Urn

SKU: SOM432D
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Season Of Mist
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"Ne Obliviscaris have proven one of the more controversial bands that I’ve reviewed during my tenure at AngryMetalGuy.com. My review of Citadel split the crowd with AMG Himself, an outspoken critic of the Aussies’ modern aesthetic. I, on the other hand, love their dynamic duality of blasting black and death metal, with softer, classically-influenced progressive tendencies. My youthful inexperience with imparting opinions on controversial matters ensured I lingered on the dissenting commentary provided by others and did, in fact, give it some consideration. Nonetheless, others’ doubts were set aside by the end of the year as I happily awarded the record my coveted Album of the Year. Three years passed, my skin thickened and now they’ve written their third full-length: Urn. The hype machine began rolling months ago when a new record was announced and I received my review copy over two months ago at the time of writing. I’ve had an uncommon length of time to allow my views to crystallize and truly gauge Urn’s mettle.

For those who are newcomers, I’ll attempt to briefly capture the essence of NeO. Their heavier “half” comprises furious blasting which mostly draws from black metal but helps itself to death influences too, most obviously through Xenoyr’s excellent growls. Such blasting, if not carrying the primary melody, usually underpins the frilly, melodic stuff too so they assuredly fall further along towards extreme on the metal spectrum. The other ‘half’ is oriented around Tim Charles’s violin and clean singing, with an acoustic guitar arising too. Classical and progressive rock influences feed in through these tools, rendering a couple of lengthy tracks — though fewer than on previous records. It’s a sweet smorgasbord of sounds which neatly assimilates my favorite genres of metal and progressive rock.

As far as developments in the core music this time, the very capable Robin Zielhorst (ex-Cynic) fills in for Brendan Brown who was fired following certain unpleasant allegations. His bass guitar is similarly expressive though arguably less obvious in the mix. Otherwise, the violin is utilized slightly differently, undertaking less prettiness and more frenzied heavy parts. It’s the most brutal violin you’ll hear this year, screeching atop the mix when wanting to overwhelm. This isn’t to say it isn’t called upon for classical interludes too (hear “Libera II: Ascent of Burning Moths”1) but it does more heavy lifting.

The greatest differentiator to NeO’s remaining discography is slicker songwriting. Only two tracks approach or reach over 10 minutes this time, with three tracks around the seven-minute mark. “Intra Venus”2 is the closest to a ‘standard’ verse-chorus song they’ve written with a cleanly sung chorus which will knock around your head for hours after listening. Even though “Libera I: Saturnine Spheres” and “Eyrie” are the long tracks they both progress through satisfying structures with great climaxes, boasting epic choral chants on the former and an exquisite chord progression which reprises on the latter. Indeed, “Eyrie” makes the second strong case in as many reviews for Song of the Year (the first being Hällas’s “Star Rider”). Its violin and vocal melodies are incredibly emotive with a heroic guitar transition towards its conclusion.

At the negative end, while “Urn I: And Within the Void We Are Breathless”3 is the most similar to Citadel, I’d argue it sounds more like an offcut which was rejigged for the new record. It’s still decent but definitely the most generic track. “Urn II: As Embers Dance in Our Eyes”4 recovers the album’s ending with a pleasing build and nifty solo but its epic climax is undermined by the largest problem present: the master. While the mix does a decent job of clarifying the busy compositions such that no instrument is buried or overly dominant, which is commendable considering the many sounds present here, Urn is a brick-walled. It is simply criminal that such dynamic music and song-writing is denied a correspondingly dynamic master. The crashing chords and rocking riff concluding “Urn II” just don’t have the impact they should due to the limited dynamic range. My tolerance for the Loudness War has diminished of late so I’m less inclined to be forgiving in 2017 than I was in 2014.

Each NeO record excels in different ways. Portal of I boasts its novelty and flowing expansiveness which truly captured my imagination five years ago. Citadel has the strongest contrasts of their light and heavy characteristics and is thematically strongest. But Urn has its slicker song-writing and feels the most accessible. I’m struggling to pin exactly how it compares with Portal of I and Citadel in total quality as they all have distinct advantages. What’s less difficult to argue is that NeO actively hampers themselves by refusing to utilize a dynamic master. For that, this time, I shall mark down from a 4.5. But make no mistake that this is still high-quality music. Former fans are sure to enjoy this release while the unconverted may appreciate the more direct hooks this time around. You’ll be reading about this one again come list season despite my earlier warnings over dynamics." - Angry Metal Guy

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  • The Diablo Swing Orchestra dates back to 1501 in Sweden, where history tells the tale of an orchestra that played like no other, with music so seductive and divine that the ensemble overwhelmed audiences all over the country. Their performances rapidly earned a reputation of being feral and vigorous and gained the orchestra a devoted crowd of followers. Their concerts attracted more people than High Mass in church and as a result the orchestra was accused of being treacherous and in league with the devil. The members were accused of being everything from heretics to the spawn of Satan. “The Devil’s Orchestra” was the epithet used by the church in it's attempt to halt the orchestra’s success. However, this eventually became a catchphrase that spread throughout the crowd, and before long it was the popular name of the orchestra. With the accusation of heresy a bounty was put on the orchestra, and as the hostilities from the church grew stronger the orchestra finally felt the need to flee. But they decided that if they were to disappear they should go out in style, by giving one last concert. Before doing so they all signed a pact saying that their descendants were given the task of reuniting the orchestra in 500 years, and that they should continue the orchestra’s work of spreading thought-provoking music. Six envelopes were sealed and given to trustees of the orchestra to pass on to family members. The final concert was a great success. Thousands of people came to see it, and the massive sing-along of the crowd made the performance the most talked about in history. Eventually, the armed guards arrested the orchestra. They were subsequently sentenced to death by hanging. Stockholm 2003. By mere accident two of the original orchestra descendants met in a music shop and began to discuss music. It later turned out that they both had received a strange letter from some ancient relative containing instructions on how to reunite The Devil’s Orchestra. By searching through archives and records they managed to track down the other ancestors. Daniel's sensibility for words and melodies made him the main composer. Annlouice's angelic yet powerful operatic voice gave a bombastic feeling to the music. Andreas swinging and energetic drumming provided the orchestra with a deep and solid foundation. And together with Andy's powerful finger style playing and funk-oriented slapping they made sure the songs had a steady groove. Pontus electronic and experimental influences proved useful as the orchestra wanted a contemporary sound. Johannes's emotive cello-playing, theoretical knowledge and stunning technique completed the orchestra. With reference to the old catchphrase they took the name Diablo Swing Orchestra and are determined to honor the legacy of their ancestors. Since the release of their debut “The Butcher’s Ballroom” in 2006/2007 the orchestra has gained a loyal fan base of their own. People have embraced their sound with open arms and they have been perceived as a fresh breath of air in a genre getting more and more stale and formulaic. The album was also well received among critics earning many rave reviews recognizing the new ideas the band brought to the scene. DSO’s sophomore effort titled “Sing-Along Songs for the damned & Delirious” proves that they are no one hit wonder but are here to stay. The new record set to be released in September 2009 is a smörgåsbord of different levels of musical insanity building on the foundation laid down on “The Butcher’s Ballroom”. Touring will begin in September starting with Progpower USA and will continue in Europe later in the fall.
