Arallu – Desert Battles (Black/Death Metal)

front cover

Originally released in 2009 Desert Battles became another piece in Arallu’s long history of well received albums (they’ve been going for over 20 years!). However the band was never satisfied with the sound of Desert Battles and now, nine years later, they re-release Desert Battles with new cover art, vocals recording and mix. Of course I had to have a listen to the old version before jumping into this as I hadn’t heard the original album before but had heard both Geniewar and Six from 2015 and 2017 respectively. Both solid releases and it became clear both were a lot stronger outputs than Desert Battles was in 2009 when comparing them.

Desert Battles 2018 version is however a cleaner journey set to the mixing and the vocals. Personally I enjoy this more as the old version was a bit too rough compared to how I’d heard the other material from Arallu. This definitely suits their newer sound a lot more. For those unfamiliar with Arallu their style of metal is black metal with elements of death, middle eastern music and thrash. Making it easy to draw parallels to bands such as Orphaned Land, Al-Namrood and Melechesh, even Nile at some places. From what I understand on reading the bands history Desert Battles is the album that put them on the map and where they took their sound to the level they have today. It’s always nice to hear how a bands sound has evolved during their career and while some remasters can sometime destroy what was once good with the album I think this only improved it.

I don’t think Desert Battles at its very core is as good as neither Geniewar nor Six but this is the way Desert Battles was meant to sound. A really good way to get an introduction to the band with songs like “The Keeper of Jerusalem” being some of the better songs Arallu have written. I do miss the consistency Six had though and a “Possessed by the Sleep” or “Philosophers” standout track to really make it for me. It’s just not as memorable and easily over-looked in the sea of good metal out there. Also I can’t let the fact go that I enjoy the more evil sounding Al-Namrood or Melechesh a lot more when I compare Arallu with other middle eastern influenced bands I know of, they are a lot more towards black metal than Arallu though and who’s to say there can’t be several? They are rather different sounding all of them to be fair. If you haven’t heard Arallu before this could be a good start to hear where they kicked off before going to, in my opinion, their better releases Geniewar and Six.

Label: Raven Music
For fans of: Al-Namrood and Melechesh
Release date: June 6th, 2018
Favorite song: The Keeper of Jerusalem
Score: 2.5/5

Advertisements

Engulf – Gold and Rust (Death Metal)

a1153212104_10

Hal Microutsicos (Blasphemous and Chapel of Ruin) got an interesting solo project going on with Engulf. Instead of a releasing a full-length he decided to put an EP series of three out, basically different chapters in a story. Kind of a cool idea in my opinion but it did leave the first EP Subsumed Atrocities really short on only two tracks and almost 9 minutes long. It was a good, yet short experience though with some old school American death metal vibes in a sci-fi setting. Gold and Rust offers a little more juice to the listeners with three songs clocking in on 11 minutes. The opener “Maul” continues right where “Graviton” left off (which also makes me wonder why he didn’t make this a full-length) on Subsumed Atrocities and Engulf goes at it a bit harder on this track than what I heard on the last EP. Which is rather fitting due to the lyrics being all about rage of an entity that seeks revenge.

If I thought “Maul” was going hard then I wasn’t ready for what waited on “Misshapen Abomination” and the closing track “Sovereign to the Seven Underworlds”. Here Hal went closer to the heavier side of American death metal giants like Suffocation, Nile and Hate Eternal. You could tell this was an album filled with more hate than the previous as it just hit you harder, straight in the face. While I thought Subsumed Atrocities was ok I think this is a few steps better. It gets better with each track too as “Sovereign to the Seven Underworlds” closes the EP on a high note. Heavier, more technical and just overall a better EP in my opinion. Now I am looking forward to the last chapter of this series as “the event” will unfold. I do wish however that an full-length with this series of EPs will be put into one in the future as that would make it a more enjoyable listen to me.

Label: Everlasting Spew Records
For fans of: Hate Eternal and Immolation
Release date: July 13th, 2018
Favorite song: Sovereign to the Seven Underworlds
Score: 3.5/5

Ifernach – Gaqtaqaiaq (Black Metal)

a0449394562_10

From Canada there is a one-man army in Finian Patraic who has his own band Ifernach. Since the first EP dropped in 2016 he has managed to do not one, not two, but SIX albums (including this one). That’s quite insane really. I haven’t managed to listen to all of them but I was interested to hear how the quality has been seeing he has released so many so quickly. From what I heard non of them were bad, some were worse than others and Finian could probably skip an EP or two to make a full-length with the better songs in his favour but it is still admirable to do what he does, as a solo artist.

