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A. Hughes "huez2000" (Ireland)

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Wordlab [VINYL]
Wordlab [VINYL]

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Compilation of UK Hip-Hop at its Height, 31 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Wordlab [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Hip Hop is Dead. Those immortal lines are probably more true today than at any time since its birth and the situation doesn't look like improving anytime soon. No one really knows when it died which is a bit of a pity in terms of organising belated funeral arrangements, but needless to say it's failing health was very apparent in the early years of this new millenium. The malignant tumour of commercialism in the form of Grime and teeny bopping R n'B hooks, finally delivered their fatal blows to the ailing corpse sometime in the last few years (time of death: unknown). But I digress and we must now remember better times. Times where the fundamentals of turntabalism, emceeing and the true art of rhyming lived.

Now that's not to say that this compilation re-lives the days of Kool Herc and Afrika Bambatta and it is not perfect, but it does adhere to the true essence of hip hop. It is raw and real in an organic kind of way and we are reminded of the days where analogue could still strike the odd blow to the rising digital monster. And this is as recently as ten years ago. On display here is a selection of some of the finest hip hop artists in the UK at the turn of this millenium. This was a time where British hip hop was in a state of rude health after a steady progression from the early to mid nineties. The heavy hitters of the scene are all present, most notably in the form of Roots Manuva, Mark B & Blade, Nextmen, Skinnyman,Ty and of course the legendary Rodney P (formerly of scene innovators London Posse). The beats are unpretentious and straight forward in that most British of ways. And for the most part the lyrical dexterity on show would put many of those American bling merchants to shame. There are very few weak songs to speak of but the En4cers track becomes a little monotone and both Blak Twang and Lewis Parker have had far stronger offerings on their own independent releases. The album is, however, tied together wonderfully by some masterful scratching and deck work courtesy of the likes of DJ legends Primecuts, Nextmen, Skitz etc.

And so we have here in this compilation a top quality cross section of what British hip hop had to offer at this time. The future of the music looked to be on an upward trajectory whilst still retaining it's underground credentials and disregard for mainstream sensibilities. But the blight of the 'manufactured celebrity' culture and the pox of radio friendly pop hooks would soon dominate british urban music with the emergence of the bastardized pop music that is; Grime. Artists like Dizzy Rascal, Tiny Tempah, Tinchy Stryder, Chipmunk et al, have about as much to do with UK Hip Hop than Tony Blair has to do with world peace i.e. nothing in common. As a result true hip hop music has gone back to the underground where many would say that it belongs and it is perhaps the better for it. Now, none of the artists on this compilation ever achieved a level of success in the UK that made any of them earn a profitable career from their art. But there was definitely a time when they were more recognised and appreciated for their contribution to the cause. So now in 2010 we pass the baton to new British hip hop artists such as Poetical Son, Lowkey, Klashnekoff and the Poisonous Poets, just to name a few, wondering if they can resuscitate a genre that means so much to those of us who believe in real music.

Acts Of The Unspeakable
Acts Of The Unspeakable
Price: £10.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unspeakable Yes, But Not Autopsy's Best, 23 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Acts Of The Unspeakable (Audio CD)
It was a monumental task to follow up the death metal classic that was Mental Funeral and unfortunately Acts of the Unspeakable (1992) does not better that aforementioned groundbreaker. Now that's not to say that this album is all bad but one must accept that it does come a firm third in terms of quality i.e. Mental Funeral, Severed Survival and then Acts of the Unspeakable (in that order). I remember eagerly awaiting this release at the time and I don't think Autopsy knew just how popular (or appreciated) they were back then, in an admittedly crowded but still very underground death metal scene. Viewing the album as a whole, it's hard not to see this record as Autopsy experimenting a bit in terms of song structures. Lyrically, the depravity continues unabated but musically many of the tracks boast increasingly strange and unfamiliar arrangements.

