Svirnath – Il regno della natura

In terms of low budget black metal that covers the theme of the beauty of nature, you’re not going to find much better than this. The acoustic guitars are absolutely superb, I can feel the soaring, inspiring riffs of the guitars in my blood, and the entire listen was an extremely joyfull experience that made me grateful to be in an area so full of wonderful nature beauty (Oregon). I’m very weary of black metal albums with real life color photos as the cover, but this made me a believer, at least for now. The only issue I have is the synths, which I felt were just to hollow and empty. I also think, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, that the nature recordings they used during the intro should’ve been used more as a theme throughout the whole album. There’s a lot to like here, just don’t expect a highly produced master piece. Though again, what better way to display the beauty of nature than with a recording that’s much more down to earth?



Ancestors Blood – Hyperborea ALBUM REVIEW

Moments. Hyperborea is driven by moments. But it the awesome solo on Elegies, or the wonderful intro and outro ambient tracks, this album has lots of great moments that captivate the listener. But that’s also the problem. It’s just moments, not a complete album. There are a lot of parts of this record that really make me think of this as a upper tier black metal release this year, but for the other larger majority, it’s anything but special.

The majority of this album is complete generic melodic black metal, albeit done quite well. Sure, it has some fantastic heavy metal-esque solos, some wonderful synth work at times (something I value highly as it’s so rarely done right), and a generally appropriate and valuable use of 7th chords. But again, those come in moments. There is never an entire track where Ancestors Blood puts it all together into a complete performance. The band clearly shows that they have the ability to make great music in this record, but the way they do so makes it seem like they’re doing it by accident. Either that or they’re choosing to make this record average, which is even worse.

Hyperborea is absolutely not bad, it’s so far my favorite black metal record this year (not that that’s saying much). But I would’ve liked to have seen something that wasn’t just a high quality generic record. Listening to this record feels like eating at Olive Garden. Sure, it tastes good for how popular the restaurant is, but you know you would’ve had a better meal had you gone to an actual high quality italian restaurant.


Havukruunu – Havulinna ALBUM REVIEW

Liturgy take notes. THIS is how you do triumphant black metal. Because it’s not just the chords you play, it’s how you play them. Sure, Havukruunu is not the first band ever to utilize major chords in black metal. And they’re certainly not the first pagan black metal band to make an album that feels like an epic journey. But they are one of the few to do both of these things right, in my eyes (or rather, ears). Instead of simply using orchestral synths, or vocals that sound more like norse chants to create the whole “epic viking” scene, they use what would be considered epic in the traditional metal sense. Solos. Heavy fucking metal solos. It took me way off guard, but god damn does it work. I debated with myself as to whether the fuzzy, atmo black atmosphere actually works well with the clean, guitar shredding runs. I don’t think there is a true yes or no answer to that, but I do know that it doesn’t not work, which is good enough for what this album is.

While I do again get that sense of epic adventure when listening to this, overall I do feel that as a whole the atmosphere is a tad underwhelming. Maybe this goes back to whether or not the fuzzy production works with the clean solos. The epic guitar shreds create a large atmosphere, while the distorted tremolos as a backdrop create something more small and homily. I like to imagine that the bands who create metal albums are not actually humans, but rather creatures from different realms. I see heavy metal bands as like gods from a realm of adventure and danger, having bodies like that of greek gods, wearing denim jackets, singing about their exploits. Atmospheric Black Metal bands are actually from earth, though they are misanthropic, ugly creatures who dwell in caves and dark forests. Power metal of course comes from a land where everything is made entirely of cheese, though that’s for another album review. Anyway, seeing these two images coincide with each other is rather striking, maybe for me more than another. It creates a bit of confusion as to whether I really love this, or just like this. I think for now I’ll go somewhere inbetween. Havulinna is a unique record that does a lot of things that many fail at right, though in a way of which I probably can’t fully appreciate.


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.


Biały Viteź – Odejść by Wiecznie Żyć ALBUM REVIEW

What’s this? Folk metal that actually utilizes folks instrumentals and influences to the max? Sign me up! Folk metal has so much potential to be botched, and it typically is, but these guys from Poland do an excellent job or utilizing folk instruments throughout the entire album and blended into the metal.

It’s pretty hard to review this album because honestly there’s just one reason why it’s good, and that’s the amazing use of folks instruments. The performances are high quality and authentic, the use is constant so it doesn’t feel chopped up into sections always, and even the metal almost feels like a modern folk song because of influences they use. And while the rest of the album is also pretty good, though I could’ve used without a lot of the synths and that metronome sound at the end of the 9th track, nothing compares to when they fire up the mandolin and flutes.

I’m pretty surprised at how little known this band is, given how many albums they’ve put out and the quality of their work. The people who have rated them have generally given high ratings too. Hopefully this band will be discovered someday and get popular, because they really deserve it.