13 Feb 2018

Visigoth - Conqueror's Oath (Metal Blade Records - 2018)

Utah heavy metal warriors Visigoth returns with the highly awaited follow-up to their 2015 debut, Revenant King, can this sophomore offering live up to the expectations that the debut gave birth to?

A second album, the true ordeal by fire that faces all bands early in their careers! While forging the a debut in the fiery passion of youth one has usually had years to tweak and add/subtract to the formula. Both in the rehearsal room and in the form of demo releases, as well as trying the tracks out in live situations. But when the sun finally dawns upon the time to once again fire up the machinery, and start working on the new material you are faced with a new obstacle: time itself. Take too long crafting you weaponry and you will lose the momentum gained with the previous release, rush your work and you will have forged brittle and inferior steel that will shatter upon the shields of your foes. Oh, when rummaging through the chronicles of old, of how many bands has it not been written that released incredible first offerings only to fall into mediocre depths just years later? I'm glad to see that the lads that make out the band of adventurers in Visigoth has waited the golden amount of time that is three years before swearing the conqueror's oath. Not so long that they begin their plunge into obscurity, yet enough to give me the hope that the material will not feel rushed and not thought through. With fear and excitement I held my breath before carefully placing the stylus of my record player on my newly acquired white/blue splattered vinyl.

"Steel and Silver" pours out of my speakers in a boiling river of melodic riffing that immediately grabs me by surprize, as "melodic" is not the first word I would use to describe the brand of heavy metal that Visigoth dishes out. Rather the more chugging and heavy rolling riffs of the verses that enter the fray not long after the short intro are what makes me feel like I am once again sharing a flagon of ale with an acquaintance of the past at the inn we frequent in-between our separate adventures. It's nice to hear that they are incorporating more of the melodic instrumentation in short bursts here and there, while still staying true to the formula that grabbed me three years ago. Jake Rogers's lyrics are as spot-on as ever, sounding like generic, although extremely well put together, fantasy/sword and sorcery ramblings to most, but for us familiar with the source material the lyrics are nice nods nerdy sub-culture.

Second track "Warrior Queen" is a more hard rocking affair, and while it's a somewhat repetitive track it is easy to understand why it was chosen as the first single to be released prior to the album as it has an infectious chorus and a lot of attitude. Several short twin guitar interludes does their best to break up the repetitiveness, but when the same break leading into the verse riff appears for the third time I can't help to roll my eyes, even if just for a brief moment. The solos are to be commended though, and it's a good thing that Visigoth found the right context to introduce Jake's flute playing capabilities that he has displayed in his previous projects.

The pace picks ups with "Outlive Them All" and drummer Mikey Treseder gets more use of his double kicks. If this track doesn't get your blood pumping you have truly strayed from your intended path and wandered into realms where you have no business of dwelling and should immediately roll a dexterity check to avoid the righteous hammer of the metal gods! The main riff has a jumpy gallop rhythm to it which gets my head nodding approvingly without even breaking a sweat. The verses have a lot air to them while the vocals are delivered, yet pummels forward in-between the vocals lines so the track never looses its drive. Each time I reach the later part of the track where the backing vocals join on "The cosmic fire burning silver and cold" the hairs on my arm stand straight up in attention and salute.

"Hammerforged" manifests the true essence of that which I associate Visigoth with: pummelling riffing on drop/tuned guitars, with a bass that actually is audible (!) chugging along with them and some absolutely epic vocals and lyrics on top of that. When treated to a track that in my opinion just as well would have fitted into the previous album I do notice that the production is strikingly similar to that of "The Revenant King", say for the fact that "Conqueror's Oath" lacks a little in the low-end frequencies when compared to aforementioned album. You won't catch me remastering the album for my own purposes though, which has actually happened in the past, as all instruments fit together very well and the composition of how the instruments interact with each other leaves nothing to want. The conqueror could just have used a little more of the thunderous aspect that the king had. All in all though the track is an extremely good finisher of side A and has me rushing to flip my record over and continue my quest into realms forgotten.

Once again the stylus is lowered upon the spinning disc. With the first side of the record having stilled any doubt that lingered in my heart I eagerly awaited what the "Traitor's Gate" had in store for me, which turned out to be a whole lot. The intro features somberly plucked guitars accompanied by Jakes soaring vocals which lead into yet another faster track. This seems like a good point to reveal another fear I had before even giving this album a proper listen, being that from recordings I had come over from the bands recent live shows I felt that Mr. Rodgers had lost some of the rasp and slight growl he had to his voice. A common trait for vocalists that essentially become "better" at singing, but along the way loose some of the aggression they initially possessed. But hearing him sing "brothers no more, in single combat we stand" here it is evident that he still connected to his passionate origins, while still evolving his vocal technique. The track itself is the strongest on the album, alongside "Outlive Them All" and "Hammerforged", and displays many sides of the band.

