31 Jul 2013

Serpenthia - Beyond [EP] (2012, Self-released)

Scandinavia is rich with black metal history. A country that has always been a bit overlooked when talking about the history of the black metal genre is Finland. A lot of good bands like Satanic Warmaster and Horna originate from this country, but they have always been overshadowed by their Swedish and Norwegian counterparts aswel as Finland's tremendous export of folk and power metal bands.
The Finnish style of black metal is often associated with a very tinny and raw sound, but Serpenthia from Joensuu are pretty far removed from this tendency. Since they formed in 2002 they have had somewhat of a revolving door lineup but have in spite of this released a steady flow of demos, ultimately culminating in the release of their 2012 EP "Beyond".

With a name like Serpenthia and a genre description going something along the lines of "melodic dark metal" I was half expecting some female-fronted symphonic metal atrocity, but what Serpenthia actually present on Beyond is a fairly diverse take on melodic black metal. While the majority of the material can be described as black metal with various melodic and symphonic inputs there are places where the riffs and vocals in particular border more on death metal while at the same time keeping the same feeling as the rest of the EP.

The guitar sound has a thick tone to it which is pretty unusual for most black metal. It goes great with the swarming riffs and further accentuates the tenebrous death metal feeling that some of the parts have, and the riffs in particular are what makes the Finnish band noticeable. Serpenthia have a tendency of taking a riff or melody that sounds mostly simple and then turning it inside out which makes for some really interesting songs.

Beyond is actually really long for an EP being almost 40 minutes long. If I recall correctly Slayer's magnum opus Reign in Blood is only about 28 minutes, and this is considered a full length album. It's by no means a bad thing that Beyond is a lengthy release, because the band manages to keep renewing their black metal efforts throughtout the EP (or album if you will). Beyond sometimes misses a bit of consistency, but the divergent flow of their songs are at the same time one of the strongest points of Serpenthia. 7/10 guitars.

1. Them
2. The Spectre
3. Nightbringer
4. Beyond the Veil
5. Tragedy
6. The Fall (Deception pt. 2)

SERPENTHIA official Facebook
SERPENTHIA on Bandcamp

24 Jul 2013

Filsufatia / Twilight Fauna - Fallen Leaves in a Tide of Sorrow [Split] (Self-released, 2013)

Black metal's reputation for being badly produced and easy to play has brought with it a ton of "bedroom black metal bands", often of the one-manned kind. In continuation of this there are a lot of below-bootleg quality EPs, demos and splits in general cirkulation.
On the "Fallen Leaves in a Tide of Sorrow" split two one-man black metal bands with a token appreciation for the origins of atmospheric and depressive black metal give their own impressions of how to emulate that familiar sound and feeling of bands such as Burzum, Drudkh and Alcest. Though Ravenwood's Twilight Fauna and Deep's Filsufatia don't resemble the afforementioned bands as such there is definitely the tinge of clear influences among their compositions.

Hailing from a place as unlikely for black metal as Malaysia, Filsufatia has since 2006 released a steady stream of demos with Fallen Leaves in a Tide of Sorrow being the first split. Filsufatia's music consists of a myriad of decent guitar melodies accompanied by sombre piano tones, but the music is ultimately dulled down to near unlistenable garbage because everything is more or less programmed or at the very least hugely processed through a computer. The melodies come off as alright, but the tunes themselves can't bear the weight of the music. The amount of horrendous FL Studio-sounding instrumentation really numbs the experience to the point where it almost seems like it was made for someone else to practice to.

With Twilight Fauna from Tennessee, USA, we're back in a familiar setting this time more appropriately billed "atmospheric" rather than "depressive". Twilight Fauna started out in 2011 and has since released a few albums and splits. Ravenwood's compositions in Twilight Fauna consists of a ragtag collection of drums with some monotone unthoughtful pseudo-riffs thrown into the mix. To top it all off are his harsh vocals which are delivered at such a whispering volume that they hardly qualify as such. The end result is a rather unmelodic collection of chaotic bedroom "black metal" with little rhyme or reason and little consideration for rhythm.

All this aside the two bands go well together. Though they are billed as depressive and atmospheric black metal respectively their music is rather similar. Perhaps even too similar. If I didn't know any better I would be inclined to think the two one-man projects were one and the same, because the small differences in the songwriting aren't that big. Filsufatia is more melody oriented, and Twilight Fauna more inclined to atmospheric riffs, and these qualities are also made manifest in their different sounds. I suppose this is where they distinguish between atmospheric and depressive black metal.

The best track on the split is by far A Silent Agony by Twilight Fauna. It's mostly text book guitar chord compositions with a few haunting melodies and vocal parts thrown in the mix (think Diablo II's soundtrack). It's not something entirely out of the ordinary, and it certainly isn't metal, but it works rather well compared to the additional contents of the split. It's not much, but it's something. Fallen Leaves in a Tide of Sorrow is bland and straight up boring. Filsufatia doesn't make depressive black metal sound melancholic, emotional, painful or beautiful and Twilight Fauna doesn't manage to put enough atmosphere into atmospheric black metal (or maybe the problem is that it's so atmospheric it stopped being music). 3/10 guitars.

1. Twilight Fauna - The Cold Air of a Solitary Night
2. Twilight Fauna - A Silent Agony
3. Filsufatia - Laverne (A Million Miles Nowhere)
4. Filsufatia - The Grand Eulogy (Welcome Home)

Twilight Fauna official site
Filsufatia official site

15 Jul 2013

Phidion - Flesh of the Forsaken [EP] (2012, Self-released)

Ominous aggression, menacing fury, focussed anger. These are the moods Phidion, a 5-man strong death-thrash outfit from Sweden's capital city, set on their third release, the Flesh of the Forsaken EP from 2012.

