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Dystopian Journals
Dystopian Journals
Price: £11.81

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Competent Arcturus Clone., 3 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Dystopian Journals (Audio CD)
Vulture Industries, despite their similarities to fellow Norwegian band Arcturus, are a difficult one to pin down. Simultaneously, this avant-gardé act manage to pose interesting questions with both positive and negative outcomes. Since Arcturus are now a defunct entity, there is a possibility that there is room for a "clone", a band who projects almost the exact same sound as an originator, which is Arcturus in this case. As many other reviews will suggest, Vulture Industries debut, `The Dystopia Journals', is similar in its aesthetics to full-lengths like `La Masquerade Infernale' and partially `The Sham Mirrors'. In terms of its characteristics, this record does display a lot of the same techniques that the aforementioned two records possess, particularly in reference to the bands vocalist, Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen, a man who sounds like a mixture of the power of Garm and the subtlety of ICS Vortex. I must admit I find it somewhat strange that a "clone" can exist without persecution in some sub-genres, whilst in others they're ridiculed for a lack of invention and not being able to detach themselves from their own influences and enforcing their own style as a result.

Vulture Industries aren't exactly a carbon copy of Arcturus as they do use a few different techniques, but the results of these minor differences doesn't do anything to hide the glaringly obvious fact that `The Dystopia Journals' is heavily influenced by aforementioned avant-gardé greats such as Arcturus. Whilst I see no crime in openly displaying to your audience what your influences are and how they have shaped your music, but I would still encourage musicians to deploy their own creative juices into the mix to pre-emotively quash any doubts that their brand of music is just the little brother of a well known giant. Unlike Arcturus, Vulture Industries use guest musicians to incorporate gentle string instruments, such as the cello and violin, into their sound which does dispel some fears that this record is just going to be a re-run of old sounding material. Whilst I do believe that a number of the Arcturus records do transcend time and sound fresh even against the modern scene, that doesn't mean to say bands who adopt the style won't sound old fashioned. After all, avant-gardé by definition is experimenting and there isn't too much of that going on here when one considers the heavy influence that certain other records have had upon this unusual product.

For me, I'm afraid, incorporating subtle string sections into songs like `Soulcage' doesn't justify an avant-gardé description. Also, this record certainly doesn't pertain to the black metal genre. Occasionally, Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen will resort to generic harsh vocals, which find themselves lost between a growl and a rasp but, other than small elements, there are no ties to the black metal genre. This record certainly doesn't take the penetrative atmosphere of Arcturus' debut, which was an experimental black metal record and harness that into an influence. It takes influence predominantly from the mid-era records, namely the two which keep cropping up in this review. I would regard this record as extreme metal with an experimental twist, though that twist is hardly surprising and doesn't disguise any outside influence. However, it isn't all doom and gloom. Of all the bands to take influence from, Arcturus are not the worst. It's refreshing to see a group of musicians imitate someone other than Varg's early Burzum records, or any of the usual suspects, including the major second wave bands like Darkthrone, particularly, and Immortal.

Although I do regard this as imitation metal, I still enjoy `The Dystopia Journals', for the most part. The generic harsh vocals could do with ditching but, other than that, we have several capable musicians to dwell on here, with particularly delightful clean vocals from the Garm-sound-alike Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen and other such elements like the low-lying bass and soaring programming, shown exceedingly well on songs like `The Benevolent Pawn', a song which highlights the capabilities of this otherwise well rounded bunch. Alongside providing some superb clean vocals, though they're not quite up to the standard of the master himself (Garm), Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen also provides the background programming, though on songs like `Grim Apparitions', the programming moves to the foreground alongside the drifting bass, which interweaves between instruments cleverly. On songs like this, the bass, though rather repetitive, doesn't just act as a back-up to the guitars, it leads the atmospherics into the more expansive sections slowly, giving the listener time to dwell on the finer points.

The programming usually isn't as forceful as it is on the Arcturus records though, perhaps something to do with the fact that Arcturus had an expert keyboardist providing the material, which can make some of the atmospheres appear frivolous when they ought to be outstanding. As with aspects like the bass, the programming enjoys living in the shadows and allowing the guitars to control the flow, though it will subtly move soundscapes along too. Although I would criticise Vulture Industries for believing adding strings to songs would make them more innovative, I do enjoy the sparse use of the cello and violin. These sombre instruments add a new texture to the material which isn't as extreme as the guitars though, as I said, these aspects are sparse and don't frequently change the direction of the record. Regardless, Vulture Industries are a competent act and with some consistency, and perhaps more of their own personalities thrown into the bubbling pot, they could be onto something special in the future as I, for one, sorely miss Arcturus and could do with someone to fill the void whilst they're not around.

For Kunsten Maa VI Evig Vikke
For Kunsten Maa VI Evig Vikke
Price: £10.96

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dynamic And Melodic Force., 21 Feb. 2010
Ever since day one, I have avoided melodic black metal like the plague. I do recall having a few bad experiences when I first started listening to black metal with well respected bands like Obtained Enslavement, who also happen to operate within the melodic sub-genre. At that time, I didn't appreciate the more melodic touches a band would implement within their music and, instead, I preferred a chaotic, more furious approach to black metal, a la `Transilvanian Hunger' by Darkthrone. There was something about the image of black metal which made me believe, like a lot of naïve persons do, that the genre should be uncompromising and neglect warm melodies in favour of primitive sounding structures, which `Transilvanian Hunger' has in abundance. Perhaps it has something to do with my first experience buying a black metal record. Being exposed to the appearance of one of its artists and the negativity that surrounds the whole façade of that image made me see black metal as being a hateful, misanthropic creation whose only design was to school the immature and naïve in the true ways of life. Time has a strange way of impacting upon an individuals personality.