    $13.00
  • First album from this extreme metal band from Australia that is generating quite a buzz. Ne Obliviscaris mix clean and black metal vocals over a fairly symphonic/prog style that features quite a bit of lead violin. Plenty of guitar crunch to be heard through out as well. Definitely some of the early Opeth albums rubbed off on these guys but oddly classical and jazz elements creep in. As long as the black metal vox don't get to you I think you'll find the music quite captivating. Highly recommended with the noted reservations.
    $15.00
  • "It all begins at the end of one man’s life. He hangs on the noose, lit by a single spotlight as a viscous clot of blood gradually oozes from his mouth. Misshapen, deformed and attired in archaic garments he dangles, suspended in death, as dark ambient shamans Ulver are hidden below him on a blacked-out stage.A piano plays a fragile lament while rumbling effects and growling samples ebb and flow. And a song that is one man’s coda becomes redefined as a sunrise is projected upon the screen behind the band, and Kristoffer Rygg steps up to the microphone to begin “EOS”. Thus begins Ulver: The Norwegian National Opera, the mesmerizing and stunning beautiful live DVD release from Norway’s masters of avant-garde and enigmatic electronica.Ulver of course know a few things about redefining expectations. At one stage they were a celebrated black metal band, but in the late ’90s they dispensed with the traditional accoutrements of black metal and morphed into an entirely different beast. Traces of their metal past remain fixed in their DNA, especially in their desolate iciness and forever-questioning aesthetic, but for many years now the band has been releasing acclaimed works that blend progressive electronica and glacial neo-classical treatments with shimmering, hypnotic rock.Aside from one show in 1993, Ulver had always been a studio-based outfit. But in 2009 the band was lured onto the stage for Norway’s Festival of Literature, which in turn led to them play a series of sold-out shows in some of Europe’s most renowned venues throughout 2010. Ulver: The Norwegian National Opera was recorded in Oslo at the end of that touring cycle, not long before the band went into the studio to record 2011’s highly rated Wars of the Roses album. Captured by 6 HD cameras, the show features guest appearances by electronics guru Christian Fennesz and performance artist Ian Johnstone (who plays the aforementioned role of the late Mr. Ark Todd, and look out for his inscrutable resurrection to end the show on an enigmatic note).The DVD features material from throughout Ulver’s electronic and experimental years, with tracks from the Perdition City, Svidd Neger, Blood Inside and Shadows of the Sun albums, and the Silence Teaches You How to Sing and A Quick Fix of Melancholy EPs. It’s best to think of the DVD in terms of an all-encompassing experience. Breaking the show down into constituent parts defeats its purpose entirely. I could obviously explain to you how the band’s performances of “For the Love of God”, “Funebre” or “Let the Children Go” play out in regard to the overall set, but there’s a clue on the DVD menu to remind you that plucking fragments from the show is inadvisable—there’s no ‘play all’ choice here, just one word: witness. That, more than any of the words I’m about to type, sums the DVD up perfectly.Spectacular visual accompaniments are projected on a mammoth screen behind the band. Ulver’s set is built atop waves of oscillating and juxtaposing currents, and as the rhythmic pulse shifts the imagery evolves. Varying images of mankind’s atrocities, nature’s majesty and preternatural mystery mimic the cadence of the show perfectly. The vast array of metaphoric, allegorical or representative imagery bolsters or offers a stark counterpoint to the tracks, and as the show progresses it becomes impossible to separate the visual from the musical.That’s not to suggest that taken in isolation the music is somehow lacking, it’s not, and a CD release of the soundtrack alone would be incredible. The vintage synths, creeping effects, droning guitar, dulcet vocals, piano and percussion that Ulver wield all fuse into a singularly mesmeric force. The set-list has obviously been assembled with a cinematic vision (perhaps operatic is more apt), and the music alone sets you on a path where the idea of stepping off is unfeasible. For 90-plus minutes the band unhurriedly manipulates and tweaks their sound. With many songs bleeding into one another, Ulver constructs a show that takes you on a skillfully paced, sweeping and euphonious voyage—where the pitch and sway, the crescendos and hypnotic undercurrents, guide you through a raft of emotive states.I had high expectations for Ulver: The Norwegian National Opera and I was not, for one second, anything less than enthralled. Expertly edited by Erlend Gjertsen, and mixed by the band at their own Crystal Canyon Studios in Oslo, the entire package is pristinely rendered, and is a sumptuous feast for the eyes and the ears. Ulver have always been a prime example of the transformative beauty of artists dedicated to producing work that is innovative and imaginative. And galvanized and inspired by celestial, terrestrial and otherworldly endeavors, Ulver: The Norwegian National Opera is a firm reminder of the transfixing (and yes, even transcendental) power of authentically progressive music. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough." - Hellbound.ca
    $15.00
  • Limited mini-LP sleeve edition."Paul Chain is, apparently, a weirdo who came from the band Death SS, who I know nothing about and thus won’t bother trying to summarize. No, I think I have enough material here just talking about Paul Chain’s oddball solo debut Life and Death. It is an esoteric and individual beast without anything resembling trendiness or modernization, reaching back from its late 80s standing into the dark murkiness of the 70s at some parts, and at others into an entirely new dimension, unexplored by man before and since. People, I can’t come up with any more ways to say this is strange, so let’s just cut the middle man and start reviewing this sucker.Life and Death isn’t exactly a title that sends any warning signals to your brain, and neither the track names or the cover art does either, so I really had nothing to go on. I guess I was expecting some sort of dirty, minimalistic doomy affair with deep, grunted vocals and dirgey bass and occult themes, or something, but really I was completely unprepared for the airy strings, the clean, sluggish guitars that sometimes broke into melodious leads and the high-pitched warbling from the vocals that followed.Yes, Paul Chain as a vocalist is quite literally out of this world, as I can’t think of even one other singer I know to compare him to. His voice alone sounds a tiny bit like Jon Arch if he ever got a super-clean production job, but it’s the way he sings that is so different from anyone else. For one, a lot of the time he apparently