Thursday, February 16, 2012

Master's Hammer - Vracejte Konce Na Místo : Album Review

The Czech experimental Black Metal legends, Master's Hammer made a comeback in 2009 with their album Mantras. After building up lot of anticipation, all their fans were let down by a sub-par release. Fast-forward 3 years to February 2012, and we're presented with Vracejte Konce Na Místo. The album, from the first minute shows the band's determination to restore their legacy as one of the most innovative Black Metal bands.

The best way to describe the album would be "a mix of band's past works". Hints of orchestral elements from The Jillemince Occultist can be heard, with the straight-forwardness of Ritual in some places. Slagry and Mantras were failed experiments, but everything they do on this album manages to blend flawlessly, and is executed well. The riffing, although not something that will get stuck in your head on the first listen, is immediately enjoyable. Heavy, thrashy rhythm guitars that play out with melodic lead guitars hint towards a Death/Thrash sound, rather than Black Metal, so complaints from clueless people about it not being "Black Metal enough" are expected. Guitar solos are added occasionally for good measure, avoiding a rhythm-dominated nature of the songs. Just like The Jillemince Occultist, the orchestral elements are played in an majestic way without being cheesy and add to the intricacy and complexity of the composition rather than creating an atmosphere, similar to what's heard in classical music. The folk elements are well-executed and arranged, to go in sync with the rest of the music, so it all fits well. The drums can tend to sound a little mechanical at times, but besides that annoyance, the drum patterns are laid out well and add a consistent beat throughout the songs. The vocals are similar to Master's Hammer's first 2 albums, and a fortunate change from the unbearable vocals heard in Mantras. In each song, the band shows it's compositional prowess, keeping the listener interested, and mixing elements from different forms of music seamlessly.

The overall sound of the album is similar to their older works, but heavier and cleaner, yet not too polished. The production job is befitting a Master's Hammer release since it emphasizes all the aspects which make the band stand out. The emphasis is not on a dark or grim atmosphere, but a heavy, majestic, yet aggressive Thrash-derived sound, which is so unique that it can no longer be placed under Black Metal, though it takes cues from their early Old School Black Metal sound.

I wouldn't recommend this to a person looking for typical Black Metal of any kind since it sways too much into an experimental direction, but I will certainly recommend it to anyone looking for something new.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Worship - Dooom : Album Review

It's not often that a band manages to create a true sense of despair, melancholy and depression, but that changed when, "Fucked Up Mad" Max Varnier (R.I.P. 2001) from France and Daniel "The Doommonger" from Germany formed Worship in 1999. After their highly acclaimed demo "Last Tape Before Doomsday", Max committed suicide, but Worship lived on, carrying forward the legacy of Max Varnier's bitter, depressed soul and released Dooom in 2007. Just like the debut, Dooom encompasses a sense of extreme negativity, depression and hopelessness.

The cult album begins with Endzeit Elegy, and the first hit of the heavy, crushing riff shows The Doommonger's capability of carrying Worship through even after the tragic loss of Mad Max, and that he has not lost his creative capabilities. The atmosphere evoked is paralyzing and absorbs you in the flow of depressive and heavy riffs. The combination of what sounds like a church bell and the powerful, crushing guitars is amazing. The riffage is also coupled with mournful lead guitars scattered almost throughout the whole album, adding a sense of despair, and also making it effectively different from Last Tape Before Doomsday. The melodies created by the lead guitar are devoid of cheesiness, yet sound depressive. The vocals are done mainly by The Doommonger, but the album also features vocals from Mad Max, recorded much before his death, on the tracks The Altar and the Choir of the Moonkult, a Solitude Aeturnus cover and I Am the End - Crucifixion Part II. Both vocalists have a similar, low, rumbling style, though Max sometimes executes screams that are often heard in Depressive Black Metal. The bass guitar is an important instrument here, since it is a Funeral Doom Metal album. Apart from adding to the general heaviness, the bass does some wonderful parts on this album. For example, the bass intro to The Altar and the Choir of the Moonkult is eerie to say the least. The drums are played in a typical Funeral Doom fashion. Slow, playing a beat every second or two, and generally drowned in the background. They do absolutely nothing, except the job of holding the riffs together, but that is okay, since the genre doesn't demand drums. Worship does a wonderful job of creating a captivating atmosphere with the minimal use of synth, and the best use of lead guitars, and wonderful vocal delivery, which includes grunts, screams and whispered and sometimes sung narration. Dooom also includes a cover of Solitude Aeturnus's Mirror of Sorrow, done in their own, slow, plodding, depressive and atmospheric style, and is probably one of the best cover songs.

Dooom, although does not match up to Last Tape Before Doomsday, almost misses out on the quality of it by inches. Meaning, it is almost as good, but might leave Worship fans asking for more, since most songs sound too similar. Regardless of that, every song has moments that make it stand out from the others, and most of all, it is an album capable of actually stirring up the listener's emotions in a very powerful way, which is saying a lot. Dooom is recommended for fans of Funeral Doom Metal, since this is one of the only bands you will ever need.

Standout Tracks - All I Ever Knew Lie Dead, The Altar and The Choir of The Moonkult, Mirror of Sorrow, I am The End - Crucifixion Part II