BLACK METAL AND RELATED MUSIC
 
(DARK AMBIENT / INDUSTRIAL AND VARIOUS WEIRD STUFF):


HEAVENSHORE
«Between Human And Divine»
Repulse Records
rating: 5 of 6
Interesting emotion and orchestration line these four great songs.  This band reminds me of what OPHTHALAMIA could be (if they didn't suck).  Powerful darkened doom / black  metal which leaves the spirit completely moved from mundanity. Great use of unorthodox instruments, creating a mood of surreality and fantasy.  For those looking for something fresh and moving, check out the great HEAVENSHORE exclusively distributed by Dave Rotten's label, Repulse Records.  Check out the tracks «...While Your God Is Dying» and «Heavenshore». (Andy Harris)

PENTACLE
«The Fifth Moon»
Displeased Records
rating: Andy - 5; Herr Stalhammar - 3
This MCD really blows my mind!  Total old school vibe going on here which leaves you wanting more.  The only thing I wish from this CD is that it was longer!  Please do not equate this band with the other (lame) Displeased bands, as PENTACLE really shines way above the crowd!  (I disagree - Herr) Total fucking hate for God!  (Andy Harris)

FORSTH
«Helvetic War»
Last Episode Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
No changes at all. This talented Swiss band still plays same music, which was featured on their former CD «Winterfrost» - dark, technical, non-standard barbaric black metal with excellent work, accomplished by drummer and bassist. The same words go for singer and keyboard player - Gonahr’s shrieks and Thonger’s majestic passages appear as a foundation which FORSTH’s inimitable sound is constructed upon. One can accuse this corpse-painted quartet in complete absence of anything which could be called as «new», but in my view no innovations are better than 100% change of habitual sound. Don’t you think so? (Herr Stalhammar))

MORTUS
«The Beat Of Greed»
CCP Records
rating: 4, 5 of 6
I don’t know if I did the right thing including «The Beat Of Greed» review in «black metal» section, however this definition fits MORTUS as good as doom, death or hardcore since this German band mixes all aforementioned styles into one and, as a result, we get very fresh and quite interesting recording. This CD features ten tracks of brutal, aggressive and technical music with top-notch production, diverse vocals and certain kind of originality... You won’t find any keyboards or female voices on «The Beat...», e.g. no «modern» innovations, which seem to be considered as ‘necessary’ for extreme metal band nowadays - and I think MORTUS chose the right path, at least their music sounds rather attractive. Therefore do we need to accuse these guys in refusing to incorporate any unorthodox instruments on their debut CD? I think, not. (Herr Stalhammar)

SATYRICON
«Nemesis Divina»
Century Black / Moonfog Productions
rating: 3 of 6
This album is licensed by Century Media Records in the USA.  There is really no need to introduce this band as they have gained a cult following in the scene during the last few years.  I've heard some SATYRICON in the past and only a little bit of it caught my attention.  This is my first time hearing a full length from them, I must shamefully admit.  I was expecting something phenomenal like ARCTURUS because of all the hype SATYRICON gets but unfortunetly they ended up being a big dissapointment. SATYRICON are not bad musicians and the production & cover art are amazing but the music doesn't do anything for me.  It is just plain black metal, the Norwegian way of course, with some keyboards for atmosphere.  There is honestly no originality here whatsoever.  Unless it's something unique like ARCTURUS, VED BUENS ENDE or TARTAROS it's not going to earn my interest.  Black metal is way too over done and must begin to exceed its limits with new and innovative ideas.... which some bands are doing, like ANGIZIA for instance. Well, if you've been a SATYRICON fan in the past then this should be in your hands by now.  If you like your black metal the Norse way then buy this immediatly, it's well done.  (Mark Riddick)

IN THY DREAMS
«Stream Of Dispraised Souls»
Wrong Again Records
rating: 3 of 6
Faceless and typical Swedish black metal once more... Fast, heavy, melodic with traditional «Gothenburg-sound»... Accordion and synthesizers don’t help at all; these instruments hardly can be noticed... The only thing worth mentioning is the participation of Jonas Nyren (ARMAGEDDON) on vocals... (Herr Stalhammar)

DECEASED
«Fearless Undead Machines»
Relapse / Nuclear Blast
rating: 5, 5 of 6
«VENOM reincarnated!» - was the first thought which came into my mind after listening to «Fearless...» CD. These four American guys seem to be very much into old VENOM stuff, however they don’t rip-off legendary English blasphemers. King Fowley’s singing reminds Cronos’ voice, but it’s a way bit different, besides he added some traditional black metal screams (or should I say - «shrieks»?) in his vocal style. Some keyboards and samples were incorporated in DECEASED’ sound as well as non-typical and diverse guitar parts. Very good stuff, very much VENOM inspired, but still original. At least, «Fearless...» is much better that all those worthless «infernos» or «deathwitches»... Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

SIGH
«Hail Horror Hail»
Cacophonous Records
rating: 4 of 6
One more disappointment. Mirai promised «Hail Horror Hail» to be a piece of vanguard metal art with huge number of orchestral parts and even jazz elements... but it sounds extremely incomprehensible and boring. You know, at the first time I even had to stop this CD playing long before it’s end... When I sent an interview to these guys and they rip-offed me I was very distressed but now I’m happy because the band with a new album sounding like shit is not among those who’re welcomed in my magazine. Extremely NOT recommended.
P. S. And once again I have to say - VERY, VERY big disappointment. Especially after magnificent «Scorn Defeat», «Infidel Art» and «Ghastly Funeral Theatre» albums... However, I won’t be surprised to see Kerrang and Rock Hard praising this crap... MOONSPELL, ALGAION, SIGH... - who’s next to embark on the poser path?? (Herr Stalhammar)

IN DARKNESS...
«Too Cold Inside»
Eclipse Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Portugal brings more and more interesting BM bands... MOONSPELL now play some kind of pop-industrial, but the throne of Portuguese black metal kings was empty only for a while... CANDLE SERENADE, SACRED SIN, DECAYED, FILII NIGRANTIUM INFERNALIUM, EXTREME UNCTION and now IN DARKNESS... are preparing to conquer it. And this five-piece from Oporto has a lot of chances to become the best. You won’t find anything original on «Too Cold Inside», however does it mean that music represented on this CD isn’t worth attention? NO! There’re intro and eight tracks (two of them - synth improvisations) of atmospheric, very beautiful and romantic doom / black metal with incredible guitar solos and two types of male vocals + some female invocations. No trace of aggression or evil... just pure beauty... of darkness... (Herr Stalhammar)

GRENOUER
«Border Of Misty Times»
Metal Agen Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
First official album from this band, which strikes as one of the best (and most original!) black / death metal acts in Russia! «Border...» consists of intro and seven tracks of brilliantly performed brutal and atmospheric death metal with definite BM approach (especially in lyrics, written in an abstract, equivocal way). It has enough tempo changes and memorable melodies, created with help of keyboards and viola. Vocals are also worth mention, especially black metal ones... A MUST. (Herr Stalhammar)

TALES OF DARK NORD
«Obliteration Allegory»
Metal Agen Records
rating: 5 of 6
And here we have one more excellent death / black release from Metal Agen. This band’s bio looks like somekinda strange - they began in early ‘90s with «Obliteration Allegory» demo, then released «Blackened Soul Remains» a year after and during that time TALES OF DARK NORD could be described as black metal band. «Tragedy», «Absorbing Destinies» and «Unearthly Agitator» tapes saw the light consequently in 1994 and 1995. First of them represented blackened brutal death metal, while with «Unearthly...» these guys have moved quite close to grind territories. But let’s get back to reviewed CD. This album includes a couple of songs from each of aforementioned demo tapes, re-recorded at Sound Service Studio in February 1996. There’re twelve tracks of technical, extremely brutal, dark, atmospheric death metal with unique Shirl’s bass technique and vocals, which seem to rise up straight from Hellish dominion... Very interesting output, highly recommended to all brutal maniacs.
P. S. TALES OF DARK NORD also released «Endless Sunfall» demo in the end of 1997 - it’s done in more «black» vein with strong influence of Florida gods - DEICIDE... Search for this one also. Out on Belorussian Legion Productions. (Herr Stalhammar)

SACRAMENTUM
«The Coming Of Chaos»
Century Media
rating: 4 of 6
And once again... Top-quality Swedish black metal, masterly performed and perfectly recorded, without any trace of originality though... «The Coming...» was created in L. A. Recordings by Andy La Roque - he made SACRAMENTUM’s sound a bit more original, but it’s still very difficult to distinguish this band from others, like LORD BELIAL, MARDUK, AMSVARTNER, CARDINAL SIN, DARK FUNERAL, MORK GRYNING and the list goes on ad infinitum... Good stuff, but only for those who care about Swedish black metal. (Herr Stalhammar)

ABYSSOS
«Together We Summon The Dark»
Cacophonous Records
rating: 5 of 6
Oh, how I’m tired of this... One more time I have to write a review on regular Swedish black metal band... Ok, it’s recorded in English Academy Studio, so the sound is a bit different, comparing to Swedish «standards», keyboards and female vocals are added, making music more original and memorable, but it still smells with Sweden... with Gothenburg... Nothing more to say - «Together...» is also a good stuff and it has only one shortcoming. However, as I already said I’m incredibly tired of this shortcoming, which became the trademark of Swedish BM bands. I’m talking about 0% originality... (Herr Stalhammar)