isn’t even singing real words – he’s completely made up his own language. How fucked up is that? It’s actually really cool and lends to the alien mystical air this album was obviously trying to set up. And two, his vocal lines are just so idiosyncratic and so stylized that I doubt anyone could cover and not sound totally ridiculous even attempting. His voice dives and soars and croons and emotes a million different ways over the course of this album, and not once does he sound like he’s straining. His high, slightly breathy whine is layered over the music like a light morning mist.The music isn’t quite as weird, but it’s still pretty damned distinctive. The first track is a pretty useless intro without much to really make it worth hearing, but then “Antichrist” kicks in, with its crawling tempo and strange nuanced vocal lines, and this is a song that had to grow on me a little – it’s not one of the best on here, but it’s certainly good enough to introduce the listener to what’s going to come. This is music that succeeds when you just sit back and let it roll over you in waves – like on “Kill Me,” which rides a really simple, driving riff for the entire seven minute run-time, along with Chain’s moaning of the titular words for the chorus. But it works; it really works. It engulfs the listener in a chasm of melody so tight they might never be able to get out, and it’s probably the album standout at the end of the day. “Ancient Caravans” is a short, soft piece with some really delicate vocals and an atmosphere like the Middle East at nighttime, and then we kick into the other album highlight with “My Hills,” which explodes like a shooting star with happy island-style acoustics layered over colorful, blazing leads in what ends up being a mouthwatering affair. It’s not terribly metallic but it is a wonderful, engaging piece of music.The rest of the album remains curious, with the sliding guitar melodies of “Alleuia Song” and the muttered vocals and more traditional metal riff of “Spirits,” even though there are no songs as good as “My Hills.” “Cemetery” is 8 minutes of thumping bass-lines, grunted vocals and loopy, obscure guitar leads, and it comes together pretty well, never failing to entertain even if it isn’t really something that will blow you away. The album closes with “Oblivious,” which is an organ piece that leaves the listener feeling uncertain, staring at the night sky wondering what he or she has just experienced…I like it myself; it’s a good way to leave an impression. It’s like, what happened? I’d better listen to that again and inspect it more closely. And that’s always good.Life and Death is pretty much like that as a whole, really – it’s a curious affair, and no doubt inspired. With only seven tracks being actual songs it runs under 40 minutes of real music, and I think that hurts it a bit, as it really does fly by. And I don’t want to be mean to this album or anything, but a lot of these songs just don’t really catch fire. “Kill Me” and “My Hills” are about the only ones that do. Nothing else really comes up to that level, and it’s a little disappointing, as I know he has it in him to do a whole album like that. These songs are good, but most of them end up being just…curious, rather than spellbinding and arresting as those two mentioned songs can be. This feels like a warm-up album at the end of the day. Nothing wrong with that, and I can really dig this when it’s on, but I think the stars are telling me with this to go seek out Chain’s future exploits and find gold…" - Metal Archives 
    $17.00
  • Utterly insane avant garde metal from The Netherlands.  A not so simple guidepost would be to think of Leprous meets Queen meets Mr. Bungle.  That's really just the starting point.  This one will keep you off balance and scratching your head in wonderment.  Brilliant and totally mesmerizing.  BUY OR DIE!!"You probably haven’t heard of Dutch Avante-garde prog metal band Schizoid Lloyd, which is a shame, as their two previously released EPs, Virus in 2009 and Circus in 2010, were incredible slices of metallic weirdness that blended the humorous stylings of Queen, Mr. Bungle and Frank Zappa, as well as a long and diverse list of more subtle influences (their Facebook page’s influences section is extensive and covers everything from Gorguts to Kanye West), resulting in something as unique as it is strange. This past year, the band finished work on their debut album and announced their signing to Finnish label Blood Music.The band’s debut, appropriately titled The Last Note in God’s Magnum Opus, is a monstrous slab of progressive metal that’s not afraid to go some very strange places, and while it can be cacophonous at times, the songwriting is good enough to hold together tunes that wouldn’t work if written and played by less skilled musicians. Songs like “Suicide Penguin” and “Avalanche Riders” careen from riff to riff while the rest of the band rides alongside. It’s all incredibly breathless and odd, but not without subtlety and emotional depth. The most surprising part of this record, in fact, is it’s ability to be catchy and emotional without losing an ounce of technical or compositional depth.That’s not to say that this is an album for casual listening or the uninitiated. The sheer amount of musical “stuff” going on at once can make your head spin if you’re not used to bands like Mr. Bungle or Diablo Swing Orchestra and their propensity for offbeat histrionics. Even so, going in with an open mind and no expectations beyond “Things are going to get weird” should allow almost anyone to appreciate the virtuosity on display. The multiple vocal stylings from three of the musicians are almost akin to Mastodon, if they spent way too much time listening to Queen and doing cocaine. Even at it’s most blisteringly odd, however, the compositions are rock solid and so tightly played it’s enjoyable to listen to even if you can’t get a handle on what’s going on, in much the same way riding a rollercoaster blazed out of your mind is enjoyable.Schizoid Lloyd wear their influences on their sleeves. Queen is evident in the vocal melodies and harmonies, Frank Zappa in the guitar compositions and Mr. Bungle in the song titles and bizarre atmosphere, but the band manages to take all these disparate pieces and craft an album that not only feels cohesive, but is both fun to listen to and possessive of a character all it’s own. These six Dutchmen are certainly no amateurs on their instruments or newcomers to the genre, and they manage to check all the boxes as well as go above and beyond and deliver something that feels fresh in a genre that can often feel burdened by it’s own strangeness and need to stay one step ahead of everything else. The Last Note in God’s Magnum Opus is fantastic, and it would be a shame if this was the last note from this band." - Heavy Blog Is Heavy
    $16.00
