Making their triumphant return after their mostly Post-Rock only release “Shelter”, today we have Alcest and their latest effort “Kodama”. Stepping a bit back into their darker and ‘heavier’ days, this release delivers 48 minutes of the band that so many Metal heads secretly love. The band’s magical sound returns with seven songs that feature a bit of an ideological change into Japanese culture.
The album opens with the whimsical “Kodama”, a very ethereal piece that brings back memories of “Écailles de lune” and “Les Voyages de l'âme”. The dreamy vocal arrangements are made even stronger with guest vocals from Kathrine Shepard of Sylvaine. Continuing in the same vein, the quintessential Alcest shoegazy riffs open “Eclosion”, a piece that nicely builds up while delivering goose bumps. This track marks the return of Neige’s harsh vocals, something that fans thought “Shelter” was missing.
After their impressive 2014 release “Street Lights Fail”, Nucleus Torn returns with one last perplexingly beautiful release titled “Neon Light Eternal”. Featuring three songs and clocking in at around 40 minutes of music, Fredy Schnyder’s experimental outfit delivers one hell of a swan song. If you though the band’s last releases have been weird, you are in for quite an experience with this one.
Opening with the mellow and Jazzy “A Declaration of Mistrust”, we instantly get a glimpse of Anna Murphy’s enchanting vocals. This track again reminded us of a mixture of Lethe with Tenhi/Empyrium thanks to the dramatic Neo-Folk passages weaved into this track. The whole proggy/jazzy vibe in this track is amazing, and considering it lasts 22 minutes, we are very amused at the wide variety of elements and influences introduced throughout that keep the song fresh and engaging.
As one of the most unique and compelling bands in the scene, Secrets of the Moon returns to further evolve their musical craft with “Sun”. Further moving away from their Doomy Black Metal days, the band manages to spill into Dark Metal territories with seven sinister tracks. The band’s signature atmosphere and tension is always present, but the mood shift is quite evident as the deliver song after song of magical musical darkness.
Opening with the more ‘typical’ “No More Colours”, the band continues their older style with very dense distorted guitars and a very aggressive vocals/drumming combination. However, there is an evident change in their sound as this track feels darker and more sinister than normal. sG’s clean vocals are remind us of a mixture of Decoryah’s Jukka Vuorinen and Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, allowing tracks like “Dirty Black” to works perfectly with a less distorted and aggressive stance.
Marking the end of Les Discrets metal/rock musical era, today we have their “Live at Roadburn” release. Having been lucky enough to be at the show in person, I have to say that this magical occasion was very well captured for eternity in this live release. Featuring eight songs from the set the band delivered that day, the crystal clear audio from this release brings shivers to my spine just by listening to it.
Opening with “Linceul d'hiver” the atmosphere is instantly set with such a majestic piece. The band’s sound has always had a very unique aura around it and when I have seen them live its perfectly translated. With a lineup boosting Fursy Teyssier (on vocals/guitar) and Alcest musicians Neige (bass guitar), Zero (guitars / vocals) and Winterhalter (drums), unknowingly that was the last time that Les Discrets would sound like this. The tempo picks up with the lush “L'Échappée”, one of our favorite songs and most epic pieces of atmospheric music ever written.
Heavy, creepy and atmospheric are words that we usually like when talking about a release, in “The Kingdom Field” Darkher perfectly crafts her sound around those three words. Hailing from the UK, this female-fronted outfit delivers four brilliant tracks that combine elements from old-school bands like The 3rd and the Mortal, to newer acts like Hexvessel and Jex Thoth.
We are slowly initiated to Darkher’s captivating sound with the atmospheric intro to “Ghost Tears”. The dark and somber vocals work amazingly well with the minimalistic percussions and guitars in this track. We are reminded of a mixture of Jamie Myers (Sabbath Assembly), Jex Thoth, and Kari Rueslåtten (ex The 3rd and the Mortal), as it goes from somber and deep to sweet and innocent in tracks like “Hung”, these changes make this release very versatile and intoxicating.
