BLACK METAL AND RELATED MUSIC
 

ALKONOST
“Songs Of The Eternal Oak”
Metzer / Beverina Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Pretty good pagan black metal is what we have to review this time. “Songs Of The Eternal Oak” is already a second release by ALKONOST, and since I haven’t heard the first one, let us cast aside any comparisons. Especially taking into account the fact this stuff sounds quite original. This MC is comprised of five tracks as well as an instrumental tune, and in fact all of them are good, to say the least. The overall sound is pretty thick and thus enjoyable, although when vocals come in, it gets a bit worse due to the fact the album’s mixing could be much better (even though, it’s far from being bad). Generally speaking, the music this MC offers the listener, is deliberate and somewhat serene, simultaneously being rather harsh. “Atmospheric” is the keyword, actually. Those “polyphonic” guitars sound undoubtedly impressive, so are the keyboards, although none of the musicians possess outstanding skills. They’re just good in what they’re doing. Vocals appear as typical black metallish vokills (with few pseudo-“clean” out-of-key choirs featured in one of the tracks), and there’s nothing to complain about it. When it comes to lyrics, they seem to be well-crafted and written in fairly good English, therefore, all in all, “Songs Of The Eternal Oak” strikes as highly enjoyable release.
Email the band at: alkonost_dp@mail.ru
Beverina Prod.: Juris Silders / Lielvardes 139 – 74 / LV-1082 / Riga / Latvija
Ketzer Prod.: Alex Hehnle / Maunzengasse 1 / 89584 Ehingen – Risstissen / Germania
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

… AND OCEANS
“The Symmetry Of I – The Circle Of O”
Season Of Mist Productions
rating: 3 of 6
This is totally inexpressive, toneless sympho-black metal the way it was done more than thousand times before… Yes, the musicianship is very impressive (especially concerning drum tracks) and the sound is of course fine too (well, “Tico Tico” says it all), but the band’s name and the song titles are the only things I could point out as those which may be reckoned to original. How do you like “Mechanic Hippie”, “The Black Vagabond And The Swan Of Two Heads”, “Baby Blue Doll – Merry gO Mind” “Acid Sex And Marble Teeth” or “I Wish I Was Pregnant”? Well, I guess the lyrics’ strangeness may be explained by the fact the singer is a fag :( … (Saihtan Krathmer)

ARCANE ART
“The Cursed Artist”
Memento Mori
rating: 4, 5 of 6
The cursed artist…? I don’t know why, but while I was listening to this work, I thought it could be a good soundtrack to “The Phantom Of The Opera”. Anyway, getting closer to the subject this review deals with, ARCANE ART is  one more project led by Karsten Hamre (whose name should be familiar to you due to the fact he’s the mastermind behind PENITENT) and I fear it’s far from genius of PENITENT. Actually, the songs this CD starts with, made me somewhat bewildered, since they may be reckoned to so-called “minimalistic” dark ambient with pretty simplified song structures, while arrangements aren’t that exciting. However… surprisingly, this is a full-length CD, and what’s even more surprising – it has a track #5! And a track #6 as well a 7th one!!! And, in fact, these ones strike as undoubtedly astounding pieces; anxious, grim and simultaneously bewitching… Tremendous. “The March Of The Universe”, “My Destination” and “In Memory Of Eliza”; these three compositions make the whole disk definitely worth buying. At least, they’re almost (?) equal to the works by PENITENT in terms of composer’s genius. Nevertheless, ARCANE ART is far from neo-classical music, remember that. And in the end I feel like I have to tell you, my precious reader, that Karsten invited few supplementary vocalists, going by names Fredrik Fugelli (whose declamations are most impressive), Brynhild E. Winther and Lord Vendictus. And lastly, this disk truly is an artistic masterpiece due to it’s brilliant appearance (just like with PENITENT, courtesy of Michael Riddick again…). (Herr Stalhammar)

ASHEN LIGHT
“óÔÁÒÙ âÙÌÉÎÙ”
H-Blast Music
rating: 6 of 6
This MC made me a bit confused, that’s for sure. “óÔÁÒÙ âÙÌÉÎÙ” was executed by Alex alone, whilst ASHEN LIGHT is, let’s say, a band of “full value”, i.e. Alex is not the only one who takes care of this act. Furthermore, it was the whole band who answered the interview (featured elsewhere in this issue)… Weird. I guess we should consider it more like a solo project, but then why does he do it under the banners of ASHEN LIGHT? Anyway, enough conjectures. Musically, it’s a way different from “ðÅÓÎØ ÷ÅÌÅÓÁ”, an album ASHEN LIGHT made their debut with. Yes, it’s still heathen, but truly in a different way. First of all, there’re no vocals here, the fact which somehow makes the listener confused in the beginning, however later he / she gets accustomed to it. Musically, this work captures almost a unique atmosphere; dreary though serene, tranquil yet anxious… I believe, BERGTHRON and BURZUM (especially “Dunkelheit”, a first track off “Filosofem” CD) would be good comparisons. It’s slow-paced, featuring plenty of bewitching synthetic sounds, however it’s the kind of case when one manages to use synth in a right way. As I already said, the atmosphere this MC is soaked with, is beyond any critics. It’s just AS genius. Brilliant work, I hope to hear more from Alex in time to come!
Email: ashen_light@mail.ru
(Herr Stalhammar)

BLAZING ETERNITY
“Times And Unknown Waters”
Prophecy Productions
rating: 6 of 6
Well, well, well… So who said that contemporary metal (and particularly black metal) scene is weaker than ever? Currently I’m trying to count how many undoubtedly outstanding CDs I’ve got while preparing this issue, and it seems like there’re too much of them. To be honest – BLAZING ETERNITY could easily beat my all-time favorites, DARK TRANQUILLITY, if they composed their stuff within the bounds of the same genre… That’s true. This young Danish outfit delivers absolutely amazing blend of romantic, momentously tranquil yet dark and oppressing, deeply melancholic and somewhat dreary… well, let’s call it “dark metal”. Or “Nordic night metal” as they prefer to define it ‘emselves. This is fast-paced, though simultaneously mid-tempo and even slow work when it comes to performance’s speed, various, always delivering certain move or passage(s) to enrapture the listener with it’s unique charm… (those acoustics are simply bewitching!)… Vocals are that of black metal, anxious and screamy, frequently varying to some kind of recitatives and even some “clean” voices here and there. Speaking about comparisons… well, I’d name OPHTHALAMIA and BEYOND DAWN (the early ones), although one shouldn’t consider this statement of mine as a comparison anyway. BLAZING ETERNITY contrive to stay (almost utterly) original, and I believe “Nordic night metal” is a perfect description of what they are all about… a new style I believe, as I simply couldn’t reckon BLAZING ETERNITY to any particular genre. This is just… tremendous and astounding piece of art. A masterpiece, that’s for sure. (Herr Stalhammar)