The death/doom hybrid, perfected on Mental Funeral, is expanded further on this release but it is far less refined than its illustrious predecessor. One will not find any of the charm and vitality of Severed Survival (1989) or indeed the ambition and musicianship of Mental Funeral (1991). Put simply, the songs are just not as good. The slower doom metal parts do not sit as comfortably with the bludgeoning death grind as they should. That said, if you're looking for some of Autopsy's shortest and fastest songs, they are to be found here. In addition, Chris Reifert produces probably his most `death metal' vocal performance on this album, mixed of course with his usual plethora of top class grunts and squeals. Standout tracks include the title track and `Your Rotting Face' with truly some of the most perverse lyrics that Reifert has ever wretched forth.

However it is perhaps because of the extras that this album is worth picking up. And this includes the amazing artwork of Kent Mathieu (he of `Forbidden Evil' fame). The visual sickness he concocts here is easily the best artwork of any Autopsy release to date. This expanded edition also includes the previously difficult to find `Fiend for Blood EP' (1991) which was the last recording they did with bass godfather extraordinaire Steve DiGiorgio of Sadus. This EP includes one of their most underrated and anguished (almost heartfelt!!) tracks ever in the form of `Dead Hole'. Also included are some very well recorded live tracks (four in total from Severed Survival and five from Mental Funeral). There's currently huge excitement in the metal community as these legends have re-formed as of June this year (due in huge part to fan requests over the years). Their new EP The Tomb Within (2010) is a very welcome slab of the Autopsy we all know and love. Roll on the new album (early next year). All in all, while this album is not their finest moment it's still a million times better than much of the `core' ending drivel that passes for death metal these days. And if (amazingly) your new to Autopsy, then start off where it all began; Severed Survival.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2011 10:40 AM BST

Cursed (Re-Issue + Bonus)
Cursed (Re-Issue + Bonus)
Price: £9.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Meschede Monster's Career Highpoint, 17 Nov. 2010
Back in the late 80's something sinister was stirring in the scenic town of Meschede in the Ruhr valley. That deathly manifestation turned out to be the mighty Morgoth and by 1991 they had become the pace setters for death metal in Germany. They were already creating a stir in the European underground as a result of two very strong EP's released in 1989 and 1990 respectively. They then unleashed Cursed, their debut album in April of 1991 and although there was a flood of amazing death metal albums released that year it still managed to hold it's own. Century Media re-issued this seminal album in 2006 and it succinctly represents the thunderous cacophony that Morgoth were at this time and it remains their career highpoint. They would go on to experiment with more industrial sounds on their second album Odium (1993) which only contained a handful of reasonable tracks. But avoid their third (and final) album at all costs, it rightly signalled the death knell for the band as they attempted to play some proto rock type rubbish and it even contained a dance/techno track. They subsequently called it a day in 1998.

Who knows what success the band may have achieved had they expanded on the promise that they displayed on this album. Cursed mixes the all out aggression of their first two EP's with some slowed down doom metal influences, so this album may not be to everyones taste. Two of the tracks even clock in at over six and seven minutes respectively. The album begins with a keyboard/orchestral intro which is rather pointless and is also strangely the title track. The other low point is the last track, a cover of `Darkness' by German electronic band Warning which is just a spoken word, guitar/keyboard infused mess. Aside from these misjudged indulgences the album is astonishingly heavy. Tempo changes are frequent and the variety of slower tempos throughout can occur in the strangest of places so it can take quite some time to unravel this album. There are some striking guitar leads in places that are imbued with a sense melody which confirms that the band are not lacking in musical ability. It's just that sometimes the mixture of ferocious death metal and snails pace doom make it a somewhat uneven listening experience. It seems churlish to criticise them for varying their music but at times these two elements do not sit comfortably together in the song structures.

