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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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

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

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

Throne of Heresy – Decameron (Blackened Death Metal)

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Throne of Heresy is a band I’ve always thought it very underrated. Since their formation in 2009 they’ve released killer music with last years Antioch being one of my favorite death metal albums coming out (which I sadly didn’t review) that year. Sure they have their ups and downs, good and bad songs but who doesn’t? When Throne of Heresy are on point I would say they are one of the best blackened death metal bands going at the moment.

Decameron is the bands latest offering and The Shores of Issyk-Kul starts off the album insanely well. Classic death metal riffs with a touch of black metal aggressiveness that makes me think of the mighty Firespawn. With Decameron being a concept album based on the old book with the same name I had a rough idea on what to expect, a dark album with tales of the black death (the plague). 10 tales into 10 songs of death, brutality and utter horror. The essence of this is captured really well in Decameron, as I said before The Shores of Issyk-Kul sets the tone with it’s aggression, atmosphere of doom and death. Which sets the pace for the rest of the album. Every song have a eerie feeling to it and is very dark, from lyrics to the whole overall performance. In that sense Decameron is almost a perfect concept album for what Throne of Heresy want to broadcast, one of the darkest eras of mankind.

Musically this is an album on par with Antioch, even if they are quite hard to put against each other seeing as they are very different. While Decameron offers an even more atmospheric feeling and blackened death metal take, which I can see as a mix of Naglfar, Dissection and Firespawn at times, Antioch was a more head-on death metal approach in my opinion. I think this is Throne of Heresy’s best work yet and they keep evolving with each release, honing that blackened sound. I hope that soon their plague will spread among the metal community to make more people give into their darkness.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/throneofheresy
Label: The Sign Records
For fans of: Firespawn and Dissection
Favorite song: Siege of Caffa
Score: 4/5

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

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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