ANCIENT CEREMONY
«Under Moonlight We Kiss»
Cacophonous Records
rating: 6 of 6
One more output from Cacophonous, but this time by German guys, which are definitely familiar with such thing as originality. «Under Moonlight We Kiss» is better described as professionally performed vampyric sympho-black with amazing vocals (both - male and female), mysterious atmosphere, created by talented keyboardist and... well, I guess, there’s no need to enumerate all their advantages. This CD is absolutely great - buy it or you’re loser! (Herr Stalhammar)

BLOODTHORN
«In The Shadow Of Your Black Wings»
Season Of Mist Productions
rating: 6 of 6
FORLORN, DISMAL EUPHONY, ARCTURUS, BETHZAIDA, EINHERJER, BORKNAGAR, TROLL, SOLEFALD, AETERNUS - in my view these bands appear as the best ones among representatives of Norwegian black metal. Now I can add one more name in this list - it’s BLOODTHORN. It is hard to describe their music, however if you want me do it I’ll say something like «mid-tempo symphonic black metal with non-typical vocals, good guitar work, ethereal female vocals and weird atmosphere». You know, after you’ve wrote 256th review it’s very difficult to write something in different words and to let you know exactly what the band is all about. The only thing I can add is that «In The Shadow...» was recorded in Brygga Studio with Tor Breivik as producer and sound engineer and that BLOODTHORN consists basically of only two guys - Krell on vocals and Tom on guitars. Flipp on bass, Knarr on drums and guitars, Geir Michael on keyboards and Kristine on female vocals appear as session musicians. Sounds strange, eh? Anyway, I assure you that this band is definitely worth mention and if you’ll have a chance of buying this CD, do it without thinking twice. (Herr Stalhammar)

ASHES
«Death Has Made It’s Call»
Necropolis Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
It’s somehow strange to see band, playing black metal without incorporating female vocals, keyboards and violins nowadays. But ASHES appear exactly as such kind of band and their music is surprisingly good. It’s neither fast, nor slow, more in a mid-tempo, with aggressive non-typical screams, magnificently performed and well recorded. There’s nothing special here, nothing new or original but this stuff still sounds very attractive and I don’t know the reason why... Maybe, because of sincerity these guys brought into their music, maybe because of something else... Anyway, buy «Death...» and you won’t regret. (Herr Stalhammar)

KVIKKSOLVGUTTENE
«Krieg»
Head Not Found
rating: 3 of 6
I don’t who needs this worthless band... And moreover, I don’t know why such a good and respected label as Head Not Found signed them. Maybe, because of Necrobutcher (MAYHEM) who plays bass here... «Krieg» sounds better than «Gamlem» 7’EP released year ago, however it’s still very far from being good. Boring, lacking atmosphere, insincere, typical black / thrash metal... You know, regular tribute to SODOM-alike bands... I’m just tired of all these shitheads speculating on first BM bands’ heritage... Another trend, another fashion... And just like all fashions it will be gone soon, hopefully... You may ask why I gave «Krieg» such a big mark - 3? Well, you know, as I already said, the whole album is shit, but last song entitled «Nagle Kamp» is something really worth attention. With lyrics like «I smoke weed and I get high..., etc.», low «clean» voice (by Helle Mel Pa De Kristne, KVIKKSOLVGUTTENE’s drummer), memorable and impressive guitar and bass parts, it seems to be one of my favorite (!) songs during this month. Sounds weird? Yes. But it’s truth. (Herr Stalhammar)

WINDWALKER
«The Dance Of The Elves»
Voice Of Death Records
rating: 10 of 6
Ground-breaking debut from this almost unknown Swedish band. You know, I never expected to see band with such an originality, sincerity and masterly performed, incredibly impressive music, coming from that country. All these guys, playing in so-called «Gothenburg-style», superbly undermined Swedish BM scene’s authority, but there’re some bands, still trying to create something non-typical without following the trend. «The Dance Of The Elves» consists of mandolin intro and five really long songs, which however don’t become boring at all. Plenty of brilliant, melancholic «clean» male vocals, some BM shrieks, acoustics and sound, which has nothing to do with any kinds of standards - and all this is done by two individuals, namely Daniel Bryntse (all vocals, guitars, bass, drums, keyboards) and Per Sandgren (guitars, mandolins, bass)! I can’t understand why such labels as Black Sun or No Fashion sign worthless trendy kids, playing child shitz, i.e. so-called «Swedish black metal», while bands like WINDWALKER stay in shadow of various «marduks», cooperating with little underground labels... To say that I’m impressed in an extremely positive way by WINDWALKER’s music is to say nothing! These two guys are geniuses! This CD is A MUST for everyone, no doubts! (Herr Stalhammar)

SHINJUKU THIEF
«The Witch Hunter»
Dorobo Productions
Darrin Verhagen offers us the second part to his witch trilogy with this fine piece of musical sonance. SHINJUKU THIEF continues its fine portrayal of and interpretation of sixteenth century mysticism/horror and respect towards 1920's expressionistic German cinematography.  This becomes apparent in the cold landscapes evoking dark and dreary visions in the mind of the listener who is taken on a journey through numerous emotions, occasionally striking awe, sometimes fear, other times fright and suffering... overall, a mass conveyance of blackened climax.  Attaining session performers, Darrin works to orchestrate the dramatic sounds of violins, trombones, saxophones, trumpets, guitars, bass, voice, samplings, and loops all into one massive symphony of seductive madness! To accompany the magnificence of this release there is a splendidly texture inlay panel with highly atmospheric imagery.  I look forward to the third chapter within the witch trilogy. Fans of black metal and black ambient should find this work very appealing. (Mike Riddick)

NOCTURNAL BREED
«Aggressor»
Hammerheart Records
rating: 6 of 6
After looking at their CD’s and songs’ titles («Rape The Angels», «Alcoholic Rites», «Locomotive Death», «Blaster», etc.) - what will you think? Exactly - that these Norwegians follow «old-fashioned black / thrash» trend. And you will be wrong. All these stupid titles and aliases (Destroyer and Ed Domnator) say nothing about NOCTURNAL BREED’s incredible music. So what is the music? It’s slow, with originally programmed (and not irritating at all!) drum-set, atmospheric keyboards, some anxious electronic sounds and samples, distorted vocals and elements of black, death, doom, gothic and thrash metal mixed into one. Destroyer and Ed definitely know how to make things different and they manage to create maybe not unique but certainly attractive and contrasting with other BM bands stuff. A MUST. (Herr Stalhammar)

DE INFERNALI
«Symphonia De Infernali»
Nuclear Blast Records
rating: 6 of 6
Strange album. Very strange. I don’t even know what section it would fit better - «black metal» or «other stuff»? Some songs appear as neo-classical ones with perfect imitation of symphonic orchestra, others as brutal and aggressive black / industrial with singer’s displeased grunting. And «Sign Of The Dark» is... satanic techno. Yes techno, it’s not a spelling mistake! Symphonic techno music with excellent «clean» vocals (sound like Dan Swano’s voice a lot, but much better) and typical for this stuff drum computer. I never thought that I’ll like techno music, but... I don’t only like it - I’m amazed! This song ranks among the best ones in my personal charts this month. «Symphonia...» definitely is not for everyone, anyway try it... This CD may appeal you as well... Or maybe I’m wrong... (Herr Stalhammar)

THEORY IN PRACTICE
«Third Eye Function»
Pulverised Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Techno-death is not dead, heh heh... ATHEIST turned into oblivion, despite that I believe that there always will be bands like THEORY IN PRACTICE, gaining their inspiration in Kelly Shaefer’s alike music. And the band, whose CD I’m reviewing right now can be described as «black metallish ATHEIST». Intrigued? Just imagine «Elements» with low-tuned brutal although intelligent guitars, black metal screams and mystical lyrics. And that would be THEORY IN PRACTICE’s «Third Eye Function». Interesting album. (Herr Stalhammar)

ARKONA
«An Eternal Curse Of The Pagan Godz»
Folter Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
This is a second album from Polish ARKONA, this times much better than already good debut («Imperium», out on Astral Wings in 1996), despite that «An Eternal Curse...» also appears as old tracks’ re-issue. Six of them are taken from «Bogowie Zapomnienia» demo, released 1994, others (from 7th to 15th) - from «An Eternal Curse Of The Pagan Godz» rehearsal tape, recorded in March of 1994. Surprisingly productions turns out as pretty good, the same goes for musicianship. Especially, I’d like to mark out amazing organ parts and good vocals. If «Imperium» was good album with bad quality, «An Eternal Curse...» is a great album with good production. ARKONA has everything to please every black metaller, «true» or not - so I urge you to look for this CD. Satisfaction guaranteed.
(Herr Stalhammar)

OBSCURATION
«The 5th Season»
self-released
rating: 5 of 6
Very strange debut MCD from this French vanguard band... «The 5th Season» is full of weird guitar harmonies, sick vocals and various experimental decisions, making this album pleasing to hear for some and unlistenable for others... Anyway, these guys definitely have something to say and «The 5th Season» looks like promising debut...
P. S. This MCD was produced by Stephane Buriez of French death metal gods LOUDBLAST, who also made some backing vocals on «Heart-Rending Farewells» track. (Herr Stalhammar)

NOX INTEMPESTA
«Die Lieder Von Tod Und Ewigkeit»
Folter Records
rating: 5 of 6
And again Folter Records, and again excellent band - this time from Germany. There’s not much to say about their music - it’s very dark, with mystic atmosphere, fast, sometimes slow... An ode to darkness everlasting... Highly recommended.
P. S. NOX INTEMPESTA’s first full-length CD, entitled «Damnatus Dominum» will be out soon, watch out! (Herr Stalhammar)

ENTHRONED
«Towards The Skullthrone Of Satan»
Blackend Records
rating: 5 of 6
Oh, these Belgian satanists are alive! Whatta surpise! I though that they would split up after Cernunnos’ suicide. Now there’s Sabathan (ex-BLASPHERION) left of the original line-up, and vacancies were filled with Nornagest (lead guitar) and Nebiros (lead and rhythm guitars). So it seems that drummer is absent here, replaced with computer, which however can’t be noticed listening to «Towards The Skullthrone...». You’re eager to know what kind of music ENTHRONED play? Ok, it’s melodic, fast and atmospheric black metal with few keyboards here and there... Strange, but this CD somehow reminds me of ABSU, especially when it comes to singing style... One more fact which is worth mentioning is Cronos (of mighty VENOM) who contributed backing vocals on two tracks! Good stuff. (Herr Stalhammar)

MORNINGSTAR
«Heretic Metal»
Moonlight Records
MORNINGSTAR play a very raw old style black / thrash metal.  Sometimes it tries to be atmospheric but I don't think that 1980 Casio keyboard is going to cut it.  I'm not sure what their discography is like but I think this is their debut; and it's not that bad.  The design and packaging of this album is pretty sad but I think the music overcomes it.  If you are heavily into this new retro thrash comeback then you should get a hold of this album.  (Mark Riddick)
P. S. (Herr's note): Mark is wrong, saying that this CD is MORNINGSTAR's debut - they've also released "Rivendell" CD, "As Wolves Howl" MCD and "Before The Dawn" 7'EP so far.

