28 Oct 2013

Forestfather - Hereafter [Full length] (2013, Contaminated Tones Productions)

Forestfather is a band of Chilean origin. An earlier incarnation of the band, Eternal Winter, was created in 1998 by Kveldulf Bjalfason, and the debut album as Forestfather "Hereafter" has been underway ever since, being finished upon the completion of the lineup in 2012 with the addition of Jared Moran on drums and Michael Rumple doing the vocals. Many may already be acquainted with Moran's drumming as he has performed and recorded with numerous bands before. Likewise some may previously have familiarized themselves with the vocals of Rumple through his own atmospheric black metal project, Desiderium, which I have also previously had the pleasure of reviewing.

Musically the debut album from Forestfather derives heavily from many established bands of the folky atmospheric black metal scene, while also borrowing a few elements from post-rock. The guitars consists mostly of melodic leads, often in a somewhat arpeggiated form, over a over layer of a more heavy and simplistic natur. Mentioning bands like Alcest, Woods of Ypres, Skagos or Agalloch seems almost redundant at this point, and unfortunately so does the music of Forestfather at times.

One of the most prominent differences between Forestfather and other bands in the scene is their frequent use of clean vocals. As much space as they take up in the sound image of Forestfather, it is also the one element that is the hardest to get accustomed to, and at the time of writing it is still the thing I feel most ambivalent about with Hereafter. The parts with Rumple's archtypal throaty, raw vocals are the parts I like the most, but these parts are at the same time also the most standardized, textbook portions. The clean vocals are what makes Forestfather stand out from the crowd, but I can't quite wrap my head around if that is in a good or bad way. It stands as a gleaming example that you shouldn't necessarily do something just because it's different as it won't always come out right. There are times on Hereafter where the clean vocals serve as a breath of fresh air in the stale atmosphere of a tried-through genre.

There's nothing to hold against the recording itself. The production is gritty and cold and feels sufficiently organic for the music to positively benefit from it. The drums could advantage from a little more humane and natural processing, but as they are now they stand as a strong rhythmic foundation to the music. The music rests in itself as a well-composed but highly derivative piece, and I mentioned that the clean vocals breathe a little life into the well done but to some extent contrived mixture, but this only takes the album so far. Forestfather does what it does adequately, but never surmounts to take the next step into becoming an amazing band. The band is definitely on to what their own style will sound like, but Hereafter hasn't convinced me that they've quite found it yet. 6/10 guitars.

1. Inner Ascension Those Years Passed
2. The Emerald Key
3. Ethereal
4. All Tears to Come
5. The Days Ever Done

Visit Forestfather on Facebook and Bandcamp
Visit Contaminated Tones Productions

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22 Oct 2013

Amnion / Balmog - Grim Repulse of the Southern Lodge [Split] (2013, Filthy Cave Records)

Spain isn't exactly the first country that comes to mind when thinking of black metal. Nevertheless, Spain is the country that both Amnion and Balmog hail from, and on the "Grim Repulse of the Southern Lodge" 7" split from 2013 they showcase the best of what Spain has to offer in terms of black metal. Both bands have over 10 years of experience in the genre, and both bands have as such released a slew of miscellaneous demos, splits and EPs.

With Amnion there are no obvious influences - Their style bears a resemblance to so great an amount of bands that singling out specific elements or influences would be to do them injustice, and it is exactly this that also makes "Semper Mors Erit Dux Tuus", Amnion's side of the split, stand out. You can talk for hours on end about "this little riff", "that small portion", "those blastbeats" and "that bassline", but in actuality the Spanish trio's music is best if taken for what it is: A mishmash of black metal sounds centered around a morbid cacophony made of guitars and a cavernous atmosphere. Though a great portion of the track is of a blastbeat-driven disposition, Amnion still have a nice way with rhythm that is seldomly seen in black metal of this sort. It's not a predominant component in the band's music, but does give it a nice touch and much needed variety.

I'm not going to say that Balmog is the polar opposite or the exact same as Amnion. Though there are similarities given that they both fall under the same categorization, there are at least as many differences. Balmog's songwriting centers more around riffing - which some may argue is a more traditional approach - but also has a more modern sound. The way they arpeggiate through their malicious chords and scales are reminiscent of a few contemporary groups, but Balmog's main strength lies with their ear for melody and the way these a put together over a strong, ponderous rhythm-section. They only occassionally lurch into life with faster tremolo-pieces only to soon fall back into the realms of arpeggiated riffs.

