Sunday, September 21, 2014

Winterfylleth - The divination of antiquity

Genre : Folk black metal
Release : October 7th 2014 on Candlelight Records.

Winterfylleth became quite popular in the last few years, probably thanks to the frequency of their releases (one album every 2 years since 2008) but mostly thanks to their quality, I'd say. With this fourth full-length, this british atmospheric folk black metal band keeps its trademark but evolve into an even more melodic, less linear style. I loved the past two releases, yet I think that The divination of antiquity is even richer than the previous ones.

To explain this, I'd say that every track has more identity than before, because they're built on more different song structures, whereas The mercian sphere and The threnody of triumph had strong similarities from track to track. Even though I'd definitely admit that both those albums already were of a rare quality, what we've got here sounds more dynamic and intense than before. Maybe a couple listens to 'Whisper of the elements' on the bandcamp player just above will give you the same opinion. Also, this whole new release is probably more riff-driven than before, as heard on the aforementioned track, mostly towards its end. Drumming is more versatile too, and while it still strongly focuses on blastbeating, some songs successfully use a different approach such as  'A careworn heart'. However, it's good to hear that Winterfylleth made this more an evolution than a drastic change. The elements which made them great are still here, even the rich fully acoustic tracks such as 'The world ahead' or the deep male choirs it features... all this has been kept for that 2014 release. Of course, that's not all they were about already and if you don't know them yet, their sense of musical epicness and the quality of their dynamics will surely please you if you're into that kind of linear, atmospheric black metal with a hint of folk inside of it. Yeah, folk isn't a big part of their sound either, at least it isn't really used as frequent interludes inside tracks but more as stand-alones or intros for longest ones. But somehow, this helps Winterfylleth building their cold and solid atmosphere without any compromise for the listener.

I've always loved Winterfylleth's tunes and had faith in any of their new upcoming works, but for the first time, the result has been above my expectations. It still isn't much about impressively clever songwriting nor loads of traditional instrumentation building massive layers, but more about great musicians making great atmospheric black metal and putting this out with the perfect mixing for such sounds. Yet, incorporating much more melodic guitar lines was what those guys needed to make a step forward and join the most talented bands of the same genre. The divination of antiquity is their most intense release to date, and Winterfylleth demonstrates that complexity isn't a key element into making great tunes, when sincerity and skill can be just enough.

Personal highlights : A careworn heart, Over borderlands.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Falls of Rauros - Believe in no coming shore

Genre : Folk black metal
Release : October 1st 2014 on Bindrune Recordings.

I'm sure this band name and album title hooked you in a second, am I right? Well, it was the same for me when I received the promo, and first of all I'd like to drop some sincere thanks to Marty and Bindrune Recordings for allowing me to review this pearl, as well as giving Ethereal Soundscapes more awesome material to speak about. Thank you! Believe in no coming shore, the 3rd full-length from mighty Falls of Rauros (Into the archaic being considered a demo) is set for release on November 1st and one track has already been released. It's called 'Ancestors of smoke', clocks for more than 10 minutes and is available for streaming right here.

After shifting to a much more professional and mature sound on their 3rd album, The light that dwells in rotten wood, Falls of Rauros released a split with Panopticon in which they kept the essence of the aforementioned release. No surprise if I tell you that Believe in no coming shore keeps exactly the same elements and production quality than those previous releases, and obviously, this is good news, as they both bright with awesomeness. It's actually impressive how the guys successfully kept the same setup in that new album. Rhythm guitars still have their somehow vintage almost rockish sound (I mean, like in 'Banished' intro on the previous album) while vocals uses exactly the same effects than they did before. Again, it's all good to know that Falls of Rauros didn't drop a bit of what made them awesome. Yet, once you dig the new album, there are a couple differences to mention. First, they moved away from some Agalloch-esque elements, such as the typical percussions on 'Silence' intro from The light that dwells in rotten wood. Comparisons are bad since Falls of Rauros really have they own identity and grew better than many of their masters, but that new album reminds me more of October falls' A collapse of faith mainly because of the riffing elements but also the nice bass mixing which makes it clear and loud at the same time. This is funny because this album is one of my favorite ever, why I think it's an honorable mention for Believe in no coming shore. 'Spectral eyes' is a good example of how riffs have been integrated, mostly towards the track's end, but the album as a whole is built around much more riffing than previous ones. Strangely enough, the only flaw I'd find in this album is the second track : 'Ancestors of shadow', which is not bad at all but a little too flat for my taste. Maybe because it's the shortest track apart from intro and outro, but I feel it takes little time to build up and play with magnificent interludes, whereas both the longest tracks, 'Ancestors of smoke' and 'Waxen voices' are incredibly rich pieces, showing once more how clever Falls of Rauros are when it comes to songwriting. They include nicely many kinds of moods on the melancholic range through different parts moving from fast paced black metal to long acoustic breaks. Also, both the instrumental tracks, 'Blue misshapen dusk' and self-titled one 'Believe in no coming shore' use catchy melodies and are great additions to the album. The second one reminds of previous full-length's outro in composition, being instrumental yet not fully acoustic either.

This album is a real success, because it's typically what everybody expected from the band after their last efforts. After some demos and a first album which didn't convince me, Falls of Rauros are now building a coherent and strong discography. Be it their musicianship, the feelings their songs carry or the maturity of their whole work, they're surely one of the best american black metal acts we've got today. Let's just hope they'll keep making such material in the future, I'm pretty sure they can't really disappoint by now.

Personal highlights : Ancestors of smoke, Waxen voices.
Links : FacebookBandcampBigcartel.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Vaiya - Remnant light

Genre : Atmospheric black metal
Release : August 8th 2014 on Natural World Records.

