After a very promising and fresh sounding EP titled “Paradise (What About Us?)”, Within Temptation finally unleashes their latest full-length “Hydra”. In this release the band continues their push for mainstream recognition and glory with some extremely unexpected collaborations and a handful of songs that still remind us of the older roots of the band’s beginnings.
The album opens with the final version of “Let Us Burn”, a track that is still as good and efficient as on their previous EP but with nice finishing touches. The band manages to sound like their old self with heavy guitars and lush orchestrations. The first guest appearance is marked by the vocals of Howard Jones on “Dangerous”. This track is quite heavy and enjoyable since both vocalists do a great job and the music is quite well developed.
Featuring 60% of the members of Transcending Bizarre?, Hail Spirit Noir delivers their sophomore release with “Oi Magoi”. Featuring a very intriguing and elegant mixture of Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Black Metal, and some magical Avant-garde elements, this release blooms for over 45 minutes of truly unique sonic landscapes.
The release blasts opens with the psychedelically charged “Blood Guru”, a track that is quite well layered and allows all the band’s influences to immediately shine through. The elegant finish to this song oozes melodic brilliance and posture. It is quite interesting to hear elements from bands like Jess and the Ancient Ones and Jex Thoth thrown into tracks like “Demon for a Day” and “Satan is Time”, allowing Hail Spirit Noir to be one of the few bands that mixes Psychedelic Rock elements to create Avant-garde Black Metal.
Delivering their most high-octane release to date, Aenaon returns with the punishing “Extance”. Hailing from Greece, this band has managed to push the boundaries of Black Metal with their previous efforts and this one is no different. Mixing Avant-garde/Jazzy elements into a well-structured Progressive Black Metal core, this release sees the band further refining their craft into near perfection through the 11 songs presented here.
The band’s incisive riffing and commanding vocals are immediately felt with the intro “The First Art” blending into “Deathtrip Chronicle”. Excelling in creating killer guitar melodies, Aenaon has managed to further refine their sound since “Cendres et Sang”. The tempo changes and vocal arrangements are other factors that make the band’s music instantly be recognized. The Avant-garde weirdness we love form the band starts to shine with the upbeat “Grau Diva” and its intricate arrangements.
Highly experimental and unconventional outfit Manes finally returns to the scene with a compilation release that will precede a new full-length release later this year (or so). In “Teeth, Toes and Other Trinkets” the band puts together a very eclectic assortment of tracks from their “Vilosophe" and "How The World Came To An End" eras. Any fan of the band will greatly appreciate the moodiness and uniqueness of the tracks presented in this release and will surely make them more excited for the band’s upcoming release.
In case you are still expecting any Black Metal from Manes (just in case), this release is far from it and showcases the band’s later musical progression into dark jazzy/avant-garde territories. Just imagine (current) Tiamat meets Green Carnation and throw in some of mid-career Ulver into the mix and this is what you will get. For everybody else staying with the Manes program, “Blanket Of Ashes” delivers quite a powerful opener with excellent vocals and trippy percussions.
Many high-quality weird releases make it to our review ‘desk’, but none quite like Lethe and their debut release “When Dreams Become Nightmares”. As a project of Tor-Helge Skei (Manes) and Anna Murphy (Eluveitie) with the help of Eivind Fjøseide (Manes) and others, this band truly delivers a completely unique musical experience that is best described by the uniqueness (and weirdness) of their music, since it is nothing like you would expect.
Opening with the trippy “In Motion”, you are immediately set in the mindset of expecting nothing conventional and hanging on for the ride. Anna’s vocals remind us of Shellyz Raven mixed with some of the experimental stuff from The 3rd and the Mortal on their Ann-Mari Edvardsen years. The tables are quickly turned on the dark “Haunted”, featuring a certain Industrial vibe but with tons of eerie atmospheric elements and Black Metal-ish guitars.
Fully coming out of their cocoon, today we have Alcest and “Shelter”. In this album we have Alcest dropping their last remaining Metal influences and swiftly delivering a Shoegaze/Post-Rock charged Dream pop release that will haunt you from beginning to end. Listing Birgir Jón Birgisson as a producer/mixer, from Sigur Rós fame, the band takes their dreamy sound to a whole new level of awesomeness.
With the band shedding their Black Metal feathers over the years, “Shelter” marks their biggest jump by not having any hard vocals or extremely heavy guitar parts. However, the atmospheric brilliance of the band is untouched and further explored within the eight tracks presented in this release. The journey begins with the atmospheric intro “Wings”, featuring some dreamy vocals that quickly build up the listener’s expectations. As this song blends into “Opale”, Niege leads the way with some awesomely crafted guitars and his signature clean vocals.