Netherbird – Into the Vast Uncharted (Melodic Black/Death Metal)

A band that I don’t think has truly got the appreciation it deserves is the Swedish melodic black/death metal band Netherbird. Sure a lot of people know about them but it seems to never been that much hype around their albums when they drop. I find that weird because not only are they a great band but they are in many ways the closest we can get to that sweet sweet Dissection sound in modern time (I would say Unanimated too but they are alive and kicking again). While the lyrical theme differs a lot from both Unanimated and Dissection that perfect passage between black and death metal is played here just as well. Into the Vast Uncharted is the bands 11th album (counting the EP’s, fifth full-length) and they’ve aged like a fine wine with their last album The Grander Voyage being the best they had done. Will Into the Vast Uncharted be just as good?

New since the last album is the addition of a full-time drummer in the Netherbird ranks. Fredrik Widigs (ex-Marduk, ex-Demonical and ex-Nordjevel to name a few) did a fine job as a session drummer on The Grander Voyage but now the line-up is complete as Fredrik Andersson (A Canorous Quintet, This Ending, ex-Amon Amarth) joined Netherbird in 2016 and has been able to be a part of this album since the very start due to it, and it shows. It’s not easy to stand out in a band that’s had drummers of such high caliber as Widigs, Erlandsson (At the Gates, ex-Paradise Lost) or Fjellström (Nordjevel, ex-Dark Funeral, ex-Aeon) but hell Andersson manages to really shine on Into the Vast Uncharted. He makes his presence known and stands out especially on tracks like “Saturnine Ancestry” and “Nexus of Unlight” where the intro’s literally is a kickstart into headbanging from the drums alone. That being said it’s obviously not a one-man show. Nephente on vocals is as good as ever, Jon Nödtveidt would be pleased, with the bass/guitar work from Nord, Jacobsson, André and Bizmark really hitting the sweet spots. No one could ever complain on the musicianship involved in a Netherbird album, that’s for sure.

There is honestly only one track I have a bit of a problem with on Into the Vast Uncharted and that’s “Eventide Evangel”. It starts of as a quite boring tune, even for a sort of ballad, but eventually it unleashes a flurry of wicked riffs and thundering drums that at least makes the song end on a high to eventually lead into one of the best tracks on the album “The Obsidian White”. They made it work a lot better on “Harvest the Stars” for this sort of slower tune, much due to the length of the two songs as “Harvest the Stars” is quite a lot shorter and never really loses focus as I think “Eventide Evangel” did. “Mercury Skies” clocking on almost nine minutes could be suffering from the same fate but here the melancholic tunes and atmosphere keeps it together well, showcasing how Netherbird has done these type of songs incredible well in the past on songs like “Hinterlands” and “Pillars of the Sky”. Also has to be said the production value is once again of the highest level, I might even go as far as saying it’s a step greater than it was on The Grander Voyage.

Into the Vast Uncharted is yet another excellent album from Netherbird, a band that I think never falters. With songs like “Mercury Skies” (which takes the mantle from “Pillars of the Sky” as a superb epic song with ease), “Saturnine Ancestry” and “The Obsidian White” keeping the flame burning of the brightest blue this bird once again soars high. Is it as good as The Grander Voyage? Honestly I think the two albums are quite different so hard to tell after only a few days with the album. Into the Vast Uncharted is more intense and maybe not as grand of a voyage (nor as symphonic) as it’s predecessor, but this is closer to Dissection than they’ve ever been, blurring out the boundaries between death and black metal. One thing I do know for certain right now though, The Grander Voyage was on my top albums of 2016 list and Into the Vast Uncharted will be just as well!

Written by J.B.

Artist: Netherbird
Label: Eisenwald
For fans of: Dissection and Unanimated
Release date: September 27th, 2019
Favorite song: Mercury Skies
Score: 4/5 Excellent

Conarium

I know I know I haven’t reviewed a game in a very long time. Fact is I’ve been on a movie and series spree so gaming has had less priority, while being sick at home with a cold though I took the time to dive into yet another horror game in my backlog, Conarium. As a major Lovecraft fan, and horror fanatic, it was to my surprise I’d missed this game on its initial release back in 2017. However better late than ever I got this game on a sale this Summer and now it was time to dig into Zoetrope Interactive’s take on one of Lovecraft’s most known works At the Mountains of Madness.

