- Dark Space III IGenre:
Atmospheric Black Metal/AmbientRelease Date:
September 6th 2014Label:
Darkspace is a band I seldom listen to, despite the fact that I absolutely love their work. As a part of the black metal bands which have looked towards the deep void of space rather than Hell’s fires and the Antichrist for inspiration, their albums have invariably created a deeply oppressive, chilling picture of what may hide in the farmost galaxies. They are thus not to be listened to under any mood. True immersion is required, and preferably with the lights switched off. All that aside, I can’t stress enough how excited I was when I saw there’d be a follow-up to the already monolithic Dark Space III
Made up of only three long tracks (the first clocking off at almost 28 minutes and the other two passing the 18 minute mark), the band has once again spawned an eerie album. Imagine a world where light is scarce, where huge carnivorous, insectile creatures run rampant on the face of a blackened alien planet, where a handful of human beings foolish enough to have travelled across space to quench mankind’s ever-growing thirst for discovery are desperately trying to survive against all odds, where tentacular, sinuous weeds burgeon as the dark soil is tainted red with blood, as the infinite void of space looks down impassively at the struggle below. This is the picture I get when listening to this album. The first track opens with strange sounds reminiscent of ray-guns or the giant mandibles of a monstrous creature, before a disquieting guitar melody begins to echo and Hell breaks loose from then on. All three members provide vocals alternately, and they sound monstrous to say the least. The guitars are still heavy as ever, and the drum machine is rarely a bother, though it is more noticeable this time around and sometimes fail to bring the charm that a real drummer can have. These passages are only fleeting however, and should therefore not be penalised too harshly. The second track opens fairly quietly, where one can almost feel the fast heartbeats of the humans slowing down before a chugging riff rips through the peace, building towards an imperial roar which is punctuated by the echo of synths. Finally, the album concludes on quite possibly the most demonic track this album can offer, with the vocalists losing all control and roaring out their lyrics incoherently, lost in the absolute chaos that now reigns. The album ends with the sound of ray-guns and then, a sample: “I’ve found the hatch. […] There’s no lights, no power… I’m going in.” Clang. Silence.
Fans of Darkspace will definitely be pleased with Dark Space III I
. Although a masterpiece once more, it should be noted that the band have opted for a clearer sound than their previous albums. This is hardly a problem however, as the overall effect is still there and the album does not lose any of its dark majesty or its ability to create a profoundly scary vision of Hell amongst the stars. A must-listen album. 97/100Comment
- The Ways of YoreGenre:
June 2nd 2014Label:
For a while now, hopes to see a new black metal album by Varg Vikernes (helmsman and sole member of former black metal band Burzum) have been dashed by a series of ambient albums which seem to further affirm Varg’s distaste for what black metal has now become. Although Belus
brought with them a slight echo of the past glory of, say, Filosofem
, they failed to be as memorable as the latter and haven’t managed to redeem Burzum in the eyes of the die-hard black metal-era fans. Like its prequel (Sôl austan, Mâni vestan
), The Ways of Yore
tries to go back to a sound not dissimilar to Hliðskjálf
's. However, based on my memories of Sôl austan
, which, as the expression goes, went in one ear and out the other, I can’t say I was expecting to be wowed when pressing the play button.
After several listens, I can conclude that I am still not exactly impressed. However, to tell the truth, the album isn’t the complete failure I was expecting. While many tracks fall short of the mark, others seem to redeem the album in certain ways and although not always executed perfectly, carry a faint glimmer of hope for any future records the Count wishes to deliver. Allow me to explain myself.
The album is made up of thirteen tracks. All are, quite predictably, quite minimalistic and repetitive, often with droning synths and a metronomic staccato of various instruments in the background. The melodies rarely vary, with the exception of the last two tracks whose respective lengths (13.13 and 10.45) allow for some sort of progression. What destroys much of this album are Varg’s vocals and narration. Simply put, Varg’s singing is incredibly off-key. While its rawness manages to create a more ritualistic effect in tracks such as Heil Odinn
, it is most of the time extremely off-putting. As for the narration, Varg softly speaks in a nasal voice which can sometimes be digested well enough (e.g. The Reckoning of Man
), but at others is more irritating than mysterious (e.g. Lady in the Lake
). These aspects are certainly not helped by the awful choirs, as they often sound like they’ve been recorded in a retirement home during a zombie outbreak. Ek Fellr
(I Am Falling) is a good example of this. Varg begins by repeatedly singing ‘Ek fellr’ in an absurdly tremulous way, before his voice makes way for a bleating choir (yes, ‘bleating’ truly is the best adjective in this case) which prompted me more than once to change song midway. Tracks which feature Varg’s voice or choirs unfortunately bring down the album, and are probably one of the main reasons for his last few efforts being thus rejected.
However, like I said, the album isn’t a complete abomination either. Songs such as the title track or the last three tracks feature little to no vocals, and thus let the synths speak for themselves. And let me tell you, the nostalgia and beauty Varg probably wishes to convey come across much better in these tracks than in the anaphoric “I remember” narration in The Reckoning of Man
. Such tracks slightly pulled the album up from the murky depths Burzum has been sinking in for the last few years, which leads me to hope that Varg will finally realise that his voice does not need to be heard for his message to be transmitted. I didn’t exactly know what to feel nostalgic about, but I certainly wasn’t looking at my laptop scornfully anymore.
