Vanhelgd – Deimos Sanktuarium (Death Metal)

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The desecrated are back! With their latest release Temple of Phobos being one of my most played death metal albums these past years since I reviewed it I’ve been looking forward to a follow-up ever since. Now when it’s finally here I am stunned. This is by far the darkest album Vanhelgd has ever made. The lyrical theme on anti-religion and horror is intact but the songwriting has taken a step in a darker, greater direction here. Also has to be added that they keep on having songs in both Swedish and English which is something I’ve applauded them for and still do. The difference is with the last album I thought the Swedish tracks were of higher quality than the English ones, here I find both being superb and I even choose Profaned is the Blood of the Covenant as the best song on Deimos Sanktuarium.

Everything is executed better on Deimos Sanktuarium than on Vanhelgd’s previous albums. The atmosphere is so dark I get scared, something I usually don’t experience in a death metal albums but I do with Vanhelgd, Behemoth or old Eucharist offerings. Very fitting for the theme at hand with the atmospheric doom touch. The crushing riffs are still there but the overall experience on the album as a whole and how the grim world sucks you in is the difference maker here. It’s what separates Deimos Sanktuarium from Temple of Phobos and makes this an even better album. Safe to say if you enjoyed Temple of Phobos you will like this even more.

This album is the definition of a “grower”. It gets better with each listen but at the same time it is not as easy to get into as for example the latest albums from Demonical or Gluttony. I am not holding that against the album though as that is the intentions. One of the best death metal albums you will hear this year, if not the best.

Written by J.B.

Label: Pulverised Records
For fans of: Eucharist and Desolate Shrine
Release date: October 12th, 2018
Favorite song: Profaned is the Blood of the Covenant
Score: 4/5 Incredible

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Copenhell 2018

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It’s been just about three weeks since I visited Copenhell and I did promise to write some lines about my festival experience. Sorry it’s taken so long but here it goes!

Warm-up day

As me and my wife wanted to get a good camping spot, get to know the site some, and of course see one or two band early we had purchased the tickets including warm-up. Lucky for us we had three friends (two which I’d never met before actually) that had saved good spots already. It was really windy, terrain not the easiest (the soil was hard) to put up a tent on but hey we did it and started drinking beer, cider to get ready for Mustasch. I was actually a bit surprised how many people had turned up to see Mustasch, not because the band is bad or unknown but because it was a warm-up day and they started rather early. A lot of people were already in high spirits and Mustasch is a great live band with a lot of energy on the stage that was a fitting act to get the crowd going. Have to add that Ralf Gyllenhammar is a really good frontman who always seem to perform great while also making the crowd be with him. Sadly I didn’t get to see any more bands this day as I in all honesty had such a good time at the Biergarten drinking beers, taking shots, and listening to some funny metal karaoke that I stayed there until I was basically too drunk to remember how I got back to the tent the day after.

Day 1

As some sort of a festival miracle I was not hungover at all when I woke up so I could instantly go up to buy some coffee and breakfast. Once I got that in me and my energy was back up I could even start chilling with some beers while listening to some of the upcoming bands for hype. The first band we went to see this day was none other than Parkway Drive, first time ever for me. Due to the wind and how dusty everything was every moshpit or circle pit turned the area into a big cloud of…..you guessed it dust. Even though it was kinda cool the sound and visual experience was a bit of a downer at times due to it however Parkway Drive did a splendid job at the stage, a superb opening act for the main stage Helvíti. Winston McCall is a killer vocalist, one of the best in metalcore, and it showed. They played both new and old material which pleased the crowd. Next up was Zeal & Ardor where we catched a couple of songs, they were all good mind you. However as my wife is a fan of Asking Alexandria (I was too years ago) we decided to only watch 15 minutes of Zeal & Ardor then go to the Hades stage to watch them. Asking Alexandria have not aged well with me, their old songs were butchered with just clean singing and the new material is…. well not good in my opinion. Even my wife wasn’t happy with it and we eventually decided to go and eat instead before Nightwish started. I’ve seen Nightwish before but this was the first time I would see them with Floor Jansen. Even as a Swede I didn’t really feel Anette Olzon unlocked her full potential and didn’t continue the Tarja legacy well at all (who can blame her though, Tarja is one of the best). With Jansen I now feel Nightwish has got their frontwoman. She sings really, really good and she just radiates confidence on stage while having the crowd in her fingers. Nightwish played songs from many different albums where of course songs like “Wish I Had An Angel”, “End of All Hope” and “Nemo” were the highlights. A pleasant surprise to see a Nightwish that now feels complete again.

To follow it up we had to rush to the smaller stage Pandemonium in order to watch the band I looked forward to the most on day one, Thy Art is Murder. I’d seen them once before, two years ago at Graspop. However back then the band didn’t feature Chris “CJ” McMahon, it just wasn’t the same. Now with McMahon holding the reins it was a whole other beast on stage. It was crushing to say the least, the energy, the crowd, the viscous pits. It had it all I hoped for. When the deathcore classics “Reign of Darkness” and “The Purest Strain of Hate” came on I was as happy as a fan of that band can be. They delivered and are now back in full force, best band I’d seen at the festival so far. By the time Thy Art is Murder had finished Arch Enemy was already under-way with their set, we saw the end of it and it was good. I’d already seen Arch Enemy a few times before so I knew what to expect. It seemed like a normal day at the office for them and as one that things their latest album is one of their weaker ones I wasn’t of course too keen on them playing a lot of new material (which was to be expected). Arch Enemy are professionals inside and out, they did a good show, as they always do but they were better the times I’ve seen them in the past, mainly since they played more songs I liked. After Arch Enemy came the band I was looking forward to the most besides Thy Art is Murder, Avenged Sevenfold where we went to the very front row. I have a story to share. My mom passed away a few years ago and since then there is a song I’ve wanted to experience live more than any other “So Far Away”. I’ve seen Avenged Sevenfold live three times before Copenhell and they’ve never played it (first time I saw them was when their self-titled album had been released though, so couldn’t have obviously). Avenged Sevenfold opened up great, showed Copenhell a good time and as always M. Shadows (who’s gained a lot of weight) showcase what it means to be a good frontman with his stage presence. Then there it was, everyone attention went towards the screens as clips of The Rev started showing. I knew what was coming up, my wife knew too as she started to cry. I finally got to hear “So Far Away” live. What an experience it was for me emotionally and hell even though I’ve in all honesty seen Avenged Sevenfold doing better live performances (with Disturbed 2017 for example) and I really missed “A Little Piece of Heaven” in their set this blew me away just because of that one song. It is indeed an experience of a lifetime for me. Next up was Bullet For My Valentine but by this time it was actually really, really cold and we were both hungry and tired so we went to get some food, listening to the band at the meantime but not paying too much attention then went to bed. Hey I am getting old you guys! Eight hours of drinking, moshing etc does that to a guy haha. From what I heard Bullet For My Valentine did great, a good mix of old and new material. Me going to camp early does mean that I missed Soulfly though, which is a shame as I’d never seem them before. Next time I guess?

