ALBUM REVIEW: Borknagar – Fall

Borknagar is one of Norway’s acclaimed heavy metal acts known for their striking Scandinavian sound and resolute resilience. Their beginnings sprouted thirty years ago and over that time they have proven their merit by cultivating complex concoctions full of genre-bending wonders. They are well seasoned in their affluent brewing of black, progressive, and folk elements making their work notable. 

Their capabilities continue to shine bright on their next full-length record where they push boundaries and explore new depths of their skill sets on Fall (Century Media Records).

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EP REVIEW: Imperial Tide – Existence in Crisis


Imperial Tide is a hardcore group out of Las Vegas/LA. Their debut EP, Existence in Crisis, (Mascot Label Group) consists of six heavy and angry tracks – songs that barely make the three-minute mark. Doesn’t sound like anything new does it? 

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Mutilation Rites – Chasm

Brooklyn, New York, based black metallers Mutilation Rites are a name that have been making somewhat of a buzz in some extreme metal and underground circles. Far from being a necessarily revolutionary band, Mutilation Rites’ sound has been predominantly old school based; being raw, frantic and evil sounding; but they have always felt genuine and backed up with quality.Continue reading

Mayhem – Live In Leipzig


What makes a “classic”? In the case of Mayhem’s Live In Leipzig (Peaceville) it’s primarily down to what it represents – not only the closest thing to a full album by the classic line-up of Mayhem (itself awarded the c-word at least in part for the fact that two of them were dead by violence within three years), but an important document in the development of both a scene and a genre. It’s impossible to look into the early days of “second wave BM” without running into a reference to Live In Leipzig, and it still regularly appears in lists of the most important releases in the genre. References to it tend to spend longer talking about its classic status, the “atmosphere” or the events of the scene it helped give birth to than the music itself, which can cause alarm bells to ring.

Setting everything else aside for the moment, then, the first thing to say about the music is that it’s RAW. Not just the sound – which is better than you may be expecting, especially in its’ remastered form – but the song-writing and playing too. People already familiar with the band after Dead’s… er… death may be surprised – the mystical, sinister atmosphere of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (Deathlike Silence) is thin on the ground, and the experimentalism that the band embraced in their later years is entirely absent. Early tracks like ‘Necrolust’ and ‘Carnage’ push their Thrash and Venom influences to the front, and even DMDS tracks are more savage and direct than their studio incarnations.

Traditional wisdom has Dead being the quintessential Mayhem vocalist, but his style is much more straightforward and orthodox than that of Maniac or Attila – fans of the latter in particular may be disappointed with lines like “in the middle of Transylvania” delivered in a straight rasp rather than Atilla’s vampire drag-queen tenor. The quality he’s so treasured for, of course, is authenticity –  it’s hard to deny the genuine rage and alienation of a man who shot himself in the head five months after this performance – but the extent to which it really informs the music is a matter of personal interpretation. It’s precisely that “realness” and lack of irony that can transform Live In Leipzig into something more than the sum of its sloppy parts, but it’s hard to pin down objectively – one person’s “sloppy” is another’s “dangerous”.

As a document of the genre’s early days, Live In Liepzig is as important as you’ve heard, and the bonuses in this package (a booklet full of scene memorabilia and a second disc of another performance with most of the same tracks and a rawer sound) makes it even more so. As a piece of music it’s both undeniably flawed and often genuinely captivating – and in many ways it’s the flaws that makes it so engaging. Still an essential history lesson for those interested in early 90’s Scandinavian BM, but not always an easy one to swallow, and some fans will find themselves blasphemously glad that Black Metal has been so thoroughly house-trained.





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Revenge – Behold Total Rejection


Behold Total Rejection (Season Of Mist). Until now, Revenge’s three word album titles have always read like the results of a free association exercise at a Fascist support group – Victory Intolerance Mastery, Scum Collapse Eradication, Triumph Genocide Antichrist (all Osmose). Their new release breaks the pattern by not only being an actual sentence, but sounding like it might have more to do with getting dumped than watching a legion of Demon Nazis drown the earth in hatred. Does this represent a subtle shift in the style for the band, then? Er… no.

