21 Apr 2015

Non Opus Dei & Morowe - Dwizki Dwie [Split] (2013, Witching Hour Productions)

Since the late 90's Non Opus Dei have graced Europe with several albums of black metal from their stronghold in Poland. They represent the old school of the genre, but aren't shy of pushing the boundaries a little every now and then - Something that they make evident on their split with country-mates Morowe. And when I say that Non Opus Dei are more old school I mean that strictly in the sense that their approach to song writing is more straight forward. Morowe hail from a different part of Poland, and in the same manner as Non Opus Dei, their approach is tinged by the tendencies of the time in which they started out. In Morowe's case, that means a much more modern take on black metal, often lending them the definition "post-black metal".

Using the split-release format for something particular is always more interesting than two bands that sound exactly alike or that are worlds apart making a split for no apparent reason. On the Dziwki Dwie split-release, we find two bands from the same country, but from two different currents of the black metal subgenre. While not entirely removed from one another, the stylings of Morowe and Non Opus Dei compliment each other sufficiently to communicate the general idea and to promote each band and their individual strengths.

Both bands offer up three choice cuts created especially for the split. And both offerings are good for quite a few listens.
I suppose you have to be into simple song progression with a clinical edge for it to have lasting appeal, because mostly I found especially the songs of Non Opus Dei to be a little too ordinary. The highlight on Dziwki Dwie for me remains Kat Kota by Morowe after many a listen. The riffs presented there are unique and interesting while being easily recognizable and different - Something that precious few bands master. This, coupled with their unusual rhythm section has swayed in their favor, which is something that isn't easily done as I find the whole "progressive-posty-wosty black metal" thing to be usually more of a shitty gimmick than a descriptor that holds any real merit. What it usually means is riffs starting and stopping awkwardly to the sound of poorly timed drums and drugged out vocals, or extremely long stretches of useless noise or acoustic guitar. Yuck.

Dwizki Dwie is a great example of exactly how to make a split. The bands compliment each other without overlapping too much in regards to style and purpose, and it certainly helps when the songs don't sound like throwaway garbage that wasn't good enough for the upcoming album. While the great old ones of the genre are busy reinventing themselves as a speed metal outfit or playing opera houses accompanied by huge orchestras and choirs, this is the part of the scene that still knows what it's all about. Ass-kicking blast beats and gruesome riffs. 7/10 guitars.

1. Non Opus Dei - Dziwki Dwie
2. Non Opus Dei - Kres Hanby
3. Non Opus Dei - Szaleniec Glupiec Opeetany
4. Morowe - Czij to Glos
5. Morowe - Kat Kota
6. Morowe - Obustronne Oczy Patrza

MOROWE official site
NON OPUS DEI official site

26 Feb 2015

Rape on Mind - Downwards [Full length] (2013, Self-released)

Experimentation is the essence of progress. Some musicians take this to heart and always seek to push boundaries, and some are content to just fine tune what has been done before. What is worth remembering is that experimenting with no real goal or purpose probably won't yield any usable results.

My initial reaction to Downwards by Rape on Mind was something along the lines of "huh, I wonder where this is going". These notions of experimentalism were however quickly exchanged with a feeling of disappointment. Downwards starts out with some atmospheric saxophone, which I tought was pretty interesting, bringing to mind darkjazz groups like Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation. But I found that these fleeting moments of intrigue were few and brief. Before long the music of Rape on Mind degrades into mindless chugs with late-era Max Cavalera vocals, like a thugged-out Soulfly. To me, Downwards seems like a rancid misinterpretation of what death metal and grindcore are about, jazzed up with aweful groove-core elements.

It's not like chugging riffs are the bane of all that is holy. But chugs only work if they're used as interludes between more meaningful songwriting. Otherwise the music will just be an amorphous mass of start-stop pseudo-riffs with no real merrit. Deathcore bands usually take the heat for being too chuggy, using downtuned strums at irregular intervals at every possible climax, but at least most deathcore has climaxes, varying intensity and temper. Instead, Rape on Mind just jerks around on the floor in a half-hour seizure to the sound of a malfunctioning jackhammer, making even the simplest deathcore acts seem like gracious ballets.

Perhaps I'm being unfair. The second half of Downwards shows a more varied approach to songwriting, and bands like Portal (Which I quite like) have very little variation in intensity, and their music is exactly just an amorphous mass of riffs. But at least their music has wanderlust, purpose and atmosphere, which is something that can't be said of this Polish group. Keep in mind that I don't particularly care for this kind of music at all, so take that into consideration whilst reading this. But I think Downwards by Rape on Mind is complete rubbish. 4/10 guitars.