The efforts of both Spanish bands speaks of great musical integrity and a creativity that many current groups and bands lack. There's not much new under the sun about neither Amnion nor Balmog, but their songwriting styles both contrasts and complements each other with their vast differences and many likenesses. If you're expecting the next big thing in progressive, experimental black metal, you need to keep looking. But if you're into varying degrees of traditional black metal with several twists and turns, look no further. 7/10 guitars.

1. Amnion - Semper Mors Erit Dux Tuus
2. Balmog - Putrid Emanations from the Tomb

BALMOG official FaceBook
Filthy Cave Records official site

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15 Oct 2013

Ragehammer - War Hawks [Demo] (2012, Mythrone Promotion)

Poland's Ragehammer don't waste time, having existed only for a short period of time before unleashing their beastly debut demo "War Hawks". If anything is black/thrash it's Ragehammer, and their lyrics deal with somewhat standard metal subjects like hate, war and religious hipocrisy. However they aren't as such the usual kind of black/thrash Bathory/Venom/Deströyer 666/Desaster clone stuff as they've left room for some pseudo-hardcore based riffs and grindy d-beats which definitely underlines the entire sound of Ragehammer.

Ragehammer immediately assail the ears of the hapless victims listening to War Hawks for the first time. Not knowing what to expect, Ragehammer Rising pounds your eardrums with totally unhinged, maniacal vocals, and the demo is mixed loud as fuck, so you don't even have to turn up your stereo to get fucked. Talk about convenience. There is constantly stuff going on in multiple layers. It's a demanding yet rewarding listening experience in the sense that the band's music is mostly high speed high intensity stuff. Ragehammer have a way of piecing together a song to have a high amount of momentum and energy, never leaving a dull moment even when they slow things down. An example of this is when the second song tunes in. Prophet of Genocide is a song that contrasts strongly to the fast-paced brutality of the first track, Ragehammer Rising, by having a much slower pace and a heavier gait. This track in particular slows things down to a more deliberate heavy-black kind of deal more akin to modern Darkthrone, barring Underground Resistance.

There seems to be a pattern on the War Hawks demo. It seems there's more or less a fast song for every slow song, and that these alternate. It's a surprisingly good way of keeping things interesting, and while the menacing sounds of The Wolfpack as such isn't exactly crawling in tempo it still has a higher capacity for calculated evil rather than the "usual" chaotic approach that Ragehammer takes.

This completely unrelenting, fast as fuck style of black/thrash works well for getting you worked up and ready to go, and it can generally be said for War Hawks that whatever Ragehammer are doing, they're doing it well.Feeling like relaxing with some rockin' tunes where you can sing along to the chorus? Get the fuck outta here, Ragehammer is NOT for you. 8/10 guitars.

1. Ragehammer Rising
2. Prophet of Genocide
3. Hate Command
4. The Wolfpack
5. Gospel of the Scum

Mythrone Promotion official site

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7 Oct 2013

Tod Huetet Uebel - Morte e Caos [EP] (2013, Self-released)

Tod Huetet Uebel. An unusual name for an unusual band. Portuguese musician Daniel C. created the band alone in 2012, quickly producing and releasing the 3-track EP "Morte e Caos", Death and Chaos, in March 2013.

There is something sinister and oddly ancient about the sounds of Tod Huetet Uebel. The Portuguese project emanates a substantial know-how of black metal history and as such bears a resemblance to some well-known and highly influential acts from the genre while also taking in abundant influences from more modern acts where the tremolo riffs, treble sound, abysmal drumming and foggy raw vocals are just a byproduct of an experimental blackened death metal recipe. Naysayers will say that Morte e Caos is merely a product of circumstance, following in the wake of the success of bands like Teitanblood, Antediluvian or Mitochondrion. True, Tod Huetet Uebel may well be inspired by these acts, but the project features considerably less elements of decay and cessation, relying more on the misanthropic and emotionally depressing moods of black metal rather than the primal brutality of death metal.

The fact that the Portuguese band is a solo-project doesn't shine through. Daniel C. brandishes an impressive talent for production and songwriting. The force with which the riffs are delivered makes Morte e Caos a passionate attempt at an old genre in a modern way while definitely still paying homage to some of the originators of the second wave of black metal. But the supposed downfall of Tod Huetet Uebel is a lack of variation and taste. The drums seem to mostly be blast beats thrown in for good meassure, but in the long run this is something that becomes rather tiresome to listen to. It's a minor thing, really, and it does accentuate the weirdly melodic solo in the middle of the first track, Caos. It suggests that there's an idea behind every action and composition on the EP, and it really does exude an aura of violent and malevolent purpose.

