26 Apr 2013

Soliloquium - When Silence Grows Venomous [Demo] (2012, Self-released)

Soliloquium (say it five times fast) started out in Sweden in 2011, and already by 2012 they had released this demo. The band consists of two people, Jonas Bergkvist and Stefan Nordström from the death metal bands Ending Quest and Desolator. For Soliloquium they have kept some of the death metal elements, but chose to mix it up with melancholic and cold doom metal much in the same vein early Katatonia, Swallow the Sun, Ghost Brigade and October Tide. The thing these bands have in common other than the music style is location - All of them are from Northern Europe, and like them Soliloquium has that very destinct melodic and desolate sound.

The demo is rather short with only two songs, but the songs are well-composed and pretty lengthy. Often with doom metal the songs become too long and tedious because the band simply hasn't got enough to offer, and the songs just become bland repetitions of the same two or three parts. With that in mind I was at first reluctant regarding the whole demo, but I quickly found that the two tracks are more than worthwhile getting into. Once you sit down and really listen to Soliloquium their music will grow on you and you will notice the duo's skills in writing.

As with many other doom metal bands Soliloquium has one problem: The music has a tendency to feel unclimactic. Garden of Truculence and Autumn State never really build any momentum and thus you can never really tell how far along in the track you are. Some might argue that momentum and climax has nothing to do in doom metal (especially death/doom metal), but in the end this element is what makes a song come together and gets it from a 9 to a 10.
However, the slowly churning double kick drums in Soliloquium trustily forces the compositions onward, and helped along by the gloomily melodic guitars "When Silence Grows Venomous" isn't a half bad effort. Soliloquium are succesful in creating a truly doom-worthy atmosphere along with perfectly murky production. If there were 20 years earlier they would've been among the most known bands of the genre today. 8/10 guitars.

1. Garden of Truculence
2. Autumn State

SOLILOQUIUM official Facebook
SOLILOQIUM official Bandcamp

Download the demo for free and listen for yourself HERE
You can also download their newest EP "The Concept of Escape" HERE

21 Apr 2013

Agamotto - Agamotto [Full length] (2012, Cosmic Swamp Records)

There can be no doubt about it, Agamotto is ambient with a capital A. Mixing different elements from ambient like Brian Eno or Steve Roach, dark ambient like Lustmord or Stupor and industrial like Throbbing Gristle and Nurse With Wound Agamotto makes for a varying experience. The first track "Solomon Grundy", named after a comic book villain like Agamotto itself, is predominantly dark ambient with some serious hints toward some of Throbbing Gristle's more creepy output like Hamburger Lady. The second track "Eric Dolphy" moreso captures the feeling of complete chaos and as such was the hardest track to sit through, while the last track "Antonio Margheriti" managed to recap the album by succesfully creating an amalgamation of the dark ambient sounds of the first track and mixing them with the chaotic industrial un-melodies of the second.

Agamotto aren't metal at all, but I chose to review it anyway. I did this because I for one am not a metal only kind of guy, but more importantly I did it because Agamotto features many of the same aesthetics as metal music. It may not have loud guitar, howling vocals or powerful drums, but it has the same eerie atmosphere that I connect with some of the more esoteric and tenebrous bands.
When all a band has to offer is atmosphere, that atmosphere better be damn effective. And with Agamotto this is just the case. The Italian project manages to perfectly mix the grittily chaotic noise of industrial music with the more deliberately sinister and considerate aspects of dark ambience.

The self-titled album takes us on a journey through bleak soundscapes with many surreal and horrific attributes. However Agamotto fails to deliver the otherwise well-produced atmosphere with the zest that I have come to expect from groups and projects of this sort. It's not that it's unmemorable, because music of this type seldomely has hooks or anything of the sort, but the whole effort at times feels a bit unmotivated and particularly unambitious. I wouldn't say Agamotto's album is a disappointing experience, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to any industrial and dark ambient maniacs out there, but I wouldn't recommend the album to people who are looking to get into the genre. For that it is simply too unremarkable. 6/10 guitars.

1. Solomon Grundy
2. Eric Dolphy
3. Antonio Margheriti

AGAMOTTO official site
Cosmic Swamp Records official site

Listen for yourself!

