BLACK METAL AND RELATED MUSIC
 
 
LORD KAOS "Thorns Of Impurity" CD
Warhead Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Very interesting CD from this Australian trio, whose music is best
described as "hyper fast sympho-black"... "Thorns Of Impurity" is
perfectly recorded and performed album, which is highly recommended to all people, who are into EMPEROR-alike music with dark mayhemic atmosphere,
plenty of keyboards and inhuman vocals. The only bad thing here is that
songs are not very memorable...

GOLDEN DAWN "The Art Of Dreaming" CD
Dark Matter Productions, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Very promising debut from one of the best Austrian BM bands. "The Art Of
Dreaming" is pure fast symphonic black with some medieval instruments and
male opera vocals involved. This CD was done by one man only, namely
Stefan Traunmuller and this guy must be a musical genius, no doubts! "The
Art..." captures very special medieval atmosphere, everything is
top-quality here, maybe except for the mix which could be better - opera
vocals suffer a bit because of it... Those, who like both PAZUZU CD's and
are hunger to listen to it's black metal analogue, must purchase "The
Art..." NOW!

THROES OF DAWN "Pakkasherra" CD
Woodcut Records, 1997
rating: 3 of 6
In my view every black metal CD, besides good sound and performance
quality, must capture ATMOSPHERE, doesn't matter what kind of it,
otherwise it will appear as of NO interest to me. And, unfortunately,
THROES OF DAWN is the perfect example, proving aforementioned...
"Pakkasherra" is original and excellently performed material with good
production, nonstandard "clean" vocals, heavy metal guitar solos and some
keyboards, but it totally lacks atmosphere and sincerity... Let's hope
that these talented guys will notice and correct their mistakes...

CARPATHIAN FOREST "Bloodlust And Perversion" CD
NYX Music, 1997
rating: 3, 5 of 6
And this something from the very depths of underground's undeground, ha
ha! This CD includes three old CARPATHIAN FOREST recordings - "Bloodlust
And Perversion" demo 1992 (nonexistent production), "Studio Rehearsals"
1992 (even worse) and "Promo Tape" 1993 (the only one where sound is quite
good). Those, who are already familiar with CARPATHIAN FOREST can buy this
one, as to others - better purchase "Through Chasm, Caves And Titan Woods"
MCD, released in 1995 by Avantgarde Music. "Bloodlust..." is interesting
only as musical relict, nothing more and nothing less.  Come on, guys, you
are able to produce really great music, so why don't you release a NEW
album with better sound quality, instead of hundredth re-release of
prehistoric compositions???

MUTIILATION "Vampires Of Black Imperial Blood" CD
Drakkar Productions, 1996
rating: 0 of 6!
Shitty music. Shitty lyrics. Shitty vocals. Shitty production. Shitty
cover and great handles. "True" brainless kids from France...

XHARATHORN "Immemorial Atlantic Veneration" MCD
Requiem Records / New Gotia, 1996
rating: 3 of 6
Well, this is something much better, though far from being good. Very
interesting cover art and megalomaniacal song titles (how do you like this
one - "The Triumph That Will Give Birth To The Uprising Golden Era (The
Ultimate Reign Rules)"???), but music is not that great, as I expected it
to be... It's very fast, very dark, professionally played and well
recorded material, but all songs are too boring and extremely unmemorable.
Maybe next time, guys?  Anyway, this band will appeal to everyone who
likes fast, brutal and atmospheric black metal.

EMBRACING "Dreams Left Behind" CD
Invasion / Black Diamond Productions, 1997
rating: 10 of 6!
Wooohh, this is a second output from these Swedes and if the first one was
"simply" excellent, then "Dreams..." is truly a Masterpiece! Definitely,
we cannot call them as black or death metal or whatsoever - EMBRACING is
so different from most today's BM bands! It's impossible to reckon them
among any particular style, because there are too much of them mixed in a
great way on this CD. Just imagine Yngwie Malmsteen, IRON MAIDEN, LAKE OF
TEARS, DEATH, DISSECTION and TIAMAT (circa "Wildhoney") put together -
that's what you'll get with "Dreams..." Fucking everything is excellent on
this album - perfect sound and brilliant musicianship, diverse, killer and
memorable songs, romantic and sad atmosphere, wide range of vocals (BM
screams, death metal growling, hoarse ones and amazing "clean" male
singing), interesting lyrics and definite originality... Have you heard
any BM album with such collection of advantages for last couple of
years??? Only few bands can vie with EMBRACING in this music style... Ha,
some say that MARDUK and DISSECTION are great - then you, guys, haven't
heard EMBRACING yet. A FUCKING MUUSSSTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!

CARPE TENEBRUM "Majestic Nothingness" CD
Head Not Found Productions, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Half - Norwegian, half - Australian band, sounds strange, eh? Anyway,
CARPE TENEBRUM consists of Astennu (main composer and
multi-instrumentalist, comes from Australian LORD KAOS) and Nagash
(COVENANT / TROLL / DIMMU BORGIR, he does all vocal job here) + one female
person namely Ariadne A. Donnelaith (lyrics, concept and chants).
"Majestic Nothingness" was recorded in two studios, Norwegian "Creative"
and Australian "I Wank Hard" with Kris, Erik Avnskog, Astennu and Captain
Fruitcake (what a name!) as producers / mixers / sound engineers!!! So
what kind of music this international satanic conglomeration can offer?
Have you heard of such a band as DARK FUNERAL? Now mix it with EMPEROR and
above-mentioned LORD KAOS, add symphonic keyboards - and you'll get CARPE
TENEBRUM. Very interesting release, kinda mix between Swedish (dominating
in this band's sound), Norwegian and Australian BM styles. A MUST.  P. S.
Everything is just great, except for the cover art... Guys, don't you
realize that it's just funny?!

THY SERPENT "Lords Of Twilight" CD
Spinefarm Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Second effort from one of the best Finnish BM bands. Well, this is not
really new album, it's just their demo re-recording, but "Lords Of
Twilight" look like it's even better than their first "official" album!
It's very complex, less melancholic and more aggressive music with (need I
to say this?) great synth work. The only complaint I have here is lack of
originality, comparing to "Forests Of Witchery"...

PERUNWIT "W Kregu Debow" CD
Astral Wings Records, 1997
rating: 4 of 6
This album starts off quite good synth passages, heavily reminding me of
last BURZUM output, but then comes the acoustic guitar, which spoils the
whole thing... If you want me to characterize PERUNWIT's style, it's
something which could be labeled as "pagan ambient" with few recitatives
and insane BM shrieks...

WORLD DOMINATION II, compilation CD
Osmose Productions, 1997
Impaled Nazarene "I Am The Killer Of Trolls" (rating: 1 of 6)
The ones whom I HATE to the core! This band is so shitty, that I don't
even have words to describe their so-called "music"! Fuck you, Mika!
You're not creator but a musical impotent!
Bewitched "Blood On The Altar" (rating: 3 of 6)
I liked their debut album very much and I thought this song will be even
greater, but... it's boring, dull and absolutely uninteresting. Hey,
Blackheim, what happened to you?!
Disfear "Anthem Of Agony" (rating: 3 of 6)
One more band, who consider MARDUK and DISSECTION as their gods, I guess
Raism "Aesthetic Terrorism" (rating: 5 of 6)
I haven't heard their first album "The Very Best Of Pain", so I thought
that this will be something in the vein of DIABOLOS RISING techno-crap.
Fortunately, I was mistaken. RAISM plays raw and fast black metal with few
computer effects and techno-rhythms, sometimes reminding of Norwegian
HELHEIM (the one on Necropolis Records), though it's 100% original, which
is almost impossible to reach nowadays... The only bad thing here is
Mika's shitty voice - his participation in this band is absolutely
unnecessary.
Swordmaster "Clans Of Death" (rating: 5, 5 of 6)
Sweden strikes again, ha ha! Ok, this band seems to be quite interesting,
at least in my opinion...  SWORDMASTER plays some kind of blackened thrash
with modern BM approach and some Industrial influences, performed with
high intensity and rage. Recommended.
Tsatthoggua "Status: Sturmer" (rating: 5 of 6)
Ahh, finally! Finally they kicked out those IMPALED MIKARENE influences
and started to play MUSIC! German ultra-speed black / death with
keyboards.
Mystifier "Leather And Metal" (rating: 5, 5 of 6)
Strange, but this song reminds me of... RUNNING WILD. Remember their song
"Chains And Leather"?  These two tuned have a lot in common, however I
can't say that Brasilian guys ripped off Rock'n'Rolf and co. Very
interesting experience, but lyrics suck.
Loud Pipes "Stressed To Death" (rating: 5 of 6)
Hey, what is this? Can we call this band as heavy metal one? I believe,
the answer will be "yes", apart from insane blackish vocals. GREAT!
The Rocking Dildos "Waterheads" (rating: 1 of 6)
Punkish rock'n'roll performed by members of IMPALED NAZARENE which is even
worse than their main band!
Sadistik Exekution "Dejeka Infinitus" (rating: 1 of 6)
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck..." and it seems, this will never end...
Stupid crust / punk / black metal, as bad as possible.
Gardenian "The Downfall" (rating: 2 of 6)
One more DARK TRANQUILLITY clone.
Devilyn "Decline Of Worlds" (rating: 4 of 6)
This blasphemous horde sounds very much like their label-mates LUCIFERION,
but unfortunately they are not that original...
Conqueror "Hammer Of Supremacy" (rating: 5, 5 of 6)
Aarrgghhh! Great grinding black metal from Canada! Absolutely untrendy
stuff! Highly recommended!
Majestic Midnight "When The Light Goes Down" (rating: 5, 5 of 6)
Sympho-black from Spain, the one which I liked very much. Look out for
their debut effort on Evil Omen!

ELHAZ "The Black Flame" CD
Memento Mori, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Memento Mori seems to be a kind of "second Cold Meat Industry", i.e. the
label releasing top quality non-typical dark ambient / industrial bands.
ELHAZ is not an exception; this band performs slow, gloomy and obscure
ambient with magnificent orchestral arrangements, a lot of sampled voices
and majestic male "clean" vocals and monologues,  while such songs as
"Blessed" and "Bloodthrone" are even better than SWARTALF's and ILDFROST's
creations! The closest comparison here is CON SONO, although ELHAZ are
original without doubts. A MUST.  P. S. Somebody, give me their e-mail
address!!!

HEFEYSTOS "Hefeystos" CD
Last Epitaph Productions, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Their first recording ("Vilce Sjen" MCD) featured some furious pagan black
metal in the vein of early BEHEMOTH, but now things changed somehow and
here we have brilliant gothic album with lyrics in Polish, ethereal female
vocals and male "evil" ones. Excellent keyboard parts, captured by Piotr
Weltrowski, great guitar work and marvelous production - A MUST!

AURORA BOREALIS "Mansions Of Eternity" MCD
self - released, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
When you hear of band, called as that what would you think of them? Right
- "one more Norwegian clone". I was thinking the same way, but luckily was
wrong. Here we have some magnificently recorded and performed death metal,
something like early DEICIDE, with unearthly grim BM vocals and lyrics,
inspired by Egyptian mythology... Notice that it was done by one man only
- Ron Vento (vocals, guitars, bass and some keyboard effects) with help of
Tony Laureno on drums. Too bad, that it's so short! Absolutely great
effort which makes me think of them as one of the best dark hordes in USA!

LORD BELIAL "Enter The Moonlight Gate" CD
No Fashion Records, 1997
rating: 4 of 6
LORD BELIAL's debut was very fresh and original recording with interesting
flute parts and great variety of melodies. "Enter The Moonlight Gate" is
not bad also, but there a lot of things here, which I totally dislike.
First - LORD BELIAL lost all it's originality, now they sound like
DISSECTION #34657... Second - this album is too fast and melody lacks
because of that (basically, there're no melodies at all). Third - female
vocals, flute and cello sound somewhere in the background, they are almost
unhearable! Fourth - all vocals are done by Dark, and this is a big
mistake in my opinion.  Vassago has much more original voice and singing
style. Fifth...

EROS NECROPSIQUE "Charnelle Transcendance" CD
Adipocere Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Instruments - keyboards, basses and, sometimes, percussion. Voices - male
chants and female soprano.  Music - symphonic and soothing, but on the
other hand - dark and morbid. Comparisons - PAZUZU and RAISON D'ETRE.
Conclusion - great, but only for those who are into this stuff.

SWARTALF "Candles Burning Blue" CD
Memento Mori, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
It's very hard to describe this music, but I'll try anyway... Do you know
the person, naming himself as Glenn Danzig? Ok, then do you own his solo
album called "Black Aria"? Do you like it? Or maybe you want something in
the same vein, but much better? You'll get it with SWARTALF! This band
plays very interesting music, which could be labeled as extremely dark
ambient with some male opera voices and incredible atmosphere.
Unfortunately, I don't own any kind of information, pertinent to this act,
so if someone knows anything about them (or maybe him...?), let me know
immediately!

MORGUL "Lost In Shadows Grey" CD
Napalm Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
It's a sort of surprise to see original black metal band coming from
Norway nowadays, but that's what you get with MORGUL. There are two guys
in the band: Charmock (voice, guitars, bass, synth) and Hex (percussion).
Both of them are professionals, they are able to handle their instruments
properly and create really good music with great atmosphere. Recording
quality is also worth mention - it's simply perfect.  I didn't read the
lyrics, but some folks told me they deal mainly with Vampirism and
suchlike things. "Lost In Shadows Grey" consists of five quite long songs
with great vocals, great synth-work and incredible dark atmosphere. If
you'll try to figure out their style, it would look like some kind of
Norse symphonic black metal with originality. Highly recommended.

CRADLE OF FILTH "Dusk... And Her Embrace" CD
Music For Nations, 1996
rating: 3 of 6
"The Principle Of Evil..." shocked me in a very positive way, that's why I
was waiting for "Dusk..."  release with great impatience, but all my
expectations turned to ruins right after "Haunted Shores", last song on
this CD, was over. What is wrong here? Songs? They are great.
Musicianship? It's also great. Keyboards and arrangements? Perfect. Sound
quality? Brilliant. Lyrics, cover, etc.? Need I to say, that they are also
very impressive? Then what? Have you ever heard of such things as
atmosphere and sincerity? They are non-existent on "Dusk..." It's soulless
music, something like Madonna or Michael Jackson. Too bad, that CRADLE OF
FILTH moved to Music For Nations, this label spoiled them. I could never
imagine even the possibility of commercial BM existence. Now I can.