Let me start with saying this is yet another “walking simulator” in the veins of other games I’ve played lately like Unforgiving: A Northern Hymn and Through the Woods. Difference here is that there are a lot of puzzles to be solved and some of them can be quite tricky. Together with some very chilling atmosphere, great music and story this sets for a very cool experience I can warmheartedly recommend. It’s definitely not the most scary game I’ve played, not even close but where is always an eerie feeling throughout the game that something is watching you and with a griping story that has two different endings I thought the game did a very good job making the novel come to life. If you have four hours to spend and into Lovecraft then this game is for you. There are better games out there for sure, but for what this is it’s great!

Platform: PC
Graphics: 3/5
Music: 3.5/5
Gameplay: 3/5
Story: 3/5
Score: 3/5 Good

Creeping Flesh – Into the Meat Grinder (Death Metal)

Sweden isn’t just famous for Ikea, meatballs and knäckebröd, but we got a little something called death metal that flourish here too! Creeping Flesh from Gothenburg is quite fresh, formed in 2013, meat that’s now creeping Into the Meat Grinder with their full-length debut. Prior this album though Creeping Flesh has been releasing material with haste as they released two EP’s and a demo in a three year span. Me being completely unaware of the band before this full-length didn’t know what to expect but safe to say it quickly became apparent that going into this meat grinder would leave me utterly destroyed.

“Tank Corps Unleashed” with the mighty Jonny Petterson (Gods Forsaken and Wombbath to name a few) kicks off the album in class, damn that tune hit me hard and got me in a good mood when writing this early in the morning. A great featuring to say the least. One would think that Creeping Flesh might have done a bad decision in pulling all the stops on the opener but hell no they did not! “Black Twisted Limbs” turns out to be even more… twisted and already Creeping Flesh eradicate my doubts on how they handle themselves without help. Then a much faster track, with a bit of that Gothenburg melodeath flair to it, “Stench of Guts” comes on and now I’m just completely sold on these guys. Old school death metal a la Obituary, Asphyx, Hail of Bullets and especially Bolt Thrower meets the riffs of At the Gates. It’s just a great match and your neck will get sour. “Zaamurets” is even more groovy and I can just see myself throwing first in the air when this songs gets played live. The album never loses momentum and the way they change style and tempo just a tiny bit from song to song keeps it interesting and each song stands well on their own. Hell I had a really hard time choosing my favorite song due to this, they are all good in their own way haha. If I had to choose my top three though then “Tank Corps Unleashed”, “Black Twisted Limbs” and “Zaamurets” will have to be it, basically you can say that first half of this album is close to death metal album of the year material.

Into the Meat Grinder just blew me away, super tight death metal that combines the old school death metal sound with a bit of melodic death mixed into it and Creeping Flesh is now a band I will follow very closely. Sure you might argue they don’t really add anything new to the vast ocean of death metal but when it’s made this well, with top notch production value to boot then I say it’s one of the best death metal albums you will hear all year! The album drops today, and I advise you to grab a copy. Not only because it freaking owns but you will also support independent underground death metal while doing so!

Written by J.B.

Artist: Creeping Flesh
Label: Growls From the Underground
For fans of: Bolt Thrower and Asphyx
Release date: September 25th, 2019
Favorite song: Zaamurets
Score: 4/5 Excellent

Chase the Dead – Desolate Absolution (Deathcore/Metalcore)

Norway, famous for their fjords and beautiful landscape along with their vast black metal scene. Color me surprised when I got a deathcore promo from the country and I just had to check out. The five-man group started in 2016 who has since worked towards releasing their debut album titled Desolate Absolution.

