MENHIR – Hildebrandslied

MENHIR – Hildebrandslied








Origin: Germany
Genre: Pagan Black Metal
Label: Trollzorn - SMP Records
Year: 2007

Can Thuringian pagan metal get better than this? I honestly believe not! But then again, I thought the same when “Ziuwari” was out in 2001. After 6 years of silence Menhir are back with their epitome of Thuringian pagan metal (melodic pagan black metal besed on stories about old gods and true episodes, mainly from the Merovingian time in the german land of Thuringia). Some label problems and the recording sessions’ perfectionism (that made them record guitars twice) delayed them, but the CD was finally released by Trollzorn / SMP, a new label with many releases in this genre!

The first thing worthy of mentioning is the excellent package. It is an A5 digipak with a 20 pages booklet, full of beautiful photos and text about the album’s concept. It is about the sad saga of “Hildebrand”, a father who returns to his homeland after many years and there his army fights against his son’s “Hadubrand” army, who thought him for an enemy. “Hildebrand” didn’t want this fight, but his son didn’t recognize him…

So the set for this album is epic and sad at the same time, something that reflects to the music. It is Menhir’s more mature and melancholic work so far, and maybe that’s why I like it the most. “Hildebrandslied” consists of 7 songs with duration of 42 minutes, offering us best quality pagan metal. With their unique ability of mixing extreme with acoustic parts and Heiko’s characteristic epic clean vocals changing in to black ones when needed, they managed to create another masterpiece. All of the songs are dominated by beautiful melodies in the guitars that are like always sticking into your mind. The compositions are enriched by brilliant orchestration using violins and some traditional instruments. The sound is very epic and most of the time at mid-tempo with a great variety in rhythm and intensity. All of their lyrics are of course as always in German.

When I first listened to the album the song that stood out was the 9mins epic hymn “Das Hildebrandslied – Teil I”. Later on, every song became a favourite; since there are some parts in each of them that cause extreme “musical pleasure”. The production and mixing is perfect, suitable for the music quality of this album. For me the most outstanding factor of “Hildebrandslied” is the much improved and very expressive vocals of Heiko, full of strength and sorrow at the same time. Of course it’s not only the “quality” of the vocals, but also the unbelievable melodies on them, that make Menhir the best at this genre. Let’s really hope that their next album will come out sooner, ‘cause 6 years is too long to wait, even though they worth it…

If you’ve never heard of Menhir, but you are into epic pagan metal you should try to get a copy of “Hildebrandsleid”. You will adore it. There is also a new edition released in 2009 by Trollzorn in jewel case. It contains the album, as well as a second CD including the first demo of the band “Barditus” that was never released in CD before. For me, simply put, it’s by far the best album I’ve listened to in 2007!! You can check them on the links to their official pages below.

dimiarch

Rating:  (10/10)

Links:
http://www.ziuwari.de
Menhir @ Facebook

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

ARKANE – Enraptured Serene Mesmerism

ARKANE – Enraptured Serene Mesmerism








Origin: Greece
Genre: Neoclassical
Label: Seduction Prod
Year: 2008

Arkane is the new solo project of ArkanumX (aka Pandelis Giasafakis) who was one of the founding members of the cult Greek band Fiendish Nymph (Daemonia Nymphe later). Since he left the band he created music on his own at a new more ambient ritual neoclassical style. His first effort was the album “Arcane Elitism” under the name x-Arkane-x in 2002. Now in 2008 he returns with his newest work entitled “Enraptured Serene Mesmerism” under the name Arkane.

This new album required many years of work, but the outcome is really good. First of all it has nothing to do with metal. It’s dark ghostly symphonic soundtrack-like music with a neoclassical approach. The songs have no lyrics, just few recitations and many female operatic ethereal vocals, which are really enchanting and totally out-of-this-world. The thematology and aesthetics of the album is about a dark seductive aspect of ancient Hellenic sirens and nereids, and the music is perfect to match this atmosphere. The sound is keyboard based, with a very depressive feeling and it’s something like the soundtrack of a dark film (like the “Ninth Gate”). Even though the album seems like one big track, there are changes in the intensity and mood of the songs, but they are all unified under the unique and dominant atmosphere of the whole work.