"Salt City" I can only assume is a fan favourite at local shows, as I know it has been a part of their live sets for quite some time, and if the local hockey team doesn't enter the ice to this tune it is a damned shame. Much in the vein of earlier tracks "Creature of Desire" and "Call of the Road" it is a rockier and more up-beat offering that provides a bit of variation, but on the other hand somewhat breaks the mood set by the rest of the album. The track is however the shortest on the album and provides no long distraction before it's over.

I am re-immersed into mythical worlds with "Blades in the Night", a very catchy number that also feature fantastic solos by guitarists Leeland Campana and Jamison Palmer. Not only does Visigoth know how to use fact that they are blessed with two axemen capable of dishing out fantastic leads by having them share the solos back and forth between them, but they stay true to the ancient (but now almost completely forgotten) tradition of actually noting who of them is currently leading the fray in the booklet. It is a true shame when you want to give credit where credit is due for a fantastic solo, but actually can't find any way to trace the lineage of said solo. Other bands take note!

Lastly we are introduced to the titular "Conqueror's Oath". This is the longest number on the album, a feat rightfully bestowed upon a title track. It closes the album with a regal aura to it and the band does a great job with conveying the epic tone that I can only assume that they were aiming for. Closing a live set with this track I am sure would bring a tear to my eye, and it is no less effective here.

I have already touched upon the production, and there is really not much to add. The sound is warm and pleasant to the ear and I am glad to hear that the bass is clearly audible. That is nothing new to Visigoth, but definitely worth mentioning in this day and age of forgotten bass players. The drums sound honest and are played with precision as well. But when placed back to back with the fullength from 2015 it lacks a bit on the low-end.

I am surprized to find that this time around I seem to enjoy the faster tracks the most, which hasn't necessarily been the case with Visigoth in the past. I am relieved to hear that the fire of heavy metal still burns bright within them, because "Conqueror's Oath" sounds as vital as any debut, and still they have fine-tuned their craft yet a bit more. Clocking in at the perfect runtime of just over forty minutes they seem to have trimmed the fat of each song, as there is really not much filler here. The few qualms I had are really just nitpicking in context of the whole album. The reigning champions of Faerun rolls a their d20 for a score of 8/10.

19 Dec 2017

HarmDaud - Blinda Dödens Barn (Self-released - 2017)

HarmDaud is a one-man black metal act from north Sweden who has produced a strong debut in ”Blinda Dödens Barn”. Featuring both somber and aggressive passages as well as some really strong vocals.

I bought my digipack of this album directly from the band, and while I was a bit disappointed to find that it didn’t feature any booklet containing the lyrics and whatnot I must say that it’s a good looking release nonetheless. The CD face itself features only the HarmDaud-logo which has only been printed in the negative space between the logos outlines, leaving the blank surface of the CD visible in a way that felt particularly old-school. 

I’m glad to hear that opening track titled ”Vägens Slut” isn’t a pointless intro carpeted with synthesizers and sound effects. On the contrary, HarmDaud gets to the point rater immediately with blistering blastbeats and a plucked guitar riff. The high-point of the track is when this one man show lets his guttural vocals take the stage. Throughout the whole album the vocals are on the darker side of the spectra when it comes to BM-vocals, but when multi-instrumentalist Andreas Stenlund really dives into the depths is where he shines. Certainly a opening track that got me interrested in more. 

Second track ”Själens Vanmakt” is bit more upbreat and throws me off to some extent with an opening track has me thinking more of Gothenburg style death metal than anything I was expecting from HarmDaud. It is rectified with a couple of blasts and more brutal parts however, but all in all it is probably my least favourite track on the album and a suprizing choice as a second track. 

Following that is the title track ”Blinda Dödens Barn”, and we’re back on the heavier track and darker in mood. Once again Mr. Stenlund displays some fantastic vocal capabilities as his voice really carries the opening sections of the track alone. It cannot be stressed enough how excellent his growls are. In this track some synthesizers make an appearance, they are however not overbearing. Not even to me, who holds a deep resentment to them. There is a small interlude with plucked strings that give me a strong vibe of Vintersorg, and after reading the liner notes and finding out that as the man himself has been involved as a producer I cannot do else than assume that they were an addition from his side. Worth to mention is that the one man show that is HarmDaud used the play live guitars for Vintersorg in the years following the shift of the millennium

My favorite track on the album is "Slagregn", which is incredibly aggressive and draws my mind towards the likes of Mörk Gryning. Some really on point black metal riffing is served up, both on the higher strings as well as darker in the verses. In the middle Andreas uses his most guttural voice and sounds like he could devour solar systems whole. If I would have had a say in the track order here, this would be the opening track, or at least replaced "Själens Vanmakt" as a second. Highly recommended, and definitely the first track you should check out if you're curious about HarmDaud.

