Saturday, October 31, 2020

2020: a Halloween year

It looks like Halloween is almost a professional holiday to all the "heavy" musicians on my social media feeds, but this year it was more "tame" than before, probably because we already had enough horror and mask wearing during 2020 ("Everyday is Halloween" by Ministry has aged quite well). Still continuing the tradition of posting Halloween photos, starting with Daria Zaritskaya who looks great al always:

Irina Duskulova 5 years ago (not a "heavy" musician, I know, but what other blog would feature a Yukaghir girl on this day?):

Ariadna Majewska (not a musician at all, but a very classy model, and I like her outfit a lot):

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Agalloch - "Ashes Against The Grain" [2006]

Artist: Agalloch
Title: Ashes Against The Grain
Genre: Post-Black/Doom Metal
Country: USA
Year: 2006

Track List:

  1. Limbs
  2. Falling Snow
  3. This White Mountain on Which You Will Die
  4. Fire Above, Ice Below
  5. Not Unlike the Waves
  6. Our Fortress Is Burning... I
  7. Our Fortress Is Burning... II
  8. Our Fortress Is Burning... III
"For twenty years the Pacific Northwest group Agalloch has defined what it means to combine influences from a variety of musical genres into one brooding, colossal, and cinematic sound that provides the soundtrack to existential themes concerning man, nature, loss, and death"

Agalloch is a band that need no introduction to anyone who's well familiar with that part of the 2000s American heavy music that isn't "core"-based. They have developed an unique style of fusion between atmospheric black metal, gothic/doom metal and neofolk (all 3 genres I love), which is sometimes jokingly referred to as "elk-influenced black metal" (a pun on the cover art of their album "The Mantle"), and it was one of the major sources from which the "Cascadian" black metal sound later developed. 

While this kind of sound was already present on their rather poorly produced debut "Pale Folklore" (1999), the core of their creative output consists of "The Mantle" (2002), "Ashes Against The Grain" (2006), and "Marrow Of The Spirit" (2010). Of those albums, "Ashes Against The Grain" is arguably the best, albeit it's definitely heavier and less folk-influenced than its predecessors. However, it contains that depressive wintry atmosphere that's also characteristic of the 90s death/doom scene, while the music is much more rich and fully deserves the label of "progressive metal" in addition to everything I mentioned above. There's not much vocals on "Ashes Against The Grain", which is lso a good thing, because the music is interesting enough on its own. Overall, this album is a classic and a definite must-listen to every fan of nature-inspired atmopheric black metal (although the actual genre definition would be much more complicated). If I had to compared it to any European metal release of the same era, "Omnio" by In The Woods would be the fist thing that comes to mind (and it's a masterpiece as well).

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Heavenwood - "Diva" [1996]

Artist: Heavenwood
Title: Diva
Genre: Gothic/Doom Metal
Country: Portugal
Year: 1996

Track List:

  1. Frozen Images
  2. Emotional Wound
  3. Flames Of Vanity
  4. Since The First Smile
  5. Tears Of Grief
  6. Moonlight Girl
  7. Judith Heavenwood
  8. Weeping Heart
  9. Frithiof's Saga
  10. Lament

While most people would associate Portuguese gothic metal scene with Moonspell, there's one more band from the same era that deserves attention. Heavenwood started in 1992 as a death metal band Disgorged, but changed their style and name in 1996. Both their 90's albums ("Diva" and "Swallow") are now considered to be classics of Portuguese metal. The band split up in 2001, but later reformed and released a few more albums, to which I hven't listened to (but according to reviews, they're worth listening as well).

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Helevorn - "Aamamata" [2019]

Artist: Helevorn
Title: Aamamata
Genre: Gothic/Doom Metal
Country: Spain
Year: 2019

Track List:

  1. A Sail To Sanity 
  2. Goodbye, Hope
  3. Blackened Waves
  4. Aurora
  5. Forgotten Fields
  6. Nostrum Mare (Et deixo un pont de mar blava)
  7. Once Upon a War
  8. The Path to Puya
  9. La Sibil-la

Named after a lake in the Tolkien's legendarium, Helevorn were formed in 1999 in Palma de Mallorca, a place that most people would associate with beach parties rather than any "kvlt" stuff, yet it also have one of the most beautiful Gothic style cathedrals and one of the best modern gothic/doom bands. I discovered Helevorn due to thhe song "Nobody is Waiting" off their debut album "Fragments":


Since then, the band has made a lot of progress, judging from their last release "Aamamata" which has a very interesting and rich sound. My personal favourites are "Aurora" and the multi-language song "Nostrum Mare". Release notes:

"Aamamata is the song that Death sings every day in the Mediterranean Sea, which has become a desolate pit for human lives.
‘Aurora’ is dedicated to all of those who have fallen by executions and political persecution during the fascist coup in Spain in 1936, and are still missing, buried in hundreds of unmarked mass graves but is especially dedicated to Aurora Picornell, a freedom fighter who stood up for liberty and civil rights, and was executed on January 5th, 1937.
More than 80 years after her death, her body has not yet been found"

"The album has been recorded at Psychosomatic studios by M.A Riutort and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios, like their previous album, and the cover artwork has been made by Gonzalo Aeneas.
In the large list of contributions, you can find Heike Langhans of the Swedish band Draconian, who sings in a song of the album.
This new disc is a bit more epic, intense and dark than the previous ‘Compassion Forlorn’, who had excellent reviews and took the band to play in several European cities, and it will delight to all the Doom Metal fans over the world"

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Erancnoir - s/t [2018]

Artist: Erancnoir
Title: Erancnoir
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Country: Iran
Year: 2018

Track List:

  1. Erancnoir
  2. Mehr

Iran may be not the best place to play metal in, yet Iranian metal scene not only exists but can boast some world-class acts.I stumbled upon this one-man project from Tehran just a few days ago, and was pleasntly surprised by this self-titled album, which is on pair with the best Western nature-inspired atmospheric black metal releases. The lyrics on "Erancnoir" are in Farsi (but it's rather an exception, as the other releases feature lyrics in German).

"Erancnoir is the fallen entity of autumn and the frozen entity of winter. His whispers shall not be heard and his emotions shall not be felt; unless ears and souls are welcome to the coldness of snow, and the falling of leaves"

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Saħħar - "Qilla tal​-​Qrun" [2019]

Artist: Saħħar
Title: Qilla tal​-​Qrun
Genre: Black/Doom Metal
Country: Malta
Year: 2019

Track List:

  1. Kantiku Kkankrat
  2. Bedwin
  3. Irmed tal-Ħaruf
  4. Tibla' l-Ostja...
  5. ...u taħra x-xjaten
  6. Qilla tal-Qrun
  7. Il-Waqgħa
  8. Ixrob mill-Kalċi, ja Poplu Misħut!
  9. Ħmieġ ta' Isa, Irmed ta' Eluf 
  10. Talba għat-tmiem tal-Ħajja (Mistoqsija ta' Dejjem) 

This album is an interesting find (the first Maltese metal release I came across), but for some reason, my review wasn't posted properly, and I can't find it in the drafts either. So let's just say I always thought that Arabic language is very suitable for black metal, and it turns out that Maltese language (which evolved from one of the medieval Arabic dialects) suits it even better. The best track on the whole album is the last one, which features dual male/female vocals, and I'd like to hear a full-length album in such style from them.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

My Insanity - "Solar Child" [2001]

Artist: My Insanity
Title: Solar Child
Genre: (Cyber-?) Gothic Metal
Country: Germany
Year: 2001

Track List:

  1. Monument
  2. Cosmic Orgasm
  3. Bound & Lost
  4. Failed Experiment I
  5. Failed Experiment II
  6. Mirrors
  7. Solar Child
  8. Dead Season
  9. Twin
  10. Kings of Plush
  11. Infinity
  12. Sunday

This undeservedly forgotten band is mostly known due to their ties to Samael, whose member Xytras produced their debut album "Still Dreams In Violent Areas". During the 2000s, both "Still D.I.V.A" and "Solar Child" were distributed here along with the Samael albums, so My Insanity were well known to almost every Samael fan. "Solar Child" still remains one of my favourite gothic metal albums of all times, and certainly deserves a place on my blog.

While the influence of late 90's Samael is definitely audible on "Solar Child", for the most part it's still melancholic gothic metal in the vein of Crematory, with a "futuristic" tinge (the usage of electronics is extensive but not over the top, though). The guitar riffs are fairly interesting and innovative for gothic metal of its time (sometimes even bordering the progressive metal territory). Somehow it also reminds me of "Revolution DNA" by Septic Flesh - maybe because it has a similar futuristic concept and lyrics that are interesting albeit written in rather "naive" English. While the lyrics can be outright corny at times ("Dead Season", or, for even better example, "The Girl In A White Dress" - the best track on their debut album "Still D.I.V.A"), My Insanity certainly don't belong to the so-called "love metal" scene. Overall, "Solar Child" is a quite original album (which, however, still has all the hallmarks of a good "conventional" gothic metal release), with good vocals and a lot of very catchy songs. And, well... did I mention that there's an accordion part in the title track?