Night Crowned – Humanity Will Echo Out (Blackened Death Metal)

Meet the new kids on the block, a Swedish blackened death machine that’s here to take no prisoners. When a band features current and ex members from The Crown, Cipher System, Dark Funeral and Nightrage then you know they are worth looking into. I will tell you right now that they crush it and live up to the hype! Humanity Will Echo Out might just be a 15 minute EP but damn do you want to spin this over and over again. The vocals are definitely the highlight for me on this album. The new blood in Swedish metal Ken Romlin (you may know him from Disrated or 2 The Gallows) does a fantastic work behind the mic, he has a good mix of styles where you hear black, death and even deathcore ranges.

The synphonic opening on No Room for Hope makes me draw parallels to another good entry to the Swedish metal scene, Zornheym. Which is a good thing as their debut was one of the best to spawn from last year, just like Night Crowned’s Humanity Will Echo Out is this year. Nocturnal Pulse follows it up with an even more memorable track and when All Life Ends close it out I can only think that the one real downside is that it’s “only” an 15 minute EP, I want more. A lot more. At least now I know Night Crowned is the real deal, this is a band that I am sure will draw many followers into their unforgiving blackened death metal style. Apart from Zornheym I hear a lot of parts that reminds me of the usual suspects in this genre Dissection and Unanimated, but also Naglfar, Belphegor, Dark Funeral and even Carach Angren influences can be heard here. Crystal clear production, agressive thundering drumming, catchy riffs and as stated before an increadible vocal performance. What more can you ask for really?

Written by J.B.

Label: Black Lion Records
For fans of: Belphegor and Unanimated
Release date: November 30th, 2018
Favorite song: Nocturnal Pulse
Score: 4/5 Incredible

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Imperialist – Cipher (Melodic Black Metal)

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As a Swede I am for obvious reasons a bit biased when it comes to music having the Swedish sound, be it sweblack, swedeath or whatever it’s something I grew up with and got close to heart. Enter the new kid on the block who are heavily influenced by the early Swedish black sound Imperialist. Formed in 2013 they released their first EP in 2015 which I think most, me included, missed. Now in 2018 they’ve honed their skills, got signed to the ever so great Transcending Obscurity Records and are ready to take the world by storm with their full-length release Cipher.

What starts with a beautiful two minute intro on “Continuum”, setting the stage well with it’s acoustic guitars and violins gets you into the mindset that this will become an epic ride you might not even be ready for. “The Singularity” follows and ah this gives me a lot of Dissection vibes, which is of course the best vibes. The sounds of Dissection, Thulcandra, Necrophobic and Sacramentum mixed together fuels this beast throughout and does so well. It’s quite refreshing that the lyrical theme is about the future and space, not something I often hear in black metal (especially not when it’s influenced by Dissection) and the only band that really comes to mind that does this well is Vektor. An black album can sound utterly dark and evil yet not being about Satan. Also as the metal gamer I am it’s extra fun to hear that one of my favorite online games Destiny and its lore is what Cipher takes their songwriting from. Hearing tracks like “The Dark Bellow (Crota’s End)” takes me back to the first Destiny game and one of the darkest, meanest areas from it. To me that’s the perfect stage to have when you write a sci-fi oriented black metal album. Even the cover art does a great job portraying Destiny looking like the Orbit.

It’s been some time since I had a black metal album I could spin time and time again while not getting bored. It tingles me all the right ways just not with how it sounds, which in itself would give this album a good score, but it’s songwriting and unique ways to tackle classic black metal speaks to me in ways most music doesn’t. If you like black metal even just a tiny bit I am sure you will come to have a good time with Cipher, even more so if you’re into gaming and sci-fi. Here is a lot of greatness to be heard, riffs to devour you and vocals to take your soul. What a impressive, fantastic full-length debut!

Written by J.B.

Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
For fans of: Dissection and Thulcandra
Release date: October 20th, 2018
Favorite song: Umbra Tempest
Score: 4/5 Incredible

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Cursus Bellum – Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit (Blackened Death Metal)

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Cursus Bellum is a new force in the Swedish metal scene that consist of the duo Joakim Unger and Anders Nyander who have a long past together since Sgt. Carnage. Also a bit fun to me personally that Joakim Unger was on drums for Immersed in Blood between 1998-2003, a brutal death metal band from Sweden I listen to every now and then. With Cursus Bellum the duo does something that is actually a step away from the other bands they’ve been in but at the same time it gathers a lot of elements from the different genres. This time it’s blackened death metal that’s on the table where the duo seem to gain a lot of influences from a certain Polish band.

“Vem är du? Jag är döden!” (translation “Who are you? I am death!”). When a blackened death metal album opens like that then I hope I am in for a great deadly ride. Safe to say Cursus Bellum does hit hard straight from the start. This is old school death metal with a lot of fury and hatred, blackened stuff that you’re used to hear from the likes of Behemoth and their Demigod sound. Add some Swedish touch a la Necrophobic and you got yourself a brutal, technical and pure evil to the bone album that’s sweet music to the ears.

It’s really hard not to draw a lot of parallels to Behemoth when taking Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit for a spin. For a Swedish band there is certainly more common grounds with the Polish or American black/death scenes than for example Unanimated, Dissection or previously mentioned Necrophobic. The whole atmosphere on the album reeks of aggression and evil intent with the religious themes, drawing the line to an almost black metal album at times (just like Behemoth tends to do). Hell I even get a lot of Nergal vibes from the vocalist Joakim Unger voice. Seeing as I am a big fan of Behemoth where you will see their latest album in my top 40 list (spoiler) I am not one to complain mind you. It’s definitely not all a copy and past job for Cursus Bellum though, tracks like “The Vortex” stands out on being more unique and at times I even get a atmospheric black metal feel in the veins of Auðn or Uada with the riffing.

The album is solid throughout but I feel it lacks a couple more standout tracks to make it reach even higher scores. “Soil Companion” did start the album on a high note, “The Vortex” adds some needed variation and with “Life Eater” being the best track on Ex Nihilio Nihil Fit here are some really great pillars here. I would want more of that though! The two intermission tracks “Av Jord Är Du Kommen” and “Till Jord Skall Du Åter Varda” are beautiful acoustic parts that binds the concept of the album together nicely too it has to be said.

This might be nothing new to a lot of metalheads out there who have been down the blackened death metal road before but it is well executed and will especially please fans of Behemoth. As a debut it’s a very good start that Cursus Bellum can build on.

Written by J.B.

Label: Downfall Records
For fans of: Behemoth and Necrophobic
Release date: October 12th, 2018
Favorite song: Life Eater
Score: 3.5/5 Very good

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Blood of Serpents – Sulphur Sovereign (Black Metal)

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Blood of Serpents have been a rather unknown Swedish force but have slowly gained a following after some great live performances following their debut album Black Dawn. However to reach the next stage something needed to change for the sophomore album. In comes one of my favorite vocalists Thomas Clifford (Throne of Heresy, Abscession) ready to take them there and what a match it is. While I thought Black Dawn was a good debut it wasn’t that memorable, it missed some of that hard hitting edge I look for in this type of music. Now with Sulphur Sovereign I get a massive dose of onslaught coming my way. Where Black Dawn was a mid-paced black metal effort with some atmospheric parts to it Sulphur Sovereign is straight up Belphegor, Marduk and Dark Funeral style with it’s fast, powerful and relentless sound. While I personally love this style there is a thin line on creating an album that doesn’t become monotone due to it. The singles have been great for example but does 46 minutes of blast beats do the trick or become boring? That’s where the songwriting and having variation to it all is very important, so that the songs don’t feel like one big mass. In some ways this is where I think Blood of Serpents have not really found their way yet, there are a few songs that are simply too similar to eachother, which lovers the overall enjoyment somewhat.