Hi there, it's been a while! Well, June was much work and July was much relaxing and holidays. Now I'm back in business, let me introduce you Vaiya, a side-project from Encircling sea's mastermind Rob Allen. It's not Vaiya's first release, but first ones were much more on a ritualistic mood and definitely not easy listens, although surely interesting ones. Rob hasn't created a copy of Encircling sea's recent works either, but Remnant light is surely closer to his main band in terms of musical genre, which is for that case strongly atmospheric and melancholic sludge-driven black metal.

Yet, this album doesn't rely much on folk or acoustic elements to setup its mood. It tends more towards huge sludgy walls of sound and maybe some hints of doom. Although I don't like comparing bands to each other, quite a part of Remnant light actually reminds me of The great old ones new album, be it for the mood, the guitar sound or the vocals. I think this is a positive comparison though, as Tekeli-li is a brillant record. But it's just similarities, as Vaiya depicts more melancholy and despair than nightmarish scenes. As seen above, this new release is split equally in three 13 minutes tracks. On its first half, 'Confrontation' is straightforward and bleak, and that's probably what led me to the previous comparison. Then it calms down, including a slow riff and a monotonic acoustic part while vocals switch to an half-clean whispered kind. Every track is built a similar way, but Rob successfully created its transitions in order to avoid any feeling of boredom throughout the whole listen. Also, those walls of sound are both catchy with their melodic side and stunning with the strength of the guitar effects. And considering how omnipresent they are on Remnant light, those clever rhythm guitars really make this album a success, alongside with vocals switching different singing genres but always carrying emotions as intended, somewhere between despair, rage and meditation. 'Banishment' uses more or less the same setup than 'Confrontation', with a straightforward first half and a more melancholic, calming interlude in its second half. 'Transformation', again, is a big blast on the first 8 minutes and ends in some soothing tunes, reminding more of Encircling sea's softer parts. This whole track is probably the closest one to Rob's main project, actually.

Moving out of its ritualistic roots and placing itself into a more usual sludge and black metal mixture, Vaiya created a more easy-listening album (for black metal listeners, at least). Such a genre change was unexpected and may be surprising if at least you heard the previous works, but that will surely lead the project to a wider audience. Even if not revolutionary in terms of song structure, Remnant light is a cleverly built album and deserves immediate attention inside the atmospheric black metal scene. What I mean is that this album might be quite basic in terms of songwriting, but Rob's experience in musical creation makes every single element shine and as such, the whole thing is an highly enjoyable release which definitely deserves consideration.

Personal highlight : Banishment.
Link : Bandcamp.

Friday, June 6, 2014

October falls - Kaarna

Genre : Instrumental neofolk
Release : June 20th 2014 on Debemur Morti Productions.

You probably read about October falls on my blog already, and if you did, you might have come across straight neofolk releases such as Sarastus, between a couple folk black metal ones such as A collapse of faith or The womb of primordial nature. I got the honor to review October falls' new release before June 20th, with a pretty physical digipack coming along. Speaking about it, the artwork is much prettier than seen here, since there's an embossed neofolk-only (square one) band logo on its cover, which can't be seen on the scan. For those who got the digipack from A collapse of faith already, it's the same idea here. That whole black & white box is pretty beautiful by the way, even though there's not a single lyric in its booklet of course : just cover arts of the old releases. Yeah, some may be sad to learn this, but there aren't any new tracks in there : Kaarna gathers every acoustic track Mikko Lehto has ever recorded, and that's it. Nothing worthless though : those works are coherent and fit together amazingly well, and giving them a whole new life into a single physical release make them shine much more than they ever did.

Compilation? Yeah, every neofolk track October falls ever did is inside the box, which makes it quite a long journey over two CDs. If you're wondering about the tracklist, you've got it just up there (except that 'Marrasmaa' is in the middle of 'Marras' track). You can also stream it as a whole right here, of course. But as you may be more familiar with the black metal releases Mikko Lehto did, here's what you can expect here : straight minimalistic neofolk mostly consisting in acoustic guitars, some pianos, a couple quiet flutes in the background, almost no drums (a couple on 'Marras' and that's it) nor vocals (quick vocalized interludes between ex-Marras tracks), but lots of ambient noises. Ambient noises which are definitely the usual neofolk ones : wind and water flowing, birds singing... and so on. If that's pretty much it technically, Kaarna is all about atmosphere, and clocking for more than 90 minutes, it's long enough to place it easily and perfectly. Of course, you may think it's too long, but that's not something you carefully listen to in my opinion, it's more about placing yourself in a precise mood for an evening. It should flow like water does all along 'Sarastus' and that's probably how it's meant to exist. Also, this release is quite different from other long straight neofolk releases (Fearthainne comes to mind), probably because it's strictly European neofolk, more melodic and less ritualistic than those inspired from the cascadian movement. October falls' has a different atmosphere, still melancholic, but somehow warmer. Well, for those who know its folk black metal side, Kaarna surely reminds of the acoustic parts heard in A collapse of faith or The womb of primordial nature. Except that no raging blastbeats or huge riff will come. Don't be sad : the journey is still worth it, but just meant for a different mood.

With its three very short tracks and its three long ones (made from albums mixed into single tracks), Kaarna has quite an unusual structure. But in the end, it would make the same sense if it was a single huge track. While giving it such a physical release, Mikko surely gave it much more sense than separate digital tracks grabbed here and there on Bandcamp and played separately. As such, Kaarna is something you should own if you're into raw neofolk, or just if you want your October falls' discography to be complete. That would be more than a good idea, because this one definitely makes sense between the folk black metal albums the band is most known for.

Personal highlights : Viima, Sarastus.
Links : Facebook, Bandcamp (neofolk only).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Clouds - Doliu

Genre : Funeral doom metal
Release : May 27th 2014 on Domestic Genocide Records.

