Mountaineer - Bloodletting (2020)

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In these pandemic times we have had tons of extra time to hunker down and enjoy music. One of the absolute highlights of this time has to be Mountaineer’s third full-length release “Bloodletting” and its oozing melancholy. Perfectly refining their mixture of Sludge/Doom/Post-Metal over the last few years, the band has hit its prime with this majestic 53-minute musical journey. The band’s uniquely crushing sound creates a very powerful and yet mellow atmosphere unlike anything else you have heard before.

Opening with “Blood of the Book” the band slowly builds up to harsh vocals and cascading guitar riffs. This track nicely sets a moody opening as it transforms into gargantuan walls of distortion and highly emotive clean vocals. Just getting warmed up, the band unleashes the superb catchiness of “The Weeds I Have Tended” and its crafty tempo changes. This track is one of our favorites, as it is both engaging and punishing while delivering the full spectrum of the band’s intricate sound.

Árstíðir lífsins - Saga á tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir (2020)

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As one of the most expect releases of 2020, today we have Iceland/Germany’s Árstíðir lífsins and their “Saga á tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir” release. With a very enigmatic and ritualistic approach, this band’s Black Metal onslaughts are perfectly flanked by rich lyrics and lush mood setting atmospheric passages. If you are looking for an intense release that sets a very dark tone by mixing plenty of different elements with crushing Black Metal, you do not want to miss out on this one.

Building an eerie atmosphere in its two first tracks, the band creates a killer anticipation for the ‘heavier’ stuff, as “Sem járnklær nætr dragask nærri” rolls. With a relentless drumming backdrop and pummeling riffs, this track sets a very punishing mood that is perfectly complemented by creepy choir arrangements and a sinister pace. With “Gamalt ríki faðmar þá grænu ok svǫrtu hringi lífs ok aldrslita” the band keeps their destructive momentum going with waves of energetic guitar riffs and crafty tempo changes. As the song progresses, you get a very epic vibe that usually Pagan BM bands manage to craft.

Cosmic Burial - Impakt (2020)

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Unleashing a very dreamy and ethereal debut release, today we have Cosmic Burial and “Impakt”. Featuring over 75 minutes of instrumental music, this album goes from the bowels of hell, thanks to some furious BM onslaughts, to the depths of space, thanks to hypnotic atmospherics. Led by V. V. of Nachtig and Valosta Varjoon, this one-man battalion creates a very unique and enigmatic sound that will enshroud the listener from start to end.

Setting a very bleak mood with “EO40”, the track dabbles between solemn keyboards and harsh melodic riffs. Similar to bands like Lustre, but with a simpler tone and a more direct approach. Tracks like “VK184” nicely experiment with different tempos and create very unique melodic passages that can be considered brilliant headbanging moments. There is a certain magical aura behind the music, and this is thanks to the crafty use of synths.

Secrets of the Moon - Black House (2020)

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For those looking for the Black Metal version of Secrets of the Moon, you can move along as there is nothing to see here. However, for those with an open mind, “Black House” continues the band’s evolution into Alternative/Gothic Rock/Metal territories with nine brilliantly catchy songs. While not entirely surprising to all, the band’s sonic evolution is quite interesting and this release shows their skills on a completely different playing field.

The album opens in a Katatonia-esque tone with the sultry “Sanctum” and its ridiculously catchy chorus section. This track oozes melancholy and darkness, while keeping things engaging and dynamic. On “Don’t Look Now” we have interesting vocal arrangements and very dreamy atmospheric keyboards creating a very playful back and forth between different moods. In just the first few songs, the band has set a completely different style for themselves and it works perfectly as tracks like “Veronica’s Room” and “He is Here” deliver very well crafted melodies that are perfectly flanked by unique vocal arrangements and engaging songwriting.

Vuur & Zijde - Impavida - split (2020)

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Unleashing a weird Black Metal onslaught, today we have a split release from two very promising and highly unconventional bands: Vuur & Zijde from the Netherlands and Impavida from Germany. With each band having a unique take on the genre, this split release shows us a glimpse of the future, and let us tell you: it is quite dissonant and punishing.

Vuur & Zijde opens this release with the haunting “Zonnesstorm”, a track that is nicely contrasted by some Chelsea Wolfe female vocals and furious guitars/drums, creating a very unique and powerful vibe. Waiting to come out after the band’s bursts of intensity are creepy atmospheric passages that set a chilling mood, as we hear on “Zilt”. Vocalist F. delivers a very intense and ethereal performance, particularly on the eerie “Noordzee” and its dramatic keyboards.

