Gravewurm – Infernal Minions

This marks the 50th post after our ever so unfortunate demise at the hands of a few dull hackers. Its good to be back and it has helped us in more ways than one. And there’s no better way to mark this occasion than with some heavy lager and metal.

Today we have a new reviewer joining our ranks. Achintya Venkatesh reviews the new album from Gravewurm titled Infernal Minions, released via Hells Headbangers.

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Tracklisting:

01. Nocturnal Inquisition
02. The Evil Within
03. Master of the Dark
04. Dominion of Lost Souls
05. The Beast of the Abyss
06. I Die for Hell
07. Crown of the Fallen
08. Mistress of Blood and Fire

Gravewürm is an American extreme metal band that has been active since 1990, with their first demo The Morbid Decomposure of Mankind having been self-released in 1992. The band was originally formed in Pennsylvania but soon moved its base to Oakton, Virginia. The world of metal in a modern context has, and continues to be constantly swamped by a plethora of new bands and as a consequence, the conception of new sub-genres, some positive and conducive to the stylistic growth of heavy music as a whole, and some, on the other hand, sorely lacking in the spirit, ardour and feel that has characterised this extreme genre since time immemorial.

 

 

Infernal Minions is Gravewürm’s latest offering and the band’s 9th studio album. This album once again sees them paying tribute to and raising infernal exaltations to the deities that occupy the blackened altar, as in the likes of Hellhammer, Bathory, Beherit, Venom and Burzum. Gravewürm, as a band, do not seem to be trying to be connoisseurs of vicissitude, but instead once again embark on their journey of peregrinating an already traversed, but cherished, perhaps even safe path – an honest, genuine, almost child-like testimonial to the seers of the obscure, insidious and arcane side of heavy metal.

The very appeal of the earliest extreme Metal bands, to me on a personal level is very interesting. These bands formed a proto-type to the second wave of bands in the genres they respectively pioneered (black, death and in some cases, even doom metal), and in turn, those bands would go onto use their music as a base, in various facets such as imagery, musical style, lyrical themes and ideologies. However, the music of these first wave bands itself was simply a slight extension of their influences, from both their own generation and the generations that preceded them. For instance, Venom was simply a more abrasive Motörhead with extreme, blasphemous, but admittedly tongue-in-cheek imagery.

It is this overall simplicity in the music à la the catchy power-chord driven guitar riffs, raspy vocals and mayhemic drum-work; coupled with the over-the-top and extreme imagery that makes the generation of bands that spawned the likes of Hellhammer, Bulldozer, Sarcófago, Bathory, early Celtic Frost, early Sepultura, Holocausto, Blasphemy, Death SS, the early Teutonic thrash scene, etc. very enjoyable. Almost to the point that you yourself want to sport some corpse-paint, wear some bullet-belts and spikes and strike poses with clenched fists in dark forests, abandoned churches or  graveyards in proximity with the country side. Argh!

 

 

Lest I digress with my more than apparent love for the genre, Gravewurm’s existence over two-decades has treaded this very path, along with some influence from the likes of bands that play in the vein established by the second wave of Black Metal bands – Burzum, Goatlord and Grand Belial’s Key. These influences in my opinion add to the more mature side to the song-writing abilities of the band, while the aforementioned first-wave influences add to the genuinity of their music. No arpeggios, sweep picking, string skipping and all that jazz – just some filthy tunes containing infernal invocations, giving of a chthonian impression coupled with blasphemous, esoteric themes.

The album kicks off with Nocturnal Inquisition, a straightforward album opener with predictably enjoyable riffing, raspy vocals in the vein of Nuclear Holocausto or Quorthon and simplistic drumming. The second track The Evil Within is also structured in a rather similar vein as the opening track. The third track, Master of the Dark is almost immediately enjoyable, opening with some fairly fast-paced doomy riffs (well, by doom standards anyway). While the drum work initially maintains the simplistic quality of the first two tracks, the track sees variation in terms of the tempo and patterns. This track also sees the first display of their adduced claim of dark ambient influences, with grim synthesizer notes being featured in the middle of the track. The fourth track, Dominion of Souls features some bludgeoning guitar work complemented by somber synthesizer notes. With this song, Gravewurm gives a direct nod to the likes of Burzum and H418ov21.C-era Beherit. A creeping pace coupled with prolonged, tasty riffs makes this one of the more enjoyable songs of the album.

The fifth track, The Beast of the Abyss, is a rather semi-thrashy, run-of-the-mill number but has some moments of brilliance courtesy of the blackened character of the lead guitar work. Unfortunately this is seemingly relatively low in the mix, probably intentionally so, given the now, more than well known ethos of the production quality of black metal acts. The sixth track, I Die for Hell is just as cheesy as the name would lead you to believe – caricatured menacing riffs with exaggerated vocals, the metal equivalent of a goofy villain straight out of a children’s movie. All in good spirit, though, and makes for a fun listen. Crown of the Fallen is also in a similar vein – the masters as far back as Venom have been doing the same, so why not their musical descendants?

Lastly, Mistress of Blood is an excellent closer, and arguably the best track of the album. The song invokes an absolutely infernal atmosphere, without the need to resort to any blatantly ambient musical tactics, and surprisingly melodic for a band that plays an eclectic mix of black, thrash, doom and death metal. The album ends on a very good note with this number.

In summation, the guitar tone is like that of Bathory’s early era slowed down to a predominantly Burzum-like pace throughout the album. The vocals are raspy, harsh and coarse, almost goblin-like in sonic quality. The drumming is very simplistic in nature throughout the album, and thus there is nothing to be said about it further.

I found that the album has its moments of brilliance, inducing the misty, grim and gloomy atmospheres that black metal is famous for, but as a whole invokes the spirit that the forefathers of the black metal genre from the 80’s first wave established – in a raw, in-your-face and honest manner.

I do, however, have to point out the apparent sloppiness of the drum work on the album. Most of the time signatures are either a regular 4/4 at a high BPM and a 12/8. While one does not expect overt technicality in such a genre, some basic conceptualization of appropriate time signatures to go along with the musical progression is unfortunately, sorely missing on this album.
I, for one, don’t see much stylistic growth in the music of Gravewürm relative to the rest of their discography, but in my opinion such bands must exist to maintain what I like to call a balance in the scene. These are the sort of bands that, while not particularly breaking new ground, serve to preserve a specific sound, that might well get lost in the sands of time lest we lay an excessive emphasis on constant musical innovation and change.

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Cultes Des Ghoules – Henbane

Today we have reviewer Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviewing the new LP from Cultes Des Ghoules titled Hexbane, released via Hells Headbangers.

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Tracklist:
01. Idylls Of The Chosen Damned
02. The Passion Of A Sorceress
03. Vintage Black Magic
04. Festival Of Devotion
05. The Devil Intimate

When it’s all said and done, black metal is at its best when it is absolutely morbid and twisted, when it evokes a palpable miasma of the unclean, unholy and occult. Genre pioneers Mayhem nailed this vile, eerie atmosphere with the ponderous guitar layers and unearthly vocals of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.  And if that kind of vibe is your cup of tea, no sorry, your splintered bone-goblet of brackish moonshine laced with hallucinogenic herbs, you’re ready to join the acolytes of the Polish black metal sect that goes by the name of Cultes Des Ghoules.

Another one of those orthodox black metal collectives that veils its individual identities, Cultes Des Ghoules established a reputation for crushing black metal that projects an undeniable aura of primal evil and dark rituals with their first album, Haxan, and they’re back to unleash a new set of pandemonic chants and horrific soundscapes.

Stream the album below…now!!!!!

The first thing that stands out is the sound – it’s thick, dense, not at all crudely produced, but still somehow raw and oppressive. The guitar tones are just that little bit over the top in true black metal form, and the drummer varies between fast, double bass-anchored parts and lurching, tribal patterns. This makes the drum work an integral part of the atmospheric effort, not just a faceless obligato running its fleet-footed way in complete disregard of the musical context. The vocals are utterly ghoulish, as indeed they ought to be, and if someone told me the being that uttered these rasping chants and guttural cries was in fact some graveyard-scouring, subterranean monstrosity from a Lovecraft story, I wouldn’t have too much trouble believing them.

The songs are frequently bracketed in brief atmospheric melodies and a restrained use of samples that add to the uncanny atmosphere. Highlights include the rank ululations and simple yet darkly insinuating guitars of ‘The Passion of a Sorceress’ and the acolyte-march riffage and swooning vocal invocations of ‘Festival of Devotion’, but there really isn’t a false step here. These 5 songs are lengthy, hypnotic and completely effective in their creation of an atmosphere of obscure horror. This isn’t the kind of black metal that will dazzle hipsters with an eclectic mix of influences or appeal to the mainstream metal crowd with epic guitar solos and technical drumming. Instead, it’s the equivalent of the kind of horror movie I keep hoping they’ll make some day, something with the lush atmosphere and visceral horror of a Dario Argento film, crossed with the immediacy and immersion of a found-footage film. That’s a combination which we may never see; but in the meantime, Cultes Des Ghoules is putting out the same mix of rich texture and engaging spontaneity, all in service of a chillingly effective whole, in musical form.

Spektr – Cypher

Today we have  reviewer Jayaprakash Satyamurthy from the bangalore based band Djinn & Miskatonic doing a review of the new album from Spektr titled  ‘Cypher’. The record was released via Agonia Records.

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Tracklist:
1. Hermetism
2. Teratology
3. The Singularity
4. Solitude
5. Antimatter
6. Solve et coagula
7. Cypher
8. Decorporation
9. Le Vitriol du Philosophe

Review in Haiku – ‘A spawning ground for nightmares’

Funny old genre, black metal. Of all the extreme metal genres spawned in the 90s, it’s turned out to be the one most amenable to mutations and experiments. There are any number of more or less orthodox bands keeping the core sound of the genre alive, and at the other end of the spectrum you have the popular, cheesy bands like Cradle of Filth who hardly even play black metal anymore.

Spektr is neither orthodox nor cheesy.

There must be something in the water in France; the French BM scene seems to consistently come out with bands with wonderfully weird, eclectic takes on BM. All this would be mere experimentalism for its own sake if they didn’t also preserve the core values of the genre: that sense of off-kilter menace and occultism. Blut Aus Nord have been venturing further and further afield into new and unexpected textures without diluting the intensity and darkness associated with the genre, and bands like Reverence and Stagnant Waters continue to offer up fascinating platters of mutant music that is still, somehow, firmly in the BM camp.

Like many of their compatriots, Spektr has evolved over the years. While the ambient and experimental elements were evident from the start, there is a distinct trajectory from shared BM idioms to a unique musical vocabulary from their 2003 demos to 2007’s ‘Mescalyne’ EP. The band took their time crafting a follow-up to that release, and while I wouldn’t say that ‘Cypher’ is the career-defining opus I would have expected after such a prolonged hiatus, it’s definitely another step onward in Spektr’s path.

At first glance, the album seems to consist of 5 or 6 long songs with a few shorter ambient interludes interspersed. However, it isn’t quite that simple. The songs themselves sometimes contain minimalist passages amidst the more structured, guitar-dominated sections. And some of the interludes contain distinctive melodic ideas, blurring the lines between songs and stage-setting. There’s also a single-mindedness to the music that suggests a single ongoing suite rather than a grab-bag of assorted songs.

It’s no surprise that the song names all seem to allude to alchemy and other esoterica, because this is definitely hermetic music. This time around, it also reminded me unexpectedly of the NY noise gods, Unsane. Insanely distorted guitars, playing riffs that are further deformed by deep bends and whammy bar usage – the end result is often similar to the surf-band-from-hell vibe that is a distinctive part of Unsane’s aesthetic. Elsewhere, soundscapes that sound like they were created by very sophisticated, very ancient sentient machines that are currently lapsing into senility alternate with turgid, churning musical passages that put me in mind of Portal. With the lack of vocals, the effective use of horror film and television samples, always blended well into the mix, and the bizarre, lurching guitar sounds, this album is a most effective spawning ground for nightmares. The unity of the musical approach means that the cumulative impact of the album is massive. If you’re at all into the more experimental side of extreme metal, you’ll want to spend many sessions with this album trying to unravel its Cypher and decode its arcane secrets.

 

Check out a preview of the whole album below:

Ofermod – Thaumiel

We have our resident reviewer Raul Singh bleeding black with the latest album from ‘Ofermod‘ titled ‘Thaumiel‘.

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Tracklist:
01. Sisters of Rapture and Pestilence 07:42
02. Black Gate 05:40
03. Calling of Setnacht: Twofold Triunity 06:33
04. Undead Moon 05:17
05. Prayers Unto Warped Eternities 05:15
06. Chôshekh Ên Sôf 06:05
07. Chained to Redemption 06:09
08. Via Noctis: Veil of Gargophias 05:04

Ofermod is what I’ll call the pioneers of new world Black Metal. Hailing from Sweden, they’ve already released an album and a single, and the tag they were given, was Orthodox blackened death metal.
I, for one, always expect swedish bands to be somewhere in the realm of “trve” norwegian black metal, but the likes of Marduk, Shining , Dark Funeral, Dissection and all had kept trying to merge a pinch of freshness in their works, deviating from the musical pattern of the “kvlt”. Ofermod can actually be placed in the likes of these, a fresh new sound for the dark music.
The name “Thaumiel” is a hebrew word, stands for “twins of god” represents the dark powers of “Kether”, the first “Sephirah”  of “Sephiroths” of the Tree of life. It is actually personified as giant dual heads with bat-like wings, but with no bodies and are called the Divided Ones. Thus, their album artwork has the two headed figure.The production quality is as good as it can get to be called Black. The music is dark and sinister as is expected. Its rather manages to be very  different but yet very well within the black metal ethos.


“Thaumiel” starts with “Sisters of Rapture and Pestilence” and it takes you straight to the world of occultism and darkness with its very mid-tempo  riffs, and neo-classical drums. This is the limit of delivering pure evil just by riffs.  Composition wise, this is my favorite track off the album. The next track continues with their mid tempo/slow riffs , when suddenly it crashes into “Calling Of Setnacht Twofold Triunity”,  amplifying everything that was going deep before. Another track, which will have your attention, is “Undead Moon”. The man, who was sulking my brain with his corrosively dark vocals, just starting singing clean !! . Of course it might seem a tad misplaced, and probably would sound better off alone, but it owns none the less. Vocals are one of the highlights of this album , with a lot of variations, both on cleans, deep, gutturals, and screeches, a very rare but simple blend of a man’s voice I’d say.
Ofermod offered something which is different on a whole lot different. It had brought the darkness in music without the use of any corpse paint, or any war-like gesture which had been the point of mockery for Black Metal, or any under quality production, or … you know what I mean. It made me believe in a simple logic of mine, its easy to make music what people already like, but its hard to make music which people will start to like. They proved that you don’t have to be complex and technical to make good music. And something as simple as this blew my mind without bringing in uber complexity simply amazed me.

This one is as worth as anything you’ve got your hands upon recently.

“Chosekh En Sof.” the song on its own struck me as a death dealer. With that I close my itunes right now, and i here end with a quote by the insane Caligula (quoted in the very same song)

Caligula – “I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night. I am all men as I am no man and therefore I am a God