Of course, the one thing that marries these two fundamentals are the searing vocals of Marc Grewe. He could be described as the the closest we, here in Europe, have had to having our own John Tardy, that and a little pinch of Chuck Schuldiner just for good measure. He delivers a teriffic performance on Cursed and can be heard nowadays in death metal supergroup of sorts; Insidious Disease so good to see that he's still in the game so to speak. His vocals here contribute to making what could have been an average death/doom album into something a bit more. The production on this re-issue is top notch and is most ceratinly a step up from my old tattered cassete from `91. Also included on this re-issue are six live video tracks from a gig in Frankfurt 1991. The sound quality and visuals are very ropey but such was the technology of the day. Also, the inlay folds out into a nice gloomy black and white poster of the band so altogether it is a well assembled re-issue, unlike some albums I've purchased. As stated, this was Morgoths peak in terms of their albums but if one prefers their faster material you should check out their first two EP's which have also been re-issued onto one collection. Cursed (1991) is far from perfect but musically it captures the band at their finest and is delivered in a fashion that while not wholly unique, is at least individual and expertly executed.

Invidious Dominion
Invidious Dominion
Price: £7.36

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buffalo Butchers Return to Their Roots, 4 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Invidious Dominion (Audio CD)
Malevolent Creation's much anticipated (and terribly titled) tenth album Doomsday X (2007) was an utter disappointment for many long term fans. With only one or two reasonable tracks coupled with the lack of any real aggression there were worries that the tank was running on empty after 20 years wallowing in the Floridian death metal swamps. Most damning of all about that record was the truly awful production, most glaringly present on the almost inaudible vocals of original (returning for the umpteenth time) vocalist Brett Hoffman. Invidious Dominion (2010) thankfully rights a lot of the aforementioned wrongs. Guitarist Phil Fasciana is the true genius and backbone of Malevolent Creation and he is to be commended for keeping the band going all these years and also, with this record, attempting to return to the blistering pace and crushing intensity of their earlier days. Even the album artwork is a sequel of sorts to their stunning debut The Ten Commandments (1991). And that unfortunately is where the similarities end.

Now that is not to say that this is a weak album by any means, but this release is proof of sorts that sometimes the most effective form of brutality is pure simplicity. There is no attempt at musical technicality here as this is ten tracks of stripped down, punishing death metal. From the opening track (after the pointless intro) the relentlessness is just overwhelming as Hoffman's trademark hoarse vocals pummel their way through the crushing guitar and relentless percussion. This album certainly harkens back to the bands glory days due to the unrestrained delivery and hate charged intensity of the music but many of the tracks are just not as well written as those on the classic The Ten Commandments (1991) and the almost as strong Retribution (1992). One of the most noticeable differences in this regard is the vocals. Those first two albums showcased Hoffman at his most vicious and dynamic in terms of his range, but on this album one cant help but feel that he is capable of better had he strained those vitriolic pipes just a fraction more. That said, I do feel it is his best performance since Retribution.

The seething primitivism of this type of death metal is ugly and pulls no punches and if that is what one enjoys, this album will do just fine. Invidious Dominion is brimming with truly devastating , inexorable death metal sprints and while these tracks lack compositional maturity, most are quite memorable and are masterful declarations of violent intent. No doubt this album will be heralded by some as a stylistic return to form. In that regard, it is definitely their strongest release since their first two albums making it very enjoyable indeed. It's just that for such seasoned veterans, Invidious Dominion is not quite the masterpiece that this band should be capable of delivering at this stage in their careers. Conversely though, perhaps we are expecting too much from genre stalwarts like Malevolent Creation in this era of overly technical death metal, when they simply specialize in straight forward, primal sonic barbarism.

The Human Machine
The Human Machine
Price: £6.14

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Calling from the Underground...Master Stay True, 20 Oct. 2010
This review is from: The Human Machine (Audio CD)
The death metal pioneer and legend that is Paul Speckmann's influence on death metal puts him shoulder to shoulder with that other godfather of death, the late great Mr. Chuck Schuldiner. Sadly, we no longer have the iconic Chuck to guide us but we should be grateful that underground hero Paul Speckmann is still around doing what he does best. Pure, underground, primordial Death Metal. One could be forgiven for thinking that Master has been on some sort of hiatus since their late 80's/early 90's heyday, but they haven't gone away you know. They continued to release albums in the late 90's and early 2000's but some of these that bore the sacred Master moniker were questionable in terms of quality. But more importantly the band has unfortunately had some rotten luck in relation to record labels, deals etc. which subsequently affected promotion and distribution of their albums.