A dissonant, ugly chord drenched in distortion repeats two or three times before giving way to guitar playing so crude and primitive that even “riff” seems too sophisticated a concept. The drummer appears to be trying to hit every drum as many times as he can simultaneously, and doesn’t really care what anyone else is doing. Solos that are seemingly unrelated to the rest of the music howl out of nowhere like masturbating ponies and then vanish as quickly. The vocals jump from throat-ripping yelps and what sounds like someone gargling cough-medicine, often at the same time  – at least once, he will go “Oooh!” and effects will make it echo mechanically for a few seconds like Tom G. Warrior’s cyborg ghost. At some point they’ll attempt to lock into a groove or Doom passage, then give up after a few seconds as the music collapses back into roaring chaos as if nothing happened.  There’ll be a moment where the music seems to wobble for a moment, as if about to collapse under the weight of its own completely ridiculous fury.

Every song on every album that Revenge have ever written sounds exactly like that. They are brilliant.

There’s something very distinctive, even unique, about Revenge. They’re normally considered alongside bands like Black Witchery or Diocletian, but they have as much in common with sloppy Grind or Watchmaker as their more conventionally Black Metal peers, and their composition and delivery is frequently related more to harsh Noise than anything in Rock or Metal. Like Noise, there’s something compelling or even addictive about them – when you’re in the mood for it nothing else will hit the spot. Even the nastiest and rawest of Black Metal sounds far too structured and melodic in comparison.

Evaluating a Revenge album is, ultimately, pointless. People who think they might enjoy the musical equivalent of rolling downhill in a washing machine full of rocks will find Behold Total Rejection as good a place to get on board as any other album. Established fans will find exactly what they’re looking for. Everyone else… well… it’s not for them. They’ll find something else, don’t worry.





Cape of Bats – Violent Occultism


Having stolen the best band name a gothic metal vampire act had never thought to use yet, Cape Of Bats have spent the last six years belching out a slew of independent releases and splits; fully espousing a DIY ethic and ethos before arriving at Violent Occultism (Broken Limbs), their debut full-length, a thirty-six minute speedball chaser of blackened punk.

On first impression, Violent Occultism is like being forced to endure a series of particularly noxious bottom burps in a small enclosed space, caught, every two minutes, in the ever-regurgitating waves of the putridity. At first it’s hilarious and more than a little impressive, but it doesn’t take many occasions before the joke, unlike the air, begins to wear a little thin and things turn a little stale.

But just when you feel you need a change of scenery and to get some cleaner air in your lungs, Cape of Bats drop another air biscuit of horrid proportions, but this time including some surprising flavours such as the Kveltertak-getting-done-over-with-studded-maces-in-the-car-park ‘Ultimate Evil’, or ‘Follow Me (To Death)’ with its early second wave of Black Metal riffs and atmosphere; the former followed up with the 37 second punk-blast of ‘Blue Hands’ as if to get things back on track, and the latter by the manic start of ‘Buckets of Blood’.

Cape of Bats deal in sloppy, aggressive raw music with black metal, crust and loose thrash permeating their riffs. Add in Francis Kano’s deranged yelps and throat-rips, Cassidy McGinlay’s drumming switching from D-beats to gakked out surf rock grooves, Matthew Geary’s B-movie  carnivalesque keys sporadically appearing and some speed metal frantic soloing and Cape of Bats prove an uncompromising and coarse outfit who are particularly effective when they flirt with the more black metal side of their arsenal, and songs like ‘Damned To Sands’ and ‘Grand Evocation Of War’.

Cape of Bats take raw to other side of the lathe, sinking their filed teeth into still breathing vermin carcasses and expectorating abrasive, unrefined, spiky stabs of punky black metal. A fucking mess of chaos and feral as all hell, nonetheless, there’s something worthwhile in their uncultured savagery.





Obscure Burial – Epiphany

OB Epiphany cover


What are the advantages of re-releasing an obscure demo from 1989? Bringing more quality music to the awareness of people who will enjoy it should be the main answer, of course, but in a world where music is more accessible than it has ever been that argument is perhaps weaker than it once was, and most obscure demos will have been matched or surpassed since their release.