Day 2

Day two (or day three, depending how you count) started early there finally being some black metal on stage. It was time to finally see the Icelandic atmospheric black metal band Auðn. Even though it was early, very hot and not much action from the crowd initially Auðn did their best and eventually got everyone headbanging and waking up. Good start to the day and they did a good job, for myself me and my wife was just sitting on the hill, catching some sun, drinking some beer while listening to good music and softly headbang. So I can’t really say I did anything to add to the atmosphere but to me it was a good way to get going. Only negative with sitting so far back and it still being windy is the sound disappears at times due to it, that’s just the way it is at festivals though. If you want to see a band for real you need to go to a concert, different experiences for sure, but for sound alone it’s the best. From black metal to thrash and Exodus. I’ve seen them before but like eight years ago but damn they don’t seem to age. Still full throttle on stage and never slowing down. Exodus showed they still got it and cemented their role as one of the thrash giants for me even at their later years. From Exodus it was time for the band I wanted to see most this day, At the Gates. Standing at the front row, headbanging, helping crowd suffers and getting into a mosh for a while was sick. It was only a bit passed 3pm but hell I was super pumped. At the Gates have never disappointed me and didn’t do so today either. They played anything from the classics like “Cold” and “Slaughter of the Sould” to their new, superb, album “To Drink From the Night Itself”. Always fun to catch one of your favorite bands live and dig to every single song they perform. Due to At the Gates ending around 4pm I missed most of Orm’s performance. I did get to hear two songs by them which sounded well and I definitely need to look into their discography some as it seems to be good Danish black metal, they had a lot of the home crowd with them for sure. After Orm we went to eat what we found being THE best food at the festival, a simple burger with fries but it was well made and we hoped we would have found it earlier. Anyways as we needed to rest some (didn’t want to go to camp early another day) we sat there eating, drinking and chatting giving Deftones a miss (never been a fan of them anyway truth be told) and waited for Japanese band Crossfaith. We honestly only went to see them because “they came all the way from Japan so we have to show them some support” but damn am I glad I did. They surprised me a lot with both the music, the energy and how they got the crowd going. When they played their cover of “Omen” they asked the whole crowd to get down and get ready to jump on his command. Just three years ago Slipknot tried to do the same, with a very average result on people doing it, but Crossfaith seemed to get EVERYONE doing it and it was insane to witness. I think Crossfaith had the most attendance on the Pandemonium stage as well from what I saw. A band I, from their live performance alone, am now a fan of.

After Crossfaith we went around the merchandise stands where I eventually bought an Suffocation, Naglfar and Enslaved shirt. By the time we came back we saw the last few songs by Alice in Chains with one of the songs being their famous “Man in the Box”. Was alright but I am not a fan of the band so was happy just to hear those few songs. At the Hades stage I was now ready for Kreator. They did a good job but I had more hopes actually, not sure why but in my mind I had thought Kreator would be one of the best experiences for me at Copenhell and they were solid just not great. Compared to for example Exodus they seemed more tired, I thought it would be the other way around. Can’t put my finger on it though, they played my favorite songs, it sounded good and the crowd was hype I just didn’t feel it. A day at the office for Kreator it seemed like. Then we had Ozzy Osbourne, well what can I say. I saw him at Sweden Rock Festival 2011 and even back then I thought it was just a big Zakk Wylde show. There isn’t much wrong with than to be honest as Zakk Wylde is the best guitarist in the world for me but it’s too much of the good at the same time if you get me. This show was the same as back then, granted now I could see Tommy Clufetos go at it some on the drums so in a sense I guess this was slightly better show but I do find it good Ozzy is calling it quits, he should have years ago in my opinion. Now I’ve seen both Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne farewell tours at least, that’s quite cool! I did win a meet and greet with Zakk Wylde by the way, however sadly he wasn’t feeling to well so a tour guy came and told us ten that had won it wouldn’t happen as he needed rest in order to go on stage and finish the show. Bullshit or not I don’t know, was a bit angry about it but at the same time you win some you lose some. Zakk did do amazing solos and all that on stage and that’s all that matters. Last band I saw was Enslaved who started close to 1am. While I think they pulled of a great show I came to a weird conclusion, I am not a big Enslaved fan overall. I like some of their albums and songs, but usually their earlier work and when they played a lot from their latest release I was just standing there going “meh this is too proggy”. First time I saw them and happy I did but I would much rather have seen Enslaved ten years ago or something for the sake of them playing more songs I enjoy haha.