"Andetag" follows up and has a more somber tone to it. The track is somewhat dreamy and has a hypnotic repetitiveness to it, a nice chance to catch your breath after the onslaught of "Slagregn". I believe that I can hear some more V-sorg influences here as well in the way the track is put together. It's the longest track on the album, clocking in at just short of seven minutes, and besides a harpsichord interlude in the middle it never breaks its swaying, hypnotic rhythm.

We arrive back in more aggressive territories with "Till Glömskan" which attacks with a mid-tempo blastbeast and the vocals kicking in almost immediately, but the chorus keeping some of the somber tone from the previous track. A long break with harmonizing guitars then leads into a doomier passage. I was hoping for it to maintain more of the aggressive touch from the opening for the sake of variety, but it doesn't kill the overall experience.

"Vemodet" starts of heavy and dark, with the harmonies less prominent to instead give room for the vocals. It also has some more interesting rhythms to the guitar riffs in contrast to the constant tremolo riffing or tremolo picked chords from previous tracks. This is also a track I would say deserves a earlier spot on the album, then again it features some grandiose strings and horns that's fitting for an epic finisher. And it's also a wise choice to spread out the choice cuts throughout the meal.

Distorted drums fade into the finishing track "Memento Mori" before kicking into a furious blast with a classic "angry wasp" riff. The chorus shows some more inventive ways of using the guitar that I really enjoy and the tremolo leads throw in some nice drills on the guitar strings that are a nice touch that you don't notice immediately. I suspect that this finishing track might be the last track written for the album as well, and it shows a lot of variety that would have been welcome in the some of the earlier tracks as well. A strong finisher that shows promise for the future.

Productions wise there is nothing to complain about, Mr. V knows exactly how to handle this type of music. And lo and behold: the bass is audible! A commendable feat in this day an age if anything. Overall everything blends perfectly, be it the guitars, strings or vocals, everything sits exactly where where they should in the mix. The drums are obviously programmed, but HarmDaud does not try to mask that with any made-up drummer with a fake name.

This is a fine debut with some small identity issues that I think will be figured out on later releases, HarmDaud is obviously still getting warmed up here. The vocals are some of the best I've heard in a while, especially in the lower register, but it is the variety that really gives them the little extra. The guitars and composing is handled well by Andreas Stenlund as well, certainly in the more varied tracks. The album has some highs and lows, but quality throughout, and I will definitively keep my eyes open for more from this project. "Blinda Dödens Barn" earns: 7,2/10

HarmDaud on Facebook
HarmDaud on Bandcamp

29 Aug 2017

Eternal Champion - The Armor of Ire (No Remorse Records - 2016)

"The Armor of Ire" by Texas's Eternal Champion is one of those albums that went completely under my radar during the year that it was released and instead reached me by word of mouth later on. And it's no surprise that word traveled regarding this album, as it is indeed one of the strongest I've come across in quite a while. 

I've only just began to familiarize myself with No Remorse Records, and so far they seem to be churning out a lot of good stuff. I've gotten "The Armor of Ire" on a good looking vinyl release, including a map and description of vocalist Jason Tarpey's fictional universe in which some of the lyrics take place. Now if that isn't delightfully nerdy I don't know what is! In fact, from now on if a band does not include a map of their fictional universe, I will consider it measly and underwhelming.

And army marches out of my speakers as the monumental "I am the Hammer" leads the way into the realms of Arginor and the Western Isles (better get that map out!), all layered under ominous keyboards. Epicnes aside, this one-minute intro is probably the only skipable part of the album, luckily it's the first track and that's easily done without you having to lift and place down the needle on your player in the middle of the sides playing time. Jason's vocals have a cavernous reverb applied to them that adds to his hollow singing style. His voice took some getting used to for me, but my now I wouldn't change it for anything, he even bursts out the occasional high-pitched "Ah!" à la Jon Oliva which is absolutely charming. The song is slow and monumental and rather minimalistic without getting monotonous or boring, in fact it usually requires several listens before I can move onward onto the next track. The lyrics are well-written and the chorus is absolutely fantastic.

Following that ten-pointer of a number is the title-track, "The Armor of Ire", which features melodic riffing in a manner that actually draws my mind to the 8-bit Mega Man games, and I mean that in the absolutely best way possible. The fast riffing and tight drums are glued together by the drawn out vocal melodies, and there is a lot more going on in the background than what you notice at first listen. You hardly notice that five minutes have passed before the song is over, it's just that seamlessly put together.

"The Last King of Pictdom" is a bouncier track that opens with drummer (and multi-instrumentalist) Arthur Rizk pounding a marching beat on the snare before moving into a triplet-riff. The twin guitar melodies and triplet riffing actually makes me think about Thin Lizzy, especially when the lead guitar melodies after the final chorus kicks in. I believe that it also Arthur that deals out a fine guitar solo during the tracks climax.

