Larry breaks down each album by the German industrial goliaths to decide which one sits on top.
Some bands just have the “it” factor. Irish Primordial always have had “it”, even though throughout their career the definition of “it” has significantly shifted. Having started out as a black metal band, their demo Dark Romanticism… Sorrow’s Bitter Harvest… in 1993 had been some pretty gnarly black metal mixed with some doom influences, they moved through pagan influenced black metal on 1995’s debut Imrama into more progressive regions, slowly morphing into the doomy behemoth that their later albums would become, culminating in The Gathering Wilderness (“The Coffin Ships” anyone?) and their magnum opus To the Nameless Dead in 2007. 2018 sees the release of their ninth full-length album Exile Amongst the Ruins and they are getting close to recapturing the insane, intense magic of these two albums.
Some may claim that sticking to a recipe would constitute either the easy way out or creative standstill, but it would have been simple for the Irish to just trying to recreate To the Nameless Dead, yet neither Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand nor Where Greater Men Have Fallen did just try to emulate it, but continued to press forward, however subtly. So now Exile Amongst the Ruins is an almost seamless continuation of this progression, firmly building on the band’s more than just solid foundation and erecting another monolith for the ages. “Nail Their Tongues” may be the most unusual choice for an opener, setting out with a tolling bell and one of these slow build-ups Primordial have mastered so wonderfully throughout the years, but despite the grand, epic chorus is definitely one of the bulkier tracks in their recent history, making it a little more difficult to get into originally. That being said, it is still 100% Primordial in its essence.
“To Hell or the Hangman”, though, brings the past and present together almost better than any other track here, with an almost hypnotic, repetitive and straight start that reminds a bit of 80s Killing Joke, retaining this relatively simple and repetitive nature throughout the whole duration, but at the same displaying a very nice sense of urgency through it. One of the Irish’s biggest strength, though, lies in their majestic doom-laden hymns and Exile Amongst the Ruins has a whole bunch of them, with “Where Lie the Gods”, “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed” (some of the most intense doom the decade has to offer, just to bring in some amazing dynamics at the end with a well-timed acceleration and fierce growls) and “Stolen Years”, which once more shows why Primordial are masters of build-up, channeling almost pure atmosphere for the first three minutes before breaking out into a full elegiac doom dirge that grabs you like an oncoming flood.
Before this cohesion could be misconstrued in the album sounding samey, it is not, because the quintet manages to shift and move just enough to create wonderful dynamics and passionate atmospheres without neglecting heaviness and surprising outbreaks. The only part of the album that does not quite fit into the cohesive whole is the somewhat chaotic ending of “Last Call” that brings Exile Amongst the Ruins to a somewhat anticlimactic end.
Either way, Primordial continue to forge their very own path through the metal kingdoms, weaving in and out of some of them, yet refusing to swearing allegiance to either. Exile Amongst the Ruins is another worthy addition to the band’s already outstanding back catalogue and is a hot contender for album of the year lists worldwide!
Does this mean I’m not being hanged?
You hear an eerie melody from outside the door of the tomb. You must know what lies behind the door, so you lightly push it open. As you do, a muffled pummeling begins, and you can see a dim light shining under the door at the bottom of the stairs. As you descend the stairs, your fear rises, but your curiosity is overpowering. When you reach the bottom of the stairs, you are about to push the door open. As you reach your hand out, the stone door blasts from its place, crushing you beneath its weight, mangling you in the process. And you love it. This is what it is like entering the world of Noose Rot on their debut EP, The Creeping Unknown. The opening track begins with that eerie, faraway recording style that sounds muffled in an ancient crypt. An eerie melody kicks it off—unusual for this generally amelodic album—that gives way to a grinding riff that explodes at the command of a devastating drum fill, opening up a spectacular death/doom riff-fest.
Noose Rot plays a filthy style of death/doom that strikes a beautiful balance between the two styles. This is not a death/doom album where the doom gets the better of the two—make no mistake: this beast is firmly rooted in death metal. Most of the riffs are slow, grinding, and tremolo picked. Those that aren’t tend to be supremely heavy and palm-muted or have a nice sense of groove a la Bolt Thrower. The best example of the Bolt thrower-esque groove is likely on the title track, where the main riff carried throughout the song would almost get you dancing if it weren’t so busy clutching your throat. Noose Rot has a knack for producing terror-inducing music. The riffs and vocals are unsettling. They choose their notes carefully to be as creepy as possible while never sacrificing pure, barbaric force. The closing track, “Bound in a Dark House” may demonstrate this best. The intro riff is a slow, twisting mass of death metal mastery, but once the chorus arrives, plodding chords come in while Adam Clemans shreds his vocal chords puking out the lyrics. This song also has some of that melody that I mentioned earlier that comes in so rarely. When it does on this song, it works very well. While the guitars slither around each other playing a twin lead, the bass dances around them to create some beautiful instrumental interplay. Throughout the rest of the album, the bass tone is disgusting—it’s one of those tones that almost doesn’t even sound like a bass anymore, but some sort of gurgling monstrosity. And it is an absolutely essential piece of the filthy sound presented here. The vocals are not out in front of the mix, keeping with the sepulchral atmosphere. Vocals are low and venomous. They’re often double tracked to create an otherworldly sound, or one of the vocal tracks trails on a little longer than the other. These facets, combined with the heavy dose of reverb, create a horrifying and compelling vocal experience. Overall, the production is stellar; every instrument is very audible, but the sound is still raw and huge.