DAMNATION
“Resist”
Cudgel Agency
rating: -
Oh… Honestly speaking, I thought it’s time to perform liturgy when it comes to this outstanding Poland’s act. But lucky me (lucky us?), it is NOT the time. More likely, the time to praise these dudes for one more time since they’ve managed to unleash yet one more album which surely will become a classic when it comes to so-called “unholy death metal”. The drum tracks remind me a bit of “Eternal” by MALEVOLENT CREATION, however it’s the only point they may be compared to anyone else, since (unbelievably!) DAMNATION is one of the few bands who contrived to deliver their own sound and approach to music within the bounds of death metal (undoubtedly, a “blackened” one, I’d say)! “Resist” starts with “Your Pain Is Not For Me”, one of the best tracks off this CD along with “In Resistance”, “Invisible Force” and “Down Of My Feet”, featuring mind-devouring blast-beating sickness, blended with one of the most impressive and definitely inhuman growls by Raven (even though he SINGS! You see, SINGS! Sings in an incredibly brutal manner…), who seems to be a newcomer in the band… A newcomer undoubtedly deserving to stay in DAMNATION for all centuries to come. Well, actually others, Les (guitars and bass), Bart (guitars) and Varien (a genius drummer, indeed) are magnificent as well. Furthermore, let me capture your attention on few more (seeming to be of importance) facts, such as participation of Wojtek Lisicki of mighty LUCIFERION (when the hell will you finally release the second offering?!) on solo guitars (partly) and album intro + an instrumental tune, the one carrying the name “Voices Of Unknown Dimension” (in fact, he’s responsible for the whole track, this gloomy synth-based composition), as well as “Invisible Force”-keyboards parts played by Robert Hajduk… finally a “Forsaken By Destiny” outro taken from one of the tunes by legendary CURRENT 93. All in all, this is must to have effort, too bad it’s rather short (only 33 minutes in length)… Did I mention “Resist” comes with an astounding layout…? And lastly; I guess you’re still wondering why haven’t I given this CD a highest rating or whatever? Well, simplifying the situation, I’d dare to assert the following: this album is beyond all ratings. That’s it. (Herr Stalhammar)

DARKNESS ETERNAL
“Dawn Of The Suffering”
Dark Salvation Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
I completely don’t like the way the artwork and layout this CD comes with, are designed. Kind of a christian metal band’s parody on what satanic black metal act’s CD should look alike. BUT, I just LOVE the music featured here! To be short: it’s grim, mostly mid-tempo, even somewhat sludgy, fairly blackened death metal. However, I’d place this review in a “black metal” section due to the fact that despite George (the mastermind behind the band) sings in a brutal, grunting voice, “Dawn Of The Suffering” comes with undoubtedly dreadful and anxious atmosphere. He doesn’t need keyboards or various orchestral arrangements to make DARKNESS ETERNAL sound dreary, managing to do it only with guitar, drums and bass (by the way, I was positively surprised by the fact he contrives to handle all the instruments properly). If you’d like to talk about comparisons; well, these are (late) MORBID ANGEL, DISCIPLES OF MOCKERY, (late) IMMOLATION, AUTOPSY and INCANTATION. No black metal reminiscences, sorry; but you have to know that most of contemporary BM acts fail miserably in comparison to DARKNESS ETERNAL when it comes to the notion of “atmosphere”. Enrapturing it is, bewitching in utterly morbid way. Should I say, this CD is “a must”…?
Email George at <darknesseternal666@hotmail.com>
To purchase this CD, send money order or well concealed cash, payment of 15.00$ (Canada), or 12.00$ (USD, applied to outside of Canada) to: George Velaetis / P.O.Box 5002 / Spruce Grove / AB / Canada / T7X / 3A2
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

DARK TRANQUILLITY
“Haven”
Century Media Records
rating: 6 of 6
“Projector” was still spinning in my CD-deck when I’ve got a newest work by one of my favorites, this time entitled “Haven”. Well, it’s a pity but I have to say I consider their former CD a bit more impressive. No, this is not a failure – “Haven” still is an excellent CD (don’t forget that, pals – this is EXCELLENT), however it’s just less various, you see… Furthermore, “clean” voice can be heard only in one and only track and that’s TRULY A PITY, since I keep on getting high on Mikael’s vocals when he starts to sing in a clear way. I don’t know if I will please anyone saying that “Haven” surprisingly appears as one of the most brutal efforts by DARK TRANQUILLITY… I wasn’t (disappointed) to find it out, anyway. Furthermore, “Haven” features few pure jewels in the shape of “The Wonders At Your Feet”, “Haven”, “The Same”, “Ego Drama”, “Emptier Still” and “A Loss Of Words”. Besides that, my edition comes with 5 bonus tracks (“Freecard”, “Hedon”, “Unto Control”, “The Sun Fired Blanks” and “Insanity’s Crescendo”) recorded live with Mikael singing (yes!) instead of a female. And to say the least, these tunes sound brilliant. “A must”, I believe? Yes, I definitely do. (Herr Stalhammar)

DREAM INTO DUST
“The World We Have Lost”
Elfenblut / Misanthropy
(provided by Chthonic Streams)
rating: 6 of 6
Some time ago I’ve already had a chance to get myself acquainted with this band, via “No Man’s Land” MCD (released through Chthonic Streams), and I wouldn’t say that one impressed me a lot. Everything’s different with “The World We Have Lost”. Basically, it’s the same (bewitching!) mixture of dark ambient and droning, though contriving to stay musical, industrial sounds, with vocals (the pleasant ones) added to most of songs featured on this CD. However, this time it’s incredibly much more enigmatic, fascinating, almost soul-devouring… The atmosphere it possesses is utterly unique. This trio manages to change rhythms and vary the sound very carefully, thus reaching a magnificent result. And, of course, Derek’s voice laid on such a soundscape sounds outstanding. GET THIS! (Herr Stalhammar)

DYSANCHELY
“Songs Of Sorrow”
Oupiric Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
So DYSANCHELY are black metal now, erh…Or more likely, doom / death heavily influenced by the genre of BM… Anyway, I liked this MC much more than their former CD, “Tears”, released back in 1998 by Leviathan Records. That one was too dull and monotonous for me, the kind of CD which lacks atmosphere… However, these Slovaks managed to put out second official recording, including four completely new songs, a cover on “God Of Thunder” by KISS as well as three re-worked tracks taken off “Tears”. Generally speaking, DYSANCHELY deliver rather impressive mixture of black and doom / death metal, mid-paced, featuring huge variety in vocal department: first of all, Lojzo simultaneously performs black metallish shrieks, deep guttural and “clean” voices (the latter one sounds less impressive, to be honest), and secondly, there’re two girls supplementing him. I wouldn’t say this MC is a revelation, however it’s still highly enjoyable work.
Get it through Oupiric Productions: oupiric@mail.ru
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