NECROFEAST "Necrofeast" CD
Creation Necromantical Mysteries Productions, 1996
rating: 5 of 6
Hmmm, looks like this CD was recorded in the deep cave, don't you think
so? What is strange, that music only gains by that... Perhaps, the closest
comparison to NECROFEAST is their countrymates COUNTESS - both bands play
bloody slow, primitive and dark black metal with quite interesting way of
singing, some sound effects in the background, though keyboards are absent
here. Very good stuff, especially for "die-hard underground" fans.

SORT VOKTER "Folkloric Necro Metal" CD
Norse League Productions, 1996
rating: 3 of 6
What is this??? Guitarist can't even play his instrument properly and
guitar sounds like an old rusty chainsaw! Drums and bass can be heard
sometimes only in the background, mixing is horrible and such thing as
"melody" definitely wasn't invited at SORT VOKTER party... But on the
other hand, there are great keyboards and furious inhuman vocals here. If
you, "evil" ones, will throw out guitarist, bassist, drummer and record
next album in studio with more than four tracks and REAL mixer / sound
engineer... Then SORT VOKTER will be one of my favorite Norwegian bands.

PENITENT "... The Beauty Of Pain ..." CD
Draenor Productions / Napalm Records, 1997
rating: 100000 of 6!!!
This is absolutely fucking great!!!! Karsten, you are genius!!! I don't
even have enough words to praise this supreme masterpiece!  If you,
who are reading this, search for some sad and melancholic piano-based dark
ambient with beautiful, though depressive melodies, certain Norse
atmosphere and mind-amazing poetry, GET IT NOW!!!

ULVER "Nattens Madrigal" CD
Century Media, 1997
rating: 2 of 6
Total regress, comparing to their previous efforts. There's no music here,
just meaningless noise. I don't need this.

DEMONIAC "Stormblade" CD
Evil Omen Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Wow, wow, black is gone and satanic rock'n'roll is here! This is not as
various and experimental as "Prepare for war", but it doesn't mean that
"Stormblade" is worse! This is very melodic, brilliantly played music with
memorable songs, such as "Niggerslut" (great title!) and surprisingly good
poetry.  Yes, poetry, not just "lyrics"! BEWITCHED and GEHENNAH are total
crap, comparing to this new effort from New Zealandish (??!?!) "mighty
warriors of sexual blasphemy" (that's how they call themselves - quite
conceitedly, eh?)

GARDENIAN "Two Feet Stand" CD
Listenable Records, 1997
rating: 2 of 6
Ok, here's one more band, representing so-called "Gothenburg scene", but
this time just ordinary DARK TRANQUILLITY clone... Do you need this? I
know for sure, that I don't.

BISHOP OF HEXEN "Archives Of An Enchanted Philosophy" CD
Hammerheart Productions, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Frankly speaking, I am not of very good opinion about Israel, but some
bands, coming from the "Holy Country", surprisingly appear as much better
than European and American ones. Perhaps, BISHOP OF HEXEN is the best
Israelian BM band I've heard so far. The only comparison is SUMMONING, and
even then when it comes to approach  to composing music. I'm not saying
that these guys are incredibly original, I simply couldn't hear any
evident kind of copying... Their style is competently-arranged symphonic
dark black metal, based on keyboards, but not that soothing like SUMMONING
play. Good sound effects, well thought-out compositions and quite
effective lyrics, speaking about mystical and philosophical themes and
experiences. Listen careful to the last title "To Begin The Quest Towards
The Noble Dark Cause", and find out how do you like the vocals...

ARKONA "Imperium" CD
Astral Wings Records, 1996
rating: 4 of 6
"Imperium" begins with very good organ intro, but the music, starting to
blast right it's over was a very big disappointment for me. I have big
respect for "Astral Wings" for releasing great music, but issuing this CD
was a kind of mistake. "Imperium" is very bad recorded material, perhaps
because of the fact, that it's old ARKONA's tapes re-release? Well,
actually this album is not very bad, it has it's good sides like original
and good-sounding keyboards, vocals and interesting lyrics, written and
performed in Polish. ARKONA's art is not for those who look for perfect
sound realization, but this band will certainly appeal to people, who,
while listening to music, are able to imagine how these songs will sound
alike, recorded in studio with good equipment.

PARNASSUS "Let The Stars Fall And The Kingdom Come" CD
NEX, 1997
rating: 3 of 6
I just can't understand why this guy (Fredrik Soderlund, also known as
OCTINOMOS and session ALGAION member) released "Let The Stars..." on CD,
while sound is demo-like? There is also good synth work here, but it
doesn't make music better simply because all other instruments are hardly
hearable because of awful mix. Nothing really special, I recommend you to
keep your money for better CD's.

AGARTHI "At The Burning Horizon" MCD
Red Stream Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
AGARTHI sound more heavy metal, but thanks to vocals and lyrics I dare to
categorize them as black.  Italian bands of this kind were known for their
great music and poor recording quality, but something changed to better
through time and "At The Burning Horizon" is a proof to my words. It has
everything that I like in black metal - great "grim" and male clean
vocals, VERY good production, interesting songs, quite long (the last and
best one - "Black Triangle Sovereigns" lasts for 9 minutes) but absolutely
not boring, perfect guitar and synthesizer work, impressive lyrics, dark
atmosphere and originality. Highly recommended.

MARDUK "Heaven Shall Burn..." CD
Osmose Productions, 1996
rating: 2 of 6
I had respect for this band since their debut demo "Fuck Me Jesus" and
"Dark Endless" CD, but their last studio recording is very uninteresting,
I fear. I heard a couple of people praising "Heaven..." for "true (that's
their words) brutality and aggression", but brutal and aggressive music
also can be composed with some brains and new ideas put into it. And
there's nothing like that on "Heaven...".  Yes, it's very fast, very
professional, very "evil" and... very boring. My head began to ache
shortly after fifth song was over and I was forced to turn out this piece
of "brutal" crap. Sorry, but with albums like this one, MARDUK has no
future.

ABIGOR "Apokalypse" MCD
Napalm Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Something "brutal" and "aggressive" again, but much more interesting. It
was a bit strange to hear new ABIGOR CD with no keyboards... Seems like
"Apokalypse" was sort of experiment, am I right, T.  T.? Anyway, this
stuff is still very original (ABIGOR had it's own face since the very
beginning of the band) and highly recommended to all the lost souls,
carrying black metal banner high!

SABAOTH "Sabaoth" CD
Sabaoth / Stormsouls productions, 1996
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Very good black capella coming from exotic Paraguay. One of my friends
compared them to SAMAEL, however I can't agree with them. In my opinion,
this trio (Zethineph - voice, synth; Zethyyaz - guitars, bass and Lord
Norrack - drums) is too original to be compared with anyone. SABAOTH
definitely doesn't play "latino-american black", it's performed in more
European way, however their roots weren't forgot. There are not much
keyboards here, acoustic guitar prevails over synth and that's also good,
I think. One more thing worth mentioning is the brilliant sound
production. Very good stuff for everyone and A MUST for those who look
high-quality "exotic" black metal.

GRAVESIDE "Sinful Accession" CD
Soyuz Records, 1993 (re-released in 1997)
rating: 6 of 6
Aarrgghhh, and this Russian black / death Metal classic! GRAVESIDE was one
of the first bands to incorporate black elements in traditional death
metal. This band was founded in late 1991 and unfortunately collapsed in
1995, leaving "Sinful Accession" as the only release behind them. Their
style is some kind of extreme black / death with atmospheric keyboards,
sometimes reminding of MORBID ANGEL and SADISTIC INTENT. These guys
appeared as raw satanists, real fans of Glenn Benton and DEICIDE, which
was one of their greatest influences ever, though you won't find and
DEICIDE elements in GRAVESIDE's music. And what is the most important,
their songs were composed with originality, professionally performed and
perfectly recorded. A MUST.  (If any of foreign (non-Russian) black souls
are interested in purchasing this tape, e-mail me right now, it will be
unavailable very soon!)

THE EVERDAWN "Poems Burn The Past" CD
Invasion Records, 1997
rating: 3 of 6
One more DISSECTION-clone. Brilliant musicianship and production is all
that this album can offer.  The only song worth attention is "Burn" and
maybe "When The Sunset Forever Fades".

DARK TRANQUILLITY "The Mind's I" CD
Osmose Productions, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Their previous effort ("Enter Suicidal Angels" MCD) astonished me a bit -
along with three marvelous death / black titles, it included very strange
track called "Archetype" which appeared as something like industrial /
techno music... It made me to be on the alert, you know. I feared that
DARK TRANQUILLITY suddenly changed their musical direction in the same
vein as MASTER'S HAMMER and BEHERIT did, but luckily this "techno" theme
wasn't proceeded on "Mind's I" (strange name for an album, by the way).
This CD (including "Zodijackyl Light", song which was originally featured
on "Enter..." and later done as a video) consists of twelve songs and has
a duration of approx. 50 minutes.  All titles represent raging death /
black Metal, in much more faster and heavier way than their last two
albums. Opening song "Dreamlore Degenerate" is splendid for the beginning,
"Hedon", "Scythe, Rage And Roses", "Tongues" and "The Mind's Eye" are
great as well, while "Insanity's Crescendo" is simply a jewel! Starting
with a heavenly female voice and acoustics, it turns into furious hymn of
Chaos with misanthropic blackish screams and crushing guitar riffs... A
MUST.

HADES "The Dawn Of The Dying Sun" CD
Fullmoon Productions, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Norse Gods of pagan black metal are back with their so-o-o long awaited
second CD. What can I say about it? It's just great, much better than
already very good "... Again Shall Be" debut. Remi, besides doing all
drumming work, began to sing with "clear" voice and he is excellent at
that! His "operatic" vocals fits HADES' music better than anyone's else.
These Odin worshippers also incorporated such instruments as mouth harp
and fiddle in their music, which still more diversified it. Splendid CD,
but only for those who appreciate and care about Paganism.

GORGOROTH "Under The Sign Of Hell" CD
Malicious Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Yeah, Infernus really forced us to wait for his band's second full-length
album for a long, long time, but now anticipation is over and we can
behold beautifully packed CD with "frost-breathing" cover. Music is very
different comparing to "Pentagram" and "Antichrist" - it's more in the
vein of DARKTHRONE '95 / FIMBUL WINTER / ULVER '97, but not so primitive
and poor musically. "Under The Sign..."  includes eight quite rather
compositions in the old BM traditions, but it's surprisingly various,
atmospheric and excellently performed with no primitiveness at all! This
CD even captures some backing female choirs and great male "clean" vocals
with few keyboards / sfx's here and there. Great improvement since
"Pentagram" and A MUST for everyone!!!

ARCTURUS "La Masquerade Infernale" CD
Music For Nations, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Remember, what Hellhammer said at the first years of ARCTURUS' existence?
"It's very different from my main band, it's definitely not a black metal
in contrast to MAYHEM; ARCTURUS is more vanguard..." It was very strange
to hear such words, especially after listening to "Aspera Hiems Symfonia"
which appeared as brilliant sympho-black! Now, when all consider ARCTURUS
as a BM band, Hellhammer and co. released truly an avantgarde album,
indeed. "La Masquerade..." has nothing to do with black metal, really -
it's high-class diverse and progressive album with totally different clean
vocals by Garm, while those atmospheric and beautiful keyboards are still
here. I was a bit frightened of this band, becoming commercial, when I saw
"Music For Nations" label, but there's nothing trendy on "La
Masquerade...", it's not a music for masses, for sure. A MUST, with an
exception for "true" and "closed-minded".

FORGOTTEN SILENCE "Thots" CD
Metal Age Productions, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
FORGOTTEN SILENCE is a completely new name to my ears, although "Thots"
appears as very interesting piece of vanguard black / doom metal mixed
with gothic-influenced progressive death. This is rather long CD (it lasts
for sixty minutes or so), but you won't get bored while listening to it,
due to excellent and very diverse music. It's quite heavy with mail
screams, reminding me of DARK TRANQUILLITY, and female backing vocals and
monologues. There're a lot of strange sounds here, perverted bass parts
and perturbed keyboards, devouring everything reasonable and forcing your
mind to plunge into the realms of endless chaos. Very interesting debut
from this Czech (although, they prefer to call themselves as Moravians)
progressive black metal band. Highly recommended.

BLAZEMTH "Fatherland" MCD
Abstract Emotions Records, 1997
rating: 3, 5 of 6
Three years passed since these Spanish released their first MCD "For
Centuries Left Behind" and they still didn't manage to put out full-length
album! Ok, so what we have here with "Fatherland"? Nothing special, I'd
say. Typical Norse black metal with lyrics in very poor English; these
guys are certainly for centuries left behind, ha ha!

HECATE ENTHRONED "The Slaughter Of Innocence" CD
Blackend Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
I couldn't believe my ears, when I've first heard "The Slaughter...", I
thought that it was kind of a joke and it's new CRADLE OF FILTH album
under a new name... Vocals,  guitars, arrangements, they are all exactly
the same, there are no differences! The funny thing is that I like HECATE
ENTHRONED much better than last CRADLE's CD... To make things clearer,
these bands still have something different - f.e.x. Jon (HECATE ENTHRONED
vocalist) not only screams but sings in a "clear" voice also, apart from
Dani, who is able only to deliver speeches... Lyrics are also different,
but the principal distinction lies is HECATE's sound which still
incorporates that lost "underground" feeling.  These guys may be rip-offs
but their music is sincere.

CINTICELE DIAVOLUI "The Devil's Songs" CD
Dark Dungeon Music, 1997
rating: 0 of 6!!!
Yeah, Mortiis really has an EXTREMELY bad taste in music... Or how could
you explain the fact that he participated in this project and released
"The Devil's Songs" on his own label? Can you fancy the music, played on
children's mini-synth mixed with ridiculous a-la black metal shrieks? This
is what Dudotlat (horrible name) performs together with Mortiis in
CINTICELE DIAVOLUI.