Day 3

The last day had just as much on my schedule as the two days before. Both me and my wife felt a bit under the weather today though which made us being less hyped of course and we said that if we don’t feel much better after Alestorm had played we would go home (meaning we would miss Ghost, Tsjuder and Sodom). That aside we went to see a Danish band called Livløs. Having heard little about them besides that some friends of mine in Faithful Darkness had been supporting a show with them weeks before Copenhell said they were good we decided to go check them out. This, again, turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Not only was the weather really good today, less windy, more sun etc but the frontman Simon Olsen was also full of energy and seemed insanely happy to play in front of his home crowd at the big stage. He even crowd surfed while singing and even though I knew zero songs they did such a good live performance that I basically started listening to them the day after I got home. An upcoming band for sure that I recommend anyone who can to see live. From a local death metal act to the least metal but yet so right act on the festival, namely Jakob Stegelmann & orkester. Oh wow was this a fun experience. You heard themes from Spider-Man, Batman, Star Wars, you name a classic movie or series theme and most of them were performed live. This was really cool and I like how Stegelmann interacted with the audience, telling stories on why he had chosen then songs and what they meant for him. Also how freaking awesome isn’t it to see moshpits and crows surfing to the imperial march!? Following Stegelmann was Steel Panther, one of my wifes favorite bands and we had just seen them a couple months ago in Copenhagen. A shame that they played almost an identical setlist, same jokes etc. For people who saw them for the first time it was probably cool and funny but for us it was a bit “meh seen and done that before”. Guess that’s why you don’t usually see a band twice on the same tour right?

What came next was the heaviest show on Copenhell, the mighty Suffocation! Hell do I like this band and the sheer brutality they showcase live. I might have been feeling a bit ill so I wasn’t at the front but my neck was sour from all the headbanging I did at the back. Man do these guys crush. From what I saw there were several moshpits going on and everyone had a good time. This was the second time I’ve seen them and they were just as good now as last time. One of the best death metal bands in the world and one of the best performances I saw at Copenhell. From Suffocation came another classic band but on a whole other scale W.A.S.P.. It’s a band I’ve grown up with hearing from my dad and I went mainly to catch a few songs as we went to eat in the meantime. They did such a good show we had to eat fast and get there though. Who would of thought these oldtimers would had it in them? I know they are a world class band but my expectation of them were small and they outdid that by a mile. A great show where they played all the good classics and showed me just why they are world class. Igorrr, that weird French band that I’ve never know if I like them or not, can’t place them. I had to go and witness them live to see if I could finally make up my mind if I hate or love them. Fact is I still can’t! My wife though is a fan now and listens to them quite often at home, I just can’t grasp their music though and after a show with them I was left there confused. Do I like or dislike them? Hell do I know, it’s weird music, cool performance that everyone should see at least once, that’s all I know.

Another old school famous band that I’ve heard from an early age were up next. The German power metal kings Helloween. Wow was this a show any fans shouldn’t miss! Getting songs from each era, with the different vocalists (!) is just awesome and I hoped some other bands could do the same sometime. I’d never seen anything like it before and from the start to finish Helloween were class, great stage presence, told stories and interacted well with the audience. Played some sweet power metal (only power metal act at Copenhell I think) and overall just did everything I had hoped for and more. By now my wife was actually feeling better, while I felt worse, so before Alestorm came on we said we would leave after their show. What a show that was to end with though! First time either of us had seen them live and they put on a killer party. Pirate metal in all it’s glory. There were countless of moshpits, circle pits and even fucking row pits all over the place. People were dancing, singing alone, drinking themselves silly and had a jolly good time! I even read afterwards that Alestorm set a record for the most crowd surfing to ever happen at a show in Copenhell at 700 or something silly like that. Insane ending to the festival for us and the best live performance I saw there, one of the best in years even. Alestorm knows how to part and I am all down with the pirate metal fans now after being somewhat reluctant at first.

Our ride home was a hell, not getting a cab for an hour we decided to take the bus. Sadly we missed out train home (was full) so had to wait an hour at the central and overall took us almost three hours to get home, knackered. It was all worth it though. We had a great festival, good food, great company with new friendships made, quite a few beers, shots and of course a lot of good music. This is actually one of the festivals I’ve been to with the best average performances. Most bands did really well and only a couple disappointed me. Copenhell as a festival overall has also improved drastically since we were there three years ago. Better toilets, bigger area, more variety in food and drinks. Next year Copenhell celebrate it’s ten year anniversary I advice everyone a go. Welcome to hell.