With bangers like “Castle of Broken Dreams” and “Fractured” becoming highlights very early on it becomes apparent quite quick Chase the Dead isn’t playing around and can produce heavy deathcore songs with great songwriting and infuse both metalcore and death metal elements nicely. Sadly the album doesn’t quite keep that intense start all the way through where songs like “Mexico” and “Separated” kinda just pass by without leaving a mark and “Legend” bringing some Born of Osiris vibes to it but not quite on that level. This is the bands debut after all though, and with that in mind Desolate Absolution is killing it, it’s bound to be some bumps down the road. Near the end the album hits me with some down-tempo galore, and another favorite of mine “Worthless” which showcase another side of Chase the Dead and what they can do. Closing Desolate Absolution the song “Making a Murderer Part II” is tasked with, which is yet another solid track. Basically ending the journey with a excellent start, decent middle and great ending.

They bring some of the best parts from Fit For An Autopsy, Thy Art is Murder and In the Midst of Lions together and while they don’t quite reach up to their high standard yet Chase the Dead has laid a great foundation to stand on with having some of the best deathcore songs released this year on their debut. This debut will for certain be in the talks when I will choose a debut album of the year in December, time will tell if the small inconsistencies will make it fall short or if the album might even grow on me more with age. Norway now has a deathcore band chasing the dream and I’m sure they can eventually become a big name when the consistency improves.

Written by J.B.

Artist: Chase the Dead
Label: Mechanical Records
For fans of: Fit For An Autopsy and In the Midst of Lions
Release date: September 13th, 2019
Favorite song: Fractured
Score: 3.5/5 Very good

Mutilatred – Ingested Filth (Brutal Death Metal)

The American death metal act Mutilatred had a rather solid debut in 2015 with Dissecting Your Future. It was one of those album that if you’re a fan of brutal death metal you’d have a great time but it would probably quickly disappear from your memory as it didn’t really stand out. Four years later the band is at it again, this time with an EP instead of a full-length and hopefully a more memorable experience.

There is of course more pummeling death metal to get here! The drum sound is a bit of a hit or miss to me (as it was on the first album too), took a while for me to get used to it but even so I’m not a big fan of how it sounds. The “organic” snare sound (first word that comes to mind on explaining it, excuse my English) is used quite a bit on other death metal albums but it’s one of those things I’m picky on and more often than not can’t seem to enjoy (listened to Malignant Altar’s Retribution of Jealous Gods the other day where I like it for example).

There are quite a few things Mutilatred has made some big steps in the right direction on here too though, and I’m not one to just focus on the section I’m not getting into. The vocal performance is spot on, not that it was bad on the debut but it’s just more varied, got better growling and is simply nastier. The songs are still clocking around the two minute mark, but this time around though they have upped the tempo and for the better. A heavier album than their debut and it fits the band like a glove. No bullshit, just pedal to the metal raw hardcore brutal death metal the way it’s meant to be played. The production has become a lot better too to bring a nice bow on top of this neat package. These small things together makes Ingested Filth a more complete album than their debut, especially the more direct brutal death metal approach I hope they stick by for coming releases. An album like this needs that ferocity all the way through.

I still can’t drop the fact it isn’t an album I will return to in a few months as the bait used on the hook isn’t quite what I need. Ingested Filth won’t bring any new fans over to the brutal death metal scene but the old-school ones. It’s undeniable that Mutilatred have released another solid album though, better than their previous effort and definitely brings good music to fans of the genre.

Written by J.B.

Artist: Mutilatred
Label: Redefining Darkness Records
For fans of: Suffocation and Skinless
Release date: August 30th, 2019
Favorite song: Sifting Through Needles
Score: 3/5 Good

Interview: Arx Atrata

One of my personal favorites when it comes to atmospheric black metal is Arx Atrata. The one-man band by Ben Sizer is a thing of beauty and I still remember having their album Spiritus in Terra spinning while visiting The Highlands of Scotland, the perfect soundtrack to these magical lands. When I got to know Arx Atrata is on their way to release a new album October 11th titled The Path Untravelled I couldn’t pass the opportunity to have a chat with Ben!

Hi Ben! First thing first, how did Arx Atrata come to life?