No longer am I searching for primitive, raw bands alone, but I also engage in a spot of melodies that warm the cold cockles of my heart during the bleak winter months. Although my discovery of Kvist is not recent, I have only begun to immerse myself fully in `For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike'. Perhaps this is due to, once again, bad experiences I've had in the past with the influences of this band, such as Satyricon, a band whom I have very little time for nowadays. It is evident to us all that records like `Dark Medieval Times' have impacted upon the artists here and thus, whatever has flowed before me during my time with this 1996 debut it because of what preceded it with the likes of Satyricon and also Emperor's keyboard driven side. They say time heals all wounds so, having listened to and enjoyed this record immensely, I may have to revisit the likes of Satyricon, a band whose influence has slowly died, and relive the melodic tidings of `Dark Medieval Times', a record seemingly steeped in vivid imagery and whose influence will continue even though the artist who created it is no longer looked as favourably upon. All influences are well concealed and Kvist do a stand-up job at showcasing their own individual habits, whilst also making sure to leave a footnote to bands like Emperor and Satyricon.

Having departed the black metal scene early, Kvist's legend lives on and in good form. The three piece band established a fine reputation many years ago, but it still exists to this day and is probably strengthen with time due to the fact that this debut full-length continues to exceed the expectations of those who don't feel as if they'll rate it as highly as their peers have done. Fortunately, though I always enter these situations with trepidation, my fears have been squashed by the intoxicating juxtaposition I have found present here. Both cold and warm atmosphere tendencies live together, as if summer and winter have somehow combined their forces to produce the most startling imagery all on the one record. Although the guitars primarily provide that familiar feel of bleak, cold atmospheric structures (for example, `Svartadel'), they also tend to the warmer side of the record with fine melodies (and even a string sounding section on the same song, `Svartadel' which is created by the dynamic force of the keyboards), one's which live on in the memory although the band itself is long since defunct. I find the fantastically audible and creatively strong areas like the bass and Emperor inspired keyboards cater to the warmer feel of the record and with it comes that feeling of juxtaposed ideas that I was talking about.

The keyboards are far more sparse than expected, though they appear on songs like `Min Lekam Er Meg Blott En Byrde' to provide imagery of medieval times, ancient battles and ancestry. There is a majestic feel to the keyboards and they're smartly worked into the songs without causing too much of a fuss, melding into the background like they're apart of the furniture. The keyboards do add a symphonic lining to the soundscapes, but this isn't overblown, or exaggerate needlessly for affect. The keyboards are subtle and that's the way in which they work best. As with the bass, the keyboards aim to strengthen the soundscapes, not to dominate them, though the bass does have a larger part to play in the creative side of Kvist, provided superbly by Tom Hagen, who also provides the rasping vocals -- an area of the record which is also subdued and not overblown like so many bands of this nature seem to do. `Ars Manifestia', one of the strongest songs on the record, exemplifies how the bass can become a creative force, but also how it traditionally backs the guitars, too. Kvist do the simple things brilliantly and the more expansive things solidly. The opening to `Ars Manifestia' is, in particular, important in highlighting the force of the bass within the record. Thankfully, Kvist's only full-length to date isn't an overblown, over-hyped mess. It's skilfully crafted, incorporating key bass lines and subtle keyboards into an already dynamic mixture. Subtle, beautiful and bleak all simultaneously.

Memoria Vetusta
Memoria Vetusta
Offered by marvelio-uk
Price: £9.84

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Proves This To Be A Classic., 21 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Memoria Vetusta (Audio CD)
This is my re-review of Blut Aus Nord's `Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age'. It has been almost four years since I wrote the initial review and looking back on it, and the record itself, I think it deserves to be re-reviewed because of the influence it had on my listening habits back when I first discovered the mystical being that is Blut Aus Nord. Although it has not been looked upon so kindly with time, I still treasure the nostalgic feeling I get every time I put this colossal record on and become embedded into that soul crushing wall of noise. Endless oceans of melodies stream forth from the instrumentation that takes place on this record and as I've grown as a person, I've grown to appreciate the subtle forces behind the majesty of this piece. When I first heard it, I couldn't handle the distortion or what impact it had upon the experimentation beneath the fragile surface of the material. Like a learner driver, I could handle the basics, but I wasn't a pro and records like this were not second nature to me at that point in time. My initial high rating of this record does now seem misguided in hindsight, but that isn't to say I don't rate it highly in the present day because I do. I just feel that a 94% rating would suggest it's moving towards my idea of perfection when, in actual fact, I feel this is simply a solid piece of music which juxtaposes two vastly different ideas; consuming melody and bleak, harsh distortion.

Now however, I feel, having benefited from listening to one too many black metal records, that I can finally say I'm adjusted to what this scene offers the individual and it is as an individual that one must cautiously tread upon these here majestic soundscapes as if it were a national heritage site and you're weary of doing it any damage because beneath the harrowing distortion that cloaks the record, there is a hidden beauty that is waiting to be uncovered by the adventurer. Although my unfamiliarity with Blut Aus Nord's entire discography still hampers me from making my final decision as to what is their definitive record, I still feel, even in these early stage, that I have found it in this piece, a wonderful work of art that has transformed the way in which I look upon the use of the wall of sound technique that so many black metal artists, such as Darkspace, have incorporated into their own music. I don't herald Blut Aus Nord as being the originators of this sound, but this 1996 sophomore certainly does teach me that the wall of sound ploy does not have to be so straight forward and thus, it can be more expansive, allowing sublime melodies to sweep the listener from off of their feet and onwards, towards magical, mystical and vivid imaginary plains, a mesmerising feeling felt even during the introductory ambiance of `Slaughterday (The Heathen Blood of Ours)' (though this ambiance does not last long as those hollow chants begin and the repetitious guitars pummel the listener in the face repeatedly).

