doom; or similarities to some of the newest English Doom acts: Serpent Venom and Wounded Kings? My only hints were that there was going to be a session drummer, Darin McClosky of Pale Divine fame, and that there was going to be more classic rock influence. Well, as it turns out it’s more of a hybrid of Pale Divine-like classic bluesy riffs, some cool solo and melodic guitar work, and the keyboard sounds of funeral parlor antics from Italian Prog Doom acts like Abysmal Grief and THC Witchfield. So, in essence it’s exactly what the hell I’d be looking for and was really surprised and pleased with the result.

The five tracks are fairly lengthy in the doom tradition of 7-8 minutes each, but there’s a continual flow and switch between slow eerie passages and some good old riff jam and boogie. The rhythms balance out the slow parts to keep it moving and honestly give it some catchy bits that will stick with you long after listening, just like Sabbath and Pentagram do. No nasal vocals and ridiculous Ozzy impersonations or standard cliché doom riffs, or WAY over-the-top anything, everything is added in just the right amount and it shows in the taste for sure. “ Visions of the Haunted ” is a very solid Doom debut from an act to keep a watch out for, and is yet another great release from Shadow Kingdom Records. Massive kudos Kevin, you pulled this one off as well!!!!!!! True English Doom.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cripta Oculta – Eros Dos Dolmens Esquecidos (Darker Than Black Records)

Every fucking time I start to wane form my cryptic/pagan/lo-fi Black Metal sounds some asshole pulls me back into that void with their mesmerizing noise, and in this case it’s Cripta Oculta, a Portuguese band that infuses classic 1st AND 2nd wave Black metal viciousness and raw power with incredible pagan flute and acoustic undertones that only serve to create the mood, unlike many acts that fuse their brimstone fire sounds with the pagan and folk elements, these guys don’t ever turn off the crusty/frosty/thrashy riff riot for them. Instead Cripta Oculta aims to maintain the constant rapid pace marathon of heavy metal anthems and classic angst that makes Hellhammer, Darkthrone stuff so timeless and addictive.

I guess it’s safe to say that where some may argue that Black metal and pagan/atmospheric metal loses its balls, this horde grows them bigger and better. Don’t get me wrong because this stuff is crusty/old school rebellion Black Metal that it doesn’t have any of the dreary and morbid atmospheres and melodies, or that it now lacks the strength of the dense fog atmosphere, this release just somehow manages to balance the two extremes to be catchy, ass-kicking, classic, and yet still as a breath of fresh damp cemetery night air after the first cold spring rain spell. There’s even some amazing solo work done on these lengthy but never tiring tracks. I’m heavily reminded of Blut Aus Nord “Ultima Thulee” and Immortal if that helps a bit more, I still have the Damn B.A.N. “Ultima…” orignal French obscure release with the black and white pen and ink artwork and it always fits my taste. It’s the ferocious melodies, buzzsaw power chords, pummeling drums, and a raw punkish vibe yet very densely and ironically symphonic feel.

This is a total obscure Black Metal gem and absolutely qualifies legitimately for the much abused “cult” moniker. Absolutely essential, haunting, beautiful, yet morose and depressing stuff with an authentic pagan/heathen feel and still bypassing the overdramatisms. I’m a complete perfectionist in most things and music is no exception, I really enjoy the rare and obscure treasure hunt with records/albums and savor the greatest finds for decades. If you’re tired of Striborg dribble and the countless diarrhea of raw and obscure releases, do your mind and ears a favor and pick this one up.

Recommended for fans of: early and current Blut Aus Nord (think of the sounds of “Ultima Thulee” with it’s raw melodies and chilling atmospheres); Immortal (“...Fullmoon Mysticism”) as those are the two main albums that I compulsively also have on frequent play over the years and come straight to mind like a bullet from a barrel directly against my temple. Actually, add in some of Emperor “In the Nightside Eclipse” to it as well perhaps. You get the idea…so get the album!!!!!!

Available at

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Svart – Forlorad (Frostscald Records 2010)

Another eerie and skin tingling, teeth chattering, haunting atmospheric release from Frostscald comes this Swedish act, Svart. As with many acts on the label, Svart would appeal as much to fans of neo-folk/dark ambient/neo-classical/martial sounds of labels like Cold Spring UK, Ahnstern, Tesco, Soleil Moon. Here a spring release is as icy as the first breeze of a long winter.

The songs on “Forlorad” are lengthy and have a definite pagan, nostalgic, and even poetic/literary sense about them. It’s as if they are telling a tale through sound of the coming of spring as the snow and gloom of winter begins to fade and life and color returns once again return to the once hidden objects that became a blindingly white glare for what felt like an eternity. The modern, epic, folkloric sound of these tracks makes me think of artists like: Allerseelen, Ataraxia, Olen K, Ebonillumini. I’ve been slowly trying to go back to building up my collection of those labels and artists and with additions like Frostscald and their growing artist list and my newest collaboration with Cold Spring it should be happening really soon, so expect to hear and read more about these amazing sounds.

Fans of the mentioned acts and: Lik, Lifelover, Wolves in the Throne Room, Summoning, Minsk, Velvet Cacoon, Hellveto, Dead Can Dance, A Forest of Stars, Caina, Alcest, Gravsahl, and Blakagir.