Five quick takeaways:

Best live performance: Avenged Sevenfold due to “So Far Away”, otherwise Alestorm on overall performance
Worst live performance: Asking Alexandria
Bands I missed: Soulfly, Ghost and Tsjuder
Biggest surprise: Crossfaith
Biggest letdown: That I didn’t get to meet Zakk Wylde

The Metal Gamer Top 30 albums of 2018 so far!

The Metal Gamer Top 30 albums of 2018 so far!

Am I missing any albums? Do you agree?

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The bands and albums featured are:

Sadistik Forest – Mordbid Majesties
At The Gates – To Drink From the Night Itself
Amorphis – Queen of Time
Nekrokraft – Servants
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
LIK – Carnage
Gluttony – Cult of the Unborn
Totalselfhatred – Solitude
Svederna – Svedjeland
Svavelvinter – Mörkrets Tid
Avslut – Deceptis
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
Raven Throne – I miortvym snicca zolak
Skinless – Savagery
Unflesh – Savior
Demonical – Chaos Manifesto
Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
Gaerea – Unsettling Whispers
Depravity – Evil Upheaval
Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy
Begat The Nephilim – I: The Surreptitious Prophecy / Mother of the Blasphemy
Kataklysm – Meditations
Ingested – The Level Above Human
Organectomy – Domain of the Wretched (went off the Unique Leader Records release)
Arkona – Khram
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse
Augury – Illusive Golden Age
Mordant Rapture – The Abnegation
Chelsea Grin – Eternal Nightmare

At the Gates – To Drink From the Night Itself (Melodic Death Metal)

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When you are one of the main bands to create a whole sound and an era for Swedish metal music, hell an era for melodic death metal all over the world then you’re bound to have a nice reputation going for you. They are one of the creators of what is called “the Gothenburg sound” during the early 90’s and At the Gates needs no further introduction as their legacy is one everyone should know by now.

With At War With Reality the band made a great comeback but didn’t really dare to try something new. Who can blame them though, they had been broken up for years so for the comeback album I would play it rather safe as well. It was basically what was expected from them and they delivered. Then comes To Drink From the Night Itself. Not only do they go back to their roots and you get a lot of tracks that got that Slaughter of the Soul feeling to it but they also manage to develop their sound this time around. You can almost say this album consists of two parts, Der Widerstand to In Nameless Sleep is classic At the Gates then with The Colours of the Beast and onwards you hear more songs that brings in elements of doom and heavy metal. More atmospheric in many ways and it’s a welcoming experiment along with their core sound. The new guitarist Jonas Stålhammar (The Lurking Fear) is a great addition to the band and he is a key factor when the band is moving forward in my opinion.

An album like this is funny to review. One side of me want At the Gates to only give me the Slaughter of the Soul sound all over again, then there is one side of me who wants something new and different. To Drink From the Night Itself manages to do a bit of both. So here I am digging the title track To Drink from the Night Itself (Blinded By Fear version 2), which is really catchy and been stuck in my head for days, like I am having just as good of a time with for example The Colours of the Beast where they try something new. At the Gates were together with In Flames and Soilwork the bands that got me liking this genre and I am happy to say that they are still kings within the genre where some have faltered.

Label: Century Media Records
For fans of: Dark Tranquillity and In Flames
Release date: May 18th, 2018
Favorite song: To Drink from the Night Itself
Score: 4/5

Thousand Eyes – Day of Salvation (Melodic Death Metal)

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Isn’t melodeath lovely? There are few subgenres that I like as much as melodic death metal. Maybe it’s due to me being Swedish and it’s in my blood and bands such as In Flames, Sonic Syndicate, At the Gates etc got me into the whole metal scene. I don’t know but something in me makes me go bananas when melodeath is on. So what about Thousand Eyes? Actually I’d never heard about the band before I visited Tokyo last year. After getting to know a fellow metalhead he invited me to his home to grab some beers and listen to music. There he presented Thousand Eyes to me, a Japanese band who prior this album had released two albums named Bloody Empire and Endless Nightmare. After hearing some from both albums (while I shared some Swedish death metal obviously his way) I got hooked. It’s nothing original but as I said before, melodeath is in my blood and when it’s done well I am not one to complain.