Hey hey, something really new, not only because it's been out precisely today, but also because it's the first doom metal review on Ethereal Soundscapes. Doom metal has been a part of my musical horizon for far longer than black metal actually, and I kind of dropped it when I realized that digging funeral doom always meant landing on the same tunes, the same tempos, and allow me, the same boredom. I didn't have much faith into looking for new funeral doom bands anymore. And today, my bandcamp newsletter told me Clouds released their new album, Doliu. Clouds? I remembered giving this a listen a while ago, and although I couldn't recall how it did sound, I was pretty sure it sounded good. As I recently started to look for new good doom metal again, I decided to hit the play button on Bandcamp. Wow. I found it, my new good doom metal.

But why was Doliu incredibly enjoyable compared to many others which got me bored in seconds? I think that the clean vocals of the very first track were something I didn't expect, and which got me hooked quickly. Incredibly good vocals if you ask me : if there's something I lost faith into with years, it's indeed good, deep, sorrowful male clean vocals. Middle part of 'If these walls could speak' will probably show you what I mean. That precise part also demonstrates other elements : deep harsh vocals, typical of the doom genre, mixed into the clean ones. Blasting. What, a long and mature guitar solo? Yeah, nothing to do with a power metal solo, this one really makes sense and carries real emotions. But what's most present in Clouds' first album is the piano, building layers of melancholy through high reverb and slow tempo. The songwriting here is stunning, because pianos successfully stay minimalistic while really emotional. A good example of it would be the first five minutes of 'A glimpse of sorrow', even though the reverb here is not as high as in 'If these walls could speak'. Another uncommon thing would be the post-rockish tunes at the beginnings of both 'The deep, vast emptiness' and 'Even if I fall'. Well, you got it, all those elements are what makes Clouds a very promising funeral doom band. Because if their bare doom parts are quite common in their composition, they're nonetheless really well integrated and short enough to keep making sense. Also, even if their raw doom parts are quite common in essence, they're especially well mixed and the slow guitar cries behind them, as seen around the end of 'A glimpse of sorrow' again, make them just... captivating. What I mean is, yeah, slow tempos, heavy tuned down guitars and low-pitched harsh vocals are surely the basics of funeral doom, but by no means it should take the whole 15 minutes of a single song with the same repeated patterns, and this all over the 5 songs of an album. Doliu is nothing like that. Doliu is rich, intense and deep. Doliu is an album you really listen to, moving from part to part with associated emotions.

Clouds didn't change the bones of funeral doom, they just added flesh on top of them. And such delicate one..! While adding more elements like melancholic pianos, intense clean vocals or excellent guitar riffs & solos, they successfully broadened their musical horizon and avoid themselves falling into the usual funeral boredom. Also, they do not limit themselves in terms of genre and surely open their following discography to many other great tracks. Doliu sounds so mature it's hard to believe it's only their debut album... even though some members are known for playing in other bands, such as Jarno in Shape of despair. Let's just hope they'll keep sticking together and going in that direction to build themselves a name amongst the references in the genre. They surely deserve it.

Personal highlights : If these walls could speak, A glimpse of sorrow.
Links : Facebook, Bandcamp.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Encircling sea - Écru

Genre : Post-black metal / Sludge
Release : June 26th 2010 on An Out Recordings.

You probably understood I'm especially loving Encircling sea from my review of A forgotten land, their last album, released late 2012. Well, let's go back in time once more to dig this 1-track album, Écru. Before anything else, quick reminder : you can play the track right here and even download it for free, like any other Encircling sea's album. Good guys you say? Awesome ones I say. Now back to my review. Usually, I'm quite reluctant to check out 1-track albums, you know. I'm often thinking they're slow to start, that they have mostly boring unending intros... Not that I dislike ambient music, or this blog wouldn't exist anyway, it's just that most of those long tracks are artificially built up with many wasted minutes just to make them long. Well, it depends on the state of mind you're on, I guess : full atmospheric tracks can also hit a certain spot if you're in the right mood.

However, Écru starts especially quickly for such a kind of track. The first 3 minutes are enough for you to get a full palette of the sounds it features : cold ambient guitars, post-rocking tremolos, sludgy atmospheres, raging black metal... Obviously, the track quickly grasps the listener, and it doesn't let go. Still, by that time, black metal was not a major part of Encircling sea's performance, and after a 3 minutes more blast, Écru returns with its main atmosphere : heavily delayed, sludgy, almost droning guitars, with slow, crushing drumming. Yeah, if you're here hoping for 37 minutes of straight black metal, you can already stop your listen and go back to something else or you'll quickly get disappointed. Less black metal than on A forgotten land for sure, and no acoustic folk parts either, but the ethereal female vocals by Ramanee, Rob's wife, are already striking with their beauty and perfectly fit the track. Not for long though, and the track gets more and more instrumental as time flies, the last third having no vocals at all. Few black metal, not a hint of folk and no vocals? Yes, but Écru is nonetheless a masterpiece when it comes to atmosphere. Instead of nature and wild, wide open spaces, there's a more claustrophobic tune in this track, something I'd call far darker and gloomier. Those vibrating guitars, echoing in the night, from around 12 minutes or 24 minutes,  are your atmospheric parts here. Such ones, although really minimalistic, are perfectly integrated and help making a 37 minutes long track a success if you ask me. Écru is wavering all the time, not only in its playing style with its strong guitars' delays, but also in its songwriting, with its perfect balance between aggressivity, darkness, melancholy and contemplation. Of course, you don't have to be in a hurry to get the whole thing and appreciate it, it's still one huge track with long parts close-minded people will call "boring".

