Album Review – Skverna Liniya / In a Garland of Wax (2021)

Behold the debut full-length album by this uncanny Russian Progressive and Atmospheric Black Metal entity, representing the breakdown of the worldview, spiritual torments and the path of self-destruction.

Forged in the fires of Voronezh, a city on the Voronezh River in southwestern Russia, Progressive/Atmospheric Black Metal entity Skverna Liniya (or Скверна Линия, which translates from Russian as something like “dirty line”) is set to unleash upon humanity their debut full-length album In a Garland of Wax (or В венке из воска), following up on their 2020 EP Snowfall. Mixed and mastered by Mikhail Kurochkin and displaying a stylish artwork by innersys32, In a Garland of Wax is based on the lyrics of Boris Poplavsky (1903-1935), a Russian poet in exile whose work was focused on the soul’s withering and searching in a hostile environment, loneliness and fear in coming into contact with reality. Representing the breakdown of the worldview, spiritual torments and the path of self-destruction, the album is a must-listen for all admirers of atmospheric and extreme music, carefully brought into being by multi-instrumentalists Sergey Chirkov and Andrey Pospelov supported by guest musicians Roman Graver on harsh vocals, Konstantin Bers on clean vocals and Ivan Salo on drums.

The Rustle of Smoldering Life (Шорох тлеющей жизни) sounds and feels atmospheric and enfolding from the very first note, with Ivan and Roman kicking some ass with their respective beats and roars, therefore providing Sergey and Andrey all they need to thrive with their riffage (not to mention the song’s ethereal finale), whereas How Cold It Is. The Empty Soul Keeps Silence… (Как холодно. Молчит душа пустая…) already begins in full force with Roman screaming rabidly nonstop while the strident, piercing riffs by the band’s guitar duo add a touch of progressiveness to the music, resulting in a modern-day Black Metal extravaganza spiced up by the phantasmagorical clean vocals by Konstantin. Then get ready for over seven minutes of first-class Atmospheric Black Metal made in Russia in Green Horror (Зеленый ужас), showcasing a somber ambience to the sound of the crisp guitars by Sergey and Andrey while Roman roars manically for our total delight. The Sunset Blazed O’er The Madhouse… (Пылал закат над сумасшедшим домом…) brings forward sheer devastation and progressiveness, with Ivan sounding infuriated behind his drums accompanied by the thunderous bass punches by Sergey, flowing into an instrumental and utterly atmospheric Interlude (Интерлюдия) that will captivate our senses before the band crushes our souls one last time with the instrumental aria titled In Forgotten Wide Spaces (На забытых просторах), where the keys by Sergey bring a touch of finesse to their Doom Metal-infused sonority.

If you want to know more about this up-and-coming entity hailing from Mother Russia, go check what they’re up to on their official Facebook page, and of course don’t forget to also show your utmost support to the Russian underground by purchasing your copy of In a Garland of Wax from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Beverina Productions’ BandCamp page, from the Casus Belli Musica’s BandCamp page, or from the BMC Productions’ BandCamp page. And after putting your hands on such dense and enfolding album of extreme music, get ready to be dragged into the Stygian realms ruled by Skverna Liniya for all eternity, and have your soul consumed by darkness while you follow this musical one-way path to self-destruction.

Best moments of the album: The Rustle of Smoldering Life and The Sunset Blazed O’er The Madhouse…

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Casus Belli Musica/Beverina Productions

Track listing
1. The Rustle of Smoldering Life (Шорох тлеющей жизни) 6:14
2. How Cold It Is. The Empty Soul Keeps Silence… (Как холодно. Молчит душа пустая…) 4:22
3. Green Horror (Зеленый ужас) 7:30
4. The Sunset Blazed O’er The Madhouse… (Пылал закат над сумасшедшим домом…) 5:55
5. Interlude (Интерлюдия) 2:03
6. In Forgotten Wide Spaces (На забытых просторах) 8:17

Band members
Sergey Chirkov – guitars, bass, keys
Andrey Pospelov – guitars, additional bass on “The Rustle of Smoldering Life”

Guest musicians
Roman Graver – harsh vocals
Konstantin Bers – clean vocals
Ivan Salo – drums

Album Review – Goatchrist / Apotheosis (2020)

One of UK’s most innovative underground acts returns with a multi-layered and very experimental concept album representing a hugely-modified musical retelling of the Books of Enoch.

One year after the release of the excellent Pythagoras and after unleashing upon humanity a series of non-metal albums in 2020, those being Revelations of the Gnostic Christ, The Philosopher’s Hand and more recently Goatchrist, Leeds, UK’s own vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Guilherme (or J. Guilherme if you prefer) and his Experimental Black Metal alter-ego Goatchrist are back with another imposing opus entitled Apotheosis, a concept album representing a hugely-modified musical retelling of the Books of Enoch, apocryphal magical texts from antiquity. Following the story of Edris, who leaves his hometown due to his perception of its absolute wickedness in order to find a city of divinely-acting inhabitants, Apotheosis showcases once again the undeniable talent of J. Guilherme, this time accompanied by D. Tann and guests A. Billingham and R. Shipley providing several different voices to give life to all characters involved in the story, inviting the listener to join Goatchrist in another detailed and very entertaining musical voyage.

Stygian guitars permeate the air in the cryptic intro Prologue – From a People Lost… while Jacob begins declaiming its cryptic words, warming us up for the absolutely experimental and progressive Chapter 1 – …unto the Wilderness, Seeking the City of Divine Beings (מַלְכוּת), where its lyrics couldn’t have been darker and more poetic than what they already are (“I am born from great evil, / My mind has dwelt in sin. / I have not mind or heart, / As awakened cantors deep within.”), blending Progressive Metal with heavier sounds and non-metal styles and, therefore, turning it into a beyond amazing ride for fans of all types of rock and metal music. And continuing his path of experimentations and metaphysical philosophies, Jacob and his Goatchrist offer another epic composition titled Chapter 2 – Hark! Appeareth (מֶטָטְרוֹן), where all guitars, drums, keys and orchestrations generate a bold ambience for his demonic gnarls, resulting in a progressive and sharp hybrid of Cradle of Filth and Opeth. Then a very theatrical start kicks off the 11-minute aria Chapter 3 – Five Archangels, bringing to our ears classic piano and keys, deep guttural vociferations and sluggish, Doom Metal-inspired beats, also presenting Jazz-y moments, endless breaks and variations and an enfolding atmosphere from start to finish, not to mention the amazing job done by guest R. Shipley as the voices of Gabriel and Michael.

Chapter 4 – I Am That Which Is Called ‘I Am’ (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה) brings forward another round of Goatchrist’s wicked words (“[0] “No-thing” is that which exists, / And at the start, is that which is. / But from “thing-ness” it is disjoint, / And thus contracts to a single point.”) while the music is once again an explosion of countless rock, metal and other distinguished styles, with Jacob firing classic bass lines, soulful guitar solos and his trademark growling. Put differently, it can’t get any more experimental, multi-layered and dynamic than this. Or maybe it can, as Chapter 5 – Reborn unto Paradise (כֶּתֶר in Microcosm) blends elements from Ambient, Shoegazing and Atmospheric Black Metal to Goatchrist’s core Experimental Metal, resulting in a musical voyage where all voices by Jacob, D. Tann and A. Billingham make the whole experience even more enthralling and detailed. Furthermore, it’s interesting how Jacob meticulously added tons of idiosyncratic sounds in the background while at the same time keeping the whole song very cohesive and smooth, growing in intensity until its visceral and beast-like grand finale.

Needless to say, Jacob and his always electrifying Goatchrist managed to surprise us one more time with the high quality of the music and the exceptional concept found in his new album Apotheosis, and after so many top-notch releases in a row and in such a short period of time one can never know where the project will go from now on, which lands and storylines Jacob will explore, nor what types of music styles will be incorporated into his unique compositions. Hence, don’t forget to follow Goatchrist on Facebook, to listen to more of the project’s music on Spotify, and to purchase a copy of Apotheosis from Goatchrist’s own BandCamp page or from Amazon, keeping in mind the BandCamp download will also include two publications, one called “The Magical Key to Understanding the Album ‘Apotheosis’”, and another one titled “Third Book of Enoch”, just to give you an idea of how focused and detailed-oriented Jacob is whenever his mind begins paving the next step in the career of Goatchrist. Are you curious to know what happens to Edris in Apotheosis? Well, why don’t you let Jacob tell you that through the very distinguished music by Goatchrist? I’m sure you’ll get addicted to all of his sonic experimentations, just like what he has to offer in Apotheosis.

Best moments of the album: Chapter 1 – …unto the Wilderness, Seeking the City of Divine Beings (מַלְכוּת) and Chapter 5 – Reborn unto Paradise (כֶּתֶר in Microcosm).

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Prologue – From a People Lost… 2:12
2. Chapter 1 – …unto the Wilderness, Seeking the City of Divine Beings 9:53
3. Chapter 2 – Hark! Appeareth 7:13
4. Chapter 3 – Five Archangels 11:23
5. Chapter 4 – I Am That Which Is Called ‘I Am’ 9:41
6. Chapter 5 – Reborn unto Paradise (כֶּתֶר in Microcosm) 17:11

Band members
J. Guilherme – all instruments, narration, voices of יהוה, Uriel, Raphael and Lucifer
D. Tann – voices of Edris, מֶטָטְרוֹן and Lucifer

Guest musicians
A. Billingham – voices of Sophia and Lucifer
R. Shipley – voices of Michael and Gabriel

Album Review – Vyrion / Nil (2020)

A fantastic concept album of bone-crushing Black Metal made in Australia, telling the stories of civilizations from the cradle to their eradication by disease.

With Black N’ Roll rotting its heart, Nil, the brand new opus by Brisbane, Australia-based Progressive Black Metal horde Vyrion, brings a relentless bone-crushing, soul-fucking, thrashing element to the otherwise intricate formula the band comprised of Dale Williams on vocals and lead guitars, Mark Boyce also on the guitars, Mitch Rogers on bass and vocals, and James Daly on drums perfected on their 2014 album Geo. A concept album telling the stories of civilizations from the cradle to their eradication by disease, Nil takes all prisoners on a vivid journey, basking in the glory of our war-mongering past and looking eagerly towards our decrepit future, all embraced by the distinctive, aggressive and progressive Extreme Metal carefully (and furiously) crafted by this four-piece Black Metal entity who has been on a constant rise since their inception in 2007, having already carved their name in the history of Australian underground metal.

The piercing riffage by Dale and Mark ignites the furious Beleaguered, leaning towards classic Black Metal with James showing no mercy at all for his drum set (and consequently for our necks), but of course presenting the band’s core progressiveness and harmony, and more of their metallic wall of sounds will hammer our cranial skulls in Squall, a lesson in Progressive Black Metal spearheaded by Dale and Mark’s Stygian guitars, with Mitch and James generating a menacing atmosphere with their infernal kitchen. Then we have Avalanche, which as the name already states is an avalanche of old school Black Metal the likes of Dark Funeral and the early days of Enslaved infused with Progressive Black and Doom Metal, with Dale sounding like a creature from the abyss with his demonic gnarls, and you better get ready for another fulminating exhibit of the band’s undisputed talent and deep passion for Extreme Metal in Erupt, a mid-tempo feast of Black and Doom Metal where James provides hellish but at the same time very detailed beats throughout the entire song.

Time for a one-way voyage to the pits of the underworld to the sound of the 8-minute aria Crave, where all band members are on fire with their razor-edged riffs, rumbling bass punches and crisp drums, therefore inspiring you to bang your head nonstop and succumb to their otherworldly, venomous music; whereas atmospheric sounds are suddenly enfolded by an incendiary riffage in Monuments, where Dale couldn’t have sounded more bestial on vocals, resulting in the the epitome of Australian Black Metal, sounding and feeling menacing and thrilling form start to finish. In the vile and grim Dethrone the band brings forward their classic sonority with James delivering sheer brutality on drums accompanied by the once again flammable riffs and solos by the band’s guitar duo, albeit a bit generic compared to the rest of the album, and last but not least Vyrion darken the skies one final time with Infect, starting in a Stygian way before morphing into a neck-breaking Black Metal hymn where James once again takes the lead with his unstoppable drumming until the song’s cryptic ending.

After all is said and done, the hellish, blackened sounds blasted by Vyrion in Nil definitely deserve our respect and appreciation, as those Australian black metallers are not only extremely talented and focused, but the way they managed to transform such interesting concept into extreme music is also beyond outstanding. Hence, keep an eye on all things Vyrion by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and grab your copy of Nil from their own BandCamp page to show your true support to Black Metal from Down Under. As it seems like humanity will never learn with the mistakes and issues that caused civilizations to crumble into pieces throughout history, there’s nothing left for us to do but to enjoy the first-class, eye-opening Black Metal played by bands like Vyrion, pointing to a bright future for such amazing Australian horde and, unfortunately, to an even darker and more frightening destiny for our rotten and decaying world.

Best moments of the album: Squall, Erupt and Monuments.

Worst moments of the album: Dethrone.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Beleaguered 6:25
2. Squall 4:57
3. Avalanche 6:25
4. Erupt 3:18
5. Crave 8:01
6. Monuments 6:49
7. Dethrone 6:42
8. Infect 5:24

Band members
Dale Williams – vocals, lead guitars
Mark Boyce – guitars
Mitch Rogers – bass, vocals
James Daly – drums

Album Review – Enslaved / Utgard (2020)

Once again inspired by Norse mythology, one of Norway’s most prominent bands of all time returns with more of their early Black Metal roots infused with experimentations with 70’s Progressive Rock.

Since their inception in the distant year of 1991, Bergen, Norway-based Progressive Black/Viking Metal horde Enslaved has continued to push their sound into new territories and remain fresh and relevant with each one of their records, which is also the case with their brand new opus entitled Utgard, the fifteenth studio album in their undisputed career. Currently comprised of vocalist and bassist Grutle Kjellson, guitarists Arve Isdal and Ivar Bjørnson, keyboardist Håkon Vinje and drummer Iver Sandøy, the band’s music once again draws heavily on the Viking cultural and religious heritage of their home country for inspiration, with most of the band’s lyrics relating to Norse mythology. Embraced by a somber artwork by Norwegian artist Truls Espedal, Utgard is titled after a location in Norse mythology, even including some Norse lyrics and song titles, while at the same time displaying the band’s early Black Metal roots infused with their experimentations with Progressive Rock from the 70’s, resulting in a very entertaining album for both diehard fans of the band and newcomers to their Viking realm.

Ritualistic vocalizations ignite the flammable and melodic Fires In The Dark, before the acoustic guitars by Arve and Ivar take us to desolate, bitterly cold Norwegian lands in a beautiful depiction of their modern-day Progressive Black Metal. Furthermore, Grutle, Håkon and Iver have a healthy vocal duel with their respective harsh roars and serene clean vocals, increasing the song’s taste considerably. Then leaning towards their more classic Black Metal, but of course also providing their fans elements from their current musical stage, we have Jettegryta, where Iver is on fire with his blast beats and intricate fills while Grutle growls and gnarls in a dark and captivating manner; followed by Sequence, more rhythmic and less visceral than its predecessors, with Grutle’s gnarls being once again effectively supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals. However, the guitar solos seem a bit disconnected from the rest of the music, resulting in a sound that’s not as exciting as expected in the end. Fortunately, in Homebound the band gets back on track, offering our ears beautiful, poetic words vociferated rabidly by Grutle (“When gold blinds / I will see beyond the false torches / The howling will guide us / Walking the plains between worlds / When houses fall / I will be the pillar in the hail / Unmoving we travel / Crossing oceans in mythological dreams”) while the music remains imposing and vibrant from start to finish.

