Larry zealously and over-enthusiastically ranks the British power metallers’ discography.
Death Comes in Perennial Waves
When I heard their debut EP, Thelésis Ignis, back in 2014, I thought the Danish band Tongues was a band to keep an eye on. Now they’re back with their first full-length, entitled Hreilia, and I can pleasantly say I was right. Hreilia is an incredible album, out just in time for end of the year lists.
At its heart, Hreilia has a lot in common with abstract black metal bands like Deathspell Omega. However, it’s also so much more than that. Sure, there’s some of the clang and clatter of that French act present on Hreilia, but it’s a much more tightly focused, coherently structured album than many of the bands with that sound. Much of this is the result of some fantastic bass work. The bass is loud and rumbling and gives the songs a thick frame to work with. The album’s mix of aggression, refined chaos, and nightmarish, delirious atmosphere is almost perfectly executed.
There’s also much more to Hreilia than black metal; there’s a fair bit of doom and death in there as well, and it’s just as deranged as the more blackened aspects. It’s all excellently blended into an organic sounding album that never feels weird just for the sake of being weird (although again, it’s pretty off-the-rails), which goes back to the band’s balance between aggression and melody. It’s certainly quite dissonant and abrasive at times, but these aspects are always in service to the songs.
The songs themselves are excellent and the album has plenty of highlights. “Perennial Waves” is all about dynamics, building from an ambient opening to blackened fury. “Theophagous Wounds of Earth” is one of the album’s strongest cuts, with a killer stop/start blast and an ungodly solo towards the end. “Grove of Mithridate” is my personal favorite, with a recurring melody that is sure to be memorable; it’s odd to talk about bands this caustic being catchy, but Tongues manages to be so on this track, with plenty of atmosphere to boot.
A lot of bands claim to be music of the void, but very few can back it up like Tongues does on Hreilia. This is a dark, evocative album that nails the psychedelic, meditative tone while still packing great riffs and songs. Albums like it are incredibly rare and it has cemented my opinion of I, Voidhanger as being one of the finest labels around and the leader when it comes to off-kilter black metal.
Breathtaking Doom/Death brilliance!
It’s starting to feel like almost everyone in Finland must be in a band. The number of great rock and metal bands from a country with a population of only 5.5 million is astonishing. In 2012 Kaunis Kuolematon were added to the list, playing upbeat Doom/Death in the vein of Insomnium (Finnish) Swallow The Sun (Finnish) and October Tide (OK, not Finnish). Second album Vapaus was released earlier in 2017 and was somehow missed by us at The Metal Observer, but no one’s infallible, right? Well, except Kaunis Kuolematon perhaps, if Vapaus is anything to go by.
All of the requisite elements of the genre are here: deep, powerful growls, melodic clean vocals, crushing riffs, infectious lead guitars, atmospheric sections … everything you’d expect from a band working at the faster end of the Doom/Death range. However, the ingenuity of Kaunis Kuolematon is how they weave all of those elements together to produce something so, so much greater than the sum of its parts.
Of course we have an obligatory intro track, but even this is more interesting than might be expected, with gentle acoustic guitars joined by a spoken passage from the work of pioneering Finnish poet Eino Leino, which the band have kindly informed me is about the circle of life, where everything is connected to everything. This leads into the first song “Eloton”, which starts with a guitar riff that is soon joined by a might roar from Olli Saakeli Suvanto. High-pitched female vocals to calm things down a bit, but another enormous roar brings back the heaviness and some catchy lead guitar is added to the mix. It’s not case of throwing the genre ingredients together to see what comes out, it is all done so masterfully that it flows and produces a sensational piece of music. Doom/Death bliss.
That’s pretty much the story of the album. Kaunis Kuolematon don’t put a foot wrong, producing masterpiece after masterpiece. To name highlights would just be reciting the track list, but just to demonstrate the craftsmanship on display here in bringing the various elements together, there’s huge, rousing lead guitar and wonderfully creepy Spanish-sounding guitar in “Hurskas”, stunning acoustic guitar in “Yksin” and wonderful interplay between clean and harsh vocals in “Arvet”. But while those individual moments are all fantastic, so is the rest of the album.