  • "Ne Obliviscaris have proven one of the more controversial bands that I’ve reviewed during my tenure at AngryMetalGuy.com. My review of Citadel split the crowd with AMG Himself, an outspoken critic of the Aussies’ modern aesthetic. I, on the other hand, love their dynamic duality of blasting black and death metal, with softer, classically-influenced progressive tendencies. My youthful inexperience with imparting opinions on controversial matters ensured I lingered on the dissenting commentary provided by others and did, in fact, give it some consideration. Nonetheless, others’ doubts were set aside by the end of the year as I happily awarded the record my coveted Album of the Year. Three years passed, my skin thickened and now they’ve written their third full-length: Urn. The hype machine began rolling months ago when a new record was announced and I received my review copy over two months ago at the time of writing. I’ve had an uncommon length of time to allow my views to crystallize and truly gauge Urn’s mettle.For those who are newcomers, I’ll attempt to briefly capture the essence of NeO. Their heavier “half” comprises furious blasting which mostly draws from black metal but helps itself to death influences too, most obviously through Xenoyr’s excellent growls. Such blasting, if not carrying the primary melody, usually underpins the frilly, melodic stuff too so they assuredly fall further along towards extreme on the metal spectrum. The other ‘half’ is oriented around Tim Charles’s violin and clean singing, with an acoustic guitar arising too. Classical and progressive rock influences feed in through these tools, rendering a couple of lengthy tracks — though fewer than on previous records. It’s a sweet smorgasbord of sounds which neatly assimilates my favorite genres of metal and progressive rock.As far as developments in the core music this time, the very capable Robin Zielhorst (ex-Cynic) fills in for Brendan Brown who was fired following certain unpleasant allegations. His bass guitar is similarly expressive though arguably less obvious in the mix. Otherwise, the violin is utilized slightly differently, undertaking less prettiness and more frenzied heavy parts. It’s the most brutal violin you’ll hear this year, screeching atop the mix when wanting to overwhelm. This isn’t to say it isn’t called upon for classical interludes too (hear “Libera II: Ascent of Burning Moths”1) but it does more heavy lifting.The greatest differentiator to NeO’s remaining discography is slicker songwriting. Only two tracks approach or reach over 10 minutes this time, with three tracks around the seven-minute mark. “Intra Venus”2 is the closest to a ‘standard’ verse-chorus song they’ve written with a cleanly sung chorus which will knock around your head for hours after listening. Even though “Libera I: Saturnine Spheres” and “Eyrie” are the long tracks they both progress through satisfying structures with great climaxes, boasting epic choral chants on the former and an exquisite chord progression which reprises on the latter. Indeed, “Eyrie” makes the second strong case in as many reviews for Song of the Year (the first being Hällas’s “Star Rider”). Its violin and vocal melodies are incredibly emotive with a heroic guitar transition towards its conclusion.At the negative end, while “Urn I: And Within the Void We Are Breathless”3 is the most similar to Citadel, I’d argue it sounds more like an offcut which was rejigged for the new record. It’s still decent but definitely the most generic track. “Urn II: As Embers Dance in Our Eyes”4 recovers the album’s ending with a pleasing build and nifty solo but its epic climax is undermined by the largest problem present: the master. While the mix does a decent job of clarifying the busy compositions such that no instrument is buried or overly dominant, which is commendable considering the many sounds present here, Urn is a brick-walled. It is simply criminal that such dynamic music and song-writing is denied a correspondingly dynamic master. The crashing chords and rocking riff concluding “Urn II” just don’t have the impact they should due to the limited dynamic range. My tolerance for the Loudness War has diminished of late so I’m less inclined to be forgiving in 2017 than I was in 2014.Each NeO record excels in different ways. Portal of I boasts its novelty and flowing expansiveness which truly captured my imagination five years ago. Citadel has the strongest contrasts of their light and heavy characteristics and is thematically strongest. But Urn has its slicker song-writing and feels the most accessible. I’m struggling to pin exactly how it compares with Portal of I and Citadel in total quality as they all have distinct advantages. What’s less difficult to argue is that NeO actively hampers themselves by refusing to utilize a dynamic master. For that, this time, I shall mark down from a 4.5. But make no mistake that this is still high-quality music. Former fans are sure to enjoy this release while the unconverted may appreciate the more direct hooks this time around. You’ll be reading about this one again come list season despite my earlier warnings over dynamics." - Angry Metal Guy
    $10.00
  • "Web of Mimicry is delighted to open the doors to the FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT. For quite some duration of years, 4/5ths of the staff of the legendary Sleepytime Gorilla Museum have been assembling this installation behind the spindly curtains of their collective creative cocoon. Insiders will have heard the rumors — tales told over campfires at their yearly assemblies — of a silent germination taking place somewhere in the wilderness of California. And now, suddenly and without warning, the collective bursts forth — the doors fly open and the Exhibit's long-anticipated unveiling is upon us!UNDESTROYED delivers a genre-damning assault of clarity, confusion, tottering riffage and apocalyptic joy to the listener. What is probably most distinguishing is that, Lo and Behold, Free Salamander Exhibit is a BAND in the truest sense of the word. A very real, well-honed, cared-about and labored-over band that builds upon its ancient and true chemistries with their new ideas. Forgoing any suggestion of cheap imaginary elaborations into digital simulacra, we are rewarded with Free Salamander Exhibit's preference for an arsenal of imaginative homemade musical instruments (in addition to their guitars, basses, and drums).Though it's as difficult-as-ever to characterize much about this collective with any accuracy, Undestroyed sees them embracing their true art-prog-rock (in opposition) calling as never before. Both initiates and newcomers are better off abandoning all expectation as they step into their new curatorial realm.Artwork immersion comes in full-spades with a 6-panel digipac and 4 page insert - a lavish and fitting accompaniment to the barbed rhythms, pungent harmonies, prickly textures and somnambulistic poetics.What better way to punctuate the headlong stumble "Into the night, into the dark, into black silence” than to walk across the threshold of Undestroyed? "
    $14.00
  • New album from Norwegian avant garde metal masters.
