Welcome to the inaugural edition of Procreating the Wicked; the year’s best in slime, grime and filth. Here is where the year’s filthiest and foulest examples of old goat metal can be found. The best of the best in those amalgamous forms of metal including bits of black, death, thrash, heavy, speed and whatever other type of metal that comes to mind, as long as it’s filtered through ample layers of Hellhammer, Venom, Motörhead and Sarcófago. Without further ado, here’s the years best in sleazy blackened metal.
From the land of fire and ice…
Iceland’s Skálmöld have managed to carve a bit of their own niche in the viking metal genre with their first two albums Baldur and Börn Loka; sounding different from the other purveyors of the genre by not relying on folk instruments (with the exception of an oboe here and there) and staying away from the all-too-happy and catchy melodies that many bands of the genre often rely on.
Með vættum is their third effort and they continue to steer clear from the genre standards without losing touch of their foundation, taking the evolution between the first and second album and continuing it on onto Með vættum, having introduced some clear vocals into the mix, which have been increased and with that is the probably most prominent addition to their latest album. Musically they still add some heavy metal into their viking metal and despite showing nice variety, never lose their no-frills approach to the genre.
To say that Með vættum is their most varied and most mature album to date, hits the proverbial nail full on the head. Powerful growls meet excellent clear vocals and some accentuating higher screams for a very efficient contrast in the vocal department, while the music follows suit, covering ground from a slow stomp to an all-out double-bass attack and maintain their primordial feel to the music that still sets them apart from many of their peers.
“Að vori” sees the clear vocals shine almost from the get go and they reprise in several songs, such as epic yet dynamic “Með fuglum” that even brings in a medieval influenced passage that is very well incorporated and might be a nice element to further explore. What further sets Skálmöld apart from the rest is their ability to strip their music close to the core, but make it all the more efficient. “Með drekum” is the Icelanders’ widescreen track, with a great guitar melody that is embedded in a highly varied song that uses dynamics to the best effect, while “Með jötnum” dabbles with some viking doom metal, incorporating a monolithic riff that completely transforms the song.
And if you might be wondering where the heavy metal influence comes in, “Að vetri” starts out with mid-paced viking metal until a sudden double-bass outbreak that takes generous inspiration from good old traditional speed metal! The only track that does not quite fit in is “Með griðungum”, which is a 9-minute epos that is taking a somewhat different approach in both riffing and guitar sound and gives the impression of it being a bit of an experiment that does not quite gel with the rest of the album.
That aside, Með vættum is an impressive piece of viking metal that shows a continuous progression from their beginnings and tells a maybe simpler, yet highly efficient story, which continues to see their ascent within the genre’s ranks, poaching from some different genres with great result. If they continue to evolve and avoid standing still, Skálmöld’s future should be highly interesting, for now make sure to check out Með vættum if viking metal is your thing!
The winter rages on.
For a band that remains submerged in the Finnish black metal underground, Satanic Warmaster has steadily become a surprisingly widespread cult phenomenon. The four years that have passed since Nachzehrer have been filled with singles and a live album, as the band’s growing popularity has foreshadowed a grand return of the barbarian wolves. With this in mind, one could easily have expected Fimbulwinter to arrive with resounding hype, yet project mastermind Werwolf has opted for a low-key release on his own Werewolf Records. Thus Satanic Warmaster embody the paradoxical symbiosis of black metal and the internet, where a band approaching 250 000 Facebook-followers keeps releasing limited vinyl with little to no advertising.
Fimbulwinter immediately separates itself from the bulk of the Warmaster-discography with its markedly improved production values. The signature tin-can sound is scrapped in favor of a fuller mix, making for a significant departure from the raw atmospheres of Nachzehrer and especially Opferblut. Obviously we’re not talking about Satyricon-levels of slickness though, and despite the somewhat blunted sound, the furious drums and simple yet effective riffs all scream Satanic Warmaster. None of the songs here dip below the 5-minute mark, and consequently the punk rock approach has been toned down in favor of more varied compositions.
