Månegarm Open Air

My festival year started late in 2019, as most people have already had their fill with festivals in June or/and July I had my first of three late August with the very first edition of Månegarm Open Air. Having got VIP tickets from a good friend of mine to celebrate that we (a group of three) turned 30 last year this was a good way spend a weekend with good friends, beer and class music. The line-up consisted of Mercury X, Wormwood, Grimner, Ereb Altor, Fejd, Thyrfing and of course Månegarm themselves. Having a VIP ticket meant the festival lasted two days for us, with the first day being an acoustic Månegarm show played inside a venue on Friday, then Saturday was played outside. Overall the festival was a big success, it sold out, the bands did a great job, the festival site was perfect for the event, there were no trouble that I saw and everyone was in a good mood throughout. There were even people traveling all the way from Mexico, Brazil and Japan to attend. How sick is that for a small first time festival!? They did state they will do another edition of the festival and I can only recommend this to any fan of the viking/folk/pagan/black metal school!

Day 1

Månegarm (acoustic set)

Where to start…. This is one of those “you just had to be there” shows. Atmosphere was great, everyone was in such a good mood and hardcore Månegarm fans. They even had their friends and family there and it just felt very, I dunno but lets call it a “Månegarm family feeling”? A cosy, party vibe where it almost didn’t felt like watching some friends play at stage. Was a cool experience and the music was just wow! Most of the songs I’d never heard live before and hearing them all at once at this stage was wonderful. One of the highpoints here was hearing the Bathory cover “Mother Earth, Father Thunder” live! The festival couldn’t start in any better way and in all honesty this is one of the best shows I’ve been to in a really long time.

Day 2

Mercury X

Sorry Mercury X but I didn’t get a picture of the show and I honestly only heard one song from these guys, I heard they did good from some people in attendance but sadly I got no personal experience from this band. The one song I heard was alright though and I’m sure they started the festival in a good way!

Wormwood

There were two bands I wanted to check out most of all at the festival because I’d never seen them live before. One of them being Wormwood because as you might remember their new album Nattarvet was chosen as July’s album of the month here at The Metal Gamer, so the hype factor was high. The band had some technical issues with the drums so the set started quite late (I think it was 20 minutes late, not sure on that though) but once it kicked off I was spellbound. Sound was great (maybe a bit low on vocals and guitar initially) and despise being a quite new band the live show seemed really tight and surprised me in a good way. They played songs from both their albums, got the crowd going and did a superb job overall. They lived up to my hype and with this performance they probably got new fans along the way. From what I gathered they had to skip a song or two from their set due to being late (don’t quote me on that, but was a rumor) but I personally don’t think that destroyed anything or was noticeable if that was the case. One thing I do think was a big missed opportunity, something me and my friends really looked forward to as well, was hearing “Sunnas hädnafärd” live with Erik Grawsiö (Månegarm) on stage. Seeing both bands were at the festival it would of been perfect, but sadly that didn’t happen which did in all honesty left a sour taste in my mouth at first. I quickly forgot about that though and saw the Wormwood show for what it was, which was great and they can obviously play with the big boys. Also has to be noted Tobias Rydsheim on guitar was freaking sick, those solos… *drools*

Grimner

Now it was time to get into a party mood with the folk/viking band Grimner. Grimner is not a band I listen to a lot on CD but to me it’s one of those bands you need to see live, as that’s where the magic happens and their music really shines. Safe to say I was right! People were dancing all over the festival, beer was flowing and everyone was in high spirits. Grimner did what they came there to do, have a fucking party and we all partied hard! One thing that got it down a notch for me was the feedback (rundgång in Swedish) from what I think was the flute actually on the first few tracks that left my ears bleeding a bit. All it took was more beer though and all was fine again! Another good set at the festival and I recommend you to check this band out live if you get the chance because that’s how Grimner is meant to be experienced.

