BLACK METAL AND RELATED MUSIC
 

ABSENT SILENCE
«Dawn Of A New Mourning»
No Colours Records
rating: 4 of 6
Extremely pleasant recording from mighty No Colours Recs. Just like their previous signing, VORDVEN, ABSENT SILENCE come from Finland while this CD was also recorded at MR Studio (just like VORDVEN’s «Towards The Frozen Stream»). Well, production could be better, the same goes for guitar passages - more variety wouldn’t harm anything. But anyway, «Dawn Of A New Mourning» truly stands out of the majority of utterly faceless BM recordings released lately. This band’s vision of black metal differs a lot from conventional standards. ABSENT SILENCE’s style may be described as slow and melancholic black metal with small touch of dark wave and plenty of barryton vocals ala RAMMSTEIN. Atmosphere (created mostly by vocals and permanent keyboards) is the same with music - gloomy, rather depressive though a bit romantic... Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

ACHERON
«Those Who Have Risen»
Fullmoon Productions
rating: A MASTERPIECE
Yes, this is a masterpiece, no doubts. First of all, I have to say that I don’t have any respect for Vincent Crowley and his ‘beliefs’, though I can’t reject the fact that ACHERON is one of the greatest BM bands of our time... Their albums always have something new and exciting to offer despite that this band has it’s own, inimitable sound and perfect atmosphere of darkness captured on all of ACHERON’s releases. «Anti-God, Anti-Christ» was a great CD, but «Those Who Have Risen» is better at all points. Basically, it’s the same ACHERON, with splendid and highly original vocals, amazing guitar solos and mystical keyboards, however this album features all of aforementioned attributes developed and improved in thousand times. The music became more complex, featuring permanent synths in the background and numerous solos by Michael Estes, performed in a genius way... Vocals are also more various as well as drumming (by Tony Laureno, ex-AURORA BOREALIS). One more interesting fact concerns guest musicians: these are... George Fisher of CANNIBAL CORPSE and David Vincent (ex-MORBID ANGEL) on backing vocals! (Herr Stalhammar)

AEBA
“Im Schattenreich”
Last Episode Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Last Episode very rarely make mistakes, hence there’s very small amount of uninteresting bands signed to them. Fortunately, AEBA can’t be reckoned to the latter ones. This German act plays sort of atmospheric black metal with plenty of symphonic elements which however don’t make the whole CD sound ‘trendy’ or something like that… It’s definitely top-notch album, making the listener to become utterly engrossed into the nightmare realm, filled with bizarre images and visions of the Reaper herself… Loathsome vocals, anxious keyboards and dismal riffs only make you to plunge deeper and deeper… Excellent.
P. S. I also really appreciate that “Im Schattenreich” features outstanding guitar work – quite rare thing among suchlike bands… (Herr Stalhammar)

AGATHODAIMON
“Blacken The Angel”
Nuclear Blast Records
rating: 4 of 6
Excellently recorded, played (and packaged) atmospheric sympho-black metal, though rather mediocre musically. It’s very ‘professional’ stuff but I couldn’t discover anything special while listening to “Blacken The Angel”. Usual mid-paced BM, BLOODTHORN and ARCTURUS-alike, lacking the necessary evilness, however not trendy… Try it if you have enough money… (Herr Stalhammar)

AGONIJE
“Testament”
Allegoria Records
rating: 4 of 6
This could be a perfect soundtrack for some horror movie, although it’s also good as an album. Italy’s AGONIJE perform a mix between mesmerizing and anxious ambient music and noise-industrial, as dark as possible, with sorrowful declamations done in a bit hysteric and disquieting way… Recall ORDO EQUILIBRIO and you’ll understand the meaning of my words. I like it. (Herr Stalhammar)

ALASTIS
«Revenge»
Century Media Records
rating: 3, 5 of 6
One more nice CD from War D. and ALASTIS. Just like «... And Death Smiled» and «The Other Side», this piece was recorded at Woodhouse Studio with Waldemar Sorychta behind the bench, therefore I think there’s no need to talk about the sound of «Revenge». Musically, it’s a continuation of «The Other Side» - the same slow and gloomy, mystical doom / black metal with few gothic elements and distinctive husky voice of War D. All keyboards were played by the same guy who produced this stuff, so, again, it’s needless to say anything in regards to it. If you liked the previous CD from ALASTIS, don’t hesitate and buy this one also. (Herr Stalhammar)

ALGOL
“Entering The Woods Of Enchantment”
Effigy Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
This is quite old stuff (released in 1996), but since ALGOL didn’t unleash anything else till now, I decided to review “Entering The Woods…” anyway. This band comes from Norway, however I wouldn’t say that their sound features plenty of ‘Nordic’ elements. ALGOL sound rather different from most of their countrymates, eh… maybe more death-metallish, and also more original. This album will never lull you to sleep due to it’s variety, freshness and absolutely amazing guitar work with plenty of genius leads (as well as the ones performed on bass!!!)… Check out the songs “Sacrifice” and “Autumn Void” and you’ll understand why I’m praising this CD… the opening song, “Entering The Woods Of Enchantment”, which in fact is an intro performed with acoustic guitar, also leaves very good impression. Surprisingly, the sound quality is almost top-notch, hence it looks like this album lacks any drawbacks! Expect the interview in the next issue… (Herr Stalhammar)

AMON GOETH
“The Worship”
Nazgul’s Eyrie Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Aha! So Moribund were ignored and AMON GOETH chose Nazgul’s Eyrie instead. Ok, that’s a good choice, since I truly respect this German label which permanently releases CDs from outstanding bands. Like AMON GOETH, for example. This Czechian band is rather old now (if I’m not mistaken, they exist since the year of 1989), but “The Worship” can’t even be called as their debut CD. Just like “Call The Master”, demo recorded in 1992 and re-issued by Nazgul’s Eyrie in 1996, “The Worship” also appears as a demo tape, this time released as an official album in the shape of CD. One more sad thing is that it took very long time to release this effort – “The Worship” appeared in the music stores only this year, while it was recorded more than three (!!) years ago… I’m wondering whose fault is that? But anyway, let’s better talk about the CD. It consists of six songs and lasts for almost an hour, although you won’t find any tune here which could sound boring. All of them were composed in a very judicious and well considered way, so the interest won’t ever leave you while you’re listening to “The Worship”. AMON GOETH didn’t change their music at all, they just developed it a bit – it sounds less naive (with an exception for the lyrics; unfortunately I didn’t have a chance of reading through them, but the song titles sound a bit childish… f.ex. the ones like “In Love With Satan” and “Hell’s Angels”) but still very sincere, breathing with the spirit of the underground… Vocals of dr. FE and Lada’s solos are still extremely original and impressive – no one can sing and play like that! Originality seems to be one of the strongest parts of AMON GOETH, for sure… Lada also performs all keyboard passages on this CD, which appear here and there (quite rarely) striking as the very pleasant and atmospheric ones (however, AMON GOETH create an inimitable, unique atmosphere without the help of keyboards… it’s just their sound (a unique sound, I must admit!), which takes you into the endless journey through the dark Bohemian hills enshrouded in the nightly mist and anxious silence of the dead, and while the wolves, those phantoms der nacht, are gazing at you with their eyes filled with hate and hunger, the wind sings it’s deadly lullabye… and you can’t resist these bewitching fascinations…) “The Worship” is undoubtedly the most impressive album released by a Czechia’s band this year… A MUST. (Herr Stalhammar)

ANAON
“Les Rites De Cromlech”
Drakkar Productions
rating: 4 of 6
As far as I remember, with an exception for YAMATU’s “Ishtur Ereshkigal”, French Drakkar Productions released only absolutely worthless CDs by MUTIILATION, TORGEIST and some others, which appeared as childish attempt to create something ‘black metallish’ with non-existent production (seems like they recorded their stuff at home on a dictaphone) and total lack of musicianship and imagination. That’s why I was surprised a bit when I saw this MCD, featuring not bad sympho-black metal with good sound and talented musicians. In fact, “Rites Of The Cromlech” is rather typical stuff, although it has some good sides like guitar leads (which may be met here quite rarely, also appearing as too short ones, though)… However, that was not the reason why I gave this MCD a ‘4’ mark. The reason consists in a killer track entitled “Obscure Symphonie” with magnificent keyboard’s passages… This song really blew away my wicked mind! (Herr Stalhammar)

THE ANCIENT’S REBIRTH
«Damnated Hell’s Arrival»
Necropolis Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Ha, one more Sweden’s band on Necropolis! But wait, don’t pass by this MCD, THE ANCIENT’S REBIRTH don’t have anything to do with so-called ‘Swedish black metal’ or Gothenburg... Their style is fast, face-and-mind-ripping black metal, evil and aggressive the way it must be, performed so brilliantly that I don’t even have proper words... It’s really sad that «Damnated Hell’s Arrival» is only MCD, not a full-length, because I can’t have enough with these four tracks! To say that THE ANCIENT’S REBIRTH are one of the best bands ever appeared on Necropolis is to say nothing, since even ARCKANUM can’t be compared to them. I just wonder where did these guys learn to handle their instruments in such a stupendous way... especially drummer, who is simply a genius. In short - this is a frightenly magnificent release, no more no less. (Herr Stalhammar)

ANCIENT WARGOD
“When Darkness Rises…”
Brain Pain Records
rating: 4 of 6
This is intriguing CD. “When Darkness Rises…” begins like quite typical and primitive black metal in the vein of JUDAS ISCARIOT and BLOOD STORM, but later… oh, it just blown my wicked mind! Later it turns into a cross between raw ‘Norse’ BM and power / thrash metal with magnificent and extremely memorable rhythm guitar passages and harmonies, and also the brilliant solos. In general, talking about the musicianship, I have to admit that all the guys in ANCIENT WARGOD are very talented musicians, the ones who know how to handle their instruments properly. However, unfortunately this great CD has one but serious shortcoming – I’m talking about the sound which just ruins many interesting moves… That’s why I rated this album with ‘4’. ANCIENT WARGOD is a splendid band, but they should get rid of that raw sound… (Herr Stalhammar)

ANGEL CORPSE
«Exterminate»
Osmose Productions
rating: 4 of 6
What is ANGEL CORPSE? Heh… it’s nothing but four American dudes playing unholy and relentless death / grind, devastating all the vital forms met on their way… Concerning the bad sides, be it drummachine. I’m not saying that I have anything against using computer drums, but here it’s programmed the way no human is able to render. Even the most brainless fan would say that it’s drummachine, not a drummer from f.ex. VITAL REMAINS… If I was a die-hard fan of such music, perhaps I would give this CD the highest mark, but I’m not… So, ‘6’ for britality, ‘0’ for originality (I disagree – Herr) and ‘5’ for sound (hey, Lazar, what are you talking about?? “Exterminate” was recorded at Morrisound and production is perfect! – Herr). Hence: 6+0+5=somewhere near 4. (Lazar)

ARCANE SUN
“Arcane Sun”
Ars Metalli Productions
rating: 6 of 6
Ireland was always known for outstanding bands when it comes to metal music, be it black or doom metal or anything else… And Germany’s Ars Metalli were always known for releasing splendid CD’s by magnificent bands… Hence, I think you already understood that this album is A MUST for all of you, eh? “Arcane Sun” features extremely original and more than just impressive stuff, sometimes rather dark (“Avatar”), sometimes almost heart-rending (“Beneath The Very Skies We Sought” as well as semi-instrumental tune “Canto II” with amazing guitar and piano solo passages) with wide spectre of vocals (from early ANATHEMA-alike growling, through hateful screaming to ethereal “clean” voice), (maybe even too much) complicated structures, few oriental (?) melodies (with no trace of folklore, though!) and tremendous poetry… Melancholic death / doom mixed with fast and grim black metal, celestial, unearthly melodies – with almost art-rock and vanguard variations… This CD is as diverse as it only could be… And do I really need to say anything regarding musicianship and production? Yeah, they’re just perfect… “Beneath The Very Skies We Sought”, “We Stood With Time”, “And The Waters Were Like Wine”… ah, I love these songs! I could wrote a ten-pages review but in fact say nothing, simply because ARCANE SUN is the kind of band you should listen to yourself. That’s it. They can’t be compared to anyone, but if you really want me to do that, I’ll most likely name PINK FLOYD, DECORYAH, PRIMORDIAL, SOULSEARCH, ANGIZIA, ANATHEMA, NOVEMBRE, DEAD CAN DANCE, MALIGNANT ETERNAL, UNHOLY… Hmm, don’t you think that I’ve named too much bands…? You see, I already told you – ARCANE SUN is a unique act… Eternal hails to the Irish black metal!!! (Herr Stalhammar)
 
ARCKANUM
«Kampen»
Necropolis Records
rating: 5 of 6
More trollish metal from Sweden’s ARKCANUM... I liked both former releases by this band («Fran Marder» and «Kostogher» CDs), so it’s nothing strange that I like this one too. Shamaatae almost didn’t change anything in his band’s sound, but who cares? Fuck those who always await radical changes from the bands they support! I have enough with BELIAL, MOONSPELL and KATATONIA! ARCKANUM still play the same so «Kampen» sounds like an improved version of «Kostogher» but is there anything bad in it? Not at all! Despite the length of this CD (about 70 minutes) it doesn’t sound boring - quite the contrary, Shamaatae takes you with him deeper and deeper into the darkest woods with each scream, with each riff... (Herr Stalhammar)

