One of the best metal hordes hailing from Latvia is ready to bring down the hammer with their fourth studio album, proudly dedicated to their vast and beautiful homeland.
Founded in 2014 in the cold woods of Latvia, more specifically in the city of Daugavpils, located in south-eastern Latvia, the unstoppable horde known as Varang Nord combines harsh Death Metal riffs with epic accordion chants, creating a unique blend of northern Folk, Pagan and Viking Metal while praising a mighty battle, a bloody sacrifice to the Old Gods and a joyful northern feast with endless mugs of ale. Now in 2021, the band comprised of Maksims “Wolf” Popovs on vocals and guitar, Jelena Kalniša on vocals and accordion, Javgenijs Selivanovs also on the guitar, Danila Lopuha on bass and vocals, Vjačeslavs Janens on percussion and vocals, and Aigars Zeiza on drums returns to the battlefield with Pārķiuņa Uomurs, or “thunder’s hammer” in English, their fourth studio album, proudly dedicated to their homeland, the power and beauty of its nature and the depth of its cultural roots. Produced by the band and recorded at their personal studio, and mixed and mastered by Gints Lundbergs at Sound Division Studios, Pārķiuņa Uomurs is also the band’s first-ever album where all lyrics are written in the Latgalian language (an eastern dialect of Latvian), giving it an even more personal and organic feel.
A war is about to begin in the epic intro Pi Tuoļim Krostym, getting us ready for our bloodthirsty destiny to the sound of Stuojīs!, where the accordion by Jelena and the blast beats by Aigars make a superb paradox, offering Maksims everything he needs to roar like a true barbarian while Jelena brings a touch of finesse and melancholy with her clean vocals. Cīņis Gors, a battle anthem capturing the spirit of hard, long sea travels and conquests Northmen have been involved in, is a fun and inspiring Pagan and Viking Metal tune where the background elements by guest Yuri Borin walk hand in hand with the slashing guitars by Maksims and Javgenijs; and let’s keep banging our heads to Pārķiuņa Uomurs, another solid composition by this Latvian horde with Danila, Vjačeslavs and Aigars making the earth tremble with their imposing kitchen, whereas their warlike metal feast goes on in Dzeļža Ryuda, again presenting a headbanging, prancing rhythm led by Jelena’s wicked accordion, not to mention the awesome job done by Maksims with his evil growls.
It’s time then for a journey through the melancholic realms of old school Pagan Metal spearheaded by Jelena’s vocals in Svietņeica, accompanied by the rhythmic beats by Aigars and all somber background sounds, while Maksims roars deeply and more enraged in Uperiešona, a classic Viking Metal extravaganza the likes of Amon Amarth that will please all fans of the genre, with Danila crushing his bass guitar while Maksims and Javgenijs bring fire to the music with their riffage. And let’s prance around the fire pit together with those Latvian marauders in Syt Pa Seyi, a Pagan Metal feast perfect for their live performances with Aigars once again kicking some ass behind his drum set. Then mesmerizing accordion sounds, infernal and thunderous bass jabs and blast beats, and troll-like vocals set the tone in Troļļs, the epitome of Latvian Folk Metal where all band members are on absolute fire from start to finish, followed by Karaveiri, another good composition by those talented metallers (albeit not as dynamic nor creative as its predecessors) that flows into the atmospheric, acoustic outro Ceļš Da Sātai, bringing peace to our hearts after such intense battle.
Having said all that, I guess I don’t need to tell you that the time has come to grab your sword and shield, and join Varang Nord in the battlefield to the sound of their new opus, right? In order to do that, you can stream the album in full on Spotify, or prove you’re a true warrior from the North and purchase a copy of the album from Dead Pulse or from Apple Music. Also, don’t forget to follow the band on Facebook, on VKontakte and on Instagram for all things Varang Nord, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their epic music and videos. Varang Nord are not just another band recommended for fans of bands the likes of Ensiferum, Amon Amarth and Turisas, but a fantastic Latvian institution that truly deserves our appreciation for their contribution to heavy music. And let those talented Latvians bring down the hammer on us all!
Best moments of the album: Cīņis Gors, Uperiešona, Syt Pa Seyi and Trolls.
A spiritual journey to the mysteries untold in the form relentless, epic Black Metal infused with ancient folk melodies, masterfully brought forth by this emerging Armenian raging force.
Having emerged as a raging force from the depths of the Armenian underground metal scene in 2016, Yerevan-based Pagan Black Metal horde Ildaruni (which by the way is the ancient pagan name of the second largest river that flows through Armenia, currently known as Hrazdan River) represents a blend of relentless, epic Black Metal and ancient folk melodies, forgotten from times immemorial, exploring the height of the Urartian domain through the cognitive machinations of a bygone age and the esoteric apprehension of ancient pagan occultism. Recorded by Armen Shaverdian and Mark Erskine at Armen Shaverdian’s Guitar Clinic Studio, mixed and mastered by George Emmanuel (Lucifer’s Child, Rotting Chris) at Pentagram Studio, and displaying an ominous artwork by Mark Erskine (Erskine Designs), the band’s debut opus Beyond Unseen Gateways is a hymn to the blazing light that sank into shadowy shrines, to the wild darkness that covered the debris of Ardini, and to the bygone flame that enlightened the sanctum of Haldi, introducing an authentic sound and a spiritual journey to the mysteries untold masterfully brought forth by frontman Artak Karapetyan, guitarists Robert Meliksetyan and Mark Erskine, bassist Garbis Vizoian and drummer Arthur Poghosyan.
Atmospheric and epic from the very first second, the intro Haldinini Baushini, Imsheini Tariani will transport you to the fantastic realm ruled by Ildaruni, with the tin whistle by guest Arthur Atayan adding an extra touch of mystery to their music, before Robert and Mark begin slashing their guitars in the Epic Metal tune Treading the Path of Cryptic Wisdom, presenting beautiful hints of Folk and Pagan Metal while Artak roars and growls lie a true demonic entity; followed by the also imposing Perpetual Vigil, showcasing an obscure, sinister intro led by the tribal beats by Arthur and morphing into a headbanging beast crafted by this talented Armenian horde, living up to the legacy of Melodic and Pagan Black Metal. And get ready for over eight minutes of infernal blast beats, incendiary riffs and venomous growls in the Black Metal aria Boundless Numen: Gardens of Ardini, a lecture in extreme music spearheaded by the sulfurous vociferations by Artak that will haunt your soul for all eternity.
Once again blending the epicness of Pagan Metal with the heaviness and fury of Black Metal, the quintet fires the demolishing musical journey Towards Subterranean Realms, not to mention how thunderous the bass jabs by Garbis sound in paradox with all background orchestrations; and there’s no time to breathe as those Armenian metallers keep embellishing the airwaves with their bold and dense sound in Exalted Birth, another explosion of modern-day Melodic Black Metal with the band’s guitar duo stealing the spotlight with their wicked riffage supported by Arthur Atayan’s hypnotizing bagpipes. They still have fuel for another ass-kicking Black Metal onrush entitled Arakha, with Arthur setting the tone with his tribal, massive beats, accompanied by the strident sound of the guitars and the always vile roaring by Artak, and right after an imposing and stunning start Ildaruni come ripping in Whence Ravenstone Beckons, providing us fans eight minutes of impressive Black Metal where Arthur sounds more devilish than ever on drums while also featuring guest vocals by Anna Hovhannesyan, with the music flowing darkly until the end.
