Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stormtrooper - "Armies of the Night" [1985]

Artist: Stormtrooper
Title: Armies of the Night
Genre: Heavy/Thrash Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1985

Track List:
  1. The Reaper (intro)
  2. Armies of the Night
  3. Steamroller
  4. Search and Destroy
  5. The Beast Within
Again, a very obscure band that I discovered thanks to Vibrations of Doom, which released only one short EP more than 30 years ago and then disappeared. The only info I could find about them is that their vocalist was the narrator for the shockumentary series "Traces of Death" for volumes I and II. Their one and only EP, however, is a killer release that certainly shouldn't be missed. The title track in particular is one of the catchiest songs I've heard in 80's metal (and it strongly reminds me of the track "Tyrant's Reign" by the eponymous band, which is also one of my biggest favourites).

Coven 13 - "Worship New Gods" [1987]

Artist: Coven (13)
Title: Worship New Gods
Genre: Heavy Metal (with Doom & Gothic overtones)
Country: USA
Release date: 1987

Track List:
  1. Riddle of Steel
  2. Wicked Day
  3. Ruler
  4. Kiss Me with Blood
  5. Burial Ground
  6. General's Eye
  7. Jail House
  8. Threshold of the New
  9. Loki
Another obscure yet great classic metal album which I discovered via Vibrations of Doom. It was highly recommended by the editor of VoD, but he wasn't sure about the year it came out. Well, turns out it was released in 1987 when the band was known simply as Coven (later they changed it to Coven 13 to avoid confusion with a couple of other bands under the same name). While the band (which has reformed in 2011 after 20 years of inactivity) has never received much publicity, their debut release "Worship New Gods", with a concept largely inspired by Nordic mythology, is indeed awesome. I especially liked the apparent doom metal influence that can be heard on tracks like "Wicked Day".

Fifth Angel - "Time Will Tell" [1989]

Artist: Fifth Angel
Title: Time Will Tell
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1989

Track List:
  1. Cathedral
  2. Midnight Love
  3. Seven Hours
  4. Broken Dreams
  5. Time Will Tell
  6. Lights Out (UFO cover)
  7. Wait for Me
  8. Angel of Mercy
  9. We Rule
  10. So Long
  11. Feel the Heat
This band was already mentioned on here a couple of times when the topic of the 1980's US melodic metal scene was brought up, but I haven't posted any of their two albums yet. "Time Will Tell" is their second album, released in 1989 shortly before many 80s metal bands (including Fifth Angel) have split up and faded into obscurity. While it's more on the "pop" side of things than their debut self-titled album, I'd still definitely recommend it to the fans of other bands of this kind (i.e. early Queensryche, Hittman, Shok Paris). Like in case with "Steel & Starlight" by Shok Paris, some people might find the second half of this album boring, but the two opening tracks are undoubtedly awesome.

Shok Paris - "Steel & Starlight" [1987]

Artist: Shok Paris
Title: Steel & Starlight
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1987

Track List:
  1. Go Down Fighting
  2. Steel and Starlight
  3. Tokyo Rose
  4. Rocked Outta Love
  5. Castle Walls
  6. On Your Feet
  7. Fallin' for You
  8. Exhibit A
  9. Lost Queen
  10. Hot on Your Heels
Regardless of what you might have thought after looking at the cover art and the track list, this is not glam/hair metal, but a very good example of American melodic heavy/power metal from the 1980's. Shok Paris, formed in Cleveland in 1982, have released three full-length albums over that period. "Steel & Starlight" is their sophomore LP which is widely considered to be their best. While the second half of this album may seem to be a bit boring, at least the first three tracks are great:

Queensrÿche - s/t EP [1983]

Artist: Queensrÿche
Title: Queensrÿche EP
Genre: Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1983

Track List:
  1. Queen of the Reich
  2. Nightrider
  3. Blinded
  4. The Lady Wore Black
To be honest, my knowledge of Queensryche discography isn't much better than this: "Outside of great albums like Operation: Mindcrime and Rage for Order, I never really paid much attention to their albums into the 1990s and 2000s, though I did hear that there was a huge drop in quality on those albums, especially the ones released into the 2000s".

The two aforementioned albums are, however, some of my all-time favourites in the 80's US melodic metal as well. Their debut EP may be not as interesting as these two ones, being more traditional heavy metal from the early 80s rather than progressive metal, yet it definitely shouldn't be missed if you like their later releases from the same decade. My personal favourite is the closing track - which, I think, is one of the best metal ballads from the 80s - and it looks like I'm not the only one thinking so:

"The. Lady. Wore. Black. Who the hell wrote this. Clearly not Geoff Tate, the asshole responsible for American Soldier could never write this. DeGarmo? If so, why the hell has he resigned himself to flying planes in Seattle. Possibly one of my favorite Power Metal ballads..."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Upper Echelon - "Surface Tension" [1984]

Artist: Upper Echelon
Title: Surface Tension
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1984

Track List:
  1. Drivin' Mean
  2. Evil (Songs)
  3. Teaser
  4. Winter
Upper Echelon were a very obscure band from Seattle who released only one EP in 1984 (and one more demo the next year), and then disappeared without a trace. Long time ago, when I discovered this album via the classic metal archive of the Vibrations of Doom zine, I managed to find the personal site of one of their former members who didn't play in any bands anymore, but I can't remember its address now. Either way, they were awesome, even if they couldn't get much publicity back in the time. The acoustic ballad part in the closing track ("Winter") is especially great:

Omen - "Warning of Danger" [1985]

Artist: Omen
Title: Warning of Danger
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1985

Track List:
  1. Warning of Danger
  2. March On
  3. Ruby Eyes (of the Serpent)
  4. Don't Fear the Night
  5. V.B.P
  6. Premonition
  7. Termination
  8. Make Me Your King
  9. Red Horizon
  10. Hell's Gates
The sophomore release by Omen isn't as interesting as their debut "Battle Cry", yet it still contain some pretty good music. The first three tracks, for instance, sound quite nice, although the album overall is more boring than "Battle Cry" despite better quality of production. The lyrics have become much more simplistic, even to the level of being primitive at times, although sometimes this "primitivism" is working quite well:

"March on metal warrior
March to battle
To battle with all your might
March on metal warrior
You can't lose
You can't win without a fight..."