In Utgarđr, a cryptic, hypnotizing interlude presenting deep vocalizations, we face freezing background sounds until Enslaved come ripping once again with Urjotun, blending their raw sonority with modernized and even electronic sounds and tones from 80’s pop music. As a matter of fact, the final result is truly exciting, as if it was taken from a cult action movie from that same decade. And strident riffs and the pounding drums by Iver kick off the grim and furious Flight Of Thought And Memory, a lecture in contemporary Progressive Black and Viking Metal alternating between obscure savagery and melancholic passages, or in other words, a very detailed, multi-layered composition tailored for admirers of the genre. Back to a more straightforward musicality the quintet offers us all the melodic Storms Of Utgard, with the guitars by both Arve and Ivar permeating the air in great fashion, boosted by the song’s galloping beats and celestial keys, and they put a gentle and inspiring closure to the album with Distant Seasons, a semi-acoustic ballad where we’re treated to serene clean vocals infused with tribal and primeval nuances, featuring spot-on backing vocals by guests Inger Sunneva Peersen and Sonja Elisabeth Peerson.

We must all admit it’s a real pleasure to witness Enslaved experimenting and developing new sounds album after album, and in Utgard, which by the way is available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, let’s say they nailed it, offering us all a well-balanced mix of their more violent roots with their present progressiveness and harmony. Hence, don’t forget to give those Norwegian metallers a shout on Facebook, to follow them on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel, and to purchase Utgard from their own BandCamp page (or simply click HERE for all location where you can find the album), and may Enslaved keep on rocking like there’s no tomorrow through the realms of Viking Metal and Progressive Rock for many decades to come in their gorgeous and mythical homeland.

Best moments of the album: Jettegryta, Homebound and Flight Of Thought And Memory.

Worst moments of the album: Sequence.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Fires In The Dark 5:59
2. Jettegryta 4:56
3. Sequence 6:39
4. Homebound 5:29
5. Utgarđr 1:51
6. Urjotun 4:21
7. Flight Of Thought And Memory 6:22
8. Storms Of Utgard 4:38
9. Distant Seasons 4:31

Band members
Grutle Kjellson – vocals, bass, keyboards
Arve Isdal – lead guitars, acoustic guitars, backing vocals on “Fires In The Dark”
Ivar Bjørnson – guitars, acoustic guitars, keyboards, effects, backing vocals on “Fires In The Dark”
Håkon Vinje – keyboards, piano, clean vocals
Iver Sandøy – drums, percussion, keyboards, effects, clean vocals

Guest musicians
Martin Horntveth – percussion, glockenspiel, rototoms, tubular bells, keyboards and programming on “Sequence”
Inger Sunneva Peersen – backing vocals on “Distant Seasons”
Sonja Elisabeth Peerson – backing vocals on “Distant Seasons”

Album Review – Lord Almighty / Wither (2020)

Transcending genre norms, the new opus by this amazing Progressive Black Metal band from Boston showcases an epic world that will surely be loved by all types of metalheads.

Formed in the grimy artist spaces of Rugg Road in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States in 2013 by vocalist and guitarist Keenan Carroll and guitarist Samuel “Goose” Willgoose, later enlisting bassist Phill Gelinas and drummer Christopher Narainen to complete the line up and hit the road, the unrelenting Progressive Black Metal unity Lord Almighty continues to play a crushing mix of Black Metal blasts and Rock N’ Roll melodics in their newborn opus entitled Wither, the follow-up to their 2015 full-length album Paths. Recorded by Goose himself at Murder Box Studios, mixed by Phillip Cope at Jam Room, mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, and featuring a Stygian cover Art by Adam O’Day, Wither transcends genre norms, showcasing an epic world that will surely be loved by all types of metalheads. “Wither is an album that really was written over a few years. There were plenty of experiences along the way that continued our descent into madness. It was a hazy time looking through smoke and double vision. Conceptually we had a lot of different emotions and life experiences that culminated to what you hear. If you listen hard enough, you might even hear the crackle of the fire in our building where we lived or the cops pounding on the doors. Or maybe even the dreams in which we envisioned when we found ourselves without homes,” commented the band about their new album.

Their sonic onrush of sounds begins in full force with the opening track Cry of the Earth, where Christopher already presents his heavy artillery while the guitars by both Keenan and Goose bring a thrilling fusion of Black Metal and Punk Rock to the music, building an instant connection with the also progressive, multi-layered Sundown, with their strident guitars and intricate beats providing Keenan all he needs to vociferate with tons of anger, alternating between more rhythmic moments and sheer brutality. After such exciting start to the album, the quartet invests into a classic Black Metal sonority, offering our ears Mercy, with Phill and his Marduk-inspired bass punches adding an extra touch of evil to the overall result, sounding imposing and grim from start to finish and suddenly morphing into a incendiary tune titled Rise, where the Jazz-ish guitars by Keenan and Goose grow in intensity until exploding in a bestial Progressive Black Metal feast led by the crushing beats by Christopher. Then we have V, an instrumental intermission spearheaded by Christopher’s tribalistic beats, setting the tone for the neck-breaking and utterly progressive Despite, showcasing devilish riffs and solos, low-tuned bass lines and the always hellish growls and snarls by Keenan, also bringing forward hints of classic Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll, therefore demonstrating all the band’s versatility and range.