RAISM
«The Very Best Of Pain»
Kron-H
Techno black death metal is what I would describe this band.  Very, very strange.  This is something I am not used to at all, but it may appeal to people who are interested in this unorthodox mix of influences.  Raism is a band which may be given time to settle in.  If this sounds like your thing, give it a chance. (Andy Harris)

SARCOFAGO
«The Worst»
Cogumelo Records
rating: 5 of 6
Weird, dark death metal with strong BM approach, gloomy keyboards and insane drummer, playing his instrument so fast that I even doubted that it’s human who sits behind the drum-set... «The Worst» is fifth full-length CD from this legendary Brazilian black / death band will please a lot of dark souls, I guess... At least, personally I liked this stuff a lot. Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

AMSVARTNER
«The Trollish Mirror»
Blackend Records
rating: 5 of 6
AMSVARTNER comes from Sweden and the music they play is known as «black metal»... Do you need any more comments? Yes, it’s fast, melodic, professionally played and amazingly recorded, with good vocals and total absence of originality... (Herr Stalhammar)

MEPHISTOPHELES
«Landscape Symphonies»
Adipocere Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Excellent debut CD from this German band. Nordischer Kunstler (vocals, keyboards), Xenien (lead guitars, 6 and 12 string acoustics), Ferun (rhythm guitars), Frurr (bass), Selphatus (drums) and Denise (female vocals) perform very interesting and impressive romantic BM with plenty of keyboards and mesmerizing female singing... MEPHISTOPHELES prove that Swedes are not the only ones able to create melodic, fast, beautiful and in the same time aggressive black metal. Also note, that these Germans do it without ripping anyone off or following the trend. A song, entitled «Infinite Dreams» is something really special... at least, I find myself listening to it again and again...  Conclusion is frighteningly simple - A MASTERPIECE. (Herr Stalhammar)

SLATANIC SLAUGHTER II
«A Tribute To Slayer»
Black Sun Records
rating: 4 of 6
If ever there was a band that deserved a tribute record, it's definitely SLAYER.  Everyone can claim their allegiance to CELTIC FROST, BATHORY, VENOM, and whoever else it's mandatory to like, but undeniably the most influential band on extreme music was SLAYER, 3/4's of the bands today wouldn't be playing metal if it wasn't for them.  But enough ranting, this is supposed to be a music review.  Although «Slatanic Slaughter II» is not as strong as the first one, it's still very worthy of praise.  While almost all the covers are enjoyable, the highlights include: NECROPHOBIC («Die By The Sword»), VADER («Silent Scream»), ANATHEMA («Read Between The Lines»), and the utterly amazing version of «Hell Awaits» by CRADLE OF FILTH.  Other bands included on this release are LUCIFERION («Chemical Warfare»), SINISTER («Praise Of Death»), MALEVOLENT CREATION («Raining Blood»), BENEDICTION («Necrophiliac»), plus four others.  Hail to one of the most important metal bands!  Hail SLAYER! (Dallas Elmhurst)

ESTATIC FEAR
«Somnium Obmutum»
CCP Records
rating: 10 of 6
Honestly speaking, I own this CD for many months and the reason why I didn’t determine to right a review on «Somnium...» earlier was simple impossibility to find appropriate words which could describe this fantastic CD... Finally, I decided to write a couple of lines, although I still don’t know what to say... ESTATIC FEAR is definitely «unusual» (read - original) band with their own view of BM genre development. This CD consists of four extreeeeeemly long tunes, although they don’t become boring or anything. ESTATIC FEAR performs very emotional music with actual thought put into each riff, each harmony, each word, each sound... Yes, it’s atmospheric, but atmospheric in ‘melancholic’ way - those, who look for dark, gloomy stuff should pass by this record, no doubts. Harrowing Marion’s angelvoice and Beowulf’s  screams, pierced with grief force the atmosphere of supreme sadness, supplemented with heart-rending guitar riffs, celestial sounds of flute and acoustics together with autumnally sad keyboards... This music perfectly pictures the scene of a judgement day... judgement day for our souls, performed by ourselves; fallen, worthless, motionless creatures wrecking everything surrounding us, twisting knife into the heart of our Mother, betraying Her, who gave us birth... The worst thing you can do is to walk out on the street after listening to «Somnium...» - this difference between incredibly beautiful, heavenly music and cruel, ugly world we’re living in, will kill you. (Herr Stalhammar)

IMMORTAL
«Blizzard Beasts»
Osmose Productions
Can you say, «MORBID ANGEL?» It seems that these words are not at all unfamiliar to Abbath and Co., as it seems this is the band that they wish they were.  This LP is total bullshit. IMMORTAL has strayed so far on a bad rock star path from traditional conceptions of black metal that it makes me sick.  I think this band would be better off playing MORBID ANGEL covers and doing the bar circuit.  If you want to hear good IMMORTAL, stick to their first LP. (Andy Harris)

IMPIETY
«Usateerul Uwaleen»
Shivadarshana Records
This release is a pretty good example of what tortorous black death metal with gut wrenching vocals should sound like. IMPIETY does not really explore anything brand new within the genre, but their attempts at its display are pretty good.  There is not much here in the way of atmosphere, but there is a large measure of brutality and hyper-speed.  If you are looking for something fresh this is not the way to go, but it should satisfy the cravings of the genre's fans. (Andy Harris)

KATATONIA
«Sounds Of Decay»
Avantgarde Music
rating: 5, 5 of 6
One more Swedish band, but this time a legendary one, leaded by infamous Blackheim, hence this MCD has nothing to do with DISSECTION, DARK FUNERAL and MORK GRYNING-alike music. «Sounds Of Decay» is a spit in the face of such people as me, i.e. those, who always considered KATATONIA as black metal band... Mikael Akerfeldt of OPETH (godz!) who performed all vocals on this album sings here in a pure death metal way... and it’s great! You know, there’re only few DM singers, able to do it originally, like f.ex. Dan Swano or above-mentioned Mikael. I don’t see a single reason to tell you anything of music, featured on «Sounds...» - it speaks for itself! The only thing, I can add is that it was recorded in Sunlight Studio, proving my opinion that it’s possible to record good and original stuff there. BUY IT! (Herr Stalhammar)

L’AME IMMORTELLE
«Lieder Die Wie Wunden Bluten»
M. O. S. Records Ltd.
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Never liked this industrial-influenced black, and L’AME IMMORTELLE is not an exception. This band is very much alike Swedish OVERFLASH - same sampled electronic sound, total lack of electric guitars, distorted male voice and beautiful female singing. Maybe, only because of Sonja’s vocals and such tracks as «Life Will Never Be The Same Again» (in both versions - original (electronic) and classical (orchestral)) I gave this album «4, 5» mark. Anyway, it doesn’t mean that «Lieder...» sucks - I just don’t like industrial, you see. Try it, this is a good stuff anyway. (Herr Stalhammar)

FORBIDDEN SITE
«Sturm Und Drang»
Solistitium Records
rating: 6 of 6
Ah, and this is something really special... French BM underground became more active during last couple of years spawning such bands as YOUR SHAPELESS BEAUTY, OSCULUM INFAME, GORGON, BLUT AYS NORD and THE EYE, but FORBIDDEN SITE together with FOREST OF SOULS seems to be the best and most original bands, ever emerged from France. Their style is weird, atmospheric, barocco-influenced medieval black metal with perfect orchestrations, female choirs, violins and piano... Such tracks as «Renaissance Noire» simply are killers! (Herr Stalhammar)

FOREST OF SOULS
«Contes Et Legends d’Efeandayl»
Adipocere Records
rating: 6 of 6
One more genius band from France and one more genius album... FOREST OF SOULS made their debut with «War And Poetry» MCD on Adipocere Records three years ago, which in fact was their demo tape’s re-release. And now, after a long wait, these guys finally made available their first full-length CD. It contains twelve tracks of original, diverse, medieval witchery sympho-black metal with many other music styles incorporated in their sound as well. «Contes Et Legends...» captures different moods - sometimes romantic and beautiful with male «a-la operatic» vocals and celestial singing performed by certain female, sometimes - dark and scary, strengthened by atmospheric keyboards, anxious organ sounds and inhuman BM shrieks... The only bad thing here is guitar sounding extremely irritating in a couple of songs, while played professionally in others... Anyway, this shortcoming doesn’t even worth mentioning... FOREST OF SOULS managed to create really great album, so don’t hesitate and buy it at once! (Herr Stalhammar)