ARGHOSLENT
“Galloping Through The Battle Ruins”
Wood-Nymph Records
rating: 4 of 6
To tell you the truth, “The Imperial Clans” demo was released so long ago that I considered ARGHOSLENT to be dead and gone for a long time… However, now they’re back with debut full-length CD on Belgium’s Wood-Nymph Records. “Galloping Through The Battle Ruins” doesn’t differ a lot from their previous recordings – it’s still melodic and keyboardless darkened death metal with some black metal elements with excellent guitar work. It’s not grim or anything like that, and also, in contrast to such bands as SINISTER and DEICIDE, not ‘skull-crushing’, although rather brutal. I really like this CD, despite that it becomes a bit boring sometimes (maybe due to it’s length?). Try it, although note that you’ll have to listen to “Galloping…” at least for a couple of times to get into it… (Herr Stalhammar)

AURORA  BOREALIS
«Praise The Archaic Light’s Embrace»
self-financed
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Once I heard that the first MCD from AURORA BOREALIS was recorded at Morrisound Studio with Scott Burns, but unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to listen to it, although I have their new effort, this time recorded at Sound Lab Studio, and this is what we’ll talk about. Erh… if I would listen to it as many times as I listen now, the CD soon should have a hole on it… No doubts, it’s a mighty stuff – ‘thermonuclear’ aggression, perfect melodies, brilliant performance, top-notch production, though I can’t really say anything about their style. Fancy the following picture – I’m sitting together with few friends of mine, listening to “Praise The Archaic Light’s Embrace” and I say something like ‘what a great piece of death metal’, and one of my pals screams out ‘what the fuck are you talking about? It’s pure black metal art!’ (it was me, heh heh – Herr). Finally we decided that it’s death metal with many BM elements. Grim and furious music, some sort of an uranic coctail ready to destroy the human organism in a minute… (Lazar)

AUTUMN VERSES
“Tunes Of Disconsolation”
Solistitium Records
rating: 4, 5 of 6
There’s a lot of worthy bands in Finland and AUTUMN VERSES is one of them, no doubts. The stuff featured on “Tunes Of Disconsolation” reminds me of SATYRICON’s “The Shadowthrone” a bit. It’s also that grim and, in the same time, romantic, with majestic “clean” voices here and there, few keyboards and inimitable atmosphere… This CD was recorded at Tico Tico Studios, hence the sound lacks any drawbacks – and the same goes for performance. These guys are really talented musicians… Check out the songs “Thereupon Sangtimonius” and “As Amongst Them Wolves”. Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

BARATHRUM
“Legions Of Perkele”
Spinefarm Records
rating: 4, 5 of 6
“Legions Of Perkele” already is a third CD from this Finnish band, almost a legendary one, when it comes to the true underground acts. What’s most strange, this album was released by Spinefarm Recs in contrast to “Hailstorm” (1994) and “Eerie” (1996) which were unleashed through mighty Nazgul’s Eyrie Productions… But let’s leave it up to Demonos and co. “Legions Of Perkele” is a perfect proof of BARATHRUM’s development - from noisy and almost worthless BM on “Hailstorm” to rather melodic and well performed atmospheric stuff (though still very UG, if you get what I mean!) on this CD… Sfx’s sound much better and not that irritating as before, the same goes for guitars; Anathemalignant’s passages appear as extremely splendid ones. Concerning the innovations, I would mark out only background choirs by G’Thaur, the ones which sound highly original and pleasant for the ears… Yes, this CD is something I like a lot, no doubts! You see, BARATHRUM is one of a kind, there’s no other band like them – at least, do you know any BM band with two bassists, where both of them possess unique technique?? Ok, here’s the end of this review… and now you’d better go and get this album. Immediately. (Herr Stalhammar)

BETHLEHEM
«Sardonischer Untergang Im Zeichen…»
Red Stream Records
rating: 2 of 6 (Lazar)
        5 of 6 (Herr Stalhammar)
Bullshit… Since «Dark Metal» BETHLEHEM's talent goes down the train… This time they released almost an experimental stuff… In fact, it's the same black / doom metal, sometimes reminding of that good old times of «Dark Metal» and «Thy Pale Dominion» 7'EP, but unfortunately mixed with incredibly delirious… eh… let's call it 'music', and stupid effects in the shape of 'a girl having an orgasm'… Drum-machine… non-existent bass guitar… This is absolutely uninteresting and obtuse. (Lazar)
(Herr's note: well, let me completely disagree with you, Lazar! In my view, this CD is the best work BETHLEHEM have spawned till now! It combines all the best they can offer («Dark Metal» can't be even compared to this work – it is thousand times more impressive and diverse!), and what's most important, this album possesses truly grim and inimitable atmosphere… Ah, and those vocals…! You see, it's the kind of case when I don't pay attention to few shortcomings like shitty programmed drum-set… Don't fucking listen to Lazar – go and buy it now! «Sardonischer…» will please all true worshippers of darkness…)

BETWEEN THE FROST
“Instinct Of Surliness”
Abstract Emotions Records
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Oh, surprise, surprise! Finally, a good stuff from Spain’s Abstract Emotions Records! To me, this label is known mainly thanks to BLAZEMTH, IMMORTAL-clones, who had released two MCDs so far… But now, we have one more Spanish black metal band on Abstract Emotions and it’s fucking great! Before getting this CD, I was talking with some people and they told me about BETWEEN THE FROST defining it as one more C.o.F.-inspired band… Well, now, after listening to “Instinct Of Surliness”, let me disagree with you, guys! Yes, it has some similar riffs and vocals also sound more like shrieks instead of traditional BM screams, but who the fuck said that it means that BETWEEN THE FROST are someone’s clones? No, this band is not that innovative and maybe even not too original, but who cares… “Instinct Of Surliness” is the kind of recording that brings us sincere, fast as hell, though thoughout and various music, sort of evil black metal, (almost) with no keyboards, but with incredible atmosphere captured… Now you have to agree with me that this band is worth something – just try to name me more than 30 BM bands who avoid using synths and whose music possess mighty atmosphere in the same time?? And do it in few minutes! Ha ha, I knew that you won’t be able to recall as much acts as I wanted you to recall… Ok, nevermind – I just want to tell you that you shouldn’t miss this CD… (Herr Stalhammar)

BIFROST
“Mythistory”
Hammerheart Records
rating: 6 of 6
AAARRRGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!! My absolute Holland’s favourites came back to life and shortly after unleashed their third CD, a best creation they’ve made so far! I became a fan of BIFROST right after the first listen to “Pagan Reality” (1994) and was really upset when someone informed me that they split up after the magnificent “The Wildest Fire” CD… But it’s thousand times more pleasant to listen to “Mythistory” knowing that there was a chance never to hear it… This album brings the same good old BIFROST, with their unique ‘pagan thrash metal’, though this time more black metallish – maybe thanks to plenty of those hysterical screams by Hammerheart, I don’t know… By the way, he also started to sing in a “clean” voice, and it looks like he can do it rather skillfully. Talking about the differences between “Mythistory” and band’s former albums, these are (almost) permanent keyboards, however they don’t make BIFROST’s sound weaker or more “cheesy”! They just help to create even more impressive atmosphere of heathendom… Don’t know what to add here, really… This is a genius CD from a unique band, so get it now!!! (Herr Stalhammar)

BLOOD RITUAL
“At The Mountains Of Madness”
Moribund Records
rating: 4 of 6
Pure relentless unholy death metal is what these Americans make their ground-breaking debut with… This band is not a neophyte one, since they were formed back in 1993, while BLOOD RITUAL’s first demo, entitled “Cruciform Antithesis”, was unleashed in 1994… I heard this one and was itching to hear new creations from BLOOD RITUAL, however I had to wait for 4 fucking years of silence… But “At The Mountains Of Madness” is worth the wait. It features eight skull-crushing, fierce and technical pieces of pure satanic art… Reminiscenes of DEICIDE are inevitable, I guess, but it doesn’t make the album worse… BLOOD RITUAL are not that original, but originality is not the kind of thing I want to hear on suchlike efforts… It is bestial and dark – and I don’t need anything more. Strange to see this kind of stuff on Moribund, though… (Herr Stalhammar)

BURDEN OF GRIEF
«Above Twilight Wings»
self-released
rating: 3, 5 of 6
Rather pleasant death / black metal from Germany recorded at Andy Classen’s Stage One Studio. Fast and melodic, brutal and somewhat romantic in the same time. There’re no symphonic orchestras or choirs here, but does it necessary mean that BURDEN OF GRIEF isn’t worth your attention? (Herr Stalhammar)

BURIED DREAMS
«Beyond Your Mind»
Oz Productions
rating: 4 of 6
Mexican bands become more active in conquering the world’s black metal throne. At least, this year I already gave a listen to the decent CD released by THE CHASM, DIES IRAE and CENOTAPH (the last ones also signed to Oz Productions) and now we have BURIED DREAMS with their impressive blackish doom metal. Definitely all of us have to hail Ezequiel Mendoza (bass, keyboards), Antonio De Yta (guitars, keyboards) and Ndua Valdespino (guitars) for their outstanding skills, as well as perfect performance and arrangements. However, how can we pass Ivan Santos, whose splendid voice is an imprescriptible part of BURIED DREAMS’ sound? Talking about the comparisons, sometimes BURIED DREAMS remind me of early CREMATORY, as well as of NOX MORTIS - you know, some kind of an almost symphonic, emotional and romantic doom often turning into the mystic and anxious black metal.  I wouldn’t say that «Beyond Your Mind» features extremely original music though if you’ll purchase this CD, I guarantee you seventy minutes of pleasure... Such tracks as «Looking Through The Fire» simply can’t leave you indiffirent to this band’s magical works... (Herr Stalhammar)

A CANOROUS QUINTET
«The Only Pure Hate»
No Fashion Records
rating: 3 of 6 (Lazar)
        0 of 6 (Herr Stalhammar)
I'm tired… I'm really really tired… How many times will they play the same old shit over and over?? Are they just as stupid as christ's sheeps or what?? Sound? Yes, it's great. Musicianship? Yes, it lacks any drawbacks… But DAMN IT, it's so typical and unoriginal! Listen to it if you want to, but I'll better pass it… (Lazar)
(Herr's note: yeah, that's really strange. This band's career portrays the excellent example of hackneyed degeneration. A CANOROUS QUINTET's debut MCD, «As Tears», was truly great and non-typical stuff, rather various and exciting. Their first full-length album entitled «Silence Of The World Beyond» was less intriguing but still quite pleasing – at least, it differed from lots of Swedish bands somehow. And now we have this piece of shit… Is there anybody who needs it?? I doubt it…)

CARPATHIAN FOREST
«Black Shining Leather»
Avantgarde Music
rating: 5 of 6
Oops, I thought that there’s no hope to hear anything new from CARPATHIAN FOREST anymore, but here they are with fresh material released in the shape of CD through Roberto Mammarella’s Avantgarde Music! Basically, it’s debut full-length album from this Norway’s duo (this time with Lazare of SOLEFALD on drums) since «Bloodlust And Perversion» was only a re-release of their old stuff (don’t forget that CARPATHIAN FOREST is one of the oldest Norwegian BM bands)... This band changed their sound a bit, it’s less archaic and «Norse» than before, but still very raw (raw in ‘a good way’, if you get what I mean) and atmospheric with shrieky vocals, background keyboards and clanging bass a-la INCANTATION. All tracks are quite similar to each other, while the last one, «A Forest», appears as very different thing. It shows the experimental side of CARPATHIAN FOREST with industrialized sound, anxious whispering voice and more emphasis on melody... All in all, this band justified my hopes at 100%. (Herr Stalhammar)

CASTRUM
«Black Silhouette Enfolded In Sunrise»
Folter Records
rating: 5 of 6
No doubts that CRADLE OF FILTH is (was?) an outstanding band, but who can tell me why does their music spawn so much clones? Just to mention HECATE ENTHRONED... But we have something different with Croatian (!) CASTRUM. Yes, they sound the way which obviously tell us that those English dudes are their main source of inspiration - same shrieky vokills, blasting drums and all-devouring keyboards packed with vampire-alike painted faces and lyrics soaked with mysticism and vampiric motifs, but there’s something that made me to rate this CD the way you see above. Honestly, I don’t know what is this ‘something’. «Sympho-epic black metal» - that’s how Folter Records define CASTRUM’s creations, and I feel I have to agree with this statement. «CASTRUM are worthy to enter the succession and at least they will overtake the throne, which was left abandoned by C.o.F.» - this is one more assertion featured in the inlay, and again I agree with it’s authors. All the tunes on «Black Silhouette...» possess incredible, almost unique feeling, impregnated with majestic visions of the nightly kingdom... I won’t say that this Croatians create ‘evil’, ‘hateful’ or ‘sombre’ music, no - the darker sides of romanticism is their path. Let me say even more than that - I’m insolent enough to declare that CASTRUM are a way better than CRADLE OF FILTH, and that concerns everything (composition, performance, etc. - even sound quality strikes to be better, or at a pinch, the same as on «Cruelty And The Beast»)... Excellent CD from completely unknown band... though I believe that they will gain popularity (the underground’s one, of course) very soon. Let’s hope that CASTRUM won’t turn into pathetic moneymakers following the path of their inspirers. (Herr Stalhammar)

CENOTAPH
“Epic Rites (9 Epic Tales And Death Rites)”
Oz Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 5
Yeah… the «Gothenburg» movement becomes more and more stronger day by day… and slowly starts to bore me to death. I'm just tired of listening to hundreds of bands playing the absolutely similar stuff. The worst thing is that most of them compose truly a top-notch and sincere music, performed in a way no one can cavil at anything… If I didn't listen too much of suchlike bands, I'd give CENOTAPH (who come from Mexico, by the way) a highest mark, but…  It's fast, tremendous, melodic and technical, but… utterly lacking originality. However such songs as «Crying Forest» may lead you to the spiritual ecstasy even if you hate IN FLAMES-alike stuff. (Lazar)