I must say that listening to Beyond Unseen Gateways is indeed a unique sonic experience, or a “spiritual journey” as the band itself mentioned, and the hybrid of Black Metal with folk elements and paganism matched flawlessly with the stories told throughout the album’s impressive 52 minutes of first-class metal music. Having said that, let’s all show our total support and respect to the guys from Ildaruni by following them on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know info about the band, by streaming their awesome creations on Spotify, and obviously by purchasing a copy of Beyond Unseen Gateways from their own BandCamp page (or simply click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream the album in full). The ominous flame now burns stronger as Iladruni have just unleashed their long-waited cryptic incantations in the form of their incendiary debut effort, appealing to fans of renowned acts the like of Kawir, Rotting Christ and Windir. And may the gates of genesis reopen and herald forth an epoch of exaltation anew.
Best moments of the album: Treading the Path of Cryptic Wisdom, Boundless Numen: Gardens of Ardini and Exalted Birth.
Band members Artak Karapetyan – vocals
Robert Meliksetyan – guitars, keyboards
Mark Erskine – guitars, keyboards
Garbis Vizoian – bass
Arthur Poghosyan – drums
Guest musicians Arthur Atayan – tin whistle on “Haldinini Baushini, Imsheini Tariani,” “Treading the Path of Cryptic Wisdom,” and “Towards Subterranean Realms”, bagpipes on “Exalted Birth”
Anna Hovhannesyan – vocals on “Whence Ravenstone Beckons”
If there’s a woman that loves heavy music from the bottom of her (darkened) heart, more specifically our always controversial and blasphemous Black Metal, as well as music in general, that lady has to be the unrelenting Italian-born bassist Mia Wallace, who you’ll also find in several bands and projects under the names Michelle Mia Wallace, Mia W. Wallace, White Wallace or even Winter Wallace. As a matter of fact, either being a coincidence or not, the name Mia Wallace was given to the fictional character portrayed by the stunning Uma Thurman in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino cult movie Pulp Fiction, just to give you an idea of how mysterious, sexy and provocative our metal chick of the month of May can be, exactly how we expect from any true Black Metal musician. Known for her work in distinguished metal projects such as The True Endless (under the controversial moniker Soulfucker), Abbath, Triumph of Death and Niryth, among several others, Mia will undoubtedly hypnotize you with her obscure looks and smash your senses with her thunderous bass, proving once and for all Black Metal is and will always be home for some of the most talented women in the history of music.
Born somewhere, sometime in the always gorgeous Italy, Mia Wallace started playing bass in the now distant year of 1994. She said in one of her interviews that her boyfriend at the time, Italian multi-instrumentalist Marco De Rosa (R.I.P.), also known as simply M., who would become her bandmate in distinct bands and projects and best friend for over 25 years, encouraged her to try his white Fender Squier Vintage bass. She mentioned it was extremely heavy, but she immediately became passionate about that amazing instrument. Her first bass was then a four-string Hoyer SG-type from 1970, helping Mia become most probably the first female bass player in the entire Italy to wear corpsepaint, to play Black Metal on stage, and to perform fire-breathing during her live concerts. Among her gear, you’ll find some amazing stuff such as the Epiphone Nikki Sixx Blackbird, the BC Rich Beast and the Clover BassTard bass guitars; the Boss ODB-3, Boss DD-3 and Marshall Reflector RF-1 effects; and the Warwick Profet 5.2 amps.
There are several bands and projects where you can enjoy Mia kicking some serious ass with her rumbling bass, and in order to tell you a little about each one of those let’s start with the most recent or active ones and then move on to her previous bands which have either disbanded or have been put on an indefinite hiatus. Right now, we can say Mia is involved in two main projects, those being an Italian Electronic/Industrial/Alien/Darkwave Pop/Rock project entitled Kirlian Camera, where not only she plays bass but also keyboards (also doing backing vocals), and a mysterious Swiss project that goes by the name of Niryth, where she’s a co-founder, songwriter and lead bassist. There might be a third project which could be called her solo band Mia Wallace, but as there’s nothing online anywhere about it let’s just say there’s no reason for extending the topic on it.
Anyway, her role with Kirlian Camera (which name was taken from what’s known as Kirlian photography, a collection of photographic techniques used to capture the phenomenon of electrical coronal discharges) obviously goes beyond her usual bass playing duties, providing a unique support to the band’s mastermind Angelo Bergamini and frontwoman Elena Alice Fossi during their live performances. The band was founded in the distant year of in 1979 in the city of Parma by Angelo Bergamini and was a pioneering act of the Italian synthpop scene, featuring musicians from four distinct locations (Piombino, Marciana, Parma and Novara, all in Italy), and after a few ups and downs the duo now shares the stage with obviously Mia and other renowned musicians form the Italian scene such as Alessandro Comerio, Davide Mazza and Falk Pitschk. Having released a good amount of albums since their inception, starting with their 1983 debut effort It Doesn’t Matter Now until their most recent installment Hellfire, released in 2019, the project has always pushed the boundaries of experimental and electronic music, winning several awards through the years, with Mia bringing her share of heaviness and creativity to the band on stage. You won’t be able to listen to Mia in any of their studio albums, of course, but you can certainly enjoy some awesome live footage on YouTube such as this soundcheck in 2018 at a festival in Switzerland, this live version of the song V2K in Leipzig, Germany in 2020, or this 30-minute footage of the band live in Torino, Italy in 2018 playing some of their songs such as Holograms, Black August and News.
Her other project is considerably unique and I can’t even say if it’s still going on or if it has been archived by its band members. I’m talking about Nyrith, a distinguished metal project founded by Mia together with the one and only Tom. G Warrior (Hellhammer, Celtic Fost, Trypticon) with tastes of heavy and obscure doom, blending different styles from the music by Sisters of Mercy to Pink Floyd, all performed by not only one, not two, but three bass players. In one of her interviews Mia mentioned that Nyrith were ready to release their debut album depicting their visions of life and death, their struggles and pains, but so far nothing has been made official yet. She also said the idea of Nyrith came from Tom after Mia was left without a band a few years ago (and we’ll talk more about that later), including the idea of having three bass players on the same band, as at that time nobody was comfortable giving a woman the control of a new or existing band. In this project, Mia mentioned she was working on all the music which was refused by her previous band, a very restricted and traditional Black Metal act by the way, with all of her ideas being pretty much outside the Black Metal world. As aforementioned, there’s nothing officially released up to now, but we should all keep an eye on Nyrith as this is a very promising metal project (if it truly happens one day, of course). In addition, as an accomplished bass player, Mia has been asked several times about her technique, about how she enjoys playing bass and other nice-to-know details. For instance, when questioned about the fact she would play a five-string bass with Nyrith, she said that “I’ve been playing four-string basses for 20 years, but with Niryth, it is absolutely essential to play five-string bass, as the music requires far more versatility. I always felt good vibes with BC Rich basses. Among my favorite basses is a BC Rich Beast, in fact.”
Now it’s time to talk about all of her previous bands, starting with the one that’s in my opinion her most interesting and powerful project to date, Italian Black Metal horde The True Endless, founded in 1997 by M. and Mia (under the moniker Pollon, and later under her most controversial moniker Soulfucker) with the main goal of crafting violent and trendkiller music. After a couple of rehearsal tapes and some shows, The True Endless recorded their first studio work in 1999 called The Trendkiller EP, followed by an array of EP’s, splits, compilations, livr albums and obviously some very interesting and heavy-as-hell full-length albums, those being Wings of Wrath (2003), A Climb to Eternity (2005), Buried by Time and Dust (2006), 1888 from Hell (2008), An Year in Black (2009), Legacy of Hate (2013), and last but not least, Blacklight Inferno (2017), all with Mia kicking ass on bass and even working in the mastering of their 2008 album 1888 from Hell. Featuring lyrics in English, Italian and Novaras, a dialect of the Piedmontese language (Piemontèis) that was used to give their sound a more ancestral feeling, the scorching Black Metal played by The True Endless led the band to share the stage with some of the most important names of the extreme music scene such as Marduk, Deicide, Vader, Helheim, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Besatt, Morrigan, Vesna, Mortuary Drape, Opera IX and many more, playing through countless countries across Europe. You’ll “only” be able to find their latest released Blacklight Inferno on their official BandCamp page, but you can enjoy several of their songs and live footage by visiting their official YouTube channel (as well as other channels), as for example their cover version for Hellhammer’s classic Massacra, the songs Pale Waves, Under The Horned Waning Moon, Black Swamp, I Drink The Devil’s Blood and Nightfall, and this live version of Freezing Moon in the Czech Republic in 2011.
Unfortunately, after months fighting against a deadly cancer, the multi-talented M. sadly passed away on November 16, 2017 at the age of 43, and due to such tragic loss Mia and the band’s drummer Algol decided to end the project after 20 years of intense activity. However, as Mia herself always says, “the flame will burn forever.” And the skillful M. was also the founder of many other amazing projects such as Darkness, Huggin, Skoll and Teuta, most of them featuring our dauntless Mia on bass and/or on keyboards, and usually under the moniker Pollon. For instance, she played bass on the 2013 album Anti Human Life, by Italian Black/Thrash Metal band Darkness, on the 1998 demo Tales (from the Ancient Times), by Italian Black Metal horde Huginn, and played keyboards on the 1999 album Through the Mist We Come Back and on the 2000 split Keep Alive Your Heathenfolk/La oss slakte Guds lam, both by Italian Pagan Black/Viking Metal band Skoll. After listening to such amazing bands, we must all agree with Mia that the flame of M. will always burn bright through his classy and dark music across the centuries, no doubt about that.
Another memorable moment in Mia’s undisputed career happened between 2019 and 2020 when she joined the iconic Norwegian Black Metal act Abbath, spearheaded by one of the co-founders of Immortal, one of the trailblazers of the infamous Norwegian Black Metal scene. When asked about how the invitation to join Abbath in 2019 happened, Mia said that she always been part of the Bergen family, and as Abbath needed a strong figure to replace his previous bassist he noticed her as an experienced musician who would fit perfectly into his lineup. Mia was the bass player in Abbath’s latest opus, his 2019 album Outstrider, and you can enjoy her thunderous and menacing bass lines in songs like Harvest Pyre and Calm in Ire of Hurricane. Mia mentioned Outstrider was pretty much written when she joined the band, with Abbath asking her to write the bass lines and then they decided together about some adjustments on them, also saying that she didn’t feel any real pressure as the replacement of one of the most recognizable bassist in Black Metal, the iconic King ov Hell (God Seed, Gorgoroth), as they’re two musicians with different skills that were not actually competing nor anything like that. However, on January 28, 2020, Mia revealed that she was no longer part of the band, being informed over the phone by the Abbath’s manager shortly before the beginning of the Outstrider 2020 European tour. No formal announcement was made by the band, but she was replaced on bass by touring member, Rusty Cornell. As you can check HERE, Mia was not happy about the way things happened. “I am disappointed that none of my former colleagues have contacted me in this process except for the five minute phone call from Abbath’s manager in which I was told I would no longer be needed. I was told not to contact anyone in the band. The explanation for this had no substance and just made more questions and confusion for me. Up until then I had been preparing for the European tour as I had been told to do. I had to cancel other plans, and get time off work for the tour which I spent much time preparing for,” said Mia, also citing her comments to the media after the disastrous Abbath two-song concert in Argentina in 2019 as one of the probable reasons for being fired from the band.
Another amazing project where we were all able to enjoy Mia’s crushing bass lines between 2018 and 2019 was Tom G. Warrior’s Triumph Of Death, a tribute to his former group Hellhammer, consisting of playing the legendary music by Hellhammer from their three demos (Death Fiend, Triumph of Death and Satanic Rites) and the EP Apocalyptic Raids onstage after 37 years, starting in the summer of 2019. According to Tom and Mia, Triumph of Death is a Zurich, Switzerland-based open-ended project playing only select concerts and festivals, basically choosing the songs from the band’s small but rich catalog depending on how they felt at that moment, always open to change from time to time. When asked about how she felt playing those songs together with Tom and therefore continuing the legacy of one of the pioneers of Black Metal, she said it was a true honor for her as she’s been highly influenced by Hellhammer throughout her entire career, and you can see how happy Mia truly was by watching her interviews together with Tom in 2019 at some of the best metal festivals in the world such as Hellfest, Wacken Open Air and Brutal Assault, always talking about how it feels to play with Triumph of Death, the legacy of Hellhammer and why the name Hellhammer wasn’t used, as well as performing at the same time with Tom and Abbath. In addition, if you want to experience the music by Triumph of Death live, you can check some awesome live footage on YouTube such as the song Vision of Mortality at Kilkim Žaibu (the biggest ancient traditions and Extreme Metal festival in the Baltic States), Blood Insanityat Hellfest, Triumph of Death in Essen, Germany, or this full concert at Psycho Fest in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the United States.
Lastly, there’s one more metal project that’s worth mentioning, which is Swiss Goregrind/Death Metal band Embalming Theatre, where Mia didn’t play bass or keyboards, but instead she was the one responsible for crafting the intros and outros to pretty much all of their releases from 2000 until 2006, such as the intro, intermezzo and outro to the 2003 album Sweet Chainsaw Melodies, and the intro to the 2004 split Death Metal Karaoke/My Flesh Creeps at Insects. One curious thing is that if you go to the band’s official BandCamp page you’ll notice most of the albums there do not contain the intros and outros by Mia, and I have absolutely no idea why those pieces are missing. Anyway, Embalming Theatre are a very entertaining Goregrind act, with all of their albums being worth a shot with or without Mia’s insane collaboration.
Regarding her main influences and idols in music and in life in general, as mentioned a couple of times already she sees the iconic Tom G. Warrior as her master and mentor, even saying that “he is the one who unleashed the dormant beast inside me.” Without him, Mia said she would not have been able to effectively express her music and her creativity, complementing by saying her writing and composing process is very similar to his due to the huge influence his music has always had on her since her childhood, even before knowing him in person. According to our badass bassist, there would be no Black Metal without Tom, with his classic bands Hellhammer and Celtic Frost being obviously among her favorite metal acts of all time. Mia also mentioned in some of her interviews the huge influence she also had from Abbath himself, whose real name is Olve Eikemo, always acknowledging the humongous importance his former band Immortal has always had on the birth and evolution of our beloved Norwegian Black Metal. I guess even after being fired from Abbath’s solo band the way it happened, Mia still sees him as a legend and as a true inspiration, and I’m sure she’ll always keep those moments onstage with him among her best memories in her musical career. Furthermore, in regards to bass players, Mia always mentions the enigmatic and multi-talented Peter Steele (R.I.P.), the lead singer, bassist and composer for Gothic Metal band Type O Negative, as her personal bass hero, but she also said she has always been fascinated by the onstage charisma of Martin Eric Ain (R.I.P.), the former bassist for Extreme Metal titans Celtic Frost, proving Mia definitely knows how to choose her music idols.
Finally, as much as we all see Mia as the talented and indestructible Black Metal bass player that she is, needless to say she’s also a human being like the rest of us, having to handle her own issues and struggles just like any regular person. As you can see in this article by Blabbermouth from the end of February, Mia mentioned in a special and very personal Facebook post that the past few months have been the been the darkest and most painful period of her life, with all recent events leaving her physically and emotionally destroyed. “I tried to face hell trying not to crack, always holding hard in front of events which, daily, were destroying my soul and my emotions, unfortunately, also physically, by pushing up that strong Mia everyone knows,” she wrote, complementing that by saying that “these terrible experiences are always destructive, but they also left a positive note: the ability to see who stayed, who, day after day, try to be close to me, without judging me or making me feel wrong, without making me feel the weight of my reactions dictated by despair, but simply making me feel that even though Mia is going through a negative phase, something good in her is still there, holding my hands and telling me that it will pass, listening to my pain, drying my tears and looking for the best way not to make me collapse.These people are the people who love me, my family, the people to whom my gratitude and love will remain as long as I am alive, and to whom I will give all of myself, with my strength and, unfortunately, flaws.” Those were the honest and austere words by “the imperfect” Mia, who we all wish a quick and healthy recovery and, of course, who we wish to see on stage smashing our skulls with her thunderous bass as soon as possible.
May 6, 2020 UPDATE: As you can see HERE, the unrelenting Mia Wallace has just been announced as the new bass player for Brazilian all-female Thrash Metal band Nervosa! The band’s mastermind Prika Amaral couldn’t have made a better choice to take care of their bass duties! Congratulations, Mia!
Relive the glory of 90’s Black Metal by listening to “the third black book” diabolically brought into being by one of the most important names from the Brazilian extreme music scene.
Forged in the already distant year of 1993 in the blazing fires of Salvador, the capital of Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia, a malevolent Pagan/Black Metal unity that goes by the name of Eternal Sacrifice has been haunting our souls since their inception, aiming at delivering a detailed and obscure new concept inside the Pagan Black Metal genre and, therefore, creating their own unique sound from an amalgamation of influences and styles. Now in 2018 the horde comprised of M. T. L. H. Anton Naberius on vocals, Charles Lucxor Persponne on the guitar, Marquis Orias Snake also on the guitars and bass, Sado Baron Szandor Kastiphas on keyboards and Frater Deo Sóror Comite Ferro on drums is firing upon humanity their third concept album, entitled Ad Tertium Librum Nigrum, taking the Pagan Black Metal to a level never reached by another band in terms of sound and graphic production.
Featuring a Luciferian artwork by Brazilian designer Alan Luvarth and celebrating 25 years in the career of Eternal Sacrifice, Ad Tertivm Librvm Nigrvm, which by the way is Latin for “the third black book”, presents around one hour of malevolent sounds split into ten unrelenting new songs (all carrying fantastic names, by the way), consolidating the name of such distinct entity in the vanguard of the Brazilian Pagan Black Metal scene. “Ad Tertivm Librvm Nigrvm is the greatest proof that strength and perseverance always win; it is an album full of symbologies and spells, made exclusively for those who enjoy the songs of the left hand,” said the band’s frontman Naberius, positioning the album as an indispensable work for those who have experienced the glory of 90’s Black Metal, and for those who seek to know more about that golden age of extreme music.
Somber, smooth piano notes kick things off in the intro curiously titled Introiro, before the guitars by Charles and Orias generate an embracing atmosphere in The Three Mashu’s Seals – The Conquest of the Ganzir and Arzir Gates (Hazred Area), bringing the most melodic elements from modern-day Black Metal without losing their raw old school sonority, feeling like a hybrid of the early days of Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and Marduk, with the keys by Kastiphas adding an extra touch of malignancy to the musicality. And this Brazilian horde keeps invading our minds with their relentless and demonic music in the 8-minute Melodic Black Metal extravaganza The Vision of the Light of the Sculptures in the Monument of Mashu (The Black Book of Signs and Evil Spells), with Frater crushing his drums while Kastiphas keeps blasting ethereal sounds through his keys, all spearheaded by the Stygian and cryptic growls and vociferations by Naberius.
The Amulet, the Fire and the Seals of Wisdom in the Course of a Triple Life carries a stunning name for an Extreme Metal song, with the slashing riffs by Charles and Orias dictating its rhythm, while Naberius roars and gnarls like a true demonic entity throughout the entire song and Frater keeps the ambience as eerie and menacing as it can be with his drums. Then we have The Revelations of the First Sigil, Lucifer, After a Saga of Delusions and Battles, a mid-tempo tune where all band members fire blackened sounds and tones with highlights to the demented growls by Naberius, not to mention how in sync the band’s stringed duo is with Kastiphas’ phantasmagorical keys, and there’s no time to breathe as Eternal Sacrifice keep firing blasphemy in the form of Pagan Black Metal in When Angel of Light in Ur, in Invoking the Second Sign Agga, even more eccentric and devilish than its predecessors albeit not as gripping, despite getting back to a to a more violent and demolishing sonority in its final part.
Epic keys and guitars, unstoppable drums and a huge dosage of malignancy from Naberius’ otherworldly growls are the main ingredients in Nasha, Restitution of Double the Light (Luce) and Harmony (Fer) – Pagan’s Calls, a visceral fusion of Black and Pagan Metal setting fire to the atmosphere in a thrilling manner (not to mention how pulverizing Charles and Orias are with their infernal axes), followed by Interludium, an epic bridge that captivates our senses for their final blast of Epic and Pagan Black Metal titled The Emptiness, the Guard of the Sortileges and the Time in which the Dust Takes the Rites, starting with an acoustic guitar accompanied by the howling sound of the wind, and gradually morphing into some sort of obscure mass of old school Black Metal infused with Symphonic and Pagan Black Metal elements, with the music flowing like a frantic creature in the dark led by Naberius and his wicked vocalizations, until all fades into the Mephistophelian outro Prologum, an ode to Lucifer that puts a climatic, creepy and hellish end to such blasphemous album.
After all is said and done, Ad Tertium Librum Nigrum, available for a full listen on YouTube and on sale from the Hammer of Damnation’s BandCamp page or webstore, can indeed be considered a modern-day masterpiece in Pagan Black Metal, becoming even more important in the Brazilian scene due to the constant struggles every metal band has to face to survive in the country. Hence, don’t forget to show your support to Eternal Sacrifice by getting in touch with them through their Facebook page, by buying their new opus, and of course by enjoying reading (or I should say listening to) “the third black book” by this ruthless and demonic South American horde.
