Stormtide – Wrath of an Empire

Surprisingly alright. Not reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but they got the epic aesthetic down pat on their first try. Band just needs any kind of variety and they’ll be turning out some pretty damn good albums. For now though, it was a bit of a difficult listen due to how samey it was. All the attempts to add flavor fell flat, most of the riffs sounded the same, folk elements blended too much with the generic symphonic ones. There’s potential, but Stormtide’s nowhere near there yet.


Whispered – Metsutan: Songs of the Void

Yeah, a lot of this is campy as hell “naruto metal”. But there’s some good shit amongst all the forgettable tracks. Strike! is just fucking godly (as well as the music video), and Tsukiakari certainly holds it’s wait. And for an en epic finale, Bloodred Shores of Enoshima does the job as well as any other cheesy, nerd fantasy metal concept album I’ve ever heard does. I wouldn’t call this great, but if you can get past how “fake” the japanese folk elements sound at times, there’s some pretty damn great music here, with some Killer riffs when the band isn’t jerking off over it’s own theme.


Fejd – Trolldom

So originally when I was going to review this I was going to listen to just this album and review it on it’s own without the context of their other albums. This is standard practice for me, as I don’t know every band I review before reviewing them, and I only have so much time in the day to review things that I can’t listen to their whole discog before getting to their current album. However after I finished Trolldom, I couldn’t escape the fact that every possible complaint or even praise mentioned the lament over how Fejd finally “went metal”. Now I still could’ve just ignored that and gone on to review the album anyway, but quite honestly, the only thing I had to say about Trolldom was “it’s nice”. Nothing really profound, just that it was a pleasant listen that I enjoyed but couldn’t really say anything beyond that fact. So I decided that in an effort to have a more meaty review, I would listen to their debut album Storm, just so I get some context.

Unfortunately, despite my added context of where the band is coming from, my opinion stays relatively the same. I agree, they were in fact better when they weren’t a metal band, if only because I feel like they used a bit more of nordic folk influences in their music back then. It sounded a bit more organic than what they have now. However scorewise, that’s a different around .25 – .5 at MOST. The only real thing I can say about Trolldom is that it’s “nice”. And that’s mainly because it really is a gimmick album. You hear track 1, you’ve heard the whole album. Variety is absolutely non existent here, which isn’t exactly too bad as what you get is still really nice folk melodies and some pretty cool heavy metal-like guitar solos, but again that can only take an album so far.

I’ve decided mid reviewing this album that I’ll bump it up to a solid 7, mainly because despite only being just a nice listen (to which I normally give a high 6 for), the concept is pretty unique, and I feel like it’s worth listening to. Just don’t expect something that’ll blow your mind.


Moonsorrow – Jumalten aika

So I was going to be all mega contrarian and call this garbage and overrated and all that good stuff. I’ve never liked Moonsorrow. At their best they’re bland and forgettable, and at their worst they’re corny and overblown. I feel like on this album there is a lack of content, in that there’s lots of bombastic and loud atmosphere, but little progression or anything that doesn’t just feel generically large. Everyone is calling this epic but you can’t be epic if you never go anywhere. An epic in the traditional sense is a long story, so logically to be epic you have to have some sort of journey, or at least a sense of progression. That is not what’s on this album, opting to just go for what sounds as massive as possible, in order to overwhelm the listener into thinking the music is epic, when it’s really just completely unimaginative. And in the end I would probably give it somewhere in the 4 range, just to be an asshole. But if I’m being totally honest, I can’t help but think at least part of this record IS epic. It’s epic in a way that I don’t like, but it is epic, and I can’t help but feel a sense of awe at times. The first three tracks I feel don’t add anything, but Mimisbrunn and Ihmisen Aika are fantastic, even if I really don’t want them to be. Sure they’re just trying to be as huge as possible, but they absolutely fucking succeed in that goal. I can’t say this is my favorite record of the year, but I will say it’s not garbage like I was trying to argue it was initially.


Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik’s Skuggsjá – Skuggsjá: A Piece for Mind & Mirror

It’s really not fair. Folk metal isn’t exactly my favorite genre but I absolutely have a massive bias to really authentic sounding folk metal. This doesn’t give me any sort of eargasm that i look for in the 9/10 ratings, but it’s just god damn solid and well made all around, as well as taking a concept and executing it to the highest degree possible, that I can’t not give this that score. This is some of the most well thought out, least cheesy folk metal I have ever heard. A must listen.


