As the first promo of 2013 we received at Infernal Masquerade, we are quite surprised that we immediately have an early candidate for Symphonic Black Metal release of the year 2013. Saille makes a furious return with “Ritu”, an opus in melodic aggression that reminded us of the days when Dimmu Borgir was not ridiculously overproduced and of bands like Vesperian Sorrow, that keep the flame of Symphonic BM alive. With nine tracks presented in this release, this outfit from Belgium delivers one of the most impressive sophomore releases we have ever heard.
Opening with the bombastic “Blood Libel”, the band immediately unleashes their furious Black Metal riffing and killer drumming. The band’s sound reminded us a bit of Anorexia Nervosa and their balls to the wall style. The lush keyboards greatly enhance this vicious track, creating a very eerie atmosphere. In a very maquiavelic style, “Subcutaneous Terror” delivers a very catchy mixture of creepy slow passages and brutal aggressive sections with sick guitar solos. This song reminded us when Dimmu Borgir in their “Enthroned Darkness Triumphant” era.
Symphonic Black Metal
Finally we get a release that is a bit different than almost everybody else that tries to copy somebody. With Chaosweaver’s sophomore release “Enter the Realm of the Doppelganger”, we are treated to nine tracks of excellent Symphonic Metal with Black Metal and Industrial elements. Keeping the atmosphere above all things, the band nicely crafts excellent songs that are quite a musical experience.
The highly dramatic opener “A Read Dawn Rises” is a clear example of a beautifully crafted track that delivers emotions and a great sense of harmony. This is the perfect lead-up for the explosive “Wings of Chaos”. In this track the guitars open up a riffing onslaught while the atmospheric synths fill the atmosphere. Not sounding like Dimmu Borgir, or any other Symphonic Metal band, Chaosweaver has a bigger and more grandiose cinematic feeling. With a very classical feeling “Maelstrom of Black Light” nicely keeps the experience rolling with catchy riffing and an excellent tempo.
Making its way from France, today we have Winterburst and their very impressive debut release “The Mind Cave”. With a very bombastic Symphonic Black Metal sound, the band delivers nearly 70 minutes of high-octane music that resembles the greats of the genre: Dimmu Borgir. Focusing on delivering the catchiest and most effective songs, the band delivers intense riffing and drumming with a high dosage of orchestrations and choir arrangements.
Opening with the highly dramatic “A Mirror’s Game”, this release immediately blows you away with the production quality behind it. The choirs are amazing and the immediate riffing intensity is excellent. The vocals sound a bit like Shagrath making them very fitting for the massive sound that Winterburst has. Changing between shrieks, growls and clean sections, the band’s vocalist Vorender is as versatile as they come. The power of Kyll’s guitars is felt immediately and on tracks like “The Mind Cave”, they pound away relentlessly. We particularly enjoy this track due to its intricate orchestrations as well.
Just when you thought you have heard every single Symphonic Black Metal band under the sun (or moon), a ‘new’ one pops out. Releasing their debut album “Descensus Ad Inferos”, today we have Greece’s Erevos. Playing a mean Symphonic Black Metal, this band delivers a very powerful and commanding debut release. Featuring tons of lush atmospheric landscapes, powerful guitars and very ghoulish vocals, this band will surely turn some heads in the scene.
Opening with thick atmospheric keyboards, “Adou Katavasis” announces the band’s very complex and well developed sound. The production behind this release is excellent since allows everything to sound very clearly and massive. The combination of keyboards and guitars is very melodic and makes this opening track very catchy and engaging. Things remain as brutal with “The Omnipotence of the Judges”, a song that reminds us very much of Anorexia Nervosa and their hyper-brutal melodic songs.
Five years have passed since the release of “Regenesis Creation”, and finally Vesperian Sorrow is back with another monumental album of aggressive Symphonic Black Metal that will put all other band’s to shame. In “Stormwinds of Ages” the band delivers around 60 minutes of excellently crafted songs and a superb production that will blow you away and incite you to play it as loud as you can (we did). Having enough time to craft the 11 tracks of this release has helped the band achieve a near perfect album that features plenty of guest appearances and the hectic sound that the band is very characteristic for.
