Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Lacrimosa - "I Lost My Star" [2009]

Artist: Lacrimosa
Title: I Lost My Star
Genre: Gothic Rock/Metal
Country: Switzerland
Year: 2009

Track List:

  1. I Lost My Star In Krasnodar (Russian Version)
  2. I Lost My Star In Krasnodar (Album Version)
  3. The Last Millenium
  4. Siehst Du Mich Im Licht (Live)

Without a doubt, Lacrimosa is the best known gothic act of the 90s which played a major part in shaping the goth scene as we know it nowadays. That said, I have mixed feelings about them. They do have some great tracks (including the best known one, "Alleine zu zweit"), but a lot of mediocre material as well (in particular, "Copycat" is also considered to be one of their best tracks, and one of the heaviest as well, but I never could get into it). In general, their discography is quite diverse, including darkwave, gothic rock/metal, and even alternative rock albums, but out of all their releases, I'll post a single that's rather unknown outside Russia.

"I Lost My Star" was written by Tilo Wolff under the impression of visiting Krasnodar, where Lacrimosa have played for the first time in June 2008. Two years later, it was performed on stage in Krasnodar with the local folk/classical music collective Krinitsa (whose members initially were reluctant to work with such "heavy" band, but later realized that Lacrimosa's music is more influenced by classical composers than they initially thought). It was released in 2009 as an exclusive Russian single by Irond Records, featuring two versions of the title song (actually, the "Russian" version differs from the album version only with the refrain sung in Russian close to the end of the song) plus two bonus tracks and one short multimedia track, and the artwork by Alla Bobyleva made in standard Lacrimosa style. I have some hopes of visiting Krasnodar in the end of this month, so now is a good time to post this single on here:


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Fields of the Nephilim - "Mourning Sun" [2005]

Artist: Fields of the Nephilim
Title: Mourning Sun
Genre: Gothic Rock/Metal
Country: UK
Year: 2005

Track List:

  1. Shroud (Exordium)
  2. Straight To The Light
  3. New Gold Dawn
  4. Requiem (Le Veilleur Silencieux)
  5. Xiberia (Seasons In The Ice Cage)
  6. She
  7. Mourning Sun
  8. In The Year 2525 (cover)

 FotN always were my most favourite band out of all classic British goth rock acts. Known for their love for cowboy-like stage outfits, FotN have recorded many great songs like "Laura", "Moonchild", "Slow Kill", "Reanimator" etc during the late 80s and early 90s. "Mourning Sun" (nice wordplay, btw) is their last full-length album, released in 2005 when Carl McCoy was the only original member left in the band. Compared to their early albums, it's definitely much more heavy sounding (bordering on gothic metal, but still not enough to consider it unambigiously metal), but most critics consider it a direct continuation of their traditional style. The best track on "Mourning Sun" in my opinion is "Xiberia" with its electronic sound, fairly qualifying as industrial metal:

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Meshuggah - "None" [1994]

Artist: Meshuggah
Title: None
Genre: Progressive Metal, Technical Thrash Metal
Country: Sweden
Year: 1994

Track List:

  1. Humiliative
  2. Sickening
  3. Ritual
  4. Gods of Rapture
  5. Aztec Two-Step (bonus)

We all know Meshuggah. They now have the dubious honor of being the seminal band for the whole djent (or "math metal") genre, but before they've gone full 000, they recorded one more or less conventional thrash metal albums and a couple of very avant-garde albums that were described as "industrial/groove thrash fusion-influenced metal" or something like that. In particular, "Chaosphere" is frequently cited as one of the heaviest albums ever recorded (which is arguable) with some of the most "mechanical" riffs ever played (which is definitely accurate).

Are they a technical band? Yes, undoubtedly. Do they play good music? Various people have different opinions, and Meshuggah's stuff (especially their late 90's recordings) definitely isn't for everyone. I personally don't listen to them too often but can acknowledge their talent (same with Voivod and some other "technical" metal bands). Actually, my best friend during my university years was a huge fan of Meshuggah, but he generally liked everything that's "technical" and "avant-garde", be it metal or prog-rock/zeuhl.

Now let's get to the point. My favourite Meshuggah release is this often overlooked 1994 EP, which is generally considered "transitional" between their early thrash style and their "true" dissonant and polymetric math metal style. Compared to the subsequent full-length "Destroy Erase Improve", it's more accessible to the average listener, and contains a very atypical song for Meshuggah: "Ritual". Honestly it's their favourite song of mine, exactly because it's quite different from the rest: it has a trippy/psychedelic feel to it, it's melodic and has some acousic parts, and Jens Kidman is actually singing instead of his usual shouting:

Monday, September 7, 2020

Zhraja - "Forgotten Songs of Dead Nation" [2002]

Artist: Zhraja
Title: Forgotten Songs of Dead Nation
Genre: Experimental Industrial/Folk Metal
Country: Belarus
Year: 2002

Track List:

  1. Vain
  2. Oriental Setting
  3. Over Him
  4. Dissappointed
  5. Misjudge
  6. Years of Soft Living
  7. Discretion
  8. State - Hysterics
  9. Now Good-Bye
  10. Never Know Mix
  11. Bloodstain

A very obscure and strange release that defies a simple genre classification and can be best described as electronic metal with black metal-style vocals and folk elements. There's not much information about the band, except it's a duo from Minsk led by a member of a late 90s black metal band called Bachus. I found out about Zhraja many years ago when I was only starting getting into underground metal (interestingly, the site where I've found some of their tracks back then is still alive and well).


Saturday, August 22, 2020

No Return - "Machinery" [2002]

Artist: No Return
Title: Machinery
Genre: Industrial Death/Thrash Metal
Country: France
Year: 2002

Track List:

  1. Machinery
  2. The Recycler
  3. Violator
  4. Synthetic
  5. Disillusion
  6. Virus
  7. Resurrection
  8. Disease
  9. Dynamo
  10. The Last Act
  11. Biomechanoid
  12. Secret Face (Death cover)
No Return are widely regarded one of the biggest French trash metal acts, started as early as in 1984 under the name Evil Power before changing it in 1989. Honestly I'm not familiar with their early works at all (and the whole 80s French metal scene is still mostly a terra incognita for me), but this album was a pretty interesting find. Its sound has been described as a mix of Kreator, (old) Fear Factory, and melodic death metal of the Swedish school, with a lot of electronic music influences. While I can't call "Machinery" a masterpiece, as it's definitely not as innovative as the early works of Fear Factory, Nocturnus, or Oxiplegatz (whom No Return also were compared to), yet it's still very decent and rather overlooked industrial death/thrash metal release with a pronounced futuristic theme.