Master made a return to form of sorts with their last album; the wholly underrated Slaves to Society (2007). This years The Human Machine is their tenth album since it all began in the early 80's and thankfully the folks at Pulverized Records seem to be doing a decent enough job in terms of promotion which is the least that Paul deserves for all his years of service to metal. Master have a totally unique sound which has set them apart over the years and their vitriolic delivery is the closet death metal has come to the no holds barred immediacy and forcefulness of hardcore punk. On The Human Machine, everything from the snarling rasp of Speckmanns vocals to the machine gun rolls and fills of the drum work, proudly displays its underground punk influences and this rabid aggression is thrilling to behold. Speckmann almost sounds like John Tardy with a flu but this coupled with the acerbic diatribes in his lyrical content complement the sound perfectly. In fact the title track is easily the strongest death metal anthem this year and one of Masters finest ever songs. The production is crisp, loud and clear with a real crunch to the guitars but this perhaps is where one can start to see some of the negative points of the album.

Due to this production the guitar sound is very similar on every track which, while it creates a consistency and flow to the album, it also obscures a lot of individuality between songs. The album starts and finishes strongly but wanders a little in the mid section. While the songs are strong and well written, the production may be the contributing factor to not every song being equally memorable. Speckmann is a hugely competent bassist but for me the bass is still a little low in the mix and his grimy, sludgy chords should definitely be more audible in order to deliver that knock out punch.

The Human Machine is just as strong if not stronger than the Slaves to Society album and its delivery is certainly more urgent and visceral than that record. Lyrically, Speckmanns anger with socio/political ills has not dissipated one iota and the artwork and packaging is probably the best of any Master album to date. For this reviewer, it does not top the death metal mastery of their self titled debut and follow up `On the Seventh Day God Created... Master (1991)' but it does come close and perfectly represents the vicious underground beast that Master still is today. This band helped to create death metal and they are the musical catalyst that inspired so many bands over the years. The under appreciation of Master stops now and it's about time the band got the recognition they so richly deserve. The Human Machine should go a long way in helping them to gain that recognition and respect.

Paul Speckmann.......Master.......Underground Forever.

Price: £11.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Baltimore Bruisers Deliver Their Most Crushing Effort Yet, 2 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Traitors (Audio CD)
Grindcore is not to everyones taste when it comes to extreme metal, least of all this reviewers. Devotees of the genre have long eulogised its punk like ethos and its pushing of traditional boundaries of extremity. While detractors have critisised its lack of musical variation in favour of blunt force sonic barbarism. Misery Index's sound straddles that grey area between pure grindcore (think current Brutal Truth) and straight up death metal. It is a lean,mean and nasty concoction of brutal riffing and bellowed vocals that is above all else; real, so very real. And that is why Traitors (2008) their third album, is a recommended release. While this is their most `progressive' album to date, there are no off-kilter experimental leanings here, so in that sense it is not a drastic departure from their trademark sound. But they do expand on their muscular attack in their own inimitable way. Music should never preach to the listener or impose the views and/or values of the artist but should reflect the reality of the worldview of that artist in a direct and intelligible way. Very much like the early 80's anarcho punk movement along with the free spirited DC hardcore ethos of the same period. And that is what Misery Index achieve on this release.