The first few songs for example do tend to sound like one long track due to this. Whereas “As the Temple Burns” make a great job adding the variation I crave for in a full album of this sort if I want replay value. It’s bit funny really, track by track this album is close to perfect from what I look for in Swedish black metal but when listening to the album back to back then there is too much of the same candy so to say. Which to some will be just perfect though, and it is to me in some ways too mind you. If you like your black metal relentless and well produced like me then this is a must have, make no mistake. Just understand it can give you a feeling of having too much of the good things and it might have been good for the album to be a bit shorter, or have some more variation to it.

Blood of Serpents are better than ever though! This is exactly the path they should continue walking and I am certain they will gain more fans as they’ve taken a giant leap as a band (has to be said they had some line-up changes but hopefully found a stable one now). There are things they can do better but this is the type of core sound I want them to build on. I believe this is a new start for the band that will take them further than ever before. Fans of fast aggressive black metal that the likes of Marduk and Belphegor offers will enjoy this release a lot.

Label: Non Serviam Records
For fans of: Marduk and Dark Funeral
Release date: September 25th, 2018
Favorite song: As the Temple Burns
Score: 3.5/5

Mordant Rapture – The Abnegation (Technical Death Metal)

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Ah The Artisan Era, a label that just keeps giving good tech-death to the world and they’re always improving by adding more and more great bands to their roster. Now enter Mordant Rapture and their debut EP “The Abnegation”. Is it yet another great release from the label or have they, for once, taken a misstep?

Reading the history of the band and how their debut got created is one that tells the tale of years of hard work, gallons of coffee, sleep deprivation, and doubts. The competition in this day and age is fierce so I can really relate with many bands having the same process before releasing something. The band started in 2013, which gives you an idea how long it’s taken the band to finally feel ready to release their first EP featuring five songs into the world. Was it worth the wait?

Yes, yes it was. One thing I really like with Mordant Rapture’s style is how they try to captivate a cinematic musical experience, somewhat in the veins of Fleshgod Apocalypse or Carach Angren. The sound is very different from those bands though as this is straight up technical death metal with a lot of symphonic elements to it, think Inferi (this is much better in my opinion though), Enfold Darkness or Spawn of Possession as examples. Already on the first track “Unsightly Beast” you get a flurry of great riffs, solos and get an instant feel on what Mordant Rapture are all about, delivering class symphonic tech-death heavy influenced by the grandiose nature of film scores. Meaning in other words this is epic stuff, who doesn’t like well written film scores? Having that as an influence in the technical realm of metal works great, it’s not something new but it’s not something I hear too often either. “Withered” is a shorter song than the opener, this is way more of a heads on approach and on this track their blackened death and black elements shine as you hear influences from both Emperor and Dissection. Great stuff right?

What cinematic album wouldn’t be complete without an intermission track with piano and violin, adding to the atmosphere for the follow-up track? That’s exactly what “A Plea Above Ashes” is there for and while I would want it to smoothly transition into the next track, it doesn’t which makes it feel a bit out of place to me. That also leaves the only negative part on the album for me. “Quell the Voiceless” brings up the pace, where the drums especially gets me going and are really dominant. This is also the track that I feel showcase all Mordant Rapture tricks on their debut. The symphonic elements, blackened tech-death, crushing drums and thundering riffs are all there at once to make it a go to song for me when I go back to “The Abnegation”. The finisher “Natal Trophies” is the longest and most symphonic track on the album, which just like the last scenes in a movie ends in an epic way. Here the vocals are better than ever where a wider range of growls and techniques are used. A great way to end this 22 minute journey into the world of Mordant Rapture which makes me want more of this.

Hell I love this music. It’s not something that breaks the boundaries of tech-death but this is insanely well produced symphonic tech-death that has very few flaws in it. Mordant Rapture displays great musicianship and a great range of aspects to their music. This is the kind of music that will make you miss Spawn of Possession and Necrophagist less or you Inferi fans out there forget they even existed. That’s something very few does on their debut album and I can only hope an upcoming full-length won’t take five years. The Artisan Era has done it again, adding a new band to their ranks that shows how hard work pays off. “The Abnegation” is not only one of the best debut albums of the year but one of the best releases overall.