Furthermore, the entire album is available for free download HERE

15 Apr 2013

Lamia Hyde and the Southern Witches - Conjuring Lamia [Demo] (2012, Self-released)

To briefly introduce the band Lamia Hyde and the Southern Witches is a band that according to their own biography play dark hypnotic music with a touch of inspiration from black metal bands and mythology aswel as horror movies. At the time of writing the band has 17 likes on Facebook. Though Facebook is by no means an indicator of quality it was already here that I began having doubts if my time would be well spent listening to it. The pretentious picture of a masked man aswel as the mind-blowingly horrible "art" that resemble the demented drawings of a mentally challenged 3rd grader didn't help much in staving off this assumption.I can only guess that Lamia Hyde and the Southern Witches, in spite of the very misleading band name, consists of a single person. While I have yet to actually describe the music on the Conjuring Lamia demo, let me tell you that I too would conceal my identity if I were the author of such horrid "music".

The demo consists of 4 relatively short songs ranging from just over 2 minutes to a little over 3 minutes in length. At 11 minutes of playtime total it seems excessive to actually call this a "demo" rather than just a small compilation of random material. And boy does it sound random. Most of the time the songs are comprised of parts that sound like they were composed for vastly different purposes and put together with complete abandon, and the lack of good flow seems to be a recurring theme with Lamia Hyde and the Southern Witches. For the most part the demo is poorly executed and sometimes an instrument will completely fall out and then come back a note or two later, leading to a generally untight disposition.

I don't think I have ever heard a demo that sounds so inadequate or incomplete. Conjuring Lamia has next to no artistic merrit or musical value. What disturbs me the most is that someone made this. This didn't just turn up on its own, someone deliberately created this monstrosity. Someone somewhere on this god forsaken planet is proud of having made this. Every single element feels out of place, and the elements that sound ouf of place don't fit together either. Every attempt to find a redeeming quality was met with disappointment. One might even think the band was created as a joke, but most joke bands I've heard are way better. The only small thing I found that has any hint of quality behind it is that rather than relying on programmed instruments and sounds the Australian band has seemingly recorded every instrument by hand, and this does grant the demo a small pinch of authenticity, but unfortunately not nearly enough to outweigh the inadequacies of the rest of its parts combined. 2/10 guitars.

1. Serpentine Glamour
2. Conjuring Lamia
3. Three AM
4. Throttled by an Angel

If you by chance want to check out the entire thing, the EP is available for download here

Don't believe me? Think I'm being harsh? Check out this video and tell me I'm wrong.

9 Apr 2013

Bloodwraith - As Above, So Below [Full length] (2012, Cvlminis)

Aesthetics are very important in metal. The bands that impress me the most are often bands that have the aesthetics of a different genre than the one they play, sort of like how Autopsy has the aesthetics of doom metal even though their music is predominantly death metal, or like how Megachurch take elements from indie rock and fast paced rock to create their rather special kind of stoner metal.
To put it simple: Bloodwraith's album "As Above, So Below" from 2012 is an 8-track journey into musical lands that were already well-traveled by the 80's. They definitely have the aesthetics of early black metal bands and some of the more extreme thrash bands, and as such, like so many other bands, Wargoat's Bloodwraith seek back to the very roots of black metal, having a sound rather similar to the thrashy outputs of Bathory and Hellhammer. As such the band already has their work cut out for them, because standing out in that realm is no easy task.

As mentioned "As Above, So Below" bears the familiar tinge of old school European black metal, but actually surprised me a bit with some occassional twists and turns. Other than the kind of jazzy intro track that opens the album and the intermission track "A Black Mirror's Reflection", Bloodwraith's rather simple lineup makes for some pretty solid black metal that surprised me quite a bit every now and then, in both good and bad ways. Mostly the album consists of just straight up lo-fi black metal that has a small amount of appeal in itself, but with some rather daring efforts in the realm of folky clean vocals aswel as

I like how Bloodwraith are comfortable with their own concept, and "As Above, So Below" seems to be a pretty consistent opus. What I think the album is missing is something to make it memorable and outstanding. It has a few hooks now and then, but the overall feeling I have regarding the album is that it's bland and gets boring really quickly. My favourite track by far is the second-to-last track "Beneath the Winter Moon" as it is here the previous efforts on the album culminate into a track that really showcase the variety that Bloodwraith are capable of.

It puzzles me that one of Wargoat's previous bands, Shadows of Sin, apparently also released an album entitled "As Above, So Below" in 2008, and that this album has a lot of the same tracks. I can only guess what the reason for this is, but most likely it's because Shadows of Sin broke up at some point and Wargoat perhaps decided to reuse the songs he wrote under a different moniker.
when all is said and done it comes down to what I wrote earlier: As Above, So Below is a rather forgettable experience, maybe except from Beneath a Winter Moon, and unfortunately is very easily overshadowed by other bands that utilize not only more interesting elements, but also simply write better songs. 5/10 guitars.