Although I only call upon this record in times of reflection, I still find the title track to be amongst my favourite songs ever produced. Not only by the artists themselves, but in the entire music world, out of all the artists I've come across on my solitary journey's of discovery. As I mentioned earlier, I find that this record tends to cleverly juxtapose two ideas. The first, consuming melody. Take the title track for example. Though there is a significant amount of distortion, the bass still remains audible and is highly melodic along the way. It doesn't, unlike during many black metal records, work to support the guitars. Although it does do that, this isn't its only job. The bass is more expansive than that and although the guitars obviously take precedence when creating those infectiously moving melodies, the bass still remains a key feature of the structures. The guitars have a conventional approach to black metal, which is where the second key feature comes into play -- distortion -- but given that Blut Aus Nord are regarded as a wall of sound band, they instantly move to address some of the problematic issues that arise from this technique by implementing a fine balance between experimentation and repetition.

Again, I look towards the title track to solve any queries that the reader may have. It takes a sublime main riff and places it beside a primitive second guitar, the one in which causes the overwhelming sense of powerful and destructive distortion. Though the distortion may be a key feature of each of the songs, the cleaner elements play a subtle, but equally key role in quashing any doubts that this is a typical, run-of-the-mill affair. Elements which don't appear to be so key suddenly burst into life when the songs reach a more progressive state, as shown wonderfully throughout the record and, in particular, on songs such as `Day of Revenge (The Impure Blood of Theirs)' where the bass entwines with the more expansive percussion elements and sparsely seductive keyboards to create a feeling of creative freedom and, unlike many similar bands, a sense that the distortion doesn't dictate the entire record. With small changes to vocals, like harmonious chanting during songs like that brilliant title track and during songs like `The Forsaken Voices of the Ghostwood's Shadowy Realm`, the record does slowly begin to feel more loose and not as rigid as the distortion may have it seem to be. The production terrifically masks the instrumentation in surprise, catching me off guard at several different points with different techniques of innovation. Time has taken this epic down a notch, but not very far. Still a classic.

Historia Nobis Assemtietvr
Historia Nobis Assemtietvr
Price: £12.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historia Nobis Assemtietvr., 11 Feb. 2010
I don't seem to be alone in my theory that Italian black metal is seriously lagging behind her fellow European nations. If asked to pinpoint one band that adds a new dimension to the black metal scene from Italy, I'd be hard pressed to find a definitive answer to the question. Italian black metal is in a perplexing state of affairs. We have the occasional good source of material, but an endless stream of average, or misguided acts who do nothing to quash that grain of doubt that the Italian scene is doomed to failure as long as certain other nations are around and have a say in the matter as to who is commanding the scene as a whole. Of course, this doesn't mean to say that there are no bands in Italy who're offering a sanctuary from the largely expendable scene that barely even exists in the limelight. Considering Italy's strength in depth in other genres, like gothic rock and/or metal, I find myself unable to truly believe Italy's lack of progress in this, a superior force behind the metal scene. There is a huge gap to fill and perhaps bands like Absentia Lunae are now experienced and mature enough to do so with their sophomore effort, entitled `Historia Nobis Assentietvr', which translates in English to `History Will Prove Us Right'.

Having retraced my steps recently and delved into the material proposed by the initially impressive debut, Absentia Lunae struck me as a band who still needed work but were, essentially, a diamond in the rough. Looking back at their debut, it's easy to see where problems might have arisen. The production, for instance, isn't as clear cut as I once believed. In fact, it can be rather restrictive to a band like Absentia Lunae who're all about forward thinking and striking the audience with unexpected delights, such as the wonderful presence of the bass, which is performed exquisitely by Sephrenel, a musician who possesses valuable experience in other dark genres, such as blackened funeral doom, with the likes of Arcana Coelestia -- a band who, incidentally, falls into the category of underachievers. However, in a move that strikes me as bold, given the raw edge to Absentia Lunae's music, they have altered the production for this assault and proved that history doesn't always prove them right, in a cruel dose of irony.

The production is much cleaner and allows all instrumental aspects to filter through to the sub consciousness and stick there with a lingering quality that makes me reflect back over the material time and again even after having moved on to other pastures. New and improved, songs like `There Are Chilling Signs Of An Eternal Farewell' show the true underlining qualities that have kept me coming back to this marvellous band over and over again. From the very beginning, Absentia Lunae delve into territories that most black metal bands instinctively avoid. The bass is audible and not only that, but it is an integral factor in the majesty that builds up in the atmosphere. Sephrenel is a truly delightful acquisition on the part of Absentia Lunae and he fills the role of bassist superbly by intricately sweeping his bass lines into the movement of the songs and making them important to the listener. The bass provides a melancholic structure to the songs when they're at their slowest and a experimental tinge at their fastest. A musician like Sephrenel wouldn't be out of place in a rigid, old school death metal band with a beastly atmospheric presence.

His creative nature works well within the polished production and he single handily provides a new lease of life for the music of the band, which can be a tad one dimensional at times, focusing far too much on a forceful style which wouldn't be unlike the raw black metal movement in nations like France. However, what this sophomore does more often than the debut is involve aspects that were never really apart of the band and embraces them. For example, the operatic clean vocals. Though sparse, this gives Absentia Lunae a new image and with it, a divinity that was lacking behind the overriding brutality of the debut. There are even some small electronic currents running smoothing beneath the harsh exterior of the façade of the band. MZ, also a member of Arcana Coelestia, provides these sparse moments and gives me the impression that Absentia Lunae are truly bonding together, as a band, and finding their feet in this difficult genre, which can be very unforgiving.