    $13.00
  • Fourth studio album from Leprous reinforces the fact that they are one of the most innovative and cutting edge bands working in the prog metal idiom.  The music of Coal has already kicked up a bit of controversy from the early listeners.  The music isn't quite as angular and frenetic as Bilateral.  Atmospheric passages similar to Tall Poppy Syndrome are perhaps a bit more prevalant as well.  All in all it's clearly identifiable as Leprous.  Ihsahn guests on one of the tracks - don't forget Leprous is his backing band.  Nice guys - great band.  Highly recommended."Considering Leprous‘s previous album Bilateral is considered by many to be a masterpiece of progressive metal; Norway’s Leprous had a tall order in front of themselves. Coming up with a followup to such a critically acclaimed and beloved album is no doubt a daunting task. Despite that, after two long years of waiting, Leprous have conjured the successor to Bilateral, and it’s called Coal. Usually, when bands release an album after their magnum opus, the result is either a “version 2.0″ of the previous album, or it’s a return back to the normal style of the band. Leprous have taken a bold turn instead, and they have reinvented themselves. Coal is clearly a Leprous album, carrying all their trademark touches, but it’s also very fresh and unique.With Bilateral, the band were clearly rooted in a sound that has been defined by the big names of progressive metal. By applying their characteristic syncopation, moody riffs and singer Einar Solberg’s haunting and powerful vocals, they were able to perfect an already existing sound. With Coal, the band have taken a different direction. The album is very dense, emotional, and quite avant-garde at times. While there are some more traditional songs similar to Bilateral, there’s also an air of neo-80s on some songs, while others carry some characteristics of modern Scandinavian indie bands. Longtime fans of Leprous will definitely see the direction that has been present since the band’s inception, but listeners who know of them only via Bilateral might be slightly confused. In the end, Leprous have always been about mood, and Coal is oozing with it.In terms of structure, Coal is more similar to Tall Poppy Syndrome than Bilateral (but not too similar to either in the end). The songs are slow burners, setting up a mood, then deliberately building on it until overwhelming the listener with the climax. Everything is very subtle, the production making every hit of every instrument matter. Each song is an exercise in building an atmosphere by slowly adding layers to form a very powerful sound. Einar Solberg is at his best here, he has taken his voice to the next level. He was already an amazing vocalist, but Coal sees him becoming a master of expression. There are many progressive metal bands nowadays with clean singers who can hit insanely high notes and execute amazing melodies. But what is often lost is the soft touch, the control over timbre that makes one’s voice special. Einar is a master of timbre, and he uses his abilities to their full extent in Coal. While this is an album about the big picture and constructing an ambiance with the convergence of all instruments, his unparalleled vocal skills definitely deserve a special mention, because he is what hammers down the emotions and makes this album so special.As mentioned before, Coal is a deliberate album, where attention is paid to every instrument. And the production, by Ihsahn (who also has a stellar guest appearance on the closing track), is perfect for this. Especially of note are the drums, they sound very real and quaint. The intimate feeling of some of the songs can directly be attributed to the unconventional drum sound. The drumming has also taken a turn for the more subtle, with small flourishes and cymbal runs building tension in the more atmospheric sections of some songs. The bass is also clearly audible and adds to the sound. The guitar work isn’t as flashy as Bilateral for the most part, but it also has more character because of that. It should come as no surprise to longtime followers of the band, but Leprous are masters of doing more with less, and all of the instruments reflect this. Another production detail worth noting is the presence of keyboards. The keyboard work is more prominent now. In Bilateral it was used mostly to add some extra layers to parts driven by the guitars, but here the keyboards form the building blocks of the sound. This is perhaps what sets the album apart from Leprous’s previous work, the heavier focus on atmosphere and a dense aural landscape. This might be disappointing to some who preferred the more direct approach of Bilateral, as Coal is less “metal”, but the more developed sound suits the band.In terms of songs, Coal is a very diverse album. The first three songs and the closer can be interpreted as a direct evolution of the band’s sound from their previous work, then there is the extremely moody and emotional masterpiece “The Cloak”. This is where the album takes a turn for the introspective, as the rest of the songs are quite experimental and ethereal. Overall, the album has a very clear journey with a defined start and end, and it works quite well. Some of the later songs can feel like they last half a minute too long, but the deliberate pacing of the album makes more sense as is.In the end, it’s hard to deny that Coal is yet another masterpiece by Leprous. The songs ooze character and deliberation. Coal is expressive, emotional and brave. It might not be what everyone expected after Bilateral, but Leprous have defied expectations and raised the bar again." - Heavy Blog Is Heavy
    $14.00
  • Now this stuff in weird and interesting...Vulture Industries is a Norwegian metal band that has been around for almost 20 years but this is only their third album.  Apparently they were originally a black metal band.  That may be true but there are only vestiges of that in their current sound.  Vulture Industires play the weird metal card - I'd classify them as "avant garde metal", very similar to bands like Arcturus, Diablo Swing Orchestra and Devin Townsend.  Hey what the hell - toss in some Faith No More as well.  This is heavy, guitar driven music with some of that carnival atmosphere that these oddball bands some to love to throw in to keep you off kilter.  The real standout is vocalist Bjørnar Nilsen, who has a real commanding presence on this disc.  Lots of emotion and angst.  A fascinating band.  Highly recommended.
    $12.00
  • "‘Idiosynchratically beautiful’. These are two words that have stuck with me for nearly 20 years and which I recall almost every time I hear or read the name Arcturus. These words were quoted on an advert for the Norwegian band’s 1997 release, ‘La Masquerade Infernale’ within an issue of either Terrorizer or Metal Hammer magazine; I can’t remember which. What I do remember was that I was deeply into a stage of black metal discovery at the time and this quote resonated with me for some reason. I took the punt and received the album as a Christmas present. It wasn’t love at first listen; instead it was a slow and steady slog that has ended in a lasting and deep love affair. It was the track ‘Ad Astra’ that was the catalyst for repeat listens. Full of drama, avant-garde vaudevillian oddness and a compelling crescendo, it impressed me and forced me to listen to the remainder of the album more than perhaps I might otherwise have done.It is arguable that in the intervening years, Arcturus have never managed to hit the heights of ‘La Masquerade Infernale’. Neither 2002’s ‘The Sham Mirrors’ nor ‘Sideshow Symphonies’ spoke to me in the same way and despite containing some outstanding moments, I came away both times with feelings of slight disappointment. And that, as they say was that. In terms of original studio albums, nothing has been released since; indeed after the release of ‘Shipwrecked in Oslo’ in 2006, the band called it quits with the individual members going on to do different things. And so it has remained until now.Rumours were rife from around 2011 when various members made comments that alluded to a resurrection of the band and later that year the rumours were confirmed. However, for one reason or another it has taken until 2015 for a new original recording to see the light of day, a development that has been greeted with great euphoria amongst the loyal Arcturus following.Arcturus version 2015 is comprised of Steinar Sverd Johnsen (keys), Hellhammer (drums), Knut Magne Valle (guitar), Hugh ‘Skoll’ Mingay (bass) and ICS Vortex (vocals). Together, they have created an album very much worthy of their lofty status and one that I would argue just about manages to match the quality of ‘La Masquerade Infernale’. The only reason I hedge my bets and say ‘just about’ is because I’ve only had about three days with ‘Arcturian’ as opposed to the 18 years I’ve had to enjoy ‘La Masquerade Infernale’. That said, I’ve listened to ‘Arcturian’ more times than I care to mention in recent days and it gives me chills on each and every listen. It is complex, quirky, brilliantly composed and professionally executed. I have no doubt that with even more time and attention, it’ll delight and captivate me even more than it does already.The one thing that perhaps I wasn’t expecting was the sheer amount of melody and accessibility that ‘Arcturian’ displays. It’s no exaggeration to say that for all of the complexity and raw heaviness, almost every track on the album contains a melody, lead vocal or some kind of hook that makes me sit up and take real notice. When I listen to new music, I have a tendency to make an ‘oooh’ noise and smile broadly if something excites me. I suspect that there will be some of you out there who do something similar. On ‘Arcturian’, I admit to ‘ooh’-ing all over the place.One of main reasons why this album feels so melodic and accessible is, I believe down to vocalist ICS Vortex. Yes he is an acquired taste but so unique is his delivery and so impressive is his range that seemingly very little is off-limits. He complements the music beautifully, managing sound both majestic but also a little unstable, as if he could spiral out of control at any moment. I mean, at times, he sounds like he’s yodelling for heaven’s sake; it’s superb.Onto the compositions themselves, they are all dense, multi-layered affairs that contain an abundance of richness. There are no songs that tend to extend over six minute mark and yet, such is the ambition of Arcturus that it feels like a million different ideas are injected into each composition, testing the listener and toying with them at every turn. I strongly suspect that this has been done with a certain playful, yet mischievous intent. Those strong Vaudervillian overtones of the band’s past make a welcome return, as do a number of various influences that pull Arcturus away from being simply discarded as a black metal band. As they demonstrate on ‘Arcturian’, there are elements of black metal to their underlying sound but they deliver so much more that to pigeonhole them in such a way would be inaccurate and disingenuous.Opening track, ‘The Arcturian Sign’, starts off somewhat disconcertingly with weird electronic noises and sounds. It’s a typically eccentric beginning which soon gives way to those unmistakable vocals of ICS Vortex and, at its core, a black metal meets prog composition. Dominated by powerful synths and relentless double pedal drumming, those odd sounds like laser guns nevertheless re-surface throughout. But within the tumult and idiosyncrasies is a really catchy, hook-laden chorus.‘Crashland’ has a light and breezy feel to it, taking in influences from space rock, folk music and more extreme climes. The sweeping synths are immediately reminiscent of the ‘La Masquerade Infernale’ era, as they are during my personal standout track, ‘Game Over’ with its addictive melodies and the way it builds and morphs so elegantly from one guise to another almost imperceptibly, ending in a crescendo of sorts that elicits another ‘ooh’ from my lips.‘Angst’ is a powerful and more extreme slab of metal, dominated by a blistering tempo, tortured screams atop another strong synth melody and the threat of a descent into chaos on more than one occasion. ‘Warp’ on the other hand introduces more electronic influences but has such an imposing and catchy melody that it’s impossible to ignore. ‘Demon’ has demonstrable Gothic synth pop overtones whereas ‘Pale’ delights with a marvellous driving central riff, a great chorus of sorts and some of the most varied and brilliant vocals on the entire record. The album ends with ‘Bane’, a track that further backs up the gorgeous ‘The Journey’ by providing amongst other things, some truly beautiful and subtle acoustic guitar playing which is a real joy.For all that, I have to say that ‘Arcturian’ is an album that’s best enjoyed in its entirety rather than picking and choosing individual songs. The album has a distinct flow and overall feel that helps to make it as special as it is, something that could be lost if listened to in a piecemeal manner.For the sake of balance, my only small gripe relates to the production which I think is a little on the weak side and robs some of the aforementioned richness from the music. Occasionally, the layers of music come together is a slightly messy muddle of impenetrable white noise which is a bit disappointing. But then again, there’s a certain ‘old-school’ charm to the mix too, reminding me of their heyday more than once. Maybe therefore, the production is entirely deliberate, those naughty scamps.It’s almost impossible sum up ‘Arcturian’ in a concise manner and do it the justice it deserves, except to say that if you’re a fan of Arcturus at their most original, challenging, audacious and quirky, prepare to take ‘Arcturian’ straight to your heart." - Man Of Much Metal