Thousand Eyes offer the listener a lot of energy, aggression and class riffs. Granted I think there are a few too many on the album as it almost becomes a power metal album in that sense. Too much melodic too little death metal if you get what I mean. I know Thousand Eye’s guitarist Kouta both write and produce the albums so it’s not strange there is a lot of emphasis on the guitars, which I am sure their fan base love mind you. Each to their own I guess but there can be too much of the sweets in my opinion. Like a Soilwork, Disarmonia Mundi (I think the singer sounds quite a bit like Björn Strid actually) and Mors Principium Est mix. At times there are almost a bit of thrash elements to it as well.

All in all this is a well produced album, production have become a lot better since Blood Empire in my opinion, that a lot of melodic death metal fans will devour and enjoy. Compared to what I’ve heard coming this year from giants like At the Gates they are a few numbers short though. Thousand Eyes continues fine-tuning their sound and even though I don’t agree with the direction they are going 100% it’s still a good album that will please their fans.

Label: Bloody Empire
For fans of: Soilwork and Mors Principium Est
Release date: February 21st, 2018
Favorite song: Day of Salvation
Score: 3/5

After the Storm – Into a New Era (Melodic Death Metal)

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Are you a fan of old school melodic death metal the way In Flames, At the Gates and Dark Tranquillity did in the early 90’s? Then After the Storm got something right up your alley. The band have mixed and produced the music in their own studio and it shows, for better or worse. The production really does feel like it was done 20 years ago which I personally feel hurts the vocals the most. The vocals, drums and guitars doesn’t sound like they are joined together as one to me, something is missing there.

That rant aside I can’t help but to nod my head and smile to music like this. This remind me so much of the music I grew up with and already on the opening track The Awakening I fall in love with the riffs and drumming. Turn up the volume on the vocals and leave out what makes it sound like it’s being played in a church and I would be much happier. The following track Stand Unified gives me the same joy but I can already hear a pattern forming, they end their songs with a solo. Which is fine and all but after a while I might think it get repetitive. There is definitely a lot of emphasis on the guitarplay throughout the album so if you want your melodic death metal with a more technical side to it this is a great way to go.

It’s a shame the production and mixing of this album destroyed it for me. The core of the album is sweet with well performed riffs (which feels a but repetitive at times though) and songwriting but the end result I listen to isn’t good enough to cut it these days. This being the bands debut album I hope they learned something from it and make a better job at mixing it.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/afterthestormmetal
Label: Independent
For fans of: At the Gates and In Flames
Favorite song: Rise as They Fall
Score: 2/5

Mordenial – The Plague (Melodic Death/Trash Metal)

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Formed in early 2000 the band has had quite the shaky start and it wasn’t until 2015 Mordenial released their debut album Where the Angels Fall. Since then the road has been clear though and The Plague is coming out just two years after the debut with the same line-up. The band has strong ties to one of my favorite old school death metal acts Paganizer as two out of three members are also active with them. With that said Mordenial does not play traditional old school death metal but instead they play a more melodic metal side fused with death and trash. Having more in common with In Flames and At the Gates than Paganizer.

The Plague is a riff friendly album. If you’re a fan of catchy solos and riffs you are sure to get your fill here. With lyrics dealing with the concept of a plague and how people justify terrible acts by pretending to be chosen by a God or Gods they touch on a subject that is very real even today. The opener The Plague doesn’t leave me breathless so to say but I get a few nods in here and there, whereas Daylight is Gone is starting to get me more into the album. It’s not until the fifth track No Empathy I really dig this though. With the slower melodic songs Save You All and especially All Has Vanished following up nicely. However the album never manages to grab my full attention. Sure there are some sweet riffs and solos here and there but it’s not enough for me to appreciate the 44 minutes Mordenial offers. Slow start, a better ending but in the end not what I had hoped for.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Mordenial-524164104262270
Label: Black Lion Records
For fans of: In Flames and At the Gates
Favorite song: All Has Vanished
Score: 2/5