Wardaemonic – Acts of Repentance (Black Metal)

From the ashes of Avantgard Wardaemonic was formed in 2005 by Regnator. Regnator left the band in 2012 and with that they added a new guitarist in Lord Bane while the drummer Maelstrom got double duties as he is both on vocals and doing drums these days. Vocals has been something of a hard time for Wardaemonic as this is the third singer (three times a charm right?) they try while having released five albums. Seeing Maelstrom has been in the band since the start I hope this time around they can become stable as I feel that’s been holding them back some. With that said, going into this review my main question was how would the drummer do on vocals?

As a matter of fact amazingly well it would turn out! I dare say Acts of Repentance is one of their better albums in that regard. Add the fact the band continue to try and perfect the sound they went for in Obsequium, which already was a way darker sound than their first albums (and much better too if I say so myself). You can hear some Icelandic type of riffing here, think the big three Sinmara, Svartidauði and Misþyrming, which is extra noticeable on the album closer “Act V – Repentance” and is hauntingly beautiful. The closest I find Wardaemonic being in terms of overall sound is Pestilential Shadows and Erebus Enthroned though, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Wardaemonic might not be a band I think of first time around when someone asks me of great black metal bands but they are on the right track and fact is Acts of Repentance is their best album to date, by quite a mile as their old albums weren’t anything I thought was good enough to get back to. It’s a very good album but I find it lacking bits and pieces here and there for it to really stand out and being memorable. That’s down to preferences in how black metal is meant to be played though as this isn’t as aggressive, satanic and fast as I like my black metal. Wardaemonic is on the path to establish their own style of trying to mix catchy riffs, brutality and slow sections well now on their fourth full-length album. Next time around I might get completely caught in their vortex of darkness and hatred. Right now I’m mainly looking into that vortex however but it does look tempting to jump in…

If you’re into black metal, especially this style of black metal, then you should definitely check this one out though as it’s worth a few spins at the very least!

Artist: Wardaemonic
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
For fans of: Pestilential Shadows & Erebus Enthroned
Release date: March 20th, 2020
Favorite song: Act V – Repentance
Score: 3.5/5 Very good

Albums of the month: February

What a start of the year we’ve had! This years January has probably been the strongest start of a year since I started this blog with loads of great albums coming out and February is just as strong, if not stronger. One band even dropped two great albums on the same day, Cult of Fire with Nirvana and Moksha. While January was a bit short on the black metal front February had that in masses, or what about Faustian Pact, Kvaen, Faidra, YGG, Tombs, Necrowretch, Svart Crown and Cénotaphe (just to name a few even) all dropping albums you need to dig into right now if you haven’t already! Another thing worth noting is that Beneath the Massacre has come back in style with Fearmonger being some of their best material yet, welcome back! Two months in 2020 and we’ve already been offered loads of superb metal, this year is looking very bright.

Album of the month:

Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre

On one of the last days of the month it was unleashed, The Funeral Pyre! Oh does it shine bright as this is some of the best black metal I’ve heard in months. Incredible debut album and has everything I’m looking for, a contender for album of the year in my opinion. You can read the review here.

Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre was released February 28th via Black Lion Records.
Bandcamp https://kvaen.bandcamp.com/album/the-funeral-pyre
Spotify https://open.spotify.com/album/1RXqAO2dPkKQGip9qU45pg?si=BjEd_IIpQ8WGwXCq5oj3oA

Runners-up:

Beneath the Massacre – Fearmonger

What a comeback by Beneath the Massacre! Eight years after Incongruous came out they release what I think is their best album yet in Fearmonger. This hits hard!

Beneath the Massacre – Fearmonger was released February 28th via Century Media Records.
Bandcamp – N/A
Spotify https://open.spotify.com/album/1q7U1NxOyWTzoS3cpqtQpS?si=2e90Jez_Qpu2Xgu3n6zw_A

Plague – Portraits of Mind

I generally don’t see Greece as a death metal country but more into black metal. However Plague has shown there is a lot of life (or death) in the scene there too as Portraits of Mind had me on the hook straight from the start. One of the best death metal albums released so far this year! You can read the review here.