EPHEL DUATH
“Phormula”
code666 Productions
rating: 3, 5 of 6
Honestly speaking, I can’t really understand why code666 were so rave about this release. EPHEL DUATH is a neophyte Italy’s band delivering some kind of “progressive black metal”, or speaking plainer, what could be if one would mix LIMBONIC ART, PECCATUM and MISANTHROPE into one. Coming in the shape of astounding digipack CD, this album is of course gets the highest point in terms of appearance. Sound-wise it’s fine as well; even computerized pseudo-drums appeal quite good to an attentive listener’s ear. Well, don’t really know what to say further… Vocals vary from impressive “clean” ones to typical black metallish harsh screaming, guitars conceive tremendous musical canvas being supplemented by well structured and thoughtout arrangements. All in all, as you see, it’s a very good release, however it didn’t impress me. Yeah, just another piece of genuine black metal (already a good thing nowadays, actually), however I can’t say if I will give this CD a second listen in the nearest time to come. (Herr Stalhammar)

FALL OF THE LEAFE
“August Wernicke”
Icarus Productions
rating: 5 of 6
Finnish black metal again. This time a bit different than f.ex. UNHOLA, to be honest – even though I prefer “Inferno” (see the review below) over this CD. What’s most surprising, FALL OF THE LEAFE features few guys from… yes, UNHOLA! So what the hell is this band all about? It’s melodic, yet (of course) aggressive, and sometimes even a bit doomy black metal blended with touches from few “alien” genres as well as highly impressive “clean” vocal parts and thought-provoking lyrics (one of the best I’ve read lately, really). The cover and layout also seem to be astounding, so what are you waiting for…?! Check out the songs “I Feathe To The Juniper” and “Machina Mimesis (In The Corner Cafe)” and you’ll see I’m not kidding. (Herr Stalhammar)

FORLORN
“Opus III – Ad Caelestis Aes”
Napalm Records
rating: 3 of 6
A disappointment. I really LOVED the CD this band made their debut with, however this one is rather worthless. To be honest, I should say that “Opus III…” features few good harmonies and synth lines here and there, however it wasn’t worth waiting for three fucking years! I feel like I was cheated, y’know… If you’re a maniac of dull and monotonous Norse black metal, check it out anyway… (Herr Stalhammar)

GLOOMY GRIM
“Life?”
Holy Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
This CD starts with an intro, being pretty similar to DIMMU BORGIR’s works, and yes, some kind of sympho-black is what the listener should prepare himself for. BUT. The main problem goes for the fact it’s GLOOMY GRIM. A band formed by Agathon (who also takes part in THY SERPENT, SOULGRIND and WALHALLA), the one which surprisingly possesses it’s own unique sound. It’s based on keyboards and sequenced parts, supplemented by tremendously  programmed drumset, background guitars and Agathon’s voice, definitely one of a kind. What differs this CD from the previous one, is the improved guitar sound, this time appearing as much more brutal yet still only shading the whole musical canvas. Furthermore, the atmosphere which has been forced here, is incredibly gloomier (grimmer?), whilst even if “Life?” is pretty similar to Agathon’s former CD, it still differs from “Blood, Monsters, Darkness” –  undoubtedly for better. Speaking about the album’s highlights, I’d name “The Chosen One”, “Redeemer”, “My Domain” (purely astounding guitar-work) and “Mistress Of The Stormblast”. Buy it. (Herr Stalhammar)

GOSPEL OF THE HORNS
“Eve Of The Conqueror”
Damnation Records
rating: 5 of 6
Aaarrgghh! Fortunately (and finally!) I’ve received this album! Thank gods, since I thought it would be lost (stolen?) in the mail just like it happened to it’s vinyl version, the one Daan (the man behind Damnation Recs.) sent me out some time before MCD with the same record. Ok, enough preludes. Coming with splendid yet unpretentious appearance, “Eve Of The Conqueror” features four tunes (as well as a bonus track + some kind of an intro to it) of all-devouring black metal, slightly spiced with thrashy approach, although surprisingly reminding me of early IMMORTAL at times. Actually, I thought this Australian trio is out of business (hmm… do you like this word? Yes, I don’t either… But what can we do anyway…) for a long time, since their previous work (in the shape of “Satanist’s Dream” MCD) was unleashed four years ago, by a small and helpless Swedish (?) label. Polyphemus Records, if anyone of you still is able to recall that one. Anyway, GOSPEL OF THE HORNS seem to improve every single thing. Production is clear and powerful, and when it comes to musicianship, in fact I can’t really cavil at anything regarding it. Structurally, the songs strike as very well thoughtout and executed, featuring enrapturing, hellish atmosphere, being supplemented by furious guitar passages, pounding disaster in the shape of drumming and absolutely inhuman vocals. Furthermore, lyrics are worth getting acquainted with their contents as well, that’s for sure. All in all, highly impressive release, definitely worthy to be purchased immediately. (Herr Stalhammar)

GOTHIC SKY
“Believe In Death… Now Forever”
Oupiric Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Finnish school black / doom metal? I wouldn’t say so, even though it sounds pretty similar to it sometimes (I mean such bands as FALL OF THE LEAFE, INCENDIUM and others of that ilk, i.e. those who make emphasis on melody, apart from f.ex. UNHOLA and THYRANE). Firstly, GOTHIC SKY are more on the doom metal side, although this MC bears a strong resemblance of BM. This is melodic, mid-paced, professionally executed effort, vocally featuring blackish, guttural, hoarse, “clean” and female singing (of course! Or how else could we define it as “vampyric black / doom metal”, ha ha!), all of them highly pleasant. Furthermore, the keyboard passages appear here and there, and so do the leads (tremendous ones). Actually, in the beginning this album seems to be somewhat boring, however later (starting with the fourth track) it strikes as more and more intriguing, thus making you to play it all over again once it ends. And yes, it’s enough original to make the listener enjoy it… however, I keep on wandering if they’ve already seen a pic featured on the latest CD by OPERA IX when shooting the girl posing for “Believe…” cover, since the whole plot is almost similar!
Get this tape from Oupiric Productions: oupiric@mail.ru

HORDE OF WORMS
“Dreams And Dying Eyes”
Bloodbucket Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
“Canadian blast metal”? Yes, it is – no doubts! This quartet reminds me a bit of CONQUEROR (who also come from Canada, by the way!); it’s the same grinding black with few death metal elements which can be discovered here and there. I wouldn’t say it’s too original, however all the blast-beat maniacs should be satisfied with this offering, that’s for sure. This CD (self-released, I believe?) comes with eleven tracks which last for less than 25 (!) minutes, and that’s the only drawback here, since I’d like to here more… Anyway, those who appreciate hellish brutality though well thought-out, furthermore – performed and executed in a nearly brilliant way, definitely have to check this out.
Contact these guys at: WORMY_2@hotmail.com
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

