We sometimes wonder how the guys over at Hypnotic Dirge Records have such a similar music taste to us. From highly melancholic, to extremely experimental releases, this label has landed another winner with Urbain’s release “A Soul Purged”. Hailing from Texas, this band feels like a mixture of Vesperian Sorrow, Limbonic Art, with some splashes of Dimmu Borgir. With nine brilliant and high-octane tracks, this release is one of our early candidates for album of the year for 2023.
Opening with the release with the dramatic atmospherics of “Perception”, the mood is set very efficiently as the ravaging intensity of the guitar riffs is introduced alongside piercing shrieks and lush melodic passages. With an atmospheric transitioning track between each song, the band nicely changes the tempo and mood while preparing themselves to unleash aggressive onslaughts with a hearty balance of melody as we can hear in excellent songs like “Without Conscience” and “A Soul Purged”.
Symphonic Black Metal
There is definitely something magical in the water in France as they have a solid wave of talented Metal bands coming front and center. Today’s turn is for Diablation and their superbly polished and engaging Symphonic Black Metal. With “Par Le Feu”, this band gives us …And Oceans-meets-Alghazanth vibes with some Anorexia Nervosa and Limbonic Art splashed in. Featuring seven tracks and nearly 40 minutes of music, this is one hell of a release that no fan of the genre can miss.
Opening with the enigmatic intro “Inferi Ostium”, the band really hits full stride with the crushing “Vox Diaboli” and its waves of punishing guitars paired with hellish screams. The atmospheric keyboards have that magical late 90’s (or early 2000’s) vibe, when they are overpowering, but seamlessly blend into the mix, as we can hear in brilliant songs like “L'unique merveille”, “Au bord du gouffre”, and “Crépuscule doré”. If the vocals sound familiar, is because they are delivered by none other than Vicomte Vampyr Arkames, who used to handle these duties in Seth a while ago.
Our favorite Gothic/Symphonic Black Metal miscreants are back, with a new double live release that also features a couple new studio tracks. Nicely separated into older and newer songs per disc, this release is a testament that the band still has plenty of fuel left in their tank while delivering some kick-ass live shows. If you are a diehard fan of the band, this release nicely captures a glimpse of how their, quite elaborate, tracks sound in a live setting.
Opening with the new track “She is a Fire”, is a dreamy piece that continues the bands intensity and lush atmospherics of their previous release “Existence Is Futile”. Since this track is new, this and the other studio songs should feature Zoë Marie Federoff, the band’s newest member on keyboards and backing vocals. The rest of the first disc has plenty of killer live renditions of fan favorites like “Heaven Torn Asunder”, “Nymphentamine”, “Bathory Aria”, and “Desire in Violent Overture.
Black Metal parody bands is something that one does not usually encounter, so it was quite interesting to hear Luteøks and their debut release: “Barely True Norwegian Black Metal”. Upon doing more research on the band and the release, we found out that the label, Nordic Mission, is an ‘extreme Christian Metal’ label and all members of Luteøks are also members of Grave Declaration, a fully Christian Metal band. However, moving that aside since we don’t care one bit, the music is actually really good and with plenty of familiar influences.
After a pummeling Old Man’s Child-esque intro with “Dritfjell”, the band fires up their old-school Norwegian BM chops with the very familiar opening minutes of “Sekken”. Every connoisseur of the genre will immediately pick up the familiar sounds the band manages to blend in together, particularly the Dimmu Borgir-esque nature of “Langbortistan” and its playful antics. We believe that some of the parody aspects might get lost in translation as almost all lyrics are in Norwegian.
We are extremely glad that the band that got us into Symphonic Black Metal in the 90’s is back in full form and has stayed away from their weird Techno/Industrial phase. …and Oceans delivered two brilliant releases in the late 90’s, then dropped two super weird and ahead of their time releases only to mostly disappear for almost a decade. With “As in Gardens, So in Tombs” the band showcases a lush and evolved sound filled with epic melodies and crafty atmospherics.
Opening with the album title track, the band’s retro approach to the genre perfectly balances furious guitar work over playful keyboards. While most bands these days make the keyboards overbearing, this Finnish outfit uses them to complement their core sound as they never feel over the top. Tracks like “The Collector and His Construct”, “Within Fire and Crystal”, and “Carried on Lead Wings” have that old Tartaros and Limbonic Art vibe adorned with ‘new’ vocalist Mathias Lillmåns of Finntroll harsh scream onslaughts.
