Aenaon – ‘Extance’ (Code 666)
Genre: Progressive Black Metal
Black metal as a genre is continually growing and seeing its limits pushed. Following in the footsteps of Ihsahn, Greece’s Aenaon combine the avant-garde with brutality. On their sophomore release Extance, their songwriting is complex and shows a maturity that most bands don’t reach until later in their career. Incorporating jazz tendencies and the utilization of the saxophone blended with blast beats and aggressive vocals shows off their diversity.
“A Treatise on the Madness of God” is the epitome of their vision, combining blast beats with a Moonspell like chorus where vocalist Astrous does his best Fernando Ribeiro impression. Extance can be an exhausting listen as it is 65 minutes long, but reaches its climax with the epic closer “Palindrome.”
Apostolum - 'Winds Of Disillusion' (Moribund)
Genre: Black Metal
Eight years after their debut EP, the Italian band Apostolum emerge with the full-length album Winds Of Disillusion. It's grounded in black metal, but there are also elements of black 'n roll and some gothic touches.
There are some really catchy riffs on the album along with great atmospherics. The guitar sound alternates between straightforward black metal and groovy rock. Acoustic passages add even more diversity, as does piano and brass. It has been a long absence by Apostolum, but a welcome return, highlighted by the 18 minute epic track "Gleam Of Lucidity."
Chrome Division - 'Infernal Rock Eternal' (Nuclear Blast)
Genre: Heavy Metal
Norwegian sleazemeisters Chrome Division are back with their fourth album, Infernal Rock Eternal. And like their first three releases, it's a slab of good time, straight ahead hard rock/heavy metal,perfect for cranking up at your favorite biker bar.
Gruff Lemmy style vocals and groovy guitar riffs keep the proceedings moving at a rapid pace. Sure, the songs tend to sound similar, but they are still extremely catchy, and like Motorhead or AC/DC, you know exactly what you're going to get with a Chrome Division album.
Crystal Viper - 'Possession' (AFM)
Genre: Traditional Metal
The Polish band Crystal Viper are back with a new album, Possession. It's a concept record that tells the story of a young girl named Julia. To help tell the story, there are guest vocalists including Harry Conklin (Jag Panzer).
Crystal Viper insert power and progressive metal influences to their trad metal sound, with some excellent guitar work. But the star of the show is vocalist Marta Gabriel, who is able to go from a gruff alto to ear piercing soprano in the blink of an eye. The concept is compelling, as are the songs. The album ends with a cover song, a rousing rendition of Riot's "Thundersteel."
Culted – 'Oblique To All Paths' (Relapse)
Genre: Doom Metal
It has been a long five years since Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep, the debut from this Canadian/Swedish collaboration. But Culted have put every moment of experience in that time into Oblique To All Paths. In doing so, they've created one monster of an album.
Culted build subterranean monuments of devastating tone mixed with crushing riffs, noise, and fearsome, grisly blackened vocals. They sound dirty and driven, pulling darkness and angst from deep in the Earth's core. As the title suggests, their doom sounds unique and forges their own way. It's massive, moody, monolithic; an organic manifestation of like minds.
Drudkh – 'Eastern Frontier In Flames' (Season of Mist)
Genre: Experimental Black Metal
Drudkh, like so many other bands, are making more of their back catalogue available with the release of Eastern Frontier In Flames, a collection of EPs and splits long out of print. It features their Anti-Urban EP, as well as their contributions to the Slavonic Chronicles EP, which included Master's Hammer and Sacrilegium covers.
Bundled in with their release is also the full split EP they recently completed with Witherfylleth, another covers collection that is also being released separately under the title Thousands of Moons Ago/ The Gates." While there are some oddities and curiosities here, this is unquestionably a collection for deeply invested Drudkh fans who can't stand the idea of a single track slipping their grasp.
Drudkh/Winterfylleth – 'Thousands of Moons Ago/The Gates' Split (Season of Mist)
Genre: Experimental Black Metal
Conceived as a tribute to the Eastern European underground black metal scene, this split EP from Drudkh and Winterfylleth sets out to celebrate some of the hidden treasures of this scene. Drudkh contribute three covers of soaring, searing tracks by Hefeystos, UNclean and Sacrilegium. Witherfylleth offer a cover of Hate Forest's nine minute epic "The Gates."
The Drudkh tracks conjure up the ceremonial weight and gravity of traditional slavic choral pieces, drawing on the power of choral vocals and a stately pride. Winterfylleth's rendition of "The Gates" has a much eerier, ominous tone than the other tracks on the collection, evoking a restless and otherworldly hostility. There's a bleak, uncontainable anger in this song, bubbling coldly like liquid nitrogen, freezing rather than scorching. Thousands of Moons Ago/ The Gates is an example of anger under compression; there is more emotion bottled up in these four tracks than you would expect.
Ea - 'A Etilla' (Solitude)
Genre: Funeral Doom
Ea are a Russian band, and their latest album A Etilla, like 2012's self-titled release, is one massive track that's nearly 50 minutes long.
It's a dynamic and varied album with a lot of ebbs and flows. There's a lot of great guitar melodies, but also extended mellow ambient passages. The intensity ratchets up from time to time with growling vocals, which contrast the choral vocals that are also used periodically. The album unfolds slowly, advancing and retreating, sometimes relaxing and other times tension filled, but always interesting.
Graveborne - ‘Through the Window of the Night’ (Seance)
Genre: Black Metal
Finland’s Graveborne exhume and resurrect old school Scandinavian black metal in an appropriately grisly manner, maintaining the Satanic savagery while keeping things melodic.
Through the Windows of the Night, the band’s second full-length, is as bleak, cold and unforgiving as a desolate Arctic landscape. Standout tracks include the harrowing “In the End I Find My Beginning,” “Tiesi Päähän” and “Pyhää Verta,” which includes guest vocals from …Of Oceans’ K-2T4-S.
(Karen A. Mann)
Hell/Amarok- 'Split LP' (Pesanta Urfolk)
Genre: Doom Metal
I found four Amaroks. This is the American one. There are even more Hells. This is the American one-man one, not the NWOBHM one with Andy Sneap. Got it? Hell's three songs are slow and torturous. Droning, downtuned and despondent, mastermind M.S.W.'s blackened doom makes Sleep sound upbeat. Unsurprisingly lo-fi and heavy as well, Hell. Fans of early Electric Wizard need this.
Amarok's single track also takes the slow and steady approach. A forlorn string passage breaks up their melody-laced, massive doom. Growled and screamed vocals collide with huge riffs and thunderous percussion. This split rules.