Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Nox Arcana- Blackthorn Asylum

The hollow edifice of Blackthorn Asylum stands as a sinister monument to the horrors that once lurked within its desolate halls. The bleak confines of the sanitarium held no mercy or hope for those condemned to a sentence within and tall gates of stone allowed no possibility for escape. Over the decades, the torments inflicted upon the inmates resulted in unlocking the demons from their minds, but as a horrific consequence, the tortuous experimentation also unleashed the vile malediction that now infests the abandoned asylum, taken from the back of the tray card for Blackthorn Asylum. This information here gives and idea of what Blackthorn Asylum is based on. Joseph Vargo and William Piotrowski also go back to the domain of H.P. Lovecraft the plot builds upon the short story by Lovecraft "From Beyond".

Legacy of Darkness starts of the CD and sets the foundation of what is ahead, there is also the spoken lyrics for Legacy of Darkness in the CD booklet. Blackthorn Asylum the title track for the album it contains the trademark orchestration that Nox Arcana is known for this is a favorite track on the album. Tapestry of Decay is a track that is filled with sorrow but also a sense of doom as well and in my opinion one of the standout tracks. Fast orchestral keys is what are played in the track Frenzy which is very similar to the track Oblivion that is found on the last Nox Arcana album I reviewed Phantoms of the High Seas. Fade to Black is the close out track on the album the song reminded me of something that could possibly be heard as background music in an Hellraiser movie, just around the time when the cenobites enter the specific location of which they where summoned. I also noticed around the four-minute and sixteen second mark the track started back up with a spoken narration.

The cover artwork for Blackthorn Asylum it is one of my favorite Nox Arcana artworks thus far. The artwork reminds me of something you would see in an episode of Tales from the Crypt or the Twilight Zone. Also within the actual package for Blackthorn Asylum there are hidden riddles and puzzles. If you are into neo classical, instrumental or dark ambient I would suggest in buying Blackthorn Asylum because Nox Arcana does the music really well.

Rating 8.4/10

Friday, July 1, 2011

Nox Arcana- Phantoms of the High Seas

I am a big fan of symphonic black metal but I always wondered if I would ever stumble across a band that did not play metal but done entire songs with gothic choirs and orchestrations. I found that when I first discovered Nox Arcana the duo of Joseph Vargo and William Piotrowski are brilliant songwriters I am just amazed at how well written the songs are on all Nox Arcana albums and especially Phantoms of the High Seas the first Nox Arcana review to be featured here.

Nox Arcana’s album Phantoms of the High Seas takes me back to a time of wonder when pirates ruled the world’s seas on quest to find new distant lands and unearth buried treasure the pirates would start on their voyages across the open sea as the sound of waves would crash against their ships as huge square sails would prevent the ship from sailing into the wind. Some of the pirate ships would fall victim to the seas and be claimed and lost forever but only a phantom would remain of these pirates. Fate of the Tempest features some clean vocals by Ty Cook which was a nice surprise on the album.

Some of my favorite tracks on the CD are Edge of the World, Pirates, Oblivion is pure orchestral magnificence on all levels this track requires the repeat button, Against the Storm, Out of the Mist, Ghost Ship, and Skull and Crossbones based on the atmosphere the songs contain it is very eerie and mystical in a way with the gothic choir and orchestrations in other words this CD is practically flawless. Crossfire is a track where you can hear cannons shooting off in the background. The album contains twenty-one tracks in total none of which get boring as the ideas in each one seems to flow quite well with the next tracks.

I recommend in buying a copy of Phantoms of the High Seas the album is becoming one of my favorite releases by Nox Arcana and another added bonus for the excellent cover artwork. The sound quality of Phantoms of the High Seas is outstanding as well there is a perfect balance of all the individual instruments that are used on the songs throughout the CD, especially when listening to the album on headphones the pirate symphony has now begun their orchestra. Be ready to set sail once you put Phantoms of the High Seas into your CD player. Head on over to Nox Arcana's official site or the Monolith Graphics website to order a copy of the CD.

Rating 9.4/10

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Noctem- Divinity

Noctem is a thrash/death/black metal band from Spain and Divinity is their first official release on Noisehead Records. Upon first listening to Noctem what really threw me off was the vocals, but over a few listening sessions the vocal work of Beleth started to take full form. Also I would like to mention that Noctem is packed full of strong musicianship the band plays tight and fully skilled at what they do.

Drummer Darko is a beast behind the drum kit and the combination of Exo and Helion makes for a lethal mind inducing firestorm of riffs and heaviness. The standout tracks on Divinity are Necropolis Of Esthar's Ruins, Realms In Decay, Religious Plagues, and Under the Seas of Silence is where the black metal influence comes in based on the guitar parts alone in sections. The breakdowns in Under the Seas of Silence crushes everything in site that moves and as well that breathes. In The Path of Heleim sets the foundation of what is to come on the remainder of the Divinity. I can also find a bit of technical playing as well during the album, but none the less its none of that technical look what I can do show boating.

Divinity also has guest appearances by Christos Antoniou of Septic Flesh and Leal of Forever Slave. Christos doing orchestral arrangements and Leal handling keyboards. The words orchestral and keyboards might turn a few listeners away but by no means is Divinity a symphonic metal album. I would suggest in heading to Noctem's YouTube channel to view some videos and go too the Relapse site to order a copy of Divinity as the album shows a band that is ready to unleash their on take on quality. I don't think enough words can describe how good of an album Noctem has released.

Rating 8.6/10

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Valdur - Raven God Amongst Us

My first encounter with Valdur was when I received the three way split they where featured on with Massemord and The Frost. Valdur was the only band on the split that was worth listening to as there music stood out as pure quality. Now the time has come that I was able to receive a copy of the second album Raven God Amongst Us to review. Eight songs are on the album with one intro and the entire album is quality material the overall production is raw, but clear and decent as well.

Great Abyss Unfold is a track that destroys anything in its path with black metal malevolence hard hitting drums, blast beats and freezing guitar melodies. Gravlagt I Morkets Natt! is a hypnotic track from start to finish that is full of aggressiveness. Med Fjell I Horisonten begins real clean and slow but during the track the beast turns into a different form the cymbal work stands out loud and clear. Berserrker has a militant battle atmosphere to it the guitars in this song are punishing the vocal work is rite on par with everything else on Berserrker. The remaining songs are good tracks with no filler to be found anywhere. Creation is a black metal instrumental at the beginning and a good way for Valdur to close out the album.

Hopefