Brutus – Murwgebeukt ALBUM REVIEW

If you like not being able to hear for a few minutes afterwards, this is the album for you. Full on brutality for almost an hour, which was too much for me, the total wuss that I am. I don’t normally review brutal death metal because there isn’t much to review. Most albums sound very similar to each other, and don’t have much content to actually review. It’s really just a question of how fun it was to listen to, and here I can say about a moderate amount. I got a good laugh at the production value and literal unintelligible lyrics and music. But the album is just too long for what it’s supposed to be, and there’s really nothing I hear here that I haven’t heard in another album just like it.


Leprous – The Congregation ALBUM REVIEW

God damn, this could’ve been a great album. I’m not sure if it would’ve been album of the year, but it would’ve been somewhere in the 8 range. If only the first half was anywhere near as good as the second half. The first half of Congregation is basically watered down Opeth worship, which is basically the worst possible kind of worship. Everything about it is bland and unimaginative, and the vocalists especially contributes to that. There are these electronic elements that Leprous tries and it just doesn’t work at all. If anything it sounds sort of like modern Muse, which is never a good thing. The vocalist actually does remind me of Matt Bellamy a lot at times, which is actually one of the few good things about the first half of the album. And then track 7, Red, hits at it’s like an entirely different album. It was a bit hard to register at first, but as the second half went on I couldn’t help but think “god damn I really like this”. It went from sounding like Opeth and late Muse, to a heavier early Muse. The soundscapes were much larger and epic in scope, twisting your heart in ways most music doesn’t. Unfortunately, that’s only the last 5 tracks, and the tracks before that were so bland that I have a hard time giving this a good score. I would still check this out, as I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who will be able to look past the first half and see the trust beauty of the last few tracks. I’m unfortunately not one of those people.


Krahnholm – The Past Must Be Consigned to the Flames ALBUM REVIEW

You know I actually haven’t reviewed a true Black Metal album in almost a month now. The last album on my black metal list I reviewed was the Hypothermia album about 6 days ago, but I wouldn’t even consider that black metal, I only put it on the chart because it was labeled so by the band and the community. So I’m a bit rusty in this genre right now. Although maybe that ended up being a good thing, because I noticed things about The Past Must Be Consigned to the Flames that I would’ve never noticed before in any other album similar to it. And I can’t quite tell if that’s because this album is truly different, or that these are things typically found in other albums that I simply just didn’t have the capacity to realize before.

For one, the guitar tone sounds extremely warm for a black metal record. Typically black metal guitars have that cold and empty sound to them, but these sound fuzzy and comfortable. Which is one of the main selling points of this record, it is a very comfortable listen. Nothing in here is too challenging, the tones are like a warm blanket, and even the vocals have a soft harshness to them that match the fuzz of the guitars. One of the problems that comes with the “not challenging” part is that everything here is relatively predictable. The chord changes are standard, nothing sounds too atonal or “bad”, the chords that are supposed to change to one another do, and everything goes as planned.

However the way they do the predictable chord changes is full of intrigue. The very first use of this that came to my attention was the use of a Bbmaj7sus4 chord on the second track, Grim Forest. If that sounds like a ridiculously complex chord to you don’t worry, it isn’t, it’s just a Bb, E, and A. On it’s own it’s a pretty atonal chord, though the A mitigates the tritone (a tritone is, in the simplest terms possible, two notes, excluding 2nds [two notes that are right next to each other, like A and Ab] that when played together sound extremely dissonant, i.e C and F#). It doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but it very subtly enhances the harmony to something that doesn’t bore you, despite being otherwise a boring track. Krahnholm uses suspended chords throughout the album to this effect. There are various other moments like this on this album where you’re being harmonically pleased and you don’t even know it, kinda like if a bunch of mosquitoes gave you a really good handjob while you were asleep. You can’t really feel much, but there’s something slightly pleasurable going on and you don’t know what. On For Mist, the fourth track, there’s a minor 7th used towards the beginning. I know I’ve said a lot of things about how much I hate 7ths abuse, but minor 7ths are like the under-loved younger brother of 7th chords. Major 7ths get all the use and fame, while minor 7ths get left out for being just as nice. This same track also includes the transition of a major 7th to a 9th (also a less used, but still great, chord) that again, is a subtle way to enhance an otherwise boring harmony. This is actually a precursor to the high point of the album. Towards the end of the currently mentioned track, the melody is just alternating between a repeated C and a repeated E, while the other voice is alternating between a D minor chord and a G minor chord. The structure is incredibly simple, but what you get is the first part being alternating between a D minor 7th and a 9th, and the next part being an alternating of a G minor 11th and an 13th. The 13th is what really makes things awesome, because if the minor 7th is the child that’s under-loved, and the 9th is below that, and 11th is the pet cat that lives in the basement and nobody ever sees, than the 13th is the extremely well mannered flea on that cats back. Again, subtle but awesome harmony. Even going past particular chords, to the more general keys, there are barely noticeable great things about this record. Coldness of Hearts actually starts in a major key, which I normally hate. But Krahnholm manages to make it sound not cheesy by giving it contrast with minor chords. You keep giving it this contrast until suddenly you realize the song is actually in a minor key now. The transition is seamless. And if you can’t tell there has been a transition, generally the transition has done it’s job. Once again, it’s a small thing, but it improves everything. This is really what saves this record. It takes an otherwise very boring album and turns it into something nice to listen to.

But in the end, that’s all this album has. It’s nice to listen to, and has some good subtle things about it, but at it’s core, it’s generic, and even bad at some points. Just when I get done writing about great transitions, I have to conversely write about a very awful one. On Pale Hands, the track briefly “ends” about a third of the way through the album, and then goes into what seems like a completely different song. It is in fact the same song, and it shows it this way because it eventually goes right back into what the first third of the track was about (which I’ll admit, is another well done transition). It’s extremely strange and I can’t think of any reason why this was done. I would think that maybe someone in mixing forgot to add another track to the album and accidentally combined two of them in one, but again, it goes back to the motiff from the beginning, so that can’t be it. And that would be a strange thing from a technical issue to happen, because the production on this record is actually really solid. The drums are a bit soft, but it’s atmo black, that’s to be expected. There’s also a reason I haven’t mentioned the tracks Dark Bloody Rivers and I Will Walk With Wolves, and that’s because there isn’t anything to mention about them. They seem to just be there, doing nothing and saying nothing.

Which ultimately, is where this album would be without any of the tiny good things it does. The Past Must be Consigned to the Flames is sort of like a really bland salad with exquisite dressing. No dressing can fully hide the fact that you’re eating iceburg lettuce. Also no dressing can hide the fact that the track titles are absolutely awful. Dark Bloody Rivers? Grim Forest? Coldness of Hearts? Really? That’s awful even by black metal standards. All you need to do to fix this is put them in a foreign language. Just translate Dark Bloody Forest to Темный Лес Кровавый and bam, nobody in the first world knows any better. Such a simple fix, yet so few bands do it. Which is funny, because simple is the bands middle name. And also what eventually brings them down.


Death Karma – The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I ALBUM REVIEW

Death is typically something not frequently talked about amongst the general population. And even when it is, there’s a sense of taboo and that nagging feeling that the more you talk about, the more real it becomes. It’s one of those things that people acknowledge exists, but never truly see it as a reality, until it happens to someone they know. And even then they are quick to try to get that thought out of their head as fast as possible. Because acknowledging your own mortality is scary shit. The metal community has never really had a problem with that however, as death is not only a major theme throughout the entire metal canon, but is even the name of one of it’s biggest sub-genres. Death Karma takes it a step further and has created a concept album that has the most self explanatory title I’ve ever seen. It is quite literally a concept album about the history of death and burial rituals throughout countries across the globe. Each song title even begins the country it is based on (i.e. Slovakia – Journey of the Soul). So while the intentions and meaning are obvious, it surprised me that the way the music displays these concepts, are not in the slightest. And quite often, that was for the worse.

The album begins with a mournful church organ over what I assume is some sort of spoken word burial ritual (which is a complete guess, but given the album’s theme, I think I have a good shot at getting it right). The organ is a major theme throughout the entire album, giving Burial Rituals that cultish, eerie feeling that it needs. Unfortunately, it is very underutilized outside of the first track. It is only seen in spurts, or in the case of China – Hanging Coffins, and India – Towers of Silence, it is basically reduced to a background instrument. This is important because when it is used, mostly in the intros on the tracks on the first half of the album, it sets up the atmosphere perfectly, which is creepy, mournful, and sad. I really do like it when this album edges more on the creepy side, such as on Mexico – Chichén Itzá, as the opening to that track is probably the highlight of the album. It opens with this horror movie synth and scooby doo-like chromatic sliding guitar. It then goes into this tribal drumming sequence along with the same previous elements and vocals that sound like the final sacraments before the victim is sacrificed to the gods. It’s like if the Mystery Gang got lost in Mexico circa 1400 AD, and through a series of goofy chase scenes and 60s era pop rock montages, are now at the hands of an Aztec Emperor, about to be sacrificed to Huitzilopochtli (real aztec god by the way). If you listen carefully, you can here Shaggy and Scooby’s teeth chattering, and Velma complaining that she has no idea what’s going on because she still can’t fucking find her glasses. The difference between this and the actual show is that here the Mystery Gang are all brutally killed, and the show ends with millions of crying children, wondering how god can be so cruel. Actually the intro ends with a bit of a whimper, as there’s no silence to let the ends of that intense moment sink in. Instead it immediately transitions into standard a doomy death metal song. This demonstrates two major issues that plague this album.

The first is the issue of transitions. Remember that initial beginning to the album with the spooky organ and the spoken word? The transition to that is pretty much immediate, like they just cut off the priest speaking before the ritual can even finish. The pattern throughout the first 4 tracks of the album is a really awesome atmospheric intro that sets up the exact mood the album should strive for, followed directly by something completely unrelated which ends up being the actual song. I believe what’s more important than having a really good intro and a really good main song, is having an intro and main song that connect and flow into each other. Otherwise it seems disorganized. Which is also a major problem of this album. There are plenty of ideas here, but all the really cool and unique ones seem to act as separate entities, basically decoration. It’s sort of like seasoning a Hungry Man meal with caviar. The worst case of this is on the final track, China –  Hanging Coffins, where the entire track is pretty standard blackened death track with some blues influences. Except for the very end, which ends with an array of Chinese percussion instruments being played louder and louder, including the rumble of a gong, until it ends with a stop as the ringing form the bells and gongs ends. It’s quite spectacular. Unfortunately, none of these ideas are present until the last 40 seconds of the track. It makes me wonder how much better this could’ve been had they incorporated these ideas throughout the entire song. As it stands, China is like eating some pretty standard mashed potatoes, and then when you have 3 bites left the cook says “OH I forgot to add the gravy”, and then pours on this incredible gravy that you only get to enjoy for the last few bites of the meal. A similar thing happens during both Czech Republic – Úmrlčí prkna , and Madagascar – Famadihana. Both have really nice atmospheric intros, only to be followed by bland black/death tracks. It’s sort of like getting some really good mashed potatoes and gravy, except after you’ve take a few bites, the cook comes back with a vacuum and sucks off all the gravy, leaving you with the dry, bland potatoes. Though I am being a bit unfair here. These aren’t bad tracks on their own, it’s just that they could be so much more. I feel like there’s a lot of missed potential on this album.

The second problem that one transition showed was how the songwriting can be somewhat stale. It’s not as if it particularly sounds bad, or even that generic. But I do get the feeling during most of the main tracks that I’ve heard something at least similar to this before. Now, I have no problem with bands having standard songwriting. Even if it’s not creative, if it’s done well, I’ll probably really like it. The problem here is that this band set this album up as a concept album. Fair or not, if you’re going to say that your music represents something, I’m going to judge the music more on how it represents that concept rather than how well executed the music is. Which in my mind is the main fault of this album. The music absolutely does not match the album concept, and this happens because while the ideas by themselves are solid, they just don’t seem to represent what the band is trying to get them to represent.

The band actually listed on their band camp what each track is about. For instance, India – Towers of Silence, is actually about the Towers of Silence in India, where people place dead bodies so that the vultures can feed on them, as a final act of charity. I would think with a topic like that, the song would be not just mournful, but probably minimalistic, maybe even with some joyful elements as this is an act of charity, and while the death may be sad, those vultures are quiet happy. The actual track is nothing like that. Instead, it is a thrashy instrumental track with some blues influences, very similar to China, except with no vocals. No matter how hard I try, I absolutely cannot connect the music to the idea of the song. And this goes for every track except maybe Mexico, but even then, that’s really only the intro, the actual song isn’t that remarkable in context. I know I’m basically asking this band to make their musical metaphors more obvious, which is something I never really want to do. I would never want a band to stray away from the abstract, or from trying to represent something in a way that even the large majority of people won’t get. But for that to work, SOMEONE has to get it. It has to represent the music in SOME way. You can’t just call something a concept album and then forget the concept part.

I feel like this band has a lot of potential, especially since this is just their debut full-length album. I can understand a new band may want to experiment, but doesn’t quite know how to fully go through with it. Maybe they want to play safe so that they may attract as many people as possible. It evident that Death Karma has some good ideas, they just need to commit to them fully. At least that’s the optimist in me speaking. Hopefully Part II of this sequence will embrace uniqueness rather than just using it as dressing. The front-man of this band said of bandcamp that this is like a musical book about death. I think in this case, I would’ve learned a lot more from reading an actual book than by listening to this album.


Galar – De gjenlevende ALBUM REVIEW

This is honestly a pretty confusing album. On the one hand, it tries to be a very typical melo black album that doesn’t really push the boundaries that much. On the other hand, it tries to support that with orchestral viking metal. Inherently nothing is confusing about this combination. The confusion happens when you try to analyze if they do this well or not. This is a very repetitive album, in that not only is almost every song in the same key, but there seems to really only be one theme throughout the entire album. The main melodies and chord progressions sound very pop-alt metal at times, with their use of suspended chords before the resolution, which to me doesn’t fit with what the aesthetic of this kind of music is supposed to be. On the other hand, while I typically hate it when bands try to go for supposedly epic and beautiful orchestral sections (because typically they don’t accomplish either of those things), there are some genuinely great sections on this album, especially on the fourth and fifth tracks (ESPECIALLY on the fifth track). So I guess the main conflict here is the disparity between the occasionally fantastic orchestral sections with the honestly mediocre everything else. There’s always a danger in melodic anything that it’s going to sound cheesy, and this album doesn’t avoid that. In the end, I honestly think getting rid of all the black metal influences altogether would’ve benefited this album a lot, because it really only drags it down with the expectations of one aesthetic and the deliverance of something else. Straight up viking metal would’ve been much more beneficial in this case.


Forgotten Horror – Aeon of the Shadow Goddess ALBUM REVIEW

Whoever labeled this as thrash metal needs to learn how to identify music. This is absolutely melodic in every aspect, to the point where it’s actually a bit disturbing as to how someone could make that mistake. Anyway, this is the definition of just above average. The large majority of the album is entirely forgettable, but it does have just enough brief cool moments, moments where the notes sync up just right, where they play just the right chord at the right time, to where at the end you think “I don’t regret listening to that”. I certainly wouldn’t call it above average, but calling it at the high point of average would be pretty accurate. I will say I got a bit tired of the choir synths. At first it was kinda cool, then I couldn’t help but think it was going a bit overboard, especially with how often they were implemented. Not recommended, but I certainly wouldn’t desperately try to desperately beg you not to listen to this.


Ufomammut – Ecate ALBUM REVIEW

I don’t really want to describe an album this way, but this sounds just like noise to me. Not in the way of it not being music, but in that there’s nothing really here other than some sort of musical noise, which I know is not the most intelligent way of describing something, but it’s just one of those albums where I listened to it and thought “this is kinda nice” and then just went on with my life none the wiser. Not bad, but nothing spectacular.