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Conet Project - "Recordings Of Shortwave Numbers Stations" [1997]

Artist: The Conet Project
Title: Recordings Of Shortwave Numbers Stations
Genre: Radionoise, Field Recordings
Country: UK
Year: 1997

My blog definitely wouldn't be complete without a mention of this release, and while I've briefly mentioned it a few years ago, it deserves a post on its own. Many noise and experimental music artists have used the shortwave radio recordings in their works, but The Conet Poject deals with probably the most fascinating and enigmatic (pun intended) radio-related phenomenon: the number stations. For those who don't know what it is:

"Number stations are shortwave transmissions from foreign intelligence agencies to spies in the field of foreign countries. They carry encrypted messages in form of groups of numbers or letters, using either automated voice, Morse code, or a digital mode. While the encryption methods used by most number stations are unknown, some have used and others are widely believed to use one-time pad: mathematical addition of a set of random numbers (the key) to the cleartext, which can be used only once, and must be destroyed after usage...

Number stations offer a powerful advantage in our modern world: practically complete anonymity. The recipient of the message can be almost anywhere in the world, and receive instructions without fear of being traced through a phone call or internet connection. All the recipient needs is a shortwave radio and to be in the right place at the right time. The first account of a number station, as reported in the ENIGMA newsletter #12, was from an issue of the Austrian magazine Kurzwelle Panorama dating from World War I"
The Conet Project is a collection of recordings of some of the most famous number stations and noise stations broadcasts, compiled by Akin Fernandez and released on 5 (originally 4) CDs by Irdial Discs in 1997. Now they're officially available for free, in keeping with the "free music philosophy" of Irdial. While there's objectively not much to listen to if you're not a noise fan, The Conet Project has become a major souce of samples for many various films and albums, and has reached a cult status even among such people as Mike Patton and Aphex Twin. For me, it's also a reminder of the days when I was a radiophysics student and a bit of a ham radio enthusiast (although not to the point of getting a callsign). The fact that those transmissions are most likely related to espionage definitely helps this record to deliver an atmosphere of mystery too (even if those messages, for the most part, are actually much more benign and less sinister or "alien" than many shortwave radio listeners think).


Monday, August 17, 2020

Kalaschnikov - "Desert Storm" [1990]

Artist: Kalaschnikov
Title: Desert Storm
Genre: Heavy/Speed Metal
Country: Germany
Year: 1990

Track List:

  1. Czarewitch
  2. Siberian Werewolf
  3. Homage to the Holocaust
  4. Headbanger
  5. Stinking Shrine
  6. Skull Scratcher
One look at the track titles and artwork of this album is enough to figure out that it can't be taken seriously. Indeed, it's one of several fake "metalsploitation" albums released in 1990 by Ingo Nowotny on his infamous label Metal Enterprises. If you're not familiar with Nowotny's shenanigans (one of the funniest stories that ever happened on the metal scene), here's a pretty good article about the "music" he was releasing on his label:
"Metal Enterprises saw the light of day somewhere around 1985/86. It's very hard to tell exactly, since very few of their albums stated release- or recording dates. The 3 first platters were licensed (?) editions of foreign releases. Nothing strange there, since this was a cost-effective way to get a company rolling (Noise Records started out in the same manner). What's is strange is the undisputed fact that 2 of these acts, KILLER FOX and THRASH QUEEN, are generally regarded some of the worst Metal bands ever put to vinyl. Why he chose to release these particular LPs remain one of the greatest ME-mysteries...
Starting out at the absolute peak of the 80's Heavy Metal wave, Ingo & co. must have discovered that you could easily unload a 1000 or so copies of anything with the Metal-stamp on it, and if you keep production and design costs to an absolute minimum you could even get your money back and then some...
The finest/worst examples of this very special "ME-sound" are to be found on their infamous Fake Follow-ups. They contain what is probably the most retarded music ever released under the banner of Heavy Metal (which doesn't necessarily mean that the music itself is Metal.) They never bare any resemblance to the original bands or projects, but are pretty similar in-between themselves, especially the "2nd" KILLER FOX, GODZILLA, THRASH QUEEN, KALASCHNIKOV and FUCKER albums, and could very well have been recorded on the same occasion. It's really hard to describe the sound on these abominations. If you've ever experienced how comedy-shows on TV or radio sometimes can parody Metal music it will give you a faint idea idea of what we're talking about here. It's the music of someone who might have heard a few minutes of Metal at one point in their life and years later trying to recreate it with gleeful intent. Drum-machines, ultra-generic riffing, strange vocal effects and/or improvised singing. Any dumber than dumb idea you can think of and more, it's in there. Like the sudden burst into whistling in the intro of KALASCHNIKOV's "Czarewitch"..."
All in all, it reminds me of the Blatnyak market in the 90's Russia, when the producers have realized that they can sell several thousand copies of literally anything that has prison bars (or anything else "gangsta"-related) on its cover. To make the Nowotny's case even worse - he later went on "White Power"-sploitation by releasing numerous RAC albums on his label in early 90s. And if you wonder how bad his "metalsploitation" albums were, check out this gem:
However, it's rather "so bad it's good" with that pseudo-operatic female vocalist yelling something like "Trash! Trash! People look like trash!" with thick accent, while the original Thrash Queen (the very first all-female thrash... or, rather, TRASH metal band in history that released one and only album "Manslayer" in 1984) was just plain bad and uninteresting. 
I don't know much about Killer Foxx, another band whose name Nowotny has used in his "metalsploitation" attempts, except for one ridiculously looking photo of them wearing Kiss-inspired makeup (but maybe such looks weren't that ridiculous in the 80s). Anyway, they released one album before two of their founding members were killed in a car crash in 1987. Even this didn't stop Nowotny from releasing a fake album under their name (misspelled as "Killer Fox"). Like the original band, the fake Killer Fox was supposed to have a sci-fi theme, which manifested mostly in crappy "robotic" vocals:

To quote the YouTube comments: "If Beavis And Butthead started a band, this is exactly what it would sound like!". UPD: it turned out that the original band was founded by Matt Brooks aka Mick Stryker, who has lost both legs in a car accident (well, those guys had a really bad luck with cars...) He was paid welfare, which he invested in a small metal label called Landslyde Records, and he's also the person that produced the only album of the original Thrash Queen (and the only album by Killer Foxx turned out to be just as poorly recorded and uninteresting).
As for Kalaschnikov, the original band was actually quite interesting, being a duo with a black vocalist (which is quite rare on the metal scene even nowadays). Leaving aside the ridiculous lyrics, their music wasn't that bad too, and even quite catchy at times:
"Desert Storm" by the fake Kalaschnikov is also nowhere near as bad as the other fake release by Nowotny, especially if we throw away two filler ambient-like tracks. The rest of the album is repetitive yet somewhat catchy heavy metal, and when it comes to the obscure 80s metal bands, I definitely have heard worse. The album apparently has that pseudo-Russian kitsch theme that was quite popular at the time of Perestroika. NB: the tracklist almost certainly doesn't match the actual order of tracks on the album (i.e. "Homage to the Holocaust" is clearly #4)... but who cares?

Friday, August 7, 2020

N-616 - "redWave" [2020]

Artist: N-616
Title: redWave
Genre: Industrial Metal
Country: Russia
Year: 2020

Track List:

  1. Перемен (Кино Cover)
  2. Дорога паука (Агата Кристи Cover)
  3. Движение Вспять (Алиса Cover)
  4. Здорово и Вечно (Гр.Об. Cover)

...No, it's not the famous 1986 "Red Wave" compliation you probably have thought about. It's a new EP from N-616 consisting of 4 cover versions of classic Russian rock songs, performed in much heavier style than both the original versions and the early releases of N-616. Their sound seems to be considerably changed over the last 20 years, as they now are playing industrial metal with lead female vocals by Daria Mazunova. While this EP was intended mostly for those who are well familiar with the original versions of these songs, it's worth to give it a listen anyway.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

V/A - "Scaenicae Exploratio" [2007]

Title: Scaenicae Exploratio
Genre: Industrial, Dark Ambient
Country: Russia
Year: 2007

Track List:
  1. Mr. Gaus - Detach Session
  2. Ices Ov - Cantus Archaicus
  3. Spectral Blight - Thanatos Wings Sanctuary
  4. Paracore - Ego-Infected
  5. Spectral Blight - The Sarcophagi Hall
  6. Paracore - Createrased
  7. Mr. Gaus - Reborn
  8. Liholesie - Zhelten

A compilation of mostly very minimalistic dark ambient projects, released by the legendary NBK Records (Noisebunker) in 2007, during the heyday of undergound music in modern Russia (and also the time when I just started getting into such kind of music). Apart from Liholesie, the projects featured on "Scaenicae Exploratio" are quite obscure, although I personally had contacts with the people behind Paracore (aka aintno and Constantine Knerik; seems like he's still producing music under the moniker Lightning) and Spectral Blight at the time it was released. It's free (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 license), so feel free to check it out:


Friday, July 31, 2020

V/A - "Vulgar Display of Purring Presents: New York" [2018]

Title: Vulgar Display of Purring Presents: New York
Genre: Metal, Hardcore/Grindcore
Country: USA
Year: 2018

Track List:
  1. Imperial Triumphant - Breath of Innocence
  2. Pyrolatrous - Obeisance and Unrequited Adulation
  3. Artificial Brain - Spacid (Demo)
  4. Tombs - Mother of Mercy (Samhain Cover)
  5. Car Bomb - Bra_C_Ket
  6. Unearthly Trance - Lion Strength
  7. Woe - Drown Us With Greatness
  8. Anicon - Tarnish On The Emblems Of Ardor
  9. Mutilation Rites - Pierced Larynx
  10. Belus - Avarice
  11. Containor - Asshole 2
  12. Godmaker - Over (Portishead Cover)
  13. Dead Empires - Ergot
  14. Wreath of Tongues - Reprobate
  15. Moon Tooth - Belt Squeezer
  16. Blackout - Crusher Malone
  17. Meek Is Murder - A Prison, A Life Raft
  18. Husbandry - Hierba Mala Nunca Muere
  19. Beast Modulus - Everything's Shocking
  20. Skullshitter - Struggle To Die
  21. Syndromes - ...And Structures Crumble
  22. Bangladeafy - Termites

"Heavy Metal & Cats: The only two things that really matter in this cold, bleak world. We offer compilations of the heaviest, cat-loving bands in every State to benefit a local animal organization in each region. 100% of proceeds go to charity"
Well, I love cats too, so it's a great idea for a compilation. Too bad the project didn't go beyond this one NY compilation so far, but maybe in the future we'll see more. The majority of bands of this compilation are unknown to me, except for Unearthly Trance (very powerful sludge/doom metal), Artificial Brain, Woe and Imperial Triumphant.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

V/A - "Iron Sun of Russia" [2017]

Title: Iron Sun of Russia
Genre: Noise, Percussion Industrial
Country: Russia
Year: 2017

Track List:
  1. Grёzoblazhenstvie - Над пропастью в вечность
  2. Homo Sum, Humani Nihil A Me Alienum Puto - Ностальгия
  3. Weltschmerz - Солнце
  4. Maha Pralaya - Эхо тени глубин
  5. Grёzoblazhenstvie & Le Firmament Noir - Миллионы адских роз 
Another interesting discovery from my city - a classic industrial/noise compilation by several obscure projects apparently influenced by Russian Futurism of the early XX century. Of course it's harsh stuff not for everyone's ears, and unfortunately there's next to no info about the participants, but good to see the industrial scene still existing in my area.