The atmosphere throughout Fimbulwinter does not venture far from previous outings, although the structure is somewhat more varied than the lackluster Nachzehrer. Torrential blizzards of riffs and characteristic synths convey the proper arctic moods, accentuated by the occasional acoustic guitar. There’s no immediately brilliant tracks on par with “One Shining Star” or “Carelian Satanist Madness” here, but instead the album keeps a consistently high quality. Predictably there are strong traces of Burzum running through these cold veins, but the primitive sound is expanded upon in longer numbers such as “Dragon’s Egg” and “Nuin-Gaer-Faun”. Transitioning fully into electronic music, “Winter’s Hunger” and the ambient conclusion “Silent Call Of Moon’s Temples” take the Satanic Warmaster-sound away from its comfort-zone, yet still carries the all-important atmospherics.
Purists may turn their noses at the somewhat more accessible sounds of Fimbulwinter, but compared to the repetitious nature of Werwolf’s last few releases this is a change for the better. Rising from the obscure reaches of the underground and into black metal canon rarely comes without a price, but Satanic Warmaster makes the transition without sacrificing musical quality. There is nothing revolutionary going on behind the scenes of Fimbulwinter, but it is an accomplished step forwards for the infernal war-machine and an excellent black metal album.
Who saw this one coming?
Right, hands up everyone who predicted Nick Holmes would fill Mikael Akerfeldt and Peter Tägtgren’s boots as the voice of Bloodbath for their new album, Grand Morbid Funeral. Anyone with hands raised who doesn’t have inside information – either that was a really lucky guess, or you’re lying. Nick is, of course, resident crooner in Paradise Lost and very rarely airs the harsh side of his vocal repertoire these days, so to say that it was a surprise to see him taking on the mantle of throat of Bloodbath would be a sizeable understatement.
The almighty roar that kicks off the album casts aside any doubts as to whether Holmes still has it. While no one quite matches up to Akerfeldt’s monstrous and sadly underused harsh voice, there’s no evidence of Holmes’ growling hiatus and he does a great job throughout.
Like Holmes, the other band members bring many years of experience in extreme metal. They are Jonas Renkse on bass (October Tide, Katatonia) drummer Martin Axenrot (Opeth, Witchery) guitarist Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström (Diabolical Masquerade, Katatonia) and comparative newcomer Per “Sodomizer” Eriksson (Katatonia) also on guitars. So-called ‘supergroups’ can often disappoint, but not so here; these seasoned veterans’ vast combined experience has served them very well.
Bloodbath’s modus operandi hasn’t changed. They play classic Swedish death metal, like Entombed used to all those years ago, full of catchy riffs, great guitar solos and those powerful vocals.
They show their intent right from the off with “Let the Stillborn Come to Me”, a great death metal song with a brilliant guitar solo. This sums up Bloodbath; they know how to write really good songs. They’re not here to reinvent the genre or wow us with their technical wizardry – it’s just top quality, mosh-inducing metal.
That’s not to say there’s a lack of variety on Grand Morbid Funeral. While that buzzsaw guitar tone can become a tiny bit overwhelming at times, Bloodbath mix it up with changes of pace, more wonderful guitar solos, such as those found in “Unite In Pain” and album highlight “My Torturer” and even the disturbing sample from a Ted Bundy interview that opens “Anne”. Psychopath Bundy’s words are followed by thick crunchy riffs, showing the awesome power the band is capable of. “Total Death Exhumed” has excellent slower sections and is interspersed with fantastic bursts of lead guitar.