Ereb Altor

A personal favorite of mine was up next, Ereb Altor! A friend of mine was getting a small Månegarm tattoo at the festival during the set so I was going back and forth between the set and keeping him company but man does Ereb Altor always deliver. It’s the third time I see them and it’s always super tight. Pure professionals through and through with a lot of experience that shows. They always impress me and did so here too, granted now it’s starting to become common knowledge that Ereb Altor is viking metal in the flesh and mighty as Bathory reborn.

Fejd

I’ve seen Fejd once before in my home town Malmö for free at Malmöfestivalen. Back then I had no idea who they were but their show blew me away. Now I knew what to expect and they bring a lot of energy to the crowd. When people might start to get tired after seeing a few bands then you know it’s good to bring a folk metal master like Fejd into the mix to get the energy levels going again. Pure folk metal at it’s peak and worked really well for this type of festival.

Thyrfing

Next up was the other band I’d never seen live besides Wormwood, and definetely the band that I looked forward to seeing the most at the festival besides Månegarm themselves. Thyrfing has a long history with me, with the short story being that their song “Mjölner” was to my knowledge the very first black metal song I ever heard. Safe to say they have a special place in my black heart. It had now turned quite dark and getting cold, a most fitting atmosphere for what was about to be unleashed. What strikes me very quick and stands out is Jens Rydén. What raw energy this man possess! Holy moly him alone got me going headbanging hard, if I didn’t I would be afraid he was going to come down and make me. It was so dark and agressive I’d almost forgot how much I love seeing this type of black metal played live (mainly seen more melodic/atmospheric black metal bands as of late). Add to that the basically perfect playlist where Thyrfing played all of their hits, and more. For a first time Thyrfing experience I could never have wished for more!

Månegarm

The main act was of course Månegarm and it was time for them to close out their own festival. It was starting to get really cold now and you can tell I’m beginning to come to age when I at only soon to be 31 years old is having a hard time being this active for a full day haha. Månegarm got me going quick though, starting off with one of my personal favorites “Blodörn”. After that it was just rock and roll for over one and a half hour! Having heard a fantastic acoustic set the day before I now got the other half of Månegarm where they played a very varied setlist and made the two days becoming the ultimate Månegarm experience. What a finish and great way to close what was one of the best festival experiences I’ve had.

Ending this little summary I just want to say thanks to Månegarm for creating what I think is an awesome festival that I hope sell out every year you want to do this. I love that it was a bit smaller, had a niche metal genre that really gathered all metal vikings to one place. Everything just seemed to have a more family feeling due to it in my opinion. There were almost no technical issues, which in my opinion is quite insane seeing it was the first festival, so big horns up on making that work well straight away. Hails all around to the bands, staff, audience, my friends Kristian and Mathias and whatnot and hope to see you next year!

Abyss Above – Doombound (Deathcore)

Founded in 2015 Abyss Above from Slovakia is a rather new kid on the deathcore block. They have one EP release titled Death of God which dropped in 2016 which was a solid starting point from a band who is trying to break into what I find being one of the most stacked genres of them all, deathcore. With Doombound they hope to make a bigger splash in the pound, but question is will it?

It starts off really sinister with the intro “Alpha” that lays the groundwork for what is to come in terms of atmosphere. “Omega” continues that evil vibe, at times I hear quite a bit of Humanity’s Last Breath influences with how Abyss Above does the breakdown and tempo changes together with how they utilize the vocals (it’s with bands like Dethrone the Corrupted, We Are Obscurity, Abyss Walker and FleshBurner they have the most in common though). They used the same trick on their debut with the intro track “Void” going into “Bottomfeeder” but overall I just think it worked a lot better this time around. Which is basically what can be said about Doombound if you compare it to Death of God, it’s just better all-around. The biggest step up in my opinion is the vocals, which was my main concern with the debut but they are crushing it this time! Taking a step back from the more hardcore and slow-tempo approach they had on Death of God to an full-scale onslaught of agression with a lot more atmosphere (and nice symphonic parts to come with it) was definitely the right choice too. This is the sound I want to hear from Abyss Above walking forward. Just hearing the new and improved “Executioner 2.0” track is a big statement showing how much better they have become. A small note but I found it being an interesting choice to name the album after an instrumental track.

Doombound doesn’t think outside the genres box but sticks to a good formula we’ve heard before (but in this case not overused) and damn is it clean. Well made from album cover, mix, every note, breakdown to vocal aspect. Nothing has been left to chance. A big step up from their debut which I thought was rather weak. A lot of change, but much needed change. I might not remember Doombound in years to come but for now this is all I need to get me going and I’m certain to come back to it at least once or twice when a gym session is incoming! Abyss Above is a huge surprise to me seeing the incredible leap they’ve done in quality (basically even sounding like a completely new band all together) within just a few years. One of the better releases of the year in the overflowing genre that is deathcore.

Written by J.B.

Artist: Abyss Above
Label: Independent
For fans of: Dethrone the Corrupted and FleshBurner
Release date: August 25th, 2019
Favorite song: Omega
Score: 3/5 Good

The Ritual Aura – Velothi (Technical Death Metal)

The wait has been long but now The Ritual Aura finally returns after three years with their third full-length record. What makes this extra juicy for a metal gamer like me is that Velothi is all about The Elder Scrolls mythos, which is one of the best game series ever made. Velothi is by far their most ambitious project yet where you hear instruments like viola, erhu, harp and fretless guitar in this 10-track titan of orchestral, prog and even jazz-infused tech-death. To make this happen they bring in not just one, nor two but TEN guests. A behemoth of an album in store for sure.

With a sweet piano piece “Destati | The Womb, Astral” opens up the album and you can tell you’re in for a beautiful journey. “Sunder I: Lorkhan, Heir of the Void” then presents itself in all its fury, showing that this is extreme metal in the works too. Right after what would become my favorite song makes itself known as “Sunder II: Elysian Flesh-Divinity” showcase both beauty with beautiful use of growl along with clean singing and instrumental play that’s perfectly synced, much like some of the best tunes heavyweights Beyond Creation has done. “Keeing IV: Red Year & The Fall” has one of the most beautiful sections I’ve heard this year when the viola comes to play and is a close second for the spot. However this is an album that’s meant to be heard in full, not only because it’s a concept album but due to how it’s mixed and the two sections (Sunder and Keeing) kind of blend into eachother nicely. To make it even greater the bonus song “Silt Sunrise” even features arrangements of Jeremy Soule’s “Silt Sunrise”, who originally composed for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Gaming metal galore. A major thing worth noting for fans of The Ritual Aura is that Velothi is definitely quite a lot different than their past work. The core is there but bringing in all these musicians and loads of instruments at play, while it also being a concept album, does obviously come with some changes in sound. Keep that in mind when giving Velothi a listen.

Velothi does make a metal gamers heart pumping with joy as the album plays around with rpg-like instrumentals and metal infused incredibly well throughout the whole album. I can promise you that if you read this blog, with a name like The Metal Gamer, then you will enjoy Velothi. Now excuse me while I log into The Elder Scrolls Online while putting this album on repeat for a day.

Written by J.B.

Artist: The Ritual Aura
Label: Independent
For fans of: Beyond Creation and Obscura
Release date: September 1st, 2019
Favorite song: Sunder II: Elysian Flesh-Divinity
Score: 4/5 Excellent

Detherous – Hacked to Death (Death/Thrash Metal)

Created in 2014 the Canadian band Detherous is a new face in the scene. While the band now only features one original member in Damon MacDonald on guitars and vocal duty most of the lineup remains intact since their demo release in 2017. Detherous are all about that old school death and thrash metal sound, taking a lot of influences from legendary bands such as Slayer, Demolition Hammer, Obituary and Asphyx in the process.

