Totengeflüster – The Faceless Divine (Symphonic Black Metal)

Totengeflüster, or whispers of the dead as it means in English, is a German band who are all about that symphonic black metal sound which bands such as Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and Carach Angren are famous for. Their debut album from 2013 Vom Seelensterben made quite some waves as it got great reviews and Totengeflüster landed on the map straight away. Their follow-up Im Nebel der Vergänglichkeit wasn’t as well received but was still a solid album, in some cases even better than their debut in my opinion, and now we are here with their third output The Faceless Divine.

The Faceless Divine is much like their past work, so fans should feel right at home here. Slightly upgrade on production and mix I feel like and the overall atmosphere is tighter, as it should be when a band grows. When songs like “On Carrion Wings”, “The Hollow Wandered (Cursed)” and “Grant Us Thy Blessing” comes on I can’t help but to get feeling this is a band that’s getting close to the top of their game. The rest of the album doesn’t all captivate me like this though so there is still room for improvement but Totengeflüster has surely become a band you can expect putting out solid releases by now.

If you enjoyed Totengeflüster past albums then there is no reason you shouldn’t like The Faceless Divine too. It has to be said I’m still a bit on the fence on this type of music as a whole and this album hasn’t won me over either but it’s obvious Totengeflüster are very good at their craft and keeps on pushing themselves into greater things. They are still a number short on the giants Carach Angren, Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. For diehard fans of the genre I’m sure some of you will even have this high up on the album of the year lists. Which in itself speaks volume on how the band is evolving.

Written by J.B.

Artist: Totengeflüster
Label: Black Lion Records
For fans of: Carach Angren & Cradle of Filth
Release date: October 11th, 2019
Favorite song: The Hollow Wanderer (Cursed)
Score: 3.5/5 Very good

Necronomicon – Unus (Blackened Death Metal)

Formed the same year I was born 1988 we have Canadian band Necronomicon. The name is taken from the book by H.P. Lovecraft and their music, as expected, has a lot to do with the occult, magic, death and mythology. Even though the band was formed back in 88 their debut full-length didn’t come out until 1999 and have since released five more albums with Unus being their latest work of art. Originally Necronomicon played a rather direct death metal style in the veins of especially Morbid Angel and Nile. Later on their symphonic elements (who were somewhat there from the start too) took more place and blackend/symphonic death metal became the identity. There has been some changes in the ranks as the founder Rob “The Witch” Tremblay is the only one left from their 2016 album Advent of the Human God. Instead we have the two new members Raum (ex-Dawn of Ashes) on bass and Jean-Philippe Bouchard (Magister Dixit and Necroticgorebeast) on drums coming in for Unus.

Let me start with saying wow, Unus shows a band that knows how to use their heritage well with the new. Every fan of Necronomicon will come to devour this and just want more. The pinnacle of this album is reached almost halfway in as “Singularis Dominus”, “The Thousand Masks” and “Ascending the Throne of Baator” totally annihilates everything with perfect symphonic elements, atmosphere and blackened death metal fused into one. Truly making the name Necronomicon justice and you’ll need a breather after this supreme showing. They even end the album with classic Morbid Angel death metal approach (actually could say classic Necronomicon music too) on “Cursed MMXIX” and “Vox Draconis” just to give you some sheer hard hitting metal with an onslaught of riffs. “Vox Draconis” then ends as you expect an album like this to do, in an epic scale with orchestral and choirs! What better way to close out this absolute behemoth of an album. The beautiful part is it’s produced so well. Unus gives the listener so much value, diversity and, of course, wicked metal it’s hard not to fall in love with Unus and wanting to experience this again and again. Unus is in many ways a perfect follow-up to Advent of the Human God, where they still continue in the symphonic steps they took then but yet keeps much of what made their first albums great.

One of the best albums I’ve heard this year and the best Necronomicon has done to this date where the Necronomicon of old and new fuse together seamlessly, creating some of the best music of 2019 over 30 years into their career. Even bands such as Behemoth, Hate, Dimmu Borgir, SepticFlesh and Belphegor would be jealous of an incredible album like Unus in their discography. While it’s not groundbreaking Necronomicon are still going strong and pushing themselves forward, who knows where there limit is or if there is any?

Written by J.B.