Label: The Artisan Era
For fans of: Enfold Darkness and Spawn of Possession
Release date: July 13th, 2018
Favorite song: Quell the Voiceless
Score: 4.5/5

Unflesh – Savior (Technical Death Metal)

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It’s been some time since I listened to technical death metal actually, at least a couple of months when the Inferi album dropped. Don’t know why I waited so long to listen to Unflesh as “Savior” has been out since May 25th. Here we are though and I’ve finally given the album a few spins during the week. Lets start with some background on Unflesh, who are they? The band is located in USA and began as a solo project in 2014 by Ryan Beevers. The first album, an EP named “Transcendence to Eternal Obscurity”, came out in 2016 and featured Hannes Grossman (Alkaloid, ex-Obscura) on session drums. The EP got a lot of praise when it came out so this debut full-length has had some hype to it. What’s changed since the EP is that Unflesh has gone from a solo project into a fully fledged band where Ryan added Peter de Reyna on bass, Chris Dovas on drums and Chris Gardino on guitars. Has this change elevated Unflesh game to new heights?

What struck me first is that the influences are many on “Savior”. While it is at its core a tech-death album that will please fans of Arsis, Alterbeast and Revocation there are also loads of elements gathered from the melo-death and black metal genres. You can hear hints of The Black Dahlia Murder, Naglfar, Dissection and even Emperor throughout the album and that’s exactly what makes Unflesh stand out from most bands out there. It’s a pure joy to give this albums several spins and each time you notice something new, getting that feeling when you have a hard time picking your favorite song on the album as it keeps changing with each listen. It is that good. Personally there are only a handful of albums that’s better than “Savior” this year. If it hadn’t been for the insane release of Rivers of Nihil I would say this is the best tech-death you will hear this year. However when many will undoubtedly name Inferi, Alkaloid and Augury (all good releases mind you) as tech-death albums of the year I will name-drop Unflesh. A modern tech-death release with a touch of the old school, what’s not to like?

A splendid EP became an even better full-length release once Ryan got his band together. Unflesh is a band on the rise that can battle with the best of them already. The “Dissection goes tech-death” approach is one I can get behind and fall in love with. This is an album that will land high on my yearly best of list.

Label: Independent
For fans of: Dissection and Arsis
Release date: May 25th, 2018
Favorite song: Caliginous
Score: 4/5

Wormlight – Wrath of the Wilds (Melodic Black/Death Metal)

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Lets get straight to it. Wormlight plays melodic black and death metal the way it has been played for years. Nothing wrong with this at all! Not as memorable as the releases from Necrophobic, Avslut and Nekrokraft have been to me but Wrath of the Wilds is certainly a good album that I enjoyed. It’s 90’s melodic black/death metal worship the Swedish way and I get some Naglfar, Dissection and Unanimated vibes for sure. Seeing as we won’t hear any new material from those bands any time soon (or ever) I say this is a perfectly good album to get your fill! There is no need to reinvent the wheel and Wrath of the Wilds is not only a good debut album, it is also a big step forward from the band since their EP Bloodfields came out in 2015.

The mid-range death growls together with the energetic hellfire the band unleashes is enough to make fans of melodic black metal be pleased with this release. There isn’t really something to point out as bad on this album and the 55 minutes go past with a feeling of satisfaction. However if you do put Wormlight against previously named bands and the new releases from for example Necrophobic then it lacks that extra punch to become an album I want to revisit instead of those. Either way I know a lot of you are like me and can not get enough quality black metal and Wrath of the Wilds certainly does fall into that category. If you only want to try out a couple of tracks it should be “Vittramark” with its icy atmosphere, piano outro (which they do use on several occasions though) and overall a great sounding song. That song along with “Invocation (intro)” leading to “Feast of the Mountain Kin” is a perfect example how to finish an album on a high note.

Label: Black Lion Records
For fans of: Unanimated and Necrophobic
Release date: April 25th, 2018
Favorite song: Feast of the Mountain King
Score: 3.5/5