MATUTINA NOCTEM
«Anima Meam»
Adipocere Records
rating: 5 of 6
And one more original French band, signed to Adipocere Records... This time the one, whose music could be described as dark folklore metal with male and female majestic chants, transverse flute, djembe, acoustic and classical guitars, cymbals and tambourines... «Anima Meam» sounds fresh and interesting, although I liked EROS NECROPSIQUE (also French, also on Adipocere) more. (Herr Stalhammar)

HERMH
«Angeldemon»
Pagan Records
rating: 4 of 6
Third CD from one of the best Polish black metal bands... Romantic, atmospheric, beautiful and dark - these are the words to describe «Angeldemon». The music is same antagonistic as the album’s title, it’s combination of incompatible... Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

SUSURRUS INANIS
«The Shadowless Shining»
Will Crushed Communications
Here we have the cassette release of a rather new American ambient project, SUSURRUS INANIS.  This should not be fully overlooked, as it is not a great deal like the cheesy wave of ambient bands in the black metal scene, as these persons are more involved with the doom metal scene, though are still composing a rather bleak and sorrowful effort through the use of synth and voice alone.  Overall this is a well done release, though the voice could have perhaps been produced a bit better, though the synthetic work is of decent regard.  This project tends to stick with the same keyboard sound, thus giving the entirety of it a monotone feel, at times reminiscent of Mortiis.  A descent release. (Mike Riddick)

PAIN
«Pain»
Nuclear Blast Records
rating: 1 of 6
Uhh... This is shit (yeah! - Herr).  Totally sold out bullshit from the HYPOCRISY main man. Nothing here but bold wanna-be bullshit metal limpwristed industrial garbage looking to sell a million copies.  Thanks to Nuclear Blast for another overpriced frisbee. (Andy Harris)

NECROMANTIA
«Ancient Pride»
Osmose Productions
rating: 6 of 6
In honor of their heritage, Greece's NECROMANTIA have released the four song mini CD appropriately entitled «Ancient Pride».  With every other band out there looking back to their ancestors for inspiration, NECROMANTIA have seemed to pull it off without the typical trappings.  Definitely one of the best of the Greek BM scene, they have the perfect blend of melody and brutality while adding doses of speed where need be. (Dallas Elmhurst)

NECROPHOBIC
«Darkside»
Black Mark Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Here we have yet another onslaught of superb and high quality black/death metal from these Swedish underground masters.  I was very pleased to find a heavy and raw sound included on this album (though not excluding the infamous Swedish metal sound). NECROPHOBIC tends to continue their melodic guitar work and fast paced drumming coupled with a brutal vocal attack on this newest album.  Though, it is still apparent that this band increases in skill and harmony with each album they produce, hence not becoming stagnant. An interesting addition is the ritual-like close of this LP.  Overall, I find this album to be highly representative of what satanic black / death metal should embody.  I look forward to future albums from NECROPHOBIC. (Mike Riddick)

DEICIDE
«Serpents Of The Light»
Roadrunner
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Ha, did you wait any innovations from these insane blasphemers? Then you’re just stupid. DEICIDE is still DEICIDE, and this CD doesn’t bring anything new at all, however still staying as very good and original piece of pure satanic black / death. Songs are very short and that’s not very good thing for me, although if they would be longer maybe «Serpent...» sounded boring...? Who knows... Anyway, I enjoyed this desecrating album very much, and so will you. (Herr Stalhammar)

ARMAGEDDON
«Crossing The Rubicon»
Wrong Again Records
rating: 10 of 6
One more excellent CD, released by Wrong Again... As far as I know, all bands, signed to this label come from Sweden and most of them appear as the ones, playing in this dull and trendy «Gothenburg-sound» style. However, there’re some really brilliant acts, like f.ex. ARCH ENEMY and now - ARMAGEDDON. It’s lineup includes Christopher Amott as the main guitarist and his brother Mike (ex-CARCASS and CARNAGE) as session vocalist. All ten tracks, represented on «Crossing...» are astoundingly recorded (Studio Fredman) and brilliantly performed black metal hymns with genius guitar work (hail, Christopher!). This CD also includes four instrumentals and one of them, «Funeral In Space» is a Masterpiece, which will bring the tears out of your eyes... A chant to lost harmony, to sunrise of a new better age, never to come... To tell you in short - ARMAGEDDON plays top-quality, diverse, beautiful and in the same time aggressive... somehow unreal (or maybe unearthly is more appropriate word?) black, mixed with some death and power metal elements with violin and keyboards involved. Everything is splendid here, and such thing as originality wasn’t forgotten. A MUST.
(Herr Stalhammar)

HEMLOCK
«Crush The Race Of God»
Head Not Found
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Insane, fast and primitive, straight-forward black metal with «northern way» of doing things... Nothing really special, although vocals are something that I liked very much. I wouldn’t say that HEMLOCK have no future, but these guys need to work hard anyway. (Herr Stalhammar)

GOAT OF MENDES
«To Walk Upon The Wiccan Way»
Perverted Taste Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
«Hymn To One Ablaze», GOAT OF MENDES’ debut already was a good piece of work, but it had some bad sides. Now, with «To Walk Upon...» they rectified all their mistakes and from «promising» turned into one of the best German BM bands, at least in my opinion. There’re many style mixed with each other in this CD - black, death, doom, thrash, heavy metal, even some gothic and ambient... But it doesn’t make music sound incomprehensible like on last SIGH’s release - all these innovations only make songs more interesting, capturing your attention until their very end... Widest range of vocals (BURZUM-alike shrieks, more «calm» BM screaming, death metal growls, recitatives, female ones...), perfect production and masterly performed compositions... - do you need any more reasons to purchase this CD? (Herr Stalhammar)

ALGAION
«General Enmity» 
Wounded Love Records
rating: 2, 5 of 6
Long awaited CD from these Swedes turned out as a big disappointment for me. Marten and Mathias (this time with Tobias Leffler (VERGELMER) and Erik Krona as session guitarist and drummer) changed their former original and interesting style into some sort of mix between modern IN FLAMES direction and ’80s power / speed metal bands’ heritage. Too bad, because «General Enmity» doesn’t feature anything impressive, original or, at least, new. Boring stuff with shitty guitar sound. ALGAION fails miserably... (Herr Stalhammar)

THY PRIMORDIAL
«Where Only The Seasons Mark The Paths Of Time»
Pulverised Records
rating: 6 of 6
This band fucking rips like Hell!  I do not know much about the band's previous material, but I can say this LP, whether it is their debut or not, is total supreme Swedish style black metal.  Screeching vocals from a whirlwind of cacophony over melodic and technical guitar work.  The speed, brutality, and aggression is here.  Plus this band uses intense sound effects like explosions to add even more to the apocalyptic atmosphere of their music. (Andy Harris)

HOER
«Lost»
Moonlight Records
This band did not wholly catch my interest, though they remain very worthy of great respect and intrigue.  This is a very daring release, as it seems to be a combination of electronic (e.b.m. and industrial) fused with metal overtones and black metalish vocal annunciations (though in a calmer fashion).  This release is not recommended for the close minded music fan, but I think those residing within the electo-dance-indstrial scene may take an acute interest in this work.  Odd and obscure! (Mike Riddick)

TINIEBLAS
"Dark Infernal Light"
THCR Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Hey, have anyone of you ever heard of black metal from Puerto Rico? Now you've got it with TINIEBLAS. South-American approach is definitely present here, however "Dark Infernal Light" doesn't have a lot to do with so-called "traditional" sound, incorporated by most of bands, coming from this region. TINIEBLAS' style is fast, extremely atmospheric supreme black metal with most insane shrieks I've ever heard (!), some recitatives and female background singing. This is a promising debut, hope to hear from TINIEBLAS more in the future! (Herr Stalhammar)

OBLIVIOUS SCIENTIST
«Sounds For Nestra»
Silver Wheel Music
It is very difficult what to make of this very strange and avant-garde musical creation.  There are a plethora of sound experimentations reminiscent of emerging life-like organisms and robotic machinaries.  I can picture this music as the soundtrack to a low budget science fiction film (which is a compliment in my opinion).  Described as being 'dark meditations for mad scientists,' I would have to agree with this as a fitting title, as the entirety of this work is like that of a laboratory delving into new and explorational facets of thought... maddening, nonetheless.  This production holds its own place in music and can not fittingly be described without placing some sort of restraint upon this work of art.  Recommended to all with an open mind and infatutaion with otherworldly life, space, and the universe in general. (Mike Riddick)

TOMBSTONE
«Gothic Land»
Death Factory
This is the debut production coming from a side label of Sweden's Cold Meat Industry.  Italy's TOMBSTONE has been creating their obscure and darkened sounds for many years now, and it is a pleasure to finally behold their work in CD format.  This entire CD was highly disturbing to the senses. Combining droning spheres of pure darkness in congruence with occasional samples warped effects and a variety of other sounds, we have the complete result of a nightmare!  At points you will desire to shut off your stereo, yet something holds you to this CD that is unexplicable and very painful.  I have never indulged sounds like this before, and I must say that TOMBSTONE creates an atmosphere unique to themselves, this has to be the darkest release in my collection (far surpassing attempts in the commonplace metal genre).  To further torture the buyer, there is a marvelous and haunting layout design coming from the Karmanik family (as CMI is quite well known for their spectacular layouts).  Purchase this CD and suffer. (Mike Riddick)