The cd is released in a really beautiful black and white A5 digipak, with an amazing photo on the cover that captures perfectly the feeling of the album. If you like dark soundtrack neoclassical music you shouldn’t miss this album. It is a very impressive effort of a Greek “band” and you can check on your own here.

dimiarch

Rating:  (8,5/10)

Links:
Arkane @ Facebook
Arkane @ MySpace
seductionprod@hotmail.com

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

GONIN-ISH – Naishikyo Sekai

GONIN-ISH – Naishikyo Sekai








Origin: Japan
Genre: Extreme Progressive Metal
Label: Season of Mist
Year: 2008

Hm… This is quite an unusual release! Gonin-Ish is a Japanese band (as it’s easy to guess seeing the weird cover artwork) that exists from 1997. After the self-titled debut in 2000, “Naishikyo Sekai” is their second full-length album that was released in 2005 in Japan, but wasn’t distributed worldwide, until 2008 that “Season of Mist” decided to re-release it! Let’s see why…

When the first song “Tokoyami Kairou” began, I thought I was listening to an old unreleased Dream Theater song! After this 2-minute intro ended and the “real” album begun, the band convinced me it has its own personality! Their general sound in the orchestrations is progressive metal, but with very bizarre vocals and some Japanese folk touches. Their female singer and front-woman Anoji uses both clean vocals and extreme death-black metal screams and she kicks ass in both of them! Her clean vocals are really unusual with this characteristic traditional Japanese style, and they fit perfectly with the band’s sound. All lyrics are in Japanese (with some words from ancient dialects) but there are also translations in the booklet. Their themes come from local traditions, ancient history, as well as manga and anime.

Their sound and production are crystal clear and they are definitely very talented musicians. All of the songs demand great composing skills, in order to combine progressive metal, fusion, jazz, death metal outbursts, tranquil ballad-like passages and traditional music in a really solid result. Guitars, bass, drums and keyboards, used in innovative ways, will please your ears for more than 55 minutes. I believe this album will satisfy all open-minded listeners and especially progressive metal fans, since the word progressive takes its real meaning in “Naishikyo Sekai”. Of course you can get a taste of their music on the links below.

dimiarch

Rating:  (9/10)

Links:
http://www.gonin-ish.com
Gonin-Ish @ Myspace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

VALUATIR – I

VALUATIR – I








Origin: France
Genre: Folk Black Metal
Label: Armageddon Records
Year: 2008

Valuatir is a real gem of the underground pagan folk black metal scene. They come from France and they were formed in 1997 under the name Inis Gwenva. After 2 demos they changed their name in 2007 to Valuatir and they recorded their first full-length album that was released in 2008 by the Japanese label Armageddon Records.

They play pagan black metal mixed with many folk Celtic instruments and melodies. Their founder Fëarann masters a great variety of traditional instruments, like whistles and countless types of bagpipes that have a very dominating role in their songs, since all the melodic lines are based on them. Valuatir composed some of the best folk tunes I’ve ever heard in this kind of music and their combination with pagan black metal is simply amazing! They use typical, but very powerful and expressive black metal vocals (no mix with clean ones here) all sang in the French language. Lyrics deal with themes from ancient proto-historic times. It is also written in their site that Fëarann does archaeological excavations!

Most of the time their black metal riffing is at fast tempo, and it gets a bit slower when the folk instruments get in and play the lead melodies. All of the 5 songs are long (there are also two intros) and the album lasts for over 43 minutes. They have a very epic atmosphere and their folk tunes don’t sound “happy” or “easy”, but have a real substance. What is most amazing with this album is that Valuatir created the perfect balance between rawness and melody. They can compose excellent pagan black metal and at the same time brilliant Celtic folk music, but especially they can mix them together ideally!

