dimanche 11 juin 2017

Bask - Ramble Beyond
Heavy Psych

Review Summary: Ramble beyond your mind, into soothing territories.

When it comes to stoner rock or even heavy psych, it’s really hard for a band to stand out with it’s own sound. In the sea of many newcomers to the scene, it’s usually a sound or a feature that will make a band stand out enough for you to give you attention. Finding such band is not easy as they are not usually on the mainstream. Enter Bask, a four piece heavy psych band from Asheville, NC. Having released already an LP (American Hollow), Ramble Beyond is their second offering. Ending their description with the saying “Esse Quam Videri” has a huge responsibility as Bask now as to prove that they don’t just pretend to play the music, but that they are their music. And that is exactly what they end up doing on this record.

Asleep In The Orchard offers a perfect introduction to this album, with a soothing acoustic sound over a buzzing effect. Rest assured, this record riffs hard, and the next part of the song proves it! What’s even more impressive is their ability to go from headbanging riffs to clean, soothing guitar and actually make all of this fit in the songwriting perfectly. Where some bands usually adopt a style and stick to it, Bask explores the genre’s limits and include it on their album. While Asleep In The Orchard featured headbanging riffs, Mush! Carry Me Home has a softer yet more melodic side. This allows you to completely drift away and experience the music as a travel through different landscapes. One of the song where the band goes deeper into experimentation is A Graceless Shuffle that sees the band use a bluesy guitar riff and play with different rhythms, entering the realm of progressive music. This definitely a high point of this album, and if not, at least a very interesting song to listen to.

Although there are no bad apples on this record (get it? Orchard? Ok…), the stand out song here is definitely In The Black Fir. It contains everything heavy psych is made of. Incredible clean melodies and heavy riffs, all of this pieced together with rather clean and rocking vocals and great solos from electric guitar and drums. Lasting for more than seven minutes, this song never becomes too repetitive and even ends on somewhat epic feel. While no other song reach this high moment, this record is filled with great musical moments. Wether it’s a particular riff, or a general atmosphere, this album never stops to deliver.

There is no way to understand why such bands are not more recognized on the scene as many variables come to play. One thing is for sure, if you enjoy heavy psych, do not miss this release. It is a strong contender to the heavy psych release of 2017, even if we’re only halfway through this year. Bask proved that they feel what they play, and love what they do, much like that ending solo on the last song that makes us feel like they wanted this to go forever.

vendredi 26 mai 2017

Emyn Muil - Elenion Ancalima
Tolkien Black Metal

Review Summary: A homage to Tolkien black metal.

Emyn Muil is a one man project that started in 2012. Created by Saverio Gioves “Nartum”, the band was part of a bigger project called “Nartum Art – Music Projects”, whose aim was for Nartum to express his sensibility to black metal and all of its subgenres. Emyn Muil is therefore a very personal project and a way for Nartum to express his love for Tolkien’s World. The first record, Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glaurunga, was released in 2013 and already showed a lot of potential in the epic black metal scene. In fact, Emyn Muil is often cited as a reference in the genre, alongside Summoning (credited as the creators of the genre) and Caladan Brood. 

The subgenre being quite small, it is hard to stand out with your own unique sound. Most of the time, bands sound either too much like Summoning or fall under another genre. Elenion Ancalima starts off on a very atmospheric introduction before heading towards an epic fourteen minute (The Lay Of Númenorë) track that features every aspect of Tolkien Black Metal : atmospheric guitars, black metal screams, some female vocals, folkloric melodies and of course, lyrics of epic sections of Tolkien’s World. While The Lay Of Númenorë stayed quite calm, Ar-Pharazôn brings changes of pace during the entire song that enables the listener to feel the energy of the heavier section and the emotions of the epic-atmospheric parts. The most epic moment of the album is reached at the end of Far Umbar when Nartum screams in a way that makes you picture a leader pumping a crowd before a fight. In fact, you hear the crowd screaming back which helps you picture that scene even better. The album ends on another atmospheric outro which soothes the atmosphere before the end. 

Although the intro and outro both fit the idea of an atmospheric album, if you take them off, you only have around thirty minutes of epic black metal which falls a little short. In the end, this leaves you a little wanting for more, especially after the epic ending of Far Umbar. The fact that this is Nartum’s way of expressing his love for epic black metal makes it obvious that his influences will be very present throughout the record. In fact, this album sounds a lot like Summoning and doesn’t bring anything fresh to the genre. While this is not necessarily a problem, new and unique sounds are what makes you want to listen to a record over and over. This is saved by the quality of the epic parts of the album that really help you picture scenes while listening to the record.