Myrath – Legacy

You know you’re in a special kind of hell when you want to like an album ironically and can’t because it’s actually good. This is the greatest arabic sporkcore album ever made. How is Believer not every person on the planet’s jam? And yes, I saw the music video, fuck you it’s amazing in a “so bad it’s good but no really it’s actually kinda good in a bad way” way. I just wish the album wasn’t one track long.


Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs ALBUM REVIEW

Often music has the ability to transport the listener to other places, be them earthly or cosmic. I can feel like I’m in the amazon rainforest, or floating through the cosmos, or even in the pits of hell. This is what people often called transcendence, where the music transcends physical being and places your consciousness in another realm entirely. In the case of Aria of Vernal Tombs, the destination was medieval Europe. Through the use of period instruments and scales, Obsequiae creates an ethereal dream like soundscape, which makes me feel as though I’m at the crossroads of time, the in between space between years, traveling but never quite arriving at my destination. It’s a unique atmosphere, but one that I feel ultimately fails the assumed goal.

While yes the period instruments do help create a literal creation of medieval Europe, it’s never quite implemented as a fusion, but rather in interludes between songs. The album follows a distinct formula of song, interlude, song, interlude, etc. I don’t have any trouble with the format itself, however the way it is executed leaves a lot to be desired. Every song and interlude sounds essentially the same, with the occasional key difference. The interludes are more noodling improvisation than song, reinforcing the notion that you’re in limbo rather than in the physical world. It’s light, it’s airy, it’s calming, however quite frankly it’s boring. The same can really go the metal tracks, which have the same dreamy atmosphere, albeit more structured as songs rather than improvisation. However the notion that they all sound the same stands. There is very little if any variety in this album whatsoever, so if you’re no enamored with the first two tracks, you’re going to have a tough time with this record.

I feel like the atmosphere it does bring is very unique and wonderful in it’s own way. However Aria is simply a one trick pony, lacking in substance, and is ultimately relegated to nothing more than background study music. Mediocre study music at that.


Nechochwen – Heart of Akamon ALBUM REVIEW

I have a soft spot for both native american music and culture. I’ve taken a few Native American culture based courses in college completely because I wanted to, and they weren’t all easy A classes either. This has caused me to have a bit of a sensitivity in how someone portrays this culture, or any foreign culture for that matter. I remember one of my friends was watching MTV (because people still do that apparently) and they had a feature story on modern Native Americans. Of course, being MTV they did everything they could to make it look young, hip and cool, and essentially reducing thousands of years of culture into something to tweet about. And the entire time I watched this I just felt massively uncomfortable. It was like watching a wigger with a backwards baseball cap rape a good friend of yours, spin it as an inspiring experience, and then put a #nativepower next to it so that nobody calls them out. It’s why I’m often very critical of any folk influence in metal, because I feel in order to execute it properly, you need a certain down to earth atmosphere.

My initial reaction to Heart of Akamon was very much the opposite of that. I felt that it was over done and cheesy in the way it used not only it’s Native American influences, but in how it structured it’s melody. The album felt way too dramatic, with native flutes playing melodies that you would here on those “inspirational” Native America music CDs you can buy at gift shops anywhere near a reservation (but not on it of course, can’t give the indians money after all). It was like Disney’s Pocahontas meets black metal meets the shitty side of Agalloch.

But then about midway through something changed. I noticed that I was no longer waiting for the album to be over so that I could get on with my angry rant. I started actually enjoying what I was listening to. And by the time the last track came around I was almost in tears over how beautiful everything was. I had to go back and give this a few more listens to try to pinpoint what made me feel this way. It was then I determined exactly the culprit behind this bizarre phenomenon. In particular it’s the fourth track “October 6, 1813”. For those of your who don’t know, this is the day after Tecumseh, a great Shawnee chief, was killed in battle, and ended a massive attempted resistance against those who were oppressing his people. The track opens with one of the best riffs I’ve heard this year, and the best acoustic riff this year. It also marks the albums transition from a black metal album with some folk influences, to a folk album with some black metal influences, and as it turns out the latter is what makes the rest of the album so amazingly special.