I can easily see Écru split into three tracks at time marks 11:38 and 24:40. First one would be your most traditional part, with a good punch of black metal to knock you down. Second one would be your coma and the embracing darkness. As for the third, it'd be the slow return to consciousness. Maybe it would make Écru an easier listen, but seeing how Rob Allen tends to work, I'm not sure it was intended to be one, nor it will ever be. And that's probably even better this way, as Encircling sea's music is more about conceptual songwriting and thinkful atmospheres. As for Écru, it's still my favorite listen at sunset. Listening to it without switching any lights on and slowly going towards darkness is truly a moving experience. But anycase, listening to it as it is already is a moving experience.

Links : Facebook, BandcampBigcartel.

Other reviews from Encircling sea:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fauna - Avifauna

Genre : Folk black metal
Release : December 21st 2012.

If you're like me, always digging more underground folk black metal bands, you probably already know about Fauna. Hopefully you don't yet, that would help Ethereal Soundscapes making more sense! Fauna is one of those american folk black metal acts which you can call "cascadian" if you feel like it, although this tag is less and less constructive as many bands outside from the Cascade Range are playing the same kind of sound, nowadays.

But enough said about tags, what's interesting here is music. If the elements used in Avifauna are nothing unusual, they're at least perfectly blended together. Songs are especially long and every part inside them is, too. Black metal parts are typically atmospheric, with guitars, drums and bass lines melting into each other to create a huge, unbreakable wall of sound. Add well-placed vocals into this and that's a successful craft of bleak, deep, somehow depressive black metal. Yet, Fauna is not a depressive black act, as their also long acoustic interludes wouldn't fit that genre. Bearing a strong american folk essence, they're mostly composed of clean guitars, cellos, and various kinds of percussions. What's striking me the most in those parts are actually the well-maintained level of gloominess and melancholy. It's definitely folk for the rainy days, minimalistic yet beautiful sounds. Minimalistic doesn't mean poor, however : with few elements, Fauna creates a rich, catchy and deep sound in any of those parts, be they short or long. Well, short isn't often the case here, but again, Avifauna isn't something you listen to in a hurry. For example, 'Soaring into Earth' start with such dark folk for 8 minutes, which is more than most songs in the genre. Yet there's nothing in this intro which makes you want to skip to the next part. It's well done as it is. I mean, technically, there's nothing to worry about : be it black metal or folk, both the guys behind these tunes know what they do, and they do it well. Not only black metal or folk, by the way, as some parts such as the end of 'The harpy' can't be categorized such quickly. Add a precise, clean enough production, and everything shines at its best.

Somehow, as it gets longer and longer in every song, this album is not your intense, straitforward, easy-listening black metal. Avifauna is all about despair and melancholy with a strong folk influence and nature-bound presence. However, the more you dig it, the more you realize it's a beautifully crafted piece, with no monotony else than wanted by the artists themselves. Also, if you're already into Fauna's side acts, such as Echtra or Fearthainne, this album will surely make sense, as it gathers many elements of them both while sublimating them with a coherent and clever songwriting.

Personal highlights : Soaring into Earth, The harpy.
Links : Bandcamp, Webshop.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Waldgeflüster - Meine Fesseln

Genre : Folk black metal
Release : January 4th 2014.

I feel a bit shameful for not adding that album here before. It's been a while since I support Waldgeflüster now. And Winterherz, mastermind behind this folk black metal project, recently released his third full-length. If you're familiar with what was on the first two, Herbstklagen and Femundsmarka : Eine Reise in drei Kapiteln, Meine Fesseln (german for My chains) is obviously a good pick. The very essence of Waldgeflüster is still here and even stronger than before, be it in terms of music, lyrics, thematics...

Yeah, music follows the same patterns as his previous works : no huge walls of sound here, rather a incredibly melodic guitar backline. Melodic for sure, sometimes too much on first listen : guitar solo at the beginning of 'Der Nebel' on top of the riffing background guitars gives a strange feeling. But once you get used to this non-stop use of melodies, Meine Fesseln shines with its guitars. They're also the main piece of the acoustic parts, even though not the only one, as the guestlist counts Austin Lunn from Panopticon playing mandolin or Janne Väätäinen of Haïve for some kantele, among others... Probably because of the gear used and Winterherz's playing style, I deeply love his acoustic parts. I actually love his guitar use, be it the melodic backgrounds, the crying guitars heard on 'Wie eine Weide im Wind' chorus, the acoustic magnificence of any track introduction, as they mostly start softly, which I consider a good thing. I don't like to feel harmed by the beginning of a track, even as a black metal lover. Well, Meine Fesseln definitely is a guitar-oriented album. But alone, they wouldn't be enough to create the whole stuff of course, so what about the other elements? Drums are a little quiet in the mix, but carry the music well, moving along the mood with slower and faster tempos when needed. And that's what the album needs, as it often switches between slow melancholy and raging black metal. As for vocals, they're equally split between powerful black metal ones and somehow wild, honest cleans, which are often used as male duets. Well, clean and unclean vocals are actually used together most of the time singing the same part, and that's one hell of a success too, as it feels so intense and natural. Vocals are definitely a strength of Waldgeflüster too, as their rawness surely fits the album atmosphere. Honest, yeah. In my opinion, that's the best word to describe them.

Once again, all those elements will be quite familiar for who already knows Waldgeflüster's own style. Yeah, instead of playing your usual black metal, Winterherz created a project with a strong personal identity. Through its music, because non-happy/pagan folk black metal may have become more popular, yet Meine Fesseln gives it a different approach, definitely. Through its lyrics too, although my german would need one hell of a boost to get it completely (which I'd love, for that case). Even though not getting the whole thing precisely, the recurrent use of nature themes and its own melancholy is strong enough to be obvious, and the amazing cover art which perfectly fits the album title. Winterherz recently asked on his Facebook page what were our own chains to this world. At least, Waldgeflüster is one of mine, it seriously makes my time on Earth a little better.