Conceived as a side project from Secrets of the Moon’s sG and Markus Renzenbrink of Embedded, this band crafts very dark sounding Rock/Metal that is quite melancholic in nature. In “Gehenna”, the band presents four intense tracks that deliver tons of raw emotions and explore very interesting music ideas. If we had to put a label on this, we would say that they are a mixture of Katatonia, Bethlehem, Mystons, Grey Waters and Decoryah, but with its own twisted intricacies.
The album leads off with the atmospheric dreamy intro passage of “House of Gehenna”. In this track you immediately know that this release will be quite unique. Never being overzealous, the band slowly escalates the intensity and it is greatly led by the dramatic vocals of sG paired with melodic guitars. Melancholy overpowers this release with the catchy and grim “Your Skull-sized Kingdom”, full of great guitar leads and excellent vocal melodies.
Experimental/Avant-garde outfit Nucleus Torn returns in 2014 with their mesmerizing “Street Lights Fail”. Hailing from Switzerland, this outfit led by Fredu Schnyder delivers nearly 40 minutes of thought provoking music that pushes the boundaries of anything that could be defined. Mixing heavy distorted guitars with countless other instruments and a very mellow vibe, this is one album that you should listen to if you like bands like Lethe and Manes, you are in for a treat.
Opening with the warm-up desolate piece “-“, we are introduced to a very bleak atmosphere with lush pianos and haunting female vocals. This track suddenly morphs into a jazzy/lounge piece that is quite intoxicating and engaging. As the song bleeds into “Worms”, the distorted guitars quickly set the mood a bit livelier and greatly enhance the jazzy atmosphere that is mixed in between. Anna Murphy’s and Maria D’Alessandro’s vocals are amazing in this release and they sound like the post-Kari years of The Third and the Mortal. This 19 minute piece is pure magic and features just the right amount of experimental and complexity to fully captivate its audience.
Having waited for more than 10 years for a new Empyrium release, the arrival of this release was the highlight of our month. With “The Turn of the Tides”, Ulf Theodor Schwadorf and Thomas Helm return with a release that combines all elements from Empyrium’s past in a very fresh and masterful way. Featuring seven tracks of majestic atmospheric music, the band surpasses all the expectations and once again, sets the bar higher.
The release opens with the ray of light called “Saviour”. In this track the somber piano opening perfectly sets the mood for this majestic release. As the atmospheric elements keep unveiling parallel to Helm’s vocals, the full Empyrium experience begins. The release continues with the already unveiled “Dead Winter Ways”, a majestic track that is both bleak and dramatic. Featuring distorted guitars, this is a first in a few releases for Empyrium.
The ability of Herbst to create some of the bleakest music in the world with Lantlôs is truly outstanding, and with “Melting Sun” he takes the band’s sound even further. Continuing their musical journey without the vocals of Neige (Alcest), this album further advances the band’s quest for perfection. Delivering six songs of great despair and atmospheric brilliance, this is hands down one of the best releases in 2014.
As the album opens with “Melting Sun I: Azure Chimes”, the first few notes transmit a certain urge of despair and emptiness unlike anything else we have heard before. Painting a very desolate landscape, the band fully explodes with punishing riffs and a very mellow vibe. Herbst’s clean vocals nicely add to the mix by boosting the band’s melancholic charge. Moving into the more Post-Rock/Post-Metal ish “Melting Sun II: Cherry Quartz” we get another round of thunderous guitars and well-crafted drum patterns. Perfectly playing with space and time, the band’s intermingling of slow passages and powerful walls of distortion is masterful.
Receiving this release with the bittersweet news that this will be the last Dornenreich release for a while, “Freiheit” is the band’s eight studio album in 18 years. Even though the band is not splitting up or anything, the band leaves us with a very unique release that combines both aspects of the band over the years: their dark neo-folk incursions and the more traditional Pagan/Black Metal elements. With eight tracks and over 45 minutes of music, the listener will accompany Dornenreich into their very special world.
The dramatic “Im ersten aller Spiele” opens with piercing violins and lush string instruments. There is something about the spoken German vocals that adds a great level of depth to the band’s unique music. “Von Kraft und Wunsch und jungen Federn” continues with a very dramatic and heartfelt approach, with hasty vocals and some intense sections, we can instantly feel the mood transmitted by the band in this track. Things turn darker and slower once more with one of our favorites “Des Meeres Atmen”, a very melancholic and enchanting tune.