I personally adore this album, as well as many other albums from the French folk black metal scene. If you also like bands like Aes Dana, Heol Telwen, Bran Barr, Diamond Eyed Princess, or even Nydvind, you should get this album without second thoughts. If you are not familiar with this genre you can check their songs in their official pages below.

dimiarch

Rating:  (10/10)

Links:
http://valuatir.free.fr
Valuatir @ Myspace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

CRIMFALL – As the Path Unfolds…

CRIMFALL – As the Path Unfolds








Origin: Finland
Genre: Folk Metal Symphonic Metal Viking Metal
Label: Napalm Records
Year: 2009

Crimfall is a newborn band from Finland that is ready to make (or actually already did) the great step. Even though they were formed just in 2007 and released only a 3-song demo cd-r, they managed to sign a deal with Napalm Records in order to release their debut full length “As the Path Unfolds…” in February 2009!

After listening to the cd it isn’t surprising that Napalm has great expectations from this band. Their music is symphonic, epic, folk, Viking metal, in the typical melodic Finnish way. Female vocals and black male screams are combined perfectly, since both singers are very good. All of the band’s members are also in other bands (Ad Lunam, Thyestean Feast, Draugnim, Twilight Ophera, Tacere, and more), which explains their technical skills and the professionalism behind this debut. The production and sound quality are impressive, giving Crimfall the perfect background to express their ideas. In this album there also some great guest musicians, including Henri “Trollhorn” Sorvali of Finntroll and Moonsorrow!

Coming to the music now, they play a kind of epic symphonic metal. Their music is mainly mid tempo, with many changes in the songs, some slower and some faster extreme parts. Instrumental soundtrack-like passages add a lot to their epic atmosphere and symphonic keyboards cooperate with guitars in a very solid sound. The overall result is something between Rhapsody, Moonsorrow, Nightwish and Battlelore, with many great melodies and very interesting songs. Their female singer Helena Haaparanta, has a very characteristic and beautiful voice, something that helps the band have its own identity. Many folk instruments and tunes enrich the mythological Viking concept of the album, without dominating the symphonic fantasy atmosphere.

I would definitely recommend this album to all fans of this genre, since it’s full of nice melodies, really well played and with a perfect sound. The artwork of the album is another epic painting by Kris Verwimp and you can listen to their music at the links below. The album will be released by the end of February / beginning of March.

dimiarch

Rating:  (9/10)

Links:
http://www.crimfall.com/site
Crimfall @ Facebook
Crimfall @ Myspace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

ARATHORN – Treue und Verrat

ARATHORN – Treue und Verrat








Origin: Germany
Genre: Epic Black Metal Folk Metal
Label: Folter Records
Year: 2008

Do you remember Arathorn? Not Tolkien’s character, but the German folk black metal band that released back in 1997 the amazing debut “Niemals Krönender als Was Einst War”. After that album the 3 members of the band split up and the band seemed dead for many years! But Sköll (one of the band’s member) decided that Arathorn should be revived. So in 2004 he recorded and released a demo, and now in 2008 Arathorn’s second album, 11 years after the debut, is reality!

Despite the relatively bad quality of the production and sound, I have to admit that I like this album very much. It is a combination of folk, neo-folk and epic melodic black metal. Most of the vocal-lines are clean with some black metal screams from time to time. Acoustic instruments (mainly guitars) are very dominant, giving a very melodic face to the whole album. In this work the most important thing in my opinion is its melodies. They are all very beautiful, and seem to be composed for a reason; they have something to tell, they convince me it’s a matter of inspiration and not a result of brainstorm…

The atmosphere of the songs is very epic, melancholic with a folk medieval mood. Maybe it’s not something you’ve never heard before (actually you probably have and in much better sound), but it definitely has amazing melodies and a pure true pagan nostalgic spirit that won me from the first listen. After all what counts the most in music (and art in general) is its ability to travel you to “other” places and let your imagination free… If you let your self to Arathorn’s music you won’t regret it.