Stifled is another one of their cryptic instrumental creations, this time offering our ears a somber atmosphere and background voices, keeping everything as dark and heavy as possible before they come crushing our spinal cords with the Doom Metal-infused aria titled Adrift, also adding a touch of Atmospheric Black Metal to the song’s already pulverizing sound. Moreover, all band members are on fire throughout the entire song, exhaling obscurity and hopelessness; and after some inspired jamming the quartet fires the demonic Black Metal extravaganza entitled Hour By Hour, where Keenan and Goose sound beyond infernal with their razor-edged riffs, not to mention Goose’s blazin’ guitar solo. Their second to last blast of malignancy comes in the form of the title-track Wither, bringing forward their core progressiveness with Phill’s bass jabs hammering our heads mercilessly in a vicious display of contemporary Melodic Black Metal, whereas closing the album the band brings forth the also strident and piercing Hooded Three. The song actually takes longer than expected to take off, but when it does it’s another display of brutality by Lord Almighty with the thrashing riffs by the band’s guitar duo inspiring us all to slam into the pit.

The beyond progressive and demolishing creations found in Wither can be better appreciated in full on YouTube, but of course as usual if you want to truly demonstrate your support to the guys from Lord Almighty and keep the fires of underground extreme music burning bright forever and ever, go check what the band is up to on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, stream more of their music on Spotify, and above all that, grab your copy of their sulfurous new album from their own BandCamp page or webstore. As already mentioned, Wither is not only a very cohesive and vibrant album of extreme music, but it also translates into Black Metal all obscure experiences from each band member in their own descend into madness, which means you should definitely use the entire album as the soundtrack to your own downward spiral into the pits of the underworld. I’m sure the band would love to be part of that unique experience in your damned life.

Best moments of the album: Sundown, Rise and Hour By Hour.

Worst moments of the album: Hooded Three.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Cry of the Earth 3:51
2. Sundown 4:05
3. Mercy 2:31
4. Rise 4:20
5. V 0:51
6. Despite 3:43
7. Stifled 1:34
8. Adrift 3:55
9. Hour By Hour 3:57
10. Wither 4:49
11. Hooded Three 5:11

Band members
Keenan Carroll – vocals, guitars
Samuel “Goose” Willgoose – lead guitars
Phill Gelinas – bass
Christopher Narainen – drums

Album Review – Onirik / The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity (2020)

A unique Black Metal album that is the consequence of the descent and return from below carrying the flames and lava on its scales, giving it back to the world in posthumous vengeance.

Following up on his highly-acclaimed 2015 album Casket Dream Veneration, Lisbon, Portugal-based Black Metal one-man horde Onirik, the brainchild of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Gonius Rex, returns with yet another distinct and heavy-as-hell album entitled The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity, the fifth studio album in his solid career. Active since 2002, Onirik has been exploring Black Metal in several approaches, always faithful to its original purpose, the emission of unordinary, dissonant and raw outputs with trance-inducing atmospheres, typically very cold and bathed in magic. With the special guest participation of none other than Dirge Rep on drums (Gehenna, Enslaved, Orcustus, The Konsortium), and mixed and mastered by Semjaza of Thy Darkened Shade at Sitra Ahra Studio, who also took care of the album’s ambient elements, The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity is the consequence of the descent and return from below carrying the flames and lava on its scales, giving it back to the world in posthumous vengeance.

Prepare your senses for six minutes of a classic Norwegian Black Metal inferno in the opening tune Cult Beyond Eternity, where Gonius Rex extracts sheer malignancy from his guitar while gnarling demonically at the same time, and it’s impressive how he is capable of adding so much groove and progressiveness to his Stygian creations such as Trapped in Flesh, Blood and Dirt, piling up additional layers of awesomeness to his already scorching sound while guest Dirge Rep takes care of the violence and brutality with his blast beats. Then our avid ears are penetrated furiously by over nine minutes of a downward spiral into the pits of the underworld together with Gonius Rex entitled Assigned to the Inexorable Flames, with his bass lines sounding utterly demented, groovy and wicked, proving how talented and focused he is at what he does, with the entire song feeling as grandiose and somber as it can be from start to finish.

In Melodies of Reflections and Praise this unearthly entity offers us all a modern yet old school version of Melodic Black Metal infused with Progressive Black Metal elements where Dirge Rep continues to deliver insanity and intricacy through his beats, providing Gonius Rex all he needs to distill his Jazz-inspired bass jabs.  And venturing through the sluggish realms of Doom Metal, Onirik blast the heavy and thunderous Granted the Vision, Molded into Stone, with the bass punches by Gonius Rex allied with the slow and steady beats by Dirge Rep punching us all in the head mercilessly. After such dense extravaganza, and again blending traditional Black Metal with modern-day sounds and a demented atmosphere, we’re treated to an avalanche of darkened sounds for our vulgar delectation in Murmurs of the Aging Vessel, with both Gonius Rex and Dirge Rep being on fire with their respective sonic weapons, whereas back to a more berserk mode Onirik haunt our souls one last time with their infuriated Black Metal in Apathy of Might, and they keep hammering their instruments nonstop until the song’s grand finale.