...Well, some other lyrics on this album aren't as simplistic, but still lacking in quality - i.e. "Red Horizon" (Cold War era propaganda, unfortunately) or "Termination" (re-telling the plot of the first Terminator movie wasn't a very good idea), but, all these flaws considering, "Warning of Danger" is still an album worth listening to.

Omen - "Battle Cry" [1984]

Artist: Omen
Title: Battle Cry
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1984

Track List:
  1. Death Rider
  2. The Axeman
  3. Last Rites
  4. Dragon's Breath
  5. Be My Wench
  6. Battle Cry
  7. Die by the Blade
  8. Prince of Darkness
  9. Bring Out the Beast
  10. In the Arena
A true classic of the 80's US melodic metal scene, "Battle Cry" is the first (and the best) release by Omen. The sound on this album is a direct continuation of the early 80's NWOBHM scene, yet Omen did it in their own unique and easily distinguishable way. Nearly all songs on this album are extremely catchy, but my personal favourites are "Death Rider", "Battle Cry", "Prince of Darkness" and "In the Arena".

The lyrics are very stereotypical for a traditional heavy metal band at a first glance, with its heavy use of words like "fight", "warrior", "sword", "dragon", etc., etc., yet they are nowhere near as ridiculous as the lyrics for many songs by Manowar, for example, and they actually portray a quite historically accurate picture of life during the medieval times, without glamourizing it too much as many heavy/power metal bands do in their lyrics. Overall, this is an awesome release which is undoubtely a classic of early US heavy metal scene, and it definitely shouldn't be missed. Enjoy:

Cities - "Annihilation Absolute" [1986]

Artist: Cities
Title: Annihilation Absolute
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1986

Track List:
  1. Stop the Race
  2. Fight for Your Life
  3. Burn Forever
  4. Not Alone in the Dark
  5. Cruel Sea
  6. In the Still of the Night
  7. Innocent Victim
  8. Shades of Black
  9. Deceiver
This is the one and only full-length album from Cities (not the best name choice for a metal band, to be honest), a side project of Twisted Sister drummer A.J.Pero (R.I.P 2015). Despite the ridiculous cover art, the music is pretty good - maybe not the best of what I heard on the Vibrations of Doom archive of classic metal albums, but still not to be missed if you like 80's melodic metal. My personal favourite is "Fight For Your Life", a quite inspiring song for all sorts of diffucult life situations. A more detailed review of "Annihilation Absolute" can be found here, and the whole album is available for a listen on Youtube:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tyrant's Reign - "Year of the Tyrants" [1987]

Artist: Tyrant's Reign
Title: Year of the Tyrants
Genre: Thrash/Speed Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1987

Track List:
  1. Tyrant's Reign
  2. Jack the Ripper
  3. Untamed
  4. Deadly Eyes
  5. Reign of Terror
  6. Fadeaway
There were many obscure American thrash metal bands during the second half of 1980s, but, in my opinion, very few of them are worth attention. This one, however, is an exception. Like many other early thrash metal bands, Tyrant's Reign never received much publicity, and they had to disband in the early 1990s when thrash metal fell out of style, after releasing only a couple of demos and one EP.

This EP, however, is one of the best thrash metal releases I've heard, even despite its poor quality of production. Like in case with many other obscure gems from that era, I discovered it via the Vibrations of Doom classic metal collection. My personal favourite is the opening track, which is extremely catchy (and I love this vocal style), yet the rest of the release is pretty good too. First two songs from it also appeared on the 2004 compilation of Tyrant's Reign early tracks re-recorded in much better quality - yet I think the re-recording killed quite a lot of charm that was present on the original release.

Surprise - "Assault on Merryland" [1977]

Artist: Surprise
Title: Assault on Merryland
Genre: Symphonic Prog Rock
Country: USA
Release date: 1977

Track List:
  1. Eve Of The Assault / Merryland
  2. The Acrobat Between The Stars
  3. Palace Of King Ferris
  4. Tyrangatang
  5. Dance Of The Tarantella
  6. Tournament Of Love
  7. March Of The Squatamaudars
  8. A Day Without Light
  9. The Wonderful Sunshiner / Grand Finale
Rick Bess - acoustic 12 string & electric guitars, bass
Blair Blake - hammond organ, grand piano, mini moog synthesizer, moog taurus bass pedals, arp string ensemble, celeste
Dave Kelly - drums, typani, orchestra bells, gongs, triangles, gyro
Mark Biehl - vocals, flute, trumpet, piccolo

Recorded at Technisonic Studios, St.Louis, Missouri.