Artist: Necronomicon
Label: Season of Mist
For fans of: Behemoth & SepticFlesh
Release date: October 18th, 2019
Favorite song: The Thousand Masks
Score: 4.5/5 Incredible

Pandemonium – Monuments of Tragedy (Melodic Death/Doom Metal)

After ten long years Pandemonium returns with a new full-length album. With a new line-up where the last remaining founder Thomas Ahlgren (Deranged, ex-End) has got help from his fellow Deranged member Johan Bergström (Deranged, Resonance Cascade, Visceral Bleeding) on vocals while Johan Aldgård (Faithful Darkness, Nonexist) joins in on bass, to round it up with the long lasting member Jacob Blecher (Yggdrasil) on drums the stage is set for what is meant to become the big return.

Sometimes the keyboards add a lot to the track and makes it sound a lot more sinister, a perfect example of this is “Necromania Unleashed” with it’s carnival feeling and gets me thinking about the horror movie IT. Sometimes it’s just batshit crazy and the song almost feels out of place like on “The Code”, which leans heavy on the industrial metal side of things. Overall though it works really well and just adds to the atmosphere Pandemonium tries to create. You can tell Ahlgren and Blecher has done this for some time now (same can be said for Aldgård with his vast melodic death metal experience) and knows their shit. In fact I would say Monuments of Tragedy is the bands best release yet.

A big surprise to me is the performance of Johan Bergström. I obviously knew he was a good vocalist seeing I listen to Deranged a lot but this music is so different from the brutal death and grindcore I’d heard him do before that I’d no idea how he would do on a melodic death/doom album. Fact is he has done it wonderfully and it’s fun to see a musician try something new all together and excel while doing it.

While this is not usually my thing with that much keyboards infused in the music I can’t deny this is well crafted and created by some top class musicians. On songs like “Severance of Unity”, “And Death Was the Way” and “Necromania Unleashed” they totally nail the fine balance with symphonic and evil tunes which I will listen to time and time again this year. Pandemonium got some ways to go before they are on the level like Dimmu Borgir, Carach Angren or Anorexia Nervosa but they are well on their way and with this comeback shows they are back in style.

An excellent album even from someone that was on the fence with it and I’m sure fans of the genre will come to love Monuments of Tragedy even more than I have.

Written by J.B.

Artist: Pandemonium
Label: Black Lodge Records
For fans of: Dimmu Borgir and Carach Angren
Release date: August 30th, 2019
Favorite song: Necromania Unleashed
Score: 4/5 Excellent

Lucifer’s Cold Embrace – Elegy of Lilith (Symphonic Black/Death Metal)

Like Naglfar, Dissection and Dimmu Borgir? Good then you’re in for a treat! Martin van Beek is back with his solo project Lucifer’s Cold Embrace which in case you missed it I did review the debut EP back in 2016 and praised it for being a top notch album. Well here we are with the full-length debut Elegy of Lilith and Martin offers more of the same melodic black worship that the likes previous mentioned Naglfar and Dissection has done for years.

Martin has taken the symphonic elements even further on Elegy on Lilith than it was on the Sovereign Heresy where some songs really tend to go closer to the Dimmu Borgir road than before. Still the music definitely lies the closest to Naglfar, which is of no fault as Naglfar is one of the best melodic black metal bands to ever walk this earth. Elegy of Lilith is more than double the playtime than the EP debut was and Martin now has a lot more room to explore the different sides of Lucifer’s Cold Embrace. There is more synths and juicy riffs where, even if this is music close to the influences, Lucifer’s Cold Embrace stands out and is no mere clone. The ten songs the album offers are simply solid and while I do still think “The Gift of Life” from Sovereign Heresy is currently the best song Martin has made this is a more consistent offering, although I do wish at times there would be a bit less symphonic black metal and more “trve black” sounds. The closing song “Legion” also does a fine job giving “The Gift of Life” a run for its money as I find the riffs there being extra icy!

When I last checked I noticed Lucifer’s Cold Embrace have started to get some followers and with this release I can only see that increasing as it’s great black metal on the symphonic/melodic side that is heavy influenced by some of the best bands out there, but with a modern production. Highly recommended!

Written by J.B.

Label: Independent
For fans of: Naglfar and Dissection
Release date: November 30th, 2018
Favorite song: Legion
Score: 3.5/5 Very good

The Metal Gamer Best of 2018 (J.B. Edition)

Here we are, another year is coming to an end and what a year it has been! I got married to my wonderful supporting wife, turned 30, started supporting events in my hometown to help the local scene while we had a lot of awesome games and albums released too! New for this year is that I am doing a top 50 instead of top 40, now with a top 5 in order then I split the other 45 albums into two tiers (in no order). This way you get more of a read on what I enjoyed the most instead of just a long list. Obviously this list is personal and I am sure to have missed out on an album or two during the year (some of them I mention in my “five albums I missed” section). I have linked the reviews, if there is any, on the album titles. There will also be a best of list coming from Kristian Person, my partner in crime since a couple months back driving The Metal Gamer forward. One thing worth noting is that to be eligible for this list the album needs to be a new full-length release, so no EP’s nor re-releases. So lets recap the year!