K2
"Metal Dysplasia"
Cheeses International / Kinky Musik Institute
"The Rust"
Cortical Foundation / Kinky Musik Institute
rating: -
This is a nightmare. Pure nightmare. Actually, if you think that BRIGHTER DEATH NOW is sick, you haven't heard K2. This is a perfect synonym for the notion of "sickness". Just conceive two CDs with approximately 140 minutes in total, the ones delivering pure noise. In fact, all of so-called noise / industrial works definitely are capable of making madness out of sanity, however most of them have some kind of conceptual line hidden in between. I mean, the noises repeat themselves over and over again, thus transforming into some kind of one single post-apocalyptic canvas, surprisingly sounding even somewhat hypnotic at times (when the man behind the "band" knows what the hell he's doing... like, for instance, BRIGHTER DEATH NOW, I mentioned above). There's nothing like that with Japan's K2. Using metal junks, friktor, modulators and MTR, this creature (I can't believe it's human who spawns all this... what "this"? I don't know. Even the word "nightmare" doesn't really fit it) contrives to bring forth the life incredibly anxious and utterly insane... and again, insane "what"? And again, I don't know. This could be a perfect soundtrack to "Tetzuo - The Hammer Man". Those who watched this, let's say "movie", definitely will agree with me. Do I like it? Do I hate it? Can I stand it? Well, actually I always considered myself to be indifferent to any kind of musical (or non-musical) delirium - and when my friends can't listen any of the double-CDs by ESOTERIC to the end at once, I manage to do it. When they say "what the fuck is this" "listening" to ARCHON SATANI, I say it's unique phenomena. But the problem with K2 is the following: this is a random combination of various of pseudo-industrial noises, insane and delirious to the maximum extent, changing without any order or certain idea. It's like "I put this this button, and then I put that one, and then I put the third one, and what the hell do I get" - but only at the first sight. The idea IS here. The certain sequence IS here. It may be random, but random in a THOUGHTOUT way, afterall. If you wish to visit the nearest asylum - visit it as a seriously mentally ill patient with your braincells inevitably decaying... well, pick these CDs. As to me - looks like I'm falling in some kind of depraved love with both, "Metal Dysplasia" and "The Rust". (Herr Stalhammar)

KOROZY
“Long Road To The Land Of Black”
0.4.3. / Black Tears Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
An excellent CD from yet one more Bulgaria-based act… Basically, this is (mostly) fast black metal with melody and atmosphere, synth-spiced and rather original, featuring memorable harmonies and riffs, as well as a “female” singing performed by… man. What’s most strange, these vocal lines sound great. Few reminiscences of “Aspera…”-times ARCTURUS as well as OLD MAN’S CHILD can be found here, however does it necessarily imply the lack of originality? No – and once again “no”. Give a listen to f.ex. “Welcome To Black Palace” and you’ll second me. Besides that, isn’t it pleasing to get the CD from a totally underground band, released by a small label – the one which comes with top-notch production and performance? Yes, it is… The only thing I can’t really get into – why does this CD come with a printer-made (!) booklet while it’s tape version (brought forth the light by Bulgaria’s 0.4.3.) has an all pro-done packaging?! (Herr Stalhammar)

MANIFESTO
“Concrete Salvation” 7’EP
Noise, Filth & Fury Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Yeah yeah yeah, “good ‘ol blackened noise / industrial” from Sweden. Unfortunately, this recording offers us only few tracks (well, actually like it usually happens with 7’EPs), however it’s enough to figure out what this act is all about. The style? See above. Originality? Hmm, you tell me if it’s really possible to create anything utterly original within the bounds of this genre…? Anyway, in contrast to most of these “shitty sfx’s forever!” outfits, they don’t concentrate only on spawning incomprehensible noise, mixing it with few pseudo-dark ambient passages. MANIFESTO definitely have to work harder in order to get a deal with Cold Meat Industry, heh heh… even though, it’s highly impressive effort, especially for those who get high on suchlike stuff.
Contact: M. Zetterberg / Vallarlagsv. 8 / 743 50 Vattholma / Sweden
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

MIDNIGHT SYNDICATE
“Realm Of Shadows”
Entity Productions / Linfaldia Records
rating: 6 of 6
“Realm Of Shadows” is definitely the best album I’ve heard lately among those to be reckoned to so-called “dark ambient” genre. Brought forth the light by two men and coming with unbelievably well thoughtout visual concept and execution, this CD is best described as a perfect soundtrack to the most anxious horror movie, the one humans didn’t manage to shoot so far. “Realm Of Shadows” is comprised of twenty one tracks, however I believe it’s impossible to mark out this or that composition due to the fact they all come into one, thus hypnotizing the listener with it’s utterly grim and dreary yet somewhat melancholic and tremendous soundscapes and atmosphere. “Dim the lights, but take heed… What darkness conjures, the night harbors”. An artistic masterpiece that is, not your teen neighbor’s Tolkien-inspired one-chord pseudo-ambient attempts. (Herr Stalhammar)

MISTELTEIN
“Rape Of Rapture”
No Fashion Records
rating: 6 of 6
Perhaps, this is one of the best CDs ever released by No Fashion. MISTELTEIN is relatively young sextet… guess where from? Yep, exactly – Sweden. When it comes to my humble attempt to define the genre they may be reckoned to, this is black metal; more likely a SYMPHO-black metal. Actually, few of you our there would compare “Rape Of Rapture” to either DIMMU BORGIR or LIMBONIC ART, since if the band delivers sympho-black, it definitely should be compared to those bands. Shut up, you morons. Yes, MISTELTEIN manage to combine melody, harshness and enrapturing arrangements the same excellent way as dimmuburgers do, however they’re twice as furious and complex. If you still wonder if sympho-black metal acts are all commercial, you have to MISTELTEIN. This one’s not. (Herr Stalhammar)