This is definitely another step forward for Emyn Muil. Once again, Nartum has proved he can craft quality Tolkien black metal. One can only hope that his next release will feature unique sounds and even more new addition. The female vocals can definitely be improved and used a bit more to create a mystic atmosphere for example. All in all this a great effort and definitely a great homage to Tolkien.

ENISUM - Seasons Of Desolation
Post-Black Metal

Review Summary: "Oh I feel nothing, I am nothing in this life, like a Dead Star in the sky tonight"

Enisum came out from the depth of the Italian Alps with their previous record Arpitanian Lands which was mastered by Deafheaven Jack Shirley. Mixing some folk elements into their post-black metal sound, they have created a unique sound that was perfectly used to describe the beautiful scenery in which Lys grew up through their music. Enisum started out as a one man project but recently became a band with the addition of the Dead Soul to the drums, Leynir at the bass and Ephelyn for the female vocals. Seasons Of Desolation came out in April 2017 through Avantgarde Music, a label that already has some of the best new bands of post-black metal (Downfall of Nur, Selvans…). While Lys proved to be a very good songwriter, the addition of more ideas from other members were something to be looking for. Seasons Of Desolation didn’t disappoint.

Something that struck me at first listen was that Enisum’s guitar sounds didn’t change on this record. Slow, clean arpeggios to introduce a song that moves into an explosion of drums, bass and guitar. In fact, the sounds of the opening track Autumn of Melancholy were so similar that it reminded me of their single from Arpitanian Lands “Desperate Souls”. This was both reassuring to know that they’re still the same but also gave me a few doubts as to whether there was any progression in this record. So what changed on this record? Well for starters, the drums. While Arpitanian Lands had some awesome blast beats, Seasons Of Desolation brings cool fills and more originality to the formula. Another notable mention goes to the two separate songs Seasons… and …Of Desolation. The first song basically introduces the second with clean guitars and the beautiful, mystic female vocals from Ephelyn that were present on Arpitanian Lands, and the second song is the explosion of black metal where Lys uses both the high pitched screams and deeper growls. This combination of atmosphere is what made Enisum’s sound so unique and powerful. 

The main problem of this record is the repetition of the formula. If you’re a fan of this kind of music, you won’t get bored but if you’re just checking them out, you might find them a bit repetitive at first. After a few listen, you can find many details that enhances the experience such as the high pitched scream at the beginning of Autumn of Melancholy and the atmospheric ending of Dead Star. Although Enisum mainly played it safe here, there is one song that stands out from this: Obscure Depths. Just like its title, the song is very dark and brings an uneasy atmosphere where Enisum display their most aggressive riffs and vocals to date. Highlights on this record are mostly the songs with Ephelyn such as Seasons Of Desolation, Nameless Sadness and Dead Star. 

While Seasons Of Desolation didn’t feel like a new sound from Enisum, the band managed to perfect their composition and take a few steps forwards into the light. Nevertheless, they managed to craft a record full of emotions and atmospheres that only them know how to make. By joining the Avantgarde Music team they are building a bigger fanbase and the upcoming tour will help them to get known to the public. After this safe step forward, we can hope for a record that will bring lots of new sounds and composition. Even so, this is a record that all fans of atmospheric black metal fans should check out.


lundi 6 février 2017

Opprobre - Le Naufrage
Post-Black Metal

Review Summary: A perfect start for this new post-black metal band.

Opprobre is a new band hailing from France (Paris and Montpellier). Formed in 2013, the band was originally a side project of Olivier and Vincent from the French Black Metal band Mysticisme. The main goal was to create a new post-black metal band with both of their respective musical influences. While Olivier and Vincent shared the composition in the beginning, the band added Clément (from the French Brutal Death Metal Antropofago and Devolution) at the drums and Cyril (solo French Black Metal project Sunnudagr) at the bass guitar. With this new lineup, the band saw new inspirations and while Olivier was the main songwriter, the entire band contributed to the album. Le Naufrage was written and recorded between July and December 2015 and was released on February the fourth of 2017.

Opprobre managed to create a very deep atmosphere of emotions with the alternation of raw and melodic black metal. The production, executed by Clément allows each instrument to bring its entire potential and to create a great dynamic between melodic and aggressive parts. Starting with the sound of natural elements such as wind and waves (probably during a storm), the listener drifts away in a collapsing world (le Naufrage meaning the Collapse, the sinking of a ship). The clean vocals reminds us of Alcest’s use of melodic vocals and achieve the same purpose perfectly: transcend emotions. While there are no guitar solos, the album is filled with arpeggios, piano and keyboard sounds that makes for a great melody. One notable mention is the heavy presence of the bass guitar, which isn’t the case most of the time in that genre. 

