For those looking for the Black Metal version of Secrets of the Moon, you can move along as there is nothing to see here. However, for those with an open mind, “Black House” continues the band’s evolution into Alternative/Gothic Rock/Metal territories with nine brilliantly catchy songs. While not entirely surprising to all, the band’s sonic evolution is quite interesting and this release shows their skills on a completely different playing field.
The album opens in a Katatonia-esque tone with the sultry “Sanctum” and its ridiculously catchy chorus section. This track oozes melancholy and darkness, while keeping things engaging and dynamic. On “Don’t Look Now” we have interesting vocal arrangements and very dreamy atmospheric keyboards creating a very playful back and forth between different moods. In just the first few songs, the band has set a completely different style for themselves and it works perfectly as tracks like “Veronica’s Room” and “He is Here” deliver very well crafted melodies that are perfectly flanked by unique vocal arrangements and engaging songwriting.
After taking a brief hiatus a few years ago, Katatonia has returned with their signature melancholic Progressive/Alternative Rock and Metal mix with “City Burials”. As one of their most accessible and darker releases in recent years, this album delivers eleven tracks and nearly 50 minutes of highly emotional music with the band’s signature sound. If you are into the mellower side of things, this release is the perfect backdrop for a quiet evening of quarantine.
The release opens with the moody vibes of “Heart Set to Divide” and “Behind the Blood”, both tracks nicely frame Jonas Renkse emotive vocals with nice atmospherics and heavy guitars. More experimental elements are used on songs like “Lacque” and “Vanishers”, which show an interesting electronic undertone, similar to what Anathema tried on their last release. Other tracks just deliver the oozing melancholy achieved by lush vocal melodies and weeping guitars like “Rein”.
Unleashing a superbly crafted and somber Dark/Psych/Blues/Doom release, today we have Finland’s Hexvessel with “Kindred”. Finally settling into a sound that incorporates the eerie atmospherics and instrumentation of their earlier works and the warm and fuzzy psych/blues elements of their later material, the band delivers nearly 40 minutes of mystical music. Be prepared for a uniquely relaxing and enchanting aural journey with this one.
The release opens with the enigmatic “Billion Year Old Being”, treating the listener to fuzzy Psych guitars and very hypnotic vocal harmonies. The retro vibe in the opener is nicely followed by the bluesy “Demian”, a very intoxicating track with subtle instrumental arrangements, trippy guitar leads, and perfectly voiced by Mat McNerney. For those looking to lose themselves in the band's folky atmospheric side, “Fire of the Mind” and “Bog Bodies” are two chilling campfire songs that swiftly change the mood of the release.
Enigmatic dutch outfit DOOL is ready to unleash their latest full length release with “Summerland”. Led by charismatic front-woman Ryanne van Dorst, this outfit delivers the perfect mixture of Dark Rock, Gothic Pop and Psychedelic Metal spread out in nine elaborate tracks. Featuring members of bands like Gold, The Devil’s Blood among others, the band’s sound is quite intoxicating, so be prepared for a dark and sinister ride.
The album opens with the masterful “Sulphur & Starlight”, a very somber and yet catchy track that slowly builds up on enigmatic guitars and crafty drumming. The soothing raspy vocals of Ryanne perfectly blend with the playful bass guitar line as the mood changes throughout the song. The hard rocking attitude of the band is truly evident in the epic “Wolf Moon” and the dreamy “God Particle”. The band’s musical influences are vast and varied, as you can even hear some Cult of Luna-esque elements in the later of the previously mentioned tracks.
Returning with a dreamy Deampop/Shoegaze release, today we have Lunacy and their sophomore release “My Favourite Dreams”. Hailing from Belarus, this band delivers wave of moody music perfectly paired with lush female vocals. As one of our favorite singers, Morena, elevates Lunacy’s music to ethereal realms thanks to her subtle and fragile singing style. If you are a fan of bands like Amesoeurs and Malenuit, you cannot afford to miss out on this release.
Opening with the lush “Paints and Pictures”, the mood is set to be quite lively with Pop-ish arrangements and very melodic vocals. The surprise in this track is that out of nowhere we are treated to BM screams and a Alcest-like tempo change that perfectly contrasts this unique song. Building up on the ethereal vibe the release has, “The Road” has that Post-punk/Synth Pop edge that very few bands can pull off authentically.