Zagovor - "Farewell the Sun" [2020]

Artist: Zagovor
Title: Farewell the Sun
Genre: Blackened Doom Metal
Country: Russia
Year: 2020

Track List:
  1. Vetluga River
  2. Burlak
  3. First Night Of Winter
  4. Farewell The Sun
Zagovor are a new pagan black/doom metal band from my city with an EP that's apparently inspired by the history and culture of the foresty region between Vetluga and middle Volga. Almost nothing is known about the band; their name literally means "conspiracy" but the more archaic meaning is "magic spell" (and I guess that's what they meant). The EP is very short and entirely instrumental, therefore not sounding as a finished work, but it shows a lot of future potential. There aren't many metal bands inspired by the culture and history of my home region, after all...

Qafas - "Kafkaesque Retribution" [2011]

Artist: Qafas [قفص]
Title: Kafkaesque Retribution
Genre: Black Metal
Country: Bahrain
Year: 2011

Track List:
  1. Intro
  2. Kafkaesque Retribution
Qafas is a one-man project of Learza, a black metal musician from Bahrain that was active in many oriental metal projects (Dhul-Qarnayn, Kusoof, etc.) during late 2000s and early 2010s. Understandably, not much is known about Learza (there even were completely unsubstantiated rumors that he has hanged for blasphemy), and there was no new matrial from him in the last few years, yet he remains one of the few prolific metal musicians in the Arab world.

This short demo demonstrates the style of Learza's black metal recordings quite well. It's quite solid drum-machined black metal with industrial overtones, using a lot of spoken word samples in Arabic. The title track was also included in the 2013 compilation "Mesonoxian Conspiracies" along with the material released on the LP "Larghetto Laments" (mostly rather unremarkable funeral doom metal).

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Zommm - "Reality Is An Illusion" [2018]

Artist: Zommm
Title: Reality Is An Illusion
Genre: Post-Black Metal
Country: Azerbaijan
Year: 2018

Track List:
  1. Lights
  2. The Shining Of The Solar Moon
  3. Losing Myself In A Green Desert
  4. Reality Is An Illusion
  5. Dust
Azerbaijan definitely isn't a "metal" country by any means, yet there is a relatively significant and tightly knit experimental black metal/shoegaze scene, consisting of such projects as Violet Cold (probably the only Azeri metal project that's well known worldwide), Sumgzeit, Sukkkgall, Brokenchelust, and now Zommm, who are an experimental black metal/post-rock duo from Baku, started in 2017.

If you love "cosmic" post-black metal in the vein of Violet Cold, their debut EP (as well as the subsequently released acoustic single "Starfall In Her Eyes") is definitely for you. Moreover, it also features some folk instruments like tar that gives some "oriental" feel to the music. There's not much info about the band in English (I managed to find only one interview with them in Russian), but they surely have the potential to become the second Violet Cold, Let's wait for their upcoming full length album "Fundamental Of The Universe".

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Melechesh - "As Jerusalem Burns... Al'Intisar" [1996]

Artist: Melechesh
Title: As Jerusalem Burns... Al'Intisar
Genre: Black Metal
Country: Israel
Year: 1996

Track List:
  1. Intro
  2. Sultan of Mischief
  3. Assyrian Spirit
  4. Planetary Rites
  5. Hymn to Gibil
  6. The Sorcerers of Melechesh
  7. Dance of the Black Genii
  8. Baphomet's Lust
  9. Devil Night
  10. As Jerusalem Burns... Al'Intisar
Along with Orphaned Land, Melechesh are the founders of the "oriental metal" subgenre, although their debut album (and the only one that they've recorded in Israel) doesn't feature much "oriental" influences. In fact, it mostly sounds quite similar to the Norwegian black metal of the same time, apart from some tracks like the instrumental "Dance of the Black Genii". Nevertheless, the fact that there's black metal in Jerusalem of all places was quite astonishing to me when I was a teenager.

Despite originally coming from Israel, Melechesh are mostly inspired by the Mesopotamian mythology, and their founding member Ashmedi is of mixed Assyrian/Armenian descent (his mother comes from Syria and the father - from Turkey). During the mid-90s, Jerusalem wasn't a particularly more friendly place for metal than, say, Teheran, so the band has relocated to Netherlands shortly after recording this album (which was timely, because all hell broke loose in Jerusalem after the start of Intifada Al-Aqsa just a few years later). Honestly there are more interesting oriental metal bands than Melechesh when it comes to music, yet let's not forget they were one of the first in the genre, and their lyrics always were quite interesting, especially if you love the history and mythology of ancient Mesopotamia.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Orphaned Land - "All Is One" [2013]

Artist: Orphaned Land
Title: All Is One
Genre: Folk/Progressive Metal
Country: Israel
Year: 2013

Track List:
  1. All Is One
  2. The Simple Man
  3. Brother
  4. Let The Truce Be Known
  5. Through Fire And Water
  6. Fail
  7. Freedom
  8. Shama’im
  9. Ya Benaye
  10. Our Own Messiah
  11. Children
Orphaned Land are arguably the best known metal band from Israel, the seminal band for the whole "oriental metal" subgenre, and also the band that introduced metal to the Arab world. Like most other people, I started listening to them from "MaboolThe Story of the Three Sons of Seven" (2004), but for those who are new to the band, I'd recommend to start from this album, as it's the most accessible out of all their discography.