Although the entire album is filled with songs that have flaws and qualities, the big standout is the closing track "Danse Catatonique" (I don’t think you need a translation for that) that lasts for ten minutes. During its entire length, the song is filled with the best moments of the album, the piano parts, the raging raw and yet full of emotions vocals, the clean vocals (and even whispers), the arpeggios and the heavy black metal riffing. Another standout would be "Abysses", where the production enhances the heavy atmosphere before abruptly stopping to a calmer style and then going back to the heavy black metal vocals. Although the songwriting is a bit repetitive, the main reason why this experience doesn’t become boring is the small and subtle changes there are in each songs.

Opprobre is a brand new band and its first record is already an incredible listen. We could only hope for them to improve even more their songwriting which would end up being near perfect. Fans of post-black metal should definitely check this out. In the end, this entire experience takes you away into another world inspired by the atmosphere of the record which is one this genre’s main goals. These guys just made a perfect entrance in the post-black metal spectrum.

mardi 1 novembre 2016

Selvans / Downfall of Nur - Self Titled
Symphonic Black Metal / Atmospheric Black Metal

Review Summary: The Sun and the Moon working together on this majestic collaboration

Downfall Of Nur and Selvans are two acts of Avangarde Records that have managed to build a good fanbase with both their first album respectively Umbras de Barbagia and Lupercalia. Downfall of Nur hailing from Argentina and Selvans from Italy, both these bands aim toward promoting their origins and culture through their instruments and lyrics. The two being one of the most known bands under this label, having a split record was a pleasant surprise, yet predictable. 

The two bands having very distinct sounds, one could believe that we would get a record divided into two distinct styles, yet the album flows perfectly. Consisting of an instrumental intro, outro and two songs, yet lasting for about 40 minutes, this leaves plenty of time for long song structures and diversity. Created to represent the dichotomy of the Sun and Moon, the tow different styles not only allows the record to have a diversity but also represent perfectly the Sun and Moon separately. Selvans crafted a thirteen minutes piece consisting of an alternation of chaotic, mesmerizing symphonic black metal and softer, folk sections with clean vocals that could easily represent the Sun’s ever changing and exploding surface, while Downfall Of Nur’s eighteen minutes piece is more structured and colder like the Moon’s dead surface and core.

Although using two different styles of Black Metal, the two bands supplement each other rather than opposes themselves. Selvans’s ending of Pater Surgens will remind you of Downfall Of Nur’s use of flutes while Downfall Of Nur included some flutes that will remind you of Selvans’s Lupercalia. Each band inspiring each other and moving toward a similar goal, this album feels more of a collaborative album rather than a split record where each bands would play their part separately and differently. The only flaw that could be worked on here would be the intro and outro that, although not breaking the flow of the record, don’t bring anything to the soundscape either. Dany Tee’s vocals on Mater Universi are a little more scorched and less wind-like as it was on Umbras de Babargia which allows him to use a wider range, and therefore express even more emotions. 

As a first collaboration between Selvans and Downfall Of Nur, this feels like the two had known each other forever, and that’s what makes this record a great piece of music. Using each band’s qualities, both have erased their respective flaws that you could found on their respective releases, and that makes for an awesome collaboration. Looking forward to see what the future for these two bands hold, either continuing their path separately or continuing their collaboration is promising a good future.

mardi 18 octobre 2016

Belenos - Kornog
Pagan Metal / Black Metal / Atmospheric Black Metal

Review Summary: A heavy Celtic trip to Brittany.

Hailing from Brittany (West of France) Belenos was created as a one-man-project by Loic Cellier in 1995. Behind this project was a will to sing about Brittany’s culture (Belenos being the Celtic god of the Sun) and this has been taken further since the lyrics have been sung in Breton since 2010’s Yen Sonn Gardis, the old Celtic language of Brittany. Influenced by Norway’s early Black Metal scene (Enslaved, Burzum, Emperor) in terms of technicality, Belenos uses the dark and slow parts of Pagan Metal to allow the listener to visualize a travel to the wild, dark moors and traditions of the Celtic Lands.