Plague – Portraits of Mind was released February 14th via Redefining Darkness Records (NA) and Nuclear Winter Records (EU).
Bandcamp https://plague-gr.bandcamp.com/album/portraits-of-mind
Spotify https://open.spotify.com/album/0u934ElljYYWNif8V6ysuz?si=kwVdxSnKStCxpo5LCNbOIA

The Spirit – Cosmic Terror

The Spirit is one of those bands I feel is underrated because I feel both their debut Sounds from the Vortex and follow-up EP Pillars of Doom were very high quality black/death metal in the veins of Dissection, Sacramentum and Thulcandra. However maybe a bit too close in the sound. With Cosmic Terror though they’ve really come a long way and while the influences are still there they’re finding their own sound more this time around.

The Spirit – Cosmic Terror was released February 7th via Art of Propaganda.
Bandcamp https://thespiritmetal.bandcamp.com/album/cosmic-terror
Spotify https://open.spotify.com/album/00TpgegQ8rs1WK0hqZDyjd?si=UOuBpr86S5OtHaKaw3LvUg

Night Crowned – Impius Viam

Their EP Humanity Will Echo Out showed a lot of promise and when I reviewed it back in 2018 I thought this band could be the next big melodic black/death export from Sweden. That seems to be the case still as their debut full-length is another step in the right direction and Night Crowned is on the path towards greatness with their apocalyptic heavy style that leaves no prisoners.

Night Crowned – Impius Viam was released February 28th via Noble Demon.
Bandcamp https://nightcrowned.bandcamp.com/album/impius-viam
Spotify https://open.spotify.com/album/0xbLmjAA1qgYnm7phVTPUS?si=msBbLB07SDWiun9Yu9G4bg

More great albums of February:

Faustian Pact – Outojen Tornien Varjoissa
Schizogen – Spawn Of Almighty Essence
Slaughter Messiah – Cursed To The Pyre
Shandrazel – Le Paysage De Mes Pensées
Faidra – Six Voices Inside
Hæresis – To Drown​.​.​.
Cénotaphe – Monte Veritá
Abated Mass of Flesh – Not Burned
Necrowretch – The Ones from Hell
Horresque – Chasms Pt. I – Avarice and Retribution
Serpent Noir – Death Clan OD
Svart Crown – Wolves Among the Ashes
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Sepultura – Quadra
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Conjureth – Foul Formations
Neptunus – Planetary Annihilation
Skyforest – A New Dawn
Sentient Divide – Haunted by Cruelty
Artach – Chronicles of a Black Winter
Xenobiotic – Mordrake
Cult of Fire – Nirvana
Cult of Fire – Moksha (yes they released two albums!)
Blåådpalt – Sliced to Perfection
Thokkian Vortex – Thy Throne is Mine
Tombs – Monarchy of Shadows
Infirmum – Walls of Sorrow
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – Ascension
Innards – Back From The Grave, Straight In Your Face
Ossaert – Bedehuis
Izthmi – The Arrows of Our Ways
Akiavel – V
Deprived Of Salvation – Destination : Decay
YGG – The Last Scald
Ars Veneficium – Usurpation of the Seven
Black Royal – Firebride

The Metal Gamer Songs of the Month Spotify playlist:

Sutrah – Aletheia (Progressive/Technical Death Metal)

Sutrah has had quite some hype behind them with their debut album from 2017 Dunes getting some absolutely raving reviews back then. Personally I never heard it and their new EP Aletheia was going to be my entry into the band which features some very talented musicians with a resumé from bands like Svart Crown, Chthe’ilist, Benighted and Serocs. Would it live up to the hype?