HOLY DEATH
«Triumph Of Evil»
Head Not Found
rating: 10 of 6
HOLY DEATH is not a kind of band, well respected in Polish underground - mainly thanks to Rob Darken’s insinuations. Yeah, yeah, the same old shit again - «trendy», «false», and statements like «... they’re profaning Polish BM scene». Anyway, I don’t pay much attention to such assertions. Moreover, they made me to look for this album, because as far as I know, Rob curses only REALLY worthy and talented bands (is envy a reason for that?). I was a bit surprised to see HOLY DEATH on Head Not Found, however this fact only assured me that these guys are really worth attention. And I wasn’t mistaken. «Triumph Of Evil» includes six songs of slow, extremely dark and anxious black metal with non-standard screams, beautiful, though gloomy female vocals and excellent synth work, creating weird atmosphere. Basically speaking, HOLY DEATH stands quite close to their countrymates from THEMGOROTH, DARZAMAT and MASTIPHAL; and this fact suggests the existence of their «own», «Polish» sound. Lyrics on this CD are a bit primitive, but who cares anyway?... A MUST for each self-respecting BM fan. (Herr Stalhammar)

DARKNESS ENSHROUD
«Unveiled Ghostly Shadows»
Moribund Records
DARKNESS ENSHROUD has taken quite a different approach from their previous release «Ancient Kingdoms».  The difference in style may also be due in part to the addition of female member Darkat performing alongside Baron Von Abaddon.  Though, DARKNESS ENSHROUD still retains the same low quality and distant sound as «Ancient Kingdoms» (which provides a unique atmosphere), the music tends to be more structured and hollow in one sense.  A very bleak and minimalistic recording of aenoic energies, dark seductions, and blackened nightmares.  The only indifferent aspect I find in this work is the use of electro-percussives on «Finsternis» which purvey the quality of a weak keyboard, etc.  Despite this track, the entirety of this work is destined to make a mark in the dark ambient-experimental genre.  This is a plague for the human race.  An added plus is the splendid layout design by Steve of Descent Magazine.  Overall, this release proves to be an excellent evolution from the past «Ancient Kingdoms» release. (Mike Riddick)

SKALPELL
«Surgical Compulsion»
Rising Records
This is the most recent product from this Swiss underground experimental industrial act.  This entire cassette drives the listener into numerous sound experimentations and noisescapes, highly unique and innovative.  Most of these tracks have a redundant monotony to them, slowly overlaying various sounds, samples, and effects and then degenerating them as the songs proceed.  This makes for a curious atmosphere throughout the whole of this opus.  Created solely by a two-man front, both Henry and Harry contemplate and express musically, the degeneration of life via sounds that dissect the consciousness of the listener and strive to force upon you a 'personal catharsis prior towards reaching terminal relief' as quoted from their biographical information.  In essence, this is musical obstruction pointed towards the extinction of your mind, and I must admit that these tracks own a quality resembling this pursuit.  Overall, this sonic attack suceeds in its endeavours as a work of art and a fine piece of music.  Highly recommended. (Mike Riddick)

OCTINOMOS
«On The Demiurge»
Fullmoon Productions
rating: 5 of 6
From F. Soderlund of the mighty PUISSANCE, comes the incredibly diabolical hyper-speed black metal project OCTINOMOS.  The drums are fucking quick as hell, and the guitar melodies simply fucking rule!  I truly believe that the one man project OCTINOMOS could one day enter the ISENGARD-BURZUM -BATHORY circle at no disadvantage.  This release is truly fucking supreme.  Check this out now! (Andy Harris)

TENEBRARUM
«Blood And Tears»
Warmaster Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Second CD from this dark Colombian cult of pure evil... What’s original on this album is a violin, which appears almost a leading instrument together with guitar! As to «Blood And Tears» in the whole, it’s definitely original although standing quite close to standard schemes of the genre CD, i.e. supreme South-American black / death metal with «garage» production (which doesn’t spoil TENEBRARUM’s sound at all!) reminding me of early MASACRE days, raw male screams and female soprano as backing vocals. Very weird but interesting stuff. (Herr Stalhammar)

THE HELHEIM SOCIETY
«Fenris»
Necropolis Records
In Necropolis' fine tradition of releasing EPs from Scandinavia, comes the release of the HELHEIM on MCD.  This band is okay, but I really prefer the other HELHEIM from Norway wholeheartedly more than this band. HELHEIM plays an original black / death style, yet it really is not enough to persuade me to listen to the CD more than once.  The major drawback in production is the fact that the drum machine is a horrible addition and takes away from the feeling of the music. (Andy Harris)
P. S. Don’t pay attention to Andy’s bleating - «Fenris» is fresh and interesting piece of industrialized black metal, performed with certain originality. This stuff becomes boring at times however... Anyway, check it out. (Herr Stalhammar)

HELL-BORN
«Hell-Born»
Pagan Records
rating: 5 of 6
This is very intense black / death metal in the vein of IMMOLATION and old school thrash metal!  The generic name, MCD title, and song titles («Inverted», «Hellraiser», «AntiChrist», etc.) all carry a very old times atmosphere.  The cover artwork / layout and design is very well done (a trait at Pagan Records / Holocaust Magazine).  The vocals on this release are brutally inhuman!  This MCD rips through your stereo in a most devastating fashion, guarunteed to appease the thirst of any black / death fanatic.  A quality release from the Pagan Records outfit. (Mike Riddick)

ABAZAGORATH
«Tenebrarum Cadent Exsugemus»
Elegy Records
rating: 4, 5 of 6
This New Jersey band's long ridiculous name and album title should not keep you from noticing their total black metal holocaust! ABAZAGORATH play evil black metal with style and brutality!  The atmosphere is here as well.  The originality meter is kind of low with this release, but it should satisfy all those who crave a US band which has touched upon Satanic emotions and atmosphere. (Andy Harris)

ABSU
«The Third Storm Of Cythraul»
Osmose Productions
rating: 5 of 6
Many recent bands in the black / death genre have been embarking upon a neo-thrash edge, yet all seem to come short of something.  All, save for the band ABSU hailing from America.  Absu first displayed their retro-trash stylization early on with the release of their «... and Shineth ...» 7’EP on Osmose, and now the long awaited third CD presents to us a full invocation of pure unrelenting occult thrash metal!  The mysteries of the Absu cult are deepened and replenished with this powerful and majestic album.  Vocally, Proscriptor and the rest of the ABSU cult portray a wide variety of sounds ranging from folk-like choirs, high pitched cries, blackish screams, and ancient thrash voices.  To further empower the vocal stance we find a thick and raw guitar sound mounted by brutal and fast paced percussives and bass lines.  Though barely clocking in short of forty minutes, ABSU still provide the listener with a trip into the past (yet incorporating the unique ABSU quality and a modern edge at the same time).  A great success we have here. Watch for them on tour in Europe and America this summer! ABSU will also be contributing an exclusive track for the New Line Cinema / London movie, «Gummo» which will hit the theaters sometime in 1997. (Mike Riddick)

ABYSS
«Summon The Beast»
Nuclear Blast Records
rating: 5 of 6
This is a great death / black album.  A must for all fans of the genre.  Fast, fresh, and unrelenting.  Finally, there are some bands on this label which I actually enjoy.  Although ABYSS is not that much varied from the sound which typifies its country (Sweden... of course), they manage to keep the listener there throughout the entire album.  This album is another good slab of fury from Sweden. (Andy Harris)

DIMMU BORGIR
«Enthrone Darkness Triumphant»
Nuclear Blast Europe
I am still getting over the shock of DIMMU BORGIR on Nuclear Blast, but regardless and all bias aside, I am still not any more impressed with this release than their last LP, «Stormblast» on Cacophonous.  I never really thought that DIMMU BORGIR wrote the greatest songs in the world.  It was like with «Stormblast», after the first two tracks, the LP just got really boring. DIMMU BORGIR have never inspired me like other, more powerful and moving bands do.  Well, in this case, it is up to you to decide.  If you were pleased with their earlier material you should like this as well.  (Andy Harris)

DESASTER
«Stormbringer»
Merciless Records
rating: 5 of 6
These German war-tyrants play old-school traditional black / death metal in its finest of expressions!  Hail this ungodly war masterpiece!  This MCD has everything, superior packaging, underground sounds, good songwriting, and most importantly, Total Fucking Blasphemy!  Battle sounds and imagery line each of these five dark decadent bloodbaths!  Get this MCD through Moribund Cult as they are the only ones with the American rights! (Andy Harris)

OPHTHALAMIA
«To Elishia»
Necropolis Records
rating: 1 of 6
This band really never did much for me, as their Avantgarde Records release put me to sleep, the fact that Necropolis has released old demo and rehearsal material on CD just seems even more ridiculous.  Of course, for all OPHTHALAMIA fans this release is essential, but to me it is worthless. But I must admit that the layout and packaging is simply unmatched, but unforunately it cannot make up for the music's shortcomings. (Andy Harris)

LUX OCCULTA
«Forever Alone, Immortal»
Pagan Records
rating: 6 of 6
Hail Poland!  Satan himself has spread his wings over the dark lands of Poland, as every band from the area seems to kick the shit out of all opposition.  I would have to say that bands from this country are the best in the world right now, and LUX OCCULTA can find their place in the unholy GRAVELAND - FULLMOON - INFERNUM - PERUNWIT circle at no disadvantage! LUX OCCULTA is a painting of extreme pagan emotion! This release is absoloutely stunning with its majestic emotion and atmosphere.  There is nothing to say but seek out this release and buy it! (Andy Harris)