You can show your support and admiration for Gonius Rex’s alter ego Onirik by following the project on Facebook, and of course by purchasing a copy of such incendiary album from the underground Portuguese scene from the I, Voidhanger Records’ BandCamp page or from the Metal Odissey webstore in CD or in LP format.  “I have travelled beyond the casket and returned only to illustrate the certain retribution. This time the old ways flow deep like liquefied lava, ready to break the wounds of this earth and resurface in arsonists’ bliss,” cryptically said Gonius Rex about his newborn album, and even if you have no clue what exactly he wanted to say, let me tell you that the best way to understand his eerie words is by playing The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity at top volume and enjoying one of the best releases of the Portuguese underground scene in this obscure year of 2020.

Best moments of the album: Trapped in Flesh, Blood and Dirt and Assigned to the Inexorable Flames.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 I, Voidhanger Records

Track listing
1. Cult Beyond Eternity 6:15
2. Trapped in Flesh, Blood and Dirt 4:35
3. Assigned to the Inexorable Flames 9:00
4. Melodies of Reflections and Praise 7:32
5. Granted the Vision, Molded into Stone 6:18
6. Murmurs of the Aging Vessel 6:47
7. Apathy of Might 5:32

Band members
Gonius Rex – vocals, guitars, bass

Guest musicians
Dirge Rep – drums
Semjaza – ambient

Album Review – Nocturnal Escape / Uncharted Pathways (2020)

This talented German horde returns with a brand new concept album marking a stylistic change from their original sound to a soundtrack-like Black Metal offering.

Brought into being in 2014 as a recording project by  Leo and Klaus Bergmann after their previous band Bleak disbanded, Augsburg, Germany-based Epic/Atmospheric Black Metal band Nocturnal Escape is back in action now in 2020 with their sophomore installment, entitled Uncharted Pathways, a concept album consisting of five songs with a combined running time of nearly 58 minutes, marking a stylistic change from the riff-laden Melodic Death Metal found in their 2015 self-titled debut album to a soundtrack-like Black Metal offering. Featuring a grim and exquisite artwork by artist Daniela Teichmann, the album also presents to the listener a new growler, Paul Perlberg (replacing Thomas Zimmermann), and a new session drummer, James Knoerl, instead of the programmed drums from their first album, providing the overall sound a more organic and, therefore, more intense vibe.

The serene keys by Leo kick off the 10-minute aria entitled Exodus, evolving into a fusion of classic Black and Doom Metal where Paul roars and gnarls in a true devilish manner, filling every single space in the air with its background choir-like sounds, ritualistic drums and scorching hot guitar riffs, ending in a climatic and melancholic manner and building an instant bridge to Forlorn, once again presenting whimsical sounds blended with the band’s most vicious and extreme side, with Leo and Klaus slashing their strings in great fashion and, consequently, providing Paul all he needs to vociferate like a demon while James dictates the song’s charming rhythm with his sluggish beats. In addition, it becomes crystal clear in this dense and distinguished tune how the band decided to distance themselves from Progressive Death and Black Metal, being now fully invested in a hybrid of Black, Folk and Epic Metal.

Then featuring guest Rüdiger Bergmann on trombone, the trio’s acoustic guitars and low-tuned, rumbling bass lines ignite the also multi-layered and vibrant Tranquillity, morphing into an obscure and crisp Black Metal extravaganza led by Leo and his venomous riffage while Paul adds an extra touch of evil to it with his deep, enraged growls, also bringing forward a few eerie, symphonic breaks to enhance the intricacy and drama of the overall result, sounding and feeling as epic and detailed as it can be. And the band keeps stimulating our senses with their classy extreme music in Insight, where all background elements generate a Stygian atmosphere that will darken your heart and soul. Furthermore, the Black Metal blast beats by James make an interesting paradox with the clean vocals by Leo, resulting in a lesson in Atmospheric Black Metal with Leo’s crisp riffs and solos being the icing on the cake. And accelerating their pace and enhancing their electricity they offer us all the closing tune Departure, featuring guest vocals by Stefan Bauer, with James hammering his drums mercilessly until gentle piano notes permeate the air intertwined with heavy riffs and dense bass lines, flowing into a very symphonic, epic and enfolding finale.

In case you think you have what it takes to face almost one hour of the atmospheric and obscure passages by Nocturnal Escape, you can take a full listen at Uncharted Pathways on YouTube and on Spotify, and of course purchase the album from Apple Music, from Amazon or from the band’s own BandCamp page, where not only you’ll be able to compare their current sound with their debut effort, but you’ll also receive an exclusive remastered instrumental version of the entire album (which means almost 58 extra minutes of instrumental and atmospheric extreme music for your avid ears). Also, don’t forget to check what Leo, Klaus and Paul are up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their music, and let the atmospheric and very detailed Black Metal made in Germany found in Uncharted Pathways penetrate deep inside your mind.

Best moments of the album: Tranquillity and Departure.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Exodus 10:20
2. Forlorn 8:35
3. Tranquillity 12:34
4. Insight 12:21
5. Departure 13:54

BandCamp Exclusive Remastered Instrumental bonus tracks
6. Exodus (Instrumental) 10:20
7. Forlorn (Instrumental) 8:35
8. Tranquillity (Instrumental) 12:34
9. Insight (Instrumental) 12:21
10. Departure (Instrumental) 13:54

Band members
Leo Bergmann – guitars, keyboards, clean vocals
Klaus Bergmann – bass
Paul Perlberg – harsh vocals

Guest musicians
James Knoerl – drums (session)
Rüdiger Bergmann – trombone on “Tranquillity”
Stefan Bauer – vocals on “Departure”

Album Review – Mavradoxa / Nightmarrow (2019)

The final breath of dark and heavy sounds by a now extinct metal unity will take you on a journey of isolation and hopelessness through the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal.