Lo and behold! I am about to not encourage you to skip an instrumental interlude, which is my typical reaction to these kind of tracks. Instead I must admit that during my first listens to "The Armor of Ire" I wasn't even aware that they were there, because they are actually woven into the tracks as an integral part of the music instead of annoying interruptions. "Blood Ice" is an instrumental interlude done right and doesn't overstay its welcome in any way, and when listening to my vinyl record it serves as the intro to side B. It also features some interesting pieces of music instead of just a carpet of synthesizers that are supposed to "set the mood" before the next track.

The interlude moves into "The Cold Sword" without any interruption, a galloping affair with some Maiden-esque guitar leads, but which manages without becoming some sort of cheap rip-off. This is the song on the album that has the most drive to it, and Jason shows that he can have bit more of a roar to his voice from time to time.

After moving past the greatness of the opening track, "Invoker" quickly became my favorite song on the album. It's a very dynamic number, and I hope a given part of all of Eternal Champions live sets. Once again it has be mentioned that the lyrics are very well-written, as it oh so easy for this type of lyrics to become beyond cheesy. Instead they are captivating and interesting, and nowhere is it better demonstrated than here, where an assassin waits to strike at a summoning ritual before they raise the old gods of H.P. Lovecraft's mythos. It you're a fan of sword and sorcery, this will be right up your alley. The song switches between clean plucking verses and inventive riffing in the more intense parts. The chorus is among the greats, the final guitar solo though sounds like it could use a couple of more takes.

"Sing a Last Song for the Valdese" is the longest of the album, and accordingly epic and worthy of its six minutes. We finally are treated to some flashier bass parts (also performed by Arthur), a thing that I would gladly have heard more of this during the previous songs on the album. There's a lot things going on here. The band seems to have played around a bit with their song formula here instead of going for traditional verses and choruses, but in no way does it sound amiss. The track is in no way a contender to the opening, but no less epic either way and a fitting last song before we move on to the outro.

"Shade Gate" is a short instrumental outro with a simple, repeating, guitar melody and surprisingly features a quite from Skeletor in the Masters of the Universe movie from 1987. It fit's the overall tone of the album, but nothing that I listen to each time I give the album a spin. Instead I'm probably busy flipping the record over to start over from the beginning.

Arthur Rizk seems to be a jack of all trades as I found out that he is also responsible for the engineering, mixing and mastering. He's done a fine job with all of his undertakings here, with the album sounding warm, yet crisp here it needs to and not unnecessarily loud. In my natural fashion I would have liked the bass to be a bit louder in the mix during the regular riffing, but it manages to cut through well enough the times it does something out of the ordinary.

This album has an overall aura of being very honest and genuine. There's a lot of bands doing this style at the moment, but the dedication of Eternal Champion shines through in such a way that you know that they are the real deal. Believe me, I searched hard and long to find something point out that I wasn't entirely satisfied with, but beyond the intro and outro being somewhat skipable there is really nothing to complain about. "The Armor of Ire" feasts upon 8,2/10 nations blood.

Eternal Champion on Facebook
Eternal Champion on Bandcamp

22 Aug 2017

Dreadful Fate - The Sin of Sodom (Iron Fist Productions - 2017)

Dreadful Fate is a newly formed band from Sweden paying tribute to the Teutonic thrash metal of old. Their debut demo was released on cassette by Iron Fist Productions and while it could use some more variation, one cannot help to wonder what they would come up with when given a longer run-time.

The demo kicks off with the aptly named title track "The Sin of Sodom", which quickly demonstrates what this demo is all about: pure, old-school black/thrash. Drummer Corpse Skelethor (AKA: Per Karlsson) is one of my favorite drummers in the Swedish scene, due to his past work in Nominon, and although the material here is very straight forward and does not call for any flashy drumming there is something very precise about his performance that always speaks to me. His cymbal-work is top notch during the double-kick parts and his fills are chaotic, while still calculated. The song also features some tight riffing from another favorite in the scene, Death Ripper (AKA: Johan Jansson), as well as a delightfully awful guitar solo. All in all it's a fine track, with a chorus that's easy to remember, but in the end it's outshone by the following track.

"Unholy Lust" offers up more of the same furious thrash as the track before, but dials down the tempo a tad, with no loss of effect though. The chorus where vocalist Bestial shrieks "Satan's hammer hits again and again!" has some cool rhythms and breaks that get stuck in my head every time I listen to it. Towards the middle the track moves into mid-tempo territories and really gets my blood pumping. The same type of atonal solo leads into the last chorus of the track that definitely is my favorite on the demo.

Last into the fray is a cover of Kreators classic "Tormentor", which is done with what seems like absolutely no effort at all. The cover is however played without any changes made to it and therefore I would probably rarely put this version on rather than the original, but I guess the urge to pay tribute to the old masters was too appealing for the band to give up the opportunity. I have to give them that the track has a really good energy to it with the fattened-up sound and backing vocals in the chorus. A fitting track for the demo, but I wouldn't re-record it for a full-length album.