A couple of tracks don’t quite live up to the high standard set elsewhere. “Church of Vastitas” uses eerie lead guitar to create a change in atmosphere, but it feels as if the track doesn’t go anywhere instead of developing into something. The title track shows the band’s slower side, before opening up into the fastest, hell-for-leather section on the album. This proves that they can blast with the best of them, but perhaps ironically, it’s the least impressive part of the whole album. Bloodbath are far more effective when crafting great songs that lodge themselves in your mind and get your head nodding. These two songs are far from poor, the slight dip in quality as much down to the high expectations the band sets elsewhere on the album. The only other possible gripe is that Grand Morbid Funeral doesn’t have an outright classic track like “Ways To The Grave” from the band’s 2002 debut album, Resurrection Through Carnage. However, many of the songs here come close and the quality of the songwriting across the whole album is higher than on that release.
There are many, many more positives than failings. “Famine of God’s Word” has a fantastic, memorable chorus and another one of those excellent solos. “His Infernal Necropsy” combines thundering rhythm work with melodic, haunting lead guitar. The list goes on.
2014 has been an incredible year for death metal, littered with really strong albums from both old bands and new. Among their number have been a handful of real gems; truly outstanding albums that would hold their own in any end of year list, right up there with the genre classics from back in the nineties. These have come from young pups Pyre and Bloodshot Dawn, along with old stagers Acheron. With Grand Morbid Funeral, Bloodbath have levelled the score at Pups 2 Vets 2.
There has been a lot of anticipation for Bloodbath’s fourth studio album. Happily, that nervousness can now give way to relief, pleasure and neckache as this is nothing but top notch death metal. Very highly recommended.
Some say that thrash is best consumed in small portions and often it’s hard to argue that point. The riffs. The energy. Sometimes all you need is four or five tracks to truly ‘mosh it out.’ Here is the top five thrash metal EPs of 2014 for you thrashers out there to hunt out. Some of these were random finds in my constant search for new thrash, so don’t be afraid to support your local bands…you never know when you will find the next big thing.
Is it common knowledge that Eluveitie have a huge following in London? Having seen Orphaned Land four days earlier, I expected a similar sized crowd for this gig. Surely folk/death metal is quite a niche genre? Clearly not, as the O2 Academy Islington was sold out and rammed for the visit of the Swiss band and their support.
While there’s nothing wrong with the Tufnell Park Dome as a venue per se, and the alcohol prices are very reasonable, it’s just a bit off the beaten track, especially for those of us who have to travel back through central London. That’s the only reason I can come up with for the poor Friday night turnout at this gig for the excellent Orphaned Land.
The gloves are off as Josh and Matt go head-to-head over Slipknot’s latest.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 19: FINAL SHOW
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18: MAIN SHOW
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17: MAIN SHOW
The second night of the Festival was deemed as the first “official” night for the fact that it was the first night of the “main” shows. My friend was coming along with me, and we were both pretty excited. The venue for the main shows this weekend was a venue called The Rialto Theatre, also in downtown Tucson about 45 seconds away from the District. The venue was chosen by the organizers due to being closer to hotels, food, and other accommodations than the prior venue (in 2012 and 2013) known as The Rock.
The Southwest Terror Fest in Tucson, Arizona just concluded this past Sunday (Oct. 19), and for the third year in a row, the organizers of the festival brought in various acts; in some cases, bands that had not played in Arizona, much less Tucson, for years, or if ever.
The festival’s first year was in 2012, and it wasn’t until the second fest when it finally came to my attention, due mainly to the band Subrosa being part of it. The lineup wasn’t too intriguing, but I love Subrosa, so I knew that I had to go. However, come October 2013, I was going through medical issues dealing with a herniated disc in my lower back. I wasn’t able to attend the festival that year (as well as missing out on the Alcest/Anathema show a few weeks prior), so I was restricted to waiting for this year’s lineup to be announced instead.
The wait was worth it. Acts like Goatsnake, Neurosis, and the mighty Sunn O))) were enough to make me buy tickets. The rest of the line up was icing on the cake. Suffice to say, I got to experience something new to me in more ways than one.