Hacked to Death makes their peers justice in what can only be mentioned as a solid offering that takes some of the best pieces from old school death and thrash. It’s a throwback to the late 80’s and early 90’s in all it’s glory. There are some great tracks and sweet riffs to be heard here but in the end it lacks that extra punch for Hacked to Death becoming an album I will return to several times. Especially the beginning I thought didn’t catch my attention enough but it does end on a high note with “From Hell They Rise” and “Brain Death” being the two songs I found myself enjoying the most. Fans of the old school will certainly have a good time here, granted maybe not a memorable one. It’s good for what it is in a sense though, a trip down memory lane. In all honesty I haven’t heard the classic death/thrash sound being done all that much as of late so you might even say this is one of the best albums in that category from that alone!

Written by J.B.

Artist: Detherous
Label: Redefining Darkness Records
For fans of: Asphyx and Demolition Hammer
Release date: August 16th, 2019
Favorite song: From Hell They Rise
Score: 3/5 Good

Facelift Deformation – Cybernetic Organism Atrocities (Slam/Brutal Death Metal)

You want heavy, like a Facelift Deformation heavy!? Well here you go, this is some utter sick shit. This is so juicy the groovy riffs got me banging hard at work when I heard this the first time, and I usually try to keep a low profile there! The band features members from Hong Kong and Taiwan which are also active in bands such as Gorepot, Maggot Colony, Fatuous Rump, Dimensional Decay and of course Virginity Fraud which all three members share. While I thought the latest Virginity Fraud album was a solid effort I think everything Facelift Deformation does is just on a whole other level. After their debut album Dominating the Extermination last year the band has been on every brutal death metal fans mind as that was one of the best albums in the genre last year. Already they got a new one in store for us!

Facelift Deformation still got those sick intros intact with all the gore and samples they had on the debut, actually there is even a bit more of that on Cybernetic Organism Atrocities. So if you, like me, think that’s something that goes hand in had on creating the right atmosphere for a brutal death metal album then that’s a big added bonus (maybe a bit too much of it, but I’m not one to complain). One thing that’s been the highlight in this band is the bass, holy crap does that get me going and Larry Wang is just a genious on creating the right groove for this kind of music. Spoiler, he got it on lockdown this time too! The sophomore slump people sometimes talk about is completely irrelevant to even discuss here as not only does Wang perform just as good as he has on his other project, so does the rest (I even think Randy Leung is a tad better here)! Best part is this album is actually quite a bit longer and overall just feels more complete than the debut it’s hard not to mention this album when someone asks me what the best brutal death album this year is.

The album is essentially a bit slower paced, but way meatier than before and that’s a pure win in my book as it just make the bass work stand out more. One may argue they would rather have the more straight to the point sound from the debut (they got those songs too though mind you) but I think this is a way for Facelift Deformation to stand out a bit more and play to their strenghts. See them as different beasts and you will go in with the right mindset. In the end I think Cybernetic Organism Atrocities is the right step to take for Facelift Deformation, a logical step for a sophomore album which isn’t a simple rinse and repeat job. Sure there are some things they can improve on still, such as it might be a bit too much of groove fest at times and using samples a few times too many but those are small things in my world. When the music hits you hard, with that said groove factor working so well along with the samples then it’s just nitpicking trying to find errors. This album is actually a bit easier to get into due to those elements, meaning this album might work as a great gateway for new people into the slam and brutal death metal world (just like I think Analepsy is). If I had to give my top songs those would be “Siege”, “Slaughtered and Infected” and the title track “Cybernetic Organism Atrocities”. All three got a different element I like making it differ which one I enjoy the most, meaning all three could feature on my favorite song section.

Cybernetic Organism Atrocities is easily one of the best albums this year with sheer brutality in mind along with Organectomy and Rendered Helpless who plays roughly the same type of slamming brutal death. Simple to like and get into on the very first note or bree. If this doesn’t get you wanting to hardcore mosh in your home I’m not sure what will. Pre-order or grab it when it releases August 31st via Realityfade Records by going here!

Written by J.B.