I'm glad to hear that the demo isn't overproduced in any way, but also not UNDER-produced. Both drums and vocals sound honest, the guitars are crisp and the bass manages to cut through the mix, it's all very good for a demo. The cassettes seem to be high quality as well and didn't add that much noise at all during my first listening. A lot of other bands paying tribute to the days of yore tend to go a bit overboard with the shitty productions, Dreadful Fate instead gives a good example how to get that garage-sound while still making it sound as good as possible.

It's not much to go by, with only two original tracks and a cover song, but I'm excited to see what Dreadful Fate comes up with next and what type of variations they will throw in to keep things interesting on a longer run-time. I'm personally keeping my fingers crossed for some slower, mid-tempo tracks along the lines of what Sodom sometimes offers up. "The Sin of Sodom" is somewhat of a one-trick-pony, but that trick is done with admirable results. Given the members of the band, and the quality of the demo, I assume it won't be long until a label picks them up and we'll hear more of Dreadful Fate. Until then "The Sin of Sodom" earns 6,8/10 signs of evil.

Dreadful Fate on Facebook
Dreadful Fate on YouTube

16 Aug 2017

Interview: Michael Stavrakakis (Doomocracy)

Earlier this year Doomocracy released their album "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" through Steel Gallery Records. I've now had the honor of speaking to vocalist Michael Stavrakakis about the album, the Greek scene and record collecting.

Interview conducted on 2017-08-15:

Hey Michael! First of congratulations on your latest album "Visions & Creatures of Imagination", you must be very satisfied with the response you have received at this point? I myself suspect it will place quite high on my best of 2017-list. 

Hey David, thank you for your kind words. Our new album "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" has indeed received wonderful reviews from all over the world. We've worked hard to compose and record this album and we are very satisfied with the reception of Magazines e-zines and fans. I think it is a step forward for Doomocracy to more heavy and eastern paths while maintaining the doom metal elements present at all times. We have been picked as album of the month in several important magazines so I do hope we will be in the top lists for 2017.

To my knowledge you are responsible for a large part of the songwriting for Doomocracy. Did you face any challenges with writing a follow-up album this time? It usually involves some more time constraints than writing for a debut that you basically could have been working on for several years even before forming the band. 

I write both music and lyrics just like every band member of Doomocracy. The music you hear in both of our albums is based on teamwork and everyone in the band helps with ideas, riffs, melodies and lyrics. The challenge we faced writing music for our second album was big, as I think our debut album "The End is Written" had set a high quality standard for Doomocracy. We did not rush (as you saw we released our second album two and a half years after our debut) as we wanted to promote our debut album in the best possible way, including more than ten concerts around Europe. When we started composing music for our second album, we were a bit stressed but in a good way, as to which direction to follow in order to compose a worthy successor to "The End is Written". So basically the challenge we faced was to take our music a step further in all aspects (compositions, production, promotion, artwork), a challenge which I think we faced in the best possible way. We spend many hours in the studio to work all songs to the final detail and I am confident to say that we have produced an album worthy and even better than our debut.

Your lyrics seem to always have a story to tell, among others I sense some Egyptian themes this time. Do you do a lot of research for historical- or mythological lyrics in order to be accurate? Or is it more often stories "out of your own mind" so to say?

For us writing lyrics is an important process. We don't just write lyrics to get the songs going. We have many lyrical concepts in the new album, but not a certain specific concept. In other words "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" is not a concept album, but contains different stories, some fiction and some experiential. We used themes from Egyptian mythology for the song "Lucid Plains of Ra", which is a very important song in our album, as it was the main influence for the album cover as well. The lyrics of the song were written by our guitarist Angelos Tzanis and I know that he did some research before writing the lyrics as he also loves Egyptian mythology. For the rest of the songs we have lyrics influenced by Greek mythology, religion and life itself with all its agonies and anguish.

You mastered the album at Morrisound Studios. A place I mainly associate with Savatage- and related projects and above all: death metal albums of the 90'ties, but not so much doom metal. What made you want to work with Jim Morris?

We mixed and mastered the album at Morrisound Studios with Jim Morris, a man who is responsible for milestone productions in heavy metal for major bands like Crimson Glory, Savatage, Iced Earth and of course Death. We love his mix in all those bands and especially in Death. Working with him was a learning process for us and we are satisfied 100% from the mixing and mastering process. As for the reason why we decided to work with Jim Morris other than his great productions overall... we actually wanted a different approach for our mix. Not that we weren't satisfied with the mix of our debut album, but we wanted to try a production that is less compressed and has a more live feeling to it. Nowadays most European productions seem to be over compressed and that is something we did not want for our second album, as like I said we wanted to give a more live feeling to the mix. With the great help and guidance of Jim Morris we were able to achieve this.