BROKEN SOUL "Taedium Vitae" MCD
Metal Agen Records, 1997
rating: 4 of 6
This Russian band is relatively very young, in spite of this their music
looks like quite attractive, though they still need to work hard for
reaching anything meaningful. "Metal Agen" promotes them as "symphonic
dark metal", the term, which doesn't really appeal BROKEN SOUL music, in
my view.  This band's creations are better described as a mix of
MISANTHROPE and CRADLE OF FILTH. Got the point? It's progressive death /
black with a lot of keyboards, but much symphonic. The main shortcoming is
very short songs (you'll get into them right before they're over; quite
offensively, eh?) and sound quality is not the best either. If these guys
will find better studio and improve their songs, then BROKEN HOPE
undoubtedly has a big future.

MUNDANUS IMPERIUM "Ode To The Nightsky" MCD
Impure Creations Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
More symphonic black metal Norse way... MUNDANUS IMPERIUM music sounds a
lot like late ARCTURUS, but I can't say that they copy Hellhammer and co.
anyway. Check out the last title "Ridende Pa Nattens Vingar" - it's really
great.

TARTAROS "The Grand Psychotic Castle" MCD
Necropolis Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Pure Norse black metal... but we can't say "once more", because Charmand
Grimloch (the only person behind TARTAROS) really has something new to
offer. Of course, there are some traditional Norwegian BM elements here
also, but the main part of music looks like a bit different, comparing to
other bands, coming from that country. Although, it's still very fast,
with some choirs in the background, a lot of keyboards, some clean vocals,
which appeared as quite pleasing to my ears and computer-programmed drums,
absolutely not prejudicing music. Charmand's lyrics have nothing to do
with typical "viking" stuff - they deal mainly with vampirism and suchlike
topics... "The Grand Psychotic Castle" was recorded at Grieghallen Studio,
so production needs no comments, eh?  I urge you to check it out
immediately, and especially those of you who are into Norwegian black
metal.

LORDES WERRE "Canticles Of Armageddon" MCD
RIP Music, 1997
rating: 2, 5 of 6
Professionally performed but extremely primitive black / thrash with some
old American death metal influences. Of NO interest, at least for me.

ANGIZIA "Das Tagebuch Der Hanna Anikein" CD
Napalm Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
I'm not going to describe ANGIZIA's music - I guess, everyone who is into
non-typical BM stuff, already knows what this band is all about. And this
CD is not very different from the previous one, although there're some
differences, of course - raw BM guitars are gone, replaced with acoustics
and pianos, Engelke's croaks are also very few in number on "Das
Tagebuch..." - main vocal responsibilities were assigned between Mario
Kraus (operatic tenor), Irene Denner (soprano) and Christof Niederwieser
(clean voice, quite close to Mario's) from mighty KOROVA. But the most
strange thing is concealed in lyrics - the cover says that "this is
Engelke's fiction story 'bout one pauper's written memory in Russia (!!!),
October 1832"! There're even some spoken passages in Russian (with an
awful accent, though - so I could understand only a few words)... A MUST
for fucking everyone!  P. S. If anyone knows Engelke's or his friends'
e-mail addresses, please tell me immediately! I'm obsessed by the idea of
making an interview with ANGIZIA since their very birth!

JUDAS ISCARIOT "The Cold Earth Slept Below" CD
Moribund Records, 1996
rating: 3, 5 of 6
Well, there's not much to say about this... JUDAS ISCARIOT represents pure
underground with definite sincerity but poor sound quality (which is very
important thing in black metal, I think). "The Cold Earth..." begins with
some nice songs like "Damned Below Judas" or "Wrath" but further turns
into something completely chaotic and unripe. For underground fans only.

LUNAR AURORA "Weltenganger" CD
Voices Productions, 1997
rating: 3 of 6
I heard somebody saying that "... LUNAR AURORA is an adequate German
answer to ABIGOR" which is not quite right in my opinion. Yes, there are
some similarities here and there, despite this, we can't compare these two
bands - it'll be just foolish. Imagining this album composed by worthy
musicians and recorded in better studio, I'd say that LUNAR AURORA plays
sympho-black with some grind parts.  BUT. But since "Weltenganger" has
very raw sound and intelligible performance, it doesn't work out and
sounds like a parody on what real sympho-black must look like. There's
nothing interesting here, except for long-length songs, I fear...

A. C. T. U. S. "A Way To Empire Of Strength And Order" CD
Novum Organum Europe, 1996
rating: 10 of 6!
Uhhhh, this stuff is really AMAZING! It seems that SEAR BLISS and
TORMENTOR are not the only ones able to create original music, coming from
Hungary... A. C. T. U. S. performs something really unique and difficult
to be characterized, but to make it short - "A Way To Empire..."
represents some dark / ritual ambient with lyrics in Hungarian (!), very
interesting songs with different mood and atmosphere (some are incredibly
obscure and frightening, others - calm and unnerving), they even added
some saxophone parts in couple of songs! Highly recommended.

DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE "The Phantom Lodge" CD
Adipocere Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Second album from Blackheim's solo project, much better than already good
debut ("The Ravendusk Of My Heart", Adipocere 1995). This opus originally
was planned to be released in mid-1996 under the name "Cloaked By The
Moonshine Mist", but something went wrong and we could behold "The Phantom
Lodge" only in last year's winter... Like the first one, this CD was also
recorded in Unisound Studio (RIP) with Dan Swano as producer and back
vocalist on one of the songs ("Cloaked By The Moonshine Mist" - the best
one). Blackheim did all vocal / guitar / bass / synth work alone again,
though some session musicians appeared here as well - already mentioned
Dan Swano, Sean C. Bates on drums, Tina Sahlstedt and Marie Gaard Engberg
on flutes, Roger Oberg shrieking in a "pagan" way on the first song and
Ingmar Dohn, doing bass solo on "Cloaked..." Surely, it's black metal, but
what kind of it? Hmmm, it's really hard to answer. There are some "Swedish
BM", some "Norwegian" elements here, plus heavy and doom metal as well.
Blackheim took all the best from BM adepts, added his own style and
originality and that's how we got DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE. There are plenty
of beautiful and tremendous guitar solos, raging screams (mixed with Dan
Swano's "clean" vocals and some obscure recitatives reminding me of
WALLACHIA's Lars singing way), keyboards and acoustics, perfect
arrangements, interesting lyrics and great cover art. Do you need any more
reasons to buy this CD???

SABBAT "The Dwelling" CD
Evil Records, 1997
rating: 1, 5 of 6
Well recorded and well performed but extremely irritating Japanese black
metal with comedic "clean" vocals sung by some kind of eunuch.

SAMAIN "Indomitus" CD
Bloodless Creations Records, 1996
rating: 4 of 6
This is not very fresh recording, but it still seems to be quite
interesting. Warren Hately (vocals, bass) calls his music as "Gaelic black
metal" which is too high-flown in my opinion, otherwise it doesn't mean
that SAMAIN's music doesn't deserve attention. This band plays a sort of
mix between both, Australian and Norwegian BM with some "clear" voice
which is VERY far from being good.  Surprisingly guitar appears only as
second instrument after bass, which is more important for the band, I
guess. There are some folk elements (also "Gaelic"???) on "Indomitus",
while keyboards are absent, unfortunately... Sound is very raw and whole
album seems to a bit unfinished, but despite that SAMAIN definitely have a
big potential.

DET HEDENSKE FOLK / ABYSSIC HATE "United By Heathen Blood" split - CD
Bloodless Creations Records, 1997
rating: DET HEDENSKE FOLK - 4 of 6
        ABYSSIC HATE - 4, 5 of 6
Split-CD of two one-man bands, first coming from Norway and featuring Tyr
(vocals, guitars, bass) and Abbath (IMMORTAL) as a session drummer, second
coming from Australia, consisting of Shaun Rout (who is also Bloodless
Creation Records owner) and B. Johnson on session guitar. DET HEDENSKE
FOLK seems to be one of those "Norway-promoting" BM bands, whose lyrics
deal exclusively with Northern topics (just look at their song titles -
"Northland Rules: Supreme", "True Northern", etc.), while musically it's
pure "Norse" black, extremely fast with blasting drums and great
atmosphere (despite there are no keyboards). Originally this three-song
tape was recorded in Grieghallen Studio and released as "True Northern"
demo in 1995. ABYSSIC HATE is more interesting, although absolutely
unoriginal. This stuff is also very fast with obscure atmosphere and good
production. What is strange that I like it more than DET HEDENSKE FOLK...

BAL SAGOTH "Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultime Thule" CD
Cacophonous Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
BAL SAGOTH already showed that they have something new to offer on their
debut CD "A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria", which was excellent recording
(especially taking into consideration the fact that it was only debut),
but "Stafire..." (how do you like the title???) is something incredible,
there was nothing like that done before... It's amazing inconceivably
high-potential recording - last CRADLE OF FILTH's CD sounds so dull in
comparison with this effort! Keyboards appear as the main instrument here,
no doubts - they create inexpressible mystic atmosphere with recitatives
dominating over traditional grim vokills. I don't want to say anything
else, buy this album and devote yourself to pure darkness!

DISMAL EUPHONY "Autumn Leaves - The Rebellion Of Tides" CD
Napalm Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Finally, a second full-length from this unique Norwegian band. It seemed
that Norway can't bring anything, except for BM buzz and "true" kids, but
there're always few exceptions - and "Autumn Leaves" proves it perfectly.
Unfortunately, this CD is quite short; it includes only eight songs and
has a duration of approx. 35 minutes. You see, it ends right when you
start really enjoy this stuff... Music didn't change in the whole, but
there're some little but serious differences - Keitziva's vocals became
less melancholic and more aggressive, and guitars fortunately don't sound
raw, irritating and monotonous anymore. Production is much cleaner and all
lyrics are in English, which is a good thing for me. All songs from first
to seventh are still quite slow, sad and very atmospheric, while the last
one "Splendid Horror" appears as a kind of experiment (?) - it's something
best described as industrialized black with dark synths on the background.
A MUST.

TORGEIST / VLAD TEPES "Black Legions" split-CD
Drakkar Productions, 1996
rating: TORGEIST - 1, 5 of 6
        VLAD TEPES - 2, 5 of 6
This split-CD appeared from the very deeps of underground and will descend
there again very soon...  Both bands are French, playing extremely
primitive black metal with total lack of new ideas or originality... I
just can't understand why so many people (including Tomasz from HOLOCAUST
'zine) call VLAD TEPES as "one of the best dark hordes in France"...
Everyone who has respect for himself and his musical taste: don't even
think of buying this awfully recorded and performed CD - both bands are
absolutely worthless!

CHRIST AGONY "Darkside" CD
Hammerheart Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
All albums of this magnificent Polish band are different to each other,
each of them shows vast improvement and musical development and "Darkside"
is not an exception. It begins with traditional for CHRIST AGONY tune "The
Triangle", but the next one called "Heredity" shows completely new face of
Cezar and co. - plenty of "clean" vocals with some hoarse ones, a lot of
keyboards, programmed drum-set and skillfully interspersed folk
elements... There are some fast and "evil" tunes here as well, but most of
songs follow the way of "Heredity". Very interesting CD proving CHRIST
AGONY members as high-talented personalities, looking for new ways of
self-expression, experimenting with different music styles while knowing
when it's time to stop...  A MUST, with an exception for black metal
conformists.

ARCKANUM "Kostogher" CD
Necropolis Records, 1996
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Perhaps, "forest" or "trollish" metal will be the perfect definition for
what ARCKANUM / Shamaatae The Troll (he is the only musician in the band)
are doing. Closing eyes and letting ARCKANUM's art into the very depths of
your feeble soul, you'll find yourself in deep of nightly forest, all
alone, in impenetrable darkness and silence, except for invisible ravens
croaking somewhere above, among the trees, whose branches are drawing
nearer ready to catch and smash you, helpless in front of mighty Nature...
"Kostogher" is a piece of extremely atmospheric music, that's how real
(not "true"!) black metal must sound alike! Grim voice and backing heathen
choirs, fast but never losing melody music with mid-paced riffs appearing
here and there, violin forcing the atmosphere to become even more dark and
whispering woods in the background... There's nothing more to add, except
for that "Kostogher" was recorded at Abyss Studio and Shamaatae once
played in SORHIN as session drummer.

SACRAMENTARY ABOLISHMENT "River Of Corticone" CD
Catharsis Records, 1996
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Coming from Edmonton (Canada) and consisting of Paulus (hordelike growls
and percussive measures), Wor (apocalyptic chainsaw guitars, razor blade
gurgling vocals) and Verminaard (bottom end blackness, searing shadow
screams), SACRAMENTARY ABOLISHMENT plays kind of quite interesting music
best described as Black / Grind, but not stupid BESTIAL WARLUST-alike
crap. You know, this is more like DISEMBOWELMENT put into black metal
package. "River Of Corticone" has a duration of 46 minutes and includes
eight tracks with VERY strange song-titles and lyrics (check out the
following ones - "A Lull In The Proceedings", "Reassessment Of Preliminary
Defensive Procedures" and "ATK"); music is also strange, varying from
face-ripping Grind parts to slow, a-la THERGOTHON tunes with atmosphere of
certain morbidity... Definitely, this is the most interesting BM band
coming from Canada so far.  P. S. These individuals were planning to visit
studio in September of this year and release second piece of pure
misanthropy shortly after, so watch out!

CANAAN "Blue Fire" CD
Ebone Music, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
CANAAN is a project of one of RAS ALGETHI members, though it doesn't have
much to do with black metal. It's more into gothic / ambient stuff, with
dark, although romantic atmosphere and lyrics throughout soaked with
spirit of mysticism... "Blue Fire" is a good album, but it could be even
better after erasing or shortening some of the songs, because this CD gets
too boring from time to time, especially in the end...

DECEMBER WOLVES "We Are Everywhere" MCD
Dark Symphonies, 1997
rating: 0 of 6
I liked their former album "'Til Ten Years" very much and was awaiting for
next CD with incredible impatience, but... this MCD is so primitive and
incomprehensible that I don't even have words about it! DON'T WASTE YOUR
MONEY FOR THIS CRAP! There's no folk elements on "We Are Everywhere", like
their label says, it doesn't have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Aaaarrrrrghhh, I
don't remember when I was as angry as while listening to this piece of
shit!!!!!!!!!!