Aside from these aspects, which do tend to dominate my thought processing, not an awful lot has altered from the projection of the band. The guitars are still a stellar aspect, though I suspect Climaxia to perform to the best of her abilities on every occasion, mostly due to her fantastic work on Melencolia Estatica. I don't find the drumming that agreeable. It tends to stick out and come across as too misshapen and not in keeping with the rest of the instrumentation, but other than this small grievance, I don't have too many complaints in regards to the way things are and how they come about. The sophomore hasn't left the same level of bubbling excitement in me, but I consider this a more mature record than I do the debut, so perhaps that is why my feelings are slightly more muted than they previously were. A likeable war machine of a record is the result of a 3 year absence from the public eye and although not much has significantly altered from the debut, I'm still pleased with the direction the band are taking.

Dim World
Dim World
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Diminished 7's Pop Factor., 11 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Dim World (MP3 Download)
The one word that keeps cropping up in the back of my mind each and every time I listen to Diminished 7's self-released debut, entitled `Dim World', is "inoffensive". I don't know much background information about the bands only member, Alex Crescioni, but I do know he has had some experience of playing in technical death metal bands, so this giant leap to gothic rock/metal was a huge one to make. However, though I initially had some doubts as to whether he could function as a gothic musician, everything from his appearance to the general content of `Dim World' makes me believe he is able to make the transition smoothly and without too many problems. A part of me feels that bands like this are tailored especially to fit into the mainstream market of metal, or rock music. `Dim World', though it does contain a few attributes that could be associated to more extreme genres of metal like death, or even doom, is a record that is highly accessible to newcomers to the metal industry and could even suit factions of the music industries audience who normally disregard metal entirely.

From the occasionally cheesy lyrics, to the cries of "love metal" from certain areas of the adoring fan base, Alex Crescioni is, potentially, on to a winner here as far as the obsessive teenage market goes. However, if he is looking towards building a successful reputation in any other age group above the youthful and inexperienced age of 19 then he has some work to do before this act will suppress the doubters, including myself. As I said at the beginning of the review, `Dim World' is largely inoffensive to the open minded listener. It has its quirks that make it unique, a number of surprises along the way and a few personality traits which even make it enjoyable. At times, one could even liken the appeal to bands such as Anathema in the latter stages of their career as they began to develop slowly into a bleak rock outfit. The clean vocals and sharp melodies keep me attentive and due to the lack of penetrative distortion, the atmosphere reminds rather soothing, especially when the keyboards are taken into consideration as they offer a smooth texture to the soundscapes.

A unique eeriness is drawn into the atmosphere through the use of the keyboards, an element which remains rather isolated in its approach, specifically on songs like `Your Warmth From A Candle' - a song which draws out the unnerving feeling that the lyrics are overly romanticised and that Alex has based this record on his past experiences with some very neurotic women. I cannot help but feel, when taking the lyrics of songs such as `She Lost Her Heart In Hollywood', that the record is intentionally inoffensive in order to appeal to the current generation of youngsters who're going crazy over all things gothic - such as the Twilight phenomenon that is sweeping the globe at this point in time. There is a marketable quality to this band and I feel, with decent enough exposure to the mainstream followers of metal, that a significant portion of today's shallow, female based section of fans could go mental over something like this, especially with a typically handsome young gentlemen leading the way with his emotively charged voice and mysterious appearance. Just listen to those lyrics carefully for the aforementioned song `She Lost Her Heart In Hollywood' (as they're seemingly not provided publicly by the bands creator himself);

"Baby don't cry, I know you lost your heart in Hollywood tonight."

This is repeated over and over for affect and any metal band that uses the word "baby" in all seriousness cannot be taken seriously, in my eyes. I like to look at bands from all genres and sub-genres with an open mind, but there is a pop factor (especially to the way in which he chooses to sing certain notes of the choruses in his songs) to a number of the songs which causes alarm bells to ring in the back of my mind. However, before the dread can set in, to his credit, Alex uses a number of infectious melodies to sweep me off my feet as if I'm the damsel in distress. As I mentioned before, `Dim World' does have a few surprises up its sleeve, including in the cheesiest songs on the record. For example, he varies his vocal approach from time to time, even using death metal styled growls, which fit surprisingly easily into the angst ridden aspect of the record and not only this, but there seems to be a doomish quality to some of the guitar work present here, with deep, repetitious riffs spinning off of the light hearted gothic melodies, as shown sparsely during songs like `Sleep In Shadows'.

`Dim World' is, to me, very much catered to the younger generations of metal, or the romantic, starry eyed audiences who believe in love at first sight. The harmless material is produced very well and to his credit, once again, Alex has done a terrific job in regards to the production, which is clean and gives all elements of the instrumentation fantastic audible qualities. He also has the vision to integrate different spectrums of metal together, forcing the mainstream and obscure worlds of this record to collide and compliment each other in juxtaposition. The influences appear to be very wide ranging, meaning that, if received generally well, this could be a future classic in the eyes of many members of the metal world. Personally, I think it's a little bit too melodramatic and emotionally unstable to be classified as such, but there is an unnerve ring infectious quality to many of the melodies and even when the lyrics make me want to vomit, I still find myself nodding along. Though to take away the mainstream, romantic vibe would be to take away the essence of the band. Agreeable in parts, but certainly not in others.

Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Return of Hevy Devy., 9 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Addicted (Audio CD)
Since rediscovering my intense passion for the wizardry of progressive metal prodigy and mad man Devin Townsend through a long time friend of mine, `Accelerated Evolution, I took it upon myself to enter into his wicked mind and explore the discography of most of his projects, including this one who're simply known as Devin Townsend Project. It's easy to get confused as to which record features under which project because he tends to stick closely to old band names when conjuring up new ideas through fresh projects. For example, there has previously been a band known as The Devin Townsend Band and now we have the Devin Townsend Project. Even when Devin has released records through bands with far different names, they're still caught up in his obsession of naming projects after himself and whilst I would consider this rather pretentious if anyone else had come up with the idea, I cannot help but feel that it is justified the more I listen to his works. I'm fairly sure that every record he appears on, he is the center point of creativity and the aptly entitled `Addicted' is no different.

Despite the fact that Devin obviously works with talented members of the metal industry, or even former members of it such as Anneke van Giersbergen, he still manages to outshine these consummate professionals by putting in a totally mind blowing performance at the heart of whatever project he is currently plugging to the audience. Initially my reaction to `Addicted' was one of huge disappointment. I remember reading somewhere, though I don't recall where specifically, this sophomore being billed as the next `Biomech', a record I worship every day like it is my religious saviour. In fact, I believe it was even compared to `Biomech' as if they were incredibly similar. Therefore, due to my consuming love and affection for Ocean Machine's divine, life altering record, I truly believe that this could be the long awaited follow up to that record, something that I was praying long and hard for, for longer than the usual suffering period of 40 days and 40 nights. So, for those of you who have heard the surprising `Addicted', you will understand where my disappointment spawns from because I do not find this record to be too much like `Biomech'.

Although I can hold my hands up and say that, yes, I do hear some similarities, there are also an awful lot of differences between the two, which is the intention on the part of Devin himself, as is suggested in the additional information which states, "The project comprises four albums of differing musical styles ...". As expected, Devin has taken a new direction, almost completely dismissing his past works and attempting to move on to greater pastures. I've listened to `Ki', albeit not as much as I've spun `Addicted', but it fails to deliver on almost every front. I've tried to wrap my head around it and cannot feel the same intense passion that I feel from Devin and co. here. Although I'm partial to soothing records, `Ki' doesn't stimulate my emotions, or senses like `Addicted' thus, which truly has you hooked from the very first moment with the self-titled song as that infectious guitar bonds well with the sharp atmosphere, one which keeps us on our toes for the duration of the record. When the initial disappointment subsided, I was left with an unnerving craving. I wanted to listen to `Addicted' over and over and over again. There is something completely fresh about Devin's latest musical adventure, despite its familiar feel from time to time.

The bombastic production probably has a significant part to play in it, since it supplies the record with a fair amount of oomph! Surprisingly, the titles to each song even plays a part in making this as bouncy a record as humanly possible, making us want to get up from off our feet and onto whatever floor can be danced on. There is an accessibility to `Addicted' that `Ki' has a complete lack of. For me, it is a partial return to Devin's progressive roots, instead of trying to hook the masses on a lacklustre ambient affair with minimal presence. Though I much prefer Devin to stick to his emotionally rousing clean vocals, his screams, which appear in abundance here, seem somehow more appealing than usual, though I am partial to them when the mood strikes. I suppose with the addition of The Gathering's former vocalist, Anneke, Devin has to play a different role, since she can only supply sultry clean vocals, though she does have the capacity to handle a hardened metal record, which this mostly is, as she performed well on The Gathering's ground breaking metal record `Mandylion' all those years ago.

I do find myself resenting her presence here, since it does seem to mean that Devin is limited to harsher screams, which aren't as emotive, though they do compliment the atmosphere on songs like `Universe In A Ball!' due to the fiercely crushing instrumentation which features repetitious drums and guitars and a lightly textured ambiance, supplied by the likeable keyboards and synths, which generate a feeling of new grounds being explored. As I said earlier, the fact that each song is exclaimed in the title does seem to make a difference. It gives the record a base to work on, even if the individual listener has not heard a note played, simply because it makes you energetically announce songs. This isn't a singular occurrence within the record either, as almost the entire work is energetic, upbeat and fun loving, like songs such as `Bend It Like A Bender!' which features the graceful voice of Anneke alongside Devin's, something I could never have dreamed of beforehand due the painful excitement and eventual disappointment of a showcase such as this ultimately never happening.

But, alas, it has! Not only that, but the two, multi-talented musicians work superbly together and form an alliance as strong as any vocal duet I've heard. Songs like `Supercrush' are especially good at highlighting this feeling as Devin combines well with his fellow musicians to offer a wonderful atmosphere for Anneke to shine within. Their voices compliment each other so well and are both incredibly emotional singers, with the feeling that they put everything into their performances. Of course, Devin's performance isn't limited to vocals, though he does a stellar job there. He provides much of the electronic elements, which are dominant within the bombastic feel of the soundscapes and, as well as that crucial element, he helps out by putting in a shift on guitar, alongside Mark Cimino and Brian Waddell on bass, a man who deserves a lot of credit for remaining completely audible amongst the fighting performances of the other instruments. The bass, at times, does remind me of the sombre aspects of records like `Biomech' and this feeling is felt tenfold when the songs take a shift towards a less robust sound, like the immense `The Way Home!', which features slower and more expansive emotional sections, though the guitars do offer a furious outlet at points. The more and more I listen to `Addicted', the more the title becomes worthy of its role. I expect that soon enough, having overplayed this record, I will wake up one morning with a hangover and the shakes. A fantastic sophomore to the misshapen `Ki'.
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Red Jewel
Red Jewel