ENSLAVED
«Eld»
Osmose Productions
rating: 2 of 6
It looks as if the departure of drummer, Tyrm Torson has had a dramatic effect on ENSLAVED, as this new drummer cannot fill these shoes by any stretch of the imagination.  I believe their music has suffered terribly because of this line-up change.  Even though I only liked two songs on «Frost», I still found their speed quite enjoyable.  Unfortunately, with the poor battery and weak riffing of «Eld», I am quite certainly put to sleep. In addition, it seems the band has taken this Viking thing way too far, as they look like even bigger fools than on «Frost». (Andy Harris)

FETISCH PARK
«Trost»
Extreme Records
This is a highly intriguing release stemming from the noize-ambient and experimental genre... far off from the commonplace black ambient scene. Carla Subito expresses a curious work based upon the photographic project «Kamatipura», created by Marlon Shy between 1990-1994, hence «Trost» tends to be a musical interpretation of this project utilizing the environments of foreign places and odd sounds.  Family roots and ancestry are explored within this second composition of FETISCH PARK.  This becomes quite evident with the occasional reel samples taken from childhood tapes, etc.  In addition, a vast Hindu 'mantra-like' expression is prevalent throughout the whole of this CD.  The emphasized pictorial of a shadowed Shiva figurine (on the cover) only expounds further on this notion.  From the progenitorial sounds opening the CD in track one (reminiscent of early age organisms floating about in birth cycles upon the earth) to the like nature of sexual ecstasy and birth in track six, contrasting with occasional death like and destructive undertones... we ultimately do find the goddess Shiva manifesting throughout the entirety of this work.  Overall, this can be described as a patient drama between creation and destruction.  A jewel for any fanatic of ambient experimentation. (Mike Riddick)

MALIGNANT ETERNAL
«Far Beneath The Sun»
Napalm Records Europe
rating: 5 of 6
This album covers a lot of ground as it is very diverse.  Before I get into the music I must praise the wonderful design of the promo cover, back cover & disc.  Even the title of the album is exquisite.  The music of MALIGNANT ETERNAL is almost avant-garde at times, with leaps into experimentations on occasion, mixing guitar structures creatively, etc.  The music has elements of black metal, old style thrash, and some doom.  The guitar riffing and drumming are usually intense, full of energy and obscurity.  Acoustic elements are utilized, keyboards are used sometimes to magnify the majesty of some of the structures and also incorporated into more ambient parts. The vocals range from high pitched black metal style screams, to unholy death growls, to spoken word, to clean voices, and even a touch of female voices on one track.  If you are looking to add originality or a new and interesting black metal band to your collection then please add this album. (Mark Riddick)

NASTROND
«Age Of Fire»
Napalm Records Europe
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Interesting images of a sculpture with Pan and a goat are featured within the monochromatic red packaging.  The packaging for some strange reason reminds me of a low budget  horror movie wherein Satan is invocated from the gates of Hell - very foreboding.  Anyhow, after giving «Age Of Fire» a fair listen I have to say I rather prefer their debut, «Toteslaut» a bit more. Though «Age Of Fire» does introduce a unique approach to black metal in some ways; for example, the infernal sermons that are spoken towards the conclusion of the album.  I find this authoritive spoken approach to be very satisfying - especially to those whom pay their disrespects to christianity. Musicwise, NASTROND continue their onslaught of unrelenting fast paced black metal with highly intense screechy vocals and low frequency ambient intros. Pick up this album and induldge yourself in unholy sin. (Mark Riddick)

PENITENT
«...The Beauty of Pain...»
Draenor Productions
rating: A MASTERPIECE
This is the first release coming from Napalm Records' (Europe) new label, Draenor Productions.  Most people are probably familiar with PENITENT's debut mark in the genre with their «Melancholia» release on Cold Meat Industry. However, their new offering, «...The Beauty Of Pain...» further expounds upon their dark Neo-classical poetic style.  Six symphonic masterpieces make up the whole of this album cloaking the listener with a deep sense of sorrow and mourning.  Accented over the Renaissance-sytlized synth works is the voice of «The Mad Poet» who's scriptings only enhance the dark and painful nature of this second album.  The sound of PENITENT has also remarkably evolved from their previous work with the lack of drums (as featured on the «Melancholia» album), which are instead replaced by a thicker atmosphere and occasional tympani rolls and hits.  The added inclusion of occasional vocal effects on «The Mad Poet's» voice also adds a different and unique quality to this latest recording.  If you desire some of the most saddened music available, then this is highly recommended... you will be left in utter lament. (Mike Riddick)

FOREST OF IMPALED
«Mortis Dei»
Terrorizer Records
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Blazing out of the woods of Illinois are FOREST OF IMPALED with their very convincing and unrelenting style of Norwegian sounding black metal.  It's quite apparent that this band has concentrated on writing strong songs and also putting a lot of effort into the production, as this MCD sounds fucking devastating.  Probably the most impressive thing out of this five song outing is the total hate holocaust vocal attack, sure to appeal to all fans of intense black metal. (Dallas Elmhurst)

BLOOD OF CHRIST
«... A Dream to Remember»
Pulverizer Records / Diehard Music
rating: 5 of 6
I hope the fact that I seemed to like most of the releases this issue does not take credibility away when I say that BLOOD OF CHRIST truly rules!  This has to be the most original and dark death metal bands from Canada!  This band mixes brutality with superior emotion and atmosphere to paint a picture of blasphemy and wrath!  This band has matched their great debut demo and far surpassed it.  Most amazing is that while they are incredibly mature musically, no one in the band is over 18 years old!  For those looking for brutality with atmosphere and originality, your search is over. (Andy Harris)

FROM THE DEPTHS
«From The Depths»
Dismal Records
This CD is shit.  Fucking poorly executed black / death metal with out of key clean vocal parts.  Plus from the photo they look as if they should be playing in fucking CROWBAR or something.  This isn't worth a squirt of piss. Not a good move from the new Dismal label. (Andy Harris)

GEHENNAH
«King Of The Sidewalk»
Osmose Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Do not confuse this band with Norway's GEHENNA, because they differ in many extremes.  It seems strange that Osmose would be willing to release a band with an almost identical name to an already established band. Regardless, GEHENNAH’s sounds are at the complete opposite of their counterparts, as they search for this dirty rock'n'roll street sound in the vein of MOTORHEAD. Somehow this release does not surprise me coming from Osmose, as the label had seemed to take a turn in this direction for some time.  Well, I believe the change is for the better, as this GEHENNAH LP is fucking killer!  Hails to Osmose for a cast of great bands! (Andy Harris)

GEHENNAH
"Decibel Rebel"
Osmose Productions
rating: 6 of 6
And here's third and the newest recording from these Swedish alcoholics.... I would lie saying that "King Of The Sidewalk" appealed to me, but this one.... Aaarrgghhh, it fucks the hell off!!!! Basically, it's the same VENOM / MOTORHEAD-inspired blackish rock'n'roll with fine sense of (black) humour (just look at their songtitles, like "I Fucked Your Mom", "Beat That Poser Down", "We Love Alcohol" or "666, Drunks And Rock'n'Roll"), but the music improved incredibly - it's much more interesting, impressive and various now. And with killer production (Sunlight Studio) "Decibel Rebel" seems to be extremely attractive CD, at least judging by my personal tastes. Highly recommended, especially to diehard beer-maniacs. (Herr Stalhammar)

CREST OF DARKNESS
«Sinister Scenario»
Head Not Found
rating: 5, 5 of 6
I didn't expect to see this kind of stuff on Head Not Found. CREST OF DARKNESS unleashed their first MCD year and a half ago and now a debut full-length from this Norwegian band is out, entitled "Sinister Scenario". Norway as a country of origin and Head Not Found as a label, which they're signed to, suggest some kind of "Norse" black metal, but CREST OF DARKNESS is far way different from others on Metalion's label. This formation's sound is something to be described as a perfect mix of death and black metal with unorthodox keyboards and some industrial (!) influences. Definitely original stuff, absolutely not boring like others of the same ilk. (Herr Stalhammar)

IN FLAMES
«Whoracle»
Nuclear Blast Records
rating: 6 of 6
And here we have a third full-length release from Swedish new-born legends of melodic black / death metal. Well, when I found out that this CD was released through Nuclear (pathetic) Blast, doubted were
my hopes for new excellent effort from these Swedes. But lucky I (and lucky them) Nuclear Blast couldn't spoil this band or turn it into one more "universal crap" like the present faggot PYOtrendGENESIS. In fact, "Whoracle" doesn't bring anything new into IN FLAMES' sound - basically it's a continuation and improvement of ideas, incorporated on both, "Lunar Strain" and "The Jester Race". As to innovations... well, they added some "clean" vocals and the music in the whole became a bit "softer" (don't worry, it doesn't mean that IN FLAMES turned into a commercial band!) with some female voice used here and there. "Whoracle" is not a revelation, but still a very professional and impressive album from an excellent band. Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

IMPENDING DOOM
«Caedes Sacrilegae»
Perverted Taste Records
rating: 6 of 6
Perverted Taste label's owners certainly have a good taste in music. Or how would you explain that all the bands signed to them can be distinguished by their original sound and approach to music?
IMPENDING DOOM perform fast and a bit raw sympho-black / thrash. Such a definition sounds a bit strange, eh? But that's the only way how I can describe what these Germans are doing. Some old heavy and speed metal riffs only make this release more attractive. Screeching vocals, catchy guitar harmonies and top-notch production just leaves me begging for more, despite length of this CD, which is almost 60 minutes long! (Herr Stalhammar)