Let me begin this review by saying that I was absolutely shocked when I read earlier this year that the beyond promising and talented Rochester, New York-based Atmospheric Black Metal band Mavradoxa was calling it quits after only a few years of existence. Fortunately for all of us, fans of dark and atmospheric music, the band left us with three excellent full-length albums, those being their 2016 debut opus Sojourners, their fantastic 2017 release Lethean Lament, and more recently Nightmarrow, released earlier this year via Hypnotic Dirge Records. Although related to the tonal atmosphere and character of their previous albums, Nightmarrow sees the band developing and intensifying their song-writing ability, crafting simultaneously cohesive yet unpredictable songs with a progressive hue that is still rooted in Atmospheric Black Metal.

Engineered by Nicholas Alan at Subterranean Studios, mixed by Stephen Parker (Pillorian, Maestus), mastered by Justin Weis at Trakworx Recording, and featuring a stunning artwork by American artist Dylan Garrett Smith, Nightmarrow represents a meditation on the isolation and hopelessness of our age (particularly in the realm of the urban), and the consequences of technology and voracious consumption of resources. Mavradoxa’s founding duo Zachary Smith, also known as Nival, and Monica Finger, also known as Lux, together with guitarist Tyler Stasierowski (from The Highest Leviathan) and bassist Josh Mason (from Wandering Oak and Acrylazea), perfectly depict that feeling of solitude and desperation in Nightmarrow, positioning the unfortunately now defunct band as one of the most creative and interesting bands of the underground scene in the United States.

Featuring guest vocals by Matt Greenwood and an additional guitar solo by Nicholas Alan, the opening track Maple begins in full force with the razor-edged riffs by Zach and Tyler and the intricate beats by Monica generating a rumbling ambience perfect for Zach’s anguished roars, sounding as powerful and grim just the way we like it in Atmospheric Black Metal. Furthermore, the song’s progressive ending flows smoothly into the even darker musical voyage entitled The Carrion Shade, where Josh and Monica make the earth tremble with their respective instruments while the entire band darkly intones the song’s cryptic lyrics (“Black sun, black moon / In shadows, entombed / Flame, gold, & rust / slowly coalesced / in the pale of the / last winter sunset”). This is Progressive Black Metal at its finest showcasing all band members in absolute sync, therefore delivering a crushing wall of blackened sounds for our total delight, in special Zach and Tyler with their flammable guitars.

Matt Greenwood returns in the title-track Nightmarrow, where the music gets closer to what was offered to us in Lethean Lament, presenting more introspective and atmospheric sounds and passages. Zach sounds utterly enraged and acid on vocals, with Monica’s gentle clean vocals bringing more balance to this dense and bold feast of extreme music. Then an acoustic, ethereal bridge named Rustling Leaves soothes our souls and warms up our senses for Black Crystal Snowfall, featuring guest vocals by Swamp and sheer poetry flowing from its lyrics (“Ancestral whispers beckon us back / to a starless womb, to a time before / this place where all is languishing, / where all is ensnared by the grasp / of synthetic hands, becoming, / and ripping our bones from within”), also bringing forward elements from Blackened Doom added to their core atmospheric music. Monica’s steady beats and Zach’s and Tyler’s crisp riffs will undoubtedly embrace your soul from start to finish, reaching a climatic and piercing grand finale that gently morphs into a melancholic outro titled Umbra, where Zach and Tyler deliver a passionate performance with their acoustic guitars, concluding Nightmarrow on a high and pensive note.

If Nightmarrow, which by the way is available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, is indeed the last breath of Atmospheric Black Metal by Mavradoxa no one knows for sure. The band might decide to come back from their “retirement” one day to smash our senses again with their somber music, who knows? Until that day arrives (if it arrives,  of course), you can keep in touch with Zach and Monica on Facebook, and purchase your copy of Mavradoxa’s final journey through the realms of atmospheric and extreme music from the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp page (or click HERE for all details about the band and where to buy their music), as well as from your regular retailers such as Apple Music, Amazon, CD Baby and Discogs. Having said that, it’s with a heavy heart that I finalize this review (or maybe I should call it a tribute), as heavy, ominous and splendorous as the music by the now extinct Mavradoxa. Thank you for your music, Zah and Monica, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing from you two again in a not-so-distant future.

Best moments of the album: The Carrion Shade and Nightmarrow.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Maple 7:41
2. The Carrion Shade 9:25
3. Nightmarrow 9:34
4. Rustling Leaves 1:45
5. Black Crystal Snowfall 10:57
6. Umbra 3:40

Band members
Zachary Smith – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars
Monica Finger – drums, vocals
Tyler Stasierowski – electric guitars, 12-string acoustic guitar
Josh Mason – fretless bass guitar

Guest musicians
Matt Greenwood – guest vocals on “Maple” and “Nightmarrow”
Swamp – guest vocals on “Black Crystal Snowfall”
Nicholas Alan – additional lead guitar on “Maple”

Album Review – Waldgeflüster / Mondscheinsonaten (2019)

The perfect soundtrack for those crystalline winter, woodland walks, courtesy of a Bavarian heathen horde armed with their Folk-drenched Black Metal.