MORBIT
“Morphium”
Moon Records
rating: 5 of 6
I still don’t whether I should consider it a demo or MC-album, but who cares anyway… MORBIT are no neophytes when it comes to the years they’ve spent in the underground – and most possibly it’s one of the most original bands in whole Russia. I still have difficulties in figuring out the genre they may be reckoned to… Anyway, what’s most important – “Morphium” (along with “Remorphium” (see demo section)) is incredibly grim, perturbing and anxious recording I’ve ever heard. Someone would draw parallels with f.ex. ESOTERIC, however I feel they’re pretty far from those English weirdos in terms of music. The atmosphere is the same, yes. Maybe even more dreary, so to say. Frankly speaking, “Morphium” (and especially!) “Remorphium” is based on keyboards and various samples forcing the gloomy kind of moods, adding deep growls and low-pitched “clean” vocals which are in fact pretty bad – and this is the reason why I couldn’t give this MC a highest rating. The drums come in the shape of programmed tracks, whilst the bass sound is rather enjoyable… this malicious clanging sounds truly morbid (by the way, the best (and most dark) tune off this tape carries the same word as a title). Despite the fact this album was recorded in Germany, the sound is far from being perfect, however it’s still quite good. Oh dammit, I hate this review! It’s nearly impossible to lay my impressions on the paper (or the MS Word’s page)… so you’ll just have to believe me when I’m saying it’s far more BLACK than most of these pseudo-black metal acts hanging around. And it’s also why I’ve put this review in a “black metal section”. The atmosphere, you see. It’s more than just black metallish. And this band is more than just outstanding…
Email: kategol@vda.ru
(Herr Stalhammar)

MYTHOLOGICAL COLD TOWERS
“Remoti Meridiani Hymni (Towards The Magnificent Realm Of The Sun)”
Somber Music
rating: an album of the issue
Wow! In fact, I considered this band to be defunct for a couple of years, since I haven’t heard anything from them since their former CD, “The Sphere Of Nebaddon”, released back in 1995. But no, MYTHOLOGICAL COLD TOWERS managed to go on and unleash truly astounding effort this time. Musically (well, and lyrically too) this work is pretty similar to BAL SAGOTH (how do you like such song titles as, for instance, “The Lost Tribes Of Amazon: A Glimpse In The Maze Of Forest”, “Colossal Megalithic Monument” or “Glorious Traces Of The Fall Of Tahuantinsuyu”?), although this is what regards the principal idea behind the band, since, despite my comparison, these Brazilians managed to deliver very original piece of art. It’s melodic, mostly mid-paced and atmospheric form of dark metal, combining influences borrowed from both doom and black metal genres, slightly spiced with a touch of South-American folklore. Vocals vary from grunts to black metallish screams, adding plenty of profound declamations as well. The song structures are more than just well crafted; generally speaking the music this CD offers strikes as very complex and thoughtout. The arrangements definitely are astounding, even though the keyboardist is worse than BAL SAGOTH’s, however I wouldn’t say it’s a drawback or anything like that. Flagellum is an excellent musician, that’s for sure; simply he hasn’t reached the genius of Johnny Maudling yet. Nothing bad here, I believe. More likely, that’s only for good, since I prefer this band over those English guys. MYTHOLOGICAL COLD TOWERS’ music is based on (masterly performed) guitars, while BAL SAGOTH drown the guitar sound in a thick synthetic sound, thus making their music less intriguing and various. Even a genius keyboardist can’t make the whole (metal) band sound incredibly stupendous, you see. And that’s the case with MYTHOLOGICAL COLD TOWERS – they DO sound incredibly stupendous. Even though all songs are hellishly long, they don’t have any trace of boredom, remember that. Furthermore, this CD possesses most impressive appearance I’ve ever saw! The overall design and layout are both fantastic!!! The sound is crystal clear and I guess I’ve already told you what I think of their performance’ technique (read: splendid). And finally, I feel that I have to mention the fact they’ve greatly improved their English, consequently one would get true pleasure getting acquainted with the lyrical canvas…
Perfect? Genius? Yes and thousand times yes. (Herr Stalhammar)

NARGATHROND
“Carnal Lust And Wolfen Hunger”
CDM Records / Sound Age
rating: -
I’ll be short this time, because it somehow seems loathsome to me to review a recording I took part in. Therefore, let me just describe what the hell is NARGATHROND and finish this “review”. Ok, basically it is a sympho-black styled effort, even though it lacks… guitars. Like ’98 PROFANUM, you see. Sometimes also reminding me of BISHOP OF HEXEN, however still highly original. All is pro-done, starting with a cover and ending with a compositions’ structure and performance… No one did anything like that in Russia before NARGATHROND, that’s for sure! (Herr Stalhammar)

NUNSLAUGHTER
“Hell’s Unholy Fire”
Revenge Productions
rating: 4, 5 of 6
NUNSLAUGHTER’s way in music reminds me a bit of the same way by Peruvian KRANIUM. To release debut CD on the 13th year of existence? A nonsense? Yep, it seems to be the one. Anyway, this trio finally have a chance to make themselves familiar to black / death metal fans worldwide. “Hell’s Unholy Fire” definitely will earn a cult status someday, however it’s still very far from being a perfect recording. Featuring eighteen tracks of pure blackened death metal sodomy, it lasts for only 30 minutes, however I don’t consider this album’s length to be a disappointment, since it could turn out as pretty dull and boring record if it would last for more than just half an hour. Musically it’s fast-paced and quite raw piece of eighties’ inspired black / death, bearing a strong resemblance of early POSSESSED – and surprisingly Russia’s GRAVESIDE. I guess, comparing it to MORBID ANGEL would be fair as well (even though, M.A. of course deliver incredibly more technical and thoughtout music). All of the tunes “Hell’s Unholy Fire” is comprised of possess undoubtedly dark and twisted atmosphere… some’d say “true Spirit”, y’know. And perhaps, the ones stating this are right. Anyway, there’s not much diversity here – actually, there’s no diversity at all, thus making the songs sound too similar to each other. Vocals sound pretty weak, whilst the song structures are rather poor. I’d never say this CD is a bad one, but the “cult” status is highest point this band will ever reach. (Herr Stalhammar)

OLD FUNERAL
“The Older Ones”
Hammerheart Records
rating: 5 of 6
Unbelievable! This band has been dead for a rather long time, however Hammerheart decided to re-issue old stuff of theirs, perhaps due to the fact it was never released in the shape of “official” recordings, except for (a couple?) of 7’EP(s?). Why unbelievable? Well, this CD is a killer! Anyway, what else could you expect from an act comprised of Jorn (now HADES ALMIGHTY), Varg (no comments) and few guys who later formed… guess what? IMMORTAL is the name. Musically, it sounds a lot like the bands I mentioned above, such as HADES ALMIGHTY (formerly HADES) and (especially!) early IMMORTAL, also carrying few reminiscences of CARCASS and MORBID ANGEL. Good sound and surprisingly splendid musicianship as well as certain originality (plus a “rarity” status) make this CD a must to have. (Herr Stalhammar)