This is eleven tracks that are charged with a visceral urgency and aggression, culminating in a beating that one doesn't so much listen to, as withstand. The percussion rolls with machine-like precision practiced by the rarely wavering double kick-drums of the mighty Adam Jarvis. If one was to find negatives on this album it would perhaps be in the rhythm section of Voyles and Kloeppel. Their sound is indeed dense but does become repetitive and monolithic in places even though there is a creeping sense of melody on many of the lead riffs. In addition, leaving no gap between the songs, at times results in a wall of thunderous grinding and hyper blastbeats with the intricies of the individual tracks passing you by if you are not paying attention. Finally, while mainman Jason Netherton's imposing growl spews forth anger and hate, it is far from an original style. It is rescued though by the sociopolitical aspects of his lyrics. Death metal / grindcore lyrics in general are best not heard, being instantly throwaway and forgettable. However, Netherton's discourse (very left leaning) is astute, thought provoking and thoroughly refreshing. And whether you agree with him or not, his commentary is presented in a convincing, non-preaching fashion. Meanwhile, the artwork and packaging is sublime and reflect the music and polarized times we live in perfectly. While the punishment that Traitors inflicts can be unrelenting, it is so calculated, unflattered and without pretension that it's extremely difficult not to throw it on for one more spin. Not perfect, but strangely addictive.

P.S. Their latest slab of aural dissent, this years `Heirs to Thievery' album has so far received some very strong reviews in the metal media. Haven't heard it yet but if reviews are accurate this special band are very much continuing on an upward trajectory.

An Examination Of Being
An Examination Of Being
Price: £5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Clinical Blackness from the Tampa Swamps, 24 Sept. 2010
This review is from: An Examination Of Being (Audio CD)
Order of Ennead have described their music as death metal which is not surprising considering where they're from and the background of their members, but this album owes more to the treble infused din of black metal, especially as far as the vocals are concerned. And if one looks at the negatives first, the vocals are an obvious place to start. It is the typical black metal rasp in it's most basic of forms. Kevin Quirion's tone does not vary throughout the album and the lyrics can be heard quite clearly in places which is probably not a good thing for this genre of music where the brute force of the instrumentation usually takes centre stage. The other negative can be found in the production. On first listen it allows you to hear every last note, rasp and cymbal splash but herein lies part of the problem. This is pro-tools and click tracked all the way to the final note which detracts from the raw power and feral aggression that the band should be delivering with their music. In essence, they lose the organic natural sound in favour of a very processed and clean production.

The positives on this album do outweigh the negatives however, just about. Order of Ennead are noted for their experimental nature and while this was evident on their debut of two years ago, it is less evident here which benefits the sonic assault on offer and results in a fuller more direct album, meaning the songs are most certainly heavier and more aggressive. The other resounding positive is the musicianship on show and these songs are expertly adorned by the virtuoso displays of John Li's lead playing. While some solos can be scattered and overly frantic, this guitarist is very talented and extremely impressive throughout the album. By far the most positive aspect of this release is the quality of song writing which shows a big improvement from their debut. Admittedly, this album starts stronger that it finishes and the first three tracks are brilliantly arranged. `Lies upon the lips of judas' especially, has the potential to be a true anthem in the live setting. Then there is Steve Asheim's powerhouse drumming, the man is truly one of the finest sticksmen in extreme metal and has been for nigh on twenty years.

Finally the lyrics ,while not genre defining by any means, are quite philosophical and esoteric which is a refreshing alternative to praising the devil, for example. The rest of the album pelts along with machine gun delivery showing glimpses of melody and innovation. And while there are quite satisfying moments throughout, many of the remaining songs fail to really stand out, so consequently it results in an uneven listening experience. Blackened death metal can be a very hit and miss affair and there are many detractors of the style as a whole. Order of Ennead do provide something different but having the talent to compose a whole album's worth of memorable well crafted songs is no easy feat. It is a feat they don't achieve here, but there are signs of hope. If they can concentrate on forging an innovative progressive black metal style of their own then there is enough talent within this group to deliver something truely special to extreme music.