Personal highlights : Wie eine Weide im Wind, Trauerweide (Teile I & II).
Links : Facebook, Bandcamp.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Nebelung - Palingenesis

Genre : Mostly instrumental neofolk
Release : February 18th 2014 on Temple of Torturous.

As the time flies, I find it harder and harder to find good neofolk releases. Actually, I often enjoy neofolk tracks from folk black metal albums more than raw neofolk ones. However, when I realized Nebelung were about to release a new album six years after their last release, Vigil, I was immediately hooked, as they quite recently participated to Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer and Whom the moon a nightsong sings (2010) with two excellent tracks : 'Graue Nacht' and 'Ich würd es hören'.

On both the aforementioned tracks and previous releases, Nebelung used to incorporate german lyrics through deep male vocals, with more or less success from track to track ('Graue Nacht' being amazing in every possible way, though). However, a big change from their previous works is the instrumental direction of Palingenesis. Well, mostly instrumental to be precise, as there still are some whispered words on 'Mittwinter' and 'Polaris', but they're definitely not what you hear first. What you actually hear first is straight clean guitars and cello neofolk. Yeah, simple as that, even though it wouldn't be that great with so few things. Quietly moving behind the main instruments, there are some harmoniums, harps, chimes, bells, drums, whispered words and more. To put in a nut shell, Nebelung creates big arrangements while keeping the essence of neofolk's minimalism. A great work if you ask me, and this 50 minutes long new album doesn't sound boring a single second, which is often an issue within the genre. It actually flows slowly, quietly, with clever composition and warm, beautiful melodies. That new release also shines with autumnal melancholy, it even surpasses most of the neofolk releases for that case. And more than sounds, Palingenesis really is a painting : a picture of a autumnal wood, with its yellow to red leaves and its evening sunrays. Or a picture of a winter forest covered with fog. Or whatever else you think which fits its soothing, enchanting atmospheres. Nebelung really evokes what the genre is all about.

Giving Palingenesis a clap isn't enough to praise its greatness. Nebelung successfully crafted a perfect neofolk album with all the essence and mood it needs. An album not to listen in a rush, but to relax with. Melancholic cellos, peaceful guitars, quiet melodies and serene pictures are everything you need for a stunning neofolk release but this minimalistic recipe isn't an easy thing to arrange either, and that's why Nebelung can be acclaimed for completely mastering it with this third album. Kudos, masters!

Personal highlights : Mittwinter, Wandlung.
Links : Facebook, Bandcamp.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The great old ones - Tekeli-li

Genre : Post-black metal
Release : April 16th 2014 on Les Acteurs de l'Ombre Productions.

Being both french and Lovecraft-lover, just like The great old ones, I couldn't miss their new boxset including new album Tekeli-li and novel Mountains of Madness, from which the new album takes its inspiration and essence. What could have been a better deal, as I never read this one before? I quickly started to dig it while listening to Tekeli-li only, for more immersion regarding that clever association. And I'm happy I did so. Now I can tell you more about the actual album, while you hit the play button of the embed stream above, as usual in the new reviews.

Needless to say there's far more to speak about that the mere music, be it artwork, concept, related items. The overall work, as such, is impressive way before you hit the play button. And when you do, it still is. Tekeli-li kicks in with ambient guitars and a french narrative part, dealing with the novel events. Later on and all along the tracks, there are others low-tempo breaks for some more narrations, always with the same deep male voice, perfectly fitting that role. Those parts surely builds a coherent atmosphere and helps keeping the album really close to the book, although they will probably make less sense for non-french speakers. Musically speaking, The great old ones uses most of the elements they used on their first album, Al Azif, with the same success : be it the anguished vocals, the shrieking guitars or the oppressing and clever mix, which makes everything sound clear despite the number of instruments and their aggressivity. Band's trademark surely is their huge and impressively strong walls of sound, but more than the actual music, the horror feeling perfectly fits the Lovecraftian influences, even though a wider use of dark ambient parts would surely have pleased me for that case. But it's a very personal opinion. Yet, tempo changes quite a lot throughout Tekeli-li, and not only for the narrative breaks : from the solid doom metal played at the beginning of 'Awakening' to the intense, fast-paced drumming on the instrumental track 'The ascend', least I can say is that this new album is as powerful as versatile.

Although obviously minimalistic in its essence, Tekeli-li is an impressive record, successfully creating a strong atmosphere while mostly sticking to the basic instrumentation. A couple piano and violin lines can be heard at some points, but they're not prominent, neither are any acoustic parts by the way, as this release is definitely more metal than anything else. However, those slow-tempo moments definitely add the needed layers to the record. Just as cold and despaired as Antarctica is, the six tracks surely fit Mountains of Madness with their special atmosphere, and they're also using songtitles easy to associate with the novel events. But even if you're not into books, this album will be amazing in itself. « Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li! ».

Personal highlights : Awakening, The ascend.
Links : Facebook, Bandcamp, Bigcartel.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Clad in darkness - Decathect

Genre : Post-black metal
Release : December 14th 2013.

First of all, I'd like to personally thank John, one of the guitarists, for giving me a physical copy of this release. That single fact was enough for me to give some of my spare time to review Decathect. However, his kindness is not the single reason which led me to this article, as the album in question is for sure among the ones you should check if you haven't already. Let's dig a bit more what is for sure a consistent and well-thought concept album.