There’s nowhere like Germany in winter time. The forests, the castles, the markets and the “gluhwein” (a type of mulled wine from German-speaking countries made from red wine with cinnamon and other herbs and spices), all offer solace for the wandering winter soul, as well as the music as you’ll be able to enjoy in Mondscheinsonaten, the brand new opus by Munich, Bavaria-based Black/Folk Metal horde Waldgeflüster. Both the name of the band (German for “forest whisperings”) and the album name (which translates as “moonlight sonatas”) already give you a very good idea of how powerful their new Folk-drenched Black Metal eyries are, melting the coldest of hearts, but it’s after hitting playing and immersing yourself in their music that you’ll finally understand what Bavarian heathen music is all about.

Formed in 2005 as a one-man project by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Winterherz (whose full name is Jan van Berlekom), Waldgeflüster evolved into a full-bodied band in 2014 when guitarists Dominik Frank and Markus Frey, bassist Arvagr and drummer Thomas Birkmaier joined Winterherz in his quest for metal music for good, after having played with him either as studio or live musicians in previous albums and concerts. Building strongly on the band’s heathen foundations, melding clean and harsh vocals seamlessly and integrating folk instrumentation sparsely enough to augment (but never over-embellish the exceptional blackened metal grounding), Mondscheinsonaten is perfectly pitched to fuel those crystalline winter, woodland walks with its immensely infectious melodies and haunting refrains, with the entire band sounding extremely crisp, mature and cohesive throughout the album’s over 60 minutes of stylish and enfolding music.

Embraced by the sound of the howling wind, the melancholic, acoustic Einleitung (“introduction”) warms up our hearts for the dense and thrilling Der Steppenwolf (“the steppenwolf”), with Winterherz growling deeply while Domink and Markus extract sheer darkness from their guitars. In other words, this is a journey through the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal and Blackened Folk Metal where the music keeps growing in intensity as time goes by, while Thomas, armed with his classic blast beats, makes sure not a single space is left empty. Then get ready for over twelve minutes of a flawless fusion of folk and extreme music entitled Gripfelstürme (“summit storm”), where the band’s guitar duo once again hypnotizes us with their scorching riffs and with Winterherz being on fire with both his demonic gnarls and his obscure clean vocals, also showcasing ethereal passages and backing vocals that add a touch of finesse to the overall result.  And Waldgeflüster continue to invade our minds and captivate our senses with the atmospheric Rotgoldene Novemberwälder (“red golden November forests”), uniting the most visceral elements from classic Black Metal with the melancholy of Atmospheric Black Metal, with strident guitar lines, intricate beats and pitch black darkness flowing nonstop from this bitterly cold aria.

In Und der Wind… (“and the wind…”), a serene intro explodes into sheer aggression and rage in the form of old school Black Metal with Thomas sounding bestial on drums while Arvagr delivers thunder through his bass lines. Moreover, your soul will certainly get lost throughout the song’s ten detailed and dense minutes; whereas in Von Winterwäldern und Mondscheinsonaten (“from winter forests and moonshine nights”) we’re treated to more flammable sounds flowing from all instruments, in special from Dominik’s and Markus’ guitars, with Winterherz roaring with all his strength while the music brings hints of Progressive Black Metal to make things even more entertaining. Then closing the regular version of the album we have the delicate Staub in der Lunge (“dust in the lungs”), beginning in the most serene way possible with its clean vocals and acoustic guitars dictating the rhythm before the entire band comes ripping one last time with their refined Black Metal sonority. In addition, Dominik and Markus once again steal the spotlight with their piercing guitar lines for our total delight. And if you acquire the black/grey double vinyl version of the album, you’ll also get the acoustic version for Der Steppenwolf as a bonus track, a beautiful and very delicate alternate rendering of one of the best songs of the album.

In case you’re already prepared to get lost in the heathen lands of Bavaria together with Waldgeflüster, you can enjoy Mondscheinsonaten in full  on YouTube and on Spotify, and purchase your copy of the album from the band’s own BandCamp page or from the Nordvis Produktion’s official webstore (as well as from several other locations by clicking HERE). In a nutshell, as aforementioned the “moonlight sonatas” by this talented horde of musicians hailing from the stunning Bavaria are the perfect soundtrack for a cold and pensive winter walk, proving once again Folkened Black Metal is more than just a subgenre of extreme music, but an intrinsic part of the lifestyle and culture of the coldest parts of earth.

Best moments of the album: Der Steppenwolf and Gripfelstürme.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Nordvis Produktion

Track listing
1. Einleitung 3:08
2. Der Steppenwolf 7:51
3. Gripfelstürme 12:21
4. Rotgoldene Novemberwälder 6:28
5. Und der Wind… 10:52
6. Von Winterwäldern und Mondscheinsonaten 9:51
7. Staub in der Lunge 5:48

Black/Grey Double Vinyl bonus track
8. Der Steppenwolf (Acoustic version) 7:57

Band members
Winterherz – vocals, mandolin, keyboards
Dominik Frank – guitars, backing vocals
Markus Frey – guitars
Arvagr – bass, backing vocals
Thomas Birkmaier – drums

Guest musician
Johannes Schermaul – cello