LEGENDA "Autumnal" CD
Holy Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Ha ha, Mika Luttinen must be really pissed off when he'll hear "Autumnal",
created by his brother Kimmo! (banned out of IMPALED NAZARENE in 1995)
Holy Records promotes LEGENDA as "dark metal band", and it may be true,
but such determination as "symphonic dark black metal" is much better, I
think... "Autumnal" was recorded at Tico - Tico Studio by Kimmo,
responsible for all vocals and instruments, except for bass guitar, played
by Nikko Kapprinen. I won't dare to say that this stuff is original, but
is this such an important thing when music is really great? The title-song
is best on this CD, though it is too much like SAMAEL's "Baphomet's
Throne"...

USURPER "The Threshold Of Usurper" MCD
Necropolis Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Second album from one of the best American BM bands, that only made me
itching for more!  USURPER doesn't sound like CELTIC FROST clone anymore,
their music became more personal, these guys brought in some atmospheric
keyboards, besides that Diabolical Slaughter began to scream in modern BM
style, although "a-la Tom Warrior" voice is still present in USURPER's
sound. This CD includes MERCYFUL FATE's classic cover "Black Funeral"
which, together with extremely dark tune "The Dead Of Winter", is best on
"The Threshold...". A MUST.

WITHERING SURFACE "Scarlet Silhouettes" CD
Euphonious Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Again Swedish dudes, again from Gothenburg, again recorded in Studio
Fredman... However, WITHERING SURFACE (interesting bandname, by the way)
rules over hundreds of Swedish BM bands... "Scarlet Silhouettes" starts
off interesting intro, which is followed by title-song with original
shrieking voice and resplendent guitar work. Next four tracks are also
good, while the fifth one entitled "Farewell" is absolutely killer!
Brilliant guitars, same Black Metallish vocals are supplemented by hoarse
way of singing and beautiful female ones. There are few keyboards here
also, creating fine atmosphere (which is absolutely not "dark" or "evil" -
it's more bewitching and melancholic). Lyrics are dealing with... no, not
"darkness" and "hate", but love, though in a kind of mystical way...
WITHERING SURFACE are probably the best BM act ever recorded in Studio
Fredman. Those who appreciate charming melodies and unholy beauty in black
metal, MUST purchase "Scarlet Silhouettes", no doubt.

SACRILEGE "Lost In The Beauty You Slay" CD
Black Sun Records, 1996
rating: 4 of 6
Ah, Swedes one more time... "Lost In The Beauty..." is not as original and
fascinating as WITHERING SURFACE; this CD (also recorded in Studio
Fredman) represents pure Swedish black / death, maybe in more death vein,
you know... SACRILEGE performs very fast and melodious music with standard
BM screams and some Death Metal growls. The last tune "Intitio Silentium
Noctis" appears as acoustic outro, sufficiently nice... Not bad, but what
about originality, guys?

SIEBENBURGEN "Loreia" CD
Napalm Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Very interesting BM from Sweden with unearthly male screams and shamanic
female chants, intriguing and well thought-out guitar and bass parts,
while there's no trace of ordinary Swedish black metal!  Production could
be better, but it's something you won't pay much attention to, thanks to
brilliant music. Highly recommended.

TROLL "Drep De Kristne" CD
Damnation Records, 1997
rating: 10 of 6!!!
Solo-project of Nagash Blackheart from COVENANT / DIMMU BORGIR,
representing absolutely great Norse symphonic black metal! Total
blackness, devouring everything vital; much better than their already
brilliant "Trollstrom Over Nidingjuv" debut MCD! GORGOROTH's "Pentagram"
is just a childish fun, comparing to "Drep De Kristne"! Unearthly grim
shrieks like I've never heard before, good guitar work, keyboards,
keyboards, keyboards and KEYBOARDS! I don't know who did all the
synth-work, but this person must be a genius, no doubt! Just listen to
"Trollberg" ("Troll Mountain") or "Gud's Fall" ("Fall Of Goodness"), if
you are brave enough to meet pure Evil itself face to face!  "Kristenhat"
and "Naar Solen Blekner Bort" are my favorite black metal compositions for
last six months, there's nobody who is able to dethrone TROLL! A
MASTERPIECE!!!!!!!!!!! Buy this CD, or die like a worthless scum!

SOLEFALD "The Linear Scaffold" CD
Avantgarde Music, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Again Norwegians and again I have to write a review, praising one more
genius CD! Probably, "The Linear Scaffold" is even more Norse than "Drep
De Kristne", despite that SOLEFALD and TROLL are incomparable, because of
huge musical differences lying between these two bands' creations...
Lazare (one of two persons representing SOLEFALD; the other one is
Cornelius) claims that his band performs "Red music with black edges - an
abnormal chase for those who still believe in a normal world", sounds a
bit strange, uh? But their music is worth such big words. "The Linear
Scaffold" (SOLEFALD's debut CD) is something that we definitely can't call
as typical black metal, it's far, far more! First of all, it's perfectly
performed and recorded stuff, consisting of eight quite long songs, though
you wouldn't notice their length... Certainly, you won't go wrong
describing "The Linear Scaffold" as "Norwegian black metal", otherwise
it's played in absolutely unique way - there are few avantgardistic
elements, bass improvisations, a lot of keyboard and synthesizer parts,
some traditional instruments also were involved in creation of this true
masterpiece. Vocals range from BURZUM-like shrieks to more hoarse black
metal screams with plenty of "clear" voice and recitatives. Lyrics are
very poetic (no "satan" or "viking" crap), while the last song set to poem
"When The Moon Is On The Wane" by Lord Byron... And "Philosophical Revolt"
with "Red View" are simply the best BM songs ever written.  If you won't
get into this, then check your soul - it may be dead.

AETERNUS "Beyond The Wandering Moon" CD
Hammerheart Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
No, I can't stand this anymore! There guys are ALSO Norwegians and their
debut full-length CD is ALSO great! AETERNUS play quite fast but
intelligent black with pure death metal vocals, great synthesizer and
piano parts. I would even dare to say that AETERNUS are original in what
they're doing (though their music sometimes reminds me of early
TRELLDOM...) I guess, production needs no comments because of the fact
that "Beyond The Wandering Moon" was recorded at Grieghallen Studio with
Pytten and Jorgen Traeen as producers / sound engineers. I can't point out
their best songs simply because they are equally great, although "The Last
Feast" which appears as Celtic harp (!) solo definitely stands out of the
whole album. Highly recommended.  P. S. Hmmm, the one thing I didn't like
at all is their vocalist / guitarist and drummer's pseudonyms, rip-offed
from two Portuguese BM bands - MOONSPELL (who have bassist Ares) and
CANDLE SERENADE (whose drummer also carries the name Vrolok)...

INTESTINE BAALISM "An Anatomy Of The Beast" CD
Repulse Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Very interesting Japanese death metal band with definite black approach.
It's very fast, very dark, technical and aggressive, perfectly recorded
and mixed CD with lyrics speaking of ancient occult rituals and mysticism.
Check out the song "Burn Thou In Effigy", my favorite on "An Anatomy..."
Highly recommended.

BORKNAGAR "The Olden Domain" CD
Century Media, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
"The Olden Domain" is very different from BORKNAGAR's debut self-titled
CD. First of all, this "all-star" band (including Oysten from MOLESTED,
Ivar from ENSLAVED, Grim from GORGOROTH and Garm from ULVER and ARCTURUS)
got new and much more profitable deal with Century Media (instead of
Malicious Records), and as a result their music became more "commercial"
if this term is appropriate regarding BM band... In spite it was also
recorded at Grieghallen, sound is very different, especially guitars, they
are more high-tuned this time, and as to vocals... It seems that it's just
another guy singing, not Garm! His vocals (both "evil" and "clean") are
totally different, comparing to "Borknagar" CD. Screams are not that
furious and less "Norse", while clear voice doesn't have anything to do
with so-called "viking" singing - now it's more in the vein of art-rock
singers!

PRIMIGENIUM "Art Of War" CD
Fullmoon Productions, 1997
rating: 4 of 6
A lot of people claim PRIMIGENIUM to be as "the most original and
promising Spanish BM band", though this statement doesn't look like a
truth, at least in my opinion... There's nothing original here, "Art Of
War" sounds like first IMMORTAL album, maybe a bit slower with some
keyboards here and there... Don't misunderstand me, I didn't say that this
CD sucks, it still may please a lot of black souls...

EMPEROR "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk" CD
Candelight Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Finally the long awaited second full-length CD from one of the best
Norwegian BM acts is out, and... it didn't justify my hopes. "In The
Nightside Eclipse" suffered a lot from horrible mix and I thought that
this defect would be corrected on "Anthems...", but no, it's still here,
unfortunately... Generally speaking, music didn't change much for last two
years - EMPEROR still play the same fast symphonic black metal with
excellent lyrics. Concerning novelties, these are "clean" vocals (which
can be hardly hearable because of the reason stated above) and better
sound, which surprisingly makes "Anthems..."  only worse, less atmospheric
and sincere... The best tracks here are "Ye Entrancemperium", "The Loss
And Curse Of Reverence" (originally appeared on "Reverence" MCD released
in Spring 1997) and "With Strength I Burn".

VOND "The Dark River" CD
Dark Dungeon Music, 1997
rating: 1 of 6
Very primitive "ambient" performed on some kind of shitty synthesizer...
Atmosphere absolutely lacks here and songs are very boring. Besides, the
tune entitled "Suicide Is Painless" was originally written by MANIC STREET
PREACHERS, while it's not mentioned on the cover, so Mortiis appears as
plagiarist. Too bad.

BETHZAIDA "A Prelude To Nine Worlds..." MCD
Season Of Mist Productions, 1997
rating: 4, 5 of 6
This CD appears as re-release of BETHZAIDA's debut demo "Dawn" (1994) +
one song from "Nine Worlds" demo 1995, entitled "The Outsider". Of course,
this stuff is much weaker than their first CD, though it shows BETHZAIDA's
great improvement since 1994 - 1996... Those who don't own their demo, buy
"A Prelude..." now, all others - better keep your money and wait for the
second album from these talented Norwegians...

MORK GRYNING "Return Fire" CD
No Fashion Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Second effort from this Swedish cappella, one of best-selling BM acts in
Europe. "Return Fire" (stupid name) was recorded at Sunlight Studio with
Tomas Skogsberg as sound engineer and appears as perfect example that it's
POSSIBLE to record good and original album in Sunlight. As to term
"best-selling"... I guess, it's quite clear why MORK GRYNING ("Dark Dawn")
are so popular - actually, this band has everything to please black metal
fan. Interesting songs, perfect musicianship, good non-cliche vocals,
masterly guitar solos, keyboards, acoustics, excellent production,
impressive lyrics (this time all of them are on English), great cover art
and layout and even some originality, which is very rare thing among
Swedish BM bands of today...  Basically, music didn't change at all,
comparing to "Tusen Ar Har Gatt..." ("1000 Years Has Passed..."), there
are less pure synth parts, less acoustic, it's more fast and complex and
less "Swedish", ha ha!

INTROITUS "Skies Of The Unholy Departed" CD
CCP Records, 1997
rating: 3, 5 of 6
Well... hmmm... erh... Actually, I don't know what to say about this...
"Skies Of The Unholy Departed" is pretty good recorded and well performed
album... some acoustics are here as well... vocals are nice... anyway,
it's nothing special, you know. I heard stuff like this one for thousand
times... Hey, guys, you are talented musicians and you have a good deal,
so simply start to play music of YOUR OWN, and everything will be just
great!  P. S. Well, reaching status of absolutely "original" band is
really hard today, so perhaps, you simply need to make your compositions
more diverse... They're a bit boring, you know...

THE EQUINOX OV THE GODS "The Images Of The Forgotten Memories" CD
Unisound Records, 1996
rating: 6 of 6
Wow, THE EQUINOX OV (?) THE GODS seems to be the best stuff ever released
by Unisound Records! This is definite 100% black metal, though "evil"
vocals... are almost absent here. How could it be - black metal with no
screams, you may ask? Well, first of all, screams are still here, though
in very little number. Second - "The Images..." has certain black
atmosphere, while lyrics mainly deal with dark and terrifying topics
(however, there are some "gothic" poems, speaking about "love" and such
stuff, you know...) The greatest thing here is Fredrik's amazing vocals,
he appears as one of the best (if not the best) BM vocalists, able not
only to scream but sing in a perfect "clear" voice too!  There are some
female vocals here too as well as atmospheric keyboards and acoustic
guitar parts.  GET THIS AND WATCH OUT FOR THEIR NEW ALBUM VERY SOON!

ACHERON "Anti-God, Anti-Christ" MCD
Moribund Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Notwithstanding the fact that ACHERON are blind followers of LaVey ($),
their music is something really worth checking out and "Anti-God,
Anti-Christ" is much better than their previous releases.  Keyboards
became imprescriptible part of modern ACHERON's sound and the whole music
is much slower now. But there's one thing I dislike... concerning last
tune "Total War", which is totally rip-offed from IMPALED NAZARENE's
"Total War - Winter War"...  P. S. Hmmm, don't you think that Vincent
Crowley looks like "Black Metallish Chuck Schuldiner" - this album
presents completely new line-up again! (what number is it???)

ROTTING CHRIST "A Dead Poem" CD
Century Media, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
"The Triarchy Of Lost Lovers", last ROTTING CHRIST CD, didn't inspire me
at all but this one seems to be much better! Actually, music didn't change
in any ways, but somehow "A Dead Poem" seems to be more interesting and
not that boring... maybe thanks to radical line-up change, I don't know.
It's still "sweaty" if you know what I mean, but songs are a bit more
qualitative and heavy, vocals and keyboards (played by Xy of SAMAEL!) also
show some kind of improvement. Probably, the second track called "Among
Two Storms" is best one on "A Dead Poem", mainly thanks to "clean" vocals
by Fernando Ribeiro (Langsuyar) of MOONSPELL...

FORLORN "The Crystal Palace" CD
Head Not Found Productions, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
PURE SYMPHONIC PAGAN NORSE METAL. Very good production, astounding rhythm
guitar parts, male "viking" chants mixed with usual BM screams, majestic
keyboards and lyrics, full with mystic images... Do I need to mention
wonderful cover art and layout...?  Highly recommended.

