Hell: Venom

Rating: 65%

Venom_hell.jpgIn 2008, Venom released “Hell.” This album has gotten many different ratings to the point where I see many like it or many hate it. The problem is, when these bands who started out in the early 1980’s, they ruled the underground. As their audiences grow up and get wiser with age, their mindset changes. As these musicians get more experience with music, they tend to release the same album. AC/DC, Motorhead, and Obituary are three that come to mind. Well, even the great Manowar, so there’s four.

The overall sound is a bit bland and heavily polished. It’s not like the older Venom albums where the recording was raw. It doesn’t have the lust or the power of previous albums. While you listen to this album, it does make me lose interest, because there is no power in the music. This album is an average album with average material from the Black Metal fathers.

The opening track is perfect the way it is and stands out from most of the other material. This is pure Thrash Metal. “Hand of God” is another great track that stands out. It’s not Thrash Metal or Black Metal, but a mixture of styles that are Groove and Punk rooted. It reminds me of Prong’s “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck.” “Kill the Music” has almost a classic Venom feel to it that has been modernized. Bottom line, this album while it isn’t anything fancy, it’s just a basic average release by Venom.

Track listing:

1. “Straight to Hell” 4:28
2. “The Power and the Glory” 5:09
3. “Hand of God” 4:35
4. “Fall from Grace” 3:29
5. “Hell” 5:08
6. “Evil Perfection” 3:36
7. “Stab U in the Back” 4:33
8. “Armageddon” 3:28
9. “Kill the Music” 3:15
10. “Evilution Devilution” 4:29
11. “Blood Sky” 5:13
12. “USA for Satan” 4:51
13. “Dirge/The Awakening” (Instrumental) 3:30

Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού: Rotting Christ

Rating: 85%

Rotting_Christ_Κata_Τon_Daimona_Εaytoy_cover.jpgThe 2013 release of “Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού” by Rotting Christ was my first introduction to the band. It is Black Metal mixed with melodic and Gothic elements, which really helps to break up the pace of the album. It’s a heavy album, but looses the harshness of the typical Black Metal style. The song structures gives this album some what of an epic feel to it. It’s exciting to listen to. I do like the concept of the album of every song being in a different language.

The musicianship is very tight. The guitar work is very impressive. There’s a lot of great fill in leads and solos with plenty of catchy riffs and is filled with lot’s harmony. And yet, it has some weird parts to it that are just as enjoyable and compliments the overall melody. the bass sounds amazing. The drumming is one thing that sticks out to me. The timing isn’t the same thing over and over again. There’s plenty of fast paced tempos to mid-level tempos. I like the vocal style on the verse and the harmony of the chorus lines. The harsh vocals are raspy, unlike most Black Metal bands. I do like the big beefy choir lines on several of the songs.

Tracking listing:

1. “In Yumen/Xibalba” 6:24
2. “P’unchaw kachun/Tuta kachun” 4:44
3. “Grandis Spiritus Diavolos” 5:52
4. “Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού” 4:52
5. “Cine iubește și lasă” 5:58
6. “Iwa Voodoo” 4:36
7. “Gilgameš” 4:02
8. “Русалка” 4:33
9. “Ahura Mazdā/Aŋra Mainiuu” 4:44
10. “χξϛʹ” 5:46

Eld: Enslaved

Rating: 75%

enslaved_eldI’ve been into Viking Metal for over two decades now. One of the bands in Viking Metal that one will hear about is Enslaved. When I gather a list of bands to check out, this was among that list. So, I went to Record and Tape Traders and began my exploration into this genre. “Eld” was my first exposure to this band. the personell for this album is guitarist & keyboardist Ivar Bjørnson, vocalist & bassist Grutle Kjellson, and drummer Harald Helgeson.

There is decent mixture of acoustic and electric elements in the instrumentation of the music. There’s an balance of clean vs. dirty vocals that don’t detract from the overall style of Black/Viking Metal. Although, Black Metal in nature, the song structures feature melodies ranging from mid tempo sections to the extremely up beat and fast in nature song structures.  Think of the word “epic.” There are influences of Progressive music in this release. So this isn’t a stand alone Black Metal record.