Artist: Facelift Deformation
Label: Realityfade Records
For fans of: Analepsy and Organectomy
Release date: August 31st, 2019
Favorite song: Slaughtered and Infected
Score: 4/5 Excellent

Albums of the month: July

July was an interesting month as it had some of the biggest surprises of the year for me. Along with some heavy hitters like Abbath, Wormed and Disentomb also putting out solid albums there has been enough new music to put on when you have a drink in the hot sun. For the first time ever there isn’t a single album I’ve reviewed on the top 5 list. I blame it on not receiving the promos nor have I been all that active on my writing this Summer (will change of course). This time around I’ve also made a Spotify playlist featuring two of my favorite songs from each album mentioned here (including the honorable mentions and if they have Spotify of course). So what are you waiting for, dig in!

Album of the month

Wormwood – Nattarvet

Wow what beast this turned out to be! I wasn’t all in on Wormwood before but with Nattarvet they really knocked it out of the park and has released one of the best black metal albums of the year. Now they are one of the bands I look forward to the most to see live at Månegarm Open Air in August. Very big surprise to me. Released July 26th via Black Lodge Records.

Runners-up

Guttural Slug – Plague of Filth

I’ve read the hate and people wondering where the cricket sounds are but screw that, this is a great album that any fan of brutal death metal slam should give a listen. Guttural Slug changed some of their formula and I think it worked. Released July 14th via Brutal Mind.

Disentomb – The Decaying Light

While I still have a lot of love for the bands first release Sunken Chambers of Nephilim there is no denying the band has grown a lot since then. The Decaying Light is the most varied offering yet that’s both brutal and catchy. Released July 12th via Unique Leader Records.

Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance

The expectations were high and Tomb Mold delivered. Simple as that. One of the best old school death metal records you will hear all year together with the likes of Carnal Tomb, Kingdom, Gods Forsaken and Ossuarium. Will be great to see Tomb Mold live for the first time in Europe at Kill-Town Festival in September. Released July 19th via 20 Buck Spin.

Carnal Tomb – Abhorrent Veneration

Another big surprise in my books. I didn’t really know what to expect from this band as I’d never heard them before but Abhorrent Veneration has put Carnal Tomb on my map at least with one of the best death metal albums of the year. Released July 26th via Testimony Records.

Honorable mentions

Disrupted – The Procrastination of Being
Ecliptic Vision – Ecliptic Vision
Foray Between Ocean – As Serenity Drowned
Decrepit Depravity – Self Enucleation
Brand of Sacrifice – God Hand
Black Passage – The Veil
Thy Art is Murder – Human Target
Abbath – Outsider
Wormed – Metaportal
Gates to the Morning – Return to Earth
HEX – God Has No Name
Jig-Ai – Entrails Tsunami
False – Portent
Vagrant – The Rise Of Norn
Falls of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology

The Metal Gamer songs of the month playlist

Grim Existence – Expansion of Reality (Death Metal)

The label F H E D got on my radar when they released the awesome album Monument to Decay by Deus Vermin. Now it’s time to dig into the labels releases again and there I find the old school death metal and hardcore mix Grim Existence and their short three song EP Expansion of Reality. Short as it may be it would fast show it packs a punch.

This is rotten music to the core and oh how great it is! The intro alone hits hard with its heavy riffing and groovy tunes that gets your head banging with only a single uegh having been said. The title track “Expansion of Reality” is some wicked sounding stuff that brings back the days of Entombed in all their glory, simple good old death metal with the tempo changes just right and very headbang friendly. Ending the short but sweet EP is “Chambers Echo” which is a slower paced track initially, almost giving a Finish death metal vibe, when it later on goes a bit more on the hardcore breakdown way and Hang the Bastard influences comes out.

In the end these nine minutes of death metal brought me a lot of joy. Grim Existence has showcased some varied style in the little time the Expansion of Reality was spinning and it’s very good. Hopefully next time around we will receive a full-length and see if they can keep it interesting for a longer duration. It’s definitely looking good though!

Written by J.B.

Artist: Grim Existence
Label: F H E D
For fans of: Entombed and Gatecreeper
Release date: June 4th, 2019
Favorite song: Expansion of Reality
Score: 3.5/5 Very good