“Tuhottu Elämä”, however, is top of the class. The song has a ridiculously catchy rhythm section, powerful growls and then a soaring clean vocal that is utterly moving and uplifting. Like all of the lyrics here, I don’t understand a single word, but it doesn’t matter, the power of the delivery is such that it’s impossible not to be affected. The song has a quiet section in the middle, which allows you to catch your breath, waiting for what must surely be coming – a return to the crushing brilliance of earlier in the track. But the band keeps us waiting with calmer vocals, before the soaring clean vocals come back in and the song plays out with an extended lead guitar section. It’s remarkable, a thing of sheer beauty and for this reviewer likely to be the song of the year on the album of the year at the final reckoning in little over a month’s time.
“Sanat Jotka Jäivät Sanomatta” is probably the least heavy track here and ends the album on a more mellow note. It’s not the end though, because the natural reaction is simply to go back to the start and play the whole thing again and again and again.
The songwriting on Vapaus is extraordinary and any of these songs would stand out in most Doom/Death albums. A perfect score for an album is very unusual – personally I’ve only ever given one once before – but albums this special come along very rarely. Kaunis Kuolematon combine beautiful melody and thunderous heaviness flawlessly; this is not only the best Doom/Death album in 2017, but one of the best Doom/Death albums. Period.
(un)Holy Fucking Shit
Midnight has really taken off, especially for a band that was started to just release random EPs and splits. Athenar, the band’s founder, instrumentalist (minus drums), and vocalist, has established Midnight as one of the most vicious and memorable bands among the recent explosion of first wave worshiping black/speed metal bands. Though every release from Midnight has been solid Venom meets Bathory worship, 2014’s No Mercy for Mayhem saw the project reach a wider audience. Three years later, Midnight returns with their ambitious third full length, Sweet Death and Ecstasy, released through Hells Headbangers Records (who Midnight have, not surprisingly, become one of the label’s flagship acts).
To the uninitiated, Midnight plays filthy, sleazy, evil heavy metal. Blackened speed metal has become all the rage over the few years or so, but, with Sweet Death and Ecstasy, Midnight shows why they’ve remained the true front runners of the scene. Interestingly, album number three features a mere eight tracks, but two of those songs are double the length of your average Midnight track (pushing nearly six and a half minutes each), so the album still manages to clock in at thirty-two minutes. While longer tracks might seem to indicate a shift in songwriting, the majority of the album sees the same fire and intensity; rollicking rhythms and rocking solos and Athenar’s trademarked snarl fill the album with shout-along choruses and headbanging heavy metal. While, the riffing is as solid as ever, with tracks like “Rabid!” and “Penetratal Ecstasy” offering plenty of razor sharp riffs and swaggering attitude, it’s songs like “Poison Trash” with it’s blasphemously fun NWOBH-inspired main riff that really show the band’s progression.
For the most part, Sweet Death and Ecstasy shows Midnight doing what we’ve come to except, which certainly is not a bad thing at all. Blackened, rocking speed metal is the order of the day, which makes the closing track, “Before My Time in Hell”, so surprising. Clearly early Bathory has been a huge influence on Athenar over the years, so it’s a bit of a shock to hear a song that sounds like it could have come straight off of Blood Fire Death on a Midnight album. To be honest, it sounds more like what I imagine early Venom playing “A Fine Day to Die” would sound like, so it still fits the Midnight modus operandi, it just sounds so much more epic and grandiose than what they usually put to tape; full of thundering palm muting and mid paced riffing that doesn’t let up.
Sweet Death and Ecstasy manages to show Midnight stepping up their game once again, nimbly leaving everyone else in the dust. This album brings all of the sleazy, blackened, rocking speed metal we’ve come to expect and ramped up the energy and catchiness to eleven. The album’s occasional nod towards mid-paced glory shows Midnight is not slowing down anytime soon. Grab a beer, throw this on, and rock the hell out.
The last of three articles on the awesome Mammothfest in Brighton – Day One and Two reviews already published on 21 October.
Josh cuts to the quick of Sweden’s masters of melodic death.
The second of three articles on the awesome Mammothfest in Brighton – Day One review published on 21 October and an interview with festival founder Steve Dickson still to come.
The first of three articles on the awesome Mammothfest in Brighton – keep a look out over the next few days for a review of Day Two and an interview with festival founder Steve Dickson.
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