30 Nov 2014

Plaguewielder - Plaguewielder [EP] (2013, Self-released)


Luxembourg is not known for its wealth of metal bands. As a matter of fact, Metal Archives states that the small European country has had as little as 76 metal bands, under half of which are currently active. I don't remember ever having heard of a metal band from Luxembourg, and yet here we are, talking about Plaguewielder, a band formed by Discordant System members Maxime Weber and Nicholas O'Connell.

Crushing guitars and a varied take on drumming, plus a sharp and heavy production are mainstays with the sound of doom aswel as with Plaguewielder. Their take on the genre through their debut self-released EP of the same name casts light on how to alleviate the insufficiencies of many other upcoming bands within the genre. Keyboards, organs and choirs aren't at all new to the genre, but Plaguewielder's keyboardist utilizes his instrument to its fullest when adding atmosphere to the tracks. Lurking in the background with the synths are the painfully whispered screams that are the vocals, while drums and guitars take the helm. A classic approach, some may argue. Some do it better than others. Mostly I'd say Plaguewielder barely resembles any metal band. Their music swirls around post rock elements, and the most metal song on the EP is arguably The Funeral March.

There are many great doom bands out their that master the art of atmosphere, and Plaguewielder's music is indeed just that - Atmospheric. Their music features some interesting use of eerie synth, but with long stretches of tedious melodies and meandering riffs their music often borders on becoming generally uninteresting in nature. The flow found in the songwriting on Plaguewielder's debut isn't always up to par, and as such the EP feels very ambivalent. On the opening track, Drowning, one minute we're listening to a crushing tune that fades into a passage of thinly veiled synths, and the next thing you know a bland guitar chimes in with a whiney melody. Where exactly are they going with this? I get song progression is key, especially in songs of extreme length like with Plaguewielder's take on atmospheric funeralesque doom metal, but the whole latter half of Drowned is barely even rock music as much as it is just a 6-minute wank fest of arpeggiated "solo" pieces set to a seemingly unrelated drum track with a few screamed vocals joining the keyboards in the background once in a while.

Luckily the remaining two tracks are of superior quality. Though very different from each other, they present the band from its best sides. Casket of Dying Flesh shows their capacity for drive, passion and zest with its use of pumping 70's organ-keyboards and catchy melody. The Funeral March is a testament to the great old ones of the genre, a true set-piece of doom, and portrays savage intensity, eerie piano passages and maddening screams.

Plaguewielder's debut album/EP/whatever is a lengthy one. At times it serves best merely as background music, but once in a while they take a step forward and force their way into your consciousness. But these moments are a bit too far between. Realistically this is what will separate the bands of tomorrow. But the band from Luxembourg has definite potential hidden away within their music. More force, less tip-toeing around. 6/10 guitars.






Tracklist:
1. Drowned
2. Casket of Dying Flesh
3. The Funeral March

Plaguewielder on Facebook
Plaguewielder on Bandcamp

10 Nov 2014

Black Rock - Black Rock [Demo] (2013, Self-released)


Something is stirring in Finland, disturbing the peace. Apart from the vast horde of great black metal bands, in the later years Finland has been home to several thrashing, rocking speed metal groups such as Speedtrap and the almighty Ranger. Another band, which at the time of writing remains on the demo stage with just one small release, joining them is Black Rock from Hyvinkää.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say they're pretty fond of Hellhammer and crust punk. Black Rock's simplistic blackened speed metal riffs coupled with a raw, shouting-styled vocal brings to mind other similar bands, and the bridge parts in The Forbidden Portal and Into the Dungeon even bears strong resemblance to newer Darkthrone material, albeit in a very crude way. One could easily imagine Nocturno Culto or Tom Warrior groaning these occult lyrics to the sounds of Black Rock's prominent guitar and drums.