I will be honest, at first I was not that keen on this album. The first listen I thought was a snooze fest and I was ready to just give this album a miss (as I generally don’t write reviews on albums I don’t like). However I went back to it a few days later, a new mindset perhaps or whatever as all of a sudden it just clicked. The album is beautiful, elegant and just reeks of wonderful instrumentals with killer vocals. So what changed during those days? Well that’s the beauty with music, while I can consume an unhealthy dose of osdm daily that’s not the case with the progressive music. In this case there were too much instrumentals, a slow album and heavy on the atmospheric side. I was not ready for it as I expected something along the lines of Beyond Creation or perhaps Nile (as the promo did mention). With musicians from bands such as Benighted, Serocs and Chthe’ilist being what forms Sutrah I went in expecting more, well brutality. That was not the case at all and it took me by surprise, in a bad way.

Having heard the album 15-20 times now the past two weeks I can safely say my mind is now changed, I shouldn’t have been so set in my ways and thought this is bad because it didn’t deliver what I thought it would. It’s a whole different journey, one where the instrumentals does most of the story telling and the atmospheric side plays a big part on building the road. That being said Laurent Bellemare on vocals does a killer job but that’s not what brings me back to this album, it’s the rather unique experience, the whole package that does it for me. I do find many similarities with this release to when I first heard the album I:Voice from Warforged, which I also found being something special that stands out, but might take a few listens to get into, if you even do as it’s not for everyone. And just like with I:Voice this is an album I will listen to many times in years to come but I do need to have a certain mindset getting into it, this is not something you just put on in the background, when you hit the gym or the likes. This album needs your full attention and it gives a lot back in return if you do so.

Artist: Sutrah
Label: The Artisan Era
For fans of: Gorguts & Warforged
Release date: March 13th, 2020
Favorite song: Variation II.ii – Genèse
Score: 4/5 Excellent

Ars Veneficium – Usurpation of the Seven (Black Metal)

What’s this? 3rd review in three days!? Yes that’s right I’ve been busy and it just clicked this time, don’t get used to it though haha. From black metal new blood in Kvaen to death metal veterans Wombbath I have now landed in more black metal realms as Immortal Frost Productions has been so kind to start sending me promo’s. I obviously had to dig right into it!

When thinking of black metal from Belgium there is really only three names that comes to my mind, Ancient Rites, Wiegedood and Enthroned (Oathbreaker in a way but I personally don’t consider them black metal). What I’m saying is Belgium isn’t really known to have a vast black metal scene so it’s fun to get a promo from a band hailing from that country I haven’t heard of before. Enter Ars Veneficium, a band that was formed back in 2013 so in all honesty they got a few years together by now. Prior Usurpation of the Seven the band have released an EP titled The Abyss in 2014 and a full-length in 2016 which was called The Reign of the Infernal King. I obviously had to give those two a listen before digging into their new release and I was pleasantly surprised. This was hard hitting aggressive black metal with blasting drums and riffs with lyrical themes of darkness, death and Satanism. Just the way I like my black metal!

While the first two records were good black metal I didn’t find them that memorable (do check out “As Flames Spread Into Chaos” and “Bringer of Light” however), were a bit inconsistent and could use a touch up on the production. Here I find the new album Usurpation of the Seven taking a big step in the right direction on all three points. The onslaught of sweet riffs and thundering drums remains but it’s more evil, wicked and simply just a showing of a band that’s had more time together, honing their craft. “Wrath of Life” is only the first track on the album but it’s already clear this song is better than anything the band has released previously. “Devour of Light” cements my thoughts as it’s just as good, by now I am certain that Ars Veneficium doesn’t play around and has made the best of their time between the albums to unleash a much better output this time around. What start as what I originally thought was a weaker song eventually becomes the relentless fury that ends “In the Fires of Eternity”, ending it on a high note and after a few listens becomes one of my favorite tracks. Funny how that works sometimes and says a lot on why you shouldn’t judge a song too quickly. The closing tracks “Under the Wings of Beautiful Darkness” and “The Flame of Endless Yearning” are great outputs as well, with the tempo-changes made to look easy in “The Flame of Endless Yearning” especially catches my attention.