DIABOLIQUE "Wedding The Grotesque" CD
Black Sun Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
DIABOLIQUE is a personal project of Kristian Wahlin (a.k.a. Necrolord)
from GROTESQUE (also including Hans Nilsson from CRYSTAL AGE on drums),
featuring very slow and dark gothic Black Metal with "clean" vocals - no
screams are present here! "Wedding The Grotesque" captures very weird
atmosphere, maybe thanks to orchestral arrangements in the vein of "Into
The Pandemonium" by CELTIC FROST with brass band involved. It also has
impressive barryton vocals and killer guitar work, therefore conclusion is
quite simple - get it or die!

TARANIS "Faust" CD
Baron Records, 1996
rating: 6 of 6
Such term as "dark metal" fits this band perfectly. "Faust" consists of
two songs, about twenty minutes each, though it doesn't become boring...
The art of TARANIS is really very dark with morbid atmosphere and
tremendous recitatives, summoning the ancient forces of evil... I have no
complaints, EVERYTHING is just BRILLIANT here!

LIAR OF GOLGOTHA "Dancing Through The Palace Of The Ungodly Beauty" CD
Shivadarshana Records, 1997
rating: 4, 5 of 6
LIAR OF GOLGOTHA (including ex-FUNERAL WINDS vocalist namely Gorgoroth)
seems to be very productive band - "Dancing Through..." is their fifth
"official" release during last three years! But here we have an excellent
example of quality turning into quantity, I fear... The music is quite
pleasing black / death, though songs are extremely short and
unmemorable... Female vocals and acoustic guitar are also present here (of
course!), but as to keyboards... Bastard, who spoiled all songs by his
awful-sounding synth, MUST BE DEAD! You know, I changed seven (!!!) CD's
thinking that they all are defective, but no, it's just Marco, who fucked
up the whole album! Aaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!

BLUT AUS NORD "Memoria Vetusta I - Fathers Of The Icy Age" CD
Impure Creations Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Already first album ("Ultima Thulee"), created by genius French individual
namely Vindsval showed that BLUT AUS NORD is not just ordinary BM band,
and "Memoria Vetusta" proved that suggestion.  This is pure pagan black
with permanent keyboards in the background, croaking and "clean" vocals,
six-string bass lines, dense low-tuned guitars (like those of Grindcore,
you know), masterly performed solos and ineffable heathen atmosphere!
Great! Lyrics also improved very much comparing to "Ultima..." which was
dedicated exclusively to Scandinavian mythology, that was pretty stupid in
my view, but now there's nothing like that  - no "odins", "thors" or other
crap.  Hmmm, seems like I said everything I had to... "Memoria Vetusta" is
a true masterpiece of pagan art, so go and buy it NOW!

OSCULUM INFAME "Dor - Lu - Fauglith" CD
Mordgrimm Records, 1997
rating: 4 of 6
French once again, but this time not so good as BLUT AUS NORD. This is
also somekinda pagan black with slightly "vampiric" touch... The worse
thing here is that songs were put together in a bit strange way, so "Dor -
Lu - Fauglith" sounds like split-CD of two (or maybe even three) bands...
Sound quality lacks here (it's not bad, though), sound effects are not
that great too, but in general, OSCULUM INFAME really have something to
say and this band worth further attention.

OLD MAN'S CHILD "The Pagan Prosperity" CD
Century Media, 1997
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Here we have second full-length CD from sufficiently new, but already hell
as famous Norwegian band.  I liked both OLD MAN'S CHILD albums (demo "In
The Shades Of Life" re-issued on CD and "Born Of The Flickering") very
much and expected great things from their newest effort... - but perhaps
too much. Strange, but "The Pagan Prosperity" seems to be very raw
recording, far from being finished.  Arrangements weren't thought out and
atmosphere appears as quite poor because of that. There's no presence of
female vocals or acoustic stuff in contrast to "Born Of The Flickering"...
Ok, and is there anything WORTH attention? - you may ask. Yes. These are
excellent "clean" male vocals and lead guitars, brilliant production and
first song entitled "The Millennium King" which is perfect, apart from
other, dull and unmemorable tunes...

VINTERLAND "Welcome My Last Chapter" CD
No Fashion Records, 1996
rating: 5, 5 of 6
VINTERLAND started their career with "A Castle So Crystal Clear" demo in
1994, which was followed by "Wings Of Sorrow" MCD two years later. These
two works already showed big potential of this Swedish trio. Both releases
were very hard to beat, but Pehr and co. managed it with "Welcome My Last
Chapter"! This is brilliant CD with great groundbreaking riffs, raging
vocals and profoundly melancholic piano... "Welcome..." doesn't go out the
schemes of Swedish black metal, though VINTERLAND looks and sounds much
better, than last MARDUK, for example... Highly recommended.

NATTVINDENS GRAT "Chaos Without Theory" CD
Solistitium Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Second effort from DARKWOODS MY BETROTHED side-project, this time not
conceptual, though lyrics are still very interesting. Music doesn't have
that "Norse feeling" as before, now NATTVINDENS GRAT are more into Indian
and Far East and it reflects in new compositions. Wilska's vocals became
much better, they are not so irritating as earlier, but still sounding a
lot like Pasi (DARKWOODS MY BETROTHED) "clean" voice. "Chaos Without
Theory" was "found" (as it stated on the cover) at Tico Tico Studio, so
production also improved. Arrangements are perfect and guitars sound
killer, so go and buy this CD immediately, if you like majestic and
beautiful music with "clean" vocals and bewitching guitar solos.

ATMAN "Like Pure Unawaited Magic" CD
Requiem Records, 1996
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Spain was never famous for black metal bands, but now it's time to break
conventional views... Of course, GORTHAUR were the first, but ATMAN are
the best ones, at least till now. This blasphemous trio plays aggressive
but still very intelligent brutal black metal with female opera singer,
some keyboards and acoustics here and there. This is absolutely original
stuff with inhuman gurgling instead of male vocals, professional recording
and very poetic, though quite ambiguous lyrics... A MUST!

ILDFROST "Natanael" CD
Cold Meat Industry, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
This one-song album is quite different from first ILDFROST's CD "Autumn
Departure" (1994) - it's not so diverse, there are no female vocals and
synthetic structures dislike "Autumn...", vanguard and folk elements were
replaced by symphonic and medieval ones. "Natanael" is very calm and
relaxing piece of art, with definite morbid atmosphere, majestic
recitatives and insane BM screams... All perverted souls, who appreciate
extremely atmospheric and dark Ambient with certain black approach, must
get it immediately!

GODKILLER "The Rebirth Of The Middle Ages" MCD
Wounded Love Records, 1996
rating: 5 of 6
Is there anyone out there, who've heard of black metal coming from
Monaco??? I guess, Duke Satanael (a.k.a. Benjamin Labarrere) was, is and
will be the only one playing this kind of music in his homeland...
Definitely, Duke's favorite band is BURZUM, at least it's the closest
comparison coming to mind after listening to "The Rebirth..." This is 100%
pagan black with majestic keyboards, insane shrieks, good musicianship and
production. Originality is absent here, but who cares...? Highly
recommended (not because of GODKILLER's origin, but just because of music,
which is something that I like very much...)

IMPRESSIONS OF WINTER "Cantica Lunae - Songs Of The Moon" CD
Spirit Productions, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Kind of dark gothic / ambient, with male and female chants and orchestral
keyboards as the only instrument. Pretty good, though IMPRESSIONS OF
WINTER sound a lot like late ELEND...

SOKNARDALR "Windir Stor Nynorsken I Kampen Mot Bokmalet!" CD
label unknown, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Pagan / viking black in the Norse way, performed by Valfar (vocals,
guitars, bass, synth) and Steingrim as session drummer. Very interesting
effort, with good vocals (screams and male chants), melodic rhythm guitar,
perfect drumming, atmospheric keyboards and organ with qualitative
production. Music featured on "Windir..." is absolutely not "evil", it's
very sad and melancholic, maybe more in the vein of early EINHERJER, you know. Highly recommended.

ENTHRAL "Prophecies Of The Dying" CD
Hot Records, 1997
rating: 4 of 6
Uuuuhhh, these guys are also Norwegians but music is a bit worse comparing
to SOKNARDALR or ARATHORN, although it's not bad. ENTHRAL performs
mid-tempo black, atmospheric and melodic with excellent bass parts, but
all songs are also very long and quite boring, at least first four of
them.  However, ENTHRAL has some potential and if they'll make their music
a bit more personal and various...

HELHEIM "Av Norron Aett" CD
Solistitum Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Hmmm, Norse bands seem to prevail this time, but there's nothing strange,
eh? "Av Norron Aett" is second HELHEIM album, the first one was entitled
"Jormundgand" and released two years ago. Have you heard last ENSLAVED's
effort - "Eld"? Did you like it? Or maybe you are looking for something
much better, more various and not so boring? You'll get it with HELHEIM.
Basically, everything is the same, but as I already said, "Av Norron Aett"
is considerably more various and interesting. Piano, violin, trumpet (!),
male "viking" vocals and female soprano, plus some folk elements, certain
atmosphere and sincerity - all aforesaid is present on this CD.  A MUST
for those who are into viking / pagan Metal and highly recommended for all
others.

ABIGAIL "Intercourse And Lust" CD
Modern Invasion Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Extremely fast, excellently recorded and perfomed debut ground-breaking CD
from this Japanese band.  No words left, just go and buy this killer album
and be sure, it will rip your face off!

NECROMASS "Abyss Calls Life" CD
Dracma Records, 1997
rating: 3 of 6
I haven't heard their first CD, but someone told me that it's kind of
occult death / black, that's why I was very intrigued starting to listen
to "Abyss Calls Life". But... it's nothing like I was told here!
NECROMASS play a sort of techno-death / black, something in the vein of
CRYSTAL AGE and early SADIST. Sorry, I don't like this music very much and
"Abyss Calls Life" has nothing to offer me, except for brilliant
performance and production.

ARCANA "Cantar De Procella (Songs Of The Storm)" CD
Cold Meat Industry, 1997
rating: 10 of 6!!!
Together with "Beauty Of Pain" by PENITENT, this is my all-time favorite
ambient album! A MASTERPIECE! All is just brilliant here - amazing female
and male "clean" vocals, majestic and melancholic orchestral arrangements,
keyboards and organ... But first of all, this is incredibly beautiful,
unearthly music, something from other dimension, no the one of cruelty,
ugliness, suffering and death, where we are living in... This Art should
be listened, not described!

MASTIPHAL "For A Glory Of All Evil Spirits, Rise For Victory" CD
Baron Records, 1996
rating: 6 of 6
One more BM band, labeled as "false" and "trendy" by Rob Darken, Polish
Mr. True. Thanks to these words, I was sure that MASTIPHAL is something
worth checking out and it really turned out the way I thought. "For A
Glory..." appears as symphonic gothic black with nonstandard vocals and
genius keyboards (played by Sammach of THEMGOROTH), excellently  performed
and recorded. A MUST.

THEMGOROTH "Gate To The Unknown..." CD
Morbid Noizz Productions, 1996
rating: 6 of 6
One more Polish band, also playing symphonic black metal. This album
features five quite long, slow and perfectly arranged tracks with wide
range of vocals (traditional "evil", emotional and gloomy hoarse ones and
some declamations), masterly guitar tremolos and big number of keyboards,
forcing dark anxious atmosphere... Everything is great here, maybe except
for production and primitive lyrics, but I can live with that because
music is superb. A MUST for everyone into black metal.

SCHEITAN "Travelling In Ancient Times" CD
Invasion Records, 1996
rating: 6 of 6
Beginning with classical intro, "Travelling..." turns into perfectly
played fast and furious black metal, maybe not the best ever, but much
better than majority of Swedish BM bands, at least SCHEITAN doesn't
represent anything "typical". "Travelling..." has killer guitar sound and
Pierre Tornquist (who also did all guitar / bass / synth work here)
manages to scream in a unique way, at least I've heard nothing like this
before. Nice atmospheric keyboards only emphasize attractiveness of this
CD. The last song "Portals Of Might" stands out of the whole album and
it's simply great! A MUST.

ISVIND "Dark Waters Stir" CD
Solistitium Records, 1997
rating: 4 of 6
A bit ridiculous name after it's translation to English ("Evil Wind") and
completely white cover and layout. That's how my acquaintance with ISVIND
began... Actually, music created by this duo (Arak on guitars, vocals,
bass and Goblin on drums, vocals and keyboards) is much better than
bandname, he he... It's pure Norse black metal with original screaming
way, thick guitar sound and interesting lyrics, though keyboards remind me
of BURZUM too much... "Ulb! Ulb!" and "Bankeand - Poltergeist" are best
songs, characterizing this band. Recommended.

IN THE WOODS... "Omnio" CD
Misanthropy Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
After the first listening to "Omnio" I had very strong impulse to flush it
down the toilet, but fortunately I didn't do this... You know, "Omnio" is
a kind of CD you get in only after fourth or fifth listen - and the same
thing happened to me. This album includes five ve-e-ry long songs with
delirious titles (f.e.x.  "299 796 km/s") and music, which... has nothing
to do with black metal. Anyway, it was predictable, I guess... "Omnio"
represents high-emotional and melancholic stuff with airy song-structures,
"normal" male voice and female ethereal singing, plenty of keyboards and
acoustics... I don't know what lyrics are about, but it looks like there's
no trace of paganism left there. Modern IN THE WOODS... appear as gothic
or maybe even progressive band, and BM is something buried deep in the
past. I don't know is it good or bad; the only thing I know is that I like
"Omnio" very much for all the beauty, melancholy and sincerity Swithjod
and co. put in their newest creation. Don't call them "traitors", it's
just simple development - from primitive pagan black to individual Art...

INFERNAL BEAUTY "Drakensquar" CD
Hammerheart Records, 1997
rating: 4 of 6
"Drakensquar" is debut CD from this Belgian band, playing some kind of
slow keyboard-based black metal with romantic atmosphere and song titles
in strange language (seems to be Flemish, though I'm not sure). Pretty
good, especially keyboard and flute parts, but I find this stuff a bit
boring...