The mix of Black Metal and Pagan Metal allows Loic to build a thick wall of guitar and drums and add melodies through the choir and lead guitar. This record is a constant mix of fast paced aggressive Black Metal and slower melodic parts with clean singing usually in a choir style. Loic plays all instruments in studio and recruited live players for shows, yet none of the instruments feel simply played, whether on blast beats, lead guitars, the awesome and dynamic vocals or the few bass lines that helps craft the different section of songs together. Some of the best example of this are on the first two songs, with the opener Kornog and its follower Sklosenn Ur Vag. A nice addition to the traditional guitar, bass and drums are the use of traditional instruments to introduce most of the songs or are used to bring melodies and change the pace of the songs. Sometimes using Nature’s sounds like the waves of the first songs, it gives this album an atmosphere that is proper to Brittany’s culture of Sea life. 

Although that mix of influence makes for a very pleasant experience, the album doesn’t bring anything else to the table, and with songs lasting for no less than six minute (apart from the interlude Treizhadenn-noz and the closer Lusenn An Ankou) the lack of differences between the songs can create a sense of déjà vu after a few listens. What saves this record from a repetition of the same formula and thus being boring is the diversity of sounds used during the slower parts. Another high point of this record is the quality of the production. Clean yet keeping the dark and raw atmosphere of Black Metal. The addition of female vocals of Armorika creates a surreal and beautiful atmosphere before heading to a mesmerizing black metal verse that later changes into a slower paced choir lead atmosphere.

Choosing a highlight on this record is quite difficult as most of the songs resemble each other, but Armorika, the opener Kornog and the twelve minute epic D’an Usved are some of the best songs in this record. Having visited Brittany a few times, I can confirm that this album transcends the atmosphere of this region of France quite well. The fast paced guitars and drums act like the storm-like winds and heavy rains that this region is known for yet the beautiful choirs and melodies are similar to the beautiful and mystic Celtic culture and way of life.

lundi 19 septembre 2016

Saor - Guardians
Pagan Metal / Black Metal / Atmospheric Black Metal

Review Summary: Take a trip to the Highlands, Saor will be your guide.

Saor appeared on my music radar two years ago with the release of his second album Aura. Blending Celtic folk music and Black Metal, Andy Marshall created a unique and recognizable sound in the Metal spectrum. This one man project has always echoed the beautiful soundscapes of Scotland and its culture in his music, through its atmospheric melodies. In that particular goal, Guardians does a perfect job.

Oh, never to perish, their names let us cherish, / The martyrs of Scotland that now are away.”

The record is divided into five songs all lasting ten to eleven minutes. In comparison to his previous releases, this album is less aggressive and more melodic. The length of the songs allows Andy to change the pace of the songs in order to build an atmosphere of strong folkloric melodies and saturated guitars. Much like Aura, Andy composed all of the songs and used session musicians to record his songs. Using strings, Fiddle, Bodhran, drums and Highland bagpipes to build his melodies, Andrew almost takes you on a journey to the Highlands with his evocative music, and connects with the listener through his emotional lyrics.

“Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn / Thy banish'd peace, thy laurels torn! “

While none of the songs are fillers, there are a few that stand out from this fifty minute experience. The opener Guardians, with its acoustic guitar introduction that leads to Bagpipes and then towards the saturated riffage of Folkloric Black Metal, is one of the finest moment of this record. Another song that stands out is Hearth, with amazing melodies and the use of clean vocals to sing one of the best verse on this record, a verse that easily describes the goal of this record: “This is my home / My heart / My soul / My hearth”. The choice of lyrics from his favorite poems about Scotland brings another dimension to his work, making it more than just a musical experience but a cultural one too. The strings are beautifully played here and firmly stand out as one of the best traits about the album.

“Noble dead that sleep below, / We your valour ne'er forget; / Soft the heroes' rest who know / Hearts like theirs are beating yet.”

In a way, this album almost feels like climbing a mountain. The momentum slowly builds with each passing song, finally reaching its peak with the intense climax of Hearth. This song creates the heaviest and most cathartic atmosphere of the record, which then gradually descends back into where the journey began. Andrew crafted once again a masterpiece of Scottish Folkloric Black Metal that ends the same way it started, with bagpipes and guitar. While fans of his more aggressive previous releases might find it a little soft, this record demonstrates that Andrew can still change the formula and stay relevant to the genre. The folkloric instruments bring a whole new depth to his soundscape that wasn’t as important as on this record and this is emphasized by the great composition of the songs.

Sad shall it be, though sun be shed / Golden bright on field and flood; / E'en the heather's crimson red / Holds the memory of blood.”

Needless to say, Andy is a busy artist. After two Saor albums, he created a 90’s Black Metal tribute side project (Fuath) and released an album in early 2016, I. He toured with Saor for two years but recently announced his last show and that the band will continue as a studio project only. Guardians will be released on the 11th of November under Northern Silence.