CD Review: “Slaves Of The Shadow Realm” by Legion Of The Damned

Dutch metal quartet Legion Of The Damned have unleashed its unholy seventh record, Slaves Of The Shadow Realm.

Album opener “The Widow’s Breed” is a blistering track with chainsaw guitar slicing through thrashing drum beats. The lyrical imagery of African witchcraft is especially interesting and a wonderful departure of the conventional satanic/anti-Christian themes.

“Nocturnal Commando” continues with the African lyrical content the previous track as a tribute to Ogun, the God of Iron in the Yoruba religion. Guitarist Twan van Geel’s unrelenting riffs easily keep pace with Erik Fleuren’s ferocious drumming.

Things briefly slow down on the “Charnel Confession” which maintains an uneasy rhythm throughout the song’s duration. There are numerous guitar fills that complement “Confession’s” fierty atmosphere.

“Slaves Of The Southern Cross” is a demonic grooving tune as the band plays in the pocket before speeding things up during the midsection. The chopping guitar riffs and double bass drums conclude the track in hellish fashion.

“Warhounds of Hades”commences with a colossal drum pattern before descending in to a crushing thrash number. Geel’s aggressive double picking in the main riff drives this track, and the midsection will arouse a mosh pit.

“Priest Hunt” features a haunting symphonic sample that segues in to a galloping pattern and a meat hook guitar riff. A contrast from the thrash fused black metal on prior tracks, yet it still fits on Shadow Realm.

Album closer “Dark Coronation” is the longest track on the record at a shade under six minutes. There is a hardcore punk influence on this track that elides with some complex guitar riffs making it a killer album closer.

Shadow Realm is a collision of black, death, thrash metal and punk but Legion pulls it off for most of the record. Some songs are a bit too long, causing the record to drag. Luckily, Legion’s musical prowess compensates for the album’s few low moments. The production is on point, especially on tracks like “Priest Hunt” with the extra scoop on the guitars. The band also experiments with symphonic samples and a melancholy piano intro “Slaves Of The Demonic Mind.” There are a few good surprises on this record.

Legion Of The Damned bring the goods on Slaves Of The Shadow Realm. Fans of Goatwhore and fellow Dutch metal band God Dethroned will appreciate the band’s melding of metal subgenres. However, this album falls slightly short on some tracks. Still, it is a very good album to lead us in to 2019. The dark gods will appreciate this offering.

Check out the band’s official website:

http://www.legionofthedamned.net/

CD Review: “Storm The Gates” by Venom

The devil’s favorite metal trio from Newcastle returns with its fifteennth studio album, Storm The Gates. “Bring Out Your Dead” opens the record and is the initial single. It is a straight forward track with a stomping groove and a plodding guitar riff. Cronos’s signature raspy vocals are in diabolic effect and guitarist Rage throws out a chaotic lead to top it off.

“The Dark Lord” shifts between a dissonant, dreary psychedelic riff and a grinding mid-tempo riff. Venom proves it is capable of writing strong material and this is a top track. The crunching “100 Miles To Hell” commences with a simple guitar riff before the drums kick in to high gear. It is a no frills headbanging track. The ax swinging riffs on “Destroyer” complement drummer Dante’s slow galloping beat while Cronos sings during the fills about demons and the apocalypse.

Things speed up on “The Might Have Fallen” as Dante’s relentless drumming surprisingly does not let up. Rage’s buzzsaw riffing is primal black metal and reaffirms Venom as the fathers of the sub-genre. The title track concludes the album with a sloppy punk edge mingled with NWOBHM guitar riffs, as it should end.

Venom were notorious for playing bad and lacking the musical prowess of its contemporaries. This is unfair, as the band can certainly play complex music, which is evident on tracks “The Dark Lord” and “Immortal.” However, this is black metal, which is devoid of the pretentious pomp found in other metal sub-genres. Storm The Gates is straight forward, Satanic metal with a fusion of punk for good measure. Some tracks are a little weak, but the overall product is Venom.

Fans of Venom will enjoy Storm The Gates with its 13 tracks of unfettered, diabolical fun. However, if you never liked Venom, this record will not change your mind. Folks new to black metal should check this record out to understand its origins. Venom stormed the gates and were victorious.