About 10 years ago, I had been listening to a lot of atmospheric black metal and a lot of blackened doom, and felt inspired to try and come up with a blend of the two. The project was going slowly at first, but soon there was a new wave of British black metal bands emerging – Winterfylleth, Fen, Wodensthrone, and similar – and the influence I took from their sounds and themes formed the last part of the puzzle. By mid 2013 I’d got five songs together that I felt were a good representation of where I wanted to take things, and that winter they were released as Oblivion, the first album. The reception to that was far more positive than I could have hoped for, and as a result I’ve been working on more material ever since.

You’ve had a steady three year gap between each album, is that by choice or it just happens?

It just happens. I spread my songwriting time across multiple acts and, like almost all musicians in this genre, I obviously have a day job as well. I’d love to be like Iron Maiden in the 80’s, releasing an album every 18 months, but there aren’t enough hours in the day.

You’re also a member of the band Twilight’s Embrace. Which band do you focus the most on?

Generally speaking it’s a matter of taking turns, focusing on one and then the other. There’s obviously a lot of work leading up to an album release and then a fair amount afterwards, but then things die down and there’s an opportunity to switch to another project for a while. Twilight’s Embrace had to take a back seat over recent months while I got this album finished, but that time is coming to a close now. I also play guitar in a band called Fjords (https://www.facebook.com/fjordsofficial/) who have their debut album out this winter as well, so it’s been a busy year.

Arx Atrata has a new album titled The Path Untravelled incoming that’s set for a release on October 11th. How has the process gone while writing it? Anything you done different from your past two albums?

For the most part my process is always the same. I produce lots of ideas for parts of songs, then I pick the best ones to base songs around, before continually adding to them and refining them. The songwriting happens over a long period of time and since I do it all in my home studio it only really finishes when the final mix is done. I don’t produce demos and then re-record them ‘properly’ – it’s just an ongoing process of refinement until each song is ready for release.

One thing a bit different this time is that I wrote a lot of material that didn’t make it onto the album, not because it wasn’t good enough but because I needed to pick the most cohesive collection of songs for this release. So maybe the next record won’t have to take three more years – but I’m making no promises!

Speaking of The Path Untravelled, is there a special song on the album you think stands out and might become the next “Legacy” so to say?

I’m happy with all the tracks on this album, so it’s hard to pick a favourite. However, I think the title track is perhaps the one I’m most pleased with, because it covers almost all the musical ground I wanted to show with this project. But I think the listeners will decide which song or songs are the best!

What’s your main influences when you write a song?

Often I start out inspired by some other band, trying to understand what it is that I like about their music and trying to write completely new music in their style. But I only do one or two sections that way, because I think it’s important that each song has a blend of ideas and influences.

As mentioned above I was very inspired by recent UK black metal acts, but I also love a lot of atmospheric black metal acts, from the harsher sounds of Darkspace and Paysage D’Hiver through to the lush ambience of Lustre and Eldamar, and especially bands that bridge the gap like Coldworld. Finally I’ve been impressed by recent black metal acts that keep the fury of traditional black metal but have very interesting melodies and atmospheric layers, like Der Weg Einer Freiheit and The Great Old Ones.

To my knowledge Arx Atrata has never performed live? Will it happen?

That’s correct, there have been no Arx Atrata shows yet. I hope that will change one day. Assembling a line-up of musicians to play live is not easy, however. I’ve had some interest but nothing can happen until I can get a full complement of positions filled.

Reflecting back on the nine years you’ve been working on Arx Atrata what’s been the highlight so far?

Every release is a highlight for me. Both the previous albums got a good reception and seeing that was very rewarding, especially positive reviews in respected print media like Terrorizer.

You work in the gaming industry I’ve been told. How long have you been doing that for?

That’s right – I’ve been a game developer since 2006, so about 13 years now.

What game have you had the most fun working on?

It was a huge privilege to have been able to do some contracting work on Everquest Next, because obviously the Everquest franchise is a cornerstone of online games. Sadly that game got cancelled during production but it was a great experience to work with some industry veterans on a historic game series.

How much has games influenced your music writing?

Video games have often had great soundtracks, and I’ve especially enjoyed those of the Deus Ex series, Thief, Splinter Cell, and Mass Effect. Composers like Michael McCann, Sascha Dikiciyan, Jack Wall, and Eric Brosius have created memorable works without needing to go down the route of emulating Hollywood orchestral scores. I often find myself trying to capture similar moods to their music in my works, especially in the parts that are more synth-heavy.

