SIGH – Scenes From Hell

SIGH – Scenes From Hell








Origin: Japan
Genre: Avant-garde Metal Symphonic Black Metal
Label: The End Records
Year: 2010

Twenty years after its foundation, this unique avant-garde metal band from Japan, presents us its eighth full-length album, three years after “Hangman’s Hymn”. If you have followed Sigh through the years, you should know that you can never predict what’s coming next. Their previous album was a relentless attack of powerful majestic bombastic avant-garde black thrash metal, very different from the power metal influences of 2005’s “Gallows Gallery”. So I was curious to see what would they play this time…

Well, “Scenes From Hell” is an album with all Sigh’s trademarks. Maybe it’s their most characteristic and balanced album ever! The production is much different than the crystal clear one of the previous album, adding a more “analog” sound to their music, especially in the symphonic keys. This brings them closer to their older sound and since the tempo is a bit slowed down (still fast though, but less tiring) and the music less bombastic, I would say that the result is like a mixture of “Hangman’s Hymn” and “Imaginary Sonicscape”. There are 8 songs in the album built on their unique black/thrash metal riffs (even if less thrashy this time) and many guitar solos, enriched by symphonic synths and real instruments, most of them performed by the band’s mastermind Mirai, as well as by many guest musicians (almost a real orchestra!) including Zoltan Pal of Sear Bliss in trombone. The orchestrations are like always brilliant, with so many melodies and different styles, ranging from classical symphonic music, to jazz music, horror theatrical music, all with their avant-garde weird atmosphere. Some of the songs are more catchy, others more atmospheric, but all of them are really enjoyable and you will discover new things with each listening! Mirai’s vocals have a more black metal approach this time and I like them very much this way! As the title of the album implies, the lyrics deal with death, agony and suffering and nothing could “dress” them better than Sigh’s music!

Scenes From Hell” is the perfect way to celebrate the 20 years of existence of this great band. I am pretty sure that all followers of Sigh will welcome and appreciate this excellent album. It is released once again by The End Records and it comes with an amazing cover artwork by Eliran Kantor, which must look ever better in the LP size! Whether you have heard of Sigh or not, this is a band you should definitely check, so go to their myspace and Facebook pages to get a taste of their music.

dimiarch

Rating:  (9/10)

Links:
Sigh @ Facebook
Sigh @ Myspace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

OCTOBER FALLS – A Collapse of Faith

OCTOBER FALLS – A Collapse of Faith








Origin: Finland
Genre: Folk Acoustic Pagan Black Metal
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Year: 2010

October Falls is a very interesting Finnish band, formed in 2001. They began as the personal project of M. Lehto, who still composes all music, but now some new members are added in the group. In the beginning the band played acoustic nature music, very similar to Empyrium, but later they added pagan black metal elements in their music and influences from Katatonia, Opeth and Agalloch. The band released 3 EPs and 2 full-length albums so far, 3 of them acoustic and 2 of them metal. They use two different logos in their albums, a “square” one for the acoustic releases and a “cyclic” one for the metal ones.

Their new work “A Collapse of Faith” belongs to their “metal” releases and is one of the best (if not the best) of the band. It’s their most balanced work where their dark melancholic black metal is in perfect harmony with their acoustic elements. There are only 3 songs in the album, but the first two are 18 minutes long each! So, as expected, their structure isn’t the typical one and there many changes inside the songs. Even if there are no catchy refrains or easy to memorize parts, October Falls create a very beautiful album. The songs avoid repetition by their variety in styles and orchestration, but at the same time they remain very solid and tight. The lead guitars have some “warm” melodies that break the melancholy of their overall atmosphere and this contradiction works perfectly in their compositions. Their production is much improved and they are coming closer to a more mainstream approach, without ruining the primitive pagan / nature feeling of their music. Especially the parts where acoustic guitars are mixed with the metal instruments are really wonderful. Lehto’s vocals are moving in the typical black metal style of this genre, not very extreme, but very emotional with an interesting warmth hiding behind his raging desperate screams. The lyrics are all in English, dealing with pagan themes, seen through a more poetic and abstract eye…

I believe that “A Collapse of Faith” is October Falls’ most complete work and the perfect album for someone who doesn’t know them to start. It is released by Debemur Morti Productions in a beautiful 6-panel digifile edition with band’s logo embossed in it (but hardly visible). You can get a taste of their music on the links below.

dimiarch

Rating:  (8,5/10)

Links:
http://koti.welho.com/mlehto4/of/of.html
October Falls @ Facebook

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

PENSÉES NOCTURNES – Vacuum

PENSÉES NOCTURNES – Vacuum








Origin: France
Genre: Depressive Black Metal Neoclassical
Label: Les Acteurs de l Ombre Productions
Year: 2009