Yeah, although not obvious, Decathect is a concept album, based upon novel Ethan Frome from american writer Edith Wharton. As usual in such cases, I try to dig the related works together. I'm not here to review the novel, but the album successfully reminds of Ethan Frome's melancholy, indeed. Playing black metal with strong post-rock influences, Clad in darkness adds a strong emotional charge to their music. Be it through their vocals, perfectly arranged throughout the seven tracks, even though they sometimes feel like they could have been more heart-breaking and passionate. Not to say they're bad, they're actually great, and not a major part of the record anyway, as most of it is instrumental in the end. To my ears, both the real strengths of Decathect are drums and non-metal parts. Drums? I'm not sure why, but they're really catchy and intense here. Probably thanks to a very clear production and to clever songwriting, they shine all along the album and bear no monotony, as heard when they kick-in on 'Unrest'. Non-metal parts? It'd be a bit wrong to call them "acoustic", as guitars draw many influences from other scenes, my personal favorite parts being the Dire Straits-like riffs from 1:30 on 'Revelries & silence' or the intense, aerial, poetic post-rockish guitars on 'Unrest', again. Those influences are surely not the only ones : obvious progressive, blues, jazzy parts help building a delicate and versatile record.

If Decathect needed a special tag outside of the usual ones, I'd definitely call this "poetic black metal', as the overall atmosphere, helped by the many slow-tempo interludes, is definitely what you can call poetic. And when black metal kicks in, the coherence created between melancholy and rage is stunning. Clad in darkness surely shines in their songwriting, and with clever chilling moments not using the usual folkish patterns still not using lots of black metal either, they created a rare and successful recipe with Decathect.

Personal highlights : Revelries & silence, Unrest.
Links : Facebook, Bandcamp, Bigcartel.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Jakob - Solace

Genre : Instrumental post-rock / Drone
Release : September 11th 2006.

Jakob holds a special place when it comes to so-called "ethereal soundscapes". They're for sure my favorite post-rock outlet at the moment. Solace is their last release, even though it's been out long ago, in 2006. There's a new album to come in 2014, which title hasn't been revealed yet. Needless to say I'm eager for it, but at the moment, I keep on playing this one, and that's definitely not a bad thing.

Words are hard to find to describe such an album, and post-rock is even more difficult to put into words than other genres. However, what still amazes me in Jakob's playing style are the sounds Jeff is able to create with his guitar and of course, his impressive pedalboard. Ambient sounds thus created are different from track to track but most of the time, they sound closer to synths than actual guitars, while keeping the warmness of strings. Definitely not something you can express with words, check out 'Saint' in the playlist above if you want a taste of this. Apart from those stunning sounds, Jakob uses more drone-esque guitars, as heard on 'Oran Mor', and those more aggressive parts are cleverly placed to break any excess of monotony. Bass lines are powerful and perfectly balanced in the mix. Again, you can check out 'Pneumonic' to hear its loudness/goodness. Drums are mostly moving along with the strings but with technicity and intensity. Solace is a great album as a whole too : the balance between chillout parts and punchier ones is well found and let those intense moments express all their potential.

Jakob's most recent output is surely something hard to describe with words. Instrumental albums are obviously something which doesn't need any words to express their contents, and all I can say as a conclusion is to listen carefully to this masterpiece. It's not something you will just play as a background, it's not music meant to be only "heard" even if its atmospheric mood makes it fine for that role. This album deserves a real listen. Did I say one real listen? I meant many.

Personal highlights : Everything all of the time, Saint.
Links : Facebook, Bandcamp, Webshop.

Other reviews from Jakob:
   - Cale:Drew
   - Subsets of sets

Vindensång - Alpha

Genre : Atmospheric black metal / Ambient
Release : February 4th 2014.

Here is something you may have missed on the beginning of 2014 : Vindensång's second release, Alpha. However, it's not too late to check this album out, and you should do so. If you already listened to the band, it's probably with their first full length, Terminus : Rebirth in eight parts​.​.​. which has been reviewed on this blog already (although it's an old review which may be reworked with the new model in a near future). That first full-length was for sure something difficult to tag and to apprehend... to say the least, it wasn't an easy listening. Alpha is much more accessible, closer to the standards, without loosing Vindensång's very essence. This is definitely a good point and a step forward.

Blending as much ambient as metal, this album is some of the softest black metal I've ever heard. It's up to you of course, but if you enjoy atmospheric black metal mostly for its atmospheric tag, Alpha could be your next album to buy. Drawing inspiration from the oceanic theme, the least I can say is that Vindensång has been successfully putting pictures into sounds. Yes, Alpha definitely sounds aquatic. It sounds like a calm sea on ambient interludes or the superb outro, 'Water-bearer'. It sounds like a raging ocean when it goes metal, on the end of 'Lights of the abyss' for example, however it's always done a smooth and delicate way. Probably thanks to a very thought-over production, there's not a second of real aggressivity throughout the album. Vocals are ranging from whispers to quite classic black metal ones, but are mostly both at the same time, as heard on 'Within the womb of creation'. Guitars are actually more post-rockish than metal, and drums are mostly soft. If you're into endless blastbeating, you will be disappointed here, but that's definitely not what Alpha is about. It's more about ambient sounds, which are incredibly well-arranged as they successfully give their sense and essence while being very minimalistic.

Successfully merging all the aforementioned elements, 'Within the womb of creation' could be your starting point with this album. At least, you shouldn't drop Alpha before listening to that 19 minutes masterpiece, moving from relaxing ambient parts to peaceful yet powerful black metal (yeah, it makes sense!), all with a clever songwriting. Unusual and inspiring, Vindensång's second release surely is something to add to your discography if you're into contemplative, meditative atmospheric black metal and coherent, well-thought concept albums.

Personal highlights : Within the womb of creation, Water-bearer.
Links : Facebook, Bandcamp, Bigcartel.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Falls of Rauros / Panopticon - Split

Genre : Folk black metal / Black metal
Release : April 19th 2014 on Bindrune Recordings.