ANCIENT
«Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends»
Metal Blade Records
rating: 6 of 6
I just can't understand why so many people disdain ANCIENT and try to drag them into shit... Can you tell me a single reason which could justify all the accusations, regarding this half Norwegian / half American band? Maybe because they're signed to Metal Blade Records, a "major" label? But who cares what kind of label promotes them, if this band's music is extremely impressive, played in their own incorporated style. I also assume that many "curses" follow from people, who enjoyed their former releases like "Det Glemte Riket" 7'EP and "Svartalvheim" CD. Yes, surely they changed their style drastically since that and "The Cainian Chronicle" together with "Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends" basically present absolutely different band with only Aphazel (guitars, bass, keyboards) left of the original line-up. I don't know what YOU think of these changes but I consider them as 100% positive. Now ANCIENT finally started to play music of their own and excellent vocals by Lord Kaiaphas (ex-GRAND BELIAL'S KEY where he was known as Lord Vlad Luciferian) with Kimberly Goss' (AVERNUS) singing are incomparable to Grimm's dull and typical vokills. This CD continues the motives of "The Cainian Chronicle", e.g. very diverse, decent vanguard vampyric black metal with the widest range of vocals in BM I've ever heard! "Black Funeral", MERCYFUL FATE's tune also can be found here with amazing vocals by Lord. Actually, it sounds like King Diamond sang here incognito! A Masterpiece!
P.S. The only bad thing here is absence of Lord's "clean" vocals, however it's not so important anyway... (Herr Stalhammar)

GEHENNA
«Malice - The Third Spell»
Cacophonous Records
rating: 4 of 6
This is GEHENNA’s third album.  I was never really a fan of GEHENNA, and unfortunately, this LP has really not changed anything in that respect.  The first song is totally intense and blasphemic, but the rest really just leaves me bored as hell.  I cannot really say that I like this LP if there is only one song that grabs my attention, so all in all I would have to deny GEHENNA a place within the black metal elite in Scandinavia.  But this is just one man's opinion, take it as you will. (Andy Harris)

DECEMBER WOLVES
«'Til Ten Years»
Hammerheart Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
This is a cult CD from the underground gods DECEMBER WOLVES.  Monumental black / death metal which simply rules, and is something that will hopefully lend in establishing credability to the scene here in America.  This CD contains nine songs of pure diabolicism, with moving and spiritual melodies. Hopefully with this release, DECEMBER WOLVES will rise to stomp all weak opposition! (Andy Harris)

ALASTIS
«The Other Side»
Century Media
rating: 6 of 6
I like this release.  It is way too commercialized and well produced than what I usually find myself enjoying, but you can tell a lot of thought was poured into each of these ten masterpieces.  The incredible songwritting and arranging of this material makes this CD really stand out from the vast wealth of uninteresting and half-assed releases.  Each instrument is exploited on this LP and pushed to the limits of expression.  Very powerful still.  Hopefully Century Media will recognize the talen of bands like ALASTIS in contrast with the worthlessness of STUCK MOJO. (Andy Harris)

CENTINEX
«Reflections»
Emanzipation Productions / Diehard
rating: 6 of 6
CENTINEX plays totally balsphemic and intense black / death metal with the best of Sweden's masters.  The melodies and guitar harmonies leave you mesmerized and astounded, while at the same time making no compromise in terms of decadence.  This LP contains nine songs of total hate and war, and should not be passed up at all costs! The only major problem I have with this LP is the lame and cartoonish computer generated cover art, which has no place in the visions I get from this LP.  Aside from that, this release is unforgettable! (Andy Harris)

CHIVA
«Oracle Morte»
Witchhunt Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
I feel this may be a one person musical effort, though I am not certain of this.  Whatever the case, Chiva does not fail to impress in regards to talent.  This is very dark and depressive doom related music with a deep emphasis on synth effects.  Actually, I would more appropriately consider Chiva to compose a sort of doom / black / dark wave style, which is very effective in my opinion... with painfully sad voices, doom ladden guitar patterns, and a thick drum sound that rings occasionaly monotony and sorrow.  This is quite original and well worth some attention to those interested in cold melancholy.  My only complaint about this release is the rather lame album cover which features some stupid 'black metal'-looking idiot on the cover (which I think completely degrades not only the style of music this man is playing, but also the entire atmosphere of the music is lost when you think of white paint and a candle).  Though, don't let this keep you from purchasing this release, as it is still very well done and worth a good deal of attention. (Mike Riddick)

FALKENBACH
«... Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri...»
Napalm Records Europe
rating: 6 of 6
After a powerful debut on No Colours Records, FALKENBACH are back, this time on Napalm!  This must be one of my favorite releases! FALKENBACH play a sort of BATHORY inspired viking music complete with hints of black metal. Surprisingly, this is a one man band taken up by Vratyas Vakyas, who is extremely talented! FALKENBACH convince the listener with medieval nordic synths overlayed with catchy, yet simplistic, drum beats and guitar melodies, screaching vocals, and viking chants.  I think Vratyas has one of the best voices in the black metal scene, easily comparable to Garm (ULVER, ARCTURUS, etc.)  The songs on this album bring to mind long boats with square sails full of vikings ready to rape and pillage the shores of England!  If you are a fan of folk inspired black metal then you must get this fantastic release! (Mark Riddick)

THUBAN
«Zeigeist»
Northern Darkness Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Romantic and atmospheric black metal at it’s best. «Clean» male and female vocals, plenty of keyboards, necessary dose of originality, magnificent production and masterly performed music - everything is present here. Unfortunately this is a promo CD, so it lacks track list and band info, hence I don’t know where THUBAN comes from... But does it really matter? A MUST. (Herr Stalhammar)

HYPOCRISY
«The Final Chapter»
Nuclear Blast Records
rating: 6 of 6
Too bad, that «The Final Chapter» is a last album for HYPOCRISY. At least, such are the words of Peter Tagtgren. This CD appears as best one in this band’s discography, no doubts! All the best presented on their former releases is mixed into one on «The Final Chapter» - raw brutality, heaviness, death, black and «clean» vocals, intelligent solos, atmospheric keyboards in the background and even some PINK FLOYDisms (!)... I don’t see a single reason to tell you anything else - just buy this CD and enjoy. (Herr Stalhammar)

GRABESMOND
«Mordenheim»
Draenor Productions
This is the third release from the newly established Napalm Records ambient / medieval side label. GRABESMOND (literally translating from German to English, Gravemoon), is completed by one female individual who aspires at keyboard compositions.  This project was originally started by a member of SUMMONING and a member of ABIGOR, if I remember correctly.  However, it was left unfinished and has just been recently picked up again by this new dark feminine entity. GRABESMOND’s music is in a typical dark ambient / darkwave style with some medieval tracks interspersed.  This is a strong debut and I hope to hear more from this project soon as it surely has potential to become something greater. (Mark Riddick)

VENOM
«Cast In Stone»
Steamhammer Records
rating: 5 of 6
You’re shocked? You don’t believe your eyes? But it’s truth! Monsters and originators of black metal are back now with brand new CD! You know, it seems to be a kind of blasphemy for me to review «Cast In Stone» since VENOM is not a kind of band whose music I'd dare to judge... I can say only that VENOM is still a VENOM and this album proves it perfectly. Don’t wait for any innovations or radical changes, better be prepared to hear blasting satanic BM performed by the legendary trio (Mantas / Cronos / Abaddon) with addition of background keyboards which fit this cult band’s sound perfectly. All of you, who care about black metal - don’t miss this CD! (Herr Stalhammar)

AMON
«El Khela»
Eibon Records
Here we are introduced to a new release from perhaps one of Italy's finest record labels in dark music.  This lavishly packaged digipak with transparent cover exposes the sounds of Andrea Marutti, sound sculptor. This entire opus is pure white noise, drifiting the listeners mind through episodes of droning monotony to barely audible sensations.  A very delicate sound and packaging.  Magnificent! (Mike Riddick)

MELECHESH
«As Jerusalem Burns... Al'Intisar»
Breath of Night / Pulverizer Records
rating: 5 of 6
This band comes from the ancient city of Jerusalem, and their hate for this holy land clearly fuels their drive to forever blaspheme the name of god and all his religions.  Since the first time I heard their cult 1993 demo, "As Jerusalem Burns," I was mesmerized by their mastery of the dark, forbidding emotions of blasphemy.  Most original from this band is their unique ability to mix violent black metal with spiritual and moving middle eastern atmosphere.  The band's pride for their Assyrian race really comes through in this dark, brutal, and blasphemic masterpiece! (Andy Harris)

SUMMONING
«Nightshade Forests»
Napalm Records Europe
rating: 5 of 6
Here is another one from SUMMONING, this time in the format of a mini-CD. There are four tracks on this epic disc running up to half an hour of doom laden tolkienesque black metal. SUMMONING carry out their bombastic and majestic sound with pounding ancient tribals and layered medieval intstrumental effects that conclude in grand climax.  If you are a fan of SUMMONING then add this to your collection.... if you've never heard of them and don't want to pay full price for a full length CD then pick this up and introduce yourself to the fantasy realm. (Mark Riddick)

TRIBHANGA
«Soul Freak»
Global Underground Records
Here is the latest release from the new side-label of Napalm Records America. TRIBHANGA must have been dwelling in a rather obscure part of the metal scene until Napalm brought them to light.  This is some highly experimental heavy metal with influences from death, ska, alternative, and psychedelia.  The female voice changes constantly throughout, thus providing a hook for the music.  Use of odd samplings, strange patterns, and overall obscurity trademark the entirety of this CD.  There are even some black metal sounding voices on occaion which prove interesting against groove based riffs, etc.  Though I do not think this music is for all ears (as it is highly exclusive and original), I do think TRIBHANGA have offered a release to be contemplated for years to come.  It will be interesting to see what path they lay down before them, having a wide array of styles to pursue and unite in one product.  I recommend this to all who desire something new innovative, constructive, intriguing, and prize worthy! (Mike Riddick)

