Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Metal for Winter - Black Metal, Doom Metal

Winter arrived few weeks back and the cold swept the northern part of India. Having shifted to this region after ages, I was basically unprepared for the magnitude of this cold. I decided to compile a list of bands/albums that go along with the climate. Unsurprisingly, this list will consist of majority Black (mainly atmospheric/ambient and depressive) Metal and Doom Metal (again, either Death Doom or Funeral Doom) since both genres were have a close association with depression and negativity, just like Winters. There is no particular order followed in this list. So, here I go:

1. Evoken - Antithesis of Light and Embrace the Emptiness - Although the latter lacks the thickness and sheer gloom of the former, which is considered a masterpiece by a majority of Funeral Doom Metal fans, it is a highly recommended Evoken album, since it is well-done diSEMBOWELMENT worship, with great melancholic clean lead guitar lines and the music creates an empty atmosphere with the use of mellow synths. The former album needs no introduction.

2. Empyrium - Songs of Moors & Misty Fields - Empyrium, on this album play an infusion of Dark Folk and Doom Metal, similar to Uaral. This is a promising combination, but Empyrium's output is too mellow, flowery and romantic for stern metal fans. Nonetheless, it appeals to me.

3. Trist - Stiny - This one man band from Czech republic plays Depressive Black Metal, and not unlike most bands, it has a fuzzy, atmospheric sound. The difference lies in the fact that there is a good use of lead guitars and certain variations in drumming and main riffs in songs. The end result is a cavernous, claustrophobic sound of being imprisoned in sheer cold.

4. Nyktalgia - Nyktalgia - Inclusion of this album is a no-brainer. Out of the several Burzum clones floating around in the world, this is the one that managed to stand out, and for all the good reasons. Nyktalgia use the same idea as Hvit Lyset Tar Oss and throw in extra doses of depression, clean guitars, howled vocals and blast-beats, and however formulaic and generic it sound, it works really well. This is the perfect album for which I'd use descriptors like cold or grim.

5. Gorement - The Ending Quest - Probably the only Death Metal band in this list. Gorement are one of those bands with an enigmatic atmosphere. It feels distant, and has a feeling of being in an open space. The atmosphere has a serene and calm vibe to it, which contrasts the riff-tastic Death Metal assault.

6. Abyssmal Sorrow - Lament - Again, a no-brainer. It's obvious from a past review that Abyssmal Sorrow have that dreary, cold atmosphere, full of hopelessness and sorrow. There are no crushing, heavy riffs, but thin, Black Metal riffs played with the pace and feeling of Funeral Doom Metal.

7. Worship - Last CD Before Doomsday and Dooom - For the uninformed, Worship are one of the best known Funeral Doom Metal bands. The music is filled to the brim with pure emotion, and the riffs are crushingly heavy. Worship are well-known for their ability to mix sorrowful atmosphere with heavy riffs and spine-chilling lyrics. Just don't commit suicide after listening to this.

8. Darkspace - Dark Space III - Ambient Black Metal with a ridiculously heavy guitar sound, that is capable of making Death Metal bands hide their faces in shame. Despite that, Darkspace successfully evoke a sound that would be heard in outer space if it had any medium for sound propagation.

9. Black Autumn - Rivers of Dead Leaves - This album always gave me an impression of walking along the road, on dry, dead leaves during a cold, foggy winter morning. Black Autumn mixes Black Metal with Doom Metal, with some post-metal tendencies. Quite laid-back and relaxed, and unlike a lot of bands on this list, it doesn't invoke a miserable feeling.

10. ColdWorld - Melancholie² - No winter is complete without this atmospheric Black Metal classic in your playlist. ColdWorld's music is an amalgamation of Atmospheric Black Metal and Dark Ambient, with use of instruments like violins, and compositions with sweeping wintry melodies that would soak your ears with bliss.

11. Dissection - Storm of the Light's Bane - This Black Metal classic is a stormy blizzard of icy-cold, melodic riffs and appropriate occult-based lyrics. Look at the album cover, add a blizzard to it, imagine being there. If you have synesthesia, you now know how the music sounds like.

12. The Howling Void - Shadows Over the Cosmos - Funeral Doom Metal laced with piano instead of lead guitars. A very laid back record suitable for contemplating or work. Also well-suited for winters.