The band itself is a duo consisting of Vehmaa behind the drumkit and Willberg shredding the guitars and screaming the vocals. On the demo they were joined for a brief period by Kuusisto on bass. People familiar with Hellhammer's history will know that this almost sounds like the early incarnations of that classic band. Black Rock's music is obviously more punk-inspired than that of the other bands mentioned, and where the real resemblance comes in is in the structures of the songs.

To be honest, the brute directness of the music takes some getting used to. Darkthrone have great production and Hellhammer were just incredibly brutal for their time. Seen in the light (or darkness) of metal today Black Rock positions themselves dangerously close to sounding dated and sloppy. One must not forget that the reason late 80's production sounds so gritty was the absence of the possibility to sound any better. Nowadays everybody and their grandma can conjure up something that sounds pretty good soundwise. The gritty production in this case is a matter of reverence for the bands of yore.

Taking in Black Rock and fully appreciate their beastly compositions took quite a few listens. If the demo EP hadn't been so short, I doubt I would've given it the benefit of the doubt and listened to it as much as I ended up doing. It falls just short of fourteen minutes with four tracks, and that results in a much more easily digestible piece of metal. Don't expect too much in regards to advanced songwriting or anything, and just sit back with a beer or six and enjoy the oddly beseeching choruses, bridges and elementary riffs. 7/10 guitars.

Final sidenote: The cover isn't necro enough.





Tracklist:
1. Black Rock
2. The Forbidden Portal
3. The Phantom Sailor
4. Into the Dungeon

Black Rock on Facebook
Black Rock on Bandcamp

27 Oct 2014

Frozen Realm - Frozen Realm [EP] (2013, Self-released)


Once the acoustic guitar intro to Frozen Realm's debut EP of the same name breaks into an orgy of flashy guitar melodies, there can be no doubt as to the nature of the Swedish band. Balls deep in the long-standing tradition of the Gothenburg sound, Frozen Realm break into full-fledged melodic death metal complete with everything the definition entails.

In that regard, the Swedish band's EP is a textbook example of the modern take on melodic death metal. And by that I mean that it has very little in common with actual death metal, save perhaps the growled vocals. The pompous drumming greatly accentuates the rest of the musical body, which consists of about fifty-fifty amounts of ill-composed melodies and mindless chugs.

The main problem with most melo-death bands is the lack of hooks. When you add substantial amounts of melody to your music it subtracts greatly from the heaviness and brutality, so you'd better make damn sure your melodies are catchy as fuck. As a result, the tracks on the Frozen Realm EP don't stand out from each other - There are plenty of melodies, though none of them are particularly catchy. The hookless compositions bring to mind a watered down In Flames, a less edge-seeking Dark Tranquility, or a less epic Wintersun.

What really sets bands such as Frozen Realm apart from the heroes they worship is their lack of flair for the flow and focus of the songwriting in itself. Where In Flames perfected the straight-to-the-point approach with groovy riffs satiated with the adding of melodies on top, Frozen Realm fool around with melodies at the helm, only relinquishing it's weak grip to allow equally uninspired chugs to take over. 4/10 guitars.





Tracklist:
1. Iceshaper
2. Thirst
3. The Pawn
4. Abandoned by the Sun

Should you want to listen for yourself, you can do so by following the link below
http://frozenrealm.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/FrozenRealmMalmo

25 Sep 2014

Uncoffined - Ritual Death and Funeral Rites [Full length] (2013, Memento Mori)


The mix of doom metal and death metal has arguably been around in some form since some time in the 80's and has since been perfected by notable and influential bands like Asphyx and Autopsy. The Finnish scene especially is known for it's gloomy ways in death metal, and much in the same way we find the British band Uncoffined, who've subscribed to the old ways of down-doomed metal of death.

Spanish label Memento Mori heeded their growling calls and released their debut album "Ritual Death and Funeral Rites" in the autumn of 2013. Treated to a few classic quotes from the British school of horror flicks, we're sent on a journey through heavily distorted and down-tuned guitar melodies and roaring, cavernous vocals. The whole thing is set at a murderously slow pace, showing no signs of ever halting its forward momentum.