Unleashing a blistering piece of majestic Symphonic/Melodic Black Metal, today we have newcomers Pestilent Hex. Polished in over five years, this album captures the magic of keyboard driven BM of the 90’s, with similarities to Emperor, Tartaros, Limbonic Art, however, the band manages to sound like something completely different. Be prepared for a dramatic and highly engaging 40-minute experience.
The release opens with the album titled chapter I, which sets a very hectic opening with blistering drumming, furious riffing, and powerful harsh vocals. This track nicely morphs into a very dramatic and intense atmospheric affair with piercing synths and lush piano arrangements. Both “Nature of the Spirit” and “Mephistophelean Liaison” perfectly build up on such a killer opener with tons of dynamic arrangements, dramatic tempo changes, and heaps of emotion and melody, making up for a very powerful first part of this release.
Back in the day, Agathodaimon was one of those bands that pushed Black Metal into Symphonic/Gothic territories with some brilliant releases like “Blacken the Angel” and “Higher Art of Rebellion”. Unfortunately the band split up in 2014, leaving behind great promise and a very solid and unique sound. Fast forward to 2022, Sathonys is back with Chris Bonner on vocals and a set of new members with “The Seven”.
Featuring ten tracks and around 45 minutes of music, this release feels a bit exploratory, unleashing some killer tracks alongside some odd elements that take a few listens to fully digest. As “La Haine” rolls in with piercing riffs, hellish harsh screams and a fast pace, time is erased and Agathodaimon is certainly back. There are some superb sinister melodic passages that change the mood of the track and are nicely adorned by lush synths, alongside some not-so-great clean vocals. This approach is mimicked in “Ain't Death Grand” and “Ghosts of Greed”, both fairly solid tracks but with odd and contrasting clean vocal arrangements.
Just like no time has passed since their last release…sixteen years ago, Germany’s Mystic Circle returns with their explosive brand of Melodic Black/Death Metal. With their eponymous release, the band continues their journey unleashing nearly 50 minutes of high-octane music. For the uninitiated, this band was torching stages with their unique sound back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s before splitting up for quite a while.
There is a certain charm to the sound behind those legendary late 90’s early 2000’s Melodic Black/Death Metal releases from bands like Catamenia, Agathodaimon, Siebenbürgen, Old Man's Child, etc, and this release perfectly captures it as “Belial Is My Name” delivers its first notes. The melodic nature of pieces like “Seven Headed Dragon” and “Letters from the Devil”, give that devilish sinister vibe the band has imprinted in their early releases.
Unleashing waves of Vampiric Black Metal, today we have Australia’s Krvna and their debut full-length release “Sempinfernus”. With over 35 minutes of intense music, this release reminds us of early Dimmy Borgir, Old Man’s Child, and similar outfits, filled with atmosphere and harshness. For a one-man project, this release packs a mean punch and high replay value.
Opening with the sinister “From The Shades Of Hades…”, the atmosphere immediately feels tense and eerie thanks to blistering drumming, intricate guitar work and devilish vocals. Things turn a bit more melodic and less chaotic with the melodic onslaughts of “...To The Targovistean Night”, contrasted by its punishing aggressive sections. We are suckes for epic melodies and the track “The Triumph Of The Flesh Over The Spirit” is one fine piece of melodramatic guitar work.
Featuring V-KhaoZ of Druadan Forest handling all instruments and Profundus of Sargeist handling the vocals, Olio Tähtien Takana aka “Creature behind the stars” is one crushing two-man battalions ready to take over the Atmospheric Black Metal scene with their full-length release “Spectral Katharsis”. With nearly 5 minutes of superbly crafted music, this band brings back memories of bands like Tartaros and old Emperor and mixes those retro-elements with more modern Atmospheric Black Metal influences.
After the traditional atmospheric intro, “Towards The Dying Moon” instantly brings that old-Emperor circa “In the Nightside Eclipse” sound thanks to its crafty guitars and playful vocal combination. As the keyboards soar alongside the incisive riffs, we get that nice retro vibe, perfectly blending into pieces like “Excrucior” and the dramatic “A Sorcery Written In Stars”. While most bands in the genre focus on adding more fluff and ‘pretty’ up their sound with more synths and cinematics, this outfit seems more focused on the harshness and aggressiveness of their sound and we love it!