This is all I can think of, at the moment. Keep checking back for updates on this list.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rotting Christ - Non Serviam : Album Review

Better known for the far more melodic Gothic-based albums, Rotting Christ started out as a Grindcore band, but abandoned that sound early on, embracing a riff-based, melodic sound, and establishing themselves among First Wave Hellenic Black Metal bands, alongside bands like Varathron and Necromantia. Although a lot of fans like their later sound, Rotting Christ on Non Serviam brought us a flurry of addictive riffs and melodies.

The album begins with The Fifth Illusion, a song with a catchy main riff and chorus. Like a lot of early Greek Black Metal, they don't blast away, nor do they try to create a grim or dark atmosphere. The atmosphere and sound here, are very ancient/medieval, which goes well with the imagery of the band. The riffs throughout the whole album are extremely catchy. The band chooses not to indulge in hard-to-make-out, distorted tremolo picking, and settles for slow to mid-paced riffs, with adequate use of melodies, which immediately brings Traditional Doom Metal bands in mind. The guitar sound is thinned down due to the production, but it shouldn't be a big problem, since the riffs are not overpowered by anything else in the mix. The scales used here are clearly distinct and different. I'm no music pundit, but there's something distinct about the pattern and combination of notes played by the band that sets Rotting Christ - and most Greek Black Metal - apart from the usual idea of the genre. 

The riffage is particularly memorable in slower songs like Morality of a Dark Age, which reflects the band's mastery in the craft of songwriting. The vocals are quite basic black/death metal growls, and there are no attempts by the vocalist to set himself apart. He's a no-frills, to-the-point vocalist, which proves to be a good thing, since they blend in smoothly with the rest of the music, never once grabbing the listeners exclusive attention. The bass guitar is played in a simplistic manner - almost exactly along the lines of the rhythm guitar - but it adds sufficiently to the heaviness of the otherwise thin sound. The drums lines are well written, although simple. There are no blast-beats, but a regular thrashy pattern, when swaying away from addictive grooves. That said, each instrument plays an important role, even though the guitar riffs are the main point of interest.

Thin production is the only problem I can point out, right now. Disregarding that, the album is an essential Black Metal release. The "melodic" part is done well and devoid of any cheesiness, so it shouldn't put potential listeners off. Very highly recommended for seekers of the riff, and for fans of Master's Hammer, Argentum and the likes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Meth Drinker - Meth Drinker : Album Review

Sludge is known to be among the heaviest genres within Metal. The overall of sound of a Sludge band can vary between groovy and chilled-out, and misanthropic. Meth Drinker play depressed, misanthropic and hateful kind of Sludge, similar to crusty Sludge bands like Dystopia and Graves at Sea, but without the violence and brutality of Crust. Hailing from New Zealand, this self-titled album is the first release by this band.

The first impression formed by this band on a listener's mind is "Wow, this is heavy". Feedback-laden, raw guitar riffs are prominent from the first note. The guitar tone is very similar to that heard on Eyehategod's In The Name of Suffering. Perfect for this band, since rather than engaging in bluesy riffing, Meth Drinker combine notes to make the most hateful kind of sound they can. Previous comparisons with Dystopia come into the picture here, but, again, the band is set apart by the total lack of fast, crusty sections, and relies solely on heavy, oppressive riffs. The vocals feel as if rasped out with full force, vomited out by a suffering man, perfectly contributing to the misanthropy. The bass guitar is prominent throughout this release as should be in any Sludge Metal album, and most of it blends in the extremely down-tuned guitars. The groovy, simple drumming here makes sure it doesn't distract the listener from the black, hateful goodness spread through in the guitar riffs. Yet, it maintains groove, without which the album would sound hollow.
Through the album, Meth Drinker showcase their good songwriting abilities, with impressive riffs, use of samples, and variations in songs. The song titles suggest a lyrical theme of drug abuse and mental illness. This is perfectly reflected in the music, and especially the vocals, so it wouldn't take you time to guess it yourself. The band does this variety of Sludge really well, without relying on Crust or Hardcore Punk to bring out the hate, and that is very commendable.

Meth Drinker is recommended for all Sludge fans, as long as they don't expect chilled-out, Stoner/Sludge Metal. This album is unsettling and depressive. There's no cannabis, no booze here, but abusive and destructive meth!