1. The Scars of Stars Burn Black
2. Pest
3. As Above, So Below
4. For Lilith
5. A Black Mirror's Reflection
6. Krieg
7. Beneath the Winter Moon
8. I, Lucifer

BLOODWRAITH official Facebook site
Cvlminis official site

4 Apr 2013

No Peace of Mind - Purify the Hope [EP] (2012, Self-released)

My main beef with hardcore has always been the vocals. When people say about metal that it's just a guy screaming at a microphone, what they actually mean is hardcore. My problem is that the vocals often come across as forced, and many bands - both metal and hardcore - have proved that it's not impossible to make that type of vocals sound good. Most hardcore bands just can't. Then there's the infernal mix of screaming and clean vocals. No Peace of Mind has both.

On Purify the Hope, No Peace of Mind explore the shallow depths of melodic hardcore with a few different tools. At their disposal they have drums, bass, guitar and vocals, and with these tools they create music that has a profound hardcore disposition while still maintaining a rather melodic aspect with post-rock infused riffs and pseudo-melancholic interludes.

As with most hardcore, I felt like the rhythm section was the main strongpoint. Moshing was once (maybe it still is in some scenes) a huge part of hardcore, and this has led to much hardcore having a solid, groovy rhythm section which everything else builds up around and as such forms the groundstructure of the music. No Peace of Mind mostly follows the same principle, and in a song like Fortune they prove that their bassist, drummer and guitarist have a good thing going on between them. For the most part of the EP "Purify the Hope" the instrumentation is sound - It's not so much that they're exploring new land, but together they form a solid mix of melodic post-rock riffs and more traditional chugging passages. In the opening track, Again, the band further emboss their hardcore heritage by incorporating a fair amount of gang shouts. They took some getting used to because I normally wouldn't say they fit into a melodic outfit such as No Peace of Mind, but they actually make it work.

I don't often say this about a band, but I feel as though No Peace of Mind would be better off as an instrumental group. Hardcore never really was my genre, but I can appreciate the band's instrumentation, and I detest the vocals so much that I found it hard to ignore them. Purify the Hope had its moments especially with the opening and closing tracks, Again and The Town. But ultimately these two tracks, which only take up half of the entire EP, aren't enough to keep me interested for prolonged periods of time, and as such I can't award the EP by No Peace of Mind any more than 5/10 guitars.

1. Again
2. Fortune
3. Spaces
4. The Town

The EP can be streamed here
NO PEACE OF MIND on Facebook

1 Apr 2013

Temple - On the Steps of the Temple [Full length] (2012, Self-released)

My main problem with most progressive metal bands is that nowadays a lot of them take the djent route. Another thing is that many musicians mistake "progressive" for "putting a bunch of twiddle-twaddle bullshit together for no apparent reason other than to make it sound spacey and/or technical as fuck". Therefore it is nice to listen to a band such as Temple; A band that takes the technical elements out of progressive and merely focus on atmosphere.

To introduce the band, Temple is a two-man endeavour into the ethereal realms of progressive metal from Arizona in the United States. On their only release, the album "On the Steps of the Temple", the listener is forcefully embarked upon a journey through the almost cinematic soundscapes of the album's six songs. The term "song" is used loosely as the band is actually entirely instrumental, and consists of Ryan's thoughtful guitar, bass and scarce keyboard work accompanied by Rich's indulgent drumming.

On the Steps of the Temple features several influences from a myriad of genres, from the black metal-infused opening track "Mountain", to the almost symphonic post-rock track "Final Years", to the gloomy "The Mist that Shrouds the Peaks", which is entirely defined by its funeral-like tempo and disposition. The amount of variation on the album speaks of great care for the music the band performs, and Temple really are an entirely different breed of progressive than other acts such as Dream Theater, Meshuggah or Tool.

There aren't many things that subtract from the Temple equation. Their music is greatly varied, has good depth, has both long and shorter tracks, mesmerizing melodies and enthralling, atmospheric soundscapes. One of the things that I don't like about On the Steps of the Temple is the length, as the album is really long at about 52 minutes. I know it's not uncommon for progressive or atmospheric bands to have lengthy releases, and for the most part it works fine, but because it takes a little under an hour to listen to the entire album I rarely find time to listen to the album in its entirity in one sitting. However, I don't want this to be reflected too much on the album's overall score. Temple's music is captivating, well produced and well written. 8/10 guitars.

1. Mountain
2. Rising from the Abyss
3. Final Years
4. The Mist That Shrouds the Peaks
5. Avaritia
6. On the Steps of the Temple

TEMPLE on Facebook
TEMPLE on Bandcamp