1. Downwards
2. Remorse
3. Steps
4. ......
5. Nothing
6. Lost
7. Memories Always Burn
8. Break or be Broken
9. Question

Rape On Mind on Bandcamp
Rape On Mind on Facebook

27 Jan 2015

Defilementory - The Dismal Ascension [Full length] (2014, Torture Music Records)

After three long years it's time to revisit a prominent Danish death metal band. Finally, Defilementory have released their debut full length album, after having teased death metal fans with their 2-song EP "Infatuated with Deformity" from 2011. What made them stand out to me was the prominent bass work, and the fact that they so finely balanced elements from brutal, technical and "regular" death metal in a mix that was both impressive and extremely enjoyable. Needless to say, I've looked forward to this release.

Though the Danish band has always flirted with the more technical aspects of death metal, those elements have now become much more dominant on The Dismal Ascension, leaning closer to bands like Gorguts or even Deathspell Omega than ever before. In that regard their previous release, 2011's demo EP "Infatuated with Deformity", was more straightforward in its usage of technical passages. As an example, the track "Misanthropic Emancipation" features some fairly interesting use of sliding riffs and popping bass amidst ruthless slams. The Dismal Ascension has it all, and the four title-tracks that serve as the pièce de résistance more or less serve as a condensed presentation of everything the band is capable of. From raw quarries of primitive slams and structures that may at first sound like basic chug-a-chug diddley-diddley type affairs to sprawling deltas of blazing melodies and weirdly dishamornic themes, Defilementory's debut album is a release that both hails the greats of the genre and seeks new territory.

Where brutal death metal can often come off as clumsy and thuggish, Defilementory are deliberate and precise. Where technical death metal can become too intricate for its own good, the Danish band prove themselves as masters of flow. But - and there always is a "but" - there are a few scattered occurances where things tend to get a bit out of hand, with the usual groove and flow of the band being beaten down at the hands of overly atmospheric harmonies. The track "In Soullessness - Supremacy" is one such occurance. However, those brief moments are vastly outnumbered and outclassed by the much more memorable passages that make you wish for more. I'll be returning for more. 8/10 guitars.

1. Intro
2. Misanthropic Emancipation
3. In Soullessness - Supremacy
4. The Mask of Anatomy
5. Endless Abjure
6. The Horrid Reflection
7. Abhorred Veracity
8. The Dismal Ascension - Vengeance
9. The Dismal Ascension - Despair
10. The Dismal Ascension - Sovereign
11. The Dismal Ascension - Departure

Torture Music Records official site

5 Jan 2015

Incarceration - Sacrifice [EP] (2013, F.D.A. Rekotz)

I suppose you could say the Brazilian/German death metal band Incarceration are on the verge of breaking through within the underground of heavy metal. Having garnered much praise through numerous reviews Incarceration is now more or less a household name within certain circles of the underground of old school death metal. I had the extreme pleasure of witnessing their performance at the last edition of the Danish death-festival Kill-Town Death Fest where they played the smallest stage, Dødsmaskinen. Witnessing their savage performance seemed like a privilege in itself, especially with frontman Daniel Duracell smiling broadly the entire time, obviously enjoying what he does even if death metal is of course very serious business.

But enough of this, let us get back to the matter at hand: The band's 2013 EP "Sacrifice". Despite the title, nothing was spared in the production of this EP. From start to finish, this is roughly 10 minutes of death metal the way it's meant to be. Incarceration draws heavily upon the sinister regional sound Duracell's native Brazil became known for in the 80's, but presented in a much more varied and well-produced manner. Though Sacrifice mostly consists of classic death metal songwriting, there are definite hints to other genre tendencies as well. Especially the closing track Cemetery of Lies relies on some hardcore punk-derived mosh parts, letting go of the mainstay two-beats for just a little while. There's not much going on in terms of slowing down except for a few breaks here and there, always keeping things lightning fast and precise.

Most early extreme metal bands like Bathory, Hellhammer, Venom, Sarcófago or Sepultura weren't at the time known for their dedication to being tight. In fact, most were infamously sloppy. Back then that was just how things were, it was part of the scene, a side effect of extremity. As time passed and the genres got more defined, so did the musicians writing and performing the music. With Incarceration, there's absolutely no trace of sloppiness. The trio performs way beyond was is expected from old school death metal throw-back bands of today, and does so without losing one single ounce of the malevolent and chaotic feel those bands had back in the 80's.

I cannot stress enough just how much fans of early death/thrash should check out Incarceration. Whether or not they'll be the next big thing in the underground really doesn't matter, because this is where you will get your fix of flesh-rending guitar hooks, demonic screams and blasting battery. 9/10 guitars.

1. Forsaken and Forgotten
2. Sacrifice
3. Cemetery of Lies


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.

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

Plaguewielder on Facebook
Plaguewielder on Bandcamp