I'm glad to see that the album is released on several formats this time around, both digitally, on CD and vinyl. Particularly vinyl is close to my heart, is this something that you guys in the band pushed for? And are you personally a collector of physical releases as well?

We are trying to release our albums in all possible formats. There are people who download albums through iTunes, amazon and so on, so although it is not our preferred music format we wanted to include that option as well. Of course we released the album on CD, but our main passion and effort was, and will be to release our music on vinyl. We are all vinyl collectors and we love its sound and everything else that comes to owning an album in vinyl. I was personally touched as I just yesterday received the vinyl records for "Visions & Creatures of Imagination". From my point of view the new vinyl is amazing both in sound and artwork and is a must for every vinyl collector. We will always do everything possible to release our music on vinyl.

Speaking of the productions, and the vinyl format: have you done a dedicated vinyl mastering for the album, or is the mastering for the CD- and digital platforms fit to be used on the LP as well?

We discussed this with Jim Morris and he told us that the mastering he did is ideal both for CD and vinyl. We did a test pressing just to make sure that the sound would be good, which it really was. So we used the same mastering after all.

Is there any releases in particular that you collect? Bands, genres, albums from certain regions, or do you just in general prefer to have your music collection on physical formats?

I collect all kinds of good music, especially heavy metal of course. But I don't just collect doom metal albums for example. I don't buy music in digital format and I usually buy the vinyl version of an album, unless there is no vinyl version so then I buy the CD to support the band.

Are you happy with the way your label, Steel Gallery Records, have handled your releases so far? Can we expect to see you continuing to work with them? Must be nice being signed to a label in your home country. 

We are very happy with Steel Gallery Records, which is why we chose to renew our contract with them. Working with a Greek label has many benefits as by doing this we are also supporting the Greek heavy metal scene, but we also have great communication with Kostas Athanasoglou, Steel Gallery's owner which is a crucial factor for us in choosing a record label and Kostas is doing everything he can to promote our music. If we receive a better proposal from a bigger record label we will discuss it within the band, but for the time being we are very satisfied with our current record label.

People seem to have a tendency to throw around Candlemass-comparisons when speaking about Doomocracy, but I think there is more beyond that. Do you think that you guys have any influences that usually go over the head of the press and first-time listeners? Be it influences from other bands or anything else. 

It's natural for people who have not listened much to doom metal music to just say "these guys sound like Candlemass". By all means it is not a bad comment to say that we sound like Candlemass, as they are one of the best doom metal bands of all time. Just as Candlemass's main influence was Black Sabbath or Trouble for example. People tend to do this: Instead of describing the music, they just say “they sound like this or that”. It's the easy way. People who have listened to a lot of doom metal music understand that, of course we are influenced by Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus (and many other bands) but we have developed our own personal style in sound and compositions taking our music a step further. The more albums we produce the more this will be more evident. It happens with all bands you know… with their first albums people compare them to other bands. But as the bands produce more albums they develop a more personal style, so fans-critics stop doing this.

According to the information I've found online Doomocracy is your first venture in the realms of metal, have you been involved in any other musical projects that have released albums before?

I was involved in some Greek cover bands in rock, metal, funk and blues music. After a while I recorded an album with a Greek alternative metal band called Master Reset, which started with a different more progressive metal concept but developed into a more modern style. So right after the album release I quit the band to find another music direction. Thank God, I met my good friends Minas Vasilakis and Angelos Tzanis (Doomocracy's drummer and guitarist) and we formed a new doom metal band called Doomocracy!

I can't say that I'm very well versed in the Greek- or Crete scene. Do you have any bands, present or past, from your area that have inspired you? If not musically, in any other way. 

We have some great metal bands in Greece and the Greek Metal scene is going through a long spring period the last years. Just to name a few bands you might already know: Sacral Rage, Dexter Ward, Wardrum, SiXforNine, Pulse R, Diviner, Inner Wish, Suicidal Angels, Immensity, Exarsis and many more. You should really invest in the Greek Metal scene as you will find many gems in all genres. In Crete we had some very good bands but right now they are all in quiet mode. Still be aware for new releases by Winter Crescent and Chaos Eternal in the coming future.

Thanks you very much for your answers Michael, I hope to hear more from you and Doomocracy soon! Is there anything you would like to add?

Thank you very much for this interesting interview and your support David! Be sure to check out the vinyl release of our second album "Visions & Creatures of Imagination". We will tour Germany in December 2017 so we hope to see our fans there. We are already composing music for our third album and it sounds really good. So be assured Doomocracy is here to stay! Thank you for your support! See you on the road!