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Classic., 7 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Red Jewel (Audio CD)
Yesterday I found myself covering a Hungarian band with a fantastic reputation as supreme art. Forest Silence's `Philosophy of Winter' is a contributor to the small sections of the black metal scene which are subtly influenced by normally subdued aspects of the instrumentation, such as bass and, most importantly, the keyboards. Once again I have uncovered for myself a real treat in the form of Tartaros' `The Red Jewel', another subtly keyboard driven black metal record akin to theatrical avant-gardé bands like the well respected force of Arcturus, particularly their darkest record, `La Masquerade Infernale'. There are those that might argue that the debut was, in actual fact, much darker than the aforementioned sophomore, but since Arcturus had begun to move away from their black metal roots and towards a darkly deranged circus sounding style, I will stricken it from the record, since it doesn't portray well what the majority of their material was like, whereas `La Masquerade Infernale' is more adept at doing so, since the final assault, `Sideshow Symphonies' once again restored that sound after a brief intermission with the lighter `The Sham Mirrors', though it is an incredible feat in its own right.

Though the bands only musician, Charmand Grimloch, doesn't dabble too much in allowing us into his mind to see his repertoire of influences, we can assume that bands like Arcturus, or even Emperor, with whom Charmand Grimloch played live keyboards for over a period of two or so years during the late 1990's, have had an impression on what proceeds when the play button is apprehensively pushed down hard. The sense of apprehension I have whenever I tap into a new stream of music is one that goes down either one of two vastly different tributaries. First, a band can take the deathly wrong turn and up end in a place whereby I'm forced to repress the duration of the record from my mind, or they take the turn down the path of righteousness. `The Red Jewel' is so exuberant, that I cannot help but feel like a bundle of excitement whenever it bursts open into life and courses through my veins like a bloodstream feeling the effects of a multitude of drugs. Not only do the usual instrumental aspects, such as the drums, which are particularly bombastic, or the guitars play a significant role in making this an exciting listen, but those keyboards are a quintessential element of Tartaros' darkly charming style.

Charmand Grimloch, a man with much experience of playing keyboards at the highest level (as shown in his performances, on a live circuit, for well established bands like Emperor), definitely knows how to spark the interests of a passive listener as they travel through the mighty realms that this record invigoratingly moves through. Swiftly moving away from the guitars as a main influence behind the chaotic style, `The Red Jewel' focuses in on areas which don't receive as much attention by critics, like the drums. As aforementioned, the drums are given a really bombastic feel by the production, which keeps us on the edge of our seats. Strangely, when I'm listening to `The Red Jewel', I am often reminded of those theatrical sci-fi shows of the 60's and 70's. Shows like a William Shatner led Star Trek, for instance. Songs like `Into The Faculty of Wonderful Secrets' forces my mind to wander back in time and remember watching those ridiculously over-the-top sci-fi epics as a child. I remember being impressed by the engaging storylines and the primitive fighting that took place -- some of the elements of this record remind me of how I felt as a child.

The guitars are like chainsaws, cutting through my emotions and scarring me permanently with the marks of their memorable riffs and delightful solos. The title track is a fine example of this, with it's chaotic distortion and superior vocals from Charmand Grimloch himself, as he performs every aspect with coolness personified. I never imagined someone like him being able to capably write songs and feature such infectious keyboards, which instantly hook the listener. He seemed like a mere rookie compared to other bands of this sort of nature, like Arcturus (though they're far less domineering when it comes to controlling an atmosphere and making it able to penetrate the memory), simply because his other projects have never really gotten off the ground. To date, this is his only full-length, which is a shame because he is a monstrous musician, capable of such majesty and memorable moments, particularly in areas where we don't expect them, as with the keyboards that act like some sort of whirling dervish, spinning and entrancing us with its bright colours and dynamic patterns.

Charmand Grimloch takes ample time exploring his other worldly sound, despite the short nature of most of the songs. I feel however, that the length of the songs is just about right. If they were extended, the chaos that ensues could become overwhelming and the amount of variation lost in translation. As they are, Charmand Grimloch leaves himself a perfect amount of time to spin of a number of catchy riffs, as well as engaging the atmosphere, as well as the avid listener, with a number of treasured background keyboard symphonies. If you extracted the other elements of the instrumentation and left nothing but the keyboards, you could have another mesmerising record all on its lonesome and it would cope with the pressure of being a solitary force well, I'd imagine. So, though the guitars, drums and vocals (though these do vary, with moments of cleans vocals, though they are sparse) are far more harsh than the expressive keyboards, they tend to compliment each other well on this devilish record. With an excellent balance between forcefulness and subtlety, Charmand Grimloch has departed the scene with one hell of a final swan song.

Philosophy of Winter
Philosophy of Winter

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Winter's Philosophy., 6 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Philosophy of Winter (Audio CD)
Parts of Central Europe are completely foreign to me in more ways than one, including its vast and varied metal underground scenes. Though I do spend a fair amount of time scouring for talent in Germany, as I find that to be one of the best places to uncover gems, I find myself unable to garner much of an opinion on areas like the Czech Republic, or Poland, two countries with strong connections to the metal movement. Although I have dealt with bands from Hungary before, specifically Marblebog, I don't know all that much about what the region has to offer the die-hard fan of the genre. There is only one way to rectify this situation and that is to search long and hard for the best of the best and thus far, on my short journey, I have come across bands like Sear Bliss and Forest Silence, the band we're dealing with here, who also happen to be a side-project of Winter's, the keyboardist of Sear Bliss. I've actually known about Forest Silence for some time but, for some reason, I had always assumed they were bound to be from an area of the world where black metal has recently fluctuated and spread its divine wings like Canada, or some other nation in the west of Europe.