Anyway I hope they will improve the production next time, as far as it won’t affect the quality of their music. Also I wish it won’t take that long for a new album! You can always visit their myspace page for samples.

dimiarch

Rating:  (9/10)

Links:
Arathorn @ Myspace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

PAYSAGE D’HIVER – Kristall & Isa

PAYSAGE D’HIVER – Kristall & Isa








Origin: Switzerland
Genre: Ambient Black Metal
Label: Kunsthall Produktionen
Year: 2008

This is the fifth album of Paysage d’Hiver the solo project of Wintherr, who is also a member of DarkSpace. He is from Switzerland, and he actually released all of his albums (8 so far, plus a demo and 2 split releases) on tape. Later he decided to re-release all of them one by one on A5 digipak versions by his own label Kunsthall Produktionen. So this is his last release, even though the tape version is from 2001!

What we have here is another excellent album of pure raw black metal, without any compromises. His concept has always to do with winter themes, something you are already prepared for after the amazing frozen landscape in the cover artwork! His black metal makes you feel you are in the middle of a storm, totally frostbitten. By the beginning of the first song “Isa” you feel your ears bleeding just like when the ice and snow penetrates your skin in a cold winter day! Luckily there are also some ambient passages in the songs and two fully ambient tracks, where you find a shelter for a while…

Of course the production and the sound are of demo tape quality, something intentional that fits his music perfectly. There are also some keys in the background, but you can barely listen to them, since everything is too dull! Highly distorted guitars, weird synths, shrieking black metal screams and repetitive melodies are transformed under this strange production into a unique “noise” like a howling wind, so distant and evil, full of bizarre melancholic warmth! It is so difficult to accept and decode it if you are not into it, but it’s definitely ART!

This is a “must” for those who like raw black metal without polished production. It is once again released in a beautiful A5 digipak, like the 4 previous re-releases [Die Festung (1999/2007), Schattengang (1999/2006), Paysage d’Hiver (2000/2007) and Kerker (2000/200Smilie: 8)]. You can listen to some samples in their myspace page and visit their official page.

dimiarch

Rating:  (9/10)

Links:
http://www.kunsthall.ch/e_paysagedhiver.html
Paysage d’Hiver @ Myspace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

LEGION OF DOOM – The Horned Made Flesh

LEGION OF DOOM – The Horned Made Flesh








Origin: Greece
Genre: Black Metal
Label: Zyklon-B Productions
Year: 2008

The time for the fourth full-length album by one of the oldest Greek black metal bands has come! 3 years after their last work, that was followed by 3 split releases (2 EPs and a CD), their new work entitled “The Horned Made Flesh” is released by the Greek label Zyklon-B Productions.

Legion of Doom was founded in 1990 and they managed to make a good name, mainly in the underground scene always releasing good albums. They had a big break in their discography from 1997 and their second album “For Those of the Blood” until 2005, where their third album “God is Dead” was released. For those who know them, there are no surprises in their new album. They continue to play melodic keyboard based black metal like in their previous album and they are actually very good at it. Soundtrack-like synths have a very important role enriching the sound of the band, while keys have a lead part in the melodies of the songs.

I think it is their most melodic album so far and the band has made a nice work in the compositions. There are some parts in the songs where they are totally instrumental, helping the band to sound darker and more sad. Of course they still remain black metal, especially in the riffs and the great screaming vocals, but mostly in the essence of their music. There are also few clean male incantations that add to the mystic atmosphere of the album. The sound and the production in general could be better, but it’s ok and definitely the best they ever had. The overall result is very solid and the balance between melody and black metal at the right level.

The Horned Made Flesh” is my favorite work from Legion of Doom and it is released in many different formats to chose: LP, CD, slipcase CD, digipak and A5 digibook, all with different covers!! You can get a taste of the band at their myspace profile.

dimiarch

Rating:  (8/10)

Links:
Legion of Doom @ Myspace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews