Bringing back memories of the simpler days of Melodic Black Metal, when bands like Limbonic Art, Emperor, ...and Oceans added keyboards and orchestrations to the genre, today we have Vargrav and its sophomore release “Reign in Supreme Darkness”. Delivering over 40 minutes of lush arrangements, solid BM core elements and crafty songwriting, this one man unit unleashes a timeless sounding release that should not be overlooked.
After the traditional intro, Vargrav goes full steam with the lush “The Glory of Eternal Night”, a brilliant old-school sounding track that reminds us of Emperor’s classic “I am the Black Wizards”. The pacing and intricate tempo changes make this song quite enjoyable and a very strong opener. As “Dark Space Dominion” and “In Streams from Great Mysteries” roll in, we find ourselves impulsively headbanging thanks to their ravaging and yet playful nature. Both tracks are filled with majestic atmospheric arrangements, perfectly offset by catchy riffs.
Symphonic Black Metal
A blast from the past made it to our review queue today with Hecate Enthroned and their first album in six years “Embrace of the Godless Aeon”. We remember back in the late 90’s when bands were trying to sound like Cradle of Filth and while many tried, Hecate Enthroned was one of the few that got close. While the band got unfairly treated as a clone, we always enjoyed their spin on Symphonic/Gothic Black Metal back in those days. With a new vocalist and their signature style, the band makes a very strong comeback in 2019.
Blasting away after their atmospheric intro, “Revelations in Autumn Flame” takes us back in time with the over the top synths that nicely contrast the shrieks and blast beats. The mixture of growls and shrieks is definitely something that attracted us to the band back in the day and on tracks like “Temples that Breathe” brings back some nice memories. However, the best thing about the band is how they create sinister atmospheres thanks to the sultry voice of Sarah Jezebel Deva in “Goddess of Dark Misfits”, our favorite song in the release.
Bringing back that nostalgic feeling of Symphonic Black Metal from the early 2000’s, today we have Belgium’s Lemuria and their full-length release “The Hysterical Hunt”. With over one hour of music, the band takes the listener in a very lively music filled with Folk elements and brilliant melodic passages, reminding us of outfits like Limbonic Art, Stormlord, Bal-Sagoth and early Agathodaimon.
After setting a turbulent and dramatic mood with the instrumental intro, the band gets down to business with the playful “A Plague Upon the Land”. This track features dramatic orchestrations that do not feel overpowering to the other elements, allowing the vocals to direct the show while the guitars and drums add a layer of heaviness to the music. As album title track rolls in, the pace pics up a bit and keep things interesting with cool vocal arrangements and killer melodic headbanging passages.
Hailing from Japan today we have the mesmerizing debut EP of Anguis Dei, titled “Ad Portas Serpentium”. Delivering four majestic Symphonic/Melodic Black Metal hymns that remind us of the old days of Emperor, Old Man’s Child, Naglfar and Dimmu Borgir, this release is quite a musical experience for fans of the style.
Opening with the dramatic theatrics of “Maythorns Over Uroboros”, this track sets a high-octane pace for this release. The lush keyboards are perfectly contrasted with the hellish vocals and bestial drumming. We particularly love how the band handles tempo changes in order to inflict the most amounts of pain via killer guitar leads or atmospheric passages.
Continuing the journey of Odysseus started by Imperious sophomore release “Tales of Woe – The Journey of Odysseus, Part I”, today we have the epic continuation. Luckily as Massacre Productions is releasing both part simultaneously, we don’t have to wait a year as the original fans of the bands had to do, since this release was originally unleashed in 2015. Again, mixed and produced by Markus Stock, the grandeur of this album is perfectly capture and delivered.
Instead of opening with a short intro, the band picks up where they left off and deliver a very intricate “Of Casualties (And the further way)” filled with brilliant guitar leads and perfectly layered melodic riffs. The band’s sound is quite dynamic and rich, allowing each song to perfectly flow and deliver the goods, like we can see in “The Isle of the Solar God”.