Historical importance, of course, is what really makes the unearthing of ancient treasures worthwhile – hearing the demo which inspired that scene, or influenced that band to change their style, or was the first time we heard Drummer X play a blast beat.  How valuable that kind of historical research really is to a modern listener, and to what extent it can cover the gaps in a rough production and sloppy playing, is entirely up to the listener to decide, but Metal has a history, and being aware of it seems a valid concern to most of us.

So, what if that obscure demo is actually a brand-new release from a young band?  The historical value argument vanishes altogether, leaving the quality of the music to stand-alone, often crippled by deliberately sloppy production values chosen by conscious aesthetic rather than economic necessity.  Obscure Burial are one of a number of young bands whose entire purpose in being is to sound like an under-produced South American rehearsal tape from twenty-five years ago.  They play raw, dirty Metal that straddles the point where Death, Thrash and Black Metals collide so vigorously that it could just as readily be described as any of them, and isn’t above sharing its bedroom with Punk either.

Epiphany (self-released) is a confident and well-realised snapshot of a band who clearly know exactly what they want to be – but when their target is to ape the limitations and boundaries of bands defunct long before they were born, it can be hard to be sure just how worthwhile that ambition really is.  If there’s a space in your collection for vintage Black/Death/Thrash That Never Was, you could certainly do worse – but does anyone really need that many Sarcofago albums?




Black Twilight Circle – Tliltic Tlapoyauak

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The concept of music groups coming together with shared musical interests is nothing new, with the prominence of Belgium’s Church of Ra or France’s Les Legions Noires to name a couple. Shrouded in secrecy, Black Twilight Circle remains a tight knit group, centered round musicians in Southern California tied together by hard work and a shared interest in extreme metal and their Mexican heritage. The group returns this year with their second compilation following on from revered Worship Black Twilight that launched their name onto the underground scene. Tliltic Tlapoyauak, roughly translated as Black Twilight from the Uto-Aztec language Nahuatl, consists of 16 tracks contributed from both new and well-established bands in the collective stretching almost 2 hours and across 3 LPs.

While the artists may be united by a common interest, the projects themselves could never be accused of being over similar. Ranging from the opening statement of Kuxan Suum’s ‘Tzolk’in’ with its haunting flutes and tribal percussion to Blood Play’s homage to German band Bethlehem, the projects range from pouring out their heritage to straight up crust ridden extreme metal. Muknal and The Haunting Presence stand out as the most promising tracks on the release, with their enticingly murky, claustrophobic sound; THP punctuating with raw, bestial growls where Muknal opt for low gutturals. While the compilations showcase some of the circles brightest talent, it also includes its share of misses with In Lakech Ala Kin’s straightforward all out black metal failing to create any impact, and Shataan’s intense drumming and domineering flute sound fitting uncomfortably with the goth influenced clean vocals.

With so much metal music rooted in or inspired by white culture, Black Twilight Circle’s indigenous inspired metal offers a refreshing change of experience from the usual barge of releases. The compilation isn’t without its faults and their sharing of artists across multiple bands and projects delivers a definite quantity over quality effect. However this is essential listening for anyone that likes their guitars tinny and their production murky.


Black Twilight Circle is too kvlt for Facebook. 

Tliltic Tlapoyauak can be purchased here



Protestant – In Thy Name


Protestant do not deal in subtlety.

In Thy Name (Halo of Flies/Throatruiner) is the Milwaukee four-piece’s fourth album since they formed in 2004, it’s eight tracks of Crusty and raw black metal with muscular hardcore and punk aggression spread over half an hour. From the opening blasts of ‘Vulture’ to the blistering final track ‘Delusion’, it’s a relentless barrage of pained screams, rusty chainsaw guitars and blast beats. The sound Protestant create is genuinely unnerving it’s so dark and aggressive.

Protestant do a good job of straddling the black/punk divide. It’s savage and filled with urgency but retains a sinister sounding edge about it. Whether it the punk groove of ‘Carrion’ or the pure fetid blackness of ‘Blood’, the band manage to prevent the album becoming stale – something that is always a risk with this kind of uncompromising music.

If you like your metal raw, noisy and aggressive, they don’t come much more angry and crusty than Protestant. If you could hear raw hatred, it would sound a lot like In Thy Name.


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