So what kind of music does Ifernach play? While it’s old school black metal at its core that doesn’t tell the whole truth. Gaqtaqaiaq offers a lot of different styles. Be it the atmospheric passages that makes one draw parallels to Lord of the Rings infused metal a la Summoning, or the more savage yet melodic parts that’s more within the second wave of black metal from Norway with the likes of Gehenna, Immortal or Emperor. That’s also where the strength of Ifernach lays. How all these ambient, acoustic and raw elements comes together to create a rather wicked and chaotic black metal experience. While I still think there are some ups and downs (I tend to skip “Elle danse avec la mort” for example as that songs seems out of place to me) during the almost 30 minutes of playtime Gaqtaqaiaq is Ifernach best offering yet. During these two years he has honed his craft and for those out there that want some savage spiritual black metal then this will be an album to check out.

I do wonder do how many albums Ifernach can release before starting to repeat himself too often or drop in quality though. Finian is a talented musician that’s all for experimenting and improving his craft. Giving time, trimming the fat and you got yourself not just a good but a great underground black metal act. Fans of old Immortal or waiting for a new album with Gehenna should have a good time here.

Label: Nekrart Productions
For fans of: Immortal and Gehenna
Release date: March 28th, 2018
Favorite song: Extinction
Score: 3/5

Kuilu – Monumentti (Black Metal)

a2168359185_10

Finland, a land of a thousand lakes but also a land that many says have a bit of a melancholic feel to it. It’s dark, gloom environments and weather can do that to a person. Kuilu knows this all too well and their black metal can only be described as melancholic black metal at it’s finest. If I didn’t know any better I would have had a hard time telling this is a debut album because this seems to be the work from seasoned musicians. Formed in 2010 Kuilu have certainly bided their time and honed their craft to create a well written debut that I’ve revisited many times by now. At first I wasn’t in the right state as I was expecting more furious and heavy hitting black metal in the veins of Sargeist or Baptism. While Monumentti wasn’t that at all I came back to it only weeks later, had a new mindset, and found the doom elements, dark and melancholic tones along with the fitting vocals to be nothing but great. Think more Wayfarer and Uada type of black metal and you’re way closer than your “typical” Finnish black metal acts.

This is an atmospheric album that pulls you in if you let it. It might take a few listens but I’ve come to really enjoy Monumentti and as it is right now it stands as one of my favorite black metal albums released this year. Hopelessness, a melodic and melancholic void that’s really sweet music to the ears if you’re in the right mindset. The guitar work especially is something I need to highlight. It’s really captivating and one of the main reasons I enjoy spinning this album from time to time. Kuilu showcase a style of black metal I find very fitting for a Finnish band and they definitely go straight to the higher tiers within this realm of black for me alongside previously mentioned bands Wayfarer and Uada. Question is of course if they can do an equally good or even better album next time around (something for example Uada in my opinion failed to do). One of the best debut albums this year that challenging the listener and worth revisiting many times. Hopefully it doesn’t take eight years for a new full-length but word on the street is they are working hard on their second album already! From now on I will also include the Spotify links in my reviews if I can as sometimes I review an album before it’s out or it’s not on Spotify.

Label: Deviant Records
For fans of: Wayfarer and Uada
Release date: May 5th, 2018
Favorite song: Sisyfos
Score: 4/5

Soreption – Monument of the End (Technical Death Metal)

35881911_10156682013508028_8361653871877029888_o

I’m going to be honest, Monument of the End has been one of my most anticipated tech-death albums this year together with Revocation and Beyond Creation. As a Swede Soreption have always been extra close to me and even though I wouldn’t exactly call them top tier versus the likes of, well, Revocation and Beyond Creation for example they have released two really solid albums with Deterioration of Minds and Engineering the Void. Since their latest release Engineering the Void a lot has happened within the band though. The four-piece that had stayed the same since the creation in 2005 went down to two original members as Rikard Persson (bass) and Anton Svedin (guitars) are not a part of Soreption anymore. Now we enter a new era of Soreption with Mikael Almgren and Kim Lantto on guitar and bass respectively.

The line-up change has definitely shaken things up as Soreption are now closer to the mighty Swedish giant Meshuggah or Decapitated in the chuggy groovy riffing on tracks like “The Anti-Present” and “King of Undisputed Nonsense”. Whereas on “Nothingness Becoming” there are some The Zenith Passage vibes on the intro. A fitting step for the band in my opinion. Add the fact that a lot of things seems to have leveled up a notch. Fredrik Söderberg has his best vocal performance to date and Tony Westermark is as good on the drums as he has always been. The album also contains one of the best songs the band has released in the closer “The Entity”. There are a few negatives though, for one the album is a bit short. They could, and should, have had a couple more songs as 33 minutes is on the short side of a full-length. I also feel they do the same trick with the tempo changes and riffs a few times too many on Monument of the End which lowers the score somewhat. The album can become a bit dry after several playthroughs due to this.

All in all this is another solid album from Soreption, a new beginning for the band where you can hear how the band is transforming, evolving into something new with the new blood. They aren’t fully evolved yet (this isn’t even my final form!) but they are on the right path. It didn’t fully live up to my hype but I am not disappointed either. It’s a different Soreption and while I think this is their best album to date they got things to improve on in order to hit the highest of tech-death tiers. Tech-death fans who like it a bit groovy will have a good time with Monument of the End though that’s for sure.

Label: Sumerian Records
For fans of: Decapitated and The Zenith Passage
Release date: August 3rd, 2018
Favorite song: The Entity
Score: 3/5

Skullcrush – Visions of the Firestorm Eclipse (Death Metal)

Skullcrush Cover Art

Old and filthy. Not only do I feel so myself but that’s the quickest way to describe Skullcrush and it’s only within the death metal genre that’s a good thing! There is no over-produced stuff in here, just pure no-bullshit crushing death metal. With a name like Skullcrush I should have imagined that would be the case though. Even the artwork on the album screams of savagery as what looks like Conan is battling a creature. Basically this is underground death metal the way it’s meant to be played.

The three tracks “Spectacle of Suffering”, “Entrails Ablaze” and “Hellwater” offers very different experiences as well. Where I first thought those three songs would be Skullcrush showing one type of move on their debut EP they instead go for showcasing a varied death metal approach. I bit surprising but at the same time really good stuff and I don’t know what I would expect from a full-length as they can go in any direction, or keep changing it up. The opener “Spectacle of Suffering” is death metal candy in the veins of Blood Incantation or Undergang, the really heavy stuff from the purest depths of the underground. “Entrails Ablaze” ups the tempo a bit, is shorter and adds a bit of an Entombed flavour to the album. Then the closer “Hellwater” is both the longest and slowest of the tracks, downtempo death with some doom elements going towards Finnish death metal acts Corpsessed and Krypts.

A really solid debut from Skullcrush. A varied album that shows a lot of promise for what is to come from the band. Underground death metal candy that I devour with ease and I am sure many underground fanatics will too.

Label: Camo Pants Records
For fans of: Blood Incantation and Corpsessed
Release date: July 6th, 2018
Favorite song: Spectacle of Suffering
Score: 3.5/5

Hadal Maw – Charlatan (Technical Death Metal)

a1418120256_10

Hadal Maw was a new name to me, I honestly only first heard of them when I saw they were going on an Australian tour with one of my favorite bands Archspire and Psycroptic. Hadal Maw was created in 2010, hailing from Australia, released their debut album Senium in 2014 and has since been met with acclaim from fans and critics alike. Making it rather annoying for me personally that the band had gone completely under my radar for all these years. The name Hadal Maw originates from Hades actually. As Hadal Maw is the name derived from the Hadal zone, a delineation for the deepest trenches in the ocean (taken from metal archives). The latest release Olm, only a year old, was just as their debut met with only positives so with that in mind I was really hyped to review their third offering Charlatan prior its release.

After having had some great time with their past two albums to get ready for Charlatan I quickly realized how Hadal Maw does not simply stick to one sound, they have a core sound sure but they evolve with each album. Pushing their own boundaries and I admire that. Hadal Maw are a technical death metal band to the core but the influences are many. Even within the techdeath realm it can differ from Meshuggah, Beyond Creation to Gojira. Not only that though, Hadal Maw got a darkness in their music that goes beyond techdeath and more into the blackened death or black spheres. This is where Charlatan comes in. Charlatan is by far the darkest album Hadal Maw has done to date, getting closer to the mighty Behemoth than ever before. Hadal Maw does follow in the same path as Olm paved for them (which is very different from their debut) but as I said this is even darker, more atmospheric.

I see this album in many ways as Gojira and Meshuggah  have a meeting with Behemoth in the sense Hadal Maw’s technical death riffs and vocals draws some parallels to Gojira and Meshuggah while the atmospheric and dark feeling that clouds Charlatan is more of the Behemoth style of things. It’s a good match and whereas I thought Senium was more standard techdeath both Olm and Charlatan stands out with a more unique style. Charlatan is a great next chapter for Hadal Maw, a fitting successor to Olm where you can see the band elevate their sound yet again. The album has been a real grower to me. At first I thought it was a bit too slow for my taste in techdeath but after awhile I get sucked into the atmospheric side of it and the album as a whole is a pleasant experience that differs from your common Beyond Creation or Necrophagist clones (which I to be fair like a quite fair share of too haha).

This is an album you might not grasp of fully enjoy at your first visit but give it time and you will come to love it. Charlatan is also one of those albums where it is hard to pick just one track from as the album is meant to be experienced as a whole in my opinion. Whereas I’ve missed Hadal Maw in the past I now welcome them into my metal life as a sweet fresh new techdeath breeze in this hot Swedish weather. One can only wonder if Hadal Maw can go even deeper in that ocean to create more fine offerings to the metal world.

Label: EVP Recordings
For fans of: Behemoth and Gojira
Release date: August 3rd, 2018
Favorite song: Charlatan I The Grand Serpent
Score: 4/5