Lyrically, a few of the themes I write about have been inspired by the plot lines of the darker games I play. I don’t want to write about mundane things and often the high drama and world-changing decisions in those games can be the seed of an interesting premise for a song, especially if I can relate it to the real world. I suppose it’s not much different to Steve Harris of Iron Maiden writing several songs about films – the art we enjoy makes us think, that helps us make new art, and the cycle continues.

I obviously have to ask! What’s your favorite game of all time?

My favorite game of all time is Ultima VII. It’s a classic RPG from the early 90’s with a great storyline, strong themes, memorable music, and a vast world to explore. I must have lost hundreds of hours to that game, taking notes, memorizing runes, exploring dungeons, and completing quests. I’ve played many RPGs since then but none quite beat it.

Thanks for your time Ben, looking forward to hear the next epic journey from Arx Atrata! Any shoutouts?

Thanks for the interview, and look out for The Path Untravelled on October 11th!

Be sure to follow Arx Atrata on social medias and check out their upcoming album The Path Untravelled when it drops October 11th!
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Blood Red Throne – Fit to Kill (Death Metal)

Norway’s iconic death metal act Blood Red Throne are back with their 9th full-length album Fit to Kill. Born from three veteran members in the Norwegian black metal scene Død (Scariot, ex-Satyricon (live)), Freddy Bolsø (ex-Enslaved, ex-Scariot) and Tchort (Green Carnation, ex-Emperor, ex-Carpathian Forest) created what would become one of the biggest, if not the biggest, death metal acts from a country that known for their black metal. With Bolsø leaving the band in 2002 and Tchort 2010 Død kept the Blood Red Throne whole and still bloody until Bolsø made his return in 2015 who is an active member today still. With a new member joining last year on bass in Stian Gundersen I was exited to hear what that would mean to their sound following the great release Union of Flesh and Machine.

To start it off “Requiem Mass” blasts away with all its power. The song has gone warm on my playlists as the single had been out for some time, great start and if the album would be even close to the same level all the way through I knew I would love it. “Bloodity” opens up with a sweet guitar riff which later on brings the thundering drums and bass along with it. The song is one of the most varied ones I’ve heard within this genre and if it even with “Requiem Mass” being such a killer tune that’s been in my gym rotation for a while know I can’t deny that “Bloodity” is on another level and becomes my favorite song choice. Blood Red Throne keeps on giving as “Killing Machine pt.2” offers us another wicked intro that gets your blood flowing and head banging right from the bat. “WhoreZone” slows it down a bit, shows some doom/death elements initially which they perform with ease until they then speed it up to the classic death metal tempo ending with some awesome shredding. “Skyggemannen” then pops on, another song I’d heard plenty of time before as it was the first single they released from this album. A fine tune, their fastest one on the album, where using their native tongue works really well.

“InStructed InSanity” is one of the most groove ridden songs on Fit to Kill, with some wicked tempo-changes to go with it. I can easily see this being a live opener to get people going. The album never loses even a bit of momentum nearing its end (in this case the song is actually called “End”) as both “Movement of the Parasites” and “Deal it or Die” provides you with more sick riffing and headbang friendly material. The groove and bass heavy track “End” finishes the album on a high note and it’s impossible to not nod your head to this tune (as is the case with most of the album). Hell I even get some Nile vibes on the outro.

Sometimes you got to take a step back in order to get a few steps forward when climbing the Blood Red Throne. The more old-school back to the roots style they went for here was just right and even if it isn’t a complete homerun Fit to Kill proves to be another very strong Blood Red Throne offering, who are yet to release a bad album in my opinion. Also has to be noted the album cover from Giannis Nakos is a thing of beauty! If you like Blood Red Throne, or simply death metal, then this is an album to watch out for when it drops this Friday!

Written by J.B.

Artist: Blood Red Throne
Label: Mighty Music
For fans of: Cannibal Corpse and Vomitory
Release date: September 13th, 2019
Favorite song: Bloodity
Score: 4/5 Excellent