CERNUNNOS WOODS
“Awaken – The Empire Of Dark Wood”
Cruel Moon Intl.
rating: 3 of 6
CERNUNNOS WOODS appears as an ambient which may be reckoned to the ‘extremely weird and monotonous’ type, but, despite the afore-said, “Awaken…” features elementary arrangements and besides droning samples, there’re synthesized choirs and midi-windinstruments, as well as evocations by Bard Algol who is the only man behind the band (but who needs more for this kind of music anyway?). By the way, what’s most interesting, this CD was recorded during the years of 1994 and 1995 in USA, while it was revealed only in 1998… Why? I don’t know… Ok, getting back to the music… Despite the primitiveness and monotony, it’s rather sincere, featuring inimitable atmosphere, so I guess that ‘3’ is a fine mark for “Awaken…” Recommended to all those who are into meditation. (Lazar)

CHORONZON
«Magog Agog»
Nocturnal Art Productions
rating: 1 of 6
If I’m not mistaken, CHORONZON is the side-project of a guy from mighty SETHERIAL? Let me doubt if it’s truth... «Magog Agog» is 99% computerized album pretending to be black metal one, while it appears as boring industrial with satanic attitude. I guess it was meant to be original move, but sorry guys - even if this CD appears as something new in black metal genre, I’ll pass it. Why? Ha! Everything is more than simple. If the album appears as disgustingly boring and lacking any kind of atmosphere (feelings, sincerity) piece - why the hell do I need to praise it?! (Herr Stalhammar)

COUNTESS
«Hell’s Rock & Roll»
Prowler Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Orlok and co. always were one of my favorite bands from the land of legalized weed; read the review on their debut CD «The Gospel Of The Horned One» (1993) in ‘black metal archives’ section and you’ll see that I was COUNTESS’ faithful fan for five years - and still stay their admirer. But let’s stop talking about the past: here we have new MCD from this oustanding Dutch band, forerunner of upcoming live CD «Into Battle». «Hell’s Rock & Roll» includes three studio songs and one live track of excellent and qualitative black metal. COUNTESS’ music became more melodic as well as production - MUCH MORE clearer and listenable, although afore-cited words don’t suppose Orlok’s departure from the underground. COUNTESS didn’t follow the example of MOONSPELL, no! It’s still pure and true black metal with tremendous guitar passages, hateful vokills and majestic keyboards (very little). I guess nobody can argue the fact that this project strikes to be one of the leading BM acts in Netherlands. Every true black metal fan should like this recording, and as to me - I await mighty Orlok to send me their live CD! (Herr Stalhammar)

CRIMSON MIDWINTER
«Random Chaos»
Black Mark Productions
rating: 6 of 6
Together with DARKWOODS MY BETROTHED, CRIMSON MIDWINTER are one of my favorite Finnish bands - and they are back with debut full-length CD on Black Mark! This album just blown away my mind. I even can’t find any shortcomings, the thing which happens very rarely to me. «Random Chaos» brings nine tracks of unique black metal with incredible atmosphere and perfect musicianship, some thrash elements and keyboards added to make the sound even more impressive. This CD features mostly new songs, however it also includes re-recorded versions of old tunes like «Loneliness, Bitterness...», «Utopia Falls (Lullaby Of Anguish)» and «The Burden Of Mortality» which sound hundred times better than before. But the song which truly killed me is «Bloodmetalfist» - hey, young black metallers, listen to «Random Chaos» and learn how to play really worthy black metal! Too bad that Jussi, the singer, was kicked out of the band shortly after the album was out... (Herr Stalhammar)

CROWN OF AUTUMN
«The Treasures Arcane»
Elnor Productions
rating: A MASTERPIECE
Hmmm, if I had to choose ‘an album of the month’, this CD would be one of the most feasible claimants to this title. CROWN OF AUTUMN’s lineup consists of only two guys but these Italians created such a piece that probably couldn’t be created by thousands of wretched Norwegian wimps... I even can’t fancy how to define their style... ‘Symphonic, progressive and atmospheric gothic black metal based on occultism’? Eh, I guess even such definition won’t fit this outstanding, no! amazing band! Yes, A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Every single thing is perfect here, from vocals («epic and melodic» ones together with «arcane» voice as written on the cover) to memorable and tremendous melodies and thoughtout riffs, from genius majestic keyboards to melodic guitars... Don’t forget about definite originality and undoubtedly unique approach towards music possessed by these Italians! If you was looking for interesting, exciting, non-typical and masterly performed black metal album, your search is over with «The Treasures Arcane»... (Herr Stalhammar)

DAEMONARCH
«Helmeticum»
Century Media Records
rating: A MASTERPIECE
Whatta surprise! The whole MOONSPELL playing hateful symphonic black metal under the name DAEMONARCH! I bet, no one could expect such a move... Though I still can’t understand what roused these guys to form DAEMONARCH (did they just get tired of playing pop-gothic rock or what?), I don’t care about the reasons simply because «Helmeticum» absorbes, moreover - devours the listener not letting him to think about anything, but the music itself. Perhaps, it’s the most perfect sympho-black metal CD I ever heard - you see, even seeming-to-be-perfect album has it’s shortcomings, sometimes skilfully hidden, but more often exposed, however this time I couldn’t find anything to cavil at. Remember «Wolfheart»? And now imagine this CD without any alien influences (i.e. folklore, gothic / dark wave, etc.), add more complicated and thoughtout arrangements... You have it all with «Helmeticum». This album is what every BM band pretending to be «sympho-black metal» one should aspire to... (Herr Stalhammar)

DARGAARG
“Eternity Rites”
Napalm Records
rating: 5 of 6
Oops, ELEND’s creations seem to inspire many bands nowadays… ‘Why ELEND?’ – you may ask. ‘DEAD CAN DANCE created such music long before ELEND was formed!’ Yes, you’re right. But DEAD CAN DANCE didn’t mix ambient with black metal… ELEND  did. DARGAARG does. This is a bit surprising signing for Napalm Records, however after getting and listening to OTYG’s “Alvefard”, I’m not that surprised as I could be. Ok, back to “Eternity Rites”. What can I say…? This is a splendid album representing dark symphonic ambient, geniusly composed and greatly performed – with solid doze of fantasy and imagination… Traditional black metal screams strike to be the kind of vocals which prevail on this CD, but there’s nothing bad in it, I believe. DARGAARG has everything the lover of such music may look for – mighty and diverse vocals, fantastic orchestrations and, of course, unique atmosphere breathing with obscurantism… A MUST. (Herr Stalhammar)

DAWN
"Slaughtersun - Crown Of The Triarchy"
Necropolis Records
rating: 3 of 6 (Lazar)
        5 of 6 (Herr Stalhammar)
And again the same thing as thousand times before… i.e., I wish to give the band a good mark listening to the first songs featured on the CD, but in the end I want nothing but drag the album into shit. Fancy the following – almost an hour of black metal with the same mood and lack of variety… programmed drumset also doesn’t ‘fascinate’ me with it’s sound. Maybe, for someone DAWN appears as highly impressive band (yes; for me – Herr) but… I’m indifferent to suchlike stuff. (Lazar)

DEATHWITCH
“The Ultimate Death”
Necropolis Records
rating: 5 of 6
Oops… Formerly I almost hated this band, considering their “Triumphant Devastation” MCD and “Dawn Of Armageddon” CD to be the perfect examples of what a brainless rip-off band may create… Yes, they’re still totally into that archaic black / thrash with the ‘old-school’ sound, but the things are somehow different here. At least, I think that no one would call their stuff ‘thoughtless’ after listening to this album. I don’t really know why, but I listened to it with a great pleasure. “The Ultimate Death” sounds exactly like early SODOM, although with much better performance and sound. You know, there’re many bands who TRY to sound like their ‘childhood idols’ (heh heh), f.ex. INFERNO, but DEATHWITCH strikes as a band who discovered that old feeling inside of them, consequently their music is utterly sincere and highly intriguing. Vocals don’t have anything to do with black metal, as well as the whole album – it’s pure satanic thrash metal with aggressive and raw vokills reminding me of VENOM and DESTRUCTION a bit, surprisingly exciting and diverse guitar work and few impressive keyboard’s passages here and there (b.t.w., this CD even features a couple of instrumental tunes like “Grave Symphony” or “Dawn Of Ymodos Millennium”…) One more interesting fact goes for very low-tuned guitars, which is a bit unusual for this style… To get what I mean, recall first Sunlight’s releases… In general, “The Ultimate Death” is a magnificent piece of pure blackened thrash metal and should be obtained by you immediately! (Herr Stalhammar)

DEMONIC
«The Empire Of Agony»
Necropolis Records
rating: 2 of 6
Necropolis have enough interesting and original bands, therefore I just can’t understand why they signed DEMONIC. These guys play typical Norwegian black metal, boring and lacking any originality. Add rather average production and you’ll understand why you have to ignore this album. (Herr Stalhammar)

DESEKRATOR
“Metal For Demons”
Hammerheart Records
rating: ???
Shit. This is really sick. I mean, there’re some albums that appear as the sick ones, but sick in a genius way… Got me? And this one doesn’t have anything to do with greatness. The first song, a self-titled one, seems to be quite interesting – it is pure “Norse” barbaric and skull-crushing black metal though with “clean” heavy metal-alike vocals (very pleasant ones, by the way)… But others… Yuck! It’s nothing but meaningless noise and suchlike crap with stupid song titles like “Texas Joe”, “Overdose”, “Take Us To The Pub”, etc. Seems like guys from ENSLAVED, GORGOROTH and some other famous bands gathered together, got drunk and high in the same time, and decided to record an album after that… Hmm… Maybe it was exactly the way I described? Who knows… (Herr Stalhammar)

DEUTERONOMIUM
«Street Corner Queen»
Little Rose Productions
rating: 5 of 6
Very weird and, in the same time, interesting CD. The bandname sounds 100% black metallish while such songtitles as «Druglord», «Spell Of Hell» or «Bonsai People» suppose some kind of boring thrash / black metal, but... there’s nothing like that! First song, «Street Corner Queen», is made in the vein of melodic death metal, while next one appears as a mix between gothic rock and doom metal, the fourth one is black metal one, in the vein of GATES OF ISHTAR... DEUTERONOMIUM mixes different styles into one, so this CD features very diverse music - death, black, thrash and heavy metal goes together with grind, hardcore, dark wave, blues and industrial... Add some rap (!!!!!!) and female soprano and you’ll get what this album is all about. I truly like the voice(s) of Miika Partala and Manu Lehtinen - their vocal capabilities are relly huge - from typical death metal growling, through BM screams and PANTERA-alike shouts to incredibly impressive hoarse singing (somehow reminding of late SENTENCED) and «clean» voice... I’m also impressed by DEUTERONOMIUM’s perfect musicianship - all instruments sound brilliant, be it guitars, bass or drums! The bad thing is that «Street Corner Queen» leaves the impression of incompleteness, it just can’t make the listener to perceice this CD as one whole thing... But anyway, I like it more than much! (Herr Stalhammar)

DEVISER
“Transmission To Chaos”
II Moons
rating: 4 of 6
Heh… I always thought of II Moons as of ‘one band label’ (i.e. SEAR BLISS), however this year they finally signed few more acts, like SKYFORGER, WITCHBANE and DEVISER, and what’s most interesting, all of them are definitely worthy ones! You can read the reviews on SKYFORGER’s and WITCHBANE’s CDs below, and here I’m going to talk a bit of “Transmission To Chaos”, a second effort from DEVISER who look like one of the most old Greek bands. Well, in my view, this CD is a natural development from “Unspeakable Cults”, sounding more complete and various without losing the originality this band undoubtedly possess. In short, these four guys create some kind of melodic and atmospheric black metal with few symphonic elements, lacking any alien influences… maybe, with an exception only for heavy metal… It’s sincerely composed and performed stuff, and it’s really difficult to find any shortcomings here. Synths could be more various, however Manos still manages to capture the listener’s attention with his parts anyway; but the way how Matt handles his instrument (guitar) is what really attracts me most of all, appearing as the strongest part of DEVISER… Unfortunately, this album is not too memorable – and that seems to be the only bad thing regarding it… (Herr Stalhammar)

DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE
«Nightwork»
Avantgarde Music
rating: 2 of 6
Ha ha, Blackheim still tries to create something ‘black metallish’? Really funny to hear this, especially after listening to KATATONIA’s «Discouraged Ones». In contrast to «Ravendusk In My Heart» (1995) and «The Phantom Lodge» (1997)  which were not bad, «Nightwork» sucks. I’m not saying that DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE also turned to pop-band, no, it’s still (an attempt to be) black metal one, but «Nightwork» doesn’t possess the necessary doze of sincerity and any kind of feelings / atmosphere. Everything is the same but incredibly less interesting, exiciting and impressive if comparing to f.ex. «The Phanton Lodge». Blackheim lost (or simply got rid) of that black metal spirit which each BM effort should be soaked with. «Nightwork» is professionally done CD, however it’s of no interest to me. I just get bored after the first tune, while the second one makes me sleep... (Herr Stalhammar)

DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER
“Soft And Stronger”
Ars Metalli Productions
rating: 6 of 6
Yeah, originality in contemporary black metal may be taken the same way as the presence of US submarine among the Ukrainian steppes…The band with such a long and hard-to-pronounce name strikes as the representative of minority, minority of bands who try to bring something new to this genre which seems to slowly exhaust itself…DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER’s creations appear as complicated synthesis of black metal’s various manifestations. For example, the first song, “Iron Fist”, begins with unpretentious folk/gothic march, later turning into hateful hardcorish BM in the vein of IMPALED NAZARENE and lasting in CRADLE OF FILTH-alike ‘symphonic’ stuff, while the closing song, “Human End”, strikes as original version of Chopin’s “Marche Funebre”. Sometimes tracks carry ‘well-known’ titles as “V.A.D.E.R.” or “Enslaved” or banal ones like "To Live Is To Die" and "Slaves Of Hate". But nevermind it, because (at least, in my view) music is what we should care about, and DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER’s music is undoubtedly very impressive, combining fragile melody and granite brutalness. Production is nice, the same goes for these guys’ technique (although, the band’s drummer sometimes fucks up his passages, but maybe it will even appear as a balm for the ears of those who’re extremely tired of mathematically “correctness” computers replacing live drums). In fact, “Soft And Stronger” doesn’t have any visible shortcomings, so I give it the highest mark… (Lazar)

DIES IRAE
«Etherial»
Oz Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
More decent black metal from Mexico. DIES IRAE don’t have anything in common with traditional South-American BM represented by such bands as ARGENTUM, TENEBRARUM, MYSTIFIER, etc., their creations sound very different from other Mexican bands, featuring vanguard and progressive elements. Imagine a mix between MISANTHROPE, CATHEDRAL, ARCTURUS, early ANATHEMA and IN FLAMES - perhaps, it will give you a notion of what is DIES IRAE. «Etherial» features plenty of «clean» vocal parts (heavily reminding of Darren White’s {remember ANATHEMA circa «Serenades»?} singing) and mournful sounds of cello here and there... In general music is not that fast, sometimes even slow, with pleasant guitar passages and leads. Unfortunately, the production is not top-notch but it doesn’t make the album worse. Recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

DRAWN
“Plan Be”
Prophecy Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
This is a relatively new band coming from Norway, which together with IN THE WOODS and BEYOND DAWN looks like one more representative of newborn style – progressive black metal. “Plan Be” includes four quite long tracks (the MCD lasts for 30 minutes) of bizarre and complicated music, combining the elements of black metal, doom and dark wave with weird male vocals and tremendous female ones, featuring even some jazz structures… “It’s roller-coaster taking you down to the deepest realms of your worst nightmare and rising up to sudden moments of delight. And DRAWN has no mercy” – this is what written in their bio. And I couldn’t say better. (Herr Stalhammar)

EDENROT
“The Land Where The Crow Starves”
Twilight Records
rating: 5 of 6
Yeah, fuck the mail… I almost thought that I’ll never get this CD… But ok, finally I have it, and here’s the review. Well, “Ashes Of Forever”, EDENROT’s debut CD, was self-financed thing though still very impressive, but this one is a way better! What’s most important, “The Land Where The Crow Starves” is 100% thoughtout album when it comes to composition. Musically (as well as lyrically) it also differs a lot from “Ashes Of Forever” – here we have more acoustics and plenty of “clean” voices performed by Scott Hoffman (who is also responsible for few growling parts), while Allan now sings in pure BM manner. This MCD also features a female bassist, Rose Mraz (hmm, great name… ‘Mraz’ means ‘asshole’ in Russian…) who appears as rather skillful musician. Lyrics became much more comprehensible and poetic, last track, “Crosses Of Ice”, even refers to Dante’s “Inferno”! Generally speaking, “The Land Where The Crow Starves” is a very good stuff representing melodic and technical black / death metal with many non-standard moves. Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

EJECUCION
“Observation”
Furias Productions
rating: 2 of 6
Worthless Italy’s band performing some kind of goth / black / death metal, looking back to KATATONIA’s “Dance Of December Souls”, featuring flute parts and some declamations… I don’t know… It is very boring and insincere album lacking anything that could be of interest to me… Only flute’s passages are worth something, but should I buy the CD because only one instrument sounds not bad? I don’t even want to waste my time for reviewing such a crap! (Herr Stalhammar)

EISREGEN
“Krabskolonja”
Last Episode Productions
rating: 5 of 6
Uh… It looks like Last Episode Productions decided to sign all worthy bands coming from Germany and unleash their CDs in 1998! PAGAN WINTER, AEBA, BLACK MESSIAH, NEBULAR MOON, EMINENZ, CRYPTIC CARNAGE, MYSTIC CIRCLE, VIOLATION, DUNKELGRAFEN, SUIDAKRA, ATANATOS, EISREGEN… the list goes on forever! “Krabskolonja” is a second album from EISREGEN during 1998 (!), and it strikes as much better than already good “Zerfall” CD. It is something rather hard to describe… like a mix between modern BM, some death metal and Germania’s Middle-Ages folklore (of course, everything is sung in German!), while the last track, “Thuringan”, appears as the same stuff but this time mixed with techno elements (or am I mistaken?)!!! Musically they stand quite close to their label-mates SUIDAKRA, although EISREGEN is 100% original band – and they should be praised eternally for that! Yes, originality is the strongest part of EISREGEN – at least, I can say for sure that if they will release suchlike albums further, they have a great future and a long memory after the demise (anyway, I hope that they will please us with lots of CDs before that!)… Oohh… it’s hard to say anything concrete in regards to EISREGEN… Everything sounds so banal and insincere when it comes to this band… (Herr Stalhammar)

EMINENZ
“Anti-Genesis (On The 8th Day I Destroy Godcreation)”
Last Episode Productions
rating: 3, 5 of 6
“Anti-Genesis” is the third CD from Germany’s EMINENZ (now on Last Episode), and unfortunately I can’t say that it’s their best one. “Heretic” was better, despite that it was a bit naive and ‘true underground’ CD. This album is rather splendid and in the same time ‘pass-by’ stuff, featuring quite ordinary sympho-black metal (hmm… don’t you think that 90% of contemporary BM bands play in that style??) with permanently repeating though highly impressive synth’s passages, getting much better in the end with such tracks as “Conspiracy Of The Witches” and “Grey Souls”. It somehow reminds (?) me of the Dark Ages and the grim romanticism they were soaked with… (Herr Stalhammar)

ENOCHIAN CRESCENT
“Teloclovim”
Woodcut Records
rating: 4 of 6
This CD begins in a very weird way – it seems like drunken kid powered his stereo at maximum volume and tries to scream which sounds like he’s vomiting his own throat – and all this shit is being recorded at another stereo. I almost thought that one more brainless kid found enough money to release a worthless CD, but fortunately I was wrong. This stupid intro was only a prologue for excellently recorded album, performed in a very pleasant way. Conceive dynamic black metal which seems to last for eternity, but hark! suddenly there’s a piece of rhythm’n’blues or alternative music appears there! Moreover, it’s done very competently, so if you’re listening to this CD not very carefully, you may even miss it and say: “Usual BM; nothing more, nothing less”. Regarding ENOCHIAN CRESCENT’s vision of black metal – it’s not very aggressive due to ‘gentle tunefulness’ and, yes, rather small amount of originality. Not because they’re ordinary copycats, though. You know, sometimes you have to ‘forget’ about originality, like achemists once ‘forgot’ about the dream of philosopher stone’s creation. 100% originality is unreachable complex of elements, where you have to put a seed of innovation into – then it’ll be easier to extract gold from the earth, instead of turning the earth itself into gold. So let’s say “fuck off” to those who steel another’s ideas and hail those who follow the voice of their heart. And ENOCHIAN CRESCENT easily can be reckoned to the latter ones.  Perhaps, ‘4’ is even a bit understated mark… (Lazar)

ENTHRAL
«The Mirror's Opposite End»
Hot Records
rating: 5 of 6 (Lazar)
        2 of 6 (Herr Stalhammar)
First of all, can anyone of you explain me why a lot of worthy albums feature such an awful sound quality? It’s really sad, since many crap bands with top-notch production get the fame and glory, while such outstanding groups as ENTHRAL stay in their shadow… In short – “fuck off” to those who recorded and produced this CD. The sound of drums is really fucked up, however the drummer seems to be good musician, as well as all the others. Especially I liked the voice of Ingrid, the session female singer. And music… or rather emotions on this album are sincere as death itself, and after few songs you simply forget about shitty producer-ship and let yourself to be absorbed by those haunting sounds of melancholy and pain. It’s quite difficult to say for sure if ENTHRAL is blackish doom or doomy black metal. Most possible, both styles are present in their music. The beginning and the middle of “The Mirror’s Opposite End” feature rather fast tunes, while in the end it becomes slowed down and melancholy reaches it’s very peak, leaving the listener alone with his emotions… Despite the extremely positive effect it had on me, unfortunately I can’t give this album a highest mark due to the disgusting production… All in all, I would recommend “The Mirror’s Opposite End” to all of you, orthodox black metallers and lovers of melancholic doom and dark metal. (Lazar)

EPOCH OF UNLIGHT
«... What Will Be Has Been»
The End Records
rating: 3, 5 of 6
This CD turned out as a huge disappointment for me. If you read a review on their «Black And Crimson Glory» MCD (Exhumed Productions, 1997) in the previous issue, you should know that I praised EPOCH OF UNLIGHT as very interesting, original and promising band. But that was ‘then’. And now is ‘now’. Yes, EPOCH OF UNLIGHT still possess recognizable sound, all guys handle their instruments in a perfect way (drummer is genius!), however I listened to this CD with less doze of interest. Something just doesn’t work out, you know. Everything is great but «... What Will Be Has Been» doesn’t leave such a great impression as their previous MCD. Maybe I liked it more because it was shorter? Hell knows. The one thing I know for sure is that I still respect this band and will support them in future. Read the interview in this issue... (Herr Stalhammar)

GEHENNA
«Adimiron Black» CD + «Deadlights» 7’EP
Moonfog Productions
rating: 5 of 6
«Angelwings And Ravenclaws» 7’EP (1993) and «First Spell» MCD (1994) forced me to become the fan of GEHENNA, but after these Norwegians released disgusting «Seen Through The Veils Of Darkness» and «Malice» I made (a worthless) attempt to forget about them... However, luckily I was wrong with this «premature burial» since «Adimiron Black» is a great CD. It has few shortcomings, f.ex. there’s no memorable songs or at least melodies, and all tunes are very similar to each other, but it doesn’t mean that «Adimiron Black» (hmmm, what a strange title?) fails miserably like «Malice» did. GEHENNA don’t sound like a parody on ARCTURUS anymore, they returned to what they once possessed, i.e. their own style of raw and symphonic black metal with melody, masterly performed and executed in a perfect way. I believe that this effort should be obtained by all those who liked «First Spell» as well as those who got into the stuff featured on «Malice»... As to 7’EP - it consists of three songs: first tune («Deadlights») was taken from «Adimiron Black» CD; two others («In Mother’s Tomb» and «Master Satan») were recorded in August 1996 and never released before. Musically, this 7’EP is a good addition to «Adimiron Black»... (Herr Stalhammar)

GODKILLER
"The End Of The World"
Wounded Love Records
rating: 5 of 6 (Lazar)
        6 of 6 (Herr Stalhammar)
When I looked at the cover and discovered that this band’s lineup consists of one man only, I was really shocked… Damn it, Duke is truly a talented dude… He’s also very skillful person when it comes to everything pertinent to computers –drums are programmed in a brilliant way, the same goes for samplers. SAMAEL seems to be Duke’s favorite band – this CD almost breathes with their influence (the words cited above mostly regard vocals), however don’t get me wrong; GODKILLER isn’t a SAMAEL clone, this band has it’s own face and ‘temper’. Concerning the more detailed description… it’s melodic and in the same time, aggressive… damn, this album is simply tremendous! A MUST. (Lazar)

THY GRIEF
“The Frozen Tomb Of Mankind”
Solistitium Records
rating: 3 of 6
I never liked writing negative reviews but it seems to be inevitable… You see, I can’t praise the band just because they spent their money to send me the CD… I can’t say that THY GRIEF really sucks, they’re just very mediocre band with plenty of bad sides, like a drumset programmed in an extremely weak way and very raw guitars, while typical Norwegian buzz is the only thing they can spawn… These guys also seem to lack imagination – at least, it looks that way when it comes to composition (in the whole, I mean)… Of course, this CD features some pleasant moments, like vocals, fine keyboard’s parts and almost bewitching melodies sometimes (check out “Echoes From A Past Forgotten”) as well as absolutely amazing design and layout… I don’t know… Let’s wait for their second CD (which should be out soon!) – I hope it will be much better than this one… All in all, I can’t say that this is ‘no future’ band. Lovers of Norse black metal may even love it… (Herr Stalhammar)

HAGALAZ’ RUNEDANCE
“The Winds That Sang Of Midgard’s Fate”
Elfenblut / Misanthropy Records
rating: 4, 5 of 6
‘Haugen’… Somewhat familiar surname, isn’t it? Heh heh, yes, it belongs to Samoth of EMPEROR, while HAGALAZ’ RUNEDANCE is a band formed by his wife, Andrea (a.k.a. Nebelhexe). Maybe someone of you remember a band called AGHAST, performing absolutely sick and 666% anxious ambient-alike ‘music’? I don’t know if they’re going to release anything else after their “Hexerei…” CD (1995), however that’s now what I’m talking about now. Andrea was a part of AGHAST, and now we have her new project, although it’s utterly different musically. “The Winds That Sang Of Midgard’s Fate” is a very pleasant folk album, featuring her vocals and acoustic voice as the main ‘instruments’. Seems like it was inspired by Scandinavia’s folklore, although the lyrics (due to some unknown reasons) are written in English and German, the fact which embarasses me a bit. Andrea’s voice doesn’t appear as something outstanding (she’s not Kari Rueslatten for sure, heh heh), however they sound quite pleasant. This CD has some really fine tunes, so if you like tranquil and tremendous folk-oriented stuff, try it… (Herr Stalhammar)