There is some really great musicianship on this album from the riffs, leads, bass, to the drumming. The guitars are very gritty as well as the bass. There’s somewhat of a crunch that brings out the heaviness of these two instruments. Some of the guitar works seem to be a bit complex. Another stand out trait is the melody and how in certain areas of the music, it becomes more atmospheric or melodic. The overall sound remains very raw, however, there is some texture to the it.

Track listing:

1. “793 (Slaget om Lindisfarne)” (“793 (The Battle of Lindisfarne)”) 16:10
2. “Hordalendingen” (“The Man from Hordaland”) 5:19
3. “Alfablot” (“Sacrifice to the Elves”) 6:33
4. “Kvasirs blod” (“The Blood of Kvasir”) 7:51
5. “For lenge siden” (“A Long Time Ago”) 8:08
6. “Glemt” (“Forgotten”) 8:04
7. “Eld” (“Fire”) 6:36

Pitch Black Brigade: Vreid

Rating: 85%

105296.jpgIn 2006, Vreid released “Pitch Black Brigade. The band consisted of vocalist & guitarist Sture, guitarist Ese, bassist Hvàll, and drummer Steingrim.

One thing that I liked about this band is their version of Black Metal. Musically, it’s very melodic. But there are also elements of some Thrash Metal and some roots of Punk music thrown into the song structures at times. Fast riffs, great tempos, and even some weird timing shifts. The sound itself is very raw, at the same time, there is a certain epic feel to the music.

The musicianship is pretty good. The growls and shrills of the vocals are more along Death Metal and the shrieks of Black Metal. There’s plenty of brutal guitar riffs. Many of the riffs are heavily rooted into thrash. While some of the other riffs and effects are borderline punk. The album is missing a bit of the lead guitar solos. The bass for the most part plays more along side of the guitars, but it is clearly heard in the finished product. There are some bass riffs here that sound very good. The drums are fantastic. I love hearing the double tap of the bass drums.

Track listing:

“Då Draumen Rakna” (“When the Dream Shattered”) – 5:16
“Left to Hate” – 4:38
“Pitch Black” – 4:20
“The Red Smell” – 4:42
“Hengebjørki” (“The Silver Birch”) – 9:21
“Our Battle” – 3:35
“Hang ‘Em All” – 3:33
“Eit Kapitell For Seg Sjølv”(“A Story of its Own”) – 6:54

Apocalyptic Raids: Hellhammer

Rating: 90%

13934.jpgBefore there was Celtic Frost, there was Hellhammer. This band although, never released any major records, did play a key influential role in the formation of Black Metal along with Bathory and Venom. This three piece band consisted of guitarist and vocalist Tom G. Warrior, bassist Martin E. Ain, and drummer Denial Fiend. Tom Warrior and Martin Ain would move on a form Celtic Frost.

“Apocalyptic Raids” was released in 1984. This small song EP packed one of hell of a punch in the Heavy Metal world. This has lots of darkness as if hell was on earth. There is a certain rawness to the music that is refreshing compared to the Black Metal of today.

Lot’s of heavy guitars riffs, distorted feed back, toned down guitar sounds. The sound is very deep. There is a good mixture of slower aggressive riffs and fast rapid palm muting that storms the music with assault. There are a few nice solos. The bass has a nice thick, heavy and deep sound to it. The drums are throwing out all kinds of different tempos and beats. The vocals have that classic higher pitched screams and grit. This was extreme music before extreme music became what it is today.

Track listing:

Side A
1. Third of the Storms (Evoked Damnation) 02:45
2. Massacra 02:48
Side B
3. Triumph of Death 09:23
4. Horus / Aggressor 05:02

Calm Before The Storm: Venom

Rating: 80%

Calmbeforethestormoriginal.jpgVenom’s “Calm Before The Storm” released in 1987, was my first introduction to the band. I first heard Venom shortly after this release. Although, this album has a more polished sound to it as compared to their first few albums, I liked it.