In the end Usurpation of the Seven is a prime example of fast riff driven black metal done right. It’s nothing I haven’t heard before truth be told but Ars Veneficium does it very well and has risen to new heights since their last album. Fans of black metal in the veins of Sargeist and Human Serpent don’t miss out on this one!

Artist: Ars Veneficium
Label: Immortal Frost Productions
For fans of: Sargeist & Human Serpent
Release date: February 28th, 2020
Favorite song: The Flame of Endless Yearning
Score: 3.5/5 Very good

Wombbath – Choirs of the Fallen (Death Metal)

Created in 1990 Wombbath is a pure veteran of the Swedish death metal scene. After disbanding in 1995 the band was recreated in 2014 by the founder Håkan Stuvemark who together with one of Sweden’s best death metal vocalists Jonny Pettersson (Berzerker Legion, Gods Forsaken, Heads For the Dead etc) has been for core of Wombbath today. The bands latest release The Great Desolation came in 2018 and was in my opinion one of the best swe-death albums of the year. Since then only Håkan and Jonny has remained in the line-up as Thomas von Wachenfeldt (De Tveksamma, Wachenfeldt) joins on guitar, Matt Davidson (Repulsive Vision, Henry Kane (live)) on bass and Jon Rudin (From Ruin and Just Before Dawn) on drums. With the core still intact it was interesting to hear if the band would sound like this time around.

At the start much have stayed the same, which is for the good seeing as I loved The Great Desolation. Wombbath being heavily rooted in the days of old school swe-death this is no surprise to be honest as members have come and gone but their core sound has always been there, that’s the case this time too. Dismember like riffs comes at you straight from the get go as “Fallen” starts the album in style. “Crawling from the Pits” is HM-2 galore where every single old school swe-death fan should jump with joy when the riffs shreds you halfway into the song. On “We Shall Remain” Jonny switches up the vocals a bit and tries some other styles which doesn’t quite hit a home run for me and the track feels a lot weaker than the rest of the album all around to be honest. “A Sweet Taste of Death” also has some high and lows but here the quality is more back up to what the first two songs delivered. Loving the eerie feeling and tempo-changes they’re going for here even if I feel it could of been done even better it’s a nice change of death metal. “From the Beggars Hand” then comes on, my favorite track on the album because holy crap is this the way I love Wombbath play. The solo at around 4:10 is lethal and should come with a warning label while Jonny does one of his best performances just adds more fuel to my headbanging ways. An absolute killer track which shows Wombbath at its peak. Funny thing is the other six minute song (they are actually both clocking 6:06) “Wings of Horror” does give “From the Beggars Hand” a run for its money however as here their newer elements just clash perfectly and the horrific atmosphere laid down by Jonny’s variation on growls and shrieks in the background along with some filthy instrumentals works wonderful together. Think more doomy death metal a la Finland and Krypts or Corpsessed than classic swe-death here. If you have to just listen to two songs choose those two as they showcase two very different sides of Wombbath.

On Choirs of the Fallen they’ve actually tried more new things than I originally thought they would, with varied outcomes. Nice to see a band so rooted in a certain style tries to add new elements though. I do think The Great Desolation was a better album overall though and that Wombbath might have tried a trick or two too many here. There are a few too many songs that are just good than great here and I also think the overall songwriting was a bit better on The Great Desolation. However with that said fans of Wombbath will feel right at home, that thing is certain and the band has released some of their best material here, just also some of its weaker ones too. Have to be said I have very high expectations of a band of this caliber which is obviously something to keep in mind if you’re just checking the score. It’s a very good death metal album which shows a band willing to try new things (an old dog can learn to sit!) and I’m very exiting for what comes next from Wombbath to continue this path.