Morte e Caos is an intense soundscape of, dare I say, lovecraftian disposition. Tod Huetet Uebel succeeds in portraying cyclopean arrangements in a classic yet contemporary way, and in this way takes a well known modus operandi and gives it new form. Contemporaneousness is a keyword in the discussion of Tod Huete Uebel. To put it simply, it's an extant piece of new music with an old sound. While there are many time-tested aspects of the concoction that is Morte e Caos it is not something that would be seen or heard in, say, the 90's. The band aspires to be something great and achieves some form of that magnitude by the sheer force of this EP. 7/10 guitars.

1. Caos
2. Decaída
3. Odor a Morte

Visit TOD HUETET UEBEL's official Bandcamp for news, downloads and such

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3 Oct 2013

Nonsun - Sun Blind Me [EP] (2013, Breathe Plastic Records/Drowning)

Slowly, the ponderous, stoned out riff of Rain Have Mercy tunes in, accompanied by the soft yet intense sound of an organ. As the riff gains momentum the drums come in until finally culminating in a full-fledged clamor of heavy, sludgy, droning doom metal at the 4 minute mark. Goatooth's moribund vocals emerges from the shadows, and soon after the track slows down to a slower, jamming tempo until lurching into motion again, exposing the consortium of what could be a trippy organ piece or almost psychedelic guitar solo that has been lurking in the many layers of Nonsun. Alpha's drumming betrays a fascination for post-rock atmospheres that Goatooth's ethereal riffing over the originally heavy main course enhances. This is just one way to describe the alluring musical intimacy that emanates from Nonsun's music on Sun Blind Me.

I like drone. And for you to like Nonsun you have to like drone too, even if this isn't the main piece de resistance of the Ukranian duo's music. This group isn't a drone band in the same sense that Sunn O))) are a drone band. While there are long stretches of unmelodic drones followed by nothing but feedback for minutes on end, the duo presents a style with additional influences from sludge and stoner metal at times, resulting in parts that are essentially like incredibly slow and groaning sludgy doom metal, and this variation results in a less inert and inactive type of drone. Like described above, the entirety of Nonsun's music is not the well-known ambience-influenced droning that many other bands in the scene partake in. Vocals are a seldomly occuring thing on Sun Blind Me,but whenever they're there they are executed in a raw style contrasting nicely with the rest of the music.

Sun Blind Me is the second release from Nonsun, an EP of four tracks like the first one, Good Old Evil. However, the first two tracks have been re-used from the old EP, and as such the only new material on Sun Blind Me are the two parts of the Alphomega track, Sunlit Darkness and Upward Blindness. The interesting thing about the 2013 EP is the way it progresses deeper and deeper into drone territory. From the stoned, half-psychedelic Rain Have Mercy we emerge into a more nightmarish soundscape wtih Frogotten Is What Never Was, a track with funeral tones fit for a crypt or funerary procession. With the first part of Alphomega we descend into yet darker domains, bordering on dark ambient. The second part is the most droney part of the EP, the dark rumbling of a black hole underneath a cavernous guitar being the main foundation for the track before being substituted by a bleak guitar piece which rings out for the duration of the track. Upward Blindness is also the shortest track on the EP being only slighty over 8 minutes in length.

Liking Nonsun and Sun Blind Me took some time. You have to take the time to sit down and listen thoroughly to catch all the details. Sun Blind Me is kind of short for a drone doom release, and I suppose that's why the band classify it as an EP rather than a full length album. I originally felt that continuety was a weak point with Nonsun, but after having listened to the release a few times I came to appreciate the progression that I described earlier. If you're expecting mindnumbing heaviness and cosmic emptiness like in the music of Sunn O))) you will be disappointed, because this is not where Nonsun's strengths lie. The autumnal hymns and tenebrous canticles are a beautiful soundtrack to the fall, and I think fans of Om and Earth should be pleased. 8/10 guitars.

1. Rain Have Mercy
2. Forgotten Is What Never Was
3. Alphomega (Part 1: Sunlit Darkness)
4. Alphomega (Part 2: Upward Blindness)

Nonsun on Bandcamp
Nonsun on Facebook
Visit the official site of Drowning and download the EP for free
Breathe Plastic Records official site

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