I really can’t say a bad word about this EP except that it is too short. Every time I listen to it, it goes by in a flash and I have to start again. Obviously this criticism turns out to be a complement for the band, since it means that I am enthralled by their sound and want more of it. Noose Rot have produced a very exciting first entry in their discography, and it has left me drooling like a zombie for more, while I nurse the wounds the music has inflicted on me.
A great night for a fire.
Despite being around for the better part of seven years, it took me until 2016 to discover Harakiri For The Sky. That album, their third, took me by some major surprise, and the mix of aggression and the more melodic tones were gripping, while the technical guitar work was memorable and jaw dropping time and again. Two years later, the band released their fourth record, Arson, via Art Of Propaganda. Much of the signature Harakiri sound is still well in place, and while the band improves on their overall approach, much of this new album rings similar to the last. However, that is in no way a negative, as this album has quickly become a repeated listen for me.
From the opening tremolo picked intro, you can tell that the band is employing much of the same tactics they used before. After all, why change what has worked well for them before? Once the rest of the band kicks into gear, the album never really lets up. The underlying lead guitar work that runs through this album is wonderful. Melodic but also memorable, the leads on Arson provide a great bit of groove and just allow the songs to expand further than a lot of their contemporaries in the genre. It is impressive how constant and technical the lead work is, but that should not take away from the rhythm section by any means either.
The actual riffs at play throughout these 70+ minutes are equally memorable and full of headbanging glory. Each track does a great job if setting itself apart from the last, while still maintaining the sound and overall tone the band is going for. Considering the length of these songs, it is important to not fall into the realm of repetition, and the band knows exactly when to change the riffs, or just let the songs breath a bit more with piano or what have you. The other instruments work wonderfully along side the guitars too of course, with the drumming being generally the glue holding everything together, and being able to change pace at a moment’s notice, while still being incredibly tight and adding in a ton of fills to up the ante a bit. The bass work is, as with a lot of metal, maybe not a focal point of the music, but there is a perfectly nuanced performance that really brings everything else home. The album would truly be missing a major component if not for that deep end giving the listener the perfect rumble in their ears.
While there is some variation in the vocal department, the vocals do tend to be much the same throughout. The barks being employed by J.J fit the album very well, but feel a little more buried in the mix compared to the last effort. This is not a bad thing however, as they add a nice layer to the music, and having them mixed lower adds to the overall sound. Nothing feels as if it is competing with any other element of the music, and when we do get a more clean vocal or a different tone or pitch of scream, it feels fresh and keeps the tracks moving along very nicely.
While the songs on the album have a very post rock vibe to them, being a bit more melodic and expansive than an outright assault of black metal, each tracks seems to combine the two genres very well. There are of course the more intense moments on the record, but the slower sections, or longer instrumental areas of the release allow each song to breath slightly and helps each progression of the track feel natural. Luckily, even with the length of the album, it feels like it rushed by in no time given the overall song writing and structure. There is a tightness to the playing and writing that really pushes Arson to the next level. Even the bonus track, “Manifesto”, brings in some different elements (such as clean female vocals and more straightforward structure) and makes for a wonderful way to end the album. The deluxe edition is certainly worth seeking out for this bonus, and even though it may only be a cover, it fits the overall album and showcases another side of Harakiri For The Sky.
Arson came in February of 2018, but in my mind will have no issue still being in heavy rotation come the year’s end. While not drastically different than the prior work the band may have done, everything just feels more seasoned and tied together. The technicality has not waned, and the songwriting feels tighter and more thought out. While the vocals offer the least in the way of intrigue, the performance is still incredibly strong, and worth coming back for. Perhaps it’s the influx of hardcore in my rotation lately, but this album felt fresh and the longer songs can come across to some as daunting or just unneeded, but Harakiri For The Sky make each minute count, and provide a memorable and impressive listen. 2018 has started out pretty strong and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon, but thus far, Arson is near the top of the list for albums that have grabbed me this year.
Interview with Mikko Aspa of Clandestine Blaze
Conducted by Colonel Para Bellum of Blackdeath.
Larry rounds up all the decent (and some not-so-decent) thrash releases for the headbang-happy year of 2017.
This was a banner year for death metal by any measure.
Here are some of our favorite death metal releases from 2017.
The diverse spectrum that encompasses metal music’s many sub-genres could be likened to various mythical races united under two opposing banners, staring each other down as they make ready to charge and turn the field red with the other’s blood. From one year to the next, the advantage may tip from one side to the other, but in the grand scheme of their eternal conflict, the forces of light and darkness have tended to be equally matched. 2017 saw the forces of melody and order take the advantage in the eyes of the reclusive bard that tells this end of the year tale, though naturally his is not the final word on such things, and other codices in the grand archives of metallic exploits deserve your consideration. Still, these are the 50 acts of heroism that defined the year, because too much has occurred to settle for a mere 30.
2017 has proven to offer up the tightest race we have seen in a long time in the quest for the gold! So without any further ado, here is the creme de la creme of the year!
December’s still a month, right?
Larry zealously and over-enthusiastically ranks the British power metallers’ discography.