HECATE ENTHRONED
«Dark Requiems...»
Blackend Records
rating: 3 of 6
As far as I remember, I wrote very positive review on HECATE ENTHRONED’s «The Slaughter Of Innocence» CD (1997) after CRADLE OF FILTH didn’t justify my hopes with their «Dusk... And Her Embrace». Yes, I always knew that these guys are only CRADLE’s clones but some time ago I considered their music to be more sincere, atmospheric (‘atmosphere’ is very important thing for me) and... hmmm, more underground. But after CRADLE OF FILTH released «Cruelty And The Beast» which is perfect in my opinion, I can’t praise HECATE ENTHRONED anymore. No, not because last CD of their objects of inspiration appealed to me and not because this band lacks the trace of even 1% originality... «Dark Requiems...» simply didn’t turn out the way I expected it to be. It’s not as exciting and various as «The Slaughter Of Innocence», being more dull and tiresome. And Pete Coleman’s (the guy who produced PARADISE LOST’s «Draconian Times» and many other major bands’ albums) participation in the ‘shape’ of sound engineer and producer doesn’t help anything at all. Looks like CRADLE OF FILTH and HECATE ENTHRONED switched their roles... (Herr Stalhammar)

HYPOCRIAL
“Thrasheurs 13”
Osmose Productions
rating: BULLSHIT
What is this shit??? It sounds like some worthless padody on black metal with idiotic sense of humour and lack of MUSIC. Fuck Osmose, if they’re going to release only this kind of “bands”! Black metal is not for fun! Black metal is only for the few chosen ones, who’re able to create sincere and emotional, dark and atmospheric Art, more or less innovative, instead of looking back to the eighties with their musical idols… Can’t you, stupid shitheads, understand it??! (Herr Stalhammar)

JUDAS ISCARIOT
“Thy Dying Light”
Moribund Records
rating: 5 of 6
As far as I remember, it’s a third album from Akhenaten, and also the best one. Just listen first to “The Cold Earth Slept Below”, then to “Of Great Eternity”, and finally to “Thy Dying Light”, and you’ll behold the obvious evolution of JUDAS ISCARIOT. From primitive and extremely chaotic, boring black metal with weak musicianship, through the same thing though improved a bit, to still primitive but in the same time mighty and impressive unholy music with sombre atmosphere (though all of aforementioned CDs lack any trace of keyboards)… This album also shows that Akhenaten ‘grew up’ as guitarist and drummer – just listen to “Thy Dying Light, And Desolate Darkness…”, which appears as an instrumental track. I also like two more tunes, “Writhing Upon The Wind Of Mystic Philosophy And Dreams…” where Akhenaten sings the way Attila used to… ehh, howl on MAYHEM’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, and “Arise, My Lord Of Infernal Wisdom”, lasting for a very short time (one minute or so) and consisting of diabolical shrieks and nothing else… Most of songs are rather long ones, up to 11 minutes, however this CD definitely doesn’t get boring… Highly recommended to those who support true black metal… (Herr Stalhammar)

IMPERIAL
«Aux Crepuscule»
Osmose Productions
rating: 0 of 6
And once again... Is there anybody who can tell me if Osmose will ever stop signing shitty bands who are capable of nothing but rip-offing DESTRUCTION, SODOM and other legendary black / thrash metal acts? IMPERIAL can’t offer anything exciting or, at least, interesting. «Aux Crepuscule» is destined only for diehard fanatics of this goddamned thrash revival, while true metalheads should ignore this soulless, stupid piece of shit called ‘music’ by some wit. (Herr Stalhammar)

INANNA UNVEILED
«Inanna Unveiled»
Solistitium Records
rating: 5 of 6
Hmm, I would define INANNA UNVEILED’s style as black metal, although their creations incorporate a lot of elements taken from other kinds of music, including death metal. Everything is very rightly and cleverly done here, no trace of chaotic riffs and muddle, they just play pleasant stuff, highly original and well recorded. I wouldn’t call this a masterpiece, but I’m more than sure that I’ll listen to it more than once in future… (Lazar)

IN BATTLE
“Rage Of The Northmen”
Napalm Records
rating: 5 of 6
Darkness, death, blasphemy and delightful slaughter… Anger, hate, aggression and splendid nightmare… This is what IN BATTLE is all about. “Rage Of The Northmen” is the second CD from this Swedish duo (although formerly it was a four-men band), and in my view, it’s hundreds time better than “In Battle” CD. This album is more complex and diverse, even with some orchestral effects incorporated which give you a short moment to relax, in order to be later crushed by the panzermachine of IN BATTLE… Perhaps, this is the most brutal BM act in Sweden… I like it. True grinding black metal acting regardless of any compromises…  (Herr Stalhammar)

INCHIUVATU
"Addisiu"
Elegy Records
rating: 6 of 6
So you say that there’re no original BM bands left? HA! Here it it with Italy’s INCHIUVATU surprisingly released by US rip-off label, Elegy Records. “Addisiu” begins with some kind of talk by certain freak isn’t a very successful beginning, but you just have to wait a bit (play the second track) and then you’ll hear a continuation, which is a way different from the first song. Firstly, there’s a child singing, then the song turns into something really delirious but stop, don’t crush this CD! It’s just the beginning of “Inchiuvatu” tune, which later takes you into complicated world of INCHIUVATU, the world of tremendous melodies and innovative ideas… Italian language performed in a ‘nocturnal’ way is an interesting thing, especially considering the fact that I’m tired of English and Norwegian. Talking about the musicians, I’d like to hail Thanathos (the synth-man), whose passages are nearly genius… (Lazar)

INQUISITION
«Incence Of Rest»
Defiled Records
rating: 5 of 6
Black metal from Colombia still is quite rare thing, especially Colombian black metal composed and performed the way INQUISITION does it. There’s not much of famous ‘South American sound’ here, however few fragments offer that inimitable feeling which could be created only by those who come from that mysterious region. I can only praise the band which could record such an MCD almost four years ago... Of course the bad thing is that «Incence Of Rest» was released only now, although in the same time it’s good that finally we can get familiar with INQUISITION. Musically, it’s purely dark and evil black metal possessing incredibly grim and misanthropic atmosphere, incorporating keyboards (which sound almost romantic in the closing instrumental track, «Meditation Before The Kill») and death metal growls appearing sometimes. Besides impressive music, there’re two more interesting moments - firstly, all songs feature English lyrics, and secondly, the sound quality seems to be very pleasing... As you probably know, most of Colombian (Brazilian, Bolivian, Mexican, etc.) bands write their evocations in Spanish / Portuguese / Latin and can’t boast with clear production. So, naturally, INQUISITION stands out of the South-American black metal legion, consequently, no doubts that you should check this album out. (Herr Stalhammar)

IN THE WOODS…
“Let There Be More Light / Child Of Universal Tongue”
Misanthropy Records
rating: -
Don’t know what to say here. It’s second 7’EP from IN THE WOODS featuring Roger Waters’ cover + remixed version of a tune from 1997. This stuff has that recognizable IN THE WOODS’ sound, it’s majestic and epic as always, although this time lacking any black metallish shrieks, it sounds more like a ‘progressive rock’ thing. Not bad, but it didn’t impress me as much as genius “Heart Of The Ages” and “Omnio” did. (Herr Stalhammar)

KOROVA
“Dead Like An Angel”
Napalm Records
rating: 6 of 6
What a bandname! Once I had almost a hysterical laughter after getting informed of BEHEMOTH's existence; only later I found out that «Behemoth» is just another Satan's handle (while in Russian it means ‘hippopotamus’)… And here we have «Korova» which means 'cow' in Russian… So what do they play? You won't believe me, but it's mix of black metal, avantgarde, classical music and lots of other genres… I'd define it as 'tremendous sickness'. The sound could be much better, however, quite the contrary, performance is excellent! Memorable and bewitching melodies often turn to the pure delirium, but (what's most strange) I've listened to it (and still listening) with great pleasure… Harmony and dissonance became one here… These guys definitely have a big future! (Lazar)

KRIEG
«Rise Of The Imperial Hordes»
Blood Fire Death
rating: 4 of 6
Maniacs... Perhaps, the aforementioned maniacality which «Rise Of The Imperial Hordes» is utterly saturated with, is the reason why I rated this CD the way you see... In fact, KRIEG can’t offer anything special - moreover, their music can’t be considered ‘music’ as it successfully escapes any kind of melodism and suchlike things. But damn it, I like this album! Maybe because of the totally insane, sick vocals (hmm, can IT be called ‘vocals’?), maybe because of sincerity and true underground spirit... Honestly speaking, I don’t know. But does it really matter...? (Herr Stalhammar)

LEGENDA
“Eclipse”
Holy Records
rating: A MASTERPIECE
Holy was always known as a label releasing top-class music but only when it comes to doom / gothic sector… however lately they signed few BM bands, and all of them appear as more than impressive ones – GLOOMY GRIM, for example. But everything’s a bit different when it comes to LEGENDA, a band formed by ex-IMPALED NAZARENE drummer and keyboardist. Their “Autumnal” debut was quite good but there wasn’t anything outstanding, however this one just fucking kills!!! Kimmo followed on creating the same kind of music (extremely atmospheric black metal in the vein of SAMAEL’s “Ceremony Of Opposites”), but I guess that no one will ever dare to draw any parallels between “Autumnal” and “Eclipse”, since they’re so different when it comes to the MUSIC itself (I’m not talking about innovations)! It’s just perfect on stuff! This CD begins with very fast and hateful tune (which is a bit unusual for LEGENDA), “The Night Has Drawn Night”, but later turns into more typical stuff for this band with an exception for “Sister Shadow Sister” which features simply magnificent “clean” vocals! I don’t know what about you, but personally I can’t believe that it was Kimmo who sang on this track, since the singer’s voice is absolutely amazing! Guitar sound is thick and really heavy, while the background keyboards devour your soul, provoking the ecstatic admiration with this guy’s irrefutable talent… A MUST! (Herr Stalhammar)

LET ME DREAM
«Medley Rain»
Succubus Records
rating: 5 of 6
Aarrrghh, what we have here! I feared that LET ME DREAM don’t exist anymore and the reason for such a conclusion was quite simple - their former CD «My Dear Succubus» was released more than three years ago! But fortunately LET ME DREAM are still alive and here’s their newest MCD. Well, I have to say that these Finnish guys progressed a lot since «My Dear Succubus»! Basically, «Medley Rain» is a continuation of LET ME DREAM’s debut CD; it doesn’t feature anything that could surprise or shock us, it’s the same band with the same music, but this time much, much better! It regards everything - vocals, performance, production, arrangements and composition. A perfect example of how true gothic black / doom metal should sound alike. Just listen to «Windride» and you’ll see. A MUST. (Herr Stalhammar)

LIMBONIC ART
“Epitome Of Illusions”
Nocturnal Art Productions
rating: 5 of 6
Seems like this is a re-release of their old stuff?? Let me doubt it. “Epitome Of Illusions” sound thousand times better than both, “Moon In The Scorpio” and “In Abhorrence Dementia”! This is just sympho-black at it’s best, although it has the same drawback as the previous CDs had. Guitar sound is what I’m talking about… But I can live with that, because in general this album is a splendid piece of art (those orchestrations are amazing!)… Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

LORD
“Behind The Curtain Of Darkness”
Eldethorn Records
rating: 5 of 6
“Behind The Curtain Of Darkness” appears as a debut effort from this French band. It is very primitive lyrically, but musically… Oh… Somehow reminding of early GEHENNA, with genius passages by Countess Hoggsogoth (keyboards), hellish screams by Lord Charon (no fucking female bleating!), a bit raw but impressive guitars, staggering atmosphere and songs sounding more like the hymns (of pure evilness and gloom!), this CD definitely deserves some attention… Of course, these guys could be better musicians and lyricists, but they are undoubtedly sincere – and that’s what I like in this band… I think I shouldn’t mention that they’re also highly talented individuals when it comes to music… (Herr Stalhammar)

LYCANTHROPY
«... As The Mourners Arise»
Path To Enlightenment
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Despite the shitty sound and primitive music, I liked LYCANTHROPY’s debut MCD («The Veils Of Sorrow»), so it’s natural that I expected this one to be much more impressive. And fortunately, I got what I wanted. Talking about the innovations, there’s not much to say - Baalberith and co. invited Lamia who is responsible for keyboards and female vocals, and that seems to be all. However, the afore-said doesn’t mean that «... As The Mourners Arise» is the stupid repetition of LYCANTHROPY’s former works. This CD follows the line of «The Veils Of Sorrow», but in much more improved way, just to mention production and musicianship lacking any shortcomings as well as diabolical hateful shrieks which strike as rather non-typical ones... Drums stick to the same rhythms quite often, although they don’t sound as monotonous as on previous band’s output, besides there’s no trace of drum-machine here, the thing which I truly appreciate. Looks like there’s only one thing I have to add - it goes for arrangements and orchestration which are very close to perfection... Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