Best moments of the album:The Three Mashu’s Seals – The Conquest of the Ganzir and Arzir Gates (Hazred Area), The Amulet, the Fire and the Seals of Wisdom in the Course of a Triple Life and Nasha, Restitution of Double the Light (Luce) and Harmony (Fer) – Pagan’s Calls.
Worst moments of the album:When Angel of Light in Ur, in Invoking the Second Sign Agga.
Released in 2018 Hammer Of Damnation/Sangue Frio Records
1. Introiro 1:50
2. The Three Mashu’s Seals – The Conquest of the Ganzir and Arzir Gates (Hazred Area) 8:00
3. The Vision of the Light of the Sculptures in the Monument of Mashu (The Black Book of Signs and Evil Spells) 8:03
4. The Amulet, the Fire and the Seals of Wisdom in the Course of a Triple Life 6:27
5. The Revelations of the First Sigil, Lucifer, After a Saga of Delusions and Battles 5:12
6. When Angel of Light in Ur, in Invoking the Second Sign Agga 6:18
7. Nasha, Restitution of Double the Light (Luce) and Harmony (Fer) – Pagan’s Calls 7:59
8. Interludium 2:10
9. The Emptiness, the Guard of the Sortileges and the Time in which the Dust Takes the Rites 8:22
10. Prologum 3:08
M. T. L. H. Anton Naberius – vocals
Charles Lucxor Persponne – guitars
Marquis Orias Snake – guitars, bass
Sado Baron Szandor Kastiphas – keyboards
Frater Deo Sóror Comite Ferro – drums
Enjoy the story about the journey of a man, wandering old forgotten paths in search of nature and solitude, told by a newcomer German Epic and Pagan Black Metal hailing from the Thuringian Forest.
Founded in 2017 by vocalist and guitarist Grimwald (Dauþuz, Wintarnaht) and drummer, bassist and keyboardist Moppel to hail earth and iron, German horde Isgalder has just emerged from the Thuringian Forest with a splendid piece of Epic and Pagan Black Metal influenced by early Falkenbach and Bathory, titled To The Hall Of The Stars, their debut EP that tells a little story about the journey of a man (the journey to the hall of the stars), wandering old forgotten paths in search of nature and solitude. Comprised of three original songs taken from the band’s forthcoming album and alternate versions of those same songs, the EP will provide you a very good taste of what Isgalder, which by the way is Old-High-German/Germanic and means “cold incantation” or “icy chant”, are capable of. Furthermore, although Grimwald and Moppel played all instruments and vocal parts in the EP, Isgalder are now comprised of the aforementioned dynamic duo plus VRCHTR on rhythm guitar and Aussen Geist on bass, meaning we can definitely (and hopefully) expect to witness the extreme music by Isgalder be materialized in the form of one or more live concerts in the near future.
The keys by Moppel kick off the epic and imposing tune The Ravendale, bringing an interesting “duel” of clean vocals and harsh gnarls, also presenting piercing guitar lines and lyrics that exhale Folk and Pagan Metal (“On farthest shores, there rest my fate / Far from mankind, the morbid, the pale / Native is that soil; silent and primordial / Astute raven summon me, to the hidden vail / The Ravendale / Forgotten and forsaken / The Ravedale / In solitude awaken”), all topped off by a climatic finale. Elder Wisdom, a very detailed and melodic creation by the duo, already starts in full force, bringing elements from Atmospheric Black Metal to their core Pagan and Black Metal, with Grimwald growling and gnarling nonstop while Moppel delivers brutality through his beats and some sort of “peace” through his keys, all at once; and as atmospheric and dense as both previous songs, Soaring Mountains showcases an old school Black Metal base solidified by the band’s blast beats and scorching riffs, but with a strong Pagan Metal vein present in Grimwald’s growls and Moppel’s keys. Moreover, you’ll certainly feel compelled to sing its lyrics along with Isgalder (“Great soaring Mountains / Grey stone mystic monument / Arise against the sky / Wilderness defend”).
As already mentioned, side B of To The Hall Of The Stars contains an alternative version of the EP, without keyboards, varied vocals and a different mix. For instance, The Ravendale sounds rawer and more piercing, closer to traditional Black Metal, while Elder Wisdom is even more devastating and epic and Soaring Mountains goes straight-to-the-point as well, displaying an enhanced Black Metal vibe and feeling slightly less Pagan Metal. You can compare the regular and alternate versions of each song by listening to the full EP on YouTube, and don’t forget to follow Isgalder on Facebook and on YouTube. In a nutshell, To The Hall Of The Stars (on sale at the band’s own BandCamp, at the Hellthrasher Productions’ BandCamp, at the Naturmacht Productions’ BandCamp and at the Narbentage Produktionen’s BandCamp, as well as at Discogs in CD or cassette version) is a fantastic “appetizer” to what we can expect from Isgalder when they release their first full-length opus, and as soon as that happens we will be able to happily and willingly succumb to their cold incantations.
Best moments of the album: Elder Wisdom (both regular and alternate versions).
An unconventional album by three high-skilled musicians who want to share their inner Swedish darkness with others through their haunting mix of Black and Viking Metal with folk melodies from the deep forests of Jamtland.
Formed in 2013 in Gothenburg, the second-largest city in Sweden and the fifth-largest in the Nordic countries, and inspired by the traditional Folk, Viking and Black Metal creations by bands like Týr, Vintersorg and Woods of Ypres, Folk Metal band Himiltungl (which means “the fucking moon” in ancient Swedish) weaves a haunting mix of Black and Viking Metal with folk melodies from the deep forests of Jamtland, a historical province in the center of Sweden. The band consists of three high-skilled musicians who want to share their inner Swedish darkness with others, and in that way invoke a sense of dread, joy and wonder, primarily singing in Swedish and Jamtlandic with lyrics conflictingly revolving around the majesty of nature interspersed with reflections on the terminality of life and death.
If all that explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, simply hit play and enjoy the music found in Öden (which translates to “fates”), the long awaited follow-up to their debut album Svart Ravin, from 2013, telling stories of blood, loss and tragic ends while continuing to explore the folk-inspired path that was initiated with their first album, always moving towards heavier and more progressive sounds. Each song will sound completely different to your ears, sometimes bursting with anger and aggressiveness, sometimes being as smooth as the sound of a placid lake, and that’s exactly what Himiltungl wants you to feel while listening to Öden. This is not your average Folk Metal album, so you better sharpen your senses for the freakish amalgamation of sounds and emotions found in Öden in order to understand what the Folk Metal by Himiltungl truly means.
In Myrens Gäst, the trio starts blasting their dark music with folk elements from the very beginning, with the somber vocals by Jens being complemented by the also melancholic voice by Magnus. It’s quite difficult to label this as only one subgenre of heavy music, but I would personally say it sounds like some sort of “Melodic Dark Folk Metal”. Anyway, in The Dying War, one of the few songs in English from the album, Jens and his hellish gnarls perfectly fit the unusual and modern Folk Metal instrumental, with drummer Mattias bringing the necessary groove and progressiveness to the musicality. And Skogstokig brings forward Scandinavian guitar lines and minstrel-like vocals in a very traditional folk way, with its last part getting more metallic with potent riffs and beats alternating with harmonious vocalizations.
