When bands and musicians say the experiment in their music only to please themselves, there is always that lingering concern that holds them back to truly revolutionize their sound to avoid upsetting their fans. Ihsahn is one of those that keeps true to his vision and always pushes the boundaries of his sound to please his creative endeavors, and “Pharos” is the latest example of this. Featuring three original songs and two covers, this release explores Progressive Rock/Metal territories while still delivering some of his signature staples.
The release opens with “Losing Altitude”, a track that reminds us of “After” but with a more definite Proggy vibe and no harsh vocals. The vocal and atmospheric arrangements are brilliant and quite neat, perfectly paired with Ihsahn signature guitar riffs and crispy distortion. Delivering serious Haken vibes, “Spectre at the Feast” is another exploratory piece with lush atmospheric arrangements, a pulsating bass guitar line and soaring vocals.
Returning in full form after their previous acoustic release, today we have Winterfylleth and the ferocious “The Reckoning Dawn”. Unleashing over 50 minutes of their signature Melodic/Epic Black Metal, the band continues to wow listeners with their perfectly balanced ravaging sound. With tons of bands trying to sound like this UK outfit, it is quite clear that Winterfylleth is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
Opening with the lush “Misdeeds of Faith”, we get the band’s signature vocal melodies and punishing guitar onslaught. The band’s expansive sound is perfectly layered to deliver a striking balance between brutality and melody, as we can hear on “A Hostile Fate”, one of the most intense and powerful tracks of this release. For those wanting more of the acoustic guitars of their previous release, “Absolved in Fire” nicely warms up to this tone before exploding into crushing riffs and a very intense tempo.
With most bands happy to just crank out full-length after full-length releases, Black Metal pioneer Ihsahn decided to challenge himself and do the opposite: break up a full-length release and deliver it as two EP’s. In “Telemark” we can hear some of his most rawest and direct compositions in quite a while, showing that this experiment has allowed Ihsahn to focus on the duality of his sound in compartmentalized approaches.
The incisive opener “Stridig” perfectly balances raw and punishing BM onslaughts with trippy Saxophone elements and a very dreamy and yet aggressive stance. With all the lyrics in Norwegian, this track has a brilliant pace and feels like yet another exploratory dimension to Ihsahn’s unique musical vision. With a bluesy aggression to it, “Nord” perfectly combines heavy riffs with crafty tempo changes and a sultry hypnotic pace thanks to a piercing bass guitar line and sinister drum patterns.
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 the UK, today we have Winterfylleth and their crushing fifth full-length release “The Dark Hereafter”. Crafting a very unique atmospheric brand of Black Metal, the band manages to deliver 40 minutes of relentless music. Improving upon their already refined style, the band perfectly captures oppressive atmospheres and blistering drumming into an all-encompassing well rounded package.
The album opens with the mesmerizing title track, filled with aggressive BM riffs and hyper-fast tight drums, creating a whirlwind-like atmosphere filled with brutality. With such an intense opening, the band manages to transition into a more melodic driven “Pariah’s Path”, which builds an intense atmospheric cloud around itself. This nine minute peace perfectly captures the band’s balance between melody, atmosphere and brutality in such a lush and yet devastating way.
Multi-instrumentalist one-man show Ihsahn makes a surprise 2016 return with another unique release titled “Arktis.”. Considerably less experimental and out of whack than his previous release, this album delivers 11 very interesting song that while pushing the envelope, they consolidate the signature Ihsahn sound.
Opening with the Proggy “Disassembled”, Ihsahn crafts a very catchy song with a killer chorus section. With some additional vocals by Einer Solberg (Leprous), this is one very melodic and engaging opening piece. Things turn quickly dark with the sinister “Mass Darkness” and its crafty atmospheric guitar work. This track is quite unique as it features some funky tempo changes and epic vocal arrangements (featuring Matt Heafy), all within the Ihsahn realm.
The on-again off-again Abigail Williams return after announcing their last break up, with yet another crushing release with “The Accuser”. Led by Ken Sorceron, this outfit is redefining US Black Metal with every release and they present their current case with eight intriguing songs filled with aggression and experimentation.
Opening with their brutal “Path of Broken Glass”, the band delivers a huge wall of sound in the first few minutes before going into some weird experimentation with multiple vocal styles and some super cool melodic passages. Not sounding like any other band from the USA, this track is a testament to the band’s creativity. Things continue somewhat normal with “The Cold Lines” and the first few minutes of “Of The Outer Darkness”, just before the mood gets dark and doomier, the perfect precursor a great rest of the song.
We love it when bands push the limits of music and Sigh is a fine example of how to continue finding odd ways to further expand your sound in the most bizarre and exciting ways. With “Graveyard” the band continues down their path of madness and delivers one of the most exciting releases of 2015. Featuring a plethora of guest appearances and a central theme around Italian zombie flicks and Fabio Frizzi’s compositions, this is one of the must have releases of 2015.
Leading with guest Kelly Simonz’s guitar leads on “Kaedit Nos Pestis” and the dramatic atmospheric/psychedelic elements of “Graveward”, the band sets a very atmospheric and chaotic mood right from the start. Mirai Kawashima and Dr. Mikannibal have an amazing chemistry and their insane vocal incursions are just one of many things that make Sigh quite unique. The madness reaches new level with the very cinematic “The Tombfiller” and its killer symphonic arrangements, brilliant guitar solos (courtesy of Kelly S again) and crazy effects.
As a solid contender for Black Metal album of 2014, today we have Winterfylleth and their ravaging latest release: “The Divination of Antiquity”. Showing that Black Metal does not need to be static to deliver raw brutality, the band has been slowly morphing over time while maintaining their devastating BM roots. In this release the band’s sound is as crisp as ever delivering eight brilliant onslaughts of sheer devastation that any fan of the genre will surrender to.
Opening with dissonant title track, we can hear fierce drumming and a melodic undertone in the band’s blistering first few minutes. This level of intensity only lets go when the band is delivery melancholic passages that further enhance the destructive powers of their music. The band’s superb ability to construct playful riffs that shift the mood of the song in an instant, are clearly outlined in songs like “Whisper of the Elements”. We particularly love the disarming melancholic passage in this song that bleeds into more merciless brutality.
With “the power of the riff” being in its highest moment, bands like Electric Wizard and Bongripper are killing it in festivals like Roadburn and Hammer of Doom. Under these circumstances comes The Wounded Kings, a UK outfit that delivers uncompromising Doom Metal with crunchy distortion and a very natural vibe. With “Consolamentum”, the band fourth full-length release, they are looking to consolidate themselves as one of the premiere bands of the genre.
Wasting no time, the release opens with the 13-minute monolithic “Gnosis” to give the listener a good idea of what the band is all about. With a hearty distortion and excellent pace, the band rips through endless punishing riffs nicely adorned by Sharie Neyland’s captivating vocals. Just imagine a more traditional Jex Thoth and you can picture what The Wounded Kings sound like, as they evidently display on the pummeling “Lost Bride”.