Another interesting yet very obscure American prog rock band from the second half of 1970s that released only one full-length album and then disappeared. While it definitely isn't metal, it sounds quite heavy for its time, and the range of instruments used on this album is quite impressive. Some people who reviewed this album on Prog Archives have complained about the lyrics on this album and its overall concept, which they found ridiculous; however, I haven't read the lyrics, so I don't know much about its concept except that it's based on a fantasy story of some sort. Anyway, the music is pretty good. Enjoy:

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Legend (US) - "Fröm the Fjörds" [1979]

Artist: Legend
Title: Fröm the Fjörds
Genre: Heavy Metal, Folk/Prog Rock
Country: USA
Release date: 1979

Track List:
  1. The Destroyer
  2. The Wizard's Vengeance
  3. The Golden Bell
  4. The Confrontation
  5. R.A.R.Z.
  6. Against the Gods
  7. The Iron Horse
  8. From the Fjords
Another extremely overlooked release from the late 1970s that's a direct precursor to the viking metal scene of today. Like in case with many obscure early metal albums, I found out about Legend through the awesome Vibrations of Doom zine, which was one of my main sources of info about metal and industrial music back in the mid-2000s. They managed to do an interview with the former bassist of Legend, and I couldn't agree more with their desciption of this album:

"What can I say about one of THE best albums in the classic albums section! If this doesn't get number one of all 1,000 albums in my classic albums section, it's EASILY in the top three. Legend (U.S.) made a fantastic album entitled "From The Fjords," a piece of vinyl which is not only vastly superior to nearly ANYTHING else that came out that year, but also is one of the rarest and most expensive pieces of vinyl you will ever find. Despite a CD reissue which STILL has yet to see the light of day ANYWHERE, and almost NO information about ANY of the band members, somehow we were contacted from the original bass player to obtain a good copy of his one and only record. This masterpiece was recorded in 1979 and was light years, fuck, seemingly hundreds of years ahead of it's time, especially when you consider it's a U.S. band playing up the Viking and mythological imagery in the lyrics; something that the Scandinavian folk and viking metal community wouldn't fully embrace AT LEAST until 1988/1990 when Bathory's "Blood, Fire Death" and two years later "Hammerheart" would mold into recognition..."

...Well, I can certainly agree that at least the side A of this LP is indeed a masterpiece. Surely it isn't quite "metal" yet, more like heavier-than-average 70s prog rock with strong Scandinavian folk influences, but it doesn't make any of these 4 songs (especially the opening one, "Destroyer") any less great. The side B is slightly less interesting (and this album as a whole would be better without a song like "R.A.R.Z." or too lengthy drum solos in "The Iron Horse"), yet it's still quite enjoyable.

Unfortunately, the band, which was way ahead of its time, released only this one album and then disappeared competely. Their frontman Kevin Nugent started another metal band called Mercenary in 1981, yet they also have released only one 7'' single before Nugent died in 1983 due to an accidental overdose on back pain medication (however, there was also a "Tribute" cassette released in 1989, featuring 4 songs from early Mercenary demos that were then re-worked to be finished after the death of Nugent as a tribute). I haven't listened to any of that stuff yet, but it looks as promising as this Legend album, as it was recorded by apparently very talented musicians. Returning to "From The Fjords", I can only repeat that it's an unique album which I'd recommend to everyone who is interested in the early history of metal. It isn't very similar to the other early attempts at playing "epic" heavy metal (i.e. "Invasion" by Manilla Road or "Full Speed at High Level" by Heavy Load), yet it's a killer release which shouldn't be missed.

Heavy Load - "Stronger Than Evil" [1983]

Artist: Heavy Load
Title: Stronger Than Evil
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: Sweden
Release date: 1983

Track List:
  1. Run with the Devil
  2. The King
  3. Singing Swords
  4. Dreaming
  5. Stronger than Evil
  6. Free
  7. Saturday Night
  8. Roar of the North
Heavy Load were arguably the first metal band to come out of Sweden, formed in 1976 and released their debut album "Full Speed At The High Level". In addition, the closing track on that album, "Son of the Northern Light", might be the first viking metal song ever, with lyrics more expected from some black or pagan metal band from the mid-1990s. However, when it comes to music, it's rather sloppy and uninteresting compared with their later releases - in particular, this one.

Of course you shouldn't expect this album to be viking metal as we understand it nowadays - it's a fairly traditional heavy metal release which, however, has influenced both many viking metal bands, and traditional heavy metal bands like Manowar. Too bad they broke up shortly after releasing this album, and their two comebacks in 1985 and 1987 were unsuccessful. Most metal fans nowadays probably wouldn't be familiar with them, if Hammerfall haven't covered their song "Run with the Devil". It's a pity because they were a seminal band for the whole Scandinavian metal scene, and they certainly doesn't deserve to be forgotten. My personal favourite on this album is the closing track, "Roar of the North".

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Vintersorg - "Ödemarkens Son" [1999]

Artist: Vintersorg
Title: Ödemarkens Son
Genre: Folk/Viking Metal
Country: Sweden
Release date: 1999

Track List:
  1. När Alver Sina Runor Sjungit
  2. Svältvinter
  3. Under Norrskenets Fallande Ljusspel
  4. Månskensmän
  5. Ödemarkens Son
  6. Trollbunden
  7. Offerbäcken
  8. I Den Trolska Dalens Hjärta
  9. På Landet
While most fans of Vintersorg love Andreas Hedlund for his viking metal albums, I personally prefer his more "progressive" works. This, however, doesn't mean I don't enjoy his early releases - in particular, this one. Along with the 1998 debut "Till Fjälls" (which, unfortunately, has a relatively poor quality of production, but the songwriting itself is still great), this albums presents viking metal the way it should be. During the last few years, Hedlund made several attempts of returning to this kind of sound - in my opinion, without much success, and "Ödemarkens Son" remains my favourite among his "viking" albums (although I do have high hopes for "Till Fjälls, del. 2", which is going to come out this summer).

