It’s been a while since we get the ‘holy shit’ look after listening to a release coming from an unsigned band, and recently Veneficum’s “In Tranquil Absurd” changed that. With a monumental Symphonic Black Metal sound, this American band managed to blow us away after a couple of songs. And while Veneficum does not have the budget to create the expensive orchestrations that bands like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir are capable of, they do manage to create an epic orchestral atmosphere using synthesizers.
Before you start thinking that we will talk about another clone band that is just trying to capitalize on what CoF and Dimmu have already done, you should give Veneficum a try and verify for your self that they are a quality band with an imposing sound. With the atmosphere being the main ‘attention grabber’, the band also shows great amount of skills in terms of cohesive songwriting, and ridiculously precise execution.
Symphonic Black Metal
In their two albums after their 2006 reformation, Limbonic Art has managed to tarnish their legacy created by impressive releases such as “Moon in the Scorpio” and “In Abhorrence Dementia”. “Phantasmagoria” is one of said albums, and with this release we can only hope that the band changes their name or goes back to sleep once more.
In another attempt at creating something ‘impressive’ the ‘band’ fails miserably and creates another sub-par release from what once was from Limbonic Art. “Phantasmagoria” features well over one hour of pointless and direction-less songs that will only cause Black Metal fans to cringe track after track, since this release will give you a headache similar to the ones you get by listening to pure static for 6 hours.
Beating on the same dead cat for the last decade, today we have Cradle of Filth and their latest release “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa”. As you can expect, this release is as consistent as their last few, not bad, not great, and just average enough to keep the band’s fans pleased for a couple years. Continuing where they left of with “Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder”, CoF has crafted 11 songs of their trademark Symphonic Black Metal.
It’s interesting to see that a band that pushed the envelope so much in the 90’s, has been very stagnant when it comes to add anything else into their music. While we don’t complain much about ‘sticking to what works’, we are getting tired of CoF re-doing what they did on their previous album every time.
Just when many people thought that Dimmu Borgir will never be as good as in their “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant “ and “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”, we get “Abrahadabra”, another masterpiece from this Norwegian band. While the band’s musical quality had considerably decreased with “In Sorte Diaboli” and “Death Cult Armageddon”, they come back in full swing with an impressive symphonic masterpiece that puts almost everything that Mustis “wrote for the band” to shame.
While many people will be crying and bitching about the Cradle of Filth comparisons, or that this album is too symphonic, blah, blah, blah, WE have to say that this is highly impressive stuff. The orchestration behind this release is, for lack of a better expression, ridiculously impressive. Everything sounds just right and helps build up a brilliant atmosphere that feels like a John Williams soundtrack on top of the traditional Dimmu Borgir sound. We have to recognize that Mustis did a good job before (especially in “Puritanical…”) but this is just ten steps ahead. With Gaute Storaas doing the orchestration of this album, he greatly helps in creating a truly diabolically haunting atmosphere (better than on “Death Cult Armageddon”).
When we where thinking where the hell have we heard of this band before, it immediately hit us that the band had a song (“Black Leather Cult”) in the epic “The Holy Bible” compilation album of Holy Records back in 1996. Fast-forward almost 14 years and, several releases and a brief break up and we have Nighfall back with only one of the original members: Efthimis Karadimas, now only on vocals.
“Astron Black and the Thirty Tyrants” marks a very impressive release of this Greek band on Metal Blade Records. Since you start listening to this album, you immediately know that it will surely be an interesting experience. With a very interesting Melodic Black/Death Metal sound, the band quickly brings back of some of their older releases on Holy Records, because of the odd combination of powerful riffs, different vocals (clean and growls), and the elevated us of keyboards.
Abigail Williams, one of the most promising North American bands is back with “In the Absence of Light”, a very dominant second full-length release. After tons of line-up changes, and loosing the very talented Ashley Ellyllon to Cradle of Filth, the band manages to maintain some of its bombastic sound from before and unleashes a guitar-driven Symphonic/Melodic Black Metal attack unlike any other band in North America has ever done before.
Before people start hating on this band, we will mention that they do sound like Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, etc, etc, etc, and that the band did have some ‘American’ Deathcore/Metalcore influences. However, the band with “In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns” did craft some pretty nifty Symphonic Black Metal songs that are only rivaled by their European counterparts. The band also sounded completely different to the whole USBM scene since AW used a more symphonic and ‘European’ sounding style. Because of these reasons we do respect and actually like (very much) AW and their powerful sound.
Hailing from Canada today we have Artep, a symphonic Black Metal band that does one heck of a job in crafting epically crushing anthems of pure darkness and destruction. The band’s first full-length release is filled with pleasing surprises for all fans of Melodic/Symphonic Black Metal.
Signed on Bleak Art Records, the band is a great addition to their already impressive roster of bands such as: Aenaon and Sokrovenno. With no minutes to spare, Artep kicks off this release with a solid intro that sets the stage for the greatly diabolical and lush atmosphere of “The Antichrist”, the albums second track. Since this song you can hear the bands solid guitar work paired with atmospheric keyboards, making the comparisons to Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Anorexia Nerviosa, etc., an easy pick in describing the band’s bombastic and aggressive sound.
Out of all the self-released albums we get, we have never received such an impressive release as Bitter Frost’s self-titled debut album. With an amazing musicianship, crystal clear production, solid songwriting, and impressive guest appearances, “Bitter Frost” will surely be our favorite Symphonic/Melodic Black Metal album of the year.
Featuring 73 minutes of impressive music, the one man band Bitter Frost takes us through many different genres of metal laid on top of a Black Metal foundation. With all the ideas and creativity behind this release, we only feel sorry for all the unsigned bands that even when combined together will never put out a release as impressive as this one.
Boasting a majestic combination of Black, Death, and Gothic Metal with Symphonic Metal elements today we have Arcane Grail, a very bombastic band from Russia. “Arya Marga” was originally released back in March of 2009, but luckily for us the folks at Hunter’s Moon records from the UK re-released it on a digital-only format.
Immediately the first thing that stands out is the beautiful classically-trained voice of Natalie, the band’s female vocalist for those that need clarification. The band’s music is very dynamic and it’s very well varied through the 40 minutes that “Arya Marga” lasts. There is never a dull moment and there is something for everybody ranging from full-on Black Metal aggression, Death growls and overall solid riffing.
In a very crowded Symphonic Black Metal scene, there are only a handful of bands that I could call original. Aherusia is one of them, hailing from Greece I personally never heard of them before, but they present us their debut full-length album “And The Tides Shall Reveal The Traces”.
The band’s sound is very rich and presents us with a very interesting atmosphere created by the distorted guitars and a cretan lyra, an instrument that I’ve never heard before in my life. This instrument sounds like a violin/viola at sometimes and it gives the band that folk-ish sound that mainly Pagan/Viking/Folk Metal bands, but with a distinctive Black Metal edge.