Initially, in mid-90s, their music was rooted in death/doom metal, a genre which was popular at the time, but like many other such bands, they moved towards much "lighter" sound over the years. The lyrical themes have changed as well, from Middle Eastern mythology to pacifism (well, no arguing that the Middle East definitely needs some peace, especially these days). "All Is One" is ostensibly simplistic and less "progressive" than their other works (and that's why many diehard Orphaned Land fans disliked it), yet on a closer look, it's far from simplistic, and features a lot of oriental folk instruments that normally aren't found in metal. Some songs like "Shama’im" sound like radio-friendly rock rather than metal, but there's nothing to complain since this song is great (just like most songs composed by Yehuda Poliker). However, there also are heavier but no less catchy songs like "Fail" (maybe the best track on the whole album), and songs strongly influenced by Arabic folk music ("Ya Benaye"). Overall, all the songs are great, except maybe for the opening and the closing track being slightly weaker than the rest. It already was extensively reviewed all over the internet, so do I need to say more? Let's quote some reviews from metal-archives.com:
"Basically, what I feel like happened here is that Orphaned Land started taking their role as Jew-Arab peace envoys more seriously than their role as a metal band. Instead of abstract mythological lyrics, you get stuff like "It doesn't matter if you're Muslim or a Jew!" I'm glad a bunch of atheists can get religious idiots to quit killing each other and listen to the same band, and I wish them the best of luck with that"
"If you pay a little more attention, you will notice a myriad of instruments that you'll hardly ever find in metal: Oud, saz, chumbush, bouzouki, and even xylophone. These instruments play haunting, captivating melodies in what I would usually refer to as the "snake-charmer" style, an intense mixture of harmonic minor and Phrygian dominant scales which creates some of the most awe-inspiring tunes ever written. The music has a strong progressive influence; the title track itself is in 7/8 time signature, and many other such changes are displayed throughout the album (most notably in the instrumental "Freedom")... Some of the best melodies in all of metal are found on All Is One, especially in "The Simple Man," "Brother," "Let the Truce Be Known" and "שמיים (Shama'im)." Orphaned Land's All Is One is certainly not a conventional metal album, and I don't expect most people to regard it as highly as I do. Personally, I find that the melodies amount to perfection when combined with such unique lyrics. This may not be the sound that Orphaned Land is most respected for, but it sure is amazing anyway"

Monday, June 29, 2020

Lumsk - "Troll" [2005]

Artist: Lumsk
Title: Troll
Genre: Folk Metal/Rock
Country: Norway
Year: 2005

Track List:
  1. Nøkken
  2. Dunker
  3. Åsgårdsreia
  4. Trolltind
  5. Allvis
  6. Perpålsa
  7. Blæster
  8. Byttingen
  9. Nidvisa (bonus)
Nowadays, the word "troll" is associated mostly with internet trolling, so it's about time to remind that legends about trolls are an important part of Scandiavian folklore, where a great lot of metal bands took their inspiration from. Lumsk aren't an exception, and they play an interesting mix of folk/viking metal in the vein of Storm and progressive rock, with beautiful female vocals by Stine-Mari Langstrand.

According to metal-archives.com: "Early in 2005, the band won the most by:Larm (a Norwegian music festival) prize money ever awarded, worth 500.000 NOK (about 62.500 €). That made their plans for the 2005 album "Troll" possible, including a high-quality video for the song "Trolltind"". While it may be quite different from most Nordic folk metal you're used to, and most of the songs aren't that catchy, it's a quite interesting release worth checking out:

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bloody Woods - "The Lament" [2016]

Artist: Bloody Woods
Title: The Lament
Genre: Neofolk
Country: China
Year: 2016

Track List:
  1. Intro: Nuosu Epopoeia
  2. Souther
  3. The Lament
  4. A Sigh for Autumn
  5. A Cappella
  6. Outro: Fortress Forlorn
"Over the years Neo-folk has taken upon itself the imprint of various cultures encounter through its journeying. We present to you the Lament, to communicate our own experience of sorrow and beauty, death and ruin on this ravaged land, coated with nordic tradition, to tell of the melancholy of oriental instruments, of its power to set one free"
A follow-up to "Romanzen", "The Lament" is less of a "European" and more of a "Chinese" album (and if I'm not mistaken, it's the first Bloody Woods album to feature lyrics in Chinese), with less metal and more ambient influences. Honestly it's less impressive than the other albums by Bloody Woods, but by no means bad. Really wonder what their next album would sound like (if there will be any):

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Bloody Woods - "Romanzen" [2015]

Artist: Bloody Woods
Title: Romanzen
Genre: Neofolk
Country: China
Year: 2015

Track List:
  1. Intro: Die Ballade Der Loreley
  2. Im Tollen Wahn
  3. Love Story
  4. Der Wunde Ritter
  5. Blasses Angesicht
  6. Maliry
  7. It Won't Stop
  8. You Can Smile
  9. Doch Sie, Die Mich Am Meisten
  10. Wanderers Nachtlied
  11. Sonnet 39
  12. Berg Und Burgen
  13. Down By The Lake
After several years of hiatus, one of the best known Chinese neofolk acts Bloody Woods (not to be confused with the Indian metalcore band Bloodywood) has released a new full-length album in 2015, and it has a more Western European character than many actual European neofolk bands. I absolutely won't be suprised if such an album was released by a German band, because it features mostly ballad-like songs with lyrics based on the poetry of German Romanticism (in particular, Heinrich Heine).

It also has some metal influences (especially doom, which isn't surprsing given that the founder of Bloody Woods, Bai Shui, is also a member of a doom metal band Solitary Piligrim), which weren't present on their earlier releases. There are also some faster/danceable songs ("Maliry") and re-recorded versons of their early sons ("You Can Smile"). Overall, it's the best Bloody Woods release so far and definitely recommended to all the fellow lover of neofolk with lyrics in German (even if it's made in China, like pretty much everything nowadays):

Monday, June 22, 2020

Tautumeitas - s/t [2018]

Artist: Tautumeitas
Title: Tautumeitas
Genre: Folk, World Music
Country: Latvia
Year: 2018

Track List:
  1. Intro
  2. Sadziedami
  3. Pāde
  4. Raganu nakts
  5. Vainagu deja
  6. Bērziņš
  7. Pelīte
  8. Raudi raudi
  9. Sastdine
  10. Ūgas
  11. Bārainīte
  12. Aiz azara
  13. Dai citas meitas
If I understand correctly, Līgo is the Latvian equivalent of the Midsummer Eve (and it's as much of a major holiday there as it is in Nordic countries), and Raganu nakts (literally "witching night") is the night before it, being an equivalent to our Kupala night (although it's now celebrated on 7th of July here). Anyway, "Raganu nakts" is also the song about Līgo performed by an all-female folk band Tautumeitas which made them famous on YouTube:
This clip makes me want to participate in one of those Midsummer celebrations in my future travels (so far I've been only to the Kupala night celebration at the lake Svetloyar last year, but the weather was terrible). The whole debut album by Tautumeitas is worth checking out as well (my personal favourite track is "Aiz azara"). Out of everything that was posted on my blog before, stylistically it resembles Oyme more than anything else:

Альянс - "Сделано в белом" [1993]

Artist: Альянс
Title: Сделано в белом
Genre: Folk-Rock, World Music
Country: Russia
Year: 1993

Track List:
  1. Только с тобой
  2. Дальше дальше
  3. На Восток
  4. Эпиталама
  5. Возле твоей любви
  6. До самого неба
  7. Встаньте, братья!
  8. Смерти нет!
  9. Дева
  10. Сестра моя ночь
  11. Всадники
  12. Тува-1
  13. Тува-2
  14. Тува-3
  15. Баллада о горе 
While Alliance are mostly known as a synthpop band, they have experimented with many different genres, and their folk-rock album "Made in White" was even called the best world music album of 1993 in Europe. At that time, the band had already split up, but this album is certainly notable as one of the first world music releases in modern Russia, way predating bands like Theodor Bastard. They were also one of the first bands that have experimented with traditional Tuvan music and throat singing (tracks 12-14 on this album).

"Made in White" features mostly female vocals, performed by Inna Zhelannaya, who later became much better known as a solo artist (and a frontwoman of her own band Farlanders). It's a rather lengthy release, but certainly worth your time of you like soft rock with an ethno flavour:

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Альянс - "Звуки на заре" [1987]

Artist: Альянс
Title: Звуки на заре
Genre: Synthpop, New Wave
Country: USSR
Year: 1987

Track List:
  1. Фальстарт
  2. На заре
  3. День освобождения
  4. Порабощённые трудом
  5. Дайте огня!
  6. Падение - взлёт
  7. Вальс
  8. Когда печаль пройдёт...
So far this year was really terrible when it come to deaths of many important musicians, such as Genesis P-Orridge, Konstantin Ryabinov of GrOb, Gabi Delgado of DAF, Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk, and now Oleg Parastaev of Alliance.

The band was formed in 1981 and initially played ska and reggae, but later became more and more influenced by new wave, which was quickly gaining popularity in the mid-1980s Soviet Union. In 1984, Alliance among many other bands fell victim to the Chernenko's anti-rock campaign and were banned from any public performances. However, in 1986 they have reformed as a synthpop/new wave outfit, with Oleg Parastaev on keyboards. That was their "golden" lineup, but unfortunately it was short-lived: Parastaev left the band in 1988 and started his own new wave project called NRG, while Alliance became a female-fronted folk-rock band before finally splitting up in 1993.

They have reformed in 2008, but didn't gain much publicity until a decade later, when Oleg Parastaev has uploaded a live video of their most famous song "На заре" on his YouTube channel. By a coincidence, it happened during the Venezuelan crisis, and two of the band members in the video looked like younger Putin and Maduro to some viewers. Due to that, the video first went viral in Latin America, and later it became popular at their home in ex-USSR, since it fitted perfectly in the current wave of 80s synthpop nostalgia. After that, the band has released their first new album after 25 years of silence, and in February 2020 - another one, with mostly space-themed lyrics.

Sadly, both of their most important members are dead by now (their founding member Sergei Volodin died in 2017), and to most listeners they'll remain an one-hit wonder, but at least they finally got the recognition they deserve. R.I.P. Oleg Parastaev. He died at 5AM, right according to the lyrics of his best known song: "At dawn, the voices are calling me..." Well, let's say he hasn't died but called to leave the Earth and return to the cosmos he belongs to:

Friday, June 12, 2020

Hạc San - "Sét Đánh Ngang Trời" [2015]

Artist: Hạc San
Title: Sét Đánh Ngang Trời
Genre: Progressive Metal
Country: Vietnam
Year: 2015

Track List:
  1. Hỗn mang
  2. Dưới đáy trần gian
  3. Hoang tàn
  4. Tiều phu
  5. Kẻ phản bội
  6. Mũi tên đen
  7. Bí mật của người ra đi
  8. Tái sinh
  9. Ai oán
  10. Tiếng đàn hàm oan
  11. Sét đánh ngang trời
Metal is rare in Vietnam, let alone progressive metal, yet there was at least one band that have deserved the title of "Vietnamese Dream Theater". Unfortunately Hạc San seem to be defunct by now, yet they have left a very good concept album based on the story of Thạch Sanh. While the language barrier makes it hard to find more info about the band, and certainly is the reason why they're largely unknown outside Vietnam, this album has a couple of really great songs that seem to have received significant publicity at home:

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sói Đen - "Chiến Tranh Và Hòa Bình" [2005]

Artist: Sói Đen (Black Wolf)
Title: Chiến Tranh Và Hòa Bình (War And Peace)
Genre: Heavy/Folk Metal
Country: Vietnam
Year: 2005

Track List:
  1. Vết tích chiến tranh
  2. 1975
  3. Vầng trăng sầu
  4. Sói đen (Blackwolf)
  5. Nhạc khúc hoà bình
  6. Đi tìm ánh sáng
  7. Lòng tự hào
  8. Lâu đài sói (The Castle of Wolf)
  9. Người chiến binh
War metal from Vietnam? Yes, it's a thing, even if by "war metal" here I mean bands that sound more like Sabaton rather than Blasphemy. Anyway, Vietman is definitely not a metal country, and most Vietnamese metal projects I've heard so far were playing quite generic lo-fi black metal (not to mention most of them actually were started by Vietnamese immigrants inother countries). This album is quite poorly produced too (which is understandable, though), but features a completely different kind of music - heavy metal with folk and alternative rock elements. Definitely an interesting release, despite all the production flaws.

Friday, June 5, 2020

District Unknown - "Anatomy of a 24 Hour Lifetime" [2014]

Artist: District Unknown
Title: Anatomy of a 24 Hour Lifetime
Genre: Progressive Metal/Rock
Country: Afghanistan
Year: 2014

Track List:
  1. Modern Nature
  2. Joy Versus Sorrow
  3. Two Seconds After the Blast
  4. Portraits
  5. Struggle
  6. A Cancer by Design
  7. Whisper in a Dream
  8. Requiescence
  9. Kill the Beast 
Apart from obvious fakes, District Unknown were the only metal band in Afghanistan (yes, I know Taarma also claims to be an Afghan band; the man behind the project is indeed Afghan but resides in Pakistan). They even have played live shows in Kabul, although they had to wear masks to conceal their identities. As of now, two of their former members have emigrated to UK and USA, and have started a new international metal project called Afreet.