OPERA IX
“The Black Opera. Symphoniae Mysteriorum In Laudem Tenebrarum”
Avantgarde Music
rating: 6 of 6
Writing this review could be compared to a torture session, since it’s incredibly hard for me to figure out what should I tell you about. Well yes, this is the third CD by one of Italy’s most outstanding bands led by charming Cadaveria (even though her handle doesn’t seem to have anything in common with the word “charming”, heh heh), this time even more improved. First of all, it was executed at Sweden’s Underground Studios, hence no drawbacks here when it comes to sound quality… Secondly, Cadaveria has improved her “clean” voice, which strikes as much more impressive now… The same goes for keyboards and (especially!) drumming. The fifth act, “The Magic Temple”, is my favorite track off this CD if you’d ask me. And yeah, it as well includes a cover on BAUHAUS’ classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. Actually, a brilliant work. Moreover – a masterpiece. Don’t know what else to say… I’d better quote my own review on their former work, “Sacro Culto”, as well as their label’s info on the lyrical concept behind “The Black Opera”: “Italy’s OPERA IX lead by Cadaveria (true Princess of Lust...) made us to wait for this album for almost four years, but “Sacro Culto” was worth the wait! The improvement is incredible! Cadaveria now sings in two voices, i.e. screams (in her own inimitable way) and sings in clean voice, which surprisingly turned out as more than pleasant! If we’re talking about vocals on “Sacro Culto”, I also have to mention “clean” male singing appearing rather often here - and this guy (unfortunately, I don’t know who is he) is very skillful in what he’s doing! Apart from that, OPERA IX finally found the keyboardist namely Lunaris, hence now keyboard’s accompaniment can be heard permanently. As to Ossian, his guitar seem to sound a bit like ROTTING CHRIST, or is it just my delusion...? Sound quality on “Sacro Culto” and “The Call Of The Wood” is incomparable, since this album features perfect production, lacking any drawbacks (actually, the same goes for music which doesn’t sound boring at all, like it often was before)... Tremendous... brilliant... splendid... excellent... amazing... no, none of these epithets fit OPERA IX, because all of these words are too dull to describe this genius band’s compositions... Ah, I can’t wait to listen to “Sacro Culto” once again! And again... and again... This band will become black metal legend one day...”.
“The third OPERA IX’s “chapter” is a magic and ritualistic journey into the secrets of occultism. The band describe it through an imaginary walk done by a spiritual warrior, searching for the supreme knowledge. Shaytan is leading him along a path made of symbolic seal’s violations, in order to penetrate the essence of the arcane science and enjoy it’s pleasures. He’s the bringer of light, a symbolic light, synonymous of intelligence and total knowledge of occult powers. He’s the angel of evil who embodies pagan gods’ beauty and honor. During this shocking experience the warrior lives different moments, related in each Act of the album. The journey, among real forms and mental visions, will shake the wayfarer’s soul in a mix of beautitude and damnation. Blessed be the one who dares, if you don’t dare you will die in the suffocating void”. (Herr Stalhammar)

ORPLID
“Orplid”
Prophecy Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
It’s always hard to review albums of this kind… Sort of medieval stuff, or dark folklore, y’know… Anyway, to put it short: ORPLID emerge from Germany, while this CD appears as a re-issue of their debut recording, packed with a couple of bonus tracks and absolutely astounding appearance. Musically it captures nostalgic, tranquil yet bitter atmosphere, forced mainly with acoustic guitars, piano and choir-alike singing… When it comes to lyrics, it is said that Uwe Nolte (who’s in charge of them) is a renown actor in various theatres, thus his lyrical works are written in a purely poetic way. ORPLID deliver undoubtedly beautiful and serene music, the one to grant you unforgettable impressions if you give it a listen being alone in the countryside, beholding the setting sun… (Herr Stalhammar)

PARAGON OF BEAUTY
“Seraphine – Far Gone Gleam”
Prophecy Productions
rating: 4 of 6
This is a bit strange release. “Not a new album” by the band as their label states, but a disk for the price of MCD. Well, honestly speaking, I consider this effort to be somehow worse in comparison to their former “The Spring” CD. Featuring “To My Unfading Sorrow” epic and “After Dark Vapours Have Oppressed Our Plains”, the one set to the poem by English classic John Keats, and supplemented by a cover from Fish (“The Company”) as well as typical PARAGON OF BEAUTY tune, “Narrenjagd”, a bit weird track entitled “Wie Ein Zartes Blatt Im Morgenwind”, and finally “Lonesome”, the outro, this album seems to lack complexity and commonness, also being too similar to AUTUMNBLAZE. So let me dare to ask if there was a reason to start AUTUMNBLAZE if these two bands are more than close to each other musically? Anyway, I have to admit that the lyrical canvas is again exciting and those “clean” vocals are simply outstanding – so are the arrangements by the way. This is an excellent example of how astounding dark metal may be… but I liked “The Spring” more than this one anyway. It’s VERY good effort, however I still await their second full-length output. (Herr Stalhammar)

PENITENT
“Roses By Chaos Spawned”
Memento Mori
rating: 6 of 6
Ah this is a newest work by well-known Norway’s Mr. Give-me-a-good-equipment-and-imagination-and-I’ll-become-a-music-genius, Karsten Hamre. Well, seems like I’m a bit late with this review, however blame it all on Memento Mori who’ve just supplied me with this magnificent CD… Actually, I’m listening to this recording for hell knows what time, though I still can’t figure out what should I tell you… It’s PENITENT; no more, no less. Bewitching and somewhat mesmerizing neo-classical soundscapes performed in a truly outstanding way, adding thought-provoking poetry, this time also featuring undoubtedly astounding “clean” male and female voices performed by M. Andrew Goldfine and Ellen White. Andrew’s deep baritone fits Karsten’s musical canvas just perfect – seems like his voice, like no one else’s, simply was destined to join and supplement those fascinating sounds Mr. Hamre is responsible for! And Ellen… Well, she’s excellent too. Finally, Michael Riddick is the one who performed graphic execution and whole design when it comes to “Roses…”, thus turning this disk into certainly tremendous piece in terms of appearance… Well, do you really need any more (praising) words of mine in order to purchase this offering?? (Herr Stalhammar)

PLASMA POOL
“Drowning”
Scarlet / BL Music
rating: 5 of 6
Absolutely weird project brought forth the light by Attila… yep, the same Attila who’s responsible for vocal parts on “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” by MAYHEM as well as Hungarian TORMENTOR. Actually, vocals sound almost identical to those on “De Mysteriis…”, however that’s all when it comes to black metal similarities. Musically, PLASMA POOL is… oh, it’s really hard to describe what the hell it is. Sort of extremely depraved and twisted industrial, often turning into nearly trance, trip-hop and acid stuff, although it doesn’t have anything in common with such acts as either RAISM or DE INFERNALI. It’s AS dark and anxious – and vanguard, that’s for sure. For open minded individuals only. (Herr Stalhammar)