OBTAINED ENSLAVEMENT
"Witchcraft"
Wounded Love Records
rating: 5 of 6
"Witchcraft" is a second, long awaited effort from this Norwegian capella and quite different to what they did on "Centuries Of Sorrow" CD. This album represents fast pure, crushing black metal with majestic keyboard interludes, which also can be heard in the background sometimes. Marvelous production (Grieghallen Studio and Pytten as producer), some kind of originality (at least, these guys are craving for it...) and memorable, catchy songs did their work - I liked this CD. (Herr Stalhammar)

FATAL EMBRACE
«Shadowsouls’ Garden»
Candlelight Records
rating: 5 of 6
Swedish black / death metal... Ah, I know that you’re already shivering with paroxysm of anger - «I can’t stand this anymore!...» or something like this... Am I right? Believe me, I was also surprised to see this kind of music on Candlelight, label which releases mostly gothic rock acts nowadays. And band, which plays music in the vein of IN FLAMES, ABLAZE MY SORROW and DARK TRANQUILLITY (circa «The Gallery») would look much better signed to f.ex. No Fashion or Black Sun Records... But as you know, there’re always some exceptions and FATAL EMBRACE belongs to this category. Don’t try to find anything new or original on «Shadowsouls...» - it’s pure «Swedish black / death», but surprisingly impressive and fresh sounding. I never liked this kind of music, but this band has something that touched my very soul... Traditional ‘soft’ BM screams (a-la late IN FLAMES), death metal growls, «clean» male vocals, beautiful and emotional female singing, vortex of astounding guitar solos whirling one’s imagination and lots of acoustic stuff... I like this. You know, I even invented a new term - «likeable music», specially for such albums. I never praised creations of SACRILEGE, A CANAROUS QUINTET, THRONE OF AHAZ, ABYSSOS, CROWN OF THORNS, THE ABYSS, NAGLFAR, CARDINAL SIN, SACRAMENTUM, THE MOANING, AMSVARTNER and alike bands, but on the other hand I could never gave them bad marks... Only most uninteresting and boring of them were dragged into shit through my reviews... You know, these Swedes have too good sound, too professional and emotional music, that I feel myself being helpless... I know that this stuff is extremely typical, but groups mentioned above have to possess some sort of magic, since their music appeals to me extremely well. Sometimes. (Herr Stalhammar)

ANGELCORPSE
«Hammer Of Gods»
Osmose Productions
This LP kicks ass!  Total blasphemy in the vein of early MORBID ANGEL, with incredible and tastefully done solos.  These underground gods were immediately signed by Osmose Productions after the release of their very raw 4-track demo.  Completely blasting rage which almost defies definition.  In addition, the line-up ANGELCORPSE was completed by Billy from XENOMORPH on rhythm guitar.  This LP is a must have! (Andy Harris)

LES JUMEAUX
«Cobalt»
ITN Corporation
This is the excellent side project from the members of IN THE NURSERY (whom are well known for their emotive electronic and synthetic masterpieces... many of which have been used in mainstream films for soundtracks or trailer themes!).  «Cobalt» offers a fascinating re-mix of many of their past compositions thus culminating in a very special musical archive.  This CD is a definite must for all fans of  IN THE NURSERY as well as those who enjoy synth pop or avant-garde electro beats.  Another bonus is the very good remix song by THE PROTAGANIST (a Cold Meat Industry artist)! (Mike Riddick)

GROTESQUE
«In The Embrace Of Evil»
Black Sun Records
rating: 5 of 6
Here's a band that was undoubtedly very influential on the developing Swedish death / black metal scene in 1989 / 90, breaking the way for many acts to follow. GROTESQUE members themselves went on to form none other than AT THE GATES and LIERS IN WAIT.  «In The Embrace Of Evil» is basically the re-release of their 1990  MLP «Incantation», as well as six other tunes including the two songs «Ripped From The Cross» and «Church Of The Pentagram» which were recorded in '96.  This album is a brilliant mixture of death and black with a production that is raw yet very listenable.  Pick up this piece of Swedish metal history as it is as relevant in '97 as it was in '90. (Dallas Elmhurst)
 
BLACK STAR
«Barbed Wire Soul»
Peaceville Records
rating: 5 of 6
I bet, that most of death metal fans are already familiar with this band and there’s nothing strange in it - BLACK STAR was built upon the ruins of CARCASS by Ken Owen, Carlo Regadas and Jeff Walker. Basically it’s the same band under another name, signed to another label. But when it comes to BLACK STAR’s music... heh heh, I believe that majority of those who expected «Barbed Wire Soul» to be a death metal album were really pissed off after listening to it... The music, played by this infamous trio, progressed into more melodical form, sometimes standing quite close to standards of so-called «Swedish (Gothenburg) black / death metal». Actually, I would describe BLACK STAR as 90% rock’n’roll / 10% black- death metal band with great variety of melodies, perfect musicianship with plenty of saxophone (!) parts, which makes some songs sound like heavy blues-rock! Definitely unpredictable album from guys, which released «Reek Of Putrefaction» not so long ago... but still very fresh and interesting. (Herr Stalhammar)

SUMMON
«Dark Descent Of Fallen Souls»
Grinding Peace Records
rating: 6 of 6
SUMMON play evil old school style black metal with their own sense of feeling and self.  I do rather enjoy this band, but unfortunately, they do not leave an intense mark on me which I feel when listening to other black metal greats (BEWITCHED, INFERNO, etc.) who are searching for the early vibe of our genre. SUMMON will not compromise, mind you; their music is filled with a passion for hatred and malevolence, and their songs leave you butchered and bleeding.  Hail blasphemy! (Andy Harris)

WINDHAM HELL
«Window Of Souls»
Moribund Records
rating: 6 of 6
Very interesting stuff from Moribund. This duo (Leland Windham - guitars, guitar leads, vocals and bass / Eric Friesen - guitar leads, drums, bass, keyboards and midi guitar) created really unorthodox album, which could be described as pure black metal symphony! There’re no vocals on «Window...» - only few demonical growls here and there, while music appears as masterly performed, majestic and anxious with original acoustic guitar passages and high-speed fabulous solos... It’s very hard to reach the status of «original BM band» nowadays, but WINDHAM HELL managed to do it. This guys created something really unique, and I guess calling them as «black metal THERION» wouldn’t be an exaggeration. A MUST. (Herr Stalhammar)

MACTATUS
«Blot»
Embassy Productions
rating: 5 of 6
Embassy Productions is most famous for releasing «Pentagram», debut CD from Norwegian gods GORGOROTH - due to this fact I expected MACTATUS’ music to be at least on the same level. And my expectations were justified. Of course, «Blot» is not a revelation in black metal genre, which however doesn’t mean that this trio is not worth your attention. The whole album is composed and performed in the best traditions of Northern black metal, so it seems that «Blot» will appear as an excellent present for the fans of such unholy bands as SATYRICON, EMPEROR, GEHENNA and aforementioned GORGOROTH. (Herr Stalhammar)

SETHERIAL
«Lords Of The Nightrealm»
Napalm Records Europe
rating: 5, 5 of 6
This was my first chance to hear this band, and I must say that I was completely blown away! SETHERIAL have to be one of the fastest most unrelenting black metal bands ever to exist!  These Swedes create the soundtrack to a Hieronymus Bosch painting of Hell.  The drummer must be praised for his inhuman machine-gun-like skills!  This release will be a landmark of truely unholy strong and fast paced black metal with its quality production and tight composition.  A very peircing album; don't miss it!  (Mark Riddick)

MORTEM
«Demon Tales»
Merciless Records
rating: 5 of 6
For some reason it surprises me to hear this band on Merciless.  This band plays evil death metal which reminds me surprisingly of the cult band MORBID from Sweden.  I really like this pursuit into the black abyss! MORTEM is primitive death metal and can truly hold a candle to the masters of true evil!  You can hear their hate and rage, and it becomes clearly evident that they are in a clear connection with the underlying dark spirit which pervades our universe. (Andy Harris)

ESOTERIC
«The Pernicious Enigma»
Aesthetic Death Records
rating: 6 of 6
This is a soundtrack for Armageddon. Tortured, gloomy, depraved sounds spawned by sick imagination of unearthly creatures, hiding their true essence under the masks of homo sapiens... «The Pernicious Enigma» is even more dark and dreadful than «Epistemological Despondency», first CD from ESOTERIC. Each of nine tracks, featured on this double-album, lasts for eternity («The Pernicious Enigma» is almost 90 minutes long!), however you won’t realize this fact, since ESOTERIC’s music will take you far beyond all limits... beyond life and death... into the other dimensions where harmony is nothing but an empty word, where light is perished... universe of distorted images and inhuman sounds... taking away the last hope for salvation and replacing your mind with purest form of insanity... I have no words left - let darkness speak for me... (Herr Stalhammar)

RHYMES OF DESTRUCTION
«Requiem / In Remembrance Of Your Gods...»
Resplendence Records
rating: 4 of 6
These Belgian (?) guys really try to create music which could be labeled as «original» and I appreciate such kind of cravings, however sound and mixing of this album leave much to be desired... Music on «Requiem...» appear as deliberate black metal with plenty of acoustic / organ intros, background keyboards (too simple-sounding) and a pretension on certain «symphonism»... Despite all the shortcomings of «Requiem...» I like this CD - at least it shows that RHYMES OF DESTRUCTION definitely have some potential. (Herr Stalhammar)