The Astral Sleep (Re-Issue + Bonus)
The Astral Sleep (Re-Issue + Bonus)
Price: £8.64

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tiamat's Last Death Metal Album, 16 Sept. 2010
Ah, the amazingly talented Tiamat, one of Stockholm's finest death metal bands in 1991, which was the most definitive year in the history of death metal. It is for this very reason that their second album `The Astral sleep (1991)' often gets overlooked and forgotten about when so many classics of the genre were released that year. This is not to say that it is an enduring classic but it still deserves to viewed as an influential and important release for it's time and most certainly is a unique listening experience. This album expands considerably on the raw blueprint of their self-titled debut `Sumerian Cry (1990)' which was a more straightforward death metal album albeit with distinct black metal influences. Their third long player `Clouds (1992)' departed from the death metal sound altogether in favour of a more progressive/doom metal approach. With the release of `Clouds', Tiamat had lost any semblance of aggression in their music and that is what makes `The Astral Sleep' even more important.

On this album they play a very impressive style of melodic death metal which was some years before the Gothenburg sound was even spoken of or established. Opening track `Lady Temptress' with it's trademark Swedish buzzsaw guitar sound easily stands shoulder to shoulder with any Entombed or Dismember tracks released at that time. There are some really memorable melodic riffs and majestic leads throughout, with Sumerian Cry (Part III) being a particular highlight. Unfortunately the abundance of synth-guitar textures pervade nearly all of the songs and this is sometimes to the detriment of the music as a whole. Whilst some tracks effortlessly augment the album with untold layers of sublime guitar harmonies and atmospheric synthesizers, there are occassions when it amounts to overkill such as with the rather pointless `The Southernmost Voyage'. But this I suppose is also a matter of taste and the cold sounds of piano-key strikes do create a somber doom-like atmosphere throughout its nearly 50 minutes of playing time. This is not crushing or indeed fast death metal by any account and blast beats for example, are few and far between. The vocals are probably the most unique thing about `The Astral Sleep' as Johan Edlund veers from gutteral roars to almost whispered tones without ever losing the aggressive intent and it is easily his career best vocal performance. Lyrically, its all a bit mystic and poetic without any real substance but this is easily overlooked in favour of the actual music.

As stated above, their next album `Clouds' saw their death metal tendancies almost completely fading and there were more than tentative forays into an overt doom metal sound. The most regrettable thing about this once great band is that with their fourth album `Wildhoney' (1994, a much praised release but a million miles from death metal) and all subsequent albums, they disregarded their roots entirely which was presumably in the name of `progression' and/or a shot at mainstream success. They started playing ambient psychedelic drivel and are nowadays nothing more than a forgotten about gothic rock band who never achieved the success that they thought their change in musical direction would bring. One can only wonder if they could have become one of the great Swedish death metal bands such was their unique sound and willingness to experiment. The Astral Sleep, while not perfect is none the less a quality dose of death metal at a pivotal point in the music's history.

Price: £9.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Aussie Ex-Pats Produce a Mixed Bag of Treasures, 3 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Defiance (Audio CD)
Destroyer 666's music is most commonly referred to as `blackened thrash' which is a fine description, if you will. Personally, I would describe them as closer sounding to `melodic death metal' circa early In Flames or Amon Amarth but enough of the pedantics. The most important thing is that these antipodeans (all now based in Europe apparently) play a fearsome brand of metal that is a unique sensory assault and is deserving of attention. Defiance (2009) is their fourth full length album after a hiatus of nearly seven years. So with a fairly strong back catalogue, the question is was it worth the wait? The answer is unfortunately inconclusive as this album is a somewhat mixed offering.

The production is of a high standard courtesy of the famed Necromorbus studios in Sweden with the only negative being that perhaps the vocals are a slight bit low in the mix. Musically, it's a swirling mass of riffs, leads and avalanches of beats that after an initial listen can be a bit disorientating but does highlight that the band have at least returned with a rekindled sense of urgency. It is only after many listens that the songs reveal their layers but this reward is patchy in places. As the album blazes a trail from the ferocity of opener `Weapons of Conquest' there's no denying the musical ability of Destroyer 666, as flayed solos and fleet-fingered power-riffing pour forth from the speakers. In fact, the solos just seem to drop from nowhere at times which hints at a more technical, intellectual product than previous albums. Nowhere is this more apparent than the song writing, which espouses a more humanist, anti-establishment rhetoric as opposed to the usual satan orientated babble which can pervade this genre.