Paying homage to their tribal roots, the band offers the listener Eldsjäl, a touching blend of Folk Metal and ancient soundings where both Jens and Magnus deliver passionate performances on vocals, with some harsher moments to spice up the final result; followed by Shadows Crowd, their most contemporary composition, getting closer to Blackened Folk Metal. Mattias and Magnus craft the base to this melancholic and powerful chant with their beats and bass lines, while Jens once again delivers solid vocal lines throughout the entire song. In Kung Jorum a melancholic intro flows into heavier traditional music with all folk elements sounding crystal clear, also presenting interesting acoustic passages, whereas in Cerebration Gate an inspiring beginning quickly morphs into a mid-tempo Folk Metal hymn, presenting raspier gnarls by Jens and heavier guitar lines. This is in my opinion one of the best songs of the album, showcasing an effective combination of progressiveness and feeling.
In Tångsal, a song made to be played and sung around the fire pit, Jens grasps the song’s lyrics like a demonic entity while the instrumental parts feel like a blend of Folk and Pagan Metal with hints of Black Metal, before Sökaren brings forward medieval and folk elements added to its heavy and electrified guitars, with the backing vocals as well as the precise drumming by Mattias elevating the overall quality of the song. And Glöd, their most complex aria and the longest of all tracks at almost nine minutes, displays over two minutes of distorted noises before the music reaches its final shape and tone. Moreover, when the guitar by Jens gets heavier than usual, the song gets a lot more obscure and impactful.
Urmoder not only has an excellent pace and intensity, but the symphonic elements present in it also bring more darkness to the overall musicality, with all band members delivering a precise performance (in special Mattias with his potent and rhythmic beats) in what’s one of the most gripping of all songs. Ivolin, another blast of Folk and Pagan Metal, proves that when Himiltungl craft their modern and heavy version of minstrel-like music they effectively reflect their core essence and their inspirations; and in the introspective Hatarens Sång, minimalist guitar sounds generate the ambience for Jens and his bandmates to tell a story through their grim vocals, with all instruments being progressively added to the music for a climatic ending.
After listening to the multilayered Öden, available on iTunes and on Amazon, you’ll certainly agree with what I said in the beginning of this review about how difficult it is to label the music by this up-and-coming Swedish trio. You can definitely try giving a name or definition to their music, by studying more about the band and their creations through their Facebook page, YouTube channel, BandCamp and SoundCloud. As previously mentioned, I like to call their music as “Melodic Dark Folk Metal”, simply because it is indeed very melodic, constantly dark and always folk, but anything I say won’t be enough to describe their unconventional canticles.
Best moments of the album: Shadows Crowd, Cerebration Gate and Urmoder.
One of the most respected underground musicians from Germany returns with more of his nature-themed, medieval style Black Metal bound to pagan roots and tribalism in another remarkable album.
Since its creation in 2002 by German multi-instrumentalist Niklas “Nerrath”, Teutonic one-man army Horn has aimed at creating nature-themed, medieval style Black Metal bound to pagan roots, focusing on the relation of man and nature in a regional context. And this excellent project, hailing from Paderborn, a city in eastern North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, has been extremely successful in its journey, delivering high-end extreme music always with a meaningful concept behind it and always singing in its mother tongue German. Now, in the beginning of 2017, we have Horn’s seventh studio album, the folk, dynamic opus Turm Am Hang.
Inspired by the classic German folk song “Es ist ein Schnitter”, from the 17th century, as well as lansquenets (a gambling game of German origin), wars of the past, tribalism and the spirit of masculinity, Turm Am Hang will stimulate your most primeval senses with its distinctive ambience and powerful music. Furthermore, the artwork, layout and visual concept, all brought forth by German illustrator Timon Kokott, perfectly visualize the album’s combined musical and lyrical themes, complementing the already thrilling experience of listening to the music crafted by Nerrath.
After a pleasant folk intro in the opening track, titled Alles in einem Schnitt (which would translate as “everything in one cut”), Nerrath offers us his thrilling Black Metal with Folk and Pagan Metal elements, all sung in German as aforementioned to make things even more aggressive, not to mention the uniqueness of his tribal and stylish guitar lines. The title-track Turm am Hang (“tower on slope”) also begins in a serene way, again exploding into what can be called Blackened Folk Metal, with Nerrath blasting his enraged growls, potent beats and blazing, rhythmic riffs; followed by Verhallend in Landstrichen (“ranging in landscapes”), with the folk elements in the background adding a lot of epicness to the musicality together with its menacing drums. Furthermore, simply close your eyes and you will be able to feel all the energy flowing from the folkloristic sounds generated by Nerrath in this brilliant composition.
A song with an impactful name like Die mit dem Bogen auf dem Kreuz (“the one with the bow on the cross”) couldn’t sound less amazing than this, with its somber intro being gradually joined by guitars until all becomes an Extreme Metal extravaganza, perfect for drinking a few pints of beer together with your friends. Ä(h)renschnitter (“spices”) kicks off at full speed, with Nerrath going berserk with his fast-paced beats and riffs while powerfully vociferating the song’s lyrics at the same time. Moreover, hints of old school German Punk Rock are a very welcome addition to the overall musicality, enhancing the song’s effectiveness. And in Totenräumer (“Mortimer”), a fantastic fast-paced creation by Nerrath, our one-man army is startling on vocals, giving life to the song’s epic lyrics. Leaning towards sheer Pagan Metal, it never slows down, keeping the listener fully entertained from start to finish.
The eerie instrumental Lanz und Spieß (“lance and spear”) works as an intro for Bastion, im Seegang tauber Fels (“bastion, in the sea of deaf rock”), a voyage through the realms of experimental and atmospheric extreme music, bringing forward elements of Black and Pagan Metal with an obscure rhythm. Ad lastly, as a “bonus” Nerrath offers the listener his excellent version for The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way, a melancholic and introspective journey of ambient music by American Ambient Black Metal band When Bitter Spring Sleeps, from their 2013 album Coven of the Wolves. Not only this is the only song in English in the album, but it also features guest vocals by American Lord Sardonyx, the mastermind behind When Bitter Spring Sleeps himself.
In order to enjoy everything Nerrath and his amazing project Horn have to offer, simply follow his steps on Facebook, and go to Horn’s BandCamp page or Big Cartel to grab your copy of Turm am Hang. As mentioned before, the experience of listening to an album by Horn is beyond unique, connecting you to the pagan and tribal origins of man and embraced all the time by superior metal music. As this is always the main goal of ambient and experimental extreme music, I must say Turm am Hang triumphs brilliantly hands down.
Best moments of the album: Alles in einem Schnitt, Verhallend in Landstrichen and Totenräumer.
Worst moments of the album:Bastion, im Seegang tauber Fels.
Released in 2017 Iron Bonehead/Northern Silence Productions
Track listing 1. Alles in einem Schnitt 5:42
2. Turm am Hang 5:09
3. Verhallend in Landstrichen 5:10
4. Die mit dem Bogen auf dem Kreuz 5:00
5. Ä(h)renschnitter 5:35
6. Totenräumer 5:34
7. Lanz und Spieß 2:09
8. Bastion, im Seegang tauber Fels 4:44
9. The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way (When Bitter Spring Sleeps cover) 8:12
Band members Nerrath – vocals, all instruments
Guest musician Lord Sardonyx – additional vocals on “The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way”
Enjoy a feast of dark, symphonic and dense metal music, crafted by a talented Russian multi-instrumentalist and his loyal and dynamic duo of guitarists.