MANEGARM
«Nordstjarnans Tidsalder»
Displeased Records
rating: 6 of 6
Well, to begin with, I should say that MANEGARM is one those few bands which definitely impressed me during last couple of months. Yes, this band is simply outstanding… it's incredibly difficult to describe them by words… In short – it's a mixture of all the best that ever could be discovered in Swedish black metal with addition of some folklore… Tremendous, fast, melodic, professional… etc, etc, etc… I can go on with suchlike epithets for a long, long time… The only shortcoming here concerns the shitty production despite that «Nordstjarnans…» was recorded at Sunlight (!) Studio. Seems like even herr Skogsberg may fuck up the album… Or it was simply because MANEGARM guys didn't pay enough money? (Lazar)

MEDIEVAL DEMON
«Demonolatria»
Unisound Records
rating: 4 of 6
“Demonolatria” was recorded back in 1995, however it was released only now, i.e. almost three years later… I don't know what caused this delay, however there's one thing I can tell you for sure – MEDIEVAL DEMON won't unleash anything new in time to come, since all of the bandmembers were imprisoned at a full lifetime for raping and murdering handicapped and minor girl, the fact which is being mentioned in all of the promotional sheets by Unisound… Hmm… Ok, let's forget about the album's 'poetry' (b.t.w., inspired by Marquis De Sade's creations) and talk about the music. Perhaps, we should call it sympho-black…? 'Deep' synths, strong reverberation layed upon other instruments, creating the cathedral effect, ambiental interludes and other attributes created for the sake of man's depression. Not bad, although too boring in the end… (Lazar)

MOON FAR AWAY
“Lado World”
Exotica Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Despite the grandeur of Russia, there’re only few BM bands worth attention (ROSSOMAHAAR, TEMNOZOR’, FULLMOON RISE, NARGOTROND, SUNCHARIOT, RAKOTH and some others), and we have almost catastrophic state when it comes to worthy dark ambient acts… Whom can you recall? SLOVISHA?! Ha! You didn’t listen to MOON FAR AWAY… Despite the seeming non-existence of good ambient bands, I finally discovered one of them… This album really surprised me due to it’s perfection… For a long, long time I haven’t heard such splendid music coming from my motherland – “Lado World” excludes even the very possibility of any kinds of drawbacks’ existence. It is exciting music, evocative and sorrowful, gloomy and beautiful with hypnotic chants and keyboards polluting the sense of mysticism… You have to get it. (Herr Stalhammar)

MORGUL
"Parody Of The Mass"
Napalm Records
rating: 4 of 6
100% live sound was the thing I liked in MORGUL's debut CD most of all. And despite rather 'dirty' production (the fault of shitty instruments, I believe), I'd dare to call «Lost In Shadows Grey» CD as rather original effort. And here we have typical UG band’s sound and that disappointed me somehow. However, in spite of this, the music itself is still worth your attention. There're plenty of fine melodic moves and harmonies, as well as impressive synth's passages. But due to the low-tuned instruments (what's that? another kind of sickness?), when the speed begins to rule the whole stuff, it becomes quite difficult to distinguish one thing from another. I nearly wanted to give them '3', but suddenly discovered some absolutely amazing pieces, so… All in all, not bad.

MORTEM
«The Devil Speaks In Tongues»
Merciless Records
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Second output from the cult band coming from the depths of South America - a mysterious country possessed by terrorism and black magic... Peru is what I’m talking about. MORTEM exist since 1985, so they strike as one of the oldest (if not the oldest) black / death metal bands in that region while their music really deserves our attention. Yeah, regarding music... Just conceive POSSESSED reincarnated and you’ll get MORTEM. This is extremely dark and atmospheric black / death metal played with feeling and sincerity, professionally recorded and performed, lacking keyboards and other modern shit. If such stuff is of value to you, buy this album without thinking twice. (Herr Stalhammar)

MUNDANUS IMPERIUM
«The Spectral Spheres Coronation»
Nuclear Blast Records
rating: A MASTERPIECE
Strange things happen sometimes... Once there was Norwegian duo called MUNDANUS IMPERIUM whose music appeared as rather melodic ‘space-oriented’ sympho-black metal in the vein of ARCTURUS. They released «Ode To The Nightsky» MCD back in 1997 and also participated in «The Rape Of The Holy Trinity» compilation released by Shagrath’s Hot Records. A year passed and I got debut full-length CD from this band, unleashed by Nuclear Blast... This is the first strange thing. The second one concerns music represented on «The Spectral Spheres Coronation». Actually, it doesn’t have much to do with black metal. No, MUNDANUS IMPERIUM didn’t turn themselves into gothic or pop band like KATATONIA did. Not at all. Their music still lacks any elements of ‘trend’ or whatever... Lars (the main force behind the band) chose another way of self-expression - in the shape of symphonic... power metal, played in BM way. Can you fancy the afore-said? Yes, it sounds weird, but in the same time I believe that it’s the only description appropriate here. Imagine ARCTURUS («Aspera Hiems Simfonia» times) with brilliant Dio / Robert Lowe-alike vocals and you’ll see what MUNDANUS IMPERIUM is alike now. This is a perfect album with perfect music, perfect singer and perfect arrangements, i.e. you’re nothing but a fool if you’ll pass this CD. (Herr Stalhammar)

NAGLFAR
«Diabolical»
Wrong Again Records
rating: 3, 5 of 6
What do we know about Sweden? First of all, it’s the biggest Scandinavian country (this assertion regards both factors, territory and population), and secondly, it spawns the enormous number of similar bands. In contrast to the beginning of ‘90s, when we had 1000 and 1 ENTOMBED clones, now we have 5000 and 2 bands DISSECTION copycats. What’s the reason for it? The reason is more than simple, consisting in elementary musical cowardice. Taking refuge in supporting the non-existent union namely ‘Swedish black metal’, these guys reject any kind of innovations, fearing to be left unnoticed by some godforsaken labels like No Fashion… I don’t like comparisons, but anyway, let’s take this CD and DISSECTION’s “Storm Of The Light’s Bane”. First of all, here we have the method of fingering the minor barre on rhythm guitar. Of course, DISSECTION weren’t the first ones within the bounds of metal music who used it, but the thing is that NAGLFAR do it exactly the same way as Jon and co. I think it’s utterly needless to follow on comparing these albums, but… even the last tune on “Diabolical”, instrumental one performed on piano, reminds me of “Storm Of The Light’s Bane”… However, it we would imagine that we’ve never heard of DISSECTION and alike bands. Well, what can we say… Splendid performance, brilliant sound, bewitching melodies – this stuff is for those who’re totally into typical Swedish black metal. As to me, I’m becoming tired of suchlike CD’s, therefore ‘5’ for the music itself and ‘0’ for originality. Hence, including a lot of extenuating circumstances, the mark is ‘3, 5’. (Lazar)

NIFELHEIM
"Devil's Force"
Necropolis Records
rating: 3 of 6
Judging the album’s title and songtitles like “Soldier Of Satan”, “Satanic Mass” or “Hellish Blasphemy”, one can assume that NIFELHEIM play something truly ‘satanic’ and ‘evil’ – and he’ll be right. This band perform somehow stupid black / grind, which however wins over by it’s vivacity. But their main mistake consists in the following fact (and these guys are not the only ones here): NIFELHEIM can’t offer the continuation of, basically quite successful, theme, and “Devil’s Force” starts to bore you in the end. Despite the short length (near 30 minutes), already after listening to the sixth song, “Soldier Of Satan”, there’s a strong desire arising – to flush this CD down the toilet and forget about it. (Lazar)

NIGHT IN GALES
«Thunderbeast»
Nuclear Blast Records
rating: 3 of 6
The Swedish black / death metal played by a German band? Hmm, sounds weird... However, NIGHT IN GALES already have one MCD and two full-lengths behind them as well as a deal with Nuclear Blast, so I believe that we should treat them more seriously than ordinary copycats. «Thunderbeast» is one more interpretation of DARK TRANQUILLITY / IN FLAMES’ heritage, this time much more exciting than hundreds of «canorous quintets»... This CD represents fast and melodic blackish death metal with hysterical lead vocals and some «clean» ones appearing here and there. Guitars produce memorable and various riffs, rhythm-section supplements the whole thing in a fine way, while the sound is almost crystal clear thanks to the Real Sound Studio and Wolfgang Stach’s producership and mixing, therefore all the instrumental parts sound in an incredibly distinct way... Keyboards were not forgotten, however their appearance doesn’t change anything - they don’t create any kind of atmosphere, hence I consider synths to be useless here... In general, this is A VERY GOOD album for the lovers of Gothenburg’s school - but I’ll better go and listen to IN FLAMES. There’re plenty of Sweden’s bands, the ones which NIGHT IN GALES cannot be even compared with... ABLAZE MY SORROW, WITHOUT GRIEF, DAWN, NOCTES and many, many more. (Herr Stalhammar)

NINNGHIZHIDDA
«Blasphemy»
Invasion Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Awesome stuff! Invasion contrive to sign more and more excellent bands from Germany and NINNGHIZHIDDA is one of them. It’s really hard to tell you what this band is all about - their music doesn’t appear as something outstanding, no, it’s quite typical black metal, melodic yet aggressive, with orchestral arrangements and plenty of leads. But despite that NINNGHIZHIDDA do not offer anything new, their music is worth your interest, at least due to it’s highest quality. They borrowed something from EMPEROR, something from MARDUK, CRADLE OF FILTH and DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER, mixed their influences into one, added some fresh ideas of their own (grunting vocals for example) and, as a result - we have a chance to behold and listen to brilliant CD, combining all the best that ever appeared in black metal genre... This is definitely a must to have album! (Herr Stalhammar)

NIRNAETH
“Haundh’en’Nirnaeth”
Abstract Emotions Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
What happened to Abstract Emotions? After listening to highly impressive CD from BETWEEN THE FROST, I get NIRNAETH’s effort which appears as staggering ambient, almost as genius as ELEND’s creations, while the band itself comes from Poland and all (?) the lyrics are sung in their native language! The fact of singing in Polish isn’t that strange, but the fact of the band singing in Polish and being signed to Spain’s label IS strange, at least to me. Talking about the closest comparisons, I’d mention early ELEND and DECEMBER’S FIRE, mainly due to that bewitching mix of majestic orchestral keyboards, clean male vocals (almost opera-alike!) and hateful BM shrieks… Anyway, NIRNAETH sound the way different from all other bands of this kind, so don’t get me wrong – comparing them to ELEND, I didn’t mean that these Polish guys’ music lack originality! They have their own approach to music… (Herr Stalhammar)

NOX INTEMPESTA
«Damnanus Dominum»
Folter Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
«Pure Black-Death Metal Adoration» says the cover and there’s nothing I can object to this statement. I haven’t heard such stuff for a long, long time... «Damnanus Dominum» is the third output by Germany’s NOX INTEMPESTA and also their best one, appearing as relentless, hateful and brutal CD mixing death and black metal into one in a unique way. Tyrann (vocals, guitars) and Mordra «Coldstone» von Kaldesstein (vocals, guitars) enlarged their band’s lineup with Holocaust (drums) and Monastiir (bass) - and that was a right decision in my view. NOX INTEMPESTA gained more powerful and ground-breaking sound by invitement of supplementary musicians, therefore if this band formerly was one of the strongest hordes in Germany, now they’re near the very throne of their country’s kings of black metal. Pure and true, without any alien influences, dark and obscure, fast and technical, evil and atmospheric... There’re two more facts worth your attention, when it comes to this CD. Firstly, «Damnanus Dominum» was produced by Harris Johns (!) and, secondly, it features «Speculum Spagyria Satana» track which stands out of the whole album, being rather mysterious piece, featuring only sombre whispers accompanied by keyboards - as grim as one can imagine... (Herr Stalhammar)

ODIUM
“The Sad Realm Of The Stars”
Nocturnal Art Productions
rating: 2 of 6
Let’s make a short one this time, ok? This is rather mediocre sympho-black metal from Norway released by Samoth’s label. That’s all. There’re too much “odiums” spawning everywhere nowadays, and I’m slowly becoming tired of this crap…
P. S. Although, die-hard fans of “Norse” sympho-black will like it, I guess… All in all, it’s not so bad… (Herr Stalhammar)

OPHTHALAMIA
«Dominion»
No Fashion Records
rating: 2 of 6
OPHTHALAMIA always stood out of the Swedish black metal hordes thanks to their unique approach towards music. Both, «A Journey In Darkness» and «Via Dolorosa», didn’t have anything to do with triteness or banality. Later, in 1997, after enduring serious line-up changes, they released «To Elishia» and that was the first disappointment. Compiled of old demo tracks with non-existent production, it seemed to appear of no value to all black metallers, with an exception for die-hard OPHTHALAMIA fans... And now we have «Dominion». Lucky us, this time, it’s a brand new CD, recorded at Abyss Studios by Peter Tagtgren. Yes, as you see, «Dominion» lacks any shortcomings when it comes to sound quality, but what about music? It sucks. OPHTHALAMIA is still OPHTHALAMIA, but there’s no atmosphere here as well as no sincerity... Despite the slightly brutal music and wrathful BM shrieks, «Dominion» obviously portrays the regress of once splendid band... (Herr Stalhammar)

OSSUARY INSANE
«Demonize The Flesh»
Galdre Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Total hatred and brutality - these are the only words able to describe OSSUARY INSANE’s creations. Here we can compare them to NOX INTEMPESTA - it’s pure and evil death / black metal, the kind of music which strikes as very rarely released one nowadays. Unstoppable violence and aggression, dreary and dismal, capturing ineffable atmosphere... Nothing more left to say, except one thing - the singer’s name is... Dave Vincent. Yeah, the same guy who left MORBID ANGEL after «Domination» CD! His name is already a pledge of top-quality, don’t you think so? (Herr Stalhammar)