Usually, I'm not much into splits. But when you see two of the finest american black metal bands making a collaborative album, you know you've got to check it. And so I did. More Falls of Rauros tracks were especially welcome as I completely love their last full-length. Same for Panopticon actually : Kentucky is one of those releases I keep coming back to. However, if Falls of Rauros kept the direction heard in The light that dwells in rotten wood, Panopticon returns to its basics with much rawer and somehow old school norwegian black metal, which is obviously a big influence for Austin Lunn, who spent some years in Norway. Let's dig this a little more.

There are two Falls of Rauros tracks, which open that split for roughly 19 minutes. Quickly enough, their trademark kicks in with those somehow vintage, almost rock sounding guitars. Oh sir, how good those are! Right from the beginning, the welcoming riff of 'Unavailing' grasps you and doesn't let go, as you can hear just above. Clever songwriting shines throughout both their tracks, with powerful riffs sharing the place along many acoustic parts, mostly using clean guitars. Vocals are raging, powerful, never intrusive either. And when they get clean, you really know it's american folk. Drums are balanced, moving from slow tempos to smooth, yet powerful blastbeating. Folk black metal the way it should be. If you ask me, there's not a second to throw away on their work for the split, and it probably makes me even more eager for their next full-length Believe in no coming shore, due for release in the next months.

As said before, Panopticon's side is definitely not in the same vein. Forget about the clean guitars, forget about the new trend of folk/post black metal and let's go back to the basics : Norway in the 90's. Much rawer, the last four tracks, clocking for around 24 minutes are nonetheless clever and well-executed. However, knowing Panopticon's work, and having two american folk black metal bands, I think it would have been a more coherent split if Austin tried to make something closer to his recent works and to Falls of Rauros' one. Not that the tracks are bad, even though they're not my typical kind of metal. Actually, they're even pretty good as I quickly enjoyed them while not a fan of the genre! Don't expect any kind of acoustic parts here, drums are much more blastbeating and clean vocals are not part of the deal. Yet, guitars shine with musicality all along the tracks, which actually quickly get catchy. Vocals are way more aggressive, less despaired than in the first two tracks, yet perfectly balanced in the mix. Rhythm breaks prevents from any monotony and successfully keep tracks incredibly intense.

This split is something not to miss if you enjoy both the bands, which is probably the case considering the quality of their works and the solid popularity they keep gaining. Every side is a success, but somehow sadly, it keeps the trend of many other splits with both bands making excellent works individually but probably too different ones. As it's meant to be listened to as a whole album, two different atmospheres makes you wonder about the right mood to listen to it. If it's just about listening to awesome black metal, then you're going in the right direction. However, if you're more into folkish stuff, second half may not be your cup of tea, as well as the first one if you're instead looking for something darker and punchier. Considering how fine Panopticon is when coming to american folk parts, it's with some regret that I welcome this nonetheless excellent split, yet not featuring any acoustic elements from Austin.

Personal highlight : Unavailing.
Falls of Rauros links : Facebook, BandcampBigcartel.
Panopticon links : Facebook, BandcampBigcartel.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Emyn Muil - Túrin turambar dagnir glaurunga

Genre : Atmospheric black metal
Release : February 14th 2014 on Northern Silence Productions.

I'm usually not much into bands' comparisons, you know. But speaking about Emyn Muil without evoking Summoning a little second would be pretty dumb. Yes, Emyn Muil really follows the path of the mostly acclaimed austrian duet, but follows it in the right direction. So make your choice : either you're looking for something similar to Summoning because they're obviously going to split-up quite soon and Túrin turambar dagnir glaurunga will be a good pick, either you call it a rip-off and you can move to something else.

I'll pick the first option, because if Emyn Muil re-uses midi-like melodies, synthesized drums, shrieking vocals and walls of sounds, it's really well-crafted and worth being acclaimed, as it's a success where many others failed. Indeed, the main issue of that epic black metal genre is the lack of epicness (hence its name) and on my side, I tend to think it is quite linked to the songwriting of synths. Either you find the right tunes and it becomes easy to add the necessary layers to make it good, either you can't make anything catchy and your attempt is lost. Good point for Emyn Muil, synths melodies and drum patterns are the first things which strike with goodness here. Once you feel good on that side, you usually hope for vocals to be fine also. Not only the black metal ones strike with coherence and good production, but the various kinds of cleans (be it choirs, whispers,...) fit this album very well. Single thing I could quickly blame is the length of the songs. Being often too short, you're taken out of the mood as soon as you get into it. Good example of this problem would be 'Arise in Gondolin', which sounds awesome and ends way too fast. Bad point as epicness is, for most listeners, related to longer songs. But the album as a whole, clocking for some 50 minutes, is just as long as you would want it to. As there are no real letdowns either, it remains intense and pleasant for its whole playing time, and easily leads you to hit the replay button.

It's actually quite stunning how Emyn Muil cleverly follows the path of his masters and once again, it's up to you to give a clap to Túrin turambar dagnir glaurunga for its quality or to blame it for its obvious influences. Call it lack of creativity if you want, it probably is in terms of musical genre, but definitely not in terms of songwriting. And seriously, if you enjoyed what was good and faded away with years, why not following what successfully rose from its ashes? Túrin turambar dagnir glaurunga is great in itself and as such, deserves the associated praise.

Personal highlights : Arise in Gondolin, Path of the doomed.
Link : Facebook.

Encircling sea - A forgotten land

Genre : Folk black metal / Sludge
Release : December 21th 2012 on Natural World Records.