Oriented in Dark Metal on one side and chamber music on another, Russian metallers Atonismen will surprise you with the density, professionalism and comprehensiveness of their music. Formed earlier this year by Russian singer and multi-instrumentalist Alexander Orso in the charming and historical city of Saint Petersburg, Atonismen fire a precise amalgamation of the darkest elements from Doom and Gothic Metal with choir-like sounds and an epic atmosphere surrounding everything in their debut EP, titled Wise Wise Man, offering the listener a unique experience in heavy music and a journey through the realms of Symphonic Metal.
The high level of professionalism in Wise Wise Man can be noticed not only through the amazing skills of Alexander and his crew, but also on the overall production of the album, very crisp and full of layers thanks to the top-notch job done by Russian musician Sergey “Lazar” Atrashkevich (Arkona), who produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the EP at CDM Records. And the band is already reaping the rewards of such dedication to their music, supporting renowned bands such as The 69 Eyes, Sonic Syndicate and Graveworm in Moscow, and joining the tour of well-known Russian folk band Izmoroz in their homeland. After taking a good listen at the eight distinct tracks of Wise Wise Man, you’ll see they more than deserve that recent but amazing success.
In the excellent Almagest, an atmospheric intro explodes intro bold Symphonic Metal with hints of Black and Pagan Metal added to increase its epicness, with keyboards and drums leading this electric tune while Mr. Orso blasts his strong and powerful voice perfect for this type of music. Their Dark Metal vein gets stronger in the mesmerizing composition Sorry, where guitarists Alexander Senyushin and Child Catherine beautifully add the word “metal” to it through their potent and aggressive riffs. Furthermore, Mr. Orso is a wrecking machine on drums, delivering exactly what heavy and atmospheric metal music needs to be great. My Tale brings forward a beautiful dose of melancholy to the album, with Mr. Orso also thriving with his passionate clean vocals while a dark ambience embraces the listener in this lovable power ballad, not to mention the potency provided by the astounding guest choir Silver Voice.
The title-track Wise Wise Man is a full-bodied Dark Metal song the likes of Moonspell with vicious guitar lines by the stunning Child Catherine and the competent Alexander Senyushin, again with keyboard notes bringing more mystery to the musicality; whereas Wiegenlied, the German word for “lullaby”, is a somber ballad full of traditional folk elements and an eerie rhythm that enfolds the listener before a sonic havoc named In Timeless Clamor comes crushing mercilessly. The metallic bass lines by Mr. Orso and the flammable riffs by the band’s guitar duo are amazingly heavy, sounding almost like sheer Black Metal at times, with vocals reminding me of the iconic Fernando Ribeiro thanks to their passion and violence. And I’m not sure if the last two songs can be considered bonus tracks or not, but we’re treated to two alternative versions for the title-track “Wise Wise Man”. The dark mix is very electronic and could easily be part of the soundtrack of a movie or played at a Halloween party, while the industrial mix is an upbeat and thrilling blend of heavy and electronic music, another perfect choice for providing a horror flick an extra touch of wickedness.
Enjoying and supporting the symphonic and extreme creations of Atonismen is quite easy, as all you have to do is visit their Facebook, VKontakte, YouTube channel and SoundCloud, as well as buy your copy of Wise Wise Man at their official BandCamp page. This feast of dense and symphonic Extreme Metal, beautifully engendered by Mr. Orso and his loyal guitar duo, was made to be relished and admired by all fans of the dark side of music, cementing a very promising start in their career in Heavy Metal.
Best moments of the album: Sorry and Wise Wise Man.
Worst moments of the album:Wiegenlied.
Released in 2016 Independent
Track listing 1. Almagest 7:31
2. Sorry 7:21
3. My Tale 8:51
4. Wise Wise Man 5:29
5. Wiegenlied 3:50
6. In Timeless Clamor 5:13
7. Wise Wise Man (dark mix) 5:51
8. Wise Wise Man (industrial mix) 5:30
Band members Alexander Orso – all instruments, vocals
Alexander Senyushin – guitars
Child Catherine – guitars
Welcome to Metachthonia, the electric and modern world crafted by an amazing Folk and Melodic Black Metal band from Canada.
Metachthonia: (meh-tah-KTHOH-nee-ah) n. [< A.Grk meta- ‘after’ + chthoni- (stem of chthon ‘earth’ + -ios adj. suffix) + -a;] 1. the epoch after the age of the earth; this current electric age.
Dear metalheads from all over the world, welcome to Metachthonia, the brand new concept album by Canadian Folk/Melodic Black Metal act Thrawsunblat. Metachthonia is ancient Greek for “the age after that of the Earth”, referring to today’s modern world where we find ourselves under fluorescent light more often than sunlight, and so yearn for the natural world. Firing a unique blend of Folk and Black Metal inspired by bands such as Amon Amarth, Borknagar and Ensiferum, being even labeled as “Folkened Black Metal”, this extremely talented band from the city of Fredericton, the capital of the province of New Brunswick, puts no limits to their creations, offering the listener an eccentric and fresh version of extreme music that will captivate you from start to finish.
Formed in 2009 by multi-instrumentalist Joel Violette (ex-guitarist for Woods of Ypres) as a side project together with David Gold, the lead singer and drummer for Woods of Ypres, and having released their debut album named Canada 2010 that same year, Thrawsunblat became Joel’s main band following David’s tragic death in December 2011 as a result of an automobile accident. In 2013, the band released their second album, entitled Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings, already featuring Brendan Hayter on bass and Rae Amitay on drums, as well as fiddler Jeff Mott (and obviously Joel), presenting a more complex side of their music. Now in Metachthonia (which by the way has each one of its songs divided in three parts as you can see HERE), not only Jeff and his fiddle were replaced by cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, but the band also decided to venture through darker paths, sounding more blackened than before and, therefore, more intense and thrilling.
The 11-minute hymn Fires That Light the Earth is a beautiful start to the album. Although the strong sound of the cello is very captivating, it’s when the music explodes into the “Folkened Black Metal” proposed by the band, with Rae setting fire to the music with his bestial beats while Joel is anger incarnate, that the journey truly takes off. In addition, the clean vocals add epicness to the musicality, with the guitar lines by Joel and the bass lines by Brendan creating an ocean of sounds and vibrations. When the smoother and more melodic She Who Names the Stars begins, Joel and his crew are waiting for the listener at Metachtonia with arms wide open (“All you, welcome to Metachthonia. / It’s like the rustle of leaf to ground against the industrial sound. / All you, welcome to Metachthonia. / It’s like the sun on your skin while the diodes draw you in.”), with the cello by Raphael providing a good balance with Rae’s furious drumming. The music flows flawlessly throughout the almost ten minutes of the song, arising all types of emotions until its harmonious ending.
In Dead of Winter, a short choir-like intro morphs into sheer madness, a Blackened Folk Metal feast where Joel and Rae steal the spotlight with their awesome harsh growls/clean vocals alternation and infernal beats, respectively. It’s interesting how they prepare the listener for the sudden eruptions of Extreme Metal, with acoustic folk sounds bursting into an avalanche of blackened music. Hypochthonic Remnants is more violent and visceral than all previous tracks, mainly due to the thunderous guitar lines by Joel, enhanced by the song’s endless progressiveness and the hints of traditional Heavy Metal and even Power Metal added to its main riff. Furthermore, its second part is a solid blend of the Folk Metal by Ensiferum with the darkened sonority of Borknagar and Old Man’s Child, which then flows into an melancholic acoustic ending.