Check out the band’s official website here:

http://www.venomslegions.com/

CD Review: “Deep Calleth Upon Deep” by Satyricon

Legendary Norwegian black metal duo Satyricon are back with Deep Calleth Upon Deep, its ninth studio album. “Midnight Serpent” opens with a rollicking guitar riff over a demonic circus of blast beats. It is evil black n’ roll with Satyr’s harsh vocals sounding like a priest at a black mass. Frost’s drumming is superb with constant, yet seamless tempo changes that never sound out of place. A strong track and definitely one of the best songs Satyricon has made. Praise is also due to “Blood Cracks Open The Ground” which is notable for its simple guitar riff but complex drumming. The drums tremble and heave like an earthquake, complementing the title. The hopeless ambiance of “To Your Brethren In The Dark” encircles the listener with its doom like melody and dissonant guitar. This song requires repeated listening as there is something enrapturing in its sadness. “The Ghost Of Rome” is perhaps a tribute to the band’s namesake, an Ancient Roman novel written in the first century. It is fairly uptempo as the guitar hastens to keep up with the percussion and is not as dark as the previous tracks. Yet, it still fits the album with its haunting background female chants. Black n’ Roll meets progressive metal on the seven minute long “Black Wings and Withering Doom.” Satyr’s playing transitions from sumptuous to infernal, conveying a hellish majesty.

Deep Calleth Upon Deep is a fusion of black metal and hard rock spattered with progressive elements. Satyricon’s uncompromising attitude allows the band to experiment with its sound free of worrying whether people will consider it “true black metal.” This record is equal parts rocking as well as introspective and dark. It requires repeated listens to grasp the gamut of emotions running through this album. The title of this album suits it as there are musical and emotional layers to this record.

Well, Satyricon did not disappoint with its newest album in four years. Deep Calleth Upon Deep is a well crafted record, with each song offering something enjoyable to the listener. While Satyr’s medical condition may put the band’s future in jeopardy, if this is Satyricon’s final album, the band goes out on a high and victorious note.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official website:

http://www.satyricon.no/

CD Review: “Tremendum” by Hate

Militaristic drums open Hate’s newest release, Tremendum. “Asuric Being”, which serves as the initial track and single, is a cacophony of blast beats and discordant guitar riffs that sounds as triumphant as it does pessimistic. This feeling of demonic victory continues on “Indestructible Pillar”, which is more death than black metal. The song is relentless as drummer Pavulon beats his kit in to the ground. “Numinosum” is filled with unpredictable riffs that create an aura of mystery which fits the song’s lyrics. Numinous means something of a religious quality or the presence of divinity. Thus, the open ended song structure complements the spiritual and philosophical concepts in the song. However, the band gets back to business on “Fidelis Ad Mortem” with its harsh structure that advances like a horde on an unsuspecting village. “Into Burning Gehenna” is notable for its descending riff which paints a picture of humans falling in to the depths of hell. This infernal number rises and falls like a sea of flames and is a standout track.

Tremendum will be compared to Behemoth’s past few records. However, this should not surprise anyone. Both bands hail from Poland and formed in the early Nineties. Both bands also play blackened death metal, although Behemoth enjoys greater critical acclaim and popularity. It is unfair, but people compare things they think are similar. That being said, this album does not eclipse Behemoth past few releases, however that is not a bad thing. Tremendum is a brutal slab of blackened death metal with progressive elements. The musicianship is top notch and the songwriting is very good. Hate continue to improve as musicians and take chances.

Tremendum is another solid record for this band. Still, Hate has not yet matched Behemoth in terms of the latter’s vision and songwriting. However, Tremendum is a good release in its own right that will satisfy the band’s fans. Let us hope that whatever evil spirit that is possessing this band is not exorcised any time soon.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official website:

Metal Band Hate – Songs, Discography, Biography

Top 10 Heavy Metal Albums Of 2016

We wrap up another year and it is time for the annual “best of” list for 2016 heavy metal releases. Old school thrash metal acts like Testament and Sodom released stellar albums this year. Symphonic metal band Delain’s newest record was a solid metal record with commercial appeal. 2016 will be remembered as the “Year of Death” due to the passing of so many celebrities this year. However, metal was alive and well this year.

Testament – The Brotherhood of the Snake

This lean and mean release is unapologetic thrash metal. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson unleash a hailstorm of riffs and Chuck Billy’s vocals are as biting and vitriolic as ever. Brotherhood faced stiff competition from releases by Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica, but this band managed to stand out.

Crowbar – The Serpent Only Lies

The return of original bassist Todd Strange certainly played a factor in Crowbar returning to its roots on Serpent. Frontman Kirk Windstein remarked in interviews the he listened the band’s older records for inspiration and it certainly shows on this album. Songs like the title track and “Surviving The Abyss” would easily fit on Odd Fellows Rest or the self-titled album.

Sodom – Decision Day

The teutontic trio had a stellar year with its 15th album. The band’s raw, ripping sound has not dulled after 35 years and it shows on tracks like “In Retribution,” “Caligula,” and “Blood Lions.” A head banging affair from start to finish.

Nails – You’ll Never Be One Of Us

California grindcore act Nails separate the strong from the weak with this release. Clocking in at 21 minutes, You’ll Never Be One Of Us pulls no punches musically or vocally. Napalm Death and Terrorizer made the path for extreme metal and Nails is laying pavement over it.