Friday, May 12, 2017

Vintersorg - "Cosmic Genesis" [2000]

Artist: Vintersorg
Title: Cosmic Genesis
Genre: Progressive Metal
Country: Sweden
Release date: 2000

Track List:
  1. Astral and Arcane
  2. Algol
  3. A Dialogue with the Stars
  4. Cosmic Genesis
  5. Om Regnbågen Materialiserades
  6. Ars Memorativa
  7. Rainbow Demon (Uriah Heep cover)
  8. Naturens Galleri
  9. The Enigmatic Spirit 
The first album in the "progressive" era of Vintersorg, where some folk/viking metal elements can still be heard - otherwise it's quite similar to the consequent two albums, and it's just as great. Very few progressive metal albums sound as good as this one, and I'd certainly recommend it first if you haven't heard anything by Vintersorg yet:

Vintersorg - "Visions from the Spiral Generator" [2002]

Artist: Vintersorg
Title: Visions from the Spiral Generator
Genre: Progressive Metal
Country: Sweden
Release date: 2002

Track List:
  1. Quotation
  2. Vem Styr Symmetrin?
  3. A Metaphysical Drama
  4. Universums Dunkla Alfabet
  5. E.S.P. Mirage
  6. Spegelsfären
  7. The Explorer
  8. A Star-Guarded Coronation
  9. Trance Locator
This is the first album by Vinstersorg that I ever have listened too, and still the best in my opinion. That was during my university years, when the access to good music was quite difficult for me. With the slow internet connection that I had back then, I was able to download only the short intro track, but that was enough for me to decide that I want to hear the whole thing. After I saw this cassette in a store, I immediately decided to buy it, and certainly wasn't disappointed. This album has everything that I love Vintersorg for: quite complex yet very catchy songs (Andreas Hedlund has a rare talent for such kind of songswriting!), powerful vocals, and awesome lyrics about the nature, cosmos, and science. While this album would be better without the last track (which is thankfully short), everything else is just great and fits my taste in progressive metal very well:

Vintersorg - "The Focusing Blur" [2004]

Artist: Vintersorg
Title: The Focusing Blur
Genre: Progressive Metal
Country: Sweden
Release date: 2004

Track List:
  1. Prologue Dialogue - The Reason
  2. The Essence
  3. The Thesis' Seasons
  4. Matrix Odyssey
  5. Star Puzzled
  6. A Sphere in a Sphere (To Infinity)
  7. A Microscopical Macrocosm
  8. Blindsight Complexity
  9. Dark Matter Mystery (Blackbody Spectrum)
  10. Curtains
  11. Artifacts of Chaos
  12. Epilogue Metalogue - Sharpen Your Mind Tools
After posting all 3 Oxiplegatz albums here, I realized that I haven't posted anything by Vintersorg yet, while it's one of my favourite bands of all times and certainly my #1 favourite one in the ill-defined "progressive metal" scene. Surely they're better known for their viking metal works, but their "progressive" side appeals to me more - not in the least because I've studied most of their lyrical subjects in the university, and I used to listen to this exact album while preparing to the most difficult exams. This is probably the most complex release by Vintersorg, featuring quite rich and elaborate song structures and many different vocal styles within one song, and it'd probably be hard for you to get into if you already aren't familiar with the band. While I'd recommend to start exploring the "progressive" side of Vintersorg from "Cosmic Genesis" or "Visions from the Spiral Generator" instead, this one is definitely worth attention too.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Oxiplegatz - "Sidereal Journey" [1998]

Artist: Oxiplegatz
Title: Sidereal Journey
Genre: Progressive Metal, Industrial Black Metal
Country: Sweden
Release date: 1998

Track List:
  1. A Black Hole Is Swallowing the Sun...
  2. They Learned of Its Existence...
  3. For Persistence...
  4. Bringer of Obliteration...
  5. Into Nowhere...
  6. For Persistence...
  7. So It's Our Final Hour... 
  8. The Light from the Perishing Sun...
  9. Ahead - The Universe! 
  10. No Longer Will We Be the Meek Ones...
  11. How Could We Ever Know...
  12. Head for That Star...
  13. As One Surveys This Ocean...
  14. The Iondrive a Silent Vibration...
  15. Several Planet in Orbit...
  16. Enemies!?
  17. Once More Proven - We Are Not Alone
  18. Lightspeed - Plunge into Hyperspace
  19. No Clue to Where This Jump Is Taking Them... 
  20. Breathless...
  21. Turning Up the Power, Accelerating Again...
  22. This Time Passage Was Violent...
  23. Rings, Spread like Rippled Water...
  24. They Stare Unblinking...
  25. Eternal Night...
  26. How Many Worlds...
  27. These Beings Failed and Perished... 
  28. Ahead Once More... 
  29. This Journey Has Taken Us... 
  30. The Moon Was Land in Orbit... 
  31. Can This Be What We Hore For...
  32. Terraform - Alter the Environment... 
  33. And So One Day the Sleepers Waken... 
The third and the final release from Oxiplegatz contains 33 tracks, all under 3 minutes long (the average track length is less than 1:30). Like all Oxiplegatz releases, it's a sci-fi themed concept album with dual vocals (male and female, although the female vocals are far from predominant). Reminds me of "The Invasion Discography" by Giganic Brain, even if the sound is very different.

By now, Alf Svensson doesn't seem to be active in the music scene at all - as far as I know, first he decided to focus on his tattoo shop, and now he's an art designer in a video game development company. Anyway, his work in Oxiplegatz is remarkable and definitely deserves more recognition than it got at its time.