During the few years I’ve been running The Metal Gamer this has been the best year for death metal with veterans like Monstrosity, Unleashed and At the Gates as well as younger blood such as Corpsessed and Lik putting out killer releases. Technical death metal did also have a fantastic year and I even had to leave out albums from Arsis, Revocation, Psycroptic, Inferi and Alkaloid due to this year having so much great tech-death it wasn’t easy to pick. Deathcore had an off year in my opinion but at the same time I think last year was that genres best in many years. However The Breathing Process, Ingested, Within Destruction for example did release great material you shouldn’t miss. Brutal death metal may or may not have had a good year, in all honesty I haven’t listened to a lot of the albums that’s been released within that genre this year. From those I heard it was either hit or miss, with Serocs being one of the few hits. With that said, if you’re a label that specialize in brutal death metal (or in a band) then feel free to send promos my way, I would love to hear more what the genre has to offer! Just like BDM I didn’t get a chance to listen to much of the atmospheric metal side either but with class releases from the likes of Ennui, Sojourner, Raven Throne and totalselfhatred I can’t really complain there, I got my fill.

Black metal had an interesting year for me. Necrophobic showed me just why they are one of the best bands I know of, both live and with their latest release Mark of the Necrogram. Immortal surprised me with a comeback that just about missed my top five, even though I was very hesitant on the release to begin with. Behemoth was another band I was debating adding in my top five, it wasn’t as good as The Satanist (hard to do though) but even with the hate it received from some people I can’t stop playing it every now and then. On the other spectrum my biggest disappointment is Eonian by Dimmu Borgir, I just can’t get into it even after several spins… Biggest surprises for me this year were Serocs, Ennui, Sadistik Forest and 1914. 1914 just about made the list as I only found out about them a week before I wrote this (note this was written a week before being published). Without any further ado here is The Metal Gamer Best of 2018 by Jimmy Barendt!

The Metal Gamer Best of 2018

The top 5:

  1. Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
  2. Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
  3. At the Gates – To Drink From the Night Itself
  4. Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
  5. Beyond Creation – Algorythm

Tier 2 (6-25)

Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest
Lik – Carnage
Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan is Drawn
Unleashed – The Hunt for White Christ
Funeral Mist – Hekatomb
The Breathing Process – Samsara
Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
Amorphis – Queen of Time
Gorod – Aethra
Monstrosity – The Passage of Existence
Corpsessed – Impetus of Death
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Serocs – The Phobos/Deimos Suite
Sojourner – The Shadowed Road
Aborted – TerrorVision
Wombbath – The Great Desolation
1914 – The Blind Leading the Blind
Sadistik Forest – Morbid Majesties
Vanhelgd – Deimos Sanktuarium
Abysmal Torment – The Misanthrope

Tier 3 (26-50)

Stilla – Synviljor
Sargeist – Unbound
Ingested – The Level Above Human
Nekrokraft – Servants
Totalselfhatred – Solitude
Inferi – Revenant
Paara – Riitti
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Svavelvinter – Mörkrets Tid
Gluttony – Cult of the Unborn
Avslut – Deceptis
Skinless – Savagery
Ennui – End of the Circle
Raven Throne – I miortvym snicca zolak
Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Infuriate – Infuriate
Enblood – Cast to Exile
Bloodtruth – Martyrium
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse
Imperialist – Cipher
Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light
Within Destruction – Deathwish
Carnation – Chapel of Abhorrence
Crawl – Rituals
Wolfheart – Constellation of the Black Light

Album of the year:
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Deathcore album of the year:
The Breathing Process – Samsara
Technical death metal album of the year:
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Death metal album of the year:
At the Gates – To Drink From the Night Itself
Brutal death metal album of the year:
Serocs – The Phobos/Deimos Suite
Atmospheric black metal album of the year:
Sojourner – The Shadowed Road
Black metal album of the year:
Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
Debut album of the year:
Imperialist – Cipher
Song of the year:
Necrophobic – Tsar Bomba
Best concert I went to in 2018:
Necrophobic, Blood of Serpents and Coffin Creep (Plan B, Malmö, November 2nd)
Five albums I missed but need to listen to:
Sigh – Heir to Despair
Svartidaudi – Revelations Of The Red Sword
Obscura – Diluvium
Between the Buried and Me – Automata I + Automata II
Møl – Jord
Biggest disappointment:
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Most anticipated album of 2019:
Malevolent Creation – The 13th Beast