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31 Jul 2017

Dråp - Roten Till Allt Ont (Xtreem Music - 2017)

Dråp grinds away on a furious rampage, infused with Swedish death metal and crust punk, but also elements of atmospheric black metal, which when spoken out loud might seem like a mish-mash thrown together rather incoherently, but actually fits together rather well.

This CD was released by Xtreem Music, a label I seldom frequent releases from. To my understanding the LP was supposed to be released through Swedish Bloodsoaked Records, but to my surprise it is marked with the Xtreem Music logo as well. It might be some sort of licensing deal going on, but no mention is made of the Swedish label on the outer sleeve. As far as I know Xtreem Music rarely does vinyl releases (which might be the reason I rarely come across their albums), but I would be glad to see them do more.

"Roten Till Allt Ont" opens up with "Ner på Knä" (On You Knees in Swedish), which immediately attacks with blistering blastbeats. The guys in Dråp are obviously angry as all hell, and want you to know that it's your fault. The song has some really cool synchronized breaks, and drummer Emil Leijon gets to show of some real capabilities here. Grinding away like a madman, without missing any of the sudden breaks.

"Ärrvävnad" has more of an atmospheric feel to it, but don't worry, there is a lot of grind going on here as well. In-between the occasional blasts the guitars set aside the tremolo picking for longer, dissonant chords and plucking on the high strings and in the chorus we can hear vocalist Joachim Lyngfelt shouting "Ärrad för livet" as if standing on the other side of a large canyon. The song moves into a neck breaking chug before abruptly stopping.

We are treated to more traditional crust with "Hat För en Livstid", here Joachim is joined by David Nilsson from Swedish deathsters Feral on vocals, and the dual vocals as well as the punk attitude of the track draws the mind to bands like Totalt Jävla Mörker. Davids vocals are more in the background of the mix and distorted, the vocal lines are however alternated between the two throughout the whole song. There's a long interlude towards the end of the track which once again leans more towards black metal.

"Övervåld" makes sure that you are aware that you are listening to a Swedish death metal band, as it has a lot of the classic elements of that style. Dråp manages to cram in a lot of changes within the just over two minutes of a track, d-beats, blasts, breaks and black metal chords, all to keep things interesting.

The title track "Roten Till Allt Ont" is the heaviest on the album, and actually has a little of a thrash metal feel to it, with a lot of tight guitar work from Jimmy Mattsson and Jesper Ekstål. The verses are heavy as led before Dråp picks up the pace again later on. The track moves into some small, simple leads towards the end, and I can't help to feel that it would have been appropriate with a guitar solo there instead. But that's not the way that Dråp rolls I guess. 

"Yttersta Domen" opens really heavy before offering up more guitars in the same vein as "Ärrvävnad", and features a really punk-sounding chorus with Joachim shouting about the world that humans have created with back-up vocals that filling in the gaps. I think it would have been a lift with the rest of the band chiming in on the chorus instead of what I suspect are overdubs done by Joachim as well. 

Next up is an instrumental track called "Eremit", which opens quite Slayer-esque. The track has a lot of air to it and gives the listener a chance to take in the production which is actually really good, even if the gets a bit muddy in the more intense parts. But that's a part of the genre. "Eremit" cycles the intro riff a couple of times before moving into the final track of the album.

"Nederlag" is the longest track on the album, with it's almost six minutes. Instead of alternating between genres here Dråp serves up a crust punk riff with a black metal lead over it. It get's a bit ear-numbing after a while at high volume (and that how you should listen), but if you were expecting anything else you were most definitely looking at the wrong place. To my surprise the guitars manage to squeal out a solo towards the middle of the song. Nothing pretty, nor should it be, and I would gladly hear more of this from Dråp in the future. After the solo the track switches gears, and basically becomes an whole other song (that's probably how they managed to get the long playing time). More of the classic swe-death chugging before we are drenched in guitar chords and double kicks and the track fades away.

"Roten Till Allt Ont" is as violent as a bare-knuckle fist fight, with teeth and blood flying everywhere. It's all performed with great passion, and if you are versed in the Swedish language you can tell that the lyrics hit close to home for the band. The production signed to William Blackmon is stellar and fitting the release. The black metal elements are not really my cup of tea, but aren't so overbearing that they ruin my enjoyment. The songs themselves are such an assault that feel a bit out of breath even before reaching the total of thirty minutes of the album, but if you want to be completely crushed "Roten Till Allt Ont" does is better than most and earns a solid: 7,6/10

24 Jul 2017

The Curse - Come Forth (Imperium Productions - 2017)