Oxiplegatz - "Worlds and Worlds" [1996]

Artist: Oxiplegatz
Title: Worlds and Worlds
Genre: Progressive Metal, Industrial Black Metal
Country: Sweden
Release date: 1996

Track List:
  1. Battle of Species
  2. First Contact - Conflict
  3. Aftermath
  4. Quest
  5. Graveyard Dream
  6. Usurpers
  7. The End Is Nigh
  8. Abandon Earth
  9. Journey 
The second release by Oxiplegatz, widely considered to be their best, is considerably better recorded and produced than the debut one - and yet again, it features a quite "un-metal" cover art (but who cares about that, if the music itself is decent?). It's indeed very good, and I certainly can hear its influence on some of my favourite albums by Vintersorg:

Oxiplegatz - "Fairytales" [1994]

Artist: Oxiplegatz
Title: Fairytales
Genre: Progressive Metal, Industrial Black Metal
Country: Sweden
Release date: 1994

Track List:
  1. Starseed
  2. Fairytale
  3. Northern Stars
  4. His Time Has Come
  5. I See It Now...
  6. Dark Millennium (There Shall Never Be Another Dawn)
  7. Conclusion
  8. Lust for Life
  9. Numb
  10. Departure
  11. Vision
  12. Adrift
  13. Oh No...
  14. Outro
Oxiplegatz was a rather obscure side project of Alf Svensson (ex-At The Gates), started around 1993. Unlike many metal bands at the time, Oxiplegatz actively used sci-fi/space aesthetics and lyrical topics, and probably were one of the first bands to be called "industrial black metal", although their music is quite different from what's usually meant by it now. I'd rather call it with the all-encompassing term "progressive metal" (even if this term has a different meaning nowadays as well).

The quality of production on this album is rather low compared to the later releases, but it's fairly good for a self-released metal album in the 1st half of the 1990s. Yeah, the cover art is ridiculous, but no more so than the cover art for "Acid Motherhood" by Gong :)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Red Harvest / Zyklon - split [2003]

Artist: Red Harvest / Zyklon
Title: split 7''
Genre: Industrial Metal, Electronic
Country: Norway
Release date: 2003

Track List:
  1. Zyklon - Storm Detonation (Remixed By OCD@VOID)
  2. Red Harvest - Re-Hammer-Mix (Fix-Hammer-Fix) (Remixed By OCD@VOID)
You most likely already are familiar with Red Harvest, which are one of my all-time favourite industrial metal bands, as well as with Zyklon, which was founded by Samoth after the split-up of Emperor and Zyklon-B. Despite the name similarity, Zyklon-B and Zyklon were two different bands; while Zyklon-B tried to be as "trve" black metal as possible (which didn't stop them from using keyboards, though), Zyklon were a death/black metal band with strong industrial overtones. I've heard their first (and the best) album "World ov Worms" about 15 years ago, and it left a huge impression on me at the time - I've never heard anything so heavy before! This split 7'', however, doesn't sound much like that album, or like any metal at all - these two tracks are electronic remixes of one Zyklon track that originally appeared on "World ov Worms", and an instrumental Red Harvest track originally released on "Cold Dark Matter" (2000). The person who made these remixes has also worked with the UK industrial black metal band Void, which is highly recommended to check out too.

Zyklon-B - "Blood Must Be Shed" [1995]

Artist: Zyklon-B
Title: Blood Must Be Shed
Genre: Black Metal
Country: Norway
Release date: 1995

Track List:
  1. Mental Orgasm
  2. Bloodsoil
  3. Warfare
Here's that (in)famous EP that already was mentioned on my blog several times as an example of TNBM in its purest form. Zyklon-B were a relatively short lived (1995-99) "supergroup" formed by members of such well-known bands as Emperor, Satyricon and Dødheimsgard. Despite releasing only three songs (+ one remix) and nothing else, they firmly secured their place in the history of black metal scene.

While I generally agree with the author of the Servile Insurrection blog (which sadly doesn't exist anymore) that anyone who talks about "black metal ideology" with a straight face shouldn't be taken seriously, the apocalyptic and aggressive atmosphere on this EP is pretty impressive (especially keeping in mind it was recorded in one of the most peaceful and rich countries of the world). Many black metal bands tried to achieve this, but very few succeeded (out of what was posted on here before, I think only "Total Extermination" by Uranium 235 and "Triumph Through Spears Of Sacrilege" by Damaar can be comparable with this EP).

The first two tracks are fairly standard primitive second-wave black metal with some keyboards, and the last one is easily the most interesting on the whole album. It's as aggressive as the first two ones, yet it features a lot of melodic keyboard parts as well as quite a few spoken word samples that give some "industrial" feel to it. Overall, this release is a classic one, and definitely should be recommended to anyone who likes Norwegian black metal in general, although I personally prefer more avant-garde acts from that scene (Arcturus, Fleurety, Ved Buens Ende, Dødheimsgard... to name a few).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ulver - "Nattens Madrigal" [1997]

Artist: Ulver
Title: Nattens Madrigal: Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden
Genre: Black Metal
Country: Norway
Release date: 1997

Track List:
  1. Hymn I - Wolf And Fear
  2. Hymn II - Wolf And The Devil
  3. Hymn III - Wolf And Hatred
  4. Hymn IV - Wolf And Man
  5. Hymn V - Wolf And The Moon
  6. Hymn VI - Wolf And Passion
  7. Hymn VII - Wolf And Destiny
  8. Hymn VIII - Wolf And The Night
To be frank, Ulver never were one of my particularly favourite bands. Sure they are a well-respected musical collective who have experimented with many different genres throughout their career - from folk/black metal (their debut "Bergtatt" is windely considered to be one of the seminal albums of this genre) to various avant-garde electronic stuff and psychedelic rock on their later albums, but nothing has touched me to the extent I'd consider it a masterpiece.