Nekrokraft – Servants (Black/Thrash/Death Metal)

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I was not overly happy with the Will O’ Wisp debut. It was one of the earlier albums I reviewed but looking back to it I was too nice, it lacked a lot and I’d almost forgotten about the album. How funny that a band can make such an insane leap and improvement in only two years though! The production is miles better than Will O’ Wisp and their mix of death/thrash/black works wonders this time, making you miss Old Man’s Child and Dissection less. You might even be wondering if this could be the new album from Dimmu Borgir at times when they add their more symphonic tracks. In all honesty I wish Dimmu Borgir’s new album had more in common with Servants than with their own album Eonian, because this is simply better and some songs even sound more Dimmu than Dimmu Borgir does themselves. “Lechery” is a prime example to that to name one song. Add the fact Nekrokraft hits as heavy as Necrophobic does and got a similar mix of styles then you know this is a top notch recipe for an album. You might even remember that Necrophobic’s latest offering Mark of the Necrogram got a stunning 5/5 by me, yet my only one.

What makes me love this album and give it such a high score is the fact it never gets dull and it grows with time. There are so many different elements put into this record with such fine craftsmanship that each song stands really well on their own. Doesn’t matter if you take the thrash inspired “Gateway to Damnation” or as mentioned symphonic Dimmu Borgir-like “Lechery” they are all great songs that will be spinning for months to come. Also have to say the vocalist Angst, who is also on vocal duty for Witchery, has in my opinion his best performance yet. There is next to nothing to complain about on Servants really, hence the score.

If you like your extreme metal crushing and unforgiving with some of the most memorable songs of the year then don’t sleep on this one. This will end very high on my album of the year list.

Label: The Sign Records
For fans of: Dimmu Borgir and Necrophobic
Release date: May 4th, 2018
Favorite song: Lechery
Score: 4.5/5

Grafvitnir – Keys to the Mysteries Beyond (Melodic Black Metal)

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Boy oh boy do I like Grafvitnir’s latest offering Keys to the Mysteries Beyond. I’ve honestly not heard of the band before but a quick look at their discography I could see they’ve been very active, releasing albums almost yearly (counting the demo in 2013 they have even done it yearly) since the debut NâHásh in 2012. Not listening to them before I can sadly not understand how the band has developed over time. To give you an idea on why I really enjoy Keys to the Mysteries Beyond it’s due to my love for another Swedish black metal act, namely Naglfar. Naglfar was the band (together with Dimmu Borgir) that got me into black metal for real due to their melodic take and was a gateway into a whole new genre. Grafvitnir’s sound resemble Naglfar and early Dissection quite a bit, adding a touch of Uada and Ofermod into the mix makes this an offering to the darkness you shouldn’t miss out on.

The fine line between chaos and melodic black metal is met superbly and song after song you are left wanting more of this beautiful darkness. Some might think Keys to the Mysteries Beyond is a generic melodic black metal album however I say it gives the listener a well written album of quality occult music. It’s evil and cold as black metal should be. A good album doesn’t always need to reinvent the wheel, it just needs to be really well made. Oh and I am a sucker for black metal written in Swedish. Personally that gives me a lot of joy to hear lyrics like “I primordiala lågors sken skall uråldriga ögon blänka” (from Vargavinter). That’s an added bonus for me and I always respect bands who makes good songs in their mother tongue.

If you worship Naglfar and early Dissection like me then Grafvitnir is a band you need to check out today.

Label: Carnal Records
For fans of: Dissection and Naglfar
Favorite song: Vargavinter
Score: 4/5

Zornheym – Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns (Symphonic Black/Death Metal)

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There has been a lot of hype surrounding the debut of this black metal band from Sweden. The PR team and band has done a wicked job actually to get the word out, spreading their singles at the right times and even getting a comic out for one of the songs, one page at the time to create even more hype. I for one have been very glad to follow this. Zornheym have created a world with darkness and madness unlike many others have been able to. This isn’t just a music album, this is a complete world almost like it could be something new Dark Horse comics would create. Zorn has done some good songwriter on this album, and his history from Dark Funeral has definitely helped shape Zornheym into a black metal machine with both traditional and fresh ideas coming with it. Bringing together members from known acts such as Diabolical and Facebreaker to help him create his asylum. It’s very refreshing to see. So how is the music then?