“Calm Before The Storm” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea for several reasons. First and foremost, the lyrical themes of Satanism has been placed on the back burner. Secondly, many just don’t like the overall sound to it. Lastly, this isn’t really a Black Metal album as is it is more Speed Metal. To me, this was my first album and when I first heard it, I was blown away.

The musicianship is pretty is tight. You have the one and only whiskey drenched vocalist and bassist Cronos. Rounding out the other spots is guitarists Mike “Mykus” Hickey and James Clare, and drummer Abaddon.

The recording itself sucks. But musically, this album has a lot of fast paced tempos, excellent lead guitars, plenty of riffs and even a few bass solos thrown in. This album does have a bit of a Punk feel to it. It’s a bit more free form. Lyrical themes are more comical and have a lot of tongue in cheek references. There more about Rock n’ Roll, sorcery and magic. “Muscle” is a great example of the tongue in cheek and double entendre references. The term muscle is used to describe a woman’s, well…listen to the song and fill in the blanks. There isn’t any harmony, but there is an organized structure of melody.

Track listing:

Side one
1. “Black Xmas” 2:57
2. “The Chanting of the Priests”  4:25
3. “Metal Punk”  3:24
4. “Under a Spell” 4:09
5. “Calm Before the Storm”  4:14
Side two
6. “Fire” 2:42
7. “Krackin’ Up” 2:15
8. “Beauty and the Beast” 3:49
9. “Deadline” 3:17
10. “Gypsy” 2:25
11. “Muscle” 2:43

Jumalten aika (Age of Gods): Moonsorrow

Rating: 95%

jumalten_aikaIn 2016, Moonsorrow released “Jumalten aika (Age of Gods).” This album is among one of their best projects to date. The influences of folk and classical music blending with their style of Black Metal is amazing. That is what makes this album so epic from start to finish. The songs are on the lengthy side, but Moonsorrow always seems to make the the music interesting and never allows the music to get bogged down with phony background noise of false instruments. Because of that, the song structures are very well written.

Musically, this album has some interesting melodies that are centered around classic Black Metal traits. When you hear flutes, mouth harps, and other acoustical string instruments playing along side of the distorted guitars and harsh music, the songs themselves have a bigger sound to them. Moonsorrow seems to work all that to their advantage. That is where the word “Epic” seems best described the material. The melody and choirs are done perfectly from song to song. Each song carries the listener on a journey.

This album lacks two minor things. The vocals seem a tad in the distance, but everything else as far as instrumentation is perfectly heard. Secondly, the sound of the music seems to follow “Verisäkeet” rather than evolving into something new. But these are little things.

Musicianship to me is still at it’s best.  Bassist and lead vocalist Ville Sorvali again just nails it. His style of vocals and bass will surely influence another generation of musicians who are looking at this mastering this style of Black Metal. Even his style of vocals seem to get better with age. Pounding on the drums is the very talented Marko Tarvonen. I love his style of drumming. On the axes are Henri Sorvali and Mitja Harvilahti. These guys help to create the huge epic sound. Rounding out the spot on keyboards is  Markus Eurén.

If you haven’t heard this album yet, you’re missing out on one of the best new heavy metal albums of 2016. This album is fantastic and is one of the best Moonsorrow albums to date. Don’t pass this one by.

Track listing:

1. “Jumalten aika” The Age of Gods 12:43
2. “Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän päivän kansa” Plague Grove incl. People of the Dayless Day 15:21
3. “Suden tunti” Wolf’s Hour 7:06
4. “Mimisbrunn” Mímir’s Well 15:55
5. “Ihmisen aika (Kumarrus pimeyteen)” The Age of Man (A Bow into Darkness) 16:00
6. “Soulless” (Grave cover; bonus track) 3:18
7. “Non Serviam” (Rotting Christ cover; bonus track) 5:10