MOON LORE "The Spheres Beneath The Heavens" CD
Malicious Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
It's really hard to describe what this band is doing, and such label as
"black metal" was chosen only conditionally. There are a lot of different
music styles brought together in "The Spheres..." - black, doom, gothic,
ambient and even some techno! (check out "Outro" and you'll understand
what I mean) Besides, someone told me that one of EMPEROR members plays
here, although I don't know if it's truth... As to MOON LORE's set of
instruments - these are guitars with traditional BM sound, clanking bass,
programmed drums and extremely atmospheric keyboards with some sort of
"natatory" effect, you know. I find this stuff interesting, at least MOON
LORE is very different from most of today's Black Metal bands... Try it,
"The Spheres..." may appeal you as well.

RAGNAROK (UK) "To Mend The Oaken Heart" CD
Neat Metal, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Ah, and this one is very special CD, at least in my ears... First I've
heard of this band, thanks to "Under The Pagan Moon" compilation, where
RAGNAROK featured their song "Nifuil An Sabras (Athraged Death)" which
already showed big potential of this unique English band. After that I
read some interviews with Deorth (bass, vocals), who appeared as very
interesting individual, which made me itching for RAGNAROK's debut even
more and after a couple of months passed I've finally got it.  "To Mend
The Oaken Heart" is something really unique and very different from
habitual canons of BM genre... Of course, you can simply label it as "folk
black metal" and theoretically you will be right, though it's a way far
more! Yes, folk music seem to be the main influence, as well as classic -
RAGNAROK even included "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi", introduction to Carl
Orff's "Carmina Burana" in this album, with music performed by themselves
and vocals by Deorth and female chorus!  All songs are very diverse, with
perfect musicianship (especially I'd like to mark out bass guitar and
programmed drum-set, which sounds very much like a real one), nonstandard
and memorable inhuman BM croaking, plenty of "clean" male vocals (Deorth
often sings "a cappella"), keyboards, violin and fiddle + some national
English instruments... "Lyrics" are absent here - Deorth writes "verses"
instead, appearing as very poetic and beautiful, though grim; ambiguous
but intelligible... Check out "Rekindling An Old Flame" and "Heartfire And
Forge" - these tunes are brilliant!  P. S. It's sad, but this masterpiece
has it's own fly in the ointment - these are "clean" vocals. Deorth's
bleating only spoils the whole album, especially when it comes to "Fortuna
Imperatrix Mundi". Don't get me wrong, pal, but it's time to understand
that you are not an opera singer, and inviting person with
professionally-trained voice will only make your music better! Just recall
THERION and their "Beauty In Black".

DESTROYER 666 "Unchain The Wolves" CD
Modern Invasion Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
DESTROYER's debut "Violence Is A Prince Of This World" featured some
really excellent songs, but nonexistent production unfortunately erased
all their advantages... Luckily, "Unchain The Wolves" was recorded in good
studio with professional sound engineer and DESTROYER's members also
improved as musicians, so I guess, this is the reason why we have such a
brilliant piece of Australian BM... This CD sounds a bit like early
SADISTIK EXEKUTION, but of course it's much better with original vocals,
well thought-out arrangements and perfect guitars, while background
keyboards and sfx's bring some atmospheric effect. A MUST.

ARGENTUM "Ad Inferitum Funebrarum" CD
Fullmoon Productions, 1996
rating: 6 of 6
Occult black metal in South-American style, as dark as possible. "Ad
Inferitum..." definitely should be listened after dark with few candles as
the only light, otherwise you won't get into it. This eighty-minutes (!)
CD is extremely gloomy and very slow, although some fast-tempo moments are
here as well. Music created by these demons has incredible mystical
atmosphere, so "Ad Inferitum..."  appears as a perfect soundtrack for
performing rituals and black masses.  A MUST, but only for the Chosen
Ones.

ANDRAS "Die Ruckkehr Der Dunklen Krieger" CD
Last Epitaph Productions, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
I was highly impressed by this German band's demo "The True Darkness"
(released in 1995) and those two years which passed before ANDRAS put out
their debut album, were a kind of torture by time for me. But fortunately
this anguish was gone right after I got "Die Ruckkehr...", this piece of
pure top-class dark metal. ANDRAS call their music as "dark warrior black
metal", which is not quite right in my view. It has nothing to do with
"warrior", while "dakrness" definitely prevails here. This band sounds a
bit like their countrymates EMINENZ (whose bassist namely Black Abyss
sings and plays bass here!) and in the same time it's very different. "Die
Ruckkehr..." is less sombre and more melancholic, accentuated on guitars
instead of keyboards (which are also present here, as well as female
voice), vocals are MUCH more impressive... No, they are genius! I've heard
nobody gurgling like this guy does! There are some clear voices too, but
they are not so good, though still quite pleasing... Well, inference is
quite simple - this CD is A MUST FOR EVERY BLACK METAL FAN.

IN BATTLE "In Battle" CD
Napalm Records, 1997
rating: 4, 5 of 6
IN BATTLE captures some raw, harsh and hyper-fast loathsome grinding black, while few songs heavily remind me of THE ABYSS (circa "The Other Side"), however they're not so thrilling and impressive. This CD was recorded at Sunlight Studio, therefore sound quality is excellent... Recommended.

NIDEN DIV. 187 "Impergium" CD
Necropolis Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Their former release ("Towards Judgement" MCD 1996) didn't impress me at
all, so I wasn't very excited when "Impergium" fell into my hands. But...
luckily, it turned out to be much, much better - this stuff is almost
incomparable to their old songs. NIDEN DIVISION 187 (hmm, where did they
take such a strange name? Sounds a bit nazi...) performs extreme, evil,
aggressive, grinding fast ultra-black metal, although very diverse.
"Impergium" has nothing to do with traditional "BM topics", like vampires,
cemeteries, sacrifices, neither ancient myths and legends, nor modern
"satanic" attitude. It has slight industrial touch in a couple of songs
(as well as cover), which doesn't make music worse, though. Lyrics (as I
understand them) deal mostly with WW II theme and suchlike "events" - just
look at their song titles f.e.x. "Genocide", "The Execution", "Mass Burial
Disorder", etc. One more fact, worth mentioning is participation of Morth
(THY PRIMORDIAL) on drums and Henke (DAWN) on vocals. All those who stand
for "total war and destruction" must purchase "Impergium" at once!

BURZUM "Balder's Dod" CD
Misanthropy Records, 1997
rating: 4, 5 of 6
I thought of this album as very shitty before listening, just because I
couldn't believe that Varg is able to create anything worthy on prison's
synth and four-track recorder. Well, of course, it's not the "most
burzumish album", like it was vaingloriously said by Misanthropy, but
"Balder's Dod" is still not bad.  It consists of six tracks, immersing us
into atmospheric synthesizer music with various melodies and very good
"a-la piano" parts. Certainly, it's very different and much worse,
comparing to previous BURZUM releases, but remember WHERE and HOW it was
recorded. At least, "Balder's Dod" is much better than worthless MORTIIS /
VOND crap.

13 CANDLES "Angels Of Mourning Silence" CD
Cacophonous Records, 1997
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Very strange release from CACOPHONOUS, which I considered as 100% BM
label... Despite their bandname, song titles, image and bassist's alias,
13 CANDLES is not a black metal band - these three "vampires" play
atmospheric gothic metal, not dark or depressive at all, though. All songs
are quite short but catchy with heavy guitars, traditional "weak" "clean"
vocals and strangely programmed drum-set, which renders very fast
drumming, contrary to sufficiently slow music. "Angels..." is not the
stuff I listen to very often, but you may try it anyway...

... THE SOIL BLEEDS BLACK "March Of The Infidels" CD
Draenor Productions / Napalm Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
One more excellent recording from Riddick Bros. I believe that those who
are totally into Ambient / Goth music don't require to be informed,
regarding this band, which strikes as one of the best, at least in USA.
Music presented on "March Of The Infidels" appears as very atmospheric and
emotional medieval Ambient with battle warlike motifs and huge number of
strange sounds and instruments, sampled and incorporated into ...THE SOIL
BLEEDS BLACK sound, despite that main instrument here is not a
synthesizer, but orchestral keyboards, creating inexpressible atmosphere
and bringing back the spirit of ancient past, buried under burden of
centuries... Highly recommended to everyone and a must for fans of
PAZUZU-alike music (although it's still very original).

MAYHEM "Wolf's Lair Abyss" MCD
Misanthropy Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
I was waiting for the new CD from MAYHEM for a long, long time, but
unfortunately I couldn't give "Wolf's Lair Abyss" a listen after it's
immediate release. Hence, I asked one of my friends about the music
presented here, and he told me that this legendary band changed their
previous style into sympho-black vein, consequently there's nothing left
of that "old MAYHEM's sound"... Ha ha! Total bullshit! MAYHEM is still
MAYHEM, now even better without poser-scum, whose name was Euronymous...
This CD features intro and four tracks of fast, face-ripping and
mind-devouring, heavy as hell and technical fierce black metal with weird
atmosphere, excellent vocals by Maniac (very different from what we've
heard on "Deathcrush"), perfect production and performance. Yes, there're
some strange electronic sounds here and there, but "Wolf's Lair..." has
nothing to with sympho-black.  Tunes like "I Am Thy Labyrinth" and
"Symbols Of Bloodswords" are beyond any words, and such title as
"chef-d'oeuvre" is too contemptible to describe MAYHEM's greatness... You
think that "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" was great? Then you've heard
nothing yet - give a listen to the new masterpiece from this Norwegian
cult band, and you'll share my rapture! A MUST!!!

MOONSPELL "Second Skin" MCD
Century Media, 1997
rating: FUCK!
Hmmm, and this band played excellent experimental folk-influenced BM some
time ago??? What these dull, emotionless songs with awful
industrial-influenced sound has to do with their previous direction and
brilliant, 100% original music??? Is this fractured wretched bleating
voice all that's left of those majestic "clean" vocals and declamations,
which took place before??? Of course, MOONSPELL and Century Media would
call it as "natural progress", but I have a bit different view. MOONSPELL
IS A COMMERCIAL FUNKY DOOM / INDUSTRIAL BAND NOW, UNWORTHY TO BE CALLED AS
INDIVIDUALS CREATING SUPREME METAL ART AS IT WAS BEFORE. "Second Skin" is
worthless, trendy cheap stuff for those, who read "Metal (pathetic)
Hammer" and watch NiggerTV's "Headbanger's Ball". That's all. I don't want
to spend my time on reviewing such a piece of garbage.  FUCK YOU,
MOONSPELL! FUCK YOU, CENTURY MEDIA! FUCK ALL THOSE WHO CARE ONLY ABOUT
MONEY...

ANOREXIA NERVOSA "Exile" CD
Season Of Mist Productions, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Oooh, song titles already told me that this time I would deal with very
strange and different release, but "Exile" turned out even more
"progressive" and "experimental" than I expected it to be. There're
thirteen extremely depressive and morbid tracks with weird vocals, very
strange song structures, various melodies (maybe, even too various...), a
lot of anxious whispering voices and obscure unearthly sounds... They even
included some monologues on pure Russian here! Speaking in the whole,
"Exile" sounds so inhuman that it's very hard to believe that this CD was
recorded by homo sapiens...  Very original and, in the same time, sick
stuff, definitely not for "closed-minded" and "true", but for such
depraved persons as me, for example, heh heh... As a conclusion - if you
liked FORGOTTEN SILENCE, VED BUENS ENDE, MONUMENTUM, first SADNESS and last
ARCTURUS CD's, then buy "Exile" without thinking twice - absolute insanity
and nightmare hallucinations are guaranteed...

LEGION OF DOOM "For Those Of The Blood" CD
Hypervorea / Sub Terra Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Finally, a second CD from best Greek BM band! "For Those Of The Blood"
includes everything, that every modern black metal band's sound must
incorporate - diverse melodies, dark symphonic arrangements, non-standard
reptilian vokills as vocals, sincerity and incredible atmosphere. Too bad,
that "For Those..." has very short running time - something like thirty
minutes (maybe, a bit more), which appears as very big disappointment for
me, because music is superb! Highly recommended to everyone, except for
jews and worthless zionists like Nahitfol...  P. S. By the way, three
songs on this CD are named in Greek; however I don't know if they're sung
in this language...
 

DOOM / GOTHIC / DARK WAVE
 
CORPORAL PUNISHMENT "Stonefield Of A Lifetime" CD
Black Mark Productions, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Ridiculous bandname and great music, performed by four Finnish guys. They
appear as one more PARADISE LOST ("Shades Of God" / "Icon") followers, but
this is a sort of case, where copy is better than original. Good vocals
(Ali's singing looks like a cross between Nick Holmes, Jan-Chris De
Koejier and Mathias Lodmalm voices + some clean ones), pretty good lyrics,
magnificent production (of course!)... To tell you in short - CORPORAL
PUNISHMENT plays very melodic deathish doom in the way which is very
popular nowadays (I didn't say "trendy"!) Well, I don't think I need to
say anything more - if you like EXPULSION, CEMETARY, THRENODY, etc. then
go and buy this CD immediately!

NIGHTSKY BEQUEST "Uncounted Stars, Unfounded Dreamlands" MCD
Polyphemus Records, 1996
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Bulgarian (!) gothic / dark wave with good female vocals, calm melancholic
music and keyboards accompaniment. "Uncounted..." also is well recorded
and well performed album, so all gothic fans must definitely check it out,
and not only because of NIGHTSKY's somewhat "exotic" origin...

CREMATORY "Awake" CD
Nuclear Blast Records, 1997
rating: 4 of 6
I didn't expect anything good from this CD after buying and listening to
their last self-titled release, filled with unmemorable songs of pop-doom
and eunuch "clean" vocals, but surprisingly "Awake" is not so bad. It's
much heavier, there are more death vocals here and "clean" ones are also
not bad this time. To point out their best songs, these are "Lord Of
Lies", "For Love", "My Last Words" and "Yourself". "Awake" also features
SISTERS OF MERCY's song "Temple Of Love", but CREMATORY's version is much
weaker than the one made by Polish AION a bit earlier.