Kari Rueslåtten - Sørgekåpe (2020)

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It is crazy to realize that we have been enchanted by Kari’s voice since the 3rd And the Mortal’s debut EP “Sorrow”, all the way back to 1993. While those days are long gone, it has been quite a journey to hear Kari jump to a solo-artist career and shake things up with a wide range of styles. “Sørgekåpe” marks her first all-Norwegian release since her solo debut in 1997. We all know that her music currently is far from Metal, but it is still a very lively Folk/Alternative Rock powered by her mesmerizing voice.

The album starts with the title track and sets a nice Folky mood with lush acoustic guitars and a somber pace. Shifting the mood, “Svever” nicely delivers a very catchy and lively Alternative Rock tune with excellent vocal melodies and overall playful music. We particularly enjoy more the mellow tracks like “Månen lyser ned”, which have a very powerful mixture of Kari’s vocals and a deep bass guitar line. This is probably because they bring us memories from her earlier work, but nonetheless, they resonate better with us.

Paradise Lost - Obsidian (2020)

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The legendary Paradise Lost returns with their recently found back-to-the-root sound with “Obsidian”. Featuring nearly one hour of superbly catchy music, we have to say that we are enjoying how the band has come full circle and incorporated some of their earlier elements (growls, heavy riffs) into their mid-career Gothic Rock/Metal foundations. If you have enjoyed the band’s previous two releases, this is more along those lines, so it should be quite a ride.

Opening with “Darker Thoughts”, we get that vibe of “Draconian Times” meets “Gothic”, with some more modern Gothic rock elements. Being huge fans of Theatre of Tragedy during their “Aegis” era, and of Lacrimas Profundere during their “Burning: A Wish” times, the band’s sound in this release is very similar to those with the addition of some growls, as “Fall from Grace” and “Ghosts” are a perfect example of.

Sojourner - Premonitions (2020)

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Delivering one of the most magical and atmospheric Black/Folk Metal releases of 2020, today we have Sojourner and their third full-length release “Premonitions”. Featuring over 55 minutes of masterfully crafted emotional music, this release explores tons of textures and tempos to create one very cohesive and lush aural journey. If you are into bands like Saor, Winterfylleth, etc. but always wanted a folkier and even Gothic/Doomy vibe infused with them, you are in luck with this release.

The release leads off with the dramatic atmospherics of “The Monolith”, a track that delivers both aggressive guitars and lush atmospheric arrangements, perfectly led by the charming clean vocals of Chloe Bray and contrasted by the harsh screams of Emilio Crespo. The female vocals at points sound like Amy Lee, but they are enchanting in their own right as they perfectly capitulate the very elaborate atmospheric components the band lays down with their mixture of rich keyboards and additional elements like a Tin whistle.

Winterfylleth - The Reckoning Dawn (2020)

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Returning in full form after their previous acoustic release, today we have Winterfylleth and the ferocious “The Reckoning Dawn”. Unleashing over 50 minutes of their signature Melodic/Epic Black Metal, the band continues to wow listeners with their perfectly balanced ravaging sound. With tons of bands trying to sound like this UK outfit, it is quite clear that Winterfylleth is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

Opening with the lush “Misdeeds of Faith”, we get the band’s signature vocal melodies and punishing guitar onslaught. The band’s expansive sound is perfectly layered to deliver a striking balance between brutality and melody, as we can hear on “A Hostile Fate”, one of the most intense and powerful tracks of this release. For those wanting more of the acoustic guitars of their previous release, “Absolved in Fire” nicely warms up to this tone before exploding into crushing riffs and a very intense tempo.

Voices of Ruin - Path to Immortality (2020)

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Melodic Death Metal is one of those genres that you either pull off brilliantly or end up sounding like a complete rip-off of somebody else. Luckily for us, Voices of Ruin manages to blend tons of familiar influences into a very cohesive and engaging sound that the band can call their own. Unleashing “Path to Immortality”, the band delivers nearly 50 minutes of superbly crafted music, perfectly balancing aggression, melody and skill.

Opening with the very Insomnium-esque “Other Side”, the band quickly delivers the goods with the high-octane “Carved Out”. Featuring a blend of Amon Amarth and Omnium Gatherum, the band delivers crushing riffs and very melodic passages. The band’s lead guitarist proficiency is clearly showcased on the ridiculously crafty title track, with an insane solo by Tom Barrett. Both guitars lead the band’s musical efforts in brilliant tracks like “Suffering Silence” and “Reach Toward the Sky”, which have killer headbanging passages and hectic drums.

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