Delain – Moonbathers

There is a zeal of commercial appeal on Moonbathers, but the heaviness is still present. This record successfully fuses symphonic metal, pop and electronic and makes for an interesting listen. Charlotte Wessain’s angelic help drive the music, soaring like a bird over a stream of riffs.

Prong – X: No Absolutes

Prong maintains the creative renaissance it’s enjoyed since 2012’s Carved Into Stone. There are elements of hardcore, thrash, industrial and a little avant garde on No Absolutes, which made for a diverse album. Tommy Victor’s guitar playing is second to none on this record with the face ripping “Sense of Ease” and sludgy “Belief System.”

Amon Amarth – Jomsviking

Amon Amarth can do no wrong and it shows on Jomsviking. The tales of viking, raids, blood, and victory never get old and the music complements the subject matter. The band’s sound is consistent and still potent almost 25 years since the band’s formation in 1992.

Witchery – In His Infernal Majesty’s Service

The blackened-thrash supergroup return from a six year absence with this 11 track hellraiser, that puts the dead on the notice. Tracks like “Lavey-athan” “The Burning of Salem” and “Escape From Dunwich Valley” showcase the band’s uncanny ability to thrash and groove without issue.

Entombed A.D. – Dead Dawn

L.G. Petrov and company continue to explore to death n’ roll sound created by his previous band Entombed. The doom of “As The World Fell” neatly parallels the battering hardcore of “Total Death”. The band’s sophomore album is much more cohesive than its debut album and shows a very confident band.

Product of Hate – Buried in Violence

I have said this band is America’s answer to The Haunted. Buried in Violence is modern American thrash sans the retro vibe that saturated the American metal scene for several years. “Blood Coated Concrete” is an aggressive pit-inducing track that will satisfy metalheads old and new.

CD Review: “In His Infernal Majesty’s Service” by Witchery

Blackened thrash metal supergroup Witchery return after a six year absence with its sixth hellish offering, In His Infernal Majesty’s Service. “Lavey-athan” storms from the abyss like a demon ready to devour innocent souls. The track is full on thrash with chainsaw guitars and punkish drumming. The stomping midsection gives way to an eerie clean guitar and a whispered verse before ending on a heavy note. The chaotic “Netherworld Emperor” is a pugilistic track that strikes from all angles. New drummer Chris Barkensjo showcases his skills here as the track has several time changes but maintains a consistent groove. “Nosferatu” is the initial single and one can see why with its galloping riffs and frontman Angus Norder’s shrieking vocals. The band’s black metal roots show on this track with its dissonant riffs and the atonal guitar lead. Things speed up on “The Burning of Salem” which recalls early Slayer. The suffocating riffs sound like a fiery whirlwind while the drums manage to keep up. The apex of the song is during the middle when we hear a man identifying himself as Salem’s magistrate sentence several defendants to death by hanging. History certainly comes alive on this track. A haunting organ opens up “Escape From Dunwich Valley”which grooves from start to finish. Guitarists Jensen and Rikard Rimfalt put their stamps on this track, as this track as a major Black Sabbath vibe.

 In His Infernal Majesty’s Service main strength is the diverse songwriting. The band draws from death, black, death and even doom metal to forge some unpredictable but dynamic songs. Witchery refuses to play within any parameters, but can play in the pocket when necessary as seen on “Escape From Dunwich Valley.” Musically, the band members all hail from some of metal’s most revered bands. Bassist Sharlee D’Angelo plays in Arch Enemy, guitarist Jensen plays in The Haunted and lead guitarist Rikard Rimfalt played in Seance. These guys can play melodic metal or straight thrash at the drop of a coin. We see this throughout Majesty and it gives the record an extra kick.

The six year absence certainly has not dulled Witchery. In His Infernal Majesty’s Service would please the Dark One as only Witchery can do. It is pure blasphemous heavy metal that rarely lets up. Fans of the band member’s main bands should pick this up as should fans of extreme metal. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and this is the soundtrack for the journey.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/officialwitchery/

CD Review: ‘Winter Thrice’ by Borknagar

Borknagar continues its progressive push on the band’s tenth record Winter Thrice. The band keeps its black metal roots to a minimum. Instead, there is a greater shift towards folk metal and even power metal. The result is a multi-textured record that draws from diverse influences. The opening track and lead single “The Rhymes of the Mountain” meshes pounding drums with baroque style guitars to stellar effect. Vintersorg’s vocals change throughout the song. First, his voice soars like a hawk over a mountain and then morphs into a hellish shriek. The title track blasts through the speakers in galloping fashion. Again, the vocals are a high point as Garm from Ulver takes the lead on this track. The song contrasts between heavy and serene, making it one of the best tracks on the album. The band is more straight ahead on “Cold Runs The River.” The progressive elements are downplayed in favor of bombastic guitars and blastbeats in the middle of the song. The song is not monotonous at all thanks in no small part to the wah-wah guitar leads and gothic chord progressions. The classically structured “When Chaos Calls” pushes through like whips and twists like a winter storm. The double bass drums and dissonant guitars holds the song together while Vintersorg howls like a wolf atop a hill.

