BLACK METAL AND RELATED MUSIC
 

ABIGOR
“Satanized (A Journey Through Cosmic Infinity)”
Napalm Records
rating: 5 / 6
ABIGOR goes cosmic. We know this band for diluting fast-paced, raw yet technically sophisticated black metal with some outer-space elements, don’t we? However this time sfx’s are way more in number; something we probably should blame on Thurisaz, formerly (?) a member of HEIDENREICH, Austria’s avant-black horde. As to music in general, it basically stayed all the same… that good ‘ol ABIGOR we all know and deeply admire. Horns up! (Herr Stalhammar)

ABSU
“Tara”
Osmose Productions
rating: 5,5 / 6
Mmmmgggrrhhh?? Erh… I mean; something pretty weird this time. Not in terms of music itself, but more likely, the recording affairs. Be I mistaken or not, “Tara” came out of Nomad Recording Studios, the same place King Diamond have been recording his works at, and… and it’s w-e-i-r-d. I haven’t ever heard drum tracks executed in such a bizarre way, although not even a completely deaf idiot would doubt the presence of Proscriptor’s genius. That means, no godforsaken drummachines. Thank you! At least, I’m a bit tired of watching doubtlessly talented drummers PLAY at live performances only. Nevertheless, as I already said the sound execution is beyond comprehensibility (be it good or bad), although it doesn’t really harm the music. And if speaking about music, “Tara” must be the most exciting offering ABSU ever came up with. One of the few bands left that are still black metal, that are still ready to conquer… Bewitching. (Herr Stalhammar)

AEBA
“Rebellion – Edens Asche”
Last Episode Productions
rating: 5 / 6
It seems like the guys at Last Episode have an ultimate aim to rip-off all the bands they signed, and AEBA is no exception. Too bad, because this is one of the doubtlessly worthy acts LEP ever had in their roster. “Rebellion – Edens Asche” is already the third work by Exul and co., however they still haven’t got a recognition they deserve… guess who’s to blame? Nevertheless, “Rebellion…” is way better than “Im Schattenreich…”, the CD they’ve made their debut with (unfortunately, I never heard the second effort of theirs), although the only difference it seem to have, is that all the lyrics come in German this time. Still that atmospheric black metal successfully being unaware of any trends whatsoever. More or less recognizable. When many bands turn their backs on black metal these days, AEBA strike as one of the few making their way through a path they once embarked on. I only wish they could hire a drummer instead of incorporating drummachine… and what are these breaks between each song doing here?? Sounds like you’re listening to a promotional CD-R which happened to be burned incompetently.
Contact the band at <exul@aeba.de>
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

AJATTARA
“Itse”
Spinefarm Records
(provided by Fono Ltd.)
rating: 5,5 / 6
I find it somewhat strange when hear all these freaks stating AJATTARA is a doom / death metal act. What the hell, have you completely lost your mind? It's BLACK metal, black as hell. A relatively young Finnish combo managed to release a CD which doubtlessly will leave it's trail in a black metal bible. How; and what is it particularly? Ha! Just take good ol’ BARATHRUM – like, both “Hailstorm” and “Okkult” – wash it all through the whole, wait until it gets dry, take ADAT to the studio placed nearby, master, add more keys, lyrics in coldest language ever (you’re wrong assuming it’s Norwegian. Finnish is the word), and AJATTARA is what you’ll get. However; don't get me wrong, since nor it's unoriginal or generic, nor it's sympho-black. No, no, no! AJATTARA are surprisingly distinguishable in order to pass on any comparisons. Music beget by these few weirdos’ wicked mind, is, beyond any doubts, darkest possible. The ambiences “Itse” is impregnated with, are enough to make you bleed. Finnish language and kinda strange approach to synth-lines, only add more to it. As a result, we have uniquely talented band and tremendously exciting effort. (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

ANCIENT
“Proxima Centauri”
Metal Blade Records
(provided by Fono Ltd.)
rating: 5 / 6
Circus. Definitely, a circus. What am I talking about? Hmm, just take a look at the coverart and you'll immediately understand I couldn't start this review in a different way. Took a look? Understood? And now, step two. Carefully open up a booklet and admire a photo. Liked it? Yep, so did I. Almost laughed my head off, actually. Grown up men and behave like children. Fortunately, it's not as bad in terms of both music and lyrics. I always valued this band for it's devotion to the underground community, however, honestly speaking, they could execute their former works better anyway. "Proxima Centauri" (what a title! EVILLL! SCAAAARY!!!) is the first – and hopefully not the last – ANCIENT’s work recorded at a proper studio with a skillful sound engineer behind the bench. And if forgetting about ridiculous artwork and photos, one should claim that “Proxima...” is, if not the best, at least ONE of the best works by this Norwegian (?) / Italian (?) / American (?) combo. The album is less raw than “Halls Of Eternity” and less experimental in comparison to “Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends” – it's just quality black metal, enough melodic, enough aggressive, and still having nothing in common with commercial crap-like “works of art”. And obviously, in the first turn it's still that ANCIENT we  I (or we?) know and respect. The very own, distinguishable sound can't so easily pass away. And don't pay attention to my sarcasm. You buy the CD in order to give it a listen instead of admiring someone's painted arsehole, don't you? (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

ANIMA IN FIAMME
“Sub Occasum Solis”
Prikosnovenie
rating: 4 / 6
Sort of a disappointment. Needless to say, I feel in love with the CD this duo kindly provided me with first; a promo CD-R in fact. Unfortunately, in case with “Sub Occasum Solis” everything’s a but different. Prikosnovenie (I still wonder why a French label placed their choice on a Russian word / “prikosnovenie” = “touch” /) have always been known for putting out outstanding works, those usually reckoned to either dark ambient or neo-classical music, and “Sub Occasum Solis” is no exception, that’s for sure. This CD offers the listener somewhat even bewitching mixture of the aforementioned genres, however it doesn’t sound like anything “complete”, if you get what I mean. Most of the tracks are doubtlessly good, however they all sound like they’ve been taken off various compilations… And that’s the weakest point here. Still, this is a CD deserving to be given a listen.
Email: prikos@worldnet.fr
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

ASTRIAAL
“Summoning The Essence Of Ancient Wisdom”
Dissident Records
rating: 3,5 / 6
Honestly speaking, I expected more. MORE, you see. However, “Summoning The Essence…” turned out as a pretty mediocre effort, although I doubt if anyone would ever say this one’s worthless. Somehow I liked the last two tracks off this CD, “As Mist Befell The Ruins” and rather exciting title track which is actually an instrumental. That doesn’t mean the other ones aren’t worth listening, though. In short, this is relentless black metal with few death metal borrowings thrown in, slightly reminding of DISSECTION and Swedish school BM at times. Quite good for a beginning, however I’d like to hear more intriguing and worked out stuff next time.
Website: www.dissident-records.cjb.net
Email: drecords@ozemail.com.au
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

AURA NOIR
“Increased Damnation”
Hammerheart Records
(provided by Fono Ltd.)
rating: 2 / 6
If I got everything right, it's not a new album, but sort of re-issue of old and unreleased tracks, also featuring band's debut MCD (“Dreams Like Deserts”), released in a limited number of copies seven years ago. If brevity was a talent's sister, this could be the last line in the actual review. But no. I guess I'll have to explain “what”, “how” and “why” – especially “why”! Like, “why I'm not gonna give this CD a second chance". Here we go: it's 100% thrash metal, spiced up with a horrible production and disgusting blackish shrieks. Perhaps that's how the very first demo tape by SODOM sounded like, however who told you I like SODOM? Who told you I like thrash metal? Who told you I like AURA NOIR? Despite the participation of Fenriz on vocals in few tracks, “Increased Damnation”, just like all the other efforts of theirs, doubtfully will ever spin again in my stereo. I own the original “Dreams Like Deserts” MCD for almost seven years, and it's been listened to only once. I hope it's enough for you to figure out this CD isn't worth purchasing. (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

CASUS BELLI
“Kalos Kai Agathos”
Metal Mind Records
rating: 4,5 / 6
I think sometimes you just need to know who you arrange interviews with. I published Emilio’s chat with these Poland’s neophytes before actually getting acquainted with CASUS BELLI – a matter of trust is quite a big deal nowadays. At least to me. And I wasn’t wrong. CASUS BELLI definitely deserve to get every possible support. Not only Vae Solis, you see. Most likely, a feature in all those editions supporting newborn talents instead of bringing nu-metal scumbags up the highest throne. It’s black metal. Or, as some say, black / death metal. “The guitars in CASUS BELLI are played in death metal  way”, just as Igor (vocals) says. “Our music could be called something like  “post-black metal” – I like this and I think that it could describe our style”. Now a wrong answer. If it’s post-black metal, nowadays’ MAYHEM must be some kind of prog. It isn’t. And this “isn’t” goes for both CASUS BELLI and Norway’s psychopaths. One may regard it as a CD “slightly influenced by Swedish school death / black metal”, however I consider it wrong as well. “Melodic” doesn’t mean “DT / IF clone”. And these guys don’t limit themselves in any bounds of any particular style. In case you wait a comparison, you won’t get one. Not that “Kalos Kai Agathos” is 666,66% original piece, but I still fail to reckon this CD to “good though pretty typical” works. Make up a conclusion yourselves. Hope you’ll challenge your drunken mind. (Herr Stalhammar)

DARK FUNERAL / INFERNAL
“Under Wings Of Hell”
Hammerheart Records
(provided by Fono Ltd.)
rating: - / -
And once again a re-edition. And I hear you desperately crying out, ‘when will it end?!’ ‘Never’ is what the guys at Hammerheart would most probably tell you. I know, many can't stand even rumors concerning regular re-edition, however (fortunately or not) I'm not one of those. Therefore, off to the actual review. The CD features first-ever “official” MCD by infamous Swedes, a mini sometimes also being named “Open The Gates”. The more I listen to it, the more I become convinced that, despite all advantages of “Diabolis Interium”, the first work by DARK FUNERAL also is the best one. Totally uncompromising Swedish-school (or, perhaps, “DISSECTION-school”? :)) black metal, antonym for the «boredom», mercilessly turning you into a fucking braindead scumbag. There aren't too many bands delivering music with such power, such pressure, sincerity and firmness. And what about INFERNAL? Ha, it turned out to be a new band led by Blackmoon himself. Kicked out from DARK FUNERAL and NECROPHOBIC, the man didn't turn desperate and started up a whole new project shortly afterwards. “And shall my revenge be horrifying”. Hmm, actually this “revenge” sounds too much like a plagiarism. Early DARK FUNERAL. Absolutely similar. No more no less. Perhaps just a bit more chaotic, almost VON-alike at times. Nothing more to say. Hail Satan, and so on and so forth. (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

DARKNESS ETERNAL
“Satanchrist”
Dark Salvation
rating: 6 / 6
“Satanchrist” somehow reminds me of “Jesusatan” by INFESTDEAD, not only because of similar title, but also due to the fact it’s antichristian death metal as well. Musically different, though. If there’s a band DARKNESS ETERNAL sounds rather like, be it INCANTATION. Yep, almost the same kind of stuff: mid-paced and sometimes even pretty slow dark death metal, although way more atmospheric. If you asked me who I prefer, I’d definitely say DARKNESS ETERNAL. Note that George is the only one behind the band, and this is not a common thing nowadays, at least when it comes to this genre. Do I like it or not? I believe… yes. Yes, I do like it. And hopefully, so will you. And no, there’s no drummachine whatsoever. No keyboards. No girls. No happy melodies. Just darkness itself. Unbelievably huge step ahead in comparison with “Dawn Of The Suffering”, the former work by DARKNESS ETERNAL.
Website: www.deternal.darkgod.net
Email: Darknesseternal666@hotmail.com
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

DARKTHRONE
“Plaguewielder”
Moonfog Productions
rating: 6 / 6
DARKTHRONE are back… once again. “One’s own dilemma”? Yep, definitely. What I mean is, I still can’t figure out whether I admire – or despise – this band. Therefore, let music be the only subject discussed at the moment. I just hope you won’t mind it. So: let’s recall “Ravishing Grimness”, for “Plaguewielder” is pretty much alike, although all the songs are much more lengthy this time. However, that shouldn’t be a disappointment, since, surprisingly enough, this CD didn’t bore me to death as it happened to it’s predecessor. Apart from this, “Plaguewielder” is DARKTHRONE we all got used to. One of the few survivors when it comes to so-called “true black metal”. Recorded at semi-professional studio. Obviously, unmastered. (Herr Stalhammar)

DECAYED
“Nockthurnaal”
Drakkar Productions
rating: 5 / 6
Well, so what do we have here? The answer’s quite predictable, and you all knew that, didn’t you? Yes, the same good ‘ol thrashing black metal the old way. Thunderous drumming (which is actually a courtesy of a drummachine… and by the way, DECAYED are one of the few bands who would probably sound worse with a live drummer), not-so-variable riffing and hellish yelling on behalf of vocal duties. “Nockthurnaal” almost doesn’t differ from “The Book Of Darkness” at all, however, in case with DECAYED, it’s not what I’d name a shortcoming. Most likely, on the contrary. I just hope they won’t change their sound like many others do nowadays, for I always valued DECAYED for being what they are. Not something different.
P.S. What’s quite amusing, besides 13 original tracks, “Nockthurnaal” also features 14 more tunes, most of which are covers, such as “Bad To The Bone”, “Into The Crypts Of Rays”, “Call From The Grave”, etc. Unlike the album, horribly recorded. (Herr Stalhammar)

DEICIDE
“In Torment In Hell”
Roadrunner Records
rating: 5,5 / 6
“In Torment In Hell”? Somewhat stupid title for a CD. Artwork? Nearly horrible. Music? Excellent. This one is most probably the best work DEICIDE managed to put out so far. I guess no one really didn’t expect anything outstanding after not-so-exciting “Incineratehymn”, so “In Torment In Hell” might be a surprise for quite a many men. It’s doubtlessly most diversified piece amongst all the CDs by Glenn “brother-in-Satan” Benton. All in all, sometimes burial happens to be premature. Highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

DUAL
“Keimar Sty”
Coombe Records
rating: 5,5 / 6
Almost the same case as with RAS.AL.GHUL, although this time it’s a duo from England, also having nothing in common with that “acid” approach. “Keimar Sty” features five tracks, all of them hellishly long, however when you listen to something like DUAL, this length mustn’t bother you. In fact, it’s not even music, at least in conventional perception. Some, who bought this CD by mistake, must have wondered, “what is this noise??”. I haven’t. I mean, it IS music, although doubtlessly different from what most of us used to imply with this term. Solely based on experiments with noise and rhythm, it’s nevertheless melodious, thus showing itself to the best advantage. A perfect proof to that this “minimal electro” also may be different. And besides; simply enrapturing.
Website: info@dual.co.uk
Email: george@coomberecords.com
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

EMPEROR
“Prometheus – The Discipline Of Fire And Demise”
Candlelight Records
rating: - / -
No ratings, no marks this time. Let us just bid a farewell to one of the greatest black metal acts ever. EMPEROR is no more, and I could say a thousand words if “Prometheus…” is worth a dirge. Some would say it’s not, some would just say “yes”. Does it really matter? Apparently it does. And it’s really hard to say if I personally admire this work or not. Too controversial, perhaps. Once you give a listen to one and only song off it, you know Samoth turned to a session guitarist even before “Equilibrium IX” entered the market. Ihsahn is the one responsible for the whole affair – and we all know, what underlies anything he works on. Epic passages and twisted harmonies suddenly breaking in, artistry lead almost to a sheer absurd. Once again; controversy. An ever-changing basis. One may not like the CD’s appearance (just like I don’t, for instance), but he / she may not ignore it’s artistic value. Perhaps it would turn out as a disappointment, but only “In The Worldless Chamber” and “Grey” make you recall the glorious days of Norwegian black metal and, particularly, EMPEROR circa “In The Nightside Eclipse”. No more arsons, no more senseless murders. MUSIC. A new era of black metal. And don’t tell me it’s yet one more betrayal. There’re only few bands able to pass away with SUCH a dignity. THAT praiseworthy. (Herr Stalhammar)

ENSIFERUM
“Ensiferum”
Spinefarm Records
(provided by Fono Ltd.)
rating: 4 / 6
Finns definitely should stop selling alcohol to kids like these chaps are. Please, do invent any other way to spend a spare time, but please no more drinking sessions. And meanwhile, Alcohol seems to attack simultaneously at two lines: first is the suicidal rate, a highest one in Europe, second – when there's too much vodka fueled, it inevitably leads to forming yet another viking-like black-like metal-like band. ENSIFERARUM is one of those. Judging by what these guys turned a thanks list to, grim «don't-fucking-touch-me-until-my-hangover-goes-away» faces on the photo and unique way of naming instruments like «drunken Goblin's beer bottle percussions» (i.e. drums), these kind Finnish young men all fell down with a dangerous fever called «thyrfingfinntrollmania». Never-ever-stopping choirs a-la Odin, Thor and co. all drunk as fuck. Shrill leads. Majestic-like keys soaring above (and below :)). Daring rhythmics. Tales of ugly and thus drunken elves... Seems like I've heard it all before... However, “Ensiferum” is something you can give a second chance. And a third one. Fourth one... Fifth one... Well, five times is enough. Remember, you should know where the limits end. And, if seriously, it's rather good work. Which doesn't deserve '5' out of '6', though. No masterpieces in case with ENSIFERUM. (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

ENSOPH
“Bleeding Womb Of Ananke”
Beyond… Productions
rating: 6 / 6
Incredible! ENSOPH managed to deliver no less than a masterpiece. Even if I knew that Beyond… Productions are keen on releasing unorthodox and sometimes nearly vanguard works, I couldn’t even think that I’ll be ever provided with a CD they made available, which is as stunning as this one is. This is the very case where ‘indescribable’ is the keyword. Based on greatest variety of influences, ranging from black metal to dark wave, it’s quite eclectic although NOT incomprehensible as it often happens to efforts like this. Actually, saying it’s “based on black metal” or whatever else, might be wrong. More likely, it’s based on astounding use of imagination and doubtless talent involved. “Clean” male voice replaces female chants, and then harsh blackish shrieks come in; once you think it’s all serene and tranquil, it bursts into a flame of agony; and when you believe you know the nightmare passed away, it starts all over again… If DEAD CAN DANCE played black metal, probably they would sound like ENSOPH. Truly a jewel in a trashcan of nowadays’ music scene. (Herr Stalhammar)

ETERNAL TEARS OF SORROW
“A Virgin And A Whore”
Spinefarm Records
(provided by Fono Ltd.)
rating: 6 / 6
… still wondering why E.T.O.S. is often considered a death metal band… WHERE. THE. HELL. HAVE. YOU. FOUND. DEATH. METAL. HERE. Melodic black metal with a touch of NWOSDM, that’ll do! Just like it’s predecessor (“Chaotic Beauty”), “A Virgin And A Whore” in the first turn attracts one’s attention because of it’s stunning graphic execution. “Thank you!” once again goes out to Niklas Sundin @ DARK TRANQUILLITY. The first four tracks are doubtlessly good, however this CD exposes it’s true value only when first four tunes are over and “A Virgin’s…” second chapter enters the arena. Such jewels as ““The River Flows Frozen”, “The Last One For Life”, “Aeon” and brilliantly covered “Sick, Dirty And Mean” won’t leave anyone cold. Incredibly exciting approach to overall composition, fascinating leads, bewitching “clean” male voice… hmm, perhaps enough epithets? E.T.O.S. deserve ‘em all and more, though. If this band doesn’t break into Europe’s black metal top league once this work is made available, it would only prove most of critics and regular fans do have a disgusting taste in music. (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

FAUST
“… And Finally Faust!”
self-released
rating: 4,5 / 6
Maintaining a site like <www.deathmetal.it>, devoted to… no, wrong. Not the Italy’s death metal scene, but one and only band – well, it commits to be SOMETHING. Don’t you think? I know you do. FAUST isn’t really most original moniker ever, however musically, this band (which is basically comprised of Aleister Demon and a drummachine and no one else) definitely IS “something”. Not too original, although obviously distinctive. Death metal? Probably yes, and probably no. I’d better say, it’s “unholy death metal” in the vein of DEICIDE and alikes, malevolently spiced (sic!) with black metal touches. Furthermore, it’s not as straightforward as DEICIDE usually get things going, AND I really doubt if Aleister will ever become a bodybuilder-looking bastard as Glenn and co. Unfortunately, “… And Finally Faust!” features only four pretty short tracks (one of which is more or less stunning instrumental) therefore lasting for less than 15 minutes, however that’s enough to understand that FAUST came here to stay. Grind on, fellas! “Better to be slave in Hell than reign in your putrid heaven”. Yeah right, all hail Mr. Milton!
P.S. Drummachine sounds good, by the way.
Website: http://www.deathmetal.it
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

GRABAK
“Encyclopaedia Infernalis”
CCP Records
(provided by CD-Maximum)
rating: 2 / 6
Horrible. First work of theirs, “Der Prophet Der Chaos”, left me cold, being a brilliant example of how music utterly lacking originality and at least one single enjoyable riff should sound like. However, THIS album won't leave cold anyone. Also works well as a substitute for diarrhea. The lyrical canvas is a quite good one, although I doubt if everyone would head for GRABAK's official web-presence in order to check out the translation. Consequently, I won't be wrong assuming that 99% of those who once made a mistake and purchased this CD will listen to this crap over and over again, wondering how SUCH a band with SUCH a music got a deal nowadays. Wanna know what we're offered this time? Black metal following the good 'ol tradition of “Dumb and dumber”. Roughly performed. Disgustingly executed. Absolutely lacking any ideas whatsoever. Somehow it made me recall Russia's neophyte pseudo-black metal acts. The band is less than a month-old, however chaps taking part in it, consider it enough in order to come up with a debut CD. Obviously, a worthless one. GRABAK isn't a newborn band, and see 'em releasing such a “product” is twice as strange. Two points for lyrics only. (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

GRAND BELIAL’S KEY
“Judeobeast Assassination”
Drakkar Productions
rating: 5,5 / 6
If someone tells you of a band entitling their works like “Pimps Of Gennesarct”, “Fecal Panturition” or “I Kill Everything I Fuck”, would you go and buy the CD of theirs? I think not. Wrong choice, though. You’d better GO and BUY it. I haven’t made myself acquainted with the lyrical canvas “Judeobeast Assassination” comes with yet, however whether they suck or worth praising doesn’t really matter afterall, since the music they deliver has been stuck in my mind for quite a while. Obviously, NOT due it’s worthlessness. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the second CD made available worldwide, and believe me, it was a long-long way to ago, as the first one was banned in Europe by Rough Trade and few more life-loving leftist pussies. Ok, enough introductions – it seems like it’s very time to say few words regarding what we have to deal with here, musically. And it’s pretty harsh experience! BM, sometimes obviously death metal-influenced, precise yet straight-forward, featuring both epics (“Doves Of War”) and shorter blasts of torture (“I Kill Everything I Fuck”), diverse and enough atmospheric – although “atmosphere” definitely is not what GRAND BELIAL’S KEY make emphasis on, no. It’s VIOLENCE. Thanks god and christianity for having a chance to listen to something like that, heh… (Herr Stalhammar)

JESUS ANAL PENETRATION / ONI
Dead By Dawn Records
rating: 3 / 6
If I got everything right, Dead By Dawn appears as Dissident Records’ new sublabel, although I can’t really figure out why the guys behind neophyte record company also have to start up a sublabel?? Nevermind it, though. What we have here is a split-CD with nine tracks (five by JESUS ANAL PENETRATION and four by ONI) and overall length of less than thirty minutes. Not that much, however I doubt this CD would get a worse mark if it was even shorter. And the reason is, both bands deliver quite typical, and just like in case with ASTRIAAL, a bit unelaborated music, this time – antichristian (satanic?) death metal. Actually, I had to give this CD another listen few seconds before I started composing this review, since once it’s over, one can hardly recall what he’s been listening to. All in all, I definitely prefer ASTRIAAL.
Website: www.dissident-records.cjb.net
Email: drecords@ozemail.com.au
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

IMPALED NAZARENE
“Absence Of War Does Not Mean Peace”
Osmose Productions
rating: 5,5 / 6
Who would now tell why IMMORTAL and MARDUK, mistakenly or not – Osmose Productions’ top priorities, left off for a new horizons opening up with deals inked with Nuclear Blast and Regain Records respectively? Osmose still have something in store for all you lovers of brutality. Even though I never really liked this band (“Tol Cormpt Norz Norz Norz” is an exception, though), I can’t deny the attractiveness of “Absence Of War…”. IMPALED NAZARENE had to change – more or less; and it was apparent years ago. They DID change. For better, though. I can hardly name it equal to “Suomi Finland Perkele” or “Nihil”. Harsh and in-your-face, yes. Based on thrash and a bit heavy metal, however. Don’t misinterpret my words, for it’s still deadly as goatfuck. Surprisingly enough, Finland’s drunken heroes even managed to make this CD incredibly various. I guess, giving a listen to Finnish-written “Nyrkilla Tapettava Huora”, epic (synth-spiced!) “Never Forgive” or “Satan Wants You Dead” – short as a blast and sharp as a razorblade – would be enough to get into what I mean. A MUST. (Herr Stalhammar)

KOROZY
“From The Cradle To The Grave”
0.4.3.
rating: 5,5 / 6
Excellent. In case you didn’t get me, EXCELLENT! If only the sound execution didn’t more or less suck, “From The Cradle To The Grave” easily would get like ‘10’ out of ‘6’. Actually, I can’t quite understand why they had to spend nearly five months at the studio, if f.ex. the drumming still sounds like someone replaced drum kit with a slop-pail… But ok, even if this CD is incredibly far from being a perfect piece in terms of production, I still can’t make myself put it out of my stereo… To give you a hint about what KOROZY offer this time, imagine goth black metal heavily spiced with Bulgaria’s folklore. Rather easy, isn’t it? But holy hell, the outcome’s magnificent! “Within The Soul Of Autumn”, “Keeper Of The Cemetery” and “The Garden Of Black Flowers” (… doubtlessly astounding ballad (!)… sung in Bulgarian…) alone are worth spending some 15-16 bucks. I haven’t heard THAT imaginatively composed CD amongst the black metal ones for… years? Ages? Aeons? Well, you got the point.
Email: zoo043@mail.bia-bg.com
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

MAY RESULT
“Tmina”
CCP Records
(provided by CD-Maximum)
rating: 4 / 6
Hmm... Austria's CCP inking a deal with a band emerging from Yugoslavia, the State known for it's lack of worthy (or unworthy ;) black metal scene? I doubt if I will ever get any answer, so let's better talk about MAY RESULT for a while. But no, not music. The appearance. I don't know if it was done on purpose, however everything looks miserably poor. Man, you have to buy this CD at least in order to know who you MUST NOT hire to take care of the artwork and overall design. I attempted to read through the lyrics – and what do you think? Of course, the script's nearly unreadable. The band pic also leaves much to be desired. The infantilism it breaths with, is just beyond ridiculousness! Like, “who's most true & evil here”, you know. Fortunately, the music MAY RESULT deliver, leaves a better impression. Intricate mixture of death and shredding black metal, based on the pagan heritage... well, sometimes it even sounds tremendous. I believe you know MAY RESULT and originality don't have that much in common, and nevertheless, you'll easily figure out it's “Tmina” currently playing if attempting to win a CCP Records' quiz :). Not a masterpiece, but definitely worth '4' out of '6'. (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

MEPHISTOPHELES
“Modern Instinct’s Purity”
Last Episode Productions
rating: 6 / 6
I always knew that MEPHISTOPHELES is one of the best acts contemporary black metal scene has to offer; however this time they simply surpassed themselves! “Modern Instinct’s Purity” is a good example of what modern (obviously, in a finest sense of this word) black metal should be all about. I suppose in case with this album, there’s absolutely nothing to cavil at, no matter how hard you try. Quite excellently executed and performed in a doubtlessly brilliant way, imaginative and atmospheric although still metal to the core, it reminds me a bit of the latest work by the band I take part in, ROSSOMAHAAR (which, by the way, was also supposed to come out through Last Episode). A nice spittle in the face of those who keep on stating “black metal” and “music” don’t have anything in common. I’d even dare to humbly assume that “Modern Instinct’s Purity” will please both, those into more or less commercial stuff like CATAMENIA and DIMMU BORGIR, and those who can’t imagine their existence without having yet one more dose of relentless christraping torture, such as bands like DARKTHRONE, THYRANE, IMMORTAL and DISSECTION once proposed. By the way, “Damned In Black” might be another good comparison.
Contact the band at <meph.@gmx.de>
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

NEBULAR MOON
“Metamorphosis”
CCP Records
(provided by CD-Maximum)
rating: 5,5 / 6
If I'm not mistaken, I got acquainted with this band four years ago and the only thought I had spinning in my head, whilst giving a listen to the debut work of theirs, was “nothing special”. Hackneyed sympho-black, assaulting with it’s impossibility to stir up “imagination”. Well, frankly speaking, I still think the same way. Then came silence (c) SERENITY. In fact, not really a silence, since they had to slow down a bit due to incompetent work of the label NEBULAR MOON had been signed to back then. Last Episode... everybody knows what an asshole Karsten is, so no comments on relationship between Herr Jacob and the guys. Three years pass and NEBULAR MOON sign with CCP, release a brand new offering and... The artwork makes me shiver. The same with the band's pic. “Goddammit, seems like they turned their backs on black metal and entered the realms of industrial!”. Or nu-metal. No real difference. I put “Metamorphosis" in my car's CD-player, push the “play” button... And – can you imagine it – no fucking nu-metal, but 100% sympho-black, quite modernized, a bit polished, but still ripping as hell itself! Incredibly exciting stuff, which probably doesn't have much in common with what is usually implied with “black metal”, but who cares afterall? I guess I have to admit that, despite this “sympho-” prefix and huge amount of keyboards, “Metamorphosis” is fortunately based on guitar passages – fascinating ones, turning the listener into their voluntary slave as fast as you won't ever notice. And by the way, I guess it would be better if HIM plays while you're driving a car. Not NEBULAR MOON, no, never! Pedestrians aren't all bastards... so let them live. (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

RAS.AL.GHUL
“Sonic Yonic”
Auqatica
rating: 5,5 / 6
Lately I’ve started receiving some pretty weird stuff. No more 10 black metal CDs a week, but 10 rhythm noise / acid / minimal electro / dark wave / EBM sort of stuff instead. Be it good or bad, I still review everything I get, therefore the time has come to dissect some brand new CD, this time evoked by two madmen of Portuguese origin. But I guess, first I should say this band definitely is no newcomer in the scene, whilst “Sonic Yonic” definitely is no debut offering. The eleven tracks it’s comprised of, are all based on weirdly floating ambiences, and judging by what I recall, it’s pretty hard to reckon RAS.AL.GHUL to any particular style, even if it’s one of experimental music’s subgenres. It’s more likely an improvisation (or at least it sounds like that) with psychedelic and / or acid approach. You’d say “excellent” just like I said, but only in case you’re as open-minded as I am.
Website: www.symbiose-pt.com
Email: ras-al-ghul@clix.pt
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

SILENTIUM
“SI. VM E.T A.V.V.VM / Infinita Plango Vulnera”
Spinefarm Records
(provided by Fono Ltd.)
5,5 / 6
Honestly speaking, I still don’t know whether this an all-new album, or just a re-edition of the earlier works by these Finns. It doesn’t really matter, though, since this CD isn’t worse nor it is better (… doubtful assertion…) in comparison to “Altum”. Anyone remembers “Turn Loose The Swans” by MY DYING BRIDE? You definitely remember, since this is their most astounding effort ever. And “Sear Me MCMXCIII” is, in it’s turn, best tune off “Turn Loose…”. And now, make this song sound for almost 70 minutes, add angelic female voice and blackish shrieks throwing you back into your chair, and you’ll get SILENTIUM. Figuring out what the hell it is in terms of style, it nearly impossible, so let’s better place our choice on ‘dark metal’ and stop this worthless research. But… no, not really ‘dark metal’, but most likely ‘indescribably tremendous dark metal’. Even that black metal yelling sounds almost… harmonic. I almost said “tremendous”, by the way. No, not tremendous – more of sorrowful. Sweet melancholy rules our minds this time – not a senseless malevolence. Recommended to all who value true beauty in extreme kinds of music (… and I already hear you wondering “man, it’s not even metal!”). (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

SIRIUS
“Spectral Transition – Dimension Sirius”
Nocturnal Art Productions
rating: 6 / 6
Does anyone out there miss EMPEROR circa “In The Nightside Eclipse” the way I do? Yes? Well, I believe then you ought to check this one out. Portugal’s (!) SIRIUS offer almost the same kind of music, i.e. the so-called Wagnerian black metal, although obviously executed thousand times better than “In The Nightside Eclipse” (Akkerhaugen Lydstudio… I guess this name should tell a lot. If you’re a black metal freak of course). This was a difference #1. “A bit industrial-sounding electronics are more in number” is the second one. By the way, if you still think “Spectral Transition…” isn’t worth your shit, please pay attention to the fact that Samoth (EMPEROR, ZYKLON), Morfeus (LIMBONIC ART, ZYKLON) and even Faust took part in crafting this work. “The Majesty Of The Nightsky”, covered in a brilliant way, featuring Faust’s drumming, also is a nice reason why this CD is a must have. Too bad that, judging by the latest news, SIRIUS endeavored a radical stylistic change, thus turning into a MACHINE HEAD clone. (Herr Stalhammar)

SUMMONING
“Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame”
Napalm Records
rating: 1 / 6
Is this SUMMONING?! Perhaps, Napalm Records just fucked up the master-CD or confused it with someone else’s? Unfortunately, no. It does sound like SUMMONING – but would you believe me if I told you even “Lugburz” is less amateurish work…? Guitars have been executed in a savagely horrible way, whilst there aren’t too many things capable of irritating me more than a poorly programmed drumset – and sometimes there’s just too much of it. You still hope at least synths-lines save this CD from being an utter failure? Sorry, but no, they don’t. I never thought – never could really fancy – that Protector and Silenius will ever offer such a disgusting piece of ridiculously childish “all-hail-the-one-chord-masterpiece” pseudo-dark ambient. Why ambient? Well, it seems like I forgot to tell you there’s no black metal here anymore. Bleeaaarggh! (Herr Stalhammar)

THYRANE / THE DEAD BEGINNERS
Spinefarm Records
(provided by Fono Ltd.)
THYRANE – 6 / 6
THE DEAD BEGINNERS – 4 / 6
Aha. The Spinefarm chaps seem to follow the example of Hammerheart Records and earn some few poor bucks issuing re-editions. Well, at least in case with THYRANE and THE DEAD BEGINNERS, they did succeed. Both acts are definitely worth re-releasing the early works of theirs – although there’s no question of that buying this CD you buy re-mastered demo tapes circa early nineties. No. The first one (simultaneously demo and a mini-CD previously made available by Woodcut Records), by THYRANE, dates back to December 1997, whilst THE DEAD BEGINNERS come up with five tracks recorded January ’00. So now you see, this time we won’t deal with anything so ‘cult’ that it can’t be even listened to, at least if sober. That doesn’t make the CD less valuable, though. THYRANE doubtlessly deserve the highest rating possible – blame it on the pure musical excellence they deliver. Imagine that EMPEROR’s “In The Nightside Eclipse” wasn’t executed at Grieghallen back in the year of 1995, but fourteen months later, at Tico Tico – this is the way “Black Harmony” sounds. Absolutely atrocious, bestial black metal perishing everything and everyone crossing it’s way, featuring quite a lot of synth-lines, although not becoming sympho-pop-black metal crap because of that. THE DEAD BEGINNERS differ from their colleagues a lot, not only due to the songs length (THYRANE came up with 11-minutes long suites, THE DEAD BEGINNERS – on the contrary), but also due to the music itself. It’s more likely a weirder form of dark metal, somewhat sludgy, definitely of Finnish origin and surprisingly reminding me a bit of SENTENCED circa “Amok”. Perhaps it’s because of vocal department’s sheer weirdness? Frankly speaking, I don’t know. One thing is clear, though: this band delivers rather exciting music in order to have a bright future ahead, but fails in comparison to THYRANE. (Herr Stalhammar; translated by Herr Stalhammar and Ingvar)

TORTURE SQUAD
“The Unholy Spell”
Destroyer Records
rating: 5 / 6
Still on Destroyer Records… Somewhat strange, since I always thought TORTURE SQUAD have enough potential to break out of this secluded circle all bands of South America’s origin have to be a part of, and find a proper label either in Europe or USA. However, it’s their lives, their choice… and their music afterall. TORTURE SQUAD continue their assault, mercilessly attacking the listener with a massive dose of an astounding cross between death and black metal, although, unfortunately, it doesn’t warm me up the way “Shivering”, the CD these guys made their debut with, did. Nevertheless, still a “highly recommended” sort of work in case you dream of DISSECTION coming back to life.
Website: www.destroyer.com.br
Email: destroyer@destroyer.com.br
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

TRISTANIA
“World Of Glass”
Napalm Records
rating: 5 / 6
This is a tough experience, to say the least. I’ve contrived to listen “World Of Glass” from the start to the end, however I somehow doubt most of you will be as daring as I was :). Einar Moen (synths and programming) took over composition after Morten Veland left the band, and it wasn’t long to affect the music, which became even too sophisticated as well as seemingly eclectic. Not as much “Perpetual Desolation” by THE SINS OF THY BELOVED, but still kinda difficult to get into. Perhaps it’s easier to say what genre 2001’s TRISTANIA can’t be reckoned to, for we have gothic here, we have doom, we have black metal… all seasoned with inevitably all-devouring symphonic approach. Sometimes they’re even better than THERION at it, by the way. And remember, TRISTANIA haven’t gone far from metal. Not mentioning that vocal duties have been overtaken by Jan Kenneth (ex-IN THE WOODS, “clean” voice) and Ronny Thorsen (TRAIL OF TEARS, growling / screaming). All in all, highly impressive piece, although I wish there were less electronics (it mostly regards “Selling Out”, “World Of Glass” and “Crushed Dreams”, i.e. the second part of the album). (Herr Stalhammar)

TROLL
“Universal”
Head Not Found
(provided by TraumBaum)
rating: 5,5 / 6
Surprised that TROLL managed to get almost the highest possible rating? Well, believe me, I was no less surprised. “The Last Predators”, frankly speaking, was a sincere bullshit, sort of “modern black metal” in the worst sense of this notion, however “Universal” differs A LOT, musically standing closer to the early works by TROLL – and don’t ask me what caused such a metamorphosis. Perhaps Nagash still possesses that black metal feeling, hidden deep beneath therein… at least, I hope so. Of course, the lyrical canvas doesn’t have anything to do with black metal whatsoever, however the music does – and that’s most important. I can’t say whether “Universal” reminds me anything or not… it’s just Norwegian black metal at it’s best… although some may dislike the fact this CD is slightly spiced with few avant passages and sfx’s thrown in here and there. Nevertheless, highly recommended. (Herr Stalhammar)

UNPURE
“Trinity In Black”
Drakkar Productions
rating: 5 / 6
It looks like UNPURE never give up, huh? They seemed to disappear off the scene quite a while ago, however “Trinity In Black” is the best proof to that we shouldn’t consider four-years break a decline, at least in case with bands like UNPURE. “Trinity In Black” literally picks up where they formerly left off, once Napalm Records made “Coldland” available. It’s still that thrash / black metal, although fortunately no retro-crap, so don’t expect anything in the vein of AURA NOIR or INFERNO. It’s not what THEY use to name “homage”, but a solid piece of sheer brutality right up into your mug. The production is way less dry in comparison to “Coldland”, so is the music more comprehensible, standing closer to the CD these Swedes made their debut back in 1995… and man, it was long ago! Doubtlessly pleasant listening experience. (Herr Stalhammar)

VON THRONSTAHL
“E Pluribus Unum”
Cold Spring
rating: 5,5 / 6
Some of you probably know Josef for his past participation in Germany’s dark wave / electro act FORTHCOMING FIRE, definitely a name worth checking out. Well, now he’s in VON THRONSTAHL, a band delivering thousand times more attractive and enigmatic kind of music. Cold Spring definitely have a keen in releasing tremendous CDs by the artists involved in dark wave / industrial / dark ambient movements. In case with “E Pluribus Unum” we also have to deal with politics, however even if you can’t stand anything that or who is right-wing, I guess, being a European, you will love this CD anyway. Attempting to describe it is pretty much useless, whilst LAIBACH and BLOOD AXIS are the only bands I can think of listening to this effort. Fascinating must be the word… believe me or not. Lastly; “E Pluribus Unum” isn’t really a brand new CD, but most likely a collection of difficult-of-access and previously unreleased material. Remember that.
Email: info@coldspring.co.uk
(review by Herr Stalhammar)

ZYKLON
“World Ov Worms”
Candlelight Records
rating: 5 / 6
If you already got acquainted with a review on EMPEROR’s “Prometheus”, I guess you know what to expect in case with ZYKLON? Even though Samoth denies any commonness of his actual band and what once was named ZYKLON-B, I believe he just acts against his own conscience thus attempting to escape drawing any possible parallels with NS movement (as you probably know, ZYKLON-B was often mentioned to be it’s part). The music is different, though. And still violent. Death / black metal the most depraved way. Death / black metal with touches of hardcore (sic!). I’m quite sure Destructhor (MYRKSKOG) was the one taking over overall composition, as “World Ov Worms” partially sounds too much similar to “Deathmachine” by MYRKSKOG. Yes, it’s time to agree that a notion of “MODERN black metal” isn’t just an abstract bubbling. It came reality, doesn’t matter if you noticed that or not. Thanks Odin, Samoth went a different path and distracted himself from pseudo-artistic path Ihsahn once trodden. And damn the one responsible for sound execution – for Trym is a hell of a drummer, even too good one to let his tracks go through sequencer.
P.S. Few more facts which might be of interest to you. Firstly, lyrical canvas appears courtesy of Faust (ex-EMPEROR). Secondly – just like aforementioned “Deathmachine”! – this work features a song totally different from remaining seven tracks. “Transcendental War – Battle Between Gods” is the name, and Vortex (DIMMU BORGIR, ex-BORKNAGAR) seems to be the one responsible for enrapturing “clean” vocals. (Herr Stalhammar)