ROOT
“The Book”
Redblack Productions
rating: 6 of 6
Well, if “The Unbroken” by VICIOUS CRUSADE is “one of the best albums this issue” as you can see me saying in a review below, this one has all chances to become the BEST one. No doubts, ROOT always appeared as one of the leading Czech black metal acts, however, even taking it into consideration, I couldn’t expect such an incredibly tremendous blast from them. Ah, what a comeback! I wish all the bands reviving from their slumber could come out with such brilliant efforts… Three years have passed since “Hell Symphony”, a very impressive work indeed, and here we have “The Book”. In fact, it was definitely worth waiting for such a long time. It’s different from their previous disks, simultaneously bearing the same mark in terms of sound and overall perception. They define it as “dark mystical metal” and I absolutely agree with ROOT and their record company here, since it can’t be described in any other way. I wouldn’t say it’s still black metal, although black metal vokills are here (few of them), and the atmosphere they force is darker than ever. “The Book” shows us undoubtedly mature band, and it this assertion goes for Big Boss’ voice in first tune. Oh my, how could we expect him to start singing in such a splendid “clean” voice…? You see, he sings mostly in this “clean” voice and let me dare to day, it sounds highly impressive, reminding me of Dan Swano at times a bit, however I believe this sort of statement may be taken only as a compliment. I only wish there was lesser amount of out-of-key vocal parts (even though, there’s not much of them here). The musical accompaniment is beyond any critics, so it the sound… So it the album’s appearance… Everything, y’know. Generally speaking, the music varies from mid-tempo to slow-paced passages, while each riff, each harmony appears as the one to be remembered for a long, long time. “The Book”, “The Mystical Words Of War”, “Why?”, “Lykorian”, “The Message Of The Time” and “Remember Me!” sound unbelievably tight, innovative and mind-devouring… adding absolutely insane outro and almost blues(!)-alike “Corabeu” in two parts… Listen to it and learn what true Art should be alike. (Herr Stalhammar)

ROOT
“Zjeveni & The Temple In The Underground”
Redblack Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
This double-CD should be a perfect gift for any black metaller, that’s for sure. Actually, this is a re-issue of the first and the third albums by ROOT, both remastered. Well, what to say here… These disks once again proves that ROOT always appeared as a conglomeration of talented personalities, since f.ex. “The Temple In The Underground” sounds absolutely unbelievable in terms of innovational approach it has! Listen to “Casilda’s Song”, “Aposiopesis” or “My Name…”, for instance, and you’ll understand me. While vocally Big Boss incorporated mostly low-pitched half-growling / half-screaming along with profound declamations when it comes to “Zjeveni”, “The Temple In The Underworld” is an evident proof to his progress in this department, since this CD features almost “clean”-alike voice as well. If you’ve read a review on “The Book”, you should know that… yes, it sounds excellent. Well, I think it’s time to stop describing this edition. Everyone into black metal must own these CDs in either his or her collection. (Herr Stalhammar)

SANCTIFICA
"Spirit Of Purity"
Little Rose Productions
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Finally, a long-awaited debut CD by Sweden's SANCTIFICA is out... I was definitely glad when I've got such a notification letter from Manu (Little Rose's manager). However; I was twice as glad to find out this CD is simply brilliant. And moreover - it's brilliant regarding every single thing. A best album Little Rose managed to release so far, perhaps...? Most likely, yes. SANCTIFICA delivers pure Norse black metal, along the lines of "Nemesis Divina" by SATYRICON, and what's most important, even if "Spirit Of Purity" doesn't overcome that legendary work, it's at least as tremendous. Fast though catchy and atmospheric black metal with variety, that's my definition for this band. Keyboards are few here, thus only supplementing to force bitter, sorrowful, grim... and what's most surprising, simultaneously somewhat even optimistic atmosphere. All those who take part in SANCTIFICA undoubtedly appear as well skilled musicians, consequently creating well-crafted and thoughtout musical canvas... especially when it comes to "Riket", "Spirit Of Purity", "The Dark Embrace Of Night" and "The Wanderer"-epic (featuring additional singer, whose "clean", a bit Dio-alike voice fits this song perfectly), which is, in fact, the best composition off this effort. Simply magnificent piece, that's for sure. When it comes to the coverart, it also strikes as somewhat special due to the fact the picture was shot by Manu's younger brother, Jaakko... He died in January this year. Well... may your soul rest in peace... There always will be people who remember you. Even if they didn't know you personally. This CD is a good tribute to Jaakko, I believe. (Herr Stalhammar)

SATANIC SLAUGHTER
“Afterlife Kingdom”
Loud n’ Proud Records
rating: 6 of 6
This one reminds me… of SATANIC SLAUGHTER. Yeah, don’t be surprised – even if these pals come from Sweden, they contrive to sound original. Furthermore, it seems like SATANIC SLAUGHTER gets better and better with each regular CD. If I’m not mistaken, “Afterlife Kingdom” is the third offering from one of the oldest black metal bands in Sweden, and this is undoubtedly their best work to date. It starts off a rather short intro later turning into violent and furious death metal-spiced BM, sounding a bit similar to MARDUK in terms of approach to music, and ends with a brilliant cover from KREATOR (“Flag Of Hate”)… If comparing it to “Land Of The Unholy Souls”, their former CD (1997, Necropolis Records), “Afterlife Kingdom” strikes as somewhat much more fresh recording, featuring synth passages here and there as well as astounding leads… This is the most exciting and mature work SATANIC SLAUGHTER have managed to unleash so far. And one of the best albums this issue, that’s for sure. (Herr Stalhammar)

THY PRIMORDIAL
“The Heresy Of An Age Of Reason”
Pulverised Records
rating: 5 of 6
Nothing new here, I suppose. Yes, that is. Nothing new. But who said it’s not worth your attention? It’s still excellent, you see. THY PRIMORDIAL are one of the few Swedish acts who contrive to deliver incredibly tight, atmospheric and mature black metal the way MARDUK once did with “Opus Nocturne”, simultaneously lacking any kind of boredom – and what’s most surprising, “The Heresy Of An Age Of Reason” (just like their former efforts) doesn’t feature keyboards or alike stuff. Yes, it lacks innovations as well, at least if comparing it to THY PRIMORDIAL’s former CD, the ones which came with “clean” vocals (the splendid ones), however I wouldn’t say it’s more dull or whatever because of that. Top-notch in terms of everything, starting with a magnificent appearance and ending with an astounding musicianship, this work should please each and every black metal soul. Originality? Well, why not? At least, I could never confuse ‘em with anyone else. Pleasure? Well, taste it yourself and you’ll see. Or you will never see… the earthly world and the wicked treasures it hides, like THY PRIMORDIAL for example. (Herr Stalhammar)