PARAGON OF BEAUTY
“The Spring”
Prophecy Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Looks like Prophecy follow the path they embarked on in the very beginning, at least they unleash CDs of the same kind, i.e. emotional, atmospheric, somewhat original and highly impressive gothic black metal… “The Spring” is already a second effort from PARAGON OF BEAUTY, and after listening to it I really regret that I haven’t heard the first one. “Oh My Dear Beloved Marblequeen” is one of my favorite track during last couple of months, perfectly representing what the whole album is about – romantic, serene and beautiful music, having something in common with black metal in the vein of EMPYRIUM, although there’re not too much of BM elements here. It’s more like… a metal music. “Paragon Of Beauty” is their style. By the way, regarding comparisons with EMPYRIUM… Yes, both of these bands represent the new path in black metal, although saying that PARAGON OF BEAUTY sound a lot like their label-mates would be a greatest mistake! They just possess the same atmosphere of pure romanticism – that’s what I meant. And one more thing – this band has one really strong point that EMPYRIUM hasn’t: I’m talking about “clean” vocals. This band’s singer has an excellent voice, no doubts! At least, it totally bewitched and fascinated me… Unfortunately, the music becomes a bit boring and monotonous in few moments, and that’s why I couldn’t call this CD a masterpiece. (Herr Stalhammar)

PRIMORDIAL
«A Journey’s End»
Misanthropy Records
rating: 6 of 6
Finally, Misanthropy Records unleashed second CD from Ireland’s PRIMORDIAL. Well, what to say here...? It’s more than worthy stuff. «A Journey’s End» is absolutely untrendy, highly original and intriguing piece of folklorish black metal performed by extremely talented, moreover - outstanding band. Seven tunes featured on «A Journey’s End» represent a cross between traditional Norse black metal, gothic and medieval music with few influences from progressive rock with hellish BM shrieks and plenty of «clean» vocals remotely associating with the voice of Vincent Cavanagh of ANATHEMA... All songs offer a certain conceptual canvas however two of them somehow stand out of the whole album - this is «Solitary Mourner» made in the vein of early PINK FLOYD with vocalist singing a capella, and «On Aistear Deirneach» which appers as an instrumental track with emphasis on bass guitar, perfect for meditation and performing black masses... Besides afore-said, I’d like to turn your attention to surprisingly ‘clean’ production and mastery of rendition. No, don’t get me wrong, PRIMORDIAL have nothing in common with such acts as SADIST or f.ex. THEORY IN PRACTICE accentuating on technique of performance and complicated compositions, although listening to «A Journey’s End» you’ll see that these Irish guys treat each riff, each sound with supreme thoroughness. Everything is thoughtout, there’s nothing superfluous, irritating or uninteresting here. So, the conclusion is even a bit frightening - «A Journey’s End» is A MUST. (Herr Stalhammar)

PROFANE GRACE
“The Divination Of Souls”
Gothic Records
rating: 0 of 6
It’s most possible that this idiocy was implied as ambient album, however don’t get me wrong! It doesn’t have anything to do with genius of ELEND! I just used this word as metaphor which can regard the effort, performed by certain freaks eliciting extremely monotonous and disgusting sounds from Kamboja’s synth somewhere near first octave, using one MIDI patch of String Ensemble 1 type (actually, only aforementioned patch may spawn some wretched kind of ‘sound’ when it comes to synths like Casio (Made in China) of Kamboja’s origin).  But ok, it could have been not so awful if this CD featured only certain incomprehensible noise, but no! One more moron tries to scream (?) or say something simultaneously with slight puking. By the way, the microphone also could be MUCH better… It’s still a mystery to me, why does this album feature two session “musicians”? Ah! Maybe, the sound of rusty pot on track 3 belongs to one of them?? Besides, I’m wondering how could Gothic Records release this crap in the shape of CD???? But ok, let’s wish these guys to be sold in a couple of million copies, and sum up everything in regards to this review. In fact, it was really hard for me to listen this shit till the end, but I did it, and the conclusion can be only one – “The Divination Of Souls” have NOTHING in common with such term as ‘music’. Consequently, ‘0’ is the most appropriate rating, I believe. Maybe, this ‘work’ is interesting as philosophical tractatus, but that is the sort of thing which has to be reviewed by someone else…(Lazar)

PURGATORY
"Bestial"
Perverted Taste Records
rating: 2 of 6
Raw death metal without any trace of intellect is not the kind of thing I like – and PURGATORY can’t offer anything besides it. They also can’t boast with splendid technique… we have enough shitty acts of this kind here in Russia, so why the fuck do I have to praise German band’s CD of the same quality?? Besides, I think that mixing should be better if they want to reach anything, so you’d better don’t switch on MegaBass on your stereo system, because then the drum sound will fuck up both, stereo and your mind.  I hardly listened this ‘masterpiece’ till the end… (Lazar)

RAISM
“Aesthetic Terrorism”
Osmose Productions / KRON-H  Productions
rating: 4 of 6
It's always interesting to see someone combining various styles, especially when people try to mix black metal and rave into one. It's not an innovation, since there're many bands experimenting with diverse electronic sounds, and getting 'ravish black' or 'blackish rave' as a result. Personally I think that this CD features more rave elements than black metal ones. There're some tunes where only those typical BM screams remind of this band's origin, however the other songs appear as the ones based on guitar… By the way, there's one interesting thing concerning RAISM's lineup… Guess who plays guitar here? It's Sotiris from SEPTIC FLESH, whom I didn't expect to see in RAISM, and who also disappointed me a bit due to his hackwork performance… The other ones are: Finland's moron-number-one Mika (IMPALED NAZARENE) and M.W.Daoloth from NECROMANTIA. What I can't really understand is who needed to rename to DIABOLOS RISING to RAISM while music stayed the same?? Sampling is not perfect, and guitar's sound sucks, but in the whole, «Aesthetic Terrorism» seems to be rather impressive. (Lazar)

RAVENTHRONE
«Malice In Wonderland»
Avantgarde Music
rating: 5 of 6
Eh, Roberto Mammarella stired up his label’s activities at last, releasing three CD’s almost at once - and two of them appear as absolutely ground-breaking efforts! I already reviewed CARPATHIAN FOREST’s «Black Shining Leather», and now it’s time for RAVENTHRONE and their «Malice In Wonderland» CD. Musically, this band is quite close to such acts as MITHOTYN with their melodic and sublime music, evocative rhythms, plenty of majestic choirs, «clean» vocals and atmospheric synth-man’s work. Nonono, as I said ‘musically RAVENTHRONE is close to MITHOTYN’, however «Malice In Wonderland» doesn’t sound that soulless and cheesy as both CD’s by aforementioned Swedes! This album is 100% black metal, possessing recognizable (though a bit ‘dirty’) sound, featuring melodic but still raw e-guitars... RAVENTHRONE doesn’t have anything in common with trend, at least for now. (Herr Stalhammar)

RITUAL CARNAGE
«The Highest Law»
Osmose Productions
rating: 5 of 6
Surprisingly an impressive CD from Osmose. I got tired of their «old school thrash / black metal» direction centuries ago, but despite that most of the bands of this kind signed to Osmose appear as utter crap, there’re some worthy acts like GEHENNAH, SWORDMASTER or RITUAL CARNAGE. «The Highest Law» represents thrashing BM mixed with some death metal, though performed in a modern way. Just imagine early SODOM’s tracks played by EMPEROR and you’ll see what I’m talking about. No, there’re no keyboards or suchlike stuff here, only ordinary guitars, bass and drums, however it doesn’t make the album worse. Somehow I think that RITUAL CARNAGE come from Sweden, or how else will you explain that amazing technique?? The guitarist should be praised eternally for his thoughtout riffs and genius leads... Very impressive CD - don’t pass it by! (Herr Stalhammar)

ROTTING CHRIST
«Sleep Of The Angels»
Century Media Records
rating: 6 of 6
I can't say that I was a big fan of ROTTING CHRIST before… formerly I was more into other Greek metal «heroes» like SEPTIC FLESH and NECROMANTIA and I couldn't understand those who admired with ROTTING CHRIST's creations back then… But now I'm undoubtedly became a great fan of this band… You may ask «what is the reason for that», and my answer will be quite simple - «the reason is this CD, which appears as undoubtedly tremendous piece». «Sleep Of The Angels» is a splendid effort thanks to the inimitable atmosphere it captures, combining few different styles like heavy, doom and of course, black metal. The sound's quality also suborns my inner essense, somehow even making the Aura of this album more attractive and 'visible'. Yeah, they're really can be easily distinguished from their countrymates (even such as NIGHTFALL) thanks to the brilliant production… Rhythm-section's work is very competent, which is very important thing I think – you see, most of contemporary black metallers suffer a lot from it's utter absense… What to add…? Those symphonic keyboards strike as extremely exciting ones, creating the indescribeable atmosphere… This is a genius release by definitely professional musicians. (Lazar)

RUNEMAGIK
«The Supreme Force Of Eternity»
Century Media Records
rating: 3 of 6
Uh, Century Media signs more and more black metal bands - seems like sooner or later they’ll turn into BM label... RUNEMAGIK is one of their latest signings, bringing typical Swedish black metal with thrash riffs and growling vocals - no trace of BM screaming here! Despite that this band is quite old one, they managed to release debut CD only now, after almost eight years of vegetation in the underground. Nicklas Rudolfsson (vocals, guitars, drums) is the only member left of the original lineup, while Fredrik Johansson (guitars) and Peter Palmdahl (bass, ex-DISSECTION) are among the newcomers. «The Supreme Force Of Eternity» was spawned in Studio Fredman under guidance of infamous Fredrik Nordstrom, rubber-stamping albums by similar bundles, so production is nice. However, the music itself  leaves the impression of a primitive one, despite that it was composed and played in a ‘proper’ way, ‘proper’ enough to get a deal with Century Media. I don’t know really... this effort did nothing for me... but who knows, perhaps many of you will become the RUNEMAGIK’s die-hard fans...? (Herr Stalhammar)

SAD LEGEND
“Sad Legend”
Hammerheart Productions
rating: 6 of 6
The Black plague affects more and more regions in the world, and we have BM bands spawning in such countries as Japan, Singapore, Paraguay, New Zealand, Lichtenstein, etc (seems like sooner or later you’ll be able to learn geography just listening to black metal, heh heh). But what would you say or how would you act, if I tell you that there’s a BM band coming from Korea (!), with a girl playing guitars, bass and drums (!!!), in the same time being responsible for harsh black metallish vokills together with amazing soprano, while all the lyrics are written in Korean?????? And what if I’d say that 90% of Scandinavian acts fail miserably in comparison to SAD LEGEND when it comes to both, sound and musicianship?? This band truly fascinated me… Their style is atmospheric and bewitching black metal, rather sorrowful (at least, I wouldn’t say that it’s very aggressive) but in the same time enough ‘evil’ (hmm…), with majestic male chants (besides Naamah’s beautiful soprano, of course) and plenty (?) of keyboards, although unlike such bands as DIMMU BORGIR who make emphasis on synths, SAD LEGEND’s sound is definitely based on guitars, masterly performed by Naamah and some other guy who’s responsible for rhythm guitar. This CD brings some unforgettable melodies, which just won’t let you go until it becomes impossible to listen to the CD because it just gets a huge hole on it… Tracks 2 and 7 (sorry, I can’t tell you their titles – I’m not into Korean black metal that much to begin studying hieroglyphs, you know) will become classics some day, believe me… If I had to compare them to anyone, I’d name Norway’s FORLORN, early OLD MAN’S CHILD and ULVER with their majestic, atmospheric and tremendous form of black metal with recognizable, splendid guitar parts (instead of usual buzz) and lots of sublime chants… There’s no folk or alike stuff which could obviously tell us of SAD LEGEND’s origin here, so if I didn’t look at the cover and just put the CD in my stereo, I could think of them as of one more outstanding and highly original Norse band… A MUST (even for NS people, heh heh). (Herr Stalhammar)

SARGATANAS
«Sargatanas»
Baalberith Productions
rating: 2 of 6
Well, I even don’t know what to say about this MCD... Everything is so ordinary and typical here that I just can’t describe what SARGATANAS is all about... Unholy black / death metal the way it was done by thousands of bands... Let me finish this review right now, ok? (Herr Stalhammar)

SIEBENBURGEN
«Grimjaur»
Napalm Records
rating: 6 of 6
Amazing stuff!!! Unbelievable mixture of Gothenburg's thrash, sympho-black and folklore will simply crush your brains… Unfortunately, there's a couple of lame songs here, however this CD also features some absolutely killer tunes… For example, right now, when I'm writing this review, there's a melody from «Grimjaur» playing in my head, and there's no way to escape from it… Talking more concrete – Lovisa's voice, who often spawns ultra high-pitched notes, fits SIEBENBURGEN's sound perfectly, favouring the creation of purely mystic atmosphere this staggering album is impregnated with. Guitar parts are well thoughtout and abound in memorable harmonies… The only shortcoming here goes for those two songs mentioned above, and the sound which, in general, could be more powerful. However, «Grimjaur's» advantages make me to forget about these few drawbacks… Run to the nearest music store and buy this CD now! (Lazar)