SCALD "Will Of Gods Is A Great Power" CD
Metal Agen Records, 1996
rating: 10 of 6!!!!
I heard a lot of people praising this band to the skies, and it only made
me more persistent in search for this album and... finally I've got it. In
few words, this music can be described as "classic doom" with ABSOLUTELY
AMAZING clean vocals, the ones in SOLSTICE vein, though much, much better!
Well recorded, excellently produced and performed material, unforgettable
songs, mystical lyrics dealing with paganism and ancient Slavonic rituals
and traditions and fucking great voice! Agil was the best vocalist in
Russia ever, too sad that his life was taken away so early... There's
noone who is able to replace him...  SCALD are NOT one more SABBATH clone,
their stuff is 100% original, so GET IT NOW!  If you want to get this
album or any info concerning SCALD, e-mail me or to the following
addresses:  C. D. M. (management): cdm@glasnet.ru
SCALD: nimble@cnit.uniyar.ac.ru

THERION "A'arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" CD
Nuclear Blast Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Hmmm, this is a bit strange release - six cover songs, including such
tunes as "Children Of The Damned" by IRON MAIDEN (with Piotr Wawrzeniuk on
vocals) and "Under Jolly Roger" by RUNNING WILD, remixed version of '92
track called "Symphony Of The Dead" with no vocals, four half-instrumental
neoclassical compositions and... original soundtrack of "The Golden
Embrace" (have you ever heard of such a movie? I hadn't), representing
seven tracks of symphonic music with no guitars, bass or drums. As I
already said this is very strange album, although I like it very much.
P.S. Very sad kind of feelings absorbed me while I was listening to this CD,
simply because I clearly realized that THERION reached the peak in their
musical development, just like CELTIC FROST in 1987... Remember, what
happened to Tom Warrior and co. after "Into the pandemonium" release...?

CORRUPTION "Ecstasy" CD
DSFA Records, 1996
rating: 5 of 6
Well, actually this band is much older than 99% reviewed above. They
started back in 1991 and first demo entitled "Absorbed In Misery" was
released in October, featuring severe and primitive music, standing quite
close to grind with few doom metal influences and anti-christian attitude.
Years passed and a new tape was unleashed, namely "The Ultra-Florescence".
"Nothing, but musical brutality" - this was their motto back then.
Basically, there were not much changes undergone, CORRUPTION still plays
very slow, brutal grinding doom with vocals, breathing with hatred
(against whom??), but now these five Polish dudes offer more diversity,
incorporating acoustics, piano, violin, accordion (!), nice-sounding
keyboards and "clean" vocals in their compositions, while lyrics mainly
deal with mystical and religious topics. The best tune on "Ecstasy" is
"Wooden Jesus", which stands out of the whole album. It begins as a kind
of ballad with emotional "clean" singing and piano mellowing, although
electric guitar (in the background) and drums appear in culmination point
of the song, unfortunately just before it's very end. However, it's not
the only track here worth attention - check out "Eye In The Shroud",
"Mystic Whores Fly" and "Breezy Winds", they are great as well. Highly
recommended.

SANGUIS ET CINIS "Schicksal" CD
M. O. S. Records Ltd., 1997
rating: 6 of 6
One more release from M. O. S. Records (Moskovskoye Ob'edinenie satanistov?), which proves that this label's owners definitely have a
good taste in extreme music, although nobody would bring himself to say
that SANGUIS ET CINIS performs something "extreme"... These guys (I don't
who they are, but somebody told me that band's lineup includes one of
LACRIMOSA (ex?)members) play very slow, dark and sinister Gothic,
absolutely not heavy (electric guitar is almost absent here), very weird
and atmospheric, though. At least, it doesn't have anything to do with
"commerce". All songs are equally great, with perfect orchestral
arrangements (the main thing, which captures listener's attention on this
CD) and vocals, more appropriately called as declamations. I don't know if
I told you everything you want, regarding SANGUIS ET CINIS; anyway I don't
have any words left except for: "Go and buy this masterpiece of Dark
Tremendous Art now!"

MISANTHROPE "Visionnaire" CD
Holy Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
The only MISANTHROPE album I've heard, except this one, was "Variation On
Inductive Theories" and instead of absorbing my soul and feelings, it only
infuriated me - shitty pretentious lyrics written on perverted English and
incomprehensible music, such were my impressions. Three years passed and
"Visionnaire" suddenly fell in my hands, so I decided to listen to this
CD... which turned out as masterpiece! I don't know what happened to these
guys (whose leader Phillippe Courtois De L'Argiliere is also Holy Records
label owner), but "Visionnaire" sounds very different from "Variations..."
Yes, it's still MISANTHROPE (originality is integral part of this band),
but music is incomparable to their debut. It's very diverse, with various
vocals (from "weak" ones in the vein of early ANATHEMA through raucous to
all-devastating roaring), astounding keyboard arrangements, non-typical
guitar and bass solos and splendid drumming, everything with heavy
avantgarde touch.  GET IT!

THE BLOOD DIVINE "Mystica" CD
Peaceville Music, 1997
rating: 1, 5 of 6
One more band (consisting of ex-ANATHEMA and CRADLE OF FILTH members),
trying to revive the spirit of the most overrated band in this world
namely BLACK SABBATH... I have enough with such (quite good) bands as
SERPENT or SOLITUDE AETURNUS, so why do I need to this typical Peaceville
crap...? Shitty vocals by Darren White and dull, uninteresting music...
Only keyboards are worth something.

GRAVEWORM "When Daylight's Gone" CD
Serenades Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Serenades Records appears as the best German label, specializing in doom /
goth music - all their releases prove this affirmation. Together with
CASKET and DYSTROPHY, GRAVEWORM plays very impressive, interesting and
diverse gothic doom / death with traditional and, in the same time, fresh
way of growling, very good atmospheric keyboards and somewhat romantic
atmosphere, maintained by melodic rhythm guitar. A MUST for every doom
metal fan.

AION "Midian" CD
Morbid Noizz Productions, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Polish band, playing kinda symphonic gothic doom, mixed with death metal
influences and vocals.  There are plenty of keyboards and different
non-metal instruments here, female and male "clean" vocals are also
presented. But, first of all, AION are ORIGINAL. Sounds strange, but it's
truth. The best tracks are "Land Of Dreams" and "Birth", also check out
the SISTERS OF MERCY cover - "Temple Of Love", which sounds killer! Don't
think twice about getting and listening to "Midian", it's really great
stuff.

SIRRAH "Will Tomorrow Come?" CD
Music For Nations, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Hey, it seems to be a sort of "Polish invasion", don't you think so?
Anyway, I'm glad to see more and more excellent bands coming from that
country. "Will tomorrow come?" is second SIRRAH CD, the first one was
called "ACME" and released in 1996. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance
to listen to their first album, so I can't say much about differences
between these two efforts. Ok, nevermind. "Will tomorrow come?" turned out
as professionally recorded and performed death / doom with some
techno-death influences, interesting compositions, symphonic keyboards,
violins, female vocals and some "clean" male voices (very well performed
by a session vocalist namely Tom), though main vocals are in pure death
metal vein. This is not a kind of CD to which I listen very often, but it
doesn't mean that it's not worth your attention. SIRRAH has everything to
please doom metal fan's ears, so if you are into this style of music, go
and buy it.

TIAMAT "A Deeper Kind Of Slumber" CD
Century Media, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Now it's very hard to believe that TIAMAT was death / black band in the
very beginning... "A Deeper Kind Of Slumber" follows the way of
"Wildhoney", while music became even more "psychodelic", perfectly showing
that Johan Edlund is obsessed by PINK FLOYD and suchlike bands... Really
heavy songs are almost absent on this album (maybe with an exception for
"Cold Seed" which was also released as 7'EP...), it's more emotional and
"dreamy" with plenty of keyboards and some sampled Eastern instruments,
creating fine atmosphere. Hoarse vocals are replaced by calm "clean"
voice, quite pleasing to the ear. This CD strikes as really interesting
piece of gothic art, recommended to all fans of soothing and beautiful
music.

THEATRE OF TRAGEDY "A Rose For The Dead" MCD
Massacre Records, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Brand new mini CD from one of the best Norwegian doom acts, consisting of
six songs. New ones ("A Rose For The Dead" and "Der Spiegel") are
performed in traditional THEATRE OF TRAGEDY style, while the last track
entitled "Decades" is something different. It's more "gothic" and less
heavier with growls replaced by surprisingly good "clean" voice in the
vein of early IN THE WOODS... This album also includes three remixes -
first one is "Der Tanz Der Schatten" with lyrics in English (which is the
only difference from original song, I guess), second appears a kind of
"Doom / Industrial" (if this label is possible...), showing this band as
persons craving for experiments. "Black As The Devil Painteth" begins with
affectionate growling and then turns into something, heavily reminding
LAIBACH; with programmed drum-set and symphonic background. Quite
interesting CD, which made me only more impatiently anticipating for their
upcoming (?) full-length album, though I hope it won't be Industrial...

JACK FROST "Elsewhere" CD
CCP Records, 1997
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Comparing to their first CD ("Eden", 1996), "Elsewhere" is less influenced
by BLACK SABBATH, more various, maybe thanks to cello and virtual
acoustics, incorporated in JACK FROST sound. This German trio still plays
slow, emotional "classic" doom metal with "clean" vocals, but
unfortunately this album doesn't have such memorable songs as f.e.x.
"Bleed", which appeared on their debut. Those who are into stuff like END
OF GREEN, last SOLITUDE AETURNUS and PYOGENESIS (circa "Waves Of
Erotasia") will find "Elsewhere" quite interesting, I guess...

CYBELE "Brightly Blackhearted" CD
Head Not Found, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
This Norwegian act is unique already thanks to the fact that CYBELE is
completely female band!  "Brightly Blackhearted" was recorded at Endless
Studio with Kristian Romsoe as producer and released by Metalion's Head
Not Found label, but it has nothing to do with black metal. CYBELE
performs a sort of music, which could be described as gothic, although
it's not very exact... These five girls are able to play their instruments
properly, though guitars have too "dirty" sound and move somewhere to the
background very often. Vocals of Lene Vaagland are also quite impressive,
best compared with CRANBERRIES vocalist. My favorite tracks here are two
first ones - "Deterioration" and "Imaginative Winds". Maybe it will be too
insolent, but I'd dare to say that everyone into doom, gothic and even
black will find something interesting and appealing him (her) in
"Brightly..." - it's really promising album and I hope that CYBELE won't
let their listeners down in the future.

SEPTIC FLESH "Ophidian Wheel" CD
Holy Records, 1997
rating: 10 of 6
Third full-length from this genius band, one of the best, if not the best
in Greece. Wide range of vocals (instantly recognizing Spiros' growls,
male chants performed by Sotiris and incredible female voice, belonging to
Natalie Passoulis), varying speed (from pure death compositions to slow
and dreamy ones), brilliant symphonic arrangements (especially this
concerns an amazing track entitled "Tartarus") and top-quality performance
and production... A FUCKING MUST!!!

EN GARDE "Comedia De'l'arte"
Throne Productions, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
One more Greek band (though first I confused them with French) and one
more great and unordinary album, however it has some bad sides... "Comedia
De'l'Arte" is quite to gothic with smooth and symphonic music, based on
vocals. There are two singers in EN GARDE - male and female, both have
great voices and use them skillfully. Listen to "Ah Mio Cor" and you'll
agree with me. Some piano parts and sublime narrations fit "Comedia..."
perfectly though arrangements could be better - they are too primitive and
unfinished, you know... Anyway, this is very original album, at least I've
never heard anything like before.

STILLE VOLK "Hantaoma" CD
Holy Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
This is definitely a very strange and special album, first of all because
"Hantaoma" doesn't have anything to do with metal music... This CD created
by three French males (Arexis - percussion and narrations, Roques -
instruments and cordes, Lafforgue - instruments, vent, chants) includes
seventeen purely folk songs, performed solely on traditional instruments -
no synths or samples here! "Hantaoma" captures very weird medieval
atmosphere and certainly is not for major ears, but for lovers of
nonstandard musical art... Highly recommended to everyone, at least for
broadening the mental outlook.

GODGORY "Shadows Dance" CD
Invasion Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
"Sea Of Dreams", debut album from these Swedes, impressed me favorably,
although it has too much similarities with EDGE OF SANITY. But now GODGORY
luckily began to write music of their own, and they are pretty good at
this! "Shadows Dance" presents very impressive doomy death with memorable
songs, great variety of melodies, growls and "clean" vocals, amazingly
beautiful guitar solos, plenty of keyboards and magnificent drumming,
sometimes supplemented by programmed drum-set... "Abandon", "Make You Pay"
and final 13-minutes title-song are simply brilliant! A MUST.

PROMETHEAN "Gazing The Invisible" CD
Avantgarde Music, 1996
rating: 6 of 6
It's somehow strange to see Timo Iivari, ex-frontman of BM horde BLACK
CRUCIFIXION (rip-offed by Lethal Records) appearing in the band, which
performs some kind of extremely soft gothic mixed with folk elements...
Ok, it doesn't matter afterall, because "Gazing..." is great CD with good
clean vocals (a-la NATTVINDENS GRAT), plenty of keyboards, acoustics and
flute, which strikes as the main instrument in some songs... Highly
recommended.

AS DIVINE GRACE "Lumo" CD
Avantgarde Music, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
One more Finnish band, this time more heavy. I didn't like very much their
debut effort ("Romantic Beautitude Of Faded Dawn" MCD) - it was just
ordinary atmospheric doom / death in the vein of early AMORPHIS with
boring growls... But "Lumo" is completely different album, it's even hard
to believe that these two CD's were created by the same band... First
thing which attracted my attention was ethereal female voice, performed by
Hanna Kalske... It sounds like a heavenly bird singing and maybe even
better than Kari Rueslatten's vocals... Fortunately, growls are gone,
replaced by some male "clean" singing, which sucks in my view. As to
arrangements and music in the whole - it's also perfect; keyboards has
some sort of "ghostly" effect and create great atmosphere. Just close your
eyes, and you'll find yourself on the shore of dark and beautiful lake,
covered by silver mist... It's time for dawn to come, but sun doesn't
appear and you are forever captured in this paradise of Nature, surrounded
by impassable thicket near majestic and indifferent lake while moon still
shines and unreal airy voice shrouds your soul...