Unleashing one of the most ambitious and epic Black Metal releases of 2017, today we have Imperious and part one of their double release “Tales of Woe – The Journey of Odysseus”. As epic as the Iliad, this release if full of excellent atmospheric elements to accompany blistering BM tracks that perfectly convey the grandeur of Odysseus journey. Originally self-released by the band in 2015, it is great that Massacre Records is giving this epic album a proper and wide release.
After setting the mood with the mellow “At The Shores of Ilion”, the band launches the first onslaught with “To Abjure Temptation” and its intense riffing. Setting a very hectic and lush tone since the beginning, hooks the listener instantly into the bands style and approach. The Empyrium-esque “At the Cave of Polyphemus” leads way to incisiveness of “The Sharpened Pale” and the dark and sinister vibe of “Insidious Winds” and its 14-minute of devastation.
After blowing everybody’s expectations with their amazing 2015 release “Hammer of the Witches”, Dani Filth and company are back with an even more refined and incisive release with “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay”. Having returned to their best sound since “Nymphetamine”, they band continues rolling with another 10 brilliant tracks that while reminding us of their earlier days, keep pushing forward with their bombastic and aggressive sound.
Kicking off with the mood setting intro “Exquisite Torments Await”, CoF instantly transports you into the band’s twisted world thanks to sinister riffs and dramatic arrangements. This is only the beginning as things get even more intense with the blistering drumming of “Heartbreak and Séance” and its Omen-esque chorus sections. With even more dramatic arrangements and superbly catchy passages, “Achingly Beautiful” is definitely one of our favorite tracks in this release.
As one of the bands that paved the way for Symphonic Black Metal back in the 90’s, Limbonic Art returns with their first album in seven years titled “Spectre Abysm”. Featuring seven tracks of fast-paced BM, this release will surely be amusing and entertaining, feeling a bit like their older releases. With most of the Symphonic BM catching up and surpassing what Limbonic Art did in the past, this album is a bit exploratory as the band seems to take on uncharted territories while maintaining a familiar style.
The release kicks off with the 10-minute epic “Demonic Resurrection”, which features a very straightforward style of Black Metal, but adds a few odd elements like some creepy throat singing. The melodic riffing of “Ethereal Traveler” keeps the intensity up, while the intricate tempo changes of “Omega Doom” showcase Daemon’s songwriting skills. We particularly enjoy the more mellow and intricate pieces like “Requiem Sempiternam”.
Hailing from France, today we have Symphonic/Progressive Black Metal outfit Akroma and their fourth full-length release titled “Apocalypse (Requiem)”. Delivering over 40 minutes of intricate music and catchy melodic passages, the band spends most of the release trying to overcome their terrible singer. Luckily for the band, their music and other vocal arrangements are good enough to not fully bring down such an interesting release.
Opening with “Kyrie” we get that old-school Symphonic Black Metal vibe from the late 90’s and all things seem to be on track for a great album. However, the mixture of shrieks/Heavy Metal-styled vocals come on and they are downright horrendous and painful to listen to. Imagine a mixture of King Diamond and Dani Filth having a very bad vocal day and magnify it by 10x. While the growls and female vocals are pretty good and well fitting, sometimes is pretty hard to zone out the bad ones as you can hear on the awesomely proggy “Offertorium”.
Finally immortalizing one of their iconic full-orchestra and choir shows, today we have Dimmu Borgir and the monumental “Forces of the Northern Night”. Featuring around 90 minutes of live material both in video (DVD or Blu-ray) and audio CD’s, this is one of the most epic live releases we have seen in a while. Not needing any introduction, this band will blow you away with the intensity they bring to the live shows.
We are only reviewing their Wacken Open air show in 2012, where the band was accompanied on stage with the Czech National Symphonic Orchestra and the Schola Cantorum choir. In this already legendary concert, the band played the full “Abrahadabra” album first, and then a pretty solid selection of their greatest hits. The first part of the concert hits the listener hard with epic renditions of crushing songs like “Born Treacherous” and “Gateways” featuring a guest appearance by Agnete Kjølsrud.