Vacuum” is the impressive debut from a new French band called Pensées Nocturnes. It is released one year ago by the French label Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions, but I only bought it a few days ago. Anyway, from the first listen it became clear that this work definitely deserves to be reviewed! The band was formed in 2008 by Vaerohn (also guitars on Valhôll), who is the only member since then. He recently released the band’s second album “Grotesque” again with the same label, a quite different album, which will be reviewed soon…

If I should try to describe their music with just a few words, Pensées Nocturnes is a band that mixes dark depressive black metal with melancholic classical music (mainly piano, not orchestra). Of course there are many bands that have tried that in the past, but Pensées Nocturnes do it in a very personal way, maybe the best I have ever listened to! The closest band that comes to my mind is their com-patriots Mystic Forest, but then again there are many differences between the two bands. There are six long songs in “Vacuum” that lasts for something more than an hour. The compositions are overflowing with many enchanting classical interludes (a few “authentic” classical pieces, as well as many pieces composed by Vaerohn), which are simply breathtaking. Most of these parts are piano based, but he also uses violins and other strings. I think he could be a great classic composer! These interludes are followed by melancholic sorrowful black metal of the same high quality.

The production and the arrangements are exactly how they should be. Neither too polished to ruin the atmosphere, nor too raw to flatten their compositions! They have a very rich sound, especially in the parts where the classical and acoustic instruments are blended with the guitars. Their black metal, even if quite extreme and raw, is based on melodic riffs and thanks to the excellent songwriting and “clever” production, the overall result is very balanced. There are also some parts with jazz piano improvisation by Jean Coumelongue (guest appearance) in the fourth song “Coups de Bleus”. Vaerohn’s vocals now are very expressive, full of despair, agony and suffocation and they sound most of the time like a hopeless black metal cry, fitting more than perfectly with the music’s atmosphere… It’s really hard for me to choose one song as the best, since all of them are masterpieces! The lyrics are all in French, so I can’t tell many things about them.

Anyway, “Vacuum” is a surprisingly good debut album coming out of nowhere! Despite the fact that this is the first album of the band, it sounds unexpectedly mature and well composed. Even if Pensées Nocturnes is an underground band (and I believe they will remain so), the production is very good for the genre and you can’t tell that this is a one man’s band; Vaerohn is a gifted and very talented musician. Fans of depressive and experimental black metal, or those who like the marriage of classical music and metal should definitely check this band.

dimiarch

Rating:  (9,5/10)

Links:
http://pnrecords.free.fr

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

ELFFOR – Frostbitten Pain

ELFFOR – Frostbitten Pain








Origin: Spain
Genre: Melodic Black Metal Pagan Black Metal
Label: Self Released
Year: 2010

Elffor is the personal project of Eöl and it begun back on 1995. It was 1998 when Elffor released their first album “Into the Dark Forest…”. After that, three more albums followed, “Son of the Shades” in 2002, “From the Throne of Hate” in 2004 and “The Unblessed Woods” in 2006, all of them self-released by Eöl. After their 4th album, the German label Northern Silence decided to re-release their first albums and so far they released their 3 first works, with different artwork and some extras. Now the band finally releases its 5th album “Frostbitten Pain” again on its own.

Their music is epic melodic synth-based black metal with some ambient influences, mostly in the first album. There are 5 long songs in this album, all of them in slow tempo, with many keyboards that dominate their music. In order to get a first idea, they sound like a more melodic version of Graveland, but with a personal sound. Compared to the previous albums, I think this one is less Tolkien / fantasy oriented and it has a more epic pagan approach. They still of course retain this magical medieval atmosphere they introduced in their previous works. The production is improved, but I think it can get even more powerful and clear in the future… Anyway they are moving forward from album to album, something that raises my expectations! The vocals are various, from typical black metal, crying mournings, haunting shrieking screams, some spoken vocals and a few guest female ones by Hildr Valkyrie. The songs sound now more solid, with less ambient parts and much more work in the songwriting. There are great melodies in the compositions and for me the second and fourth song “Instinct’s Enslavement” and “Chaos Moon” stand out from the album. My only concern is that there are a few “weaker” parts in the songs and some repetition that keeps “Frostbitten Pain” from something bigger.