Unleashing a very unique amalgamation of sounds, today we have Esben and the Witch and their latest effort “Nowhere”. Featuring a darker tone than their previous releases, this album perfectly contrast the fragility of Rachel Davies vocals and the commanding presence of heavy guitar riffs and hypnotic drumming. Blurring the lines between several genres and influences, this release is certainly one to digest after a good amount of listens and with undivided attention.
Slowing building up their atmosphere in “A Desire for Light”, the band nicely shuffles elements around to create a very powerful and direct song. The band’s sound while simplistic in nature, allows them to play around with the song tempos while crafting memorable tracks that keep you guessing and engaged. The best example of this is the exploratory nature of “Dull Gret” with its heavy guitar riffs, and the dreamy folky piece “Golden Purifier”, which mostly focuses on subtle percussions and solemn guitar leads.
Just before the end of the year we received on our review queue on of our favorite albums of 2018: Crippled Black Phoenix’s “Great Escape”. As one of the most melancholic and mellow Rock albums we have heard, this international band unleashes over one hour of truly disarming music. Mixing elements of bands like Anathema, God is an Astronaut and countless others, this is definitely one of the most unique and diverse releases you will hear in 2018.
After opening with the dreamy “You Brought it Upon Yourselves”, the band sinks into the bleakness of “To You I Give”, a Post-Rock-ish tune in nature. Masterminded by Justin Greaves, this band’s releases are always very rich and diverse and extremely hard to categorize, but always top notch in terms of quality. After the interlude “Uncivil War, Pt. 1”, “Madman” features a dark wave vibe with heavy synths and a very martial pace.
Always challenging listeners with truly unique and very interesting releases, today Prophecy Productions brings us Nochnoy Dozor and their self-titled debut album. Mixing tons of atmospheric elements with Rock and Doom influences, this six song EP is one very crafty and engaging release. While the music is quite excellent, what distinguishes the band is the dual vocalist approach that fully develops the listener on very sultry and melancholic ride.
The release opens with “Black Hand” a very enigmatic piece filled with lush vocal melodies and very moody music that sets a very lounge-y tone. Lina and Revekka have great chemistry and it shines in songs like “Stains”, where they sections perfectly complement each other and create a very playful dynamic in the duet passages. Moving on to Doomier territories, “Closer” and “All Mine” feature heavy distorted riffs and a sound similar to outfits like Subrosa, Black Mare and Bathsheba.
Hailing from France, today we have dark post-punk/rock outfit Varsovie and their latest full-length release “Coups et Blessures”. Filled with moody songs and superbly catchy and somber arrangements, this release is definitely one of the ‘non-metal’ highlights we have heard in 2018. Recommended for fans of bands like Spiritual Front and similar outfits, Varsovie does a great job delivering a hard rocking release that is captivating and engaging.
Opening with the bluntness of “Coups et Blessures”, the band sets a very lively tone with catchy percussions and interesting guitar leads. The mood is quite somber and yet very raw, allowing emotions to easily flow through brilliant tracks like “Revers de l’aube” and our favorite “Va dire à Sparte”. While not even close to Metal music, these last two tracks feature some very powerful and engaging riffs that make them quite memorable and perfectly fitting for the band’s overall attitude.
Just in time for the Fall and Winter seasons, today we have the Hanging Garden’s very dark and atmospheric “I am Become”. These Finnish Melodic Death/Doomsters unleash 46 minutes of catchy and crafty music that is quite diverse in nature. Filled with brilliant melodic Death/Doom Metal elements, this album perfectly blends the band’s old-school sound with their more modern and atmospheric influences.
Kicking off with “As Above, So Below”, we get a certain Insomnium guitar driven vibe that invites the listener to head bang while listening and settle into a dark and melodic vibe. Things go into a Swallow the Sun vibe with the aggressive riffing of “Hearthfire”, a track which features guest vocals from Tomi Joutsen from Amorphis fame. Interestingly enough, the band’s more Atmospheric Rock side comes out in the excellent “Elysium”, a piece that is quite melancholic and moody.