After Morbid Angel effectively turned into utter crap, The Curse from Sweden steps in to fill the void of blasphemous death metal played with immaculate precision. "Come Forth" is a  debut EP featuring seasoned veterans from the scene and members from other prominent bands, and sounds accordingly.
My interest was peaked regarding this band as soon as it was announced and I became aware that it featured members from Swedish Kaamos (RIP) when they were to open up for Hypocrisy at a show in Stockholm. That was 2013 and two years later, in late 2015 they released their first EP in digital form and now in 2017 it is finally also available in vinyl format through Imperium Productions.
Ominous chanting starts of the opening track "Morbid Mass" and just before you are about to release a deep sigh over another "spooky intro" to a metal album The Curse blasts you with a relentless onslaught of double kicks and tremolo guitar work. The song continues in similar fashion, with Karl Envall's voice sounding familiar from his days in Kaamos. His growls have never been one of those that I consider the best within the genre, but it has to be said that they feel very honest. Very little reverb and compression is used on them (compression is a death metal vocalists best friend in the studio) and what you hear in here is what he also delivers at live shows. The track alternates between heavy interludes and the aforementioned fast parts before moving into a more atmospheric part in the middle with marching snares and guitars with a lot of effects on them. Karl bellows about "fire and brimstone" and other appropriate themes while we move into the final chorus.
Next up the title track "Come Forth" which wastes no time and moves directly into the chorus. Here there is no mistake about the Morbid Angel influences, with dissonant chords quickly swirling over the neck of the guitars while drummer Victor Parri tries his best to pound his kit into dust. Victor seems to be playing in almost every band from Sweden right now, dealing in everything from doom- death- and black metal, and he really shines here. I assume that even Pete "The Feet" Sandoval would be in awe of this performance. The Curse are good at changing things up and becoming an endless blastbeat orgy, just don't expect any experimental interludes, but a lot of breaks, shifts in tempo and chord-styles to keep things fresh and interesting.
The title track fades out before the drums kick off "Azazel", a mid-tempo number who initially draws the mind to the likes of Bolt Thrower or Asphyx before becoming a complete thrash-fest in the verses. This track has a captivating groove to is and the chorus will get you hooked immediately (if you don't have an odd aversion to catchy death metal). The drums that introduce the song are a bit obviously triggered when singled out like that, and if I had engineered the album I would have removed the trigger for just that part, but altogether the sound is fine and I won't be a stickler about triggered drums in this type of death metal. I'll merrily scream "Azazeeel!" along with the track until the needle finally has grinded away the grooves on my LP.
"Of Darkness Born" offers up several different types of blastbeats in shorter time than most bands do in a lifetime, something that more bands "of the blasting kind" should try out instead of continuously sticking to the classic grind every time. It offers up some needed variety as I find that tracks with an endless grind throughout it are a complete bore. This track keeps a high pulse throughout without going for a heavy interlude in the middle and barely reaches over the three minute mark before finishing off.
If the previous track was the most intense on this EP "INRI Stigma" is the most laid back, and I am using this term very loosely here. Laid back in the terms of The Curse is still more energetic than most. Here we get the only proper guitar solo within these tracks, and while it is nothing completely mind-blowing I would gladly welcome more as the band seems to have two capable lead guitarists in Fredrik Hernborg and Nicklas Eriksson. And yes, they each play a solo back-to-back in this track, as a band should when having two guitarists. This is a very heavy track with the occasional bursts of hyper-aggression who also doesn't go on for barely more than three minutes.
My favorite track on the EP is "Ancient Curses", even if it serves up the "spooky intro" that we nearly avoided in the opener, luckily it doesn't drag along for more than ten seconds here either. A phased guitar introduces the main riff before we are completely carpet-bombed by the full power of The Curse, if this doesn't get your neck moving you must not have one. The band takes a short break to scream the title of the track from the top of their lungs, only to repeat the whole process again immediately afterwards. Meaning that we get to hear this fantastic riff start off with a "Uh!" two times before the intro is over, absolutely fantastic. The verses are very atmospheric and dark, and if you thought the chorus to "Azazel" was catchy you're in for a ride here. This track has been on constant repeat in my head more times than I would care to admit, and not due to being trivially simple, but due to being of utmost quality. A riff heavy as any leads out of the track, as well as the EP in whole, as The Curse gradually slows down in the final measures and the final sound we hear is a stone slab shutting the lid of an ancient tomb.
As stated earlier I won't rag on triggered kicks here as it is as much part of the genre as distorted guitars at this point, and Parri's drumming is nothing else than commendable. The mix is fine, with a nasty guitar tone that fits the mood and a honest vocal performance. I could go for having the bass louder in the overall mix, but since Karl handles both vocals and bass duties at the same time I have a hunch that there isn't a lot of flashy bass tricks going on that we are being robber of behind the wall of sound.
"Come Forth" is a high quality offering throughout and absolutely ends with a bang, and the strong choruses from the time of Kaamos has not gone MIA since their heyday. As one can demand form musicians of this caliber, the EP leaves little to want even after a careful examination. Since it was initially released in 2015 I really hope that they have something more to offer soon. Until then "Ancient Curses" will probably keep me going for some more time yet. "Come Forth" emerges from its tomb with: 7,9/10