`Philosophy of Winter' is highly regarded amongst black metal fans, as far as I can tell, but I myself have never really stuck by it. I occasionally whip it out, dust it off and give it a spin, but I'm usually far too transfixed on other bands, despite the fact that this Hungarian act are clearly one to be treasured and recommended to those less familiar with the scene. Unlike a lot of people, I don't recognise Forest Silence as being an innovative leader within today's scene. There are some obvious influences here that attract my attention on several occasions throughout the duration of the record. Varg's ambient work with Burzum has clearly been an inspiration to Winter's creative output. A lot of the light keyboard work reminds me of Burzum's ability to entwine harsh, dissonant black metal styling with airy keyboards that definitely enhance the atmospherical presence of the record in general. The keyboards are a constant source of inspiration throughout, though this is hardly surprising considering the fact that Winter is primarily a keyboardist for Sear Bliss. His keyboards, as well as bass driven sections, are the light snow falling on a dark night, whilst the guitars and standard, strong vocals are the harsh, cold grounds these flakes fall on.

Having not had too much time to familiarise myself with the numerous records of Sear Bliss, I cannot judge whether their music has had a profound influence of this side-project, though I assume there must be some influence as they're Winter's main band and he has had some help in achieving this piece of work by asking two of his fellow musicians to provide both session guitars and drums for the `Philosophy of Winter'. Looking back on Winter's career, it is evident that he has had some experience with one-man bands, having been in one, or two previous to this. I would imagine his experience at handling projects solely by himself has served him well here as he's able to wonderfully harness his creative abilities, particularly on bass and keyboards, and put them to the good use. With that in mind, it is easy to see the two main forces behind the music here and although I appreciate the quality that the slow to mid paced guitars bring to this delightful little package, I tend to recognise the bass and keyboards as stand out aspects. Thankfully, `Philosophy of Winter' doesn't stick too close to traditions by allowing the guitars to take precedence when the bass and keyboards are far more equipped at dealing with the frequent light textures that the record provides the listener.

The bass doesn't feature too much early on, but gradually grows in superiority as the music progresses towards its ambient destination. The keyboards compliment this section well like a sweet smelling fragrance does to a beautiful woman. I suppose I should mention the production in context to these aspects, too, as it does a terrific job of maintaining a superb balance between the light and dark references the instrumentation draws out. The light aspects are obviously the most spectacular because they give the record a feeling of originality, whilst the dark, forceful guitars and vocals supply us with a nostalgic feeling. Two songs instantly pop to mind when thinking of how well Winter does at song writing and accommodating a position for both elements simultaneously; those two songs are `Spirits of the Wind', which starts with a delightful bass driven lead and `Path of Destruction', which consists of a light ambient background and a hard-hitting black metal foreground. Songs like this set up the record as being one of a thoughtful nature and very well performed. A great start to a hopefully stellar career.

Aava Tuulen Maa
Aava Tuulen Maa
Offered by Soul&Sounds
Price: £22.20

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another New Direction., 4 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Aava Tuulen Maa (Audio CD)
Are Kauan currently redefining post-rock as we know it? Possibly. Having listened to the Russian duo's third full-length, entitled `Aava tuulen maa', a number of times through, I would never have regarded it as post-rock myself. In fact, to me, it just seems like mellow rock, with folk elements attached to it, but the band themselves are calling their music "ambient post-rock", so who am I to disagree with the musicians themselves? I do consider myself a fan of post-rock, though only ever in moderation. My favourite band are a post-rock group, in actual fact. They're called Jakob and are from New Zealand and given my knowledge of the genre only expands over to the past decade, or so, and certainly not before it, I couldn't tell you the origins of the genre, or how it was first formed, therefore I feel I have no place to disregard this as a post-rock record. However, in comparison to bands like Jakob and modern post-rock bands currently doing the rounds, Kauan have a sound unlike any of those before them and I daresay the Russian duo will continue to explore music and in doing so, construct music which is unlike anyone else at that precise moment in time.

Gone are the days of `Lumikuuro', a record which established Kauan as a domineering force in the metal industry. As the reviews suggest, including my own, the debut executed an experimental combination of black and doom metal together well. The music was inspiringly led by the beautiful piano, an inspired inclusion on the part of Kauan's true leader, Anton Belov, who I believe was still a teenager at the time of the recording. His tactical knowledge was superior, even at such a young and tender age. He knew precisely how to make an experimental fare work in his favour and in doing so, attracted a score of fans to his metaphorical doorstep. I can't imagine someone like Anton using the metal industry and its fans in order to gain notoriety, but that is how it worked. Bands as early as the mid 1990's have been altering their sound with every record within the metal industry. One particular band who springs instantly to mind is Ulver, perhaps a potential influence behind the Russian duo. It is highly likely that Ulver's less-than-traditional movement between the genres has sparked Kauan's talented twosome to do the same thing, albeit in a slightly differently fashion.

As Ulver did, Kauan started with a strong black metal record, which is essentially what it is, and from there they have moved towards a far mellower state of being by addressing directly genres like folk and rock. Ulver themselves have released, in many people's eyes, the perfect trilogy of records each with a different direction. From black, to folk, both Kauan and Ulver have moved further and further away from their roots but with every passing moment, it's becoming clearer than the destination was always going to be on of an experimental nature because musicians like Anton Belov are not meant to be tied down to any one specific genre, as shown perfectly here on `Aava tuulen maa', a record which shows some signs of the past, but mostly shows off a new façade. `Tietäjän Laulu' is probably the closest comparison to this current record, one of a multi-faceted approach. Anton himself creates most of the music, with his current accomplice, Lyubov Mushnikova, supplying the violin passages, which are expertly executed on songs like `Sokea Sisar', which in fact perfectly demonstrates the records true ability, as it pulls together elements such as the violins, together with the acoustics, usually light percussion and the piano.