It's just that for every `I Am Not Deceived' or `Stand Defiant' which resonate with memorable leads and fist pumping choruses, there are `The Barricades Are Breaking' and `Paths to Conflict' which are instantly forgettable. And despite the brilliant title and promising intro `Human All Too Human' also fails to distinguish itself from the crowd. Its not that the weaker tracks are lacking effort or the trademark muscular riffing, it's just that they don't impact and stay with the listener in the same way. The album finishes strongly though with the epic `Sermon to the Dead' which in theory could have gone horribly wrong. It is a slower tempo track which mixes haunting clean vocals playing background to KK's trademark snarls. It is emotional, vicious and melancholic all at the same time which is no mean feat. The album's moniker does indeed do what it says on the tin and overall this is a much recommended slab of blackened thrash/melodic death but one can't help but feel that with a little bit more quality control this could have been an absolute classic. Roll on album number five!

Sworn to the Dark
Sworn to the Dark
Price: £14.31

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uppsala's Best Musical Export Stake a Serious Claim for Swedish Black Metal Crown, 3 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Sworn to the Dark (Audio CD)
The mighty Marduk are arguably the finest exponents of modern Swedish black metal, not forgetting of course those sadly missed progenitors themselves Dissection, who put Sweden on the map in terms of the Second Wave of Black Metal. But just two months before Marduk released the brilliant Rom:5:12 (2007), fellow Swedes and young pretenders to the throne Watain unleashed this blackened beast upon the world. It is (for this reviewer anyway) their career highpoint and it remains to be seen whether this years Lawless Darkness album can grow into the monster that this has become since it's release.

Whilst this album is a little short of being hailed as a masterpiece, the single most impressive achievement here is that each track is unique and fully formed as a result of some impressive songwriting dynamics. Watain specialize in the raging black metal that we all know and love but manage to carve their own niche in quite atypical fashion. But this is not to say that they stray too far from the raw black metal blueprint when creating their own distinctly violent sound. This album is a poisonous brew that is both chaotic and vicious but it is punctuated by an epic sense of melodic depth and harmony which elevates it above its peers. This is evidenced by some haunting leads throughout, such as at the start of `Underneath the Cenotaph' and the stunning finale to `The Serpents Chalice'. Even the forgotten instrument of black metal (bass guitar) gets its chance to shine on `Darkness and Death'. Vocally it's fairly standard but Erik Danielsson does display a palpable sense of conviction in places. Lyrically, well its best not to dwell on such non sensical scribblings as they could be singing about Dipsy and La La for all we care right? Thankfully though, they remain firmly rooted in the dark arts which they can be forgiven for when the musical journey we are taken on is so crushing and gloriously deviant.

The production is pristine and the only negatives are to be found in the inclusion of two rather pointless instrumentals. Whilst `Withershins' is non-descript, `Dead but Dreaming' attempts to introduce a more subdued, thoughtful approach to proceedings but it ends up just sounding one dimensional and repetitive. Watain do place an emphasis on creating a certain ambience and dark atmosphere in their music (as evident by their amazing live shows) so one can only deduce that this is what they were aiming to create with these instrumentals. But the most musical and emotionally cathartic highlights in this release are to be found in their other songs and with `Legions of the Black Light', the title track and the pounding `Stellavore' they not only widen their musical vision but deliver rousing odes to blackness complete with memorable (even anthemic) choruses. While not perfect, Sworn to the Dark (2007) is none the less a highly recommended exposition of quality black metal that is delivered with brilliant musicianship, authority and utter conviction.

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