Remember when I was talking about how metal albums with folk influences need to feel down to earth? This track, along with the rest of the album, accomplishes that in spades. Yeah, maybe it’s a bit dramatic, but I found myself excusing that in the face of some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard in a long time. The combination of earthy acoustic guitar passages, Native American flutes and drums, and the clean electric guitar riffs create one of the best soundscapes of the year.

The kicker behind all of this is how no single song on the album is alike. They all have their different feelings, personalities, melodies, atmospheres, motifs, everything. Variety is something that black metal albums tend to struggle with greatly, with every album having one specific atmosphere for the entire 40-50 minutes. This passes that test in spades, being full of color like the autumn leaves of the West Virginian mountains of which the duo of Nechochwen resides. The biggest highlight here is the final track “Kiselamakong”, which seems to be a summary of all that is learned throughout the album, combining all of the individual themes of each track in one final epic to close out a memorable record. The best example of this is towards the middle of the track, where under the harsh tone of the electric bass guitar comes a native flute riff played on the whining electric guitar. The strange way in which the guitar seems to mimic a inflection of the flute blows me away, and is a fitting conclusion to such a unique experience.

Heart of Akamon is simultaneously mournful of all of those who lost their lives in the atrocities committed against the native people’s of the U.S, and yet still hopeful for the future. I’m skeptical of any sort of positivity in black metal, but fuck me if these guys didn’t convince me it can’t be done. It’s a massive shame that the first three tracks had to be so mediocre, and that the final track, while fantastic, closes a tad weak, otherwise this would easily be an AOTY candidate. This is absolutely a can’t miss album for anyone looking for something new in the black metal genre.


Winterage – The Harmonic Passage ALBUM REVIEW

I feel like I have to give at least some kudos to any band that uses actual symphonic instruments instead of midis. Or at the very least, uses extremely high quality midis so that I can’t even tell they’re midis. It’s even better when the actual instrumentation and use of these actual instruments is very well done. Symphonic metal is a genre full of so much absolute garbage, in that so many bands try to imitate the classical music sound, but contain absolutely none of the substance. I’ll give this band a 1 1/2 on a scale of 0-2 in accomplishing either of those things.

The album opens with a recognizable sound of instruments playing the standard concert favorite “tuning”. And I won’t lie, it sounds god awful. I know what tuning sounds like, and this was an extra special kind of bad. Tuning should never sound like a dying animal unless it’s at a middle school band concert. Fortunately the very next time they play it sounds infinitely better, I would even venture to say good. Really one of the major things to comment on this album is how well they execute the symphonic instruments. Sure, it sounds like glorified movie music, but that’s pretty much every single symphonic bands idea of classical, so I’ll somewhat excuse that. It’s the fact that it’s not shit that’s more important. The rest of the album is a mixture of symphonic metal and folk metal (duh) tracks, mostly leaning on the folk side. One track I did find particularly enjoyable was the ninth track “La Grotta Di Cristallo”, in which the main focus is maritime, coastal canadian (even though they were probably aiming for Irish) folk music. It’s really well done, and while I wouldn’t necessarily call it authentic, it’s about as good as it gets for an imitation. The final track concludes the album with an approximately 9 minute track that heavily quotes Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky. It’s both a nice tribute, and a bit of a tacky cover (it really could’ve done without ending with a music box playing the melody as the song fades away). In all honesty, this is a good attempt to create symphonic metal that doesn’t make me want to hurt people when I hear it.

But I am not so easily appeased. Here’s a hint: if you’re going to make a 70 minute album, make each song count. Otherwise it’ll just all sound like filler and you’ll get a totally uninterested listener who loses track of where they are in the album and doesn’t even really care at that point. My mind tended to wander as I listened to this, and I never got fully engrossed in this album. A lot of the songs sounded like filler, even if they weren’t necessarily meant to be. Typically when all else fails, that’s when the vocalist comes to salvage the day, right? Wrong, very much wrong. While I definitely can appreciate the extremely high pitched soaring roars of the voice, that doesn’t particularly matter when your english sounds awkward. That’s why I typically like it when bands from other countries sing in their native tongue, because it sounds so much more natural, even if I can’t understand the lyrics.

The Harmonic Passage is a good attempt at symphonic metal that succeeds more than it fails, which is a lot more than I can say for other bands of that genre. At the very least, this was much more riff based music, which is always a plus in power metal. But ultimately it has many of the same faults that other bands of the type have, and coupled with the extremely long length with not enough substance, make this hard to view this work as anything other than just above-average.