Exploring a lyrical universe of the recurring history of humanity's affinity for warfare and other fitting topics the Swedish band has a barbaric way of delivering mid-paced death metal with a few thrash riffs here and there to spice things up. Flesh of the Forsaken gives the impression that Phidion are a band of well-versed songwriters, and as such there's no time wasted on lackluster melodies or bland gimmicks. The Flesh of the Forsaken EP is heavy when it needs to be, and fast when the flow demands it.

Though the songs are generally well written and easy to follow, the same cannot be said about the guitar riffs. They work well with this kind of no-bullshit thrash-infused death metal, and helped along by some surprisingly interesting bass lines the riffs provides a fine platform for a good EP, but it's missing that extra something. The riffs are generally bordering on banality, but they're played with enough fervor and precision to provide a sort of quality. I'm tempted to say that the same goes for the drums, without going into too much detail because these are programmed.

In closing it can safely be said that Phidion have procured an ample set of songs for an EP that doesn't leave much to be wanted, but at the same time has room for improvement. The band's skills in songwriting and flow definitely work to their advantage, and that ever so familiar tinge of Sweden's rich metal history is also highly present on Flesh of the Forsaken. The great bass-work is a great bonus as well. 7/10 guitars.

1. Warzone
2. Slaves to Eternal Insomnia
3. Monomanic Mind
4. Anthropophagus
5. Dr. Butcher, M.D.
6. Strontium Dog

PHIDION on Facebook
PHIDION official website

Available for purchase on Bandcamp

9 Jul 2013

Dèigh - Nothingness [Track] (2013, Self-released)

Spain has its fair share of black metal bands, but hardly any have ever achieved any form of international success. From Madrid comes Dèigh, a musician focused on creating "abrasive black metal". Dèigh released a demo in 2012 entitled No Life Flickers, and Nothingness, I think, is supposed to be one of a few tracks featured on a new EP with the same name.

Whether the 5:40 minutes long track is supposed to be the entire EP or just one track from it is a little unclear at the time of writing. I'm pretty sure 5 and a half minutes doesn't quite qualify as an EP, and if you could at all justify calling it such it would be because the track itself could well be separated into two parts. The initial part of the song is ripe with distorted guitars and is by far the most active part of the track, whereas the latter part of Nothingness is dominated by clean guitars and crash cymbals.

There are several things worth talking about regarding Dèigh and Nothingness. I don't exactly know where the "abrasive" tag fits in, because all I hear is poorly written and sloppily executed bland as fuck black metal. Nothingness does not possess the atmosphere and feeling a slow track can produce. It does not have the energetic headbang-inducing riffs a mid-paced tempo can invoke. And it certainly doesn't have the abrasive aggravation that high-tempo black metal can cause. The track (or EP or whatever) is mostly low speed "metal" with a really simple 4/4 riff accompanied by horrific bedroom production. After a minute or so the track completely changes to an equally simple clean guitar melody, this time chaperoned by some of the worst programmed drums I've ever borne witness to. When the distorted guitars set in again the image of bedroom black metal is completed with endless crash cymbals ad nauseum and no sense of timing whatsoever. To be honest it sounds a lot like the guitars were recorded with little to no attention to the drum track.

Dèigh has so little attention to detail that it sounds like he didn't even listen to the song before uploading it online. I have no idea if the rest of his material is of equally inadequate quality, but listening to Nothingness doesn't make me want to find out. I have seldom seen such a blatant disregard for the final product, and the fuck-it-all change from one part of the song to the next and the way the track jsut stops at the end as well as the near-constant crash cymbal only empasize this notion. The only thing even remotely redeeming on the demo are the completely run of the mill raspy black metal vocals sporadically found on the track. 2/10 guitars.

If for some reason you want to torture yourself or test your faith in the future of metal you can find Dèigh - Nothingness on Bandcamp here

DÈIGH official Facebook

Listen, if you dare

Want something to soothe those broken ears of yours? Get the 100th Review Anniversary Compilation for free with 20 gruesome metal tracks right here

6 Jul 2013

Stranglion Rot - Rotten Heart of Evil [Full length] (2012, Fatal Judgement Records)

It's no secret that Finland is home to a large cache of great death metal bands, and the scene as a whole seems to benefit from a gloomy, doom-inspired grittiness. Stranglion Rot is a one-man project in which the man Hietala is behind everything.

Though the band is a Finnish one the music in itself has a more Swedish feel to it than many other bands from this regional scene and realies more on sheer riffing and d-beats rather than chugging heaviness. Though the vocals are generally weak and the songwriting suffers from what seems like inexperience Hietala gets the message of death across due to the hellish catchiness of the guitar riffs.

With most solo projects there is one part that always dominates in terms of quality and skill. Like many other bands of this type the drums suffer from being played or programmed by someone who isn't a well-versed drummer, and the lack of imagination and variation, both in regards to speed and fill-ins, is a striking deficiency that detracts from the overall image of the album. Another thing is the bland production which together with the other elements mentioned above further numbs down the experience otherwise ensured by the main attraction, the guitar riffs.

It's a pleasing experience listening to the riffs of Rotten Heart of Evil, a name only fitting of the atmosphere of the album. It's a shame for the material to be weighed down by boring drumming and vocals, because it really deserves more and would benefit a lot from being accompanied by skilled musicians. All in all an effort that leaves some to be wanted, but delivered with enough engagement and zeal to make up for some of it. 7/10 guitars.

1. Nightmare Begins
2. Message Written in Blood
3. The Gathering
4. Through the Valley of Despair
5. Rotten Heart of Evil
6. Cauldron of Gore
7. Impaled
8. Clouds Drifting Away

Visit STRANGLION ROT's official site and download Rotten Heart of Evil