"Madrigal of the Night", however, deserves a special credit for sounding exceptionally noise and aggressive, to the level of becoming (in)famous as the most unlistenable album in the whole Ulver discography. Some people now call it the essential album of "true" Norwegian black metal, athough I think "The Blood Must Be Shed" EP by Zyklon-B would fit this role much better. Anyway, this album dues have a strange appeal exactly because of its rawness and aggressiveness. There's a well-known legend that explains why its quality of production was so poor: the band allegedly has spent the recording budget on Armani suits, cocaine and a Corvette, and recorded the album outdoors in a Norwegian forest on a 8-track recorder. Some people also add that it's hard to believe in, because there's no electricity in the forest (well thank you, Captain Obvious, but they could be using a portable generator or something like that).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Kastchei - "Hydronymy" [2014]

Artist: Kastchei
Title: Hydronymy
Genre: Black Metal
Country: UK
Release date: 2014

Track List:
  1. Days Of Iron
  2. Hydronymy
Just like Grazniygrad, Kastchei is a very obscure black metal/punk project with a name that's rather unexpected for a band from an Anglophone country, although this demo is much less noisy than the s/t album by Grazniygrad. It's mostly lo-fi black metal with some ambient synths in the middle of the second track - nothing really outstanding, but not bad for a demo.

The lyrics on "Hydronymy", however, are interesting. As far as could understand, they deal with the theme of European prehistory, reflected by the phenomenon of the "Old European hydronymy". To explain it in a nutshell: some river names can be incredibly persistent, reflecting traces of languages that went completely extinct several millenia ago. This is a quite interesting topic that I haven't seen being mentioned in any form of art before. Can't say I've read many academic works on this topic either, yet right now I'm trying to read A.Matveev's magnum opus "Substrate Toponymics of the Russian North, pt. 1-4" (right now I'm far from being finished with it, though...)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Grazniygrad - s/t [2015]

Artist: Grazniygrad
Title: Grazniygrad
Genre: Noisecore, Black Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 2015

Track List:
  1. Umbilical Cord Serpent
  2. Cavus Incantation Arcane
There's not much known about this band, except that it's a duo whose members are involved in several other extremely obscure projects. Their name, which is a misspelled transliteration of "грозный град" ("terrific city"), is a rather unexpected name for a band based out of California, and it places them in line with other oddly named noise projects that I posted here over the last few days. According to my friend who's a fan of the Metal Gear Solid series, it was taken from MGS3: Snake Eater (but it was spelled correctly in the game).

I personally have never played any games in the MGS series, but everything developed by Hideo Kojima seems to be extremely weird in the good old "Japanese" way, so I might try to find some time to check it out in the future. As for this album, it presents more than a hour of unrelenting noisy black metal with a heavy punk influence. Not for the weak ears.

Deep Jew - "Ugliest Man / Dog Blood" [2007]

Artist: Deep Jew
Title: Ugliest Man / Dog Blood
Genre: Noisecore
Country: USA
Release date: 2007

Track List:
  1. Every Day Is Worse
  2. Fragile Boy
  3. Brown Eyes
  4. Virgin
  5. Elegant Eighteen
  6. Master
Another "wonderfully fucked up" noise project with a rather odd name. Found here, described as "the ugliest noise has never sounded so good", which isn't hard to agree with.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cosmonauts Hail Satan - "Satan, Yuri & You" [1992]

Artist: Cosmonauts Hail Satan
Title: Satan, Yuri & You
Genre: Noise
Country: UK
Release date: 1992

Track List:
  1. Satan, Yuri & You pt. I
  2. Satan, Yuri & You pt. II
"How do you know that God exists somewhere in the sky, if Yuri Gagarin was there and didn't see him?" (c)

One single glance at the name and the cover art of this release was enough for me to realize that I want to hear this. I found it in this blog, and wasn't disappointed: it's "wonderfully fucked up", just as it was described there. The download link can be found there as well:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Unit Wail - "Pangaea Proxima" [2012]

Artist: Unit Wail
Title: Pangaea Proxima
Genre: Progressive Rock, Avant-Prog
Country: France
Release date: 2012 (2016 remaster)

Track List:
  1. Mesozoïc Cities
  2. Ombos
  3. Télété
  4. Sargasso Sea
  5. Outerspace
  6. Humanoïd Fish From Encelade
  7. Home of Nowhere
  8. Magnétostriction
  9. Holocene Extinction
  10. Shambhala
  11. Three Eyes
  12. Subdeath 
Unit Wail is the latest up to date project of Frank W. Fromy of Shub-Niggurath fame. Initially I was sort of disappointed by this album because, judging from its concept, I expected something more in the vein of Solaris or Hidria Spacefolk, but heavy avant-prog rooted in the previous Fromy's project 000 (Triple Zero) is fine too. French prog-rock bands really know how to do this sort of dark and "cosmic" sound the right way! You can read a more detailed review of "Pangaea Proxima" here, and its remastered version (the original 2012 version was recorded and mixed under difficult conditions) is available on Bandcamp:

000 (Triple Zero) - "Crypto Sensus" [1985]

Artist: 000 (Triple Zero)
Title: Crypto Sensus
Genre: Progressive Rock, Avant-Prog
Country: France
Release date: 1985

Track List:
  1. Part Three - Pour Produire Un Sentiment De Chaleur Sous La Tête Du Défunt
  2. Irruption
  3. Part Two - Pour Ne Pas Subir Le Châtiment
  4. Les Succubes
  5. Part One - Pour Que L'Ame Ne Soit Pas Capturée Dans L'Au-Delà
  6. Le Balancement Cathartique
  7. Part Four - Pour Ne Pas Etre Echaudé En Buvant De L'Eau
  8. De Sales Lendemains
The one and only album of a very mysterious French avant-prog band with an ex-guitarist of Shub-Niggurath in their line-up. Even the release date is uncertain: most sources state it was recorded in 1985, but there's no evidence of it, and only one thing can be said for sure: it was released in 2000 on CD by Musea. Line-up (most likely incomplete):

- Frank-William Fromy / bass
- Edward Perraud / drums, percussions
- Vincent Sicot-Vantalon / electronics