TULUS
“Evil 1999”
Hammerheart Records
rating: 6 of 6
Yet one more outstanding work unleashed by Holland’s Hammerheart. And yet one more pleasant surprise this time. The CD TULUS made their debut with was truly original and stunning piece, however later they turned into somewhat ordinary Norse black metal act, thus “Mysterion” (the second work of theirs) sounded kinda trivial. Trivial? Well, yes. But NOT this time. “Evil 1999” is very diverse and innovative work, genre-wise staying pure Norse-inspired BM, though. It’s a perfect example of what one could make within the bounds of typical Norwegian black metal art simultaneously trying to be original. TULUS are NOT one more group of the same ilk, remember that. A capella-singing and almost Spanish folklore-influenced acoustic guitar passages, permanently varying harmonies and excitement – that’s what they offer this time. Mixing it with utter Scandinavian grimness, of course. PURE EXCELLENCE. (Herr Stalhammar)

UNHOLA
“Inferno”
Plasmatica Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Finnish black metal. Seems like we behold a new genre arising…? Just like “Gothenburg metal”, you know. Anyway, this is the second recording by UNHOLA I managed to give a listen, and should I say, it’s incredibly better than “Mina Olen Tie” demo, mainly due to the fact Margoath finally changed his vocal style to “normal” screaming, instead of those ridiculous shrieks their last demo work came with. Actually, vocals is what makes this band a unique one; Margoath sings “simultaneously” in two different voices: grunting – and screaming in the same time. I wonder how does he contrive to do it while UNHOLA play live, heh heh… Anyway, musically it’s all top-class CD, featuring almost (why “almost”…? Hmm…) perfect production and splendid musicianship, with an evident emphasis on guitars, even though keyboards were also incorporated, making the whole sound even more “thick” and “surround”. And yeah, the drumming seems to be an earthly equivalent for a “hellish thunder” notion, heh heh… Brilliant effort: fresh-sounding, exciting, atmospheric and innovative. No single drawback here, ladies and gentlemen! (Herr Stalhammar)

UNMOORED
“Kingdoms Of Greed”
Pulverised Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
It started as typical Swedish black metal in the vein of such as DARK FUNERAL or SACRAMENTUM, however later on I’ve figured out it’s different. Slightly or not? I guess, MORE THAN JUST SLIGHTLY. Due to the fact “Kingdoms Of Greed” features rather untypical harmonies, also being quite strangely structured, it definitely stands against the background of majority of those who blindly clone the all-time emperors (like MARDUK, DISSECTION or AT THE GATES, for example). Adding some keyboards here and there as well as nearly astounding “clean” vocals, UNMOORED manage to come forth as somewhat even innovative and original band, possessing distinctive sound of their own. The only thing I can cavil it goes for the “clean” voice: wish I could hear more… Those who’re fond of listening to Swedish black metal, though still craving for difference, undoubtedly HAVE TO check this out. (Herr Stalhammar)

VASSAGO
“Knights From Hell”
No Fashion Records
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Oh, finally!!! Finally I’ve received this promo, since it seemed the postal service made everything possible in order not to allow me to give this CD a listen! No Fashion had to send it out for three or four times… What a mess. Anyway, here it is, a band led by Sin and Pepa from LORD BELIAL, being supplemented by KK Kranium who had been released from an asylum (!) for 10 hours only in order to record synth-parts… Musically, it seems to be some kind of black metal equivalent to SLAYER, if you get what I mean. It’s not old-fashioned, not it is cheesy; it is raw however it’s far from being incomprehensible noise like the one spawned by AURA NOIR, INFERNO and others of that ilk. It’s pure symphony of mayhem in 15 parts. Hellishly fast, diabolical and atmospheric… antithesis of romanticism. Overall sound seems to be more on a death metal side, although many of you most possibly will disagree with me here. Anyway, listen to “Anal Fistfuck”, “Cleansing”, “Destroyer” and “Division SS” – and I guarantee you, these ones will crush you, both mentally and physically, heh heh… In fact, a magnificent effort, one of the most violent ones I’ve heard lately. (Herr Stalhammar)

VENOM
“Resurrection”
Steamhammer / SPV
rating: 6 of 6
… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … You may wonder, what do the dots above mean? Well, actually they stand for the mental shock I’ve endured while listening to this CD. As a matter of fact, I could expect anything but not such a brilliant work from this legendary band. Well yes, “Cast In Stone” was a good effort, especially taking into account the fact that with an exception for the few killer tracks off “The Waste Lands”, for the last decade VENOM were doing nothing, but copying themselves in a miserable attempt to recreate that unique sound of theirs, the one which brought them fame, respect and glory in early eighties. Yes, “Cast In Stone” was good, but still utterly archaic. “Resurrection” is NOT. It’s pretty innovative work – and you should know that VENOM and such notion as “innovation” didn’t have anything in common, at least previously. All of the songs sound in a “modern” way (more likely, coming with a “modern” sound) in a finest sense of this word, however still keeping that good ol’ spirit alive. The legendary VENOM’s trademark didn’t vanish into nowhere, it’s still here to stay. Furthermore, Cronos sings in a bit unusual way here and there; taking for instance, “All There Is Fear”, “Pain” or “Leviathan”… And what about those haunting, anxious and perturbing 100%-contemporary-black-metal-band-alike-sounding background keyboards on “War Against Christ”? Besides those tracks I mentioned above, such as “Resurrection”, “Man, Myth And Magic”, “Pandemonium” and “Black Flame Of Satan” definitely should be marked out as well. This CD is different – but still the same. A pure masterpiece, that’s for sure! (Herr Stalhammar)

WINDIR
“Arntor”
Head Not Found
rating: 5 of 6
I guess, WINDIR is a new monicker for SOKNARDALR, isn’t it? Anyway, that was a good band – and WINDIR IS a good band. It’s still pretty intriguing folkish black metal the way only Norsemen do it, although this time adding accordion and choir-alike singing (differing a bit from those chants, the ones features on a debut CD by SOKNARDALR). Some reminiscences of ‘70s rock stroke my mind as well. And yes, those leads are awesome. All in all, this is very good and highly original (!) work, especially taking into account the fact it was done by one man only (with few supplementary musicians invited, though) and in spite of pretty weak sound (even though this CD was spawned at Grieghallen). (Herr Stalhammar)

WOLFSHADE
“Sun Of The Sleepless”
Sound Age Productions
rating: 2 of 6
This MC release may be reckoned to those I can hardly describe… Imagine doomy black metal heavily influenced by bands like BLIND GUARDIAN and others of that ilk, thus incorporating “clean” vocals (I wish this guy could sing better…) and typical heavy metal-alike passages. It even makes me recall “Hammerheart”-era BATHORY at times. Pretty annoying, I’d say. (Herr Stalhammar)