Dzö-nga – The Sachem’s Tales (Atmospheric Black Metal)

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We got more mountains to climb people! Found this album on youtube and holy crap! Such beautiful, much wow! Dzö-nga started off as a solo project and draw inspiration from Tibetan myths and legends centered on the Himalayan mountains, where the name also comes from as Dzö-nga is the name of a cryptid or demon that is said to haunt the mountain Kangchenjunga. Since the formation and debut album Five Treasures of Snow (which Kangchenjunga can translate into) in 2016 the one-man band has added female vocalist in Grushenka Ødegård which adds so much to the sound and atmosphere. In all honesty I wasn’t much of a fan of the debut, the lack of drums really put me off and it seemed to lack a lot of elements I enjoy in this kind of music. This has all changed with the sophomore album though!

The music seems closer to nature with the melodies and female vocals, while Cryvas growling and instrumental play sets the tone and almost creates a demon versus elven character kind of setting, just as expected from the album. Adding more instruments since Five Treasures of Snow (like drums) also makes this album feel a lot more complete than the debut ever did. I wouldn’t mind some Tibetan instruments thrown into the mix to add even more connections to the folklore Dzö-nga sings about. Just like with most atmospheric black metal The Sachem’s Tales is meant to be experienced in its entirety without any stops. The build-ups on the songs that leads to different sections is superb and the vocals are a great match, making it stick out from most of the atmospheric black metal I listen to instead of the rather bland debut. It could say this is something along the lines of Myrkur meets Summoning musically. Which you can tell is sweet melodies and an atmospheric tone to it.

I am impressed with how much Dzö-nga has improved in just a year. It’s insane really and hats off to find a direction with the music that works so much better in my opinion. This is beautiful atmospheric black metal with a lot of variation and flow that you will want to experience again and again. Now I want to know Cryvas will be up to with the next release!

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dzongalives
Label: Avantgarde Music
For fans of: Summoning and Saor
Favorite song: Against the Northern Wind
Score: 4/5

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Somnium Nox – Terra Inanis (Atmospheric Black Metal)

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It’s been a long time I got to listen to some new atmospheric black metal! Finally the time has come when I can be taken into the vast darkness that atmospheric black metal usually offers. Hailing from Australia the band was formed last year and features the drummer from Norse, which was a big reason I wanted to check them out. Distorted guitars, harsh atmospheric background music with screeching from the depths of hell, tempo-changes and use of various instruments. You know what I am talking about, it’s the backbone of any good atmospheric black metal album and Somnium Nox does it better than most. This is a very deep album that stirs up emotions throughout the three songs, songs that could in all honesty be seen as one as they transition into each other really well.

Speaking of using various instruments, the use of a didgeridoo is present on this album but Somnium Nox definitely don’t overuse it. It’s just there to create some background atmosphere, just like their samples are and I think finding the balance on using these things is what differs a good and a great atmospheric black metal band. There are a lot of good atmospheric black metal bands out there but only a few that can really get all these components to really jell together. Fen, Saor, Panopticon, Winterfylleth and Agalloch being some of these bands that comes to mind but Somnium Nox debut album is one of the best atmospheric black metal albums I’ve heard this year, if not the best, I am interested to see if they can be consistent enough to play with the big boys in a few years.

Terra Inanis is a great example on how to make a atmospheric black metal debut. The future is very bright for Somnium Nox and I wouldn’t be surprised if people name them when talking about the atmospheric black metal greats in the future. Terra Inanis is out now through Transcending Obscurity Records.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SomniumNox
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
For fans of: Panopticon and Fen
Favorite song: The Alnwick Apotheosis

Fen – Winter (Atmospheric Black Metal)

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Named after a region in England called The Fens, Fen have since their formation in 2006 made a big name for themselves in the atmospheric black metal scene. The band members grew up in this mysterious landscapes, with marshes and wetlands, and this is where they’ve found the inspiration for their music. Winter is the bands fifth full-length release and it’s been three years since their latest masterpiece Carrion Skies.

Fen are one of those bands that brings you epic songs which, more often than not, goes past the ten minute mark. I know this isn’t for everyone just due to the length and you’re probably afraid that you will lose interest halfway through the song. I urge you not to let time be a factor for giving this one a miss, you owe it to yourself to get embraced by this cold and bleak winter that Fen offers you. It’s an album that should be experienced as a whole, which fans of Fen (and quite a few other atmospheric black metal bands) should know by now. It might not be an album where you turn on a song on your way to work which takes 5-10 minutes but see it as an audiovisual journey instead.

The Winter starts somewhat warm and gently. It’s that time of the year where you’re not entirely sure what to wear as the climate hasn’t truly become cold. Then the snapping cold hits and all of a sudden it’s a harsh icy landscape. This is portrayed in the opening song I: (Pathway) as the beginning of Winter is upon us. The songs smoothly transitions on the album, making this an even greater experience to the listener who wants to not only hear but to feel the Winter breeze.

In many ways this is the perfect way to give tribute for the ten years Fen have existed. It brings an interesting concept, with an atmosphere that’s fitting Winter and a journey in mysterious landscapes of darkness and sorrow. This is Fen at it’s finest and you should allow yourself to be absorbed and fully embrace this journey you’re about to take in the cold Winter. It captures the season from start to finish, ending with VI (Sight) that makes you feel that spring might even be coming soon.