Musically, it's "cosmic" avant-prog with a lot of electronic effects, more similar to F.W.Fromy's later project Unit Wail than to Shub-Niggurath. It wasn't easy to find this album in MP3 (it turned out to be even more  obscure than Nuclear Death's "Harmony Drinks Of Me"), yet I finally managed to do it. Enjoy:

Gong - "Acid Motherhood" [2004]

Artist: Gong
Title: Acid Motherhood
Genre: Progressive Rock, Space Rock
Country: France
Release date: 2004

Track List:
  1. Ocean Of Molasses
  2. Supercotton
  3. Olde Fooles Game
  4. Zeroina
  5. Brainwash Me
  6. Monstah!
  7. Bible Study
  8. Bazuki Logix
  9. Waving
  10. Makototen
  11. Schwitless In Molasses
Let me get one thing out of the way: this album has got a completely idiotic cover art. The inlay isn't much better, though:
Seriously, it'd be much more suitable for some comedy grindcore album, and it was deservedly included into the "Weirdest Ever Covers" list. Fortunately, the music on "Acid Motherhood" is pretty cool and not idiotic at all. Looks like someone has already reviewed it better than I ever could, so I can only add that I wish this album was purely instrumental - other than that, it's great. If the Wikipedia article is to be believed, the line-up on this album consists of a merger of latter-day Gong, University of Errors (guitarist Josh Pollock), and Acid Mothers Temple (Kawabata Makoto and Cotton Casino), and when it comes to the concept, it continues the usual Gong topics of aliens and alternate realities.

Rotfront - "VisaFree" [2011]

Artist: Rotfront
Title: VisaFree
Genre: Folk-Punk, Ska, Ragga Hip-Hop
Country: Germany
Release date: 2011

Track List:
  1. VisaFree
  2. Eyn Tsvey
  3. Gay, Gypsy & Jew
  4. Revolution Disco
  5. Cosmos
  6. Vodka & Garlic
  7. Money Money Money
  8. Real Berlin Wedding
  9. Csöváz
  10. Live Is Life
  11. No Sleep Till Berlin
  12. Village Superstar
  13. James Bondski
  14. Sigaretta
  15. Backsteinpulver
The second Rotfront album features less linguistic diversity than the first one - the lyrics are mostly in English, with some Hungarian here and there, and some rapping in German. However, almost all the tracks are extremely catchy (even more so than the catchiest songs on their debut), and the lyrics for them are very funny as well. Apart from a couple of weak tracks (i.e. "No Sleep 'Till Berlin"), this album is perfect if you like this kind of gypsy folk-punk in general.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Rotfront ‎- "Emigrantski Raggamuffin" [2009]

Artist: Rotfront
Title: Emigrantski Raggamuffin
Genre: Folk-Punk, Ska, Klezmer
Country: Germany
Release date: 2009

Track List:
  1. Intro
  2. B-Style
  3. Zhiguli
  4. Sovietoblaster
  5. Kemények A Fények
  6. Berlin-Barcelona
  7. Red Mercedes
  8. Ya Piv
  9. Remmidemmi
  10. Sohase Mondd
  11. Gypsy Eyes
  12. Rotfront FM
  13. Tüz
  14. Devil
  15. Emigrantski Raggamuffin
  16. Klezmerton
  17. Youtube Song
Speaking of "positive" (and not too serious, since today is the April Fools' Day!) music - here's a band that was one of my greatest personal discoveries of the last year. "RotFront - Emigrantski Raggamuffin Kollektiv" is a creation of two Eastern European immigrants in Berlin: Yuri Gurzhy from Kharkiv, and his Hungarian fellow Simon Wahorn. The complete line-up of Rotfront includes many other musicians, mostly Eastern Europeans as well. The music is an eclectic mix of punk, ska, hip-hop/raggamuffin, tango (i.e. the track "Sohase Mondd" - although I prefer this song being sang by Judit Hernádi), klezmer and Balkan gypsy folk. Out of all I've posted here before, it reminds me the most of 44 Leningrad and Bandista.
They're also known for their animated music videos, like this one:

However, the most distinct feature of their music is the multilingualism of their lyrics. On this album, they use no less than 5 languages (all of which I know at least to some extent) - English, Russian, Ukrainian, German and Hungarian - and aren't afraid of mixing numerous languages in one song:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lonely Star - "Ashen" [2016]

Artist: Lonely Star
Title: Ashen
Genre: Post-Rock, Post-Black Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 2016

Track List:
  1. Ashen
  2. Black River
  3. Fade
  4. Lonely Star
  5. Embrace Of The Universe
  6. Sparks
Another one-woman post-rock/metal project, of which not much is known about: "Just some girl making weird music", and not much else. Anyway, Lonely Star is Alicia M. from Watertown, New York, and she describes her debut album "Ashen" as follows:

"This album includes songs from the split we did with Beautiful Nature and a couple of new ones. I decided to make it darker and added kinda 'metal' vocals. It feels good to put out negative emotions once in a while! But I will be back with more positive music, I promise. :)"

Honestly it's fairly good as it is, no need to make such music more "positive" (which it isn't supposed to be anyway). It's certainly more "metal" than Sylvaine, but the overall aesthetics come from the post-rock scene, and generally remind me of Violet Cold (especially the later releases, such as "Magic Night" and "Anomie"). If you like this sort of romantic, emotional "dreamy" post-rock/metal, then chances are that you'll like this album as well.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sylvaine - "Wistful" [2016]

Artist: Sylvaine
Title: Wistful
Genre: Post-Rock, Post-Black Metal
Country: Norway
Release date: 2016