Skogen – Vittra (Frostcald Records)

Not everything that I get is entirely brand new, as this was released in Fall 2009 I believe, but given that it’s Frostcald and I just got it, and not too many probably know about it, it’s safe to say that it’s new.

One of many things that strike debate amongst black metal artists and listeners is whether or not atmospheric black metal and symphonic black metal are watered down and weak forms of the style/s. Many say, “Yes” and rightfully so when looking at the history and influence of: Mayhem, Darkthrone, Immortal, older Emperor, Beherit, Hellhammer, Bathory, Marduk, Dissection, Venom, and countless others along with slightly newer and current acts like: Profanatica, Deathspell Omega, Inquisition, Horna, Perversor…. half of the Hells Headbangers catalog at least. But I say, "no", and rightfully so, because many of the previous mentioned bands influenced and developed into that genre and incorporated ambient, shoe-gaze (I hate that Fucking term)/instrumental walls of chords and some synth to create an atmosphere or mood, synth, nature/filed recordings, and so forth to crank up the dynamics and drama within the work, and WORK it did.

Skogen is a prime example for the trial and debate of legitimacy of certain styles of Black Metal, as this Swedish monstrosity has all of the brutal and melodic feeling of Viking era Bathory starting with “Blood Fire Death” through “Blood on Ice”, “Hammerheart” and the “Nordland” series. Aside from the thrash mastery and rebellious fury of early Bathory, Quorthon also evolved as an artist to using: acoustic/classical guitar passages, clean pagan vocals, and epic, almost cinematic backgrounds in his most influential and remarkable works. Just as Bathory brought you into the deepest halls of Hell, you were also transported back to myths and legends of ancient northern Europe with all the bloodshed and triumphs, and all through the atmospherics in the music. Skogen is just as cold, articulate, convincing and melodic in the use of the “weaker” elements, the result is 1000 magnitudes stronger than many bands trying to attempt this sound of folk/pagan/atmospherics.

So in a nutshell you get the idea, this album is as thrilling and glorious as: pagan era Bathory, Summoning, Hellveto, Windir type atmospheric bands. The description given by the label is vague but honest and recommends this release to fans of: Drudkh, Ulver, Primordial. I agree but would say more so: Finnr’s Cane, Summoning, Drautran, Helrunar, Blut Aus Nord, Windir, Kampfar, but those are also my own personal picks for atmospheric and pagan black metal.

Blood of Kingu – Sun in the House of Scorpion (Candlelight 2010)

Disclaimer: I almost tossed this one aside without even giving it a listen simply because of the whole astrological, left-hand, demonology, Sumerian, etc. references in the advertising and on the webpage for the band. Thanks to stupid asses, pathetic variations on such a cliché theme and inspiration, and some asshole “left-hand” band that I interviewed who are not that great and then their revealing that they are really stupid egotistical fucks makes them worthless in my book. I’m well read on many things but always go by my own path and give respect and credit to those who do the same, I don’t need any more elitist puckered rectum mindless drones quoting and recycling ideas: build, destroy, rebuild and move on!!!!!!

The reason for that prior rant is to tell many to fuck off, but also to shed light on why my proceeding praising review of this album is merited. I went in biased and expected the usual ranting and phony philosophical occult ramble that most of these fecal matter comprised bands abuse… and keep in mind that I’m a supporter of those thoughts when used properly, but I don’t need to make it known and support it through my image. So, here’s the review:

Blood of Kingu bring forth a truly incredible black metal album for 2010, and is also the dismal and demonic intellectual and artistic spawn of members of Drudkh, Astrofaes, and Hate Forest. Right away that should motivate quite a few reading this to experience this art of ritual.

Most of the album’s sound is that of some sort of ritual, complete with incantations behind the rapid beating of drum skins and almost pagan-atmospherically dense black metal guitar chords with some of the classic tremolo style picking for melody/lead. The tracks are all intoxicating as they are somewhat astrological, and convincingly extra-terrestrial and/or ancient in origin. “ Sun in the House of Scorpion” is an accurate and enthralling experience of the supernatural and ritualistic rites, whether ancient or alien or both that will quickly transport you to throwing sacrifices into the pools of flames and chanting out to the cosmos, and it’s also clearly intended to invoke your passage into this other realm beyond current consciousness and life or light.

There is a chanting/or incantation behind some of the tracks serving as a chorus that is as much supernatural as it is inhuman and gives me the chills from the stimulation of the idea of something evil or mysterious lurking behind the sounds. The creepier and intense something gets, the more I’m drawn in to it and my adrenaline pumps heavily through my veins as I crave the jolt and thrill of what lays ahead. I really want to say that Blood of Kingu remind me in sound a lot of Beherit (Drawing Down The Moon) crossed with Wolves in the Throne Room, and that was even before I had noticed that they had done a cover of Beherit’s “Gate of Nanna”, one of my personal faves.

This new gathering of sounds definitely goes well with other acts releasing stellar stuff this year: Finnr’s Cane, Celestia, Skogen, Bekhira, Stiny Plamenu, so don’t just stop here but also check those out as well, they all go well together.