SKEPTICISM
«Ethere»
Red Stream Records
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Aha, the gods of dark metal are back with new MCD! Those who already gave a listen to their former album («Stormcrowfleet», Red Stream 1995) should know what is SKEPTICISM and don’t need my comments. As to others... Well, I believe we can compare this band to their countrymates from UNHOLY - both groups compose extremely dark, very sorrowful and utterly depressive music, slow and mournful with grim atmosphere and inhuman voices coming from the outer realms... If you’re going to commit a suicide but still didn’t decide whether to do it or not, order this MCD and you’ll understand the insignificance of your life... (Herr Stalhammar)

SKYFORGER
“Kauja Pie Saules”
II Moons
rating: 4 of 6
As far as I remember, reviewing SKYFORGER’s demo, “Semigalls’ Warchant”, I praised it to the skies and even named as the best Latvian BM band ever… Well, I don’t retract of my words, but I fear I can’t say the same about this CD. Yes, it’s still more than original, dark and evil in a true and sincere way (the thing which I liked most of all on their demo), with plenty of folk elements, but somehow it sounds less attractive than before… But despite afore-said, as you see, I rated it with “4” which means that this CD is worth attention, especially for those who are due to some strange reasons are unfamiliar with SKYFORGER even now. Worthy stuff, which however could be better. (Herr Stalhammar)

SOILWORK
“Steel Bath Suicide”
Listenable Records
rating: 4, 5 of 6
And again death / black metal the Swedish way… However, apart from many others, SOILWORK sound highly impressive, maybe thanks to splendid arrangements or definitely genius guitar work… Honestly speaking, I don’t really know why, but I’m impressed. Even those who’re hell as tired of Swedish black / death metal have to try this CD… It’s a way better than multitude of their countrymates’ efforts. (Herr Stalhammar)

SOULGRIND
“Whitsongs”
Icarus / Regress Records
rating: 5 of 6
This CD was awaited by many people for a long, long time… First I got acquainted with SOULGRIND after purchasing the album with a horribly long title “Lust And Death In Tuonela AD 1999: Black Industrial Holocaust Through The Pandemonium Of The Bizarre” which strongly impressed me, being something really new in black metal genre. But after that, SOULGRIND got silent for three years… And now, we finally have a chance to listen to their third full-length CD, released by Argentina’s (!!!!) label. The first distinction goes for lineup. While earlier SOULGRIND was a brainchild of one man, Jussi Heikkinen (also in GLOOMY GRIM and WALHALLA), now it consists of five well-known persons: Jussi on vocals, guitars, bass and programming, Agathon Frosteus (THY SERPENT, GLOOMY GRIM, WALHALLA) on drums (the live ones here!) and vocals, Whisper (NOMICON, GLOOMY GRIM) on female vocals, Luopio (THY SERPENT) on keyboards and Ceasar T. MacLaunone (WALHALLA, GLOOMY GRIM) on vocals… So this group turned into some sort of ‘all-star band’, don’t you think so? Anyway, it did only good for the SOULGRIND’s music since it improved incredibly. It’s really hard to define their style, but talking roughly, I’d say that they play folk doom / industrial based on malicious black metal. In the whole, the music is more than diverse – give a listen to the first three songs (especially “Ylermi” track) as well as “Motherland”. That will be the best proof to my words. (Herr Stalhammar)

SUIDAKRA
“Auld Lang Syne”
Last Episode Productions
rating: 3, 5 of 6
This CD didn’t justify my hopes. SUIDAKRA’s self-released debut, “Lupine Essense”, was something I was enchanted with, but this one… Erh, I don’t know… It’s dull and boring comparing to their former work. Maybe next time, guys… (Herr Stalhammar)
P. S. All those who haven’t heard this band before should purchase this CD, though. It’s not bad at all, moreover – highly original. But anyway, “Lupine Essense” was better, I fear…

SWORDMASTER
«Deathraider»
Osmose Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
As far as I remember, I liked SWORDMASTER’s debut CD («Postmortem Tales») very much, consequently I expected this one rather impatiently. Finally I got it and... yes! SWORDMASTER remained true to their ideals. This album (too bad that it’s only a mini!) includes five songs done in their inimitable style. Fast and brutal, though melodic, with thick guitar sound and hysteric vocals... The first four songs sound quite habitual for this band, while the last one, «Stand For The Fire Demon», sounds like a... blues with black metallish vocals (and it’s also my favorite track here). Am I sick? No, I’m not. If you don’t believe me, simply buy «Deathraider» and satisfy yourself that I was right. What’s for the end? Hmmm, nothing except for the following incontestable inference: great output from an outstanding band. (Herr Stalhammar)

THOR’S HAMMER
«Fidelity Shall Triumph»
Darker Than Black Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
THOR’S HAMMER is lead by Capricornus from mighty GRAVELAND, but don’t expect a potion of raw pagan metal - it’s nothing like that. Surely, the lyrics are soaked with NS ideas, however music strikes as something really weird... It’s well-recorded stuff with plenty of keyboards and perfect arrangements (!), surprisingly masterly performed (!!), featuring growling vocals a-la Necroabyssious of VARATHRON (!!!) - and not only singing manner remind me of that band; the whole album is very much alike late VARATHRON’s creations... More than strange, but I like this album anyway - at least, it shows that Capricornus is not a brainless kid as he used to be before, but a creative individual who is in hard search for the new forms of self-expression. Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)
P. S. Though I can’t get into one thing... Capricornus is a skillful and talented drummer, right? Then why the hell does «Fidelity...» feature drum-machine??!

THYRFING
«Thyrfing»
Hammerheart Records
rating: 6 of 6
When I’m listening to the bands like THYRFING, I simply forget about my exactingness and itching for originality… I listened to this CD with silent breath and opened mouth. Damn it, everything is so tremendous and thoughtout – melodies, arrangements, sound… The first thought is – Swedes. And exactly - …en, …son, Sunlight, Skogsberg… Ooh, enough talking, I’ll better go and listen to THYRFING once again! (Lazar)

TWIN OBSCENITY
“For Blood, Honour And Soil”
Century Media Records
rating: 5 of 6
“For Blood, Honour And Soil” is the second CD from this outstanding Norwegian band. I really liked the first one (the interview in first issue speaks for itself, I believe) and expected the great things from Atle and co. in future. And I got what I wanted! It’s really pleasant to see the band you admire releasing new album better than the first one. You know, I was strongly disappointed by too many bands, being in fact worthy, but in the same time unleashing new efforts which SUCK. Fortunately, TWIN OBSCENITY is not one of them. I was feared a bit for their future fate due to the deal with Century Media (“Where Light Touches None”, their debut, was released through Head Not Found), but lucky me, a contract with major label didn’t spoil this act. “For Blood, Honour And Soil” has everything that I liked “Where Light Touches None” for – impressive vocals, magic keyboards, memorable riffs and melodies, brutality and evilness as well as the atmosphere of grim infernal battles for the annihilation of loathsome Light… They didn’t change too much, though this CD sounds somehow different from the former album (in a good way, of course). Excellent stuff. (Herr Stalhammar)

TYRANT
“Under The Dark Mystic Sky”
Pulverised Records
rating: 3 of 6 (Lazar)
        6 of 6 (Herr Stalhammar)
In the beginning I liked this album, but later it bored me more and more, since everything is very monotonous – monotonous to the core. And BM ‘breathing’ with monotony is the worst thing for me. Programmed (b.t.w., in a very mediocre way) drums also couldn’t make me to like this album more than I did. No doubts that TYRANT has it’s good sides, like splendid anxious orchestrations, but… The only thing which could save the whole thing is the couple of solos by Hidenori - who is definitely a genius guitarist - but there’re only two of them… (Lazar)
P. S. I can’t really imagine why didn’t you like this album, Lazar! It has everything a perfect black metal CD should have: originality, top-notch production and brilliant performance (let’s don’t forget about the guitarist who is simply genius, as you said), astounding orchestral arrangements, mighty vocals (including low-pitched “clean” voice!) and NO FUCKING TRACE of monotony! No doubts that TYRANT is the best Singapore’s black metal act I’ve heard so far… (Herr Stalhammar)

WITCHBANE
“Soldiers Of Hell”
II Moons
rating: 4, 5 of 6
I just hate those bands who’re doing nothing but rip-offing old black metal ‘idols’, pretending to be the ones who bring something new into BM genre… No, not at all. They don’t bring anything new, but only feast upon the remains of now sadly dead Cult… However (very rarely!) I got the CD’s of bands who also elaborate this vein but do it in a sincere and exciting way. WITCHBANE (what a name!) is one of them. Their vision of black / thrash metal is definitely interesting and differs a lot from most of their style-mates. It’s quite difficult to say ‘why’ and ‘how’ – better listen to “Soldiers Of Hell” yourself. The one thing I can tell you for sure – you won’t regret.  (Herr Stalhammar)

VARATHRON
“The Lament Of Gods”
Pagan Records
rating: 5 of 6
This legendary Greek band lead by Stephan Necroabyssious (hail!) endures indubitable evolution with each recording, with each song… This MCD should be released by mighty Poland’s label, Pagan Records, in December 1998 / January 1999, and here we have advance tape… Well… I was praising “Sarmutius Pegorus” promo in the previous issue, thinking that it was a great effort… How naive was I! That tape cannot be even compared to “The Lament Of Gods”, which is simply staggering! The usual and recognizable VARATHRON’s sound as well as those unforgettable Stephan’s vocals are still present here, however this MCD features much more keyboards… They almost dominate in “The World Through Ancient Eyes” in the shape of piano which appears as the main instrument on that track… This is my favorite song on this album, and, perhaps, also the best composition VARATHON have spawned so far… Besides four original tracks, “The Lament Of Gods” includes “Nuns Have No Fun”, a cover from MERCYFUL FATE, done in a splendid way. Nothing more to add, I guess… (Herr Stalhammar)

VINTERSORG
«Hedniskhjartad»
Napalm Records
rating: 5 of 6
... And here comes VINTERSORG, one more magnificent Sweden’s act on Napalm. This band was created by OTYG’s leader, so guess what kind of music does it perform? Label promotes it as «folk gothic black metal» - I don’t know what about «gothic», but there’s enough «folk» and enough «black metal» here. Generally speaking, it’s a copy of OTYG, but more black metallish and less soothing, though still very beautiful, beautiful in the Norse vein... «Hedniskhjartad» has everything I loved OTYG for, i.e. melodies of inimitable beauty, majestic spirit of the Ancient Battles, stunning «viking» voice mixed with dreary ENSLAVED-alike vokills and unique atmosphere... Music, represented on this MCD, is true and sincere as it ever may be... breathing with pride for it’s heritage... Listen to «Norrland» or «Norrskendrommar»... if you come from Scandinavia, this music should enflame your very soul. No, let’s say another way - this music should enflame your very soul... if you still care for your ancestry... if the Sacred Fire still burns inside of you...

WITCHERY
“Restless And Dead”
Necropolis Records
rating: 3, 5 of 6
This CD sounds more like a usual heavy metal with black metallish vokills than typical black / thrash that I expected it to be. However, when it comes to the reason why does it sound the way I told you, everything is rather simple. WITCHERY’s lineup features such individuals as Sharlee D’Angelo (MERCYFUL FATE) and Patrick Jensen (THE HAUNTED, ex-AT THE GATES)… I can’t say that this stuff impressed me… although it’s not bad. (Herr Stalhammar)

WITHOUT GRIEF
«Deflower»
Serious Entertainment
rating: 4, 5 of 6
More death / black metal the Swedish way, however this time recorded at Denmark’s Aabenraa Studio and unleashed through Serious Entertainment (well-known Danish label, dealing with such bands as ILLDISPOSED, PYREXIA, PANZERCHRIST, AUTUMN LEAVES, etc). In fact, there’s nothing special here, nothing different from usual schemes of «Gothenburg’s sound», though I like this recording. You know, this is the kind of case when there’s nothing I can carp at with the best will in the world. Everything is composed and performed at the highest level, cleverly and sincerely - quite seldom thing among Swedish bands. All songs are the long ones, but not boring at all; they simply bewitch with their beauty and fascination... «Deflower» also includes Rachamaninoff’s «Vocalise», heart-rending composition performed on piano and cello only... By the way, besides stunning music, this CD features tremendous appearance and artwork... «Deflower» lacks any shortcomings or drawbacks, therefore if you’re into melodic, emotional and absolutely untrendy black / death metal, get this CD. WITHOUT GRIEF are one of the most exciting and impressive neophyte acts coming from Sweden this year... (Herr Stalhammar)
P. S. Read the interview somewhere in this issue.

WIZZARD
“Devil Musick”
Spinefarm Records
rating: 4 of 6
Ha! That ‘old-school thrashing black metal’ isn’t a privilege of Swedish (DEATHWITCH, GEHENNAH), Norwegian (INFERNO, AURA NOIR) and French (IMPERIAL) guys! Finnish people are also capable of producing rather splendid piece of satanic rock’n’roll and WIZZARD is an excellent example for that! “Devil Musick” features two kinds of songs: while it has tunes like “Satan’s Blues In A-Minor”, “Down The Pit Of Doom” appearing as pure blackish rock’n’roll stuff, there’re also few tracks seeming to be something different (such as “Little Lyndsey” and “The Revenge Of The Witch”). They are almost epic-alike, with majestic choirs and sublime synths… I feel like I like these ones much better… By the way, someone told me that WIZZARD’s lineup has few DARKWOODS MY BETROTHED members – along with guys from HORNA and IMPALED NAZARENE who’re doing backing vocals and choirs here… Seems like WIZZARD is an ‘all-star’ band??? (Herr Stalhammar)