The Opposed I’d heard (and read) before and it’s a sweet intro, one of the best tracks on the album. Very symphonic almost Dimmu Borgir like and the references I draw when listening to Zornheym is definitely Dimmu along with Septicflesh and Carach Angren. Horrifying metal that can easily be made into movies. You can see this as Swedens take on that. The instrumental tracks Subjugation of the Cellist, Prologue to a Hypnosis and And the Darkness Came Swiftly works great as sections to guide the listener to the next parts of the story. This horrible wicked asylum of madness and demons that makes me think of one of my favorite comics (and games for that matter) The Darkness. This could easily be the soundtrack when Jackie goes mad within an asylum from the second game (also made in Sweden by the way).

While The Opposed and A Silent God are two great tracks and were the two tracks they chose as singles before the release of Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns. Implementing some nice clean singing with their music really adds a new dimension to the story for me and adds depth to their music. Especially Whom the Night Brings showcase Zornheym on high form whereas Trifecta of Horrors feels like a weaker track on the album where they didn’t utilize that as I had hoped. They have some ways to go before I put them in the same class as the great symphonic black metal acts but their debut is something to build on. As an debut album it’s close to a 4, hence the score, but as a whole with everything they have created around it I could easily give this a close 5.

I welcome Zornheym with open arms and let their madness take me. This is a solid debut with some ups and downs and I can’t wait to hear, and see, what they come up with next.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/zornheym
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/zornheym
Label: Non Serviam Records
For fans of: Dimmu Borgir and Septicflesh
Favorite song: Whom the Night Brings
Score: 3.5/5

Deity – Deity (Technical Death Metal)

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Deity were formed by the duo and long time friends Danny Alessandro and John Massey about 15 years ago (!). They have since then worked on material, letting it grow until they felt it was good enough to be released to the world. Personally I am glad they did as they seem to have unleashed the Deity in a pure form of metal.

The intro is a sweet symphony that doesn’t make you think about death metal at all, since it’s simply beautiful, and I was wondering if I really did listen to death metal act Deity. Beginning of Extinction brings the chaos right to my ears though on song number two and now I feel right at home. Take a bit of Suffocation, smidge of Gorguts and top it off with Death then you got the main influences in the sound of Deity. Lovers of technical riffs, no clean singing and shredding beware as this is an album made for you, the way Deity themselves would like it to sound. The album is filled with great solos and riffs that you can’t stand still on and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this Canadian (again a great techdeath band from Canada) duo live on stage as a supporting act to the likes of Gorguts, Cryptopsy or Archspire. Or why not even do it with other up and coming bands like Samskaras and Fractal Generator. Would be sweet lineups!

I think this album rocks. Anything from the instrumental songs From Which We Came, We Now Return, the acoustic In Time to the shredding tunes of Rituals is a joy for my ears. Favorite tracks on the album being Beginning of Extinction, Rituals and Illuminate the Unwilling.

Deity’s self-titled debut is out June 2nd as a independent release.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DeityMetalCA
For fans of: Suffocation and Gorguts
Favorite song: Beginning of Extinction

Balfor – Black Serpent Rising (Melodic Black/Death Metal)

album_cover-Копіювати

From Ukraine I am lucky enough to find a very pleasant surprise. Balfor is a band I personally had never heard of before but the band has actually been active since 2001 (1997 as Alter Ego) and Black Serpent Rising is the bands third full-length. Playing what they themselves call barbaric black metal I was wondering what that meant. Musically it sounds a bit similar to a band I reviewed last year, Unlight or later Keep of Kalessin albums. Whereas their lyrical theme revolves around barbarians (guessing that’s where their genre name comes from).

One thing that really gets me thinking about barbarians is how brutal, yet epic the album starts off. It’s melodic black metal at it’s finest really, the tempo-changes and melodic rhythms are a thing of joy to listen to and it never really feels repetitive as each song is good in their own right. This Balfor horde is definitely a band that fans of melodic death/black metal around the world should know about. One of the biggest surprises this year for me, and it’s not even a new band! It’s clear that these guys have mastered many aspects of metal as it shows ever so brightly throughout Black Serpent Rising. My favorite tracks has to be the more, as I like to call it, “epic barbarian battle hymn” ones, Unbounded Wrath of Venom and Heralds of the Fall. All in all this is a great album, I can highly recommend this to any metalhead out there looking for something new.

Balfor’s third black metal offering Black Serpent Rising is out now through Drakkar Productions.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/balforofficial
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/BalforHorde
For fans of: Keep of Kalessin and Unlight
Favorite song: Unbounded Wrath of Venom