Although not a new record, A forgotten land didn't get the recognition it deserves, neither did it express all its musicality and melancholy to enough ears. As such, it appears like I need to make a quick turn back in late December 2012 to speak about this phenomenal record. But first, let's drop a quick word about the whole band : this time it's not a one-man project but a four-piece one, often playing live around their hometown, Melbourne (Australia). Australian's black metal has been quickly growing with impressive acts lately, be it Austere, Woods of desolation, Germ, Midnight odyssey... and Encircling sea definitely belongs to that list. A forgotten land is the last release from the band, who started with sludgier sounds, slowly moving towards black metal with every release.

Being the third on the list, A forgotten land equally mixes black metal and sludge but doesn't stick to those two genres only. Roughly said, it would be better described as sludge's loudness and power added to black metal's intensity with some neofolk melancholy. Wait, loudness, power, intensity, melancholy? Those are the keys of one hell of a record if you ask me. And this one definitely is. Yet there's one big word to add to that already impressive list : maturity. Moving with rage, sincere pain and a huge lot of melancholy, A forgotten land appears like a very cohesive concept album, dealing with the meaning of home all over its four tracks, and how it feels to be taken apart from where you belong. Lyrics make a lot of sense, but wouldn't be enough if the rest didn't. Yet it definitely does. Vocals are powerful and emotional enough to blast any dedicated listener away for a full hour, rhythm elements (be it bass, guitars or drums) contribute together and are better heard as a whole, huge wall of sound. Last but not least, acoustic parts are solid and catchy while sticking to the basics (clean guitars, a couple violin lines), and incredibly well integrated. On the four tracks, the shorter one, 'Become' (still clocking more than 10 minutes) is almost straight neofolk, with only a couple plugged-in guitars kicking in around the end of the song. Also, this most welcomed break is a very nice duet of male and female clean vocals cleverly speaking with each other, giving even more sense to lyrics. Yes, there are clean vocals, and so it is on the three more aggressive tracks. But they're definitely well-integrated as they add to the overall melancholy, being ethereal and deep all the time. Female cleans on the second half of 'Transcend' really illustrate that success, so does male cleans in the middle of 'Return' : they constructively build something deeper and more intense. Be sure to use the player above to check the awesomeness out.

Nearing 70 minutes of playing time, A forgotten land was often seen a long and repetitive record. Probably it is, but what would be melancholy if not long and repetitive? Drawing its songwriting from its very essence, this record is definitely among the ones which make most sense to my ears, and has a special places in my all-time favorites. Even it's repetitive side has to be well-considered, as it's cleverly crafted : I can't help but thinking that every part, even if more than a couple minutes long, is strong enough to be listened to with pleasure. In the end, there's no album that could replace this one in my heart, and that's probably why I keep going back to it, loving it more and more with every listen. Of course, its theme may or may not speak to you, but musically speaking, it will still be a gem.

Personal highlights : Transcend, Return.
Links : Facebook, BandcampBigcartel.

Other reviews from Encircling sea:
   - Écru

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saor - Aura

Genre : Folk black metal
Release : June 6th 2014 on Northern Silence Productions.

Hi everybody out there, it's been a while! You may probably wonder why the blog was put to rest but also why things are moving again around here. And the reason is precisely this : Saor - Aura. It's with incredible honor that I've been allowed to review, two months before its release, the successor of my "album of the year 2013". Roots was an impressive debut album from Saor, called Àrsaidh by that time. Andy, the mastermind and sole member behind this project, took profit of being alone to deliver his personal vision of scottish influenced atmospheric black metal without any interference, making it both true and coherent. It was a blast, and quickly enough, he returns for the second step of what is becoming a reference in the genre.

Aura comes in with a couple changes, the main one being Austin Lunn from Panopticon placing himself behind the drums. If you weren't told about it, you would quickly guess if you know about him, as his trademark is definitely part of that new record. As such, you can expect some impressive drumming, and not only technically : drums really follow the mood of the songs in Aura, being crushing and dynamic with riffs, mostly blastbeating behind vocals, and lighter along atmospheric parts. Riffs? They hold a big part of the record, which could in the end be summed up by a rough half of scottish elements, and an other half of dynamic guitars. Of course, Aura cannot be well described such a quick way, what I mean is there's no letdown in any track : Andy keeps things melodic all the time, be it on the atmospheric side or on the metal one. A good example of this trend would be the title track, 'Aura', which has little vocals over its 13 minutes, and successfully stays catchy with riffs and flutes sharing the place all along. Atmospheric parts really got the scottish trademark here, with flutes being the main instrument used all along the record for that job, but not the only one : pianos, bagpipes or violins are fairly present and help building the incredible atmosphere of the record. On top of that, vocals deserve consideration : not only Andy's growls really make sense by being atmospheric, desperate and aggressive at once (yeah, all that!), but he added various kinds of pretty cleans along that, and they do make sense too! Such choirs were definitely unexpected even though there were a couple hints on Roots, especially on 'The awakening' where they're really church-like if taken on their own. I know this "church" word may bug some of you, but stay confident into Andy's songwriting skills, they fit the record absolutely well. Other choirs are used throughout the record, on 'Farewell' for example, which remind more of what was on Roots.

Aura shines with coherence, dynamism, and incredible songwriting. Musically, for what has been said before and many other reasons which are only meant to be listened to, but also conceptually, as there's an obvious feeling of nature, despair and scottish traditions all along the five tracks. Where Roots was an awesome record, Aura is nothing less. Although appreciations may vary on first listens, it's definitely the follower Roots was calling for, and Saor is quickly building a coherent and impressive discography. Let's just hope there's more to come from Andy, who definitely holds a place among the best atmospheric/folk black metal composers of today.

Personal highlights : Aura, Farewell.
Links : Facebook, BandcampBigcartel.