Track List:
  1. Delusions
  2. Earthbound
  3. A Ghost Trapped in Limbo
  4. Saudade
  5. In the Wake of Moments Passed By
  6. Like a Moth To A Flame
  7. Wistful
This Norwegian multi-instrumentalist has visited Moscow, SPb and Kiev just a few days ago with a live tour. Of course she didn't visit my village of 1.2 million inhabitants, which is sad but unsurprising. If her music was something close to "Amesoeurs 2.0", I'd seriously consider going to Moscow to see her, but alas - both of her albums sound much more like Alcest than Amesoeurs. For the most part, it's depressive post-rock/shoegaze with some black metal elements, but calling it "metal" would be a big stretch. After all, Myrkur has received quite a lot of death threats for performing a quite similar kind of music and calling it "black metal". Well, I can say that Myrkur's 2014 LP is indeed quite boring (but not as bad as some people made it out to be), and Sylvaine's "Wistful" isn't a masterpiece but still a pleasant listen if you like dreamy post-rock/metal with beautiful female vocals. Hopefully she will release something comparable to the Amesoeurs' s/t LP sometime in the future...

Crown of Asteria - "Karhun Vakat" [2016]

Artist: Crown of Asteria
Title: Karhun Vakat
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 2016

Track List:
  1. Tietäjä
  2. The Golden Light of Birchwood Temples
  3. Hongotar
  4. Sky-Nail
  5. Black Antlers Above the Lodge
  6. Väki
  7. Kallohonka (live)
Described as a "one-woman atmospheric black metal band from Michigan formed by Meghan Wood", Crown of Asteria can boast 5 full-length albums and numerous EPs released during last 4 years. Most of CoA's music is inspired by the nature of the North, and this particular LP - by Finno-Ugric folklore as well. A pretty interesting subject choice which alone made me want to check this album out :)

According to Meghan Wood's biography at The Horror Zine, she's a graphic designer from Bancroft, Michigan, and she has been a horror fan from a very young age. She has published several poems of her own, and her photography deserves to be checked out as well.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Nuclear Death - "Harmony Drinks Of Me" [2000]

Artist: Nuclear Death
Title: Harmony Drinks Of Me
Genre: Experimental, Progressive Rock
Country: USA
Release date: 2000

Track List:
  1. Electric Spaceboy
  2. Eyes Closed (The Sin)
  3. Sunless
  4. The Baths
  5. Strident
  6. Shoot
  7. Haunted Man-Nimbus
Formed in 1986 by Phil Hampton, Lori Bravo and Joel Whitfield, Nuclear Death were one of the first deathgrind bands in history, and certainly the very first widely known one with a female vocalist. However, that wasn't what really set them apart from many other early death metal bands. They were famous because of their lyrics - which, just as expected from a death/grind band, described very disgusting things, but in a surrealistic horror manner not parallelled by any other band. Phil Hampton definitely has some literary talent, even if his lyrics surely are going to put off quite a lot of people...

This album, however, has nothing to do with ND's early works in terms of both sound and lyrical content, even if it's quite unusual as well. It was recorded by Lori Bravo alone during 1996-97 and released on her own label Cats Meow in 2000, after which Nuclear Death was declared officially split up. It was described as a sort of goth/industrial rock, but I think labels like "progressive" or "psychedelic" would fit it better. Either way, it isn't a metal album in the slightest.

It took me literally ages to find this album online, as it's turned out to be a really rare one - even in the age when nearly anything can be found on YouTube, blogs, or torrents. Yet I finally managed to find it, and I can only hope there wouldn't be any copyright problems with it being posted on here. Still searching for "The Planet Cachexial", an album released by Lori Bravo in 1996, which is rumored to be even more experimental than this one (and seems to have a really interesting concept as well).

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Symphonic Destiny - "The Fountain Of Eternal Life" [2015]

Artist: Symphonic Destiny
Title: The Fountain Of Eternal Life
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Country: Serbia/Hungary
Release date: 2015

Track List:
  1. The Beginning of an Adventure
  2. Compass of Fate
  3. Light in the Darkness
  4. The Magical Sphere
  5. Wayfarer
  6. Garden of Eden
  7. Voice of Temptation
  8. Witch's Cottage
  9. Ghost Town
  10. Well of Souls
  11. The Fountain of Eternal Life
  12. Love (acoustic)
As a long-time tradition, I post something with female vocals on this day, and this time it'll be symphonic metal (which you probably have already figured out from the band's name). Symphonic Destiny come from a small town in northern Serbia called Temerin, but all the members are ethnic Hungarians, and they describe themselves as a Hungarian band on their Facebook page.

The music on "The Fountain Of Eternal Life" is fairly standard symphonic metal, yet I found it more interesting than many other albums in this genre released over the last couple of years. The best track on the whole album is clearly "Light in the Darkness". The album is available on all popular platforms (and on, of course).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

V/A - "Dipaka I: Igniting Ictus" [2017]

Artist: (various)
Title: Dipaka I: Igniting Ictus
Genre: Dark Ambient, Neofolk, Black Metal
Country: (various)
Release date: 2017

Track List:
  1. Casa Ukrania - Hai Palaie Nebo 
  2. Futiliteit Orchestra - The Devil's Stars Burn Cold 
  3. Stellar Descent - Vernal 
  4. Катакомбная Культура - Костры Огней 
  5. Majdanek Waltz - Ночная Птица (Night Bird)
I already have introduced the Heliophagia netlabel and their series of compilations to you a couple of months ago. Here's their latest compilation up to date, titled "Dipaka I: Igniting Ictus" and dedicated to the Day of the Ignition (Imbolc 2017). Compared to what they were releasing 10 years ago, this one is definitely a step forward: this compilation is international and features such well-known projects as Majdanek Waltz (which is probably the most successful Russian neofolk act so far). Definitely would recommend it to everyone whose musical tastes range from neofolk and dark ambient to black and doom metal.