Tribal drums ignite another obscure voyage of progressive folk music named Rivers of Underthought, the least violent of all songs where the unique sound of the cello by Raphael yet again adds a lot of beauty to the overall result. It’s a lot more inclined to the harmony of Folk and Pagan Metal than to the savagery of Extreme Metal, all embraced by a strong progressive ambience during the song’s almost nine minutes. And finally, In Mist We Walk kicks off in devastation mode, with the sound of the guitar by Joel together with the galloping bass lines by Brendan not leaving a single space empty in the music. Its second piece is pure high-octane Pagan Metal with atmospheric and acoustic passages, whereas its third part is made for enjoying the excellence of its lyrics (“I walk the banks of the stream of electric thought. / I cross to the warmth of where I once was. / I look down to see a sixfold flame in hand. / Sing me the dark songs of Chthonia. / Sing life immense in passion and pulse.”).
The fantastic concept of Metachthonia can be explored in more detail at the band’s official Facebook page, and if you want to provide your full support to such a distinct band you can purchase the album (which can be relished in its entirety HERE) at their BandCamp page. The electric and modern world of Metachthonia presented by Thrawsunblat might seem really dangerous at times, but we must admit it’s a lot easier to face any type of challenge or fear when the music behind it is as awesome as what’s found in this classy and multilayered album.
Best moments of the album: Fires That Light the Earth and Dead of Winter.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2016 Ignifera Records/Broken Limbs
Track listing 1. Fires That Light the Earth 11:01
2. She Who Names the Stars 9:33
3. Dead of Winter 9:50
4. Hypochthonic Remnants 8:32
5. Rivers of Underthought 8:56
6. In Mist We Walk 11:56
Band members Joel Violette – vocals, guitars
Brendan Hayter – bass
Raphael Weinroth-Browne – cello
Rae Amitay – drums, additional vocals on “Dead of Winter”
If your fearless heart claims for top-notch Epic Folk Metal, you’ll definitely enjoy this excellent compilation of songs perfect for your mead-drinking and mud-fighting parties.
Although I couldn’t see Pagan/Folk Metal squad Winterhymn kicking ass live during Paganfest America Part V here in Toronto in 2014 due to traffic issues (as you can read HERE), I went after their music to get to know more about this American sextet, and let me tell you I was impressed with the energy, passion and creativity flowing from their symphonic and progressive compositions. With that said, I guess I don’t need to mention how excited I got when I received their brand new album for review, the melodious Blood & Shadow, right?
Since their inception in 2009, these folk metallers from Cincinnati, Ohio have been bringing the epicness of Celtic and Scandinavian Folk sounds to the United States, starting with their 2011 debut album Songs for the Slain until this year’s Blood & Shadow, also sharing the stage with renowned names like Eluveitie, Turisas, Chthonic, Arkona and many others. Featuring a beautiful and sanguinary artwork by Irish artist Vasilis Zikos, reflecting a scene from Winterhymn’s personal mythos (which the album is entirely based upon), Blood & Shadow is the soundtrack for drinking lots of mead and getting in random fights in the mud around a bonfire, all embraced by the undeniable talent of four brave lads and two stunning maidens.
Blending elements from Folk and Black Metal with hints of Power Metal, the melodic battle chant Blood of the Moon kicks off the album on a high note by bringing forward a very epic rhythm with highlights to the mesmerizing sound by violinist Umbriel, followed by Dream of Might, which leans towards pure Folk Metal. Albeit slower than the opening track, it still offers a high dosage of epicness, with the vocals by lead singer and guitarist Draug being perfectly complemented by the pounding drums by Valthrun and the once again incredible violin sounds by Umbriel. And the outstanding Pagan Metal composition Blood Burner is one of those songs tailored for fans of vicious battle chants who love to slam into the circle pit with a pint of cold beer in hand, with Draug and Varrik providing some exciting riffs and solos while Valthrun doesn’t let the amazing energy in the music go down.
Less violent and with a more progressive flow (but still very impactful), Legacy in Flames offers lyrics about the everyday life of a warrior nicely declaimed by Draug and bassist Alvadar (“We hunt our prey / With our last breath / By the sanguine moon / Through realms of death / So curse our name / You’ll be slaughtered all the same / Your legacy in flames”), with its last part being highly recommended for prancing around a fire pit with a pint of mead; whereas The Summoning displays a higher focus on Death Metal guttural vocals while instrumental is purely Folk Metal, a good balance that works well for a while but that unfortunately falls flat close to the end of it. Seafarer, a “Middle Earth-inspired song”, is a semi-acoustic ballad where violin and acoustic guitars generate the perfect atmosphere for Draug and his clean vocals, a soulful break from the band’s traditional battle hymns before Silenced by the Northern Winds gets back to brutal folk music with Draug leading the band’s onrush with his imposing growls, boosted by an excellent guitar solo to properly conclude this thrilling tune.
In Shadow We Ride, another classic Folk Metal tune by Winterhymn, offers the listener slower beats and a fighting vibe, with its second half getting slightly heavier and, consequently, adding some extra flavor to the overall result (especially the potent bass lines by Alvadar). And in Huntsman, a serene intro morphs into brutal Pagan Metal, with its lyrics being everything a fan of this type of music loves (“They marched across the Iron Jaw with sword and helm / Seeking fabled woodland doorways to the twilight realms / The proudest of their captains are now hunted like boars / Their banners lie in gory pools upon the forest floor”). Moreover, all instruments sound potent and sharp, accrediting it to be one of the best songs of the new album for their live performances.
The final triad of Folk Metal in Blood & Shadow begins with the electrifying The Wolf’s Head, where Death and Power Metal elements arise. The song’s riffs and solos, together with the precise drumming by Valthrun, set the music on fire, with both guttural and clean vocals and the background sonority crafted by Umbriel and Exura on violin and keyboards, respectively, being absolutely outstanding. Into the Depths shows the whole band still has enough fuel for more Epic Pagan Metal, which after a solid intro gets heavier than almost everything from the album, not to mention the heroic singing by Draug. And lastly, Umbriel dictates the rhythm through her fast and melodious violin in The Chosen End, where all band members unite to provide the listener a full-bodied composition overflowing courage, passion and pain, a climatic ending for such a professional album.
Best moments of the album: Blood Burner, Silenced by the Northern Winds and The Wolf’s Head.
Worst moments of the album:The Summoning.
Released in 2016 SoundAge Productions
Track listing 1. Blood of the Moon 3:48
2. Dream of Might 3:59
3. Blood Burner 3:19
4. Legacy in Flames 4:51
5. The Summoning 4:12
6. Seafarer 3:20
7. Silenced by the Northern Winds 6:53
8. In Shadow We Ride 4:47
9. Huntsman 5:23
10. The Wolf’s Head 3:39
11. Into the Depths 6:25
12. The Chosen End 4:31
Band members Draug – vocals, lead guitar
Varrik – guitar
Alvadar – bass, backing vocals
Exura – keyboards
Umbriel – violin
Valthrun – drums