    $16.00
  • When seven Greek charlatans get together, the musical visions that springs from their minds, can only be described as a true freakshow.Back in late 2004 the idea of a band that could develop a theatrical attitude and combine different musical elements with the dynamics of metal and rock sound, brought DAKRYA to life ....Following the usual demos and local live shows, the band released its debut album "Monumento" in the spring of 2008. Receiving great reviews and good support from both the media and the fans in and around Greece, DAKRYA started touring on a broader scale, supporting such bands as MOONSPELL.In 2009 the band began to work on new material; the main goal was to put even more emphasis on the 'theatrical' style of DAKRYA, and in January 2010 the band entered the studio with engineer George Bokos (Rotting Christ) to record their sophomore album, "Crime Scene".Come March 2010 the band find themselves sitting in a studio in Sweden mixing the album together with Pelle Saether (Diablo Swing Orchestra, Draconian, Madder Morten), followed by a trip to other Swedish sound-guru Göran Finnberg (Opeth, Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, Arch Enemy) for the mastering of the disc.CRIME SCENE is actually a metaphor about the world we live in. So simple and so complicated at the same time. A person has to change so many faces in order to obtain a “socialized” and “normal” image, that if you think about it a little bit… we all look psychotic. In CRIME SCENE we improvise against reality! Snapshots taken from our everyday lives.From the opener "The Charlatans", over the obvious hit of "The Urban Tribe" to the final notes of the closing soundscape "A Dreadful Sidescene", the album is a one-of-a-kind musical experience. Ranging from the psychotic and cinematic melodrama heard in bands like Diablo Swing Orchestra and Unexpect to the orchestrated gothic metal comparable to Therion and Theatre Of Tragedy, DAKRYA paints their mark all over the canvas.
    $4.00
  • "Pin-Up Went Down are a new French duo…- let it start at the beginning.The whole story started with a myspace friend request. Nowadays I’m getting tired of them due to the continuous indie bands’ request; wanting me to be their fan. And these guys just appeared from the unknown. Oh my god…another one *click*….. OH MY GOD!…so this is it. I was sceptic and became surprised like hell, that this is a great band. I asked them for a promo and they sent me one. Thank you!-…a new French duo consisting Asphodel, the mistress of female activities and Alexis who is responsible for all the instruments can be heard in their music – guitar, bass, keys, electronics, etc. The project started less than one year ago as Carnival in Coal split up and former live drummer Alexis Damien launched this new project, called that time Esthete Piggie. Soon he was joined by Asphodel who can be known from Penubmra or Nowonmai.So I was surprised even more when I saw that big Ascendance Records banner on their profile, I couldn’t believe in my eyes. Ascendance Recs. is a label with the aim of collecting the progressive, experimental or just talented acts having a female voice. It’s a rather new label but already made deals with bands like Stolen Babies and unexpecT. So the name may sound familiar to some of you. - Get to the band!The name itself (which was created in the December 2007) evokes the era(s) of models who got into fashion and became covergirls posing in front of the camera. The words in the name can be considered as an oxymoron (up/down). And the second part of the name has the negative side, the final outcome is the fall of these beautiful creatures.The cover is unusual for an experimental/AG metal band but I suppose I just got used to weird, mindfucking artwork. I would say this is "mirror-avantgarde" quoting Tentakel P.’s Sigh review. It already gives a bit of music, it truly has a gothic line and this cover would perfectly fit a gothic metal band’s album of high standard.Seeing it we will notice the cold, metallic colours. The second thing one sees the vase with a sip of dirty water and the flower. Flower, really? No. It’s a piece of wire put in this glass vase…love is never easy.In the background a left hand’s shadow can be observed trying to grab the heart which is created by mirroring the title’s 2 to the left side. Contrary to the dominating rigid colours, the title is full of life and power with its bloody red appearance.And the music. So as it is written before, it surprised me. The first bit of this mass was a song I have listened on their myspace named Nearly Dead Bat Make up. Particularly, the vocals were the most interesting and outstanding. While listening to it I felt I am in a kind of wonderland. Asphodel is one of the most talented singers I have ever heard. She can sing rigidly, violently but on the other hand she has a definitive gothic background which teaches the girls to sing in a method can be recognized with ease (this style of singing can be heard near the end of the song). But. Yes…these buts. But she has a unique jazzy, though profile and another diverse which is something undefinable, smooth and soft disco styled one and not forget mentioning her childish one. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I can’t tell another girl who are able to sing in these ranges…and she combines it with continuous changing of the pitch. Alexis delivers aggressive guitars and drums along with male growled/shouted vocals. I would highlight one moment: under the bridge, Asphodel sings in her disco styled while Alexis growls in the backgrounds and the whole thing explodes as guitars and the shouted vocals come in to form the chorus.Some lyrics have allusions to the various parts of (music) history. Nearly Dead Bat Make up also has a reference to the band Kiss and the people who believed them Satanists and Nazis. Another interesting part of this song is the very beginning, with the lyrics of "Be (-shuuMuut-) obscene, be-be aggressive". It’s a reference to Marilyn Manson’s mOBSCENE which has almost the same female lines originally stolen from Faith No More’s Be Aggressive. (-shuuMuut-) = (shut up M arilyn M anson).On the other hand, some of the lyrics may seem absurd like Pussy Worship which is built around the question girls ask themselves: What is it like being a man while having sex?. Only Some Shitty Chemical Stuff explains love only as a hormonal procession.The lyrics aren’t about one theme and message, they call up for situations, characters and images. Due to this, the music always changes differently and evolves, it follows the lyrics. There isn’t a central style, except the rock and metal basics. Pussy Worship is like pussy pop-punk with a gospel-like inlay. Only Some Shitty Chemical Stuff is an electronical, industrial metal song and first reminded me of the grotesque attitude to love presented in vocals and atmosphere one may know from the music of Rammstein. However, it becomes an acoustical ballad later.To sum up Pin-Up Went Down’s musical debut I must say I am extremely happy to know these two talented musicians with weird fantasies to turn them into reality. Their first album is surprisingly eclectic and delivered with overwhelming musical and vocal production, it’s one of the most promising first-time debut releases of all time of avantgarde music. Not joking." - Avant-gardeMetal.com
    $6.00
  • "He who must not be named ere the twilight hour, The Shogun of Sorrow, The Angry Metal Arbiter himself recently bestowed on us brief mortals a missive of momentous proportions. In it, he explained that his natural response to absorbing music is an intellectual one, cerebrally stimulated instead of emotionally. I couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. I can heartily appreciate the often overwhelming, dexterous intelligence that engineers so much of this music we love – but it remains so that I better connect via the feeling it elicits from my rusted ferrous heart. As long is it’s stirring in some way, I can happily enjoy minimalism in all its prolonged glory. Prog metal’s best kept secret, the Andorran Persefone strike the perfect balance between both worlds, forging infinitely technical, highly progressive yet innately poignant extreme metal. I’ve been a fan since 2009’s Shin-Ken and almost equally adored follow up Spiritual Migration. Now, with the help of some sterling guest appearances, Aathma arrives to once again set the bar impossibly high.Cherry picking the best parts of acts as diverse as Symphony X, Opeth, Arcturus and even Pain of Salvation, whilst focusing them through an unmistakably melodeath filter, Persefone manages to be impressive from pretty much all angles. Aathma (the soul) begins with dual instrumentals “An Infinitesimal Spark” and “One of Many…,” which bleeds into the first traditional song, “Prison Skin.” Busy furores, ever-changing time signatures and grandiose keys combine with distinctly Gothenburg inspired cyclical riffing to make up the body of the track and album. It manages to utilize the band’s myriad musical principles in one: high technicality, distinct melody, Carlos Lozano’s blazing scale solos and the double vocal attack of lead vocalist Marc Martins, whose voice has plateaued at a less belligerent but more versatile rasp, and the increasingly powerful cleans of keyboardist Miguel Espinosa.The appropriately named “Spirals Within Thy Being” twists and contorts through various time signatures, alternating between moments of furious tech-death riffing and Espinos’s stunning piano. The presence of odd syncopated rhythms that were introduced on Spiritual Migration, has, this time around, been handled with a mercifully minimalist Djentle touch, striking the balance between jagged chugs and traditionally explosive riffs. Paul Masvidal of the legendary Cynic puts in an appearance, notably on the elegiac “Living Waves,” supplying signature robo-vocals and lead guitar. The song represents Aathma at its most fluid, extolling the virtues of a transcendent existence, presupposing Masvidal’s spiritual philosophy and taking clear cues from Cynic themselves, who are surely great inspirations for Persefone. Emotional and plaintive in its technical proficiency, the mid-paced song offers an oddly bittersweet glimpse beyond the mirror at what could have been, had Masvidal and Reinert continued down the path they paved with Focus. Either way, it’s a clear album highlight.Clocking in at just over an hour, Aathma makes for a demanding listen. The busy and convoluted nature of the music coupled with the run time lays down something of a gauntlet upon first inspection, and I’ll admit that it took me a while to truly penetrate the material, which is somewhat denser than its predecessor. But, as with all good prog, the album reveals more of its nature upon multiple plays, and after a gestation period, shows itself to be increasingly multi-faceted. Making full use of Jens Bogren’s crystalline mix, even the four instrumental interludes are syntactically placed throughout the record, grammatically punctuating the narrative until the album reaches its zenith in the “Aathma” suite – a 20 minute epic dissected into 4 parts that encapsulates the spiritual concept of the album. Worthy of particular mention are parts III – full of foreboding palm mutes and ever changing landscapes, juxtaposing uplifting vocal passages with blast beat heaviness and emotive leads – and part VI, a perfect piano piece featuring the velveteen vocals of Merethe Soltvedt for a brief and resolutely beautiful conclusion.Persefone are, I suspect, a band instinctively incapable of the bare minimum, and in Aathma have further fortified their already considerable discography. Possessed of emotional resonance and preternatural ability, here is an album to challenge the casual listener, an album to abide by and an album which will almost certainly make umpteen end-of-year lists. Having already spent considerable time with the record, I still find something new upon each and every listen and, although gestalt by nature and dense in its complexity, Aathma is also uninhibitedly musical. Given the time it deserves, this is an album of potentially cosmic proportions." - Angry Metal Guy
    $16.00