Fen’s fifth full-length release Winter is out now through Code666 Records.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fenofficial
For fans of: Agalloch and Alcest
Favorite song: V (Death)

Pure Wrath – Ascetic Eventide (Atmospheric Black Metal)

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Indonesia is not a country I think of when looking at atmospheric black metal. However Pure Wrath are sure to make both me and many others change their views on where great atmospheric black metal is produced from. Pure Wrath started as solo project in 2014 by Januaryo Hardy (aka Ryo). Energized by the essence of Earth, including nature, vision, and the call of solitude Ryo set off to create the Pure Wrath of nature itself in musical form. The end result is nothing short but greatness, a wonderful debut that will surely make a mark in the atmospheric black metal scene.

Pure Wrath brings a lot of energy and the use of various sounds and instruments (such as flute and piano) to create different emotions to the listener is wonderfully put together on Ascetic Eventide. The tracks really catches the atmosphere just like their names implies. Colourless Grassland feels desolate but yet calm and one with nature, Mountain Calls feels cold, harsh and barren (takes me back to the whole Wayfarer experience I had last year). This feeling of solitude and being one with nature that Ryo wanted to capture the essence off with Ascetic Eventide he has really achieved. It’s epic and raw, just like nature itself.

Ascetic Eventide is a work of art and stands tall in the vast atmospheric black metal discography that’s out there. I look forward to hear more from Pure Wrath in the future, until then I am more than happy to have one of this years big surprises on repeat when I want my mind to wander away and try to become one with nature. Pure Wrath’s debut album Ascetic Eventide is out now through Hitam Kelam Records.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/purewrath
For fans of: Saor and Wayfarer
Favorite song: Clouds Retiring

Forndom – Dauðra Dura (Atmospheric Metal)

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Art. That’s the only word I need to describe Forndom. This is not simply music, this is art. This is expressing emotions and a way of life through sound as well as the artwork and live performances. Let me copy a line taken from the record label Nordvis, one of my favorite labels, “We aim to work with musicians who build their musical creations around old native traditions, folklore & the great outback”. Forndom does exactly that. You might have heard of Wardruna before but you should definitely learn to remember Forndom.

I can’t help but to get taken away by this kind of music. It is so atmospheric and brings harmony to my very soul. I saw Wardruna live a few weeks ago and it was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my live. There is something special with the old ways and instruments that sweeps you away to a world long lost to many. The man behind the Forndom project is L. Swärd. Inspired by Scandinavian folklore he has brought forward a masterpiece that will surely calm your spirit and take you into the wild.

Longing for something in the same musical realm as Wardruna? Then Formdom’s Dauðra Dura will a must have.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Forndom
For fans of: Wardruna and Ulver
Favorite song: Svitjod

The Metal Gamer Top 20 Albums of 2016

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Just in time for Christmas I’ve made my choice of 2016’s best albums. The only rule I have to be in this list is that the album has to have been reviewed this year by me. Meaning, even if I love the album, no Jomsviking by Amon Amarth, Magma by Gojira or no King by Fleshgod Apocalypse for example. Reason I started this blog was initially because I wanted to use my English more and I have friends asking me for new bands quite often, hence I stick to the lesser known bands out there and will continue to do so. They are by no means any worse though, as a matter of fact all these bands should be known by every metalhead out there! Anyways without further ado here you have my top 20 albums for 2016 (in no order).

Krepitus – The Eyes of the Soulless
Wastewalker – Funeral Winds
Nordjevel – Nordjevel
Gatecreeper – Sonoran Depravation
Fimbultyr – Niddikter
I Shall Devour – The Misanthropist
Wayfarer – Old Souls
Netherbird – The Grander Voyage
Saor – Guardians
Uada – Devoid of Light
Ereb Altor – Blot – Ilt – Taut
Volturyon – Cleansed by Carnage
Centinex – Doomsday Rituals
Shokran – Exodus
Dawn of Demise – The Suffering
Hyperion – Seraphical Euphony
Illdisposed – Grey Sky over Black Town
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Be’lakor – Vessels
Whispered – Songs of the Void

Last of all I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you next year and stay metal!

Saor – Guardians (Atmospheric Folk/Black Metal)

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Starting off like an intro to Braveheart with crows singing, bagpipes playing and thundering riffs Saor lays the foundations on their latest release Guardians right from the start. It has to be said that Guardians is the first album I hear from Saor, even though I’ve heard a lot about them since Roots came out I’ve never actually sat down and listened to one of their albums. So why the name Saor? Saor means “free” and “unconstrained” in Gaelic. The name was inspired by the Scottish independence motto “Saor Alba” which translates to “Free Scotland”. Perfect for Andy Marshall’s solo project which lyrical theme revolves around the Scottish heritage and landscapes.

The music is very beautiful and atmospheric, what you would probably have guessed. However it also adds that harsh tone from the vocals and guitars making it change phase when needed and adds a lot of depth to the sound. I really love how Saor uses bagpipes and violins as it just makes me take in the celtic atmosphere and almost feeling the sorrow and grief the Scottish have endured. Or as to quote my favourite song on the album (they are all great though) Hearth:

“I’ve wandered through the ancient glens
Where the air is filled with sorrow
and climbed to the highest of peaks
Walked amongst the haunted ruins of my nation
There’s nowhere I’d rather be
This is my home
My heart
My soul
My hearth”

Simply beautiful, yet a saddening masterpiece and I hope you will all take an hour of your time to experience this amazing album. Now I need to book a trip to Scotland…..

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/saorofficial
For fans of: Winterfylleth and Panopticon
Favorite song: Hearth