While every band in the USA is running to the next big trends like Deathcore, Metalcore, Cascadian Hipster Black Metal, Vesperian Sorrow continues perfecting unaffected by all the trendy crap in this country. Having toured all over the world, the band’s sound speaks for itself and with more tweaking since “Regenesis Creation” this album showcases the maturity of the band’s sound and musical abilities.
Finally returning after 5 years since the band’s last full-length release “Second Skin of Harlequin”, today we have Denmark’s Illnath and their characteristic Melodic Black Metal. With several lineup changes, “Third Act in the Theatre of Madness” showcases the band’s new female growler Mona Beck and session drummer Reno Killerich. Now signed to Pitch Black Records, the band shows that they are back stronger than ever and with the ten tracks presented in this release, they mean serious business.
“Third Act” opens the album in a very traditional manner, with some keyboards, a pounding bass guitar line and tight drumming. The first surprise comes when Mona starts singing since she does not sound like your typical female growler. As a regular reader of Infernal Masquerade you might be aware that we are tired of this gimmick, but for Illnath, the female growler works perfectly. Just like a more aggressive version Angela Gossow, Mona brings a new level of brutality to the band’s sound.
The Taiwanese Melodic/Symphonic Black Metaliers of Chthonic have been around for over 15 years and with every new album they have been improving their music by huge leaps. “Takasago Army” marks the band’s latest release and it’s probably their strongest one to date. Having released their last two albums on Spinefarm records, the band has been taking advantage of better production values to deliver their crushing music to the masses.
While there are heaps of Symphonic Black Metal bands, there are only very few that can rock out the Erhu (traditional two-stringed instrument, similar to a violin) and deliver punishing tunes with it. The similarities to bands like Cradle of Filth (vocals and symphonic elements) are evident, but this extra traditional element adds that extra originality that bands need these days to be distinguished from the rest.
In the very saturated genre of Atmospheric/Symphonic Black Metal is very hard to standout since most bands sound the same or just sound like shit. However, Astarium from Russia manages to create a positive impression due to the overall sound of their music: not too raw, not too brutal, not too fake (except for the drums). In “Dethroned of Impostor”, we are presented with 40 minutes of engaging music.
Being a one man band, Astarium is limited to using a drum machine (or similar) and this is probably the weakest element of the release, since when they go ape shit, they sound as fake as Pamela Anderson’s titties look. After the creepy opener intro, “Bloodshed Must Goes On” (some grammar check wouldn’t hurt before making the song titles), delivers a nice and brutal attack of fast ‘drums’, traditional guitar riffs and a combination of pseudo growls with pseudo shrieks. The music is very familiar to Limbonic Art (early) and even some hints of Mysticum, etc.
As we all know most one-man bands suck, with a very few exceptions they are just outlets for untalented people to produce what they call ‘music’. Going with this notion, I was gladly surprised by the quality of Astarium’s music, a one-man band from Novosibirsk, Russia. Getting strange looking envelopes from far away places in the world is one of the thrills of working for Infernal Masquerade and this time, the envelope also delivers good music (something that is not the case at least 50% of the time).
“Invasion to Forbidden” is the latest EP from this Symphonic/Atmospheric Black Metal band that while not having the best sound quality or musical equipment, it can surely create a eerie atmosphere and deliver 16 minutes of creepy as shit Black Metal.
After their monumental “Wreath of Thevetat”, Finland’s best Symphonic/Melodic Black Metal band Alghazanth returns with a very interesting offering titled “Vinum Intus”. In three years between releases, the band has managed to fuse new elements into their sound and will surely take by surprise a lot of people, but they still manage to deliver a crushing release.
The album starts off very rudimentary with the straight forward track titled “A Living Grace”. In this song you can immediately notice a simpler and less bombastic sound from the band, but equally cold and raw than before (and other Finish bands like Sargeist and Horna). The keyboard hints are a nice atmospheric element added to this song. The band gets a bit more comfortable and melodic with “With a Thorn in Our Hearts”, some guitar riffs even remind us of Celestia and their melancholy Black Metal style.