Elffor are not offering something totally new, but they are very good at what they play. Fans of bands like late Graveland, Lord Wind and Summoning should definitely check them. The album is released by the band in a beautiful digipak limited to 500 copies, but it has surprisingly good distribution, so it won’t be difficult to find it. You can get a taste of their music in the links.

dimiarch

Rating:  (8/10)

Links:
www.elffor.com
Elffor @ Facebook
Elffor @ MySpace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

SKYFORGER – Kurbads

SKYFORGER – Kurbads








Origin: Latvia
Genre: Folk Pagan Metal
Label: Metal Blade Records
Year: 2010

It’s been more than five years since we listened to something new from Skyforger. The beginning of the most successful and well-known Latvian band dates back in 1995. Since then the band released 4 full-length albums: the debut “Kauja Pie Saules” in 1998, “Latvian Riflemen” in 2000 and the last two, “Thunderforge” and the purely acoustic “Sword’s Song”, in 2003. In 2005 Folter Records (who also released “Thuderforge”) re-released their first demo from 1997 “Semigalls’ Warchant” remastered, together with a new EP named ”Asinslauks”. Last year the band signed a contract with Metal Blade (!) in order to release their fifth full-length “Kurbads”.

Skyforger started as a pagan metal band using traditional folk instruments since their beginning, while their music was moving between black metal and extreme heavy metal. Their first albums had a “blacker” approach, while the later works are actually extreme epic folk metal. “Thunderforge” was a very balanced melodic pagan metal album and I consider it as the last complete sample of their music, since their next album was only acoustic Latvian folk music (interpretations of their older songs). Naturally, seven years later and after signing to a more mainstream label, someone should expect differences in their music. Well yes, the new Skyforger album “Kurbads” is very different from the band’s previous works. They have a much more polished and mainstream production, while most black metal elements from their music are gone… Of course the band hasn’t lost any of its aggression, they just approach their music with a more powerful heavy metal sound, rather than melodic pagan black metal. The folk tunes and instruments (mainly bagpipes) also remain and in my opinion they sound more dominant now, since the contradiction with the rhythmic (and less melodic) guitar riffing is bigger. Their vocals remain brutal black / death and they are actually the most “extreme” part of their music. There are also some clean backing vocals and choirs in the refrains, giving a more epic tone to the songs. The production of the band is very powerful and solid, making it obvious that they worked very much for this result. Their thematology deals with a legendary Latvian hero named Kurbads and all lyrics are in their native language, but they have the translations in the booklet.

Kurbads” is a very good album that will definitely bring more fans to the band, but it can also disappoint the ones who prefer their black metal phase. I guess we can’t have it all. Me personally, I would prefer a more melodic and pagan approach in their guitars with less “heavy metal” riffs, but I have to admit that they are very good at what they do, especially in their folk parts, with many great melodies and interesting ideas in the orchestration. The album is released in a beautiful digipak, while the artwork is made by their guitarist Martins. You can visit their official pages to listen to their music.

dimiarch

Rating:  (8/10)

Links:
http://www.skyforger.lv
Skyforger @ Facebook
Skyforger @ Myspace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

AL-NAMROOD – Estorat Taghoot

AL-NAMROOD – Estorat Taghoot








Origin: Saudi Arabia
Genre: Folk Black Metal
Label: Shaytan Productions
Year: 2010

The second full-length album from this Arabian oriental black metal band is out, just one year after their debut “Astfhl AlTha’r”. The band was formed only in 2008, but they are very active with four releases so far (including a mini cd and a split). There are some line-up changes in Al-Namrood, since they got a permanent drummer, but their vocalist left. So they are a trio again and they used Mardus as a guest vocalist.

Those of you who have listened to the band, you should know what to expect from this album. They play raw underground folk black metal, with riffs based exclusively on oriental Arabian scales and many traditional oriental instruments (keys, not physical instruments). Compared to their previous works I see a big improvement on the sound of the guitars, while the addition of drummer enriched their sound. Synths sound also less “fake” and the samples of oriental instruments are much more natural. Their vocalist is very good and despite the fact he is not a full member, he fits perfectly with the band. The production in general is also much better, since everything is more clear and listenable, but it still definitely retains its underground feeling. The instruments are not merged into one sound and you can hear everything separately. I still believe though that the band can improve further their sound and they would make a big step forward if they tried to use real traditional instruments. Anyway the album is very good, with very interesting song ideas and a faster tempo, compared to the debut. Their eastern folk influences sound very refreshing, like the dark Arabian exotic atmosphere that penetrates both their music and lyrics.