Artist: Wombbath
Label: Soulseller Records
For fans of: Dismember & Entrails
Release date: March 6th, 2020
Favorite song: From the Beggars Hand
Score: 3.5/5 Very good

Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre (Black Metal)

Being a solo project by Jakob Björnfot (The Duskfall and Autumn Death) Kvaen was born in the fires of black metal. That’s not all though, the band explores the 80’s infernal speed metal reign while also having a touch of pagan/viking metal to add some spice to it. The Funeral Pyre being the debut it already features a lot of class session musicians such as Sebastian Ramstedt (Necrophobic, ex-Nifelheim), Perra Karlsson (Dreadful Fate, In Aeternum, ex-Deströyer 666) and Danni Jelsgaard (ex-Svartsot), and boy are we in for a wild ride!

Already on the first track “Revenge by Fire” you’re blessed with wicked riffs and just a relentless mix of black and speed metal in the veins of Nifelheim, Deströyer 666 and Desaster. This is the stuff that gets you going and if you don’t headbang to this your dead inside (well maybe you are but headbang anyways). The album then simply doesn’t let you breathe as you’re now caught in the funeral pyre, just embrace it. To follow up the sweet first track there is “Yee Naaldlooshii” which was a previously released single that I’d already heard countless of times, it is still a wicked banger and I can’t seem to grow tired of it. In the end, be it the slower, leaning more towards the black metal world, “The Wolves Throne” or previously mentioned “Revenge by Fire” Kvaen delivers some of the best music I’ve heard. Kvaen does a splendid job delivering that old school feeling but with a modern touch (great production etc).

To say this is the best album I’ve heard two months into 2020 is not an understatement. While I loved the albums by, for example, Svarttjern and Lorna Shore this is slightly better and hits all the right spots. Black Lion Records have released a lot of good metal but this is their best release since the amazing Hyperion album Seraphical Euphony. A must listen.

Artist: Kvaen
Label: Black Lion Records
For fans of: Deströyer 666 & Desaster
Release date: February 28th, 2020
Favorite song: Revenge by Fire
Score: 4.5/5 Incredible

Plague – Portraits of Mind (Death Metal)

Hailing from Greece there has been a death metal band biding its time for years until the debut would be unleashed. That band is Plague who formed in 2011, released a short two song EP titled Abyssdiver in 2014 then went back into the shadows to continue working on their craft on what would eventually become the debut album Portraits of Mind. Influenced by the early scene of death metal and on a label (Redefining Darkness Records) that very rarely disappoint me I instantly knew that this could be something right up my alley.

There is no reason for any death metal fan to skip out on this album. An absolutely fantastic debut album from Plague and well worth the wait. Production is on point, the band plays like they were an veteran act and their musicianship shines brightly throughout the whole album as every single bit of equipment has its moment of triumph, without being forced or anything like that. Plague had me on the hook line and sinker straight from the opener “Intersperse” and then easily reeled me in. This is 36 minutes of pure death metal joy which will leave the old school Massacre fans begging for more as at times Plague almost seems like an reincarnation version of them. Together with Sallow Moth (who plays a different kind of old school death, read the review here) I’m now left in awe with two fantastic releases and immense surprises to start 2020 in a big way. Plague may be from Greece but they perform the American old school death metal way with incredible precision. One of those albums where the promo description really fits the bill and I can just nod as I read it because it wasn’t just PR talk. I hardly ever do this but I’m going to leave you with a quote from the promo that actually says it all. “Portraits of Mind is a bludgeoning affair…one that often effortlessly combines simplicity in form with stellar musicianship. The result is a lesson in Death Metal; one that borrows heavily from the early 90’s American scene. This album is the perfect balance of everything that makes Death Metal great – you’ll see for yourself.” Redefining Darkness Records were right on the money with this one and yet again they bring forth a superb death metal band from the shadows into the light.

Artist: Plague
Label: Redefining Darkness Records (NA) / Nuclear Winter Records (Europe)
For fans of: Massacre & Brutality
Release date: February 14th, 2020
Favorite song: Deranged Madness
Score: 4/5 Excellent