I don't suppose there are any elements on this record which could be seen as overused in the modern scene. Although this record does occasionally resemble the early works of bands like Agalloch, especially when the timid guitars are introduced on songs like `Sokea Sisar', but mostly this record remains a separatist entity from much of the industries works. If we're viewing this as a post-rock record, which I normally don't, then this must be viewed as an innovative record which could be a potentially influential source of music in a few years time with it's beautiful textures and adventurous spirit when it comes to the use of all the instruments used on this piece - which includes bass, drums, guitars, the piano, a violin and even keyboards, which fuel the folk inspired fire by lightly sprinkling imagery of forests and mother nature into the soundscapes.

Despite the overwhelming beauty of the record, as well as the undoubted talents that Anton possesses, I do still prefer the debut. I'm a metal fan first and foremost, though I do appreciate some other genres outside of the metal industry. His work on `Lumikuuro' was outstanding as he looked to blend black and doom together with the use of an integral piano. His vocal work was also more to my liking, though I do appreciate the emotive textures of his clean voice, which definitely does suit the new ambient based style of folk and rock. I don't expect Kauan to stick by this new sound, in all honesty. I have no problem with bands experimenting, but sooner or later there has to come a time when they put their foot wrong and try to access a stream of music which isn't to the long-time fans' liking. Although, currently, Kauan are tapping into a source which is both beautiful and luscious, I can imagine Anton upsetting a branch of fans just as bands like Ulver have done by not returning to ways of old. For now, this is definitely an approach I can stomach and do so with ease. The acoustics and softer touches make it accessible and easy to process, but how I miss the days of piano based black and doom. Essential listening for fans of folk and rock.

Ravendusk In My Heart
Ravendusk In My Heart
Price: £15.54

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blackheim's Hunt For Nocturnal Grace., 4 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Ravendusk In My Heart (Audio CD)
Bands like Diabolical Masquerade rightly have cult status within the black metal society for their truly diverse approach to the often formulated style that most bands apply to their music. `Ravendusk In My Heart' began what was a well established career for this Swedish brand of avant-gardé black metal with two of the most recognisable names in the metal industry, let alone within the black metal scene; Anders Nyström, or Blakkheim as his alias was during the time of Diabolical Masquerade and Dan Swanö, both of whom have played major parts in establishing the glorious and global reputation of bands like Bloodbath and Katatonia, which Nyström founded alongside the talented Jonas Renkse. `Ravendusk In My Heart' seems to be one of the earliest, and yet strongest, tales of avant-gardé black metal the genre has seen. There have been rumours are a revival, but there has been no confirmation on that as of yet. It would be interesting to see how Diabolical Masquerade cope with the modern day era since it's become a lot more adventurous.

There's a distinctive vibe throughout the music which indicates that some influence has been taken from bands that these two musicians have been apart of, for example, Katatonia. Early Katatonia mind you. It is likely that something like this would happen and it isn't a negative in the slightest. Although there are bound to be some comparisons, Diabolical Masquerade create a largely unfamiliar sound, at least at the time of it's creation. There are some typical moments throughout Diabolical Masquerade's career, like the use of rasping vocals, but there is enough experimentation to keep the listener forever on their toes. Take songs like `Under The Banner Of The Sentinel' for example. The vocals switch to a style which seems to be of a traditional heavy metal variation in the form of high pitched screams which contains a double dosage of melody. There is no doubting that either side of the musical interpretation is delivered well and with a certain power, but there are times when the adventure can become too overbearing and too tiring as it switches from the epitome of black metal, with double bass blast beats and tremolo riffs, to varied vocals and the introduction of a piano! The complexities in mood shifts are odd too. The depictions range from medieval battles to modern day masochism as Diabolical Masquerade switch from dual vocals performances (both clean and distorted) and from marvellous solos to simple tremolo thrashings. The lyrics seem to highlight the complexities in the song writing and support a lot of the imagery that is conjured up.

"Once upon a Time in a Medieval Legendary World
In late December Cold of the Thousand Winter Season
Blackheim took Farewell of his Crypts in the Forestrealms
and Rode into the Horizonland Unreachable for Mortals"

There is something so typical about the lyrics, however complex they can be to decipher in relation to the instrumental interpretation and/or the true meaning behind the music. One cannot argue that the musicianship and song writing isn't sublime because these two musicians can switch between influences and produce their own special sound in seconds, displaying both spectrums of their music with a certain coolness and ease. There is no dispute whenever the Swedes decide to stick to as simplified version of black metal bliss as possible, with songs like `Blackheim's Quest To Bring Back The Stolen Autumn` and `Blackheim's Forest Kept The Season Forever' delighting with traditional elements. The production of this record is perfect. It has a slight tendency to slip back into the old ways of black metal bands by delighting the senses with a dark portrayal of the themes, which apparently consists of death, horror and witchcraft. The instrumentation utilizes the dark splendor of the soundscapes, which are laid down by the production, providing the listener with a truly awesome guitar performance and a lesser bass performance, which is still good enough to warrant a mention as it lays the foundations of the music. I would have liked to have seen more influence from the keyboards too, which are often overshadowed by the guitar performance. To me, there are two bands in this era that dominate the scene. One being Diabolical Masquerade and the other being Arcturus. Unfortunately for this Swedish act, I think Arcturus are more talented and better at painting a picture of what avant-gardé black metal should sound like. Although 'Ravendusk In My Heart' doesn't compare to the works of bands like Arcturus, or even some of their own works that came after this, it's still good.

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