THE 3RD AND THE MORTAL "In This Room" CD
Voices Of Wonder, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
I heard such words as "this band sucks without Kari..." for thousand
times, and those who say it are not quite right in my opinion. Yes,
something was lost with her departure, but gained as well when Ann Mari
replaced Kari. It's pointless to compare their first albums to "Painting
On Glass" and this one - these are simply two different bands, and we must
judge THE THIRD AND THE MORTAL, comprehending it. "In This Room" starts
off where "Painting..." stopped, it follows already chosen path of
avantgarde and psychodelia... For example, "So Pure" sounds like a jazz
band improvisation in whiskey-bar. Despite that, this CD has some songs,
based on vocals and showing all possibilities of Ann Mari's voice - these
are brilliant "Stream", "Sleep" and some others. Those who liked their
previous album, will this one also; as to those who are into "Sorrow" and
"Tears Laid In Earth" - go and buy Kari solo album...

DISBELIEF "Disbelief" CD
Grind Syndicate Media, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
Well, it's really hard to say - is it death or doom album? On one hand,
there are insane vocals somewhat reminding BURZUM, but first of all John
Tardy (OBITUARY). On the other hand, music is quite slow and more
"doomy"... Anyway, their style is something not very important, so let's
talk about DISBELIEF's music. Ok, as I already said it has memorable and
impressive vocals and slow songs with a bit vanguard touch and excellent
musicianship. Note that this album was produced by Andy Classen and this
guy certainly has a good taste in extreme music. It's very hard to
describe what DISBELIEF is really is, better buy it and find out yourself.
This CD is definitely worth purchasing.

M.PHERAL "Lie" MCD
label unknown, 1996
rating: 6 of 6
Brilliant avantgarde doom / grind from France! I guess, "Lie" is a
follow-up to their full-length album, but unfortunately I've never heard
of that one. I don't even know what label released this masterpiece and
who plays in the band! Ok, back to music. This MCD includes five tracks -
"Lie" (original version), "Injured Life", "Ignorance", "Words" and "Lie"
remix. All these compositions are equally great, so it is uselessly to
mark out anything. There are slow and heavy as hell, with different
strange sounds and broken rhythm structure. Vocals differ from weird
whispers to unearthly thundering roars, and so does music - from grind
parts to bass leads with dismal keyboards as background... A MUST for
those who appreciate innovative music.  P. S. If anyone knows anything,
concerning M.PHERAL, let me know immediately!
 

DEATH / GRIND
 
CADUCITY "Whirler Of Fate" CD
Shiver Records, 1996
rating: 4 of 6
Various and experimental, but still heavy as hell Belgian death metal with
very strange lyrics, speaking about ancient forest spirits and such
things... Try this stuff, you may find it interesting...

OBITUARY "Back From The Dead" CD
Roadrunner Records, 1997
rating: 4, 5 of 6
Everything is the same as on their last two albums, except for last track
which appears as "Bulletuary" remix with industrial rhythms and... rap
vocals. Not bad CD, but last tune incredibly sucks! Why the hell did you,
guys, include this crap in "Back From The Dead"???!

EDGE OF SANITY "Cryptic" CD
Black Mark Productions, 1997
rating: 3 of 6
Highly boosted album with new vocalist namely Robban Karlsson (who
replaced Dan Swano) in actual fact turned out to be the worst recording by
EDGE OF SANITY ever - it seems that these guys exhausted themselves, so to
speak. "Cryptic" contains eight songs of melodious straight-forward death
metal with no trace of variety left. There're no clean vocals (by the way,
Dan said that Robban has "much better clean voice" than he has, however it
cannot be verified), no keyboards, no acoustics, no piano, no black, doom
or gothic influences, just nothing. Perhaps, "Cryptic" would be a nice
recording for a young death metal band, but it's a fatal failure for EDGE
OF SANITY...

APOPHIS "Down In The Valley" CD
Contraption Records, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
This band was around since 1988 under different names, though their debut
effort was out only in late 1994, entitled "Gateway to the underworld" and
released on their own. Now these guys finally got a deal and second child
of APOPHIS was born... There're not so much differences between both
albums, though musical improvement is certain. These five talented Germans
play brutal and atmospheric death with some doom and black metal
influences (very little). There are no keyboards here, only some acoustic
guitar parts, but music doesn't become less interesting. APOPHIS is the
best German representative of now sadly "dying" pure untrendy death metal,
performed with anger and aggression, brutal, but melodious, fast, but
sometimes slow as hell, and what is most important - with dark tremendous
atmosphere... Can you name any modern death metal bands, who have such an
attribute?  Lyrics are also worth mentioning - they speak about mysterious
and terrifying topics and appear as very poetic, though still very dark.
If there are any death metal fans left, they MUST go and buy it at once. I
would also recommend this stuff to all the black souls, I'm sure that
APOPHIS will appeal them as well.

OPPRESSOR "As Blood Flows" CD
Circumstantial Records, 1997
rating: 6 of 6
I liked previous OPPRESSOR's releases ("Solstice Of Oppression" '94 and
"Agony" '96) very much, so I didn't have problems of getting into this
one, especially taking into consideration the fact, that "As Blood Flows"
is even better than all these guys have done before! This CD begins with
great rot'n'roll tune "Looks That Kill" ("... she's got the looks that
kill" - ooh, this reprise will be kept in my mind for a long, long time!),
which is followed by even greater songs with impressive growls, excellent
guitar work and some gloomy keyboards here and there. "As Blood Flows" is
a big improvement since the "Solstice..." times, so the future looks good
for this band.

NUM SKULL "When Suffering Comes" CD
Defiled records, 1996
rating: 2 of 6
Defiled Records have some really good bands, f.e.x. such as MALEFICARUM,
but unfortunately NUM SKULL is not one of them. These five individuals
(oh, can we call them that way???) play typical American death with some
old thrash influences... There's nothing special here, music is very plain
and boring, I couldn't even manage to listen to the whole album at the
first time... Crap.

CRASH "Endless Supply Of Pain" CD
Toy's Factory, 1996
rating: 6 of 6
Wow, I didn't expect to hear such music from Korea! Great musicianship,
excellent production (producer's name is Colin Richardson, so do you need
any comments?), surprisingly good clean vocals (two tracks are sung in
Korean!) and... FURIOUS DEVASTATING DEATH METAL AT ITS BEST!!!  This album
also features DEEP PURPLE's "Smoke On The Water" cover - does anyone of
you, "true", remember this tune??!

ANAL CUNT "I Like It When You Die" CD
Earache Records, 1997
rating: 1 of 6
I don't why this band is such popular (especially in States)... In my
opinion, they have absolutely nothing to offer, except for some shitty
noise with shitty vocals, reminding of pigs squealing, while being
butchered.

DOMINUS "The First 9" CD
Progress Records, 1996
rating: 5, 5 of 6
"The First 9" (what the fuck does it mean???) is quite different from
"View To The Dim", first album from this Danish band. While debut
represented pure brutal death, this one is more "groovy", if you know what
I mean. DOMINUS seem to be influenced by those old hard rock bands, whose
glory-time falls on beginning of 70's... Main vocals definitely are
deathish, though there are some raucous male ones + nonstandard female
voice, reminding me of old blues and rock'n'roll bands... Guitars are
played in very interesting way, there are plenty of memorable solos;
somewhat special "dirty" sound is also worth mentioning... Very
interesting and diverse CD, absolutely not boring like most of death metal
albums today. Highly recommended.

PANZERCHRIST "Six Seconds Kill" CD
Serious Entertainment, 1997
rating: 5 of 6
Grinding death metal from Denmark, the way it was meant to be - extremely
brutal and aggressive, performed with anger and virtuosity. There is
excellent guitar work, blasting drums, atmospheric keyboards and wide
range of vocals - from traditional growls to some BM screams and
shrieks... First song "Perfect Kill" is really killer! A MUST for those
who care about true death metal - with such bands as PANZERCHRIST it will
never die!

PAN. THY. MONIUM "III: Khaooohs And Kon-Fus-Ion" CD
Relapse Records / Nuclear Blast, 1996
rating: 5 of 6
"III..." is last album from this unique band, at least such are the words
of Dan Swano. Too bad, because there's noone who can beat them...  This CD
brings more keyboards and insane saxophone improvisations, strange noises
and bass solos; death vocals prevail over black metallish ones, while all
the best from "Dawn Of Dreams" and "Khaooohs" was carefully recreated and
put in "III..." Top-quality progressive avantgarde mystical death,
recommended to everyone!

DISMEMBER "Death Metal" CD
Nuclear Blast Records, 1997
rating: 3 of 6
Notwithstanding ridiculous album title, "Death Metal" is much better than
both previous releases from this band - "Massive Killing Capacity" CD and
"Misanthropic" mini. It's more heavy, fast and aggressive stuff with
thicker guitar sound, although Matti Karki's shitty vocals still suck...
It's hard to point out best songs, 'coz they are all the same, although it
doesn't look like a shortcoming here. Quite good for typical "Swedish
death metal" band.

INNER THOUGHT "Perspectives" CD
Witchhunt Records, 1996
rating: 5 of 6
Despite the fact that I hate death metal with stupid Industrial
influences, "Perspectives" is something quite attractive for me. INNER
THOUGHT (lead by Bobby Sadzak - ex-member of Canadian cult death metal
band SLAUGHTER) mixes huge number of music styles - death, doom, black,
gothic and industrial with a lot of keyboards, samples and female vocals,
although it's still very brutal and aggressive and what is most important
- "Perspectives" sounds like music, created by alive people, not soulless
machines! Unfortunately, INNER THOUGHT seem to be underrated, while their
music is much more original and interesting than f.e.x. those latino gangs
from FEAR FACTORY...

GOATS "Breath" CD
Eclipse Records, 1996
rating: 5 of 6
Japan proves that it has unlimited resources for spawning more and more
excellent death metal bands, and GOATS is certainly one of them. "Breath"
is their debut CD, perfectly performed and recorded, featuring technical
death with more mid-paced riffs, sometimes turning into crushing and
devastating form. I have only one complaint here and it concerns lyrics,
speaking about "social" problems and cataclysms, which is something that I
totally dislike...

NUCTEMERON "A Time The World Forgot"
Wild Rags Records, 1996
rating: 5 of 6
Interesting grind / death, basically quite slow (though sometimes fast
enough to rip your face off), with inhuman growls, some strange electronic
noises and atmospheric keyboards. Someone told me that NUCTEMERON comes
from some kinds of "exotic" country, though I'm not very sure about it. "A
Time The World Forgot" is not a stuff for everyone, but you can try it
anyway.
 

OTHER STUFF
 
WALTARI "Space Avenue" CD
Spin Records, 1997
rating: 0 of 6
WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?!!!??!??!?!? Their last album "Yeah! Yeah! Die!
Die!..." was something that I liked very much, despite those absolutely
unnecessary rap-vocals, but as to "Space Avenue"... This is not death
metal, neither doom, nor grind, it has nothing to do with gothic or any
kind of symphonic music, it's just incredibly shitty pop-industrial! I
can't imagine anything worse than this piece of garbage...

KARI RUESLATTEN "Spindelsinn" CD
Columbia Music, 1997
rating: 5, 5 of 6
Do I need to say who is this girl? Everyone familiar with THE 3RD AND THE
MORTAL's art, knows her and great potentialities of her voice. I was very
surprised to see Columbia releasing her solo album, but it appeared as
nothing strange after listening to "Spindelsinn". THIS IS A POP MUSIC.
Nothing less, nothing more. There's no doom or gothic here, only very
pleasing to the ears calm, soothing and somekind of melancholic pop music
with folk elements. I hate this type of music but Kari definitely knows
how to make attractive, simply because I don't have any other explanation
for why I liked "Spindelsinn" very much. Strange, eh? Yeah, it's not for
orthodox black or death metal fans, but those who liked first two THE 3RD
AND THE MORTAL albums will probably get into this stuff also, like I did.
Such tracks as "I Manens Favn (In My Embrace)" and "Trollferd (Way Of The
Troll)" are maybe even better than early THE 3RD AND THE MORTAL creations!

DANZIG "Blackacidevil" CD
Hollywood Records, 1996
rating: 1 of 6
I had very big respect for Glenn Danzig, his personality and brilliant
music, therefore it's quite clear that I reposed big hopes in
"Blackacidevil"... until the music began to play. Well... I expected
anything, but not the way it turned out! This CD presents some kind of
noisy industrial, with computers dominating in the sound, while guitars,
bass and drums can be hardly heard! And what is more, Glenn's unique voice
is buried under this synthesizer's din... I still hope that
"Blackacidevil" was only an experiment, some sort of attempt to find a new
face, new musical direction, and Glenn will return to his roots on the
next CD... When I buy DANZIG album, I want to hear DANZIG, not PRODIGY!

MANOWAR "Louder Than Hell" CD
Geffen Music, 1997
rating: 3, 5 of 6
One more band, that was among my favorites in the past, and whose newest
CD also fails miserably... I don't know what happened to Eric, but his
voice is absolutely not impressive anymore, besides that, 90% of songs,
featured on "Louder Than Hell" are simple repetition of the past, some of
them even appear as self-plagiarism! Only two instrumentals entitled
"Today Is Good Day To Die" (what a ridiculous name!) and "My Spirit Lives
On" are worth something...

MEKONG DELTA "Pictures At An Exhibition" CD
Warner Music / Zardor Music, 1997
rating: 4 of 6
"Pictures At An Exhibition" was composed for piano by Modest Mussorgsky
123 years ago, and this CD is utterly devoted to this composition.
Unfortunately, it's not so exiting as previous treatments, performed by
MEKONG DELTA; "Pictures..." become quite boring, especially taking into
account the fact that this album lasts for almost seventy minutes...
Anyway, it is interesting experiment, in the same time showing that Ralf
Hubert exhausted his imagination...

ULTRAVIOLENCE "Heaven Is Oblivion" MCD
Earache Records, 1997
rating: 0 of 6
I never expected to hear such kind of music on Earache... Label, which
released NAPALM DEATH, CARCASS and MORBID ANGEL albums, now puts out
"Heaven Is Oblivion" which turns out as...  techno-rave! What the hell is
world coming to??!!