The greatest strength of Winter Thrice is the diversity in the songwriting. There are acoustic guitars, blastbeats guttural vocals, and a slight hint of electronica. Borknagar is unconventional in this respect making the album unpredictable but enjoyable. Fans of European metal will probably appreciate Winter Thrice, with its emphasis on melodicism and its classical influence. The record is heavy, but not like the brutality of American death metal. That does not mean American metalheads will not enjoy this record. However, the acoustic guitars and electronic elements may not appeal to some of them.

Winter Thrice is a solid record from one of Norway’s greatest metal bands. The band’s musicianship is amazing and the production is lushand clear. Borknagar are not the same band it was 20 years ago, but that is a good thing as the band continues to push itself. Fans of Children of Bodom, Amorphis and Insomnium will enjoy Winter Thrice. It is the perfect soundtrack for the Winter season.

For more in for on Borknagar, check out the band’s website http://borknagar.com/

CD Review: ‘Frontschwein’ by Marduk

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Marduk’s formation. The Swedish black metal unit celebrates its formation with Frontschwein, its 13th record. The band returns to the theme of war on this record as each track details the tragedy and triumph of combat. The title track fires off the album in intense glory. “Frontschwein” is an all out assault of drums, guitars and screeching vocals. Things slow down on “The Blond Beast” to a mid paced groove as Mortuus details the horrors of global conflict. The lyric that particularly stands out is “a funeral nation with a funeral urge,” which encapsulates war’s senselessness. Marduk gives listeners a history lesson with “Afrika” which is about the North African Campaign of World War II. It is not everyday that one head bangs to history, but this is certainly an exception. The standout track is “Wartheland,” which advances like a battalion through a desolated city. The pummeling drums are a highlight, but it is Morgan’s guitar work that drives this track. The riffs roll like Panzers across cobblestone streets. The vicious stomp of “Between the Wolf-Packs” accentuates the lyrics; “Blood and ash/ severe reprisals ahead/ the blood is shaken in the Reich/ As thousand-fold vengeance takes form.”

The albums sound fine. The guitars, vocals and drums are clear and there is a raw attitude on this release. The production is not such that one will stand and take notice, but it suffices. Still, it is black metal, so black metal purists will deride Frontschwein for not being “true.” Then again, those purists have probably long abandoned Marduk.

Frontschwein is a good record. Marduk delivers the goods on this one and it is another notch in the band’s belt. These veterans of combat are just getting started.

For more Marduk, visit their website at http://marduk.nu/

 

CD Review: ‘From the Very Depths’ by Venom

Venom, the very word elicits respect, scorn and even laughter in the metal community. Venom is the band that helped kick start extreme metal in the early 80s. You can mock the band’s image and musicianship all you want, but this is the group that coined the term black metal with its seminal 1982 record of the same name. Now, frontman and bassist Cronos and the boys are back with the band’s 14th release, From the Very Depths. The hellish mid-paced stomp of the title track encompasses what the band is known and loved (or despised) for. That is, of course, lyrics praising Satan, underrated guitar leads and thick riffs. “The Death of Rock n’ Roll” is a punk infused track whose title is more tongue in cheek than anything. Rock ‘n’ roll cannot die when bands like Venom keep on rocking. Satan’s house band gets psychedelic on “Smoke,” with Middle Eastern influenced guitars and pounding drums. It slams like a colossus through a building. The track “Long Haired Punks” is everything one would expect based on the title. Venom were certainly a band of long haired punks as the group blended punk and metal in the 80s. This track seamlessly blends both genres as Cronos gleefully pays tribute to his band. The lyrics define the band perfectly as “dogs of mayhem who don’t give a damn.” The straight ahead attitude of “Crucified” is both harsh and accessible. This is a track that could enjoy airplay on the Internet or satellite radio.

The production of early Venom records is as infamous as the band’s image. It was lo-fi and tinny. Metal fans would deride the production in comparison to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest records. However, this lo-fi sound would become a convention of black metal. But on this record, Venom gets with the times as the album is cleanly produced. The sound is as big as the band’s image, giving the tracks an extra punch.

From the Very Depths is a Venom record. Therefore, people will either pick it up or avoid it like the plague. That said, it is a good record, with the only drawback is it drags on at times. Fourteen tracks is a bit long for a Venom record and it would be just as strong or stronger with 10 tracks. Still, the trio should be commended for stellar musicianship and good songs. From the Very Depths is a solid cut.

For more information, view their website at http://www.venomslegions.com/