To be honest, my initial words for this review were “Why do I bother?” To answer my own question, I decided to bother because this really feels like the slightest of steps forward. Based on memory alone, Umskiptar
was forgettable, and I didn’t even manage to listen to Sôl austan
in full. The Ways of Yore
is very far from being a perfect album, or even a good album, but it at least has the merit of creating a bit of hope for those who are still interested in Varg’s work. Perhaps someday he will create an ambient album which does not only interest listeners because it features the Burzum logo on the front cover. We can only wait and see. 38/100Comment
Progressive/Technical Extreme MetalRelease Date:
November 8th 2010Label:
Season of MistAuthor:
is the 4th full-length studio album by technical/progressive extreme metal act Atheist
. The album was released through Season of Mist
in November 2010. "Jupiter"
is what you would call a comeback album as it´s the first studio album release by Atheist
since "Elements (1993)"
. The band split-up shortly after the tour supporting that album. In 2006 lead vocalist Kelly Shaefer
and drummer Steve Flynn
(who had already left Atheist
in 1991 and doesn´t appear on "Elements (1993)"
) decided to reunite and reform Atheist
. They played a reunion gig on Wachen in 2006 with the help of bassist Tony Choy
and guitarists Jonathan Thompson
and Chris Baker
(both guitarists also play with Steve Flynn
). That gig (which is immortalized on the first disc on the "Unquestionable Presence: Live At Wacken (2009)"
live/compilation album) apparently made their blood boil for more Atheist
action and here we have "Jupiter"
a couple of years down the line. Tony Choy
bailed out shortly before the recording of the album so guitarist Jonathan Thompson
also handles the bass parts on "Jupiter"
The music on the album is technical/progressive death/thrash or maybe a tag like technical/progressive extreme metal is actually better. Genre tagging was always hard when it came to Atheist
and still is. That´s of course one of the reasons why they are such a unique sounding act. They almost completely defy categorization. In that respect they´ve always reminded me of an act like Voivod
. The music on the album is a melting pot of death, thrash and fusion elements and while that cocktail can at times sound pretty chaotic, the tracks are tightly structured and very well composed. Just as the case were on earlier releases each track is composed of many sections and even though all 8 tracks on the album are between 3 and 4 minutes long (which is pretty regular mainstream song lengths), you shouldn´t expect regular verse/chorus structures here. And then again, "Jupiter"
is actually a lot more accessible than earlier releases by the band and dare I say semi-melodic at times. There are actual chorus lines and hooks in each track in the midst of the ultra fast played riffs, fusion influenced drumming and relentless energetic music. The album is over in 32:47 minutes and if you ask me that´s just what the doctor ordered. Music this demanding and action packed wouldn´t necessarily work well on an album with 14 tracks and a playing time of 50 minutes. I´m of the firm conviction that quality is always more important than quantity and "Jupiter"
is a shining example of that.
The musicianship on the album are nothing short of amazing. Fast precision playing and a plethora of progressive ideas are what you´ll be treated to. The well certainly hasn´t run dry in the 17 years since the last album release. While "Jupiter"
has its own sound, which is in part due to the more contemporary sound production, there are also several nods toward all three preceding releases. It´s like they plucked the best elements from those three albums and then they´ve added something new to them. So "Jupiter"
is the kind of comeback album that honours the band´s original sound, but in no way tries to copy it. I think Atheist
made just about all the right choices with this one.
17 years between album releases is a long time, and I wouldn´t hold it against anyone if they doubted if "Jupiter"
could live up to the high expectations. However Atheist
have once again proven that they are one of the most unique forces on the metal scene. Pushing boundaries, defying conventions and kicking ass in the process. I just realised I forgot to mention how aggressive the album actually is. No matter how progressive or experimental the music gets, Atheist
always succeed in not losing their caustic aggressive edge and it´s not always an easy task maintaining aggression and not sounding forced while experimenting. It´s probably the band´s greatest asset that their music sounds so natural even though it´s extremely technical.
So what do you give a fan who already has it all? The answer? You give him more. You move his world again and make him crave more. That´s how "Jupiter"
has affected me. I have a burning craving for more and that´s how every album should affect you (in a world called utopia), but few in reality do. "Jupiter"
is a welcome return to one of the most unique and innovative metal acts on the scene and a 5 star (100%) rating is fully deserved. 100/100Comment
Melodic Black MetalRelease Date:
April 28th 2004Label:
's fourth album Sirens
marks significant line-up changes within the group as after Quod Superius Sicut Inferius
two of the three core musicians had parted ways with band leader Tristessa
. On Sirens Tristessa
takes over lead vocal duties while Hybris
joins on guitars and Katharsis
on keyboards. The album features guest appearances from both Shagrath
) and Sakis Tolis
moves even further in the melodic black metal direction started on Quod Superius Sicut Inferius
, fully taking Astarte
away from the rawer sound of their first two albums. Compared to former vocalist Kinthia Tristessa
's voice is a bit less of a typical black metal rasp and it's easily to follow her lyrics. That said I think maybe her vocals here are more of an acquired taste. The music is generally more direct in nature and in some ways it isn't many steps away from turning into melodic death metal. As is usual for an Astarte
release there's really good use of both keyboards and acoustic guitar, though there is an issue on this one that a few too many of the melodies used sound quite similar to each other, but it's decent enough Astarte
album overall, more interesting than Rise From Within
was but a step down following their career best that was Quod Superius Sicut Inferius
.See Older Reviews