The churning chugs mixed in with a few darkly melancholic melodies are adequately accentuated by a powerful bass. One can only guess whether the immensely simple yet compelling songwriting is the result of one man's effort or the orchestrated endeavor of the entire band, but the musicianship in itself speaks of a band seasoned in the arts of metal. Indeed, all the members of the heavy quartet have play in several bands of varying nature - Something that is highly evident on Ritual Death and Funeral Rites.

Were I to compare the accomplisment of Uncoffined to a more established act, it would be Finland's shooting stars Hooded Menace. However, this is also where the British band's shortcomings are revealed. Hooded Menace are a result of the international death/doom scene booming in these last few years, probably reaching its all time high in popularity. And by that standard, Uncoffined have joined the movement in the eleventh hour, almost completely missing the boat. Were it not for the great craftsmanship with which their material is presented, they would by now already feel very dated, like a band seeking to cash in on a trend.

What Ritual Death and Funeral Rites really lacks are more tempo changes. The distorted convulsions of guitar are of the essence in this manner, but without even slower or some faster passages to emphasize their meaning and effect it's hard to fully appreciate the crushing broadsides of sluggish overdrive and fuzz in the long run, which in this case of just above forty minutes of murky horror-worship. 7/10 guitars.





Tracklist:
1. Twisted Shape of Creeping Terror
2. Night of the Witch Childe
3. Ritual Death and Funeral Rites
4. Blasphemous Execration of Holy Ground
5. The Devil and the Old Cursed Tree
6. Frustrations

Visit Uncoffined on Facebook
Visit Memento Mori

15 Sep 2014

Forsaken Legion - Seeds of Black Dawn [Demo] (2012, Self-released)


Once Switzerland was a place where legends formed, with Hellhammer - and subsequently Celtic Frost and Triptykon - being the reigning kings of metal there. Recently the country of Switzerland has begun stirring anew with the miasmic sounds of Bölzer resounding through proverbial catacombs. But enough talk of Switzerland's exports of metal - Everybody knows, or at the very least should know of, bands like Samael and Coroner. Let us instead deal with the Swiss underground, Forsaken Legion in particular.

Forsaken Legion formed in 2012 and released their first album in december that same year. Though their sites and profiles are tagged as black metal, there's a bit more to it than that. Tracks like Crow has a definite thrashy edge, while something like Human Decay - like you may have guessed - has a strong death metal influence. These variations lend great strength to the music found on Seeds of Black Dawn. Forsaken Legion refuse to conform to the standard practices of the genre, and while they may not be wholeheartedly legend-material their debut album makes promises of great things yet to come.

There's no use shoehorning the quintet into genre conventions. It's not that there is anything new and exciting about the way they mix extreme metal genres, but they are entirely their own, doing exactly what they please. The songs are built on a strong foundation of blackened metal, empowered by thrashing riffs, blast beats and death-like growls, a few creeping melodies lurking in the background.

While the drums are executed at profound speeds and with a fair bit of force, they could be utilized better to underline the powerful rhythm section. The title track stands out as the best use of tempo changes and the "classic" black metal sound, bringing to mind bands like Dark Funeral and Marduk. All in all, though, without a more tight rhythm section and more attention to flow of songwriting, Seeds of Black Dawn falls through as a modern classic. It should be enjoyable to most fans of blasting black metal mixed up with a bit of the ol' death n' thrash combo, but apart from a few well-made compositions the album holds little merrit as anything but background noise. 6/10 guitars.





Tracklist:
1. Human Decay
2. Mountain's Massacre
3. Seeds of Black Dawn
4. Crow
5. Deserve to Die
6. Azathoth
7. Ambassador of Chaos

Visit Forsaken Legion on Facebook
Visit Forsaken Legion on ReverbNation