Overall Al-Namrood isn’t a group that fans of folk black metal should ignore, especially if you want something different and fresh. The band has a very characteristic sound and a great “unexplored field” to move (compared to the overcrowded Nordic scene), since it’s the only one from a land with a unique culture and history and a very special music tradition. Like their previous works it is released by the Canadian label Shaytan Productions. If they sound interesting to you, you can check them on the links below.

 dimiarch

Rating:  (8,5/10)

Links:
Al-Namrood @ Myspace
http://www.shaytanproductions.com

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

SLAVLAND – Lechita

SLAVLAND – Lechita








Origin: Poland
Genre: Folk Black Metal Pagan Black Metal
Label: Eastside Records
Year: 2009

Slavland is the personal band of Belzagor (Lugburz, Swarost, Moonrise) from Poland. He formed them in 2001 and since then he has released 7 full-length albums! “Lechita” is his last work and it is released like most of his latest albums by the Polish label Eastside Records.

Slavland’s music has always been pagan folk black metal. They definitely belong in the underground scene, since they have a very raw sound. Of course through the years their sound evolved and the production is getting much better. Belzagor does everything in this album, except for drums, played by the guest member Mantus. And we are not talking only about the typical metal instruments, but he also sings and performs many traditional and acoustic instruments. He actually is quite talented and he creates beautiful music, especially in the folk melodies. Flutes, whistles, bagpipes, acoustic guitars and other folk instruments are combined with raw pagan black metal, more melodic compared to his early albums. Technically Slavland need much more work, especially in the production of the metal parts. Acoustic parts are very good. What are really weak in Slavland’s music are the clean vocals! They sound to me completely out of tune and they ruin a lot of the beautiful music. At least in this album they are reduced compared to the previous one. I suggest either to remove them at all, or to get a guest singer. Anyway, despite the technical flaws, I always liked their music, since I find “honesty” in their songs. They seem to come directly from Belzagor’s heart, like he had really lived in a pagan past and he is sharing his memories with us. Of course all of the lyrics are in his native language, dealing with pagan themes.

If you are fan of underground folk pagan black metal, you will probably know Slavland. If you don’t know them and you like this kind of music and especially eastern bands (from Poland, Ukraine, etc) you should check them. For me this is their best work so far, but most of their recent albums are also at a very good level. In their myspace page you can find some songs from various albums, including “Lechita”.

dimiarch

Rating:  (7/10)

Links:
Slavland @ Facebook
Slavland @ Myspace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews

ACHERONTAS – Theosis

ACHERONTAS – Theosis








Origin: Greece
Genre: Occult Black Metal
Label: Dark Side Records
Year: 2010

The second full-length album from this productive Hellenic black band is out. They were formed in 2007 and since then they have already 2 albums and 3 split releases. Their debut album “Tat Tvam Asi (Universal Omniscience)” in 2007 left very positive impressions and I was eager to listen to their new work.

In my opinion this album is very different from their debut. It has a more “direct” black metal approach with a much more limited use of synths. In the previous album it was the keyboards that carried out most melodies and atmospheric passages. This time guitars have a very dominant role in Acherontas music. First of all the production is improved and their sound isn’t as raw as it was in their debut. So guitars and bass sound clearer and they are not merged into “one”. The work on riffs and melodic guitar lines is truly remarkable, both in quality and variety, revealing a lot of work behind this album. Fast melodic riffing, rhythmic guitars, acoustic guitars and bass are combined in many different ways in this album keeping the listener always interested. The tempo and style of the songs also vary, from fast aggressive black metal, to atmospheric metal and acoustic / ambient / soundtrack parts, all of them under the band’s occult atmosphere. V.P.9 Acherontas’ vocals are also improved and they are more expressive and “mature”, like the overall sound of the band. Their lyrics and philosophy haven’t changed in general, except that this time they have a more dark vampiric approach without the Sumerian elements they had in their debut. The philosophy behind the band dwells in the core of philosophies of Hekal Tiamat. Also many occult elements in lyrics leads to left hand path black arts as alchemy, Kabalah and necromantical sorcery… Some of the lyrics come from the “Temple of the Vampire”, like the great translation into ancient Hellenic in the song “Legacy of Tiamat”, a slow dark atmospheric track, my favorite of the album.

Theosis” is a very good work and Acherontas seem to have balanced their influences into a more solid sound. I believe though that it would be in favor of the band if the album was a little shorter (it’s almost one hour long) focusing on their best ideas and avoiding some repetition. Anyway I am not complaining; it’s just that the band has raised our expectations a lot! The album is released by Dark Side Records in a digipak version and in a limited A5 digibook version, as well as in a double gatefold vinyl. You can visit their myspace and Facebook pages to get a taste from all of their works.

dimiarch

Rating:  (8,5/10)

Links:
Acherontas @ Facebook
Acherontas @ MySpace

Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos

Posted in Reviews