The members of District Unknown called their music "psychedelic metal". Honestly there aren't that many metal parts on this album, and, unfortunately, there's a lot of ambient-like filler parts. The production is also not great (but much better than I have expected). There's a quite detailed review of "Anatomy of a 24 Hour Lifetime", and I agree with its author in that this LP has numerous flaws; however, the musicianship itself is definitely not unprofessional, and I appreciate the effort of recording a metal album in a such hostile environment.

Tears Of Fire - "Doomed Dome" [2016]

Artist: Tears Of Fire
Title: Doomed Dome
Genre: Funeral Doom Metal
Country: Iran/Germany
Year: 2016

Track List:
  1. شیدا شده‌ام [sheyda shodeam]
  2. دژ [Dejh]
  3. مجنون نبودم [Majnun Nabudom]
In comparison to most other Middle Eastern countries, metal (and underground music in general) is relatively popular in Iran, yet the country is by no means friendly to such music - so many Iranian metal musicians eventually emigrate, and this band isn't an exception. Tears of Fire were one of the first black metal bands in Iran (if not the very first), formed in 1998 and played their first concert an year later. While modern Iranian black metal scene is still small yet far from nonexistent, the Iranian society definitely wasn't ready to appreciate such kind of music 20 years ago, and, if the official story is to be believed, the band members were arrested after the aforementioned concert on July 8th, 1999.

They have disbanded shortly thereafter, but in 2016 their founding member decided to reform the band as an international project based in Germany. Now they play a pretty strange kind of funeral doom metal with oriental motives (although I don't have much to compare with, as the only other Iranian doom metal band I've listened to are 1000 Funerals). This release is certainly interesting but hard to get into (just like Iranian culture in general).

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Eyeless In Gaza [AM] - "Act I: The Protagonist" [2020]

Artist: Eyeless In Gaza
Title: Act I: The Protagonist
Genre: Atmospheric/Funeral Doom Metal
Country: Armenia
Year: 2020

Track List:
  1. The Protagonist
  2. Maelstrom
  3. Mournful Unconcern
  4. Madrigal
Named after the famous novel by Aldous Huxley, Eyeless In Gaza is a new one-man doom metal band from Armenia, a place not known for having a big metal scene. It's a side project of one of the members of Bread and Wine, a female-fronted "aesthetic doom" metal band whose music I found to be hard to get into. The debut album by Eyeless In Gaza, however, caught my attention from the first listen:
"The debut album by Eyeless in Gaza, a band from Armenia, presents a fusion of different styles and gives a fresh look at the genre. A harmonic combination of classical acoustic guitar, academic choral chants, and dark ambient interludes, as well as motifs of the epic funeral doom metal and black doom metal with variable vocals, gives birth to a real epic canvas filled with magic that tells about a personal experience, which can be expressed exclusively by the language of music.
Act I: The Protagonist is an abstract conceptual album, where each track is a stage of personal experience, existential thoughts about destruction as an idea of ​​a new beginning. This is a dreamy and tragic monologue about deep feelings of regret and humility that are melting within us"

P.S. There's also a British band under the same name whose description looks interesting: "veer[ing] crazily from filmic ambiance to rock and pop, industrial funk to avant-folk styles." Would check out them soon too.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Hopelessness - "Andromeda" [2016]

Artist: Hopelessness
Title: Andromeda
Genre: Atmospheric Doom Metal
Country: Morocco
Year: 2016

Track List:
  1. Rains & Tears
  2. Heavens
  3. In the Winter
  4. Oh Death
  5. Solitude
  6. I'll Be There 
A very pleasant instrumental doom metal album by an one-man band from Morocco of all places. The project has at least one more LP and several EPs, some of which feature vocals, but I like the instrumental tracks better. Great atmosphere, and fairly decent production for an underground project from North Africa.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Moonspell - "Under The Moonspell" [1994]

Artist: Moonspell
Title: Under The Moonspell
Genre: Folk/Gothic Metal
Country: Portugal
Year: 1994

Track List:
  1. Allah Akbar! La Allah Ella Allah! (Praeludium / Incantatum Solstitium)
  2. Tenebrarum Oratorium (Andamento I / Erudit Compendyum) (Interludium / Incantatum Oequinoctium)
  3. Tenebrarum Oratorium (Andamento II / Erotic Compendyum)
  4. Opus Diabolicum (Andamento III / Instrumental Compendyum)
  5. Chorai Lusitânia! (Epilogus / Incantatam Maresia)
Moonspell is another well-known metal band from southern Europe which also was one of the first bands I started listening to metal too. In my early teens, when I didn't have internet access yet, one of the local newspapers has published the translation of the lyrics for their song "Opuim". They seemed too edgy for me at the time, yet when I got the access to internet, I found that song in mp3 and managed to download it (which was quite a challenge since the speed was extremely low).

Much later, their famous work "Wolfheart" became one of my favourites in gothic metal. This EP, however, sounds quite different from it, even it was released right before it. It also doesn't sound like their early demos which were old school black metal: this EP isn't black metal (although certainly influenced by it). Most critics call it blackened folk/gothic metal strongly influenced by Morrocan music, which sounds about right to me. Metal-Archives.com have a pretty good track-by-track description of it:
"This EP starts in a rather strange way for a metal album. Track #1 consists of arabic sounds accompanied by the Muezzin calls that are heard on mosques, to serve as a mystic intro to this EP.
Track #2 is my personal favourite of this cd, it combines a mystic oriental feeling with melodic symphonic black metal, the guitar melodies are eastern-tinged and even a gong is there!
The vocals aren't exactly black metal, but they're slightly harsh, and alternate with rather clean vocals and a few female words here and there.
The arabic influence is all over this track, with the keyboard and the guitar giving a sniff of Middle East. Finally, the last one and a half minute of this track is entirely based on a Portuguese acoustic guitar.
Track #3, with harsher vocals than the first, is at first slightly different, the lyrics being more satanist than on the first track, and the female voice gives a sort of horror-feeling to it. The final moments are again influenced by Mediterranean sounds.
As for track #4, this is slightly different than the previous ones, the sound is less heavy and the vocals are clean. The lyrics consist of two pieces, the first is a short poem written by the vocalist, the second is an extract of Marquis de Sade, followed by female orgasmic moans and a violin background.
Finally, track #5 is an instrumental track intirely on a Portuguese acoustic guitar and with sea waves in the background.
Overall, this cd is indeed interesting, and somehow hard to categorize, it's similar to black metal, but I guess it can't be considered as pure black metal, and it's different than the actual albums released by Moonspell. Feel free to give your own category!"
 I completely agree that this EP defies a single genre classification, and it might be one of the earliest examples of symphonic metal (along with the works by Therion from the same time) and oriental metal (along with early Orphaned Land). It's obviously not as good as "Wolfheart", yet it's still an interesting release that doesn't deserve to be forgotten:

Monday, May 25, 2020

Nightfall - "Diva Futura" [1999]

Artist: Nightfall
Title: Diva Futura
Genre: Gothic Metal, Melodic Death Metal
Country: Greece
Year: 1999

Track List:
  1. Master, Faster, Sweet Desaster
  2. Sin
  3. The Sheer Misfit
  4. Diva
  5. Licked One's Iced Lips
  6. Picture Me
  7. Some Deaths Take for Ever
  8. Lowve
  9. Ceaseless
  10. My Traitor's Kiss
  11. Pleasure 
This album has a lot in common with "Revolution DNA" by Septic Flesh - both albums were released in Greece in 1999, they have somewhat similar cover art and lyrics in somewhat clumsy English (but probably not much clumsier than my own English :3), and both stand out as experimental works in the discographies of their respective bands. That said, they're significantly different in terms of sound (strangely enough, "Diva Futura" sounds much like the works of Finnish gothic metal bands like Sentenced from the same time). I've heard the track "Diva" (which instantly became one of my favourite songs) for the first time when I was in my teens, definitely before I've bought the "Revolution DNA" cassette, but I had the chance to hear the whole album only much later.

It still remains my favourite album by Nightfall along with the previous one, "Lesbian Show" (and yes, they were ridiculed by critics for releasing an album with such a name - but after all, they're from Greece, and it's just their culture, going back to the Sappho's times...) - even if they're considered the weakest ones in the Nightfall discography by some fans. Most tracks on the first half of the album are almost as good as "Diva", while the second part is a bit weaker. The vocals can be annoying at times, but otherwise it's a great album with many catchy songs which I'd recommend to anyone who loves Greek metal scene (which has a lot of undoubtedly unique bands) and aren't a diehard fan of "true metal":

Septic Flesh - "Revolution DNA" [1999]

Artist: Septic Flesh
Title: Revolution DNA
Genre: Death / Gothic / Industrial Metal
Country: Greece
Year: 1999

Track List:
  1. Science
  2. Chaostar
  3. Radioactive
  4. Little Music Box
  5. Revolution
  6. Nephilim Sons
  7. DNA 
  8. Telescope
  9. Last Stop to Nowhere
  10. Dictatorship of the Mediocre
  11. Android
  12. Arctic Circle
  13. Age of New Messiahs
Actually, this is the first unquestionably "metal" I've bought during my teenage years (if Rammstein and similar stuff doesn't count), and it left a great impression on me at the time. Septic Flesh are primarily known for their unique atmospheric/symphonic death metal sound and the lyrics inspired by Ancient Greek mythology, but this album is way more experimental (but also much more accessible to a listener that's accustomed to nu-metal and bands like Rammstein - like me when I was in my teens). This direction was already noticeable on their previous work "A Fallen Temple" (tracks like "The Eldest Cosmonaut"), but this album is completely different from their early works, featuring a futuristic, electronic-infused sound which is closer to industrial/gothic metal (or, at times, even rock - i.e., "Arctic Circle" definitely isn't a metal song) of the late 90s than to death metal. This time there are no female vocals (which is unfortunate, because Natalie Rassoulis did a great work on the aforementioned "The Eldest Cosmonaut"), and the male vocals are far from your typical death metal growls.

"Revolution DNA" isn't without its weak moments, one of which being "Android" - the most experimental and electro-sounding track on the whole album, which I normally would love, but this time the experiment has clearly gone wrong. On the other hand, another experimental track, "Last Stop to Nowhere", is absolutely great. The lyrics can be quite weak at times (i.e. "Dictatorship of the Mediocre"; during my university times I was enough of an edgelord to give this album to my English teacher, and she also thought that some of the lyrics were quite shallow), but it isn't a major flaw. Overall, the lyrical topics are more than appropriate for an industrial/futuristic metal album. Would absolutely recommend "Revolution DNA" to everyone who isn't against some experimentation in metal:

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Once Human - "Evolution" [2017]

Artist: Once Human
Title: Evolution
Genre: Melodic Death / Groove Metal
Country: USA
Year: 2017

Track List:
  1. Flock of Flesh
  2. Eye of Chaos
  3. Mass Murder Frenzy
  4. Gravity
  5. Dark Matter
  6. Paragon
  7. Drain
  8. Killers for the Cure
  9. Passenger
Once Human is already arather well known band, but for those who don't know, it's a new band of former Machine Head and Soulfly guitarist Logan Mader, with female vocals performed by Lauren Hart (who's also the guest vocalist in Kamelot). While their first album "The Life I Remember" was average at best and ridiculed by some critics for edgy lyrics and song titles like "You Cunt" (well, I know Lauren grew up in Australia, and if the stereotypes of Australians are to be believed, they use "cunt" instead of "mate" and pretty much every second other word), this one is a pretty solid record that does represent the evolution of their style: melodeath / groove metal with some "core" and djent-y moments (but fortunately, not too much of these). Lauren is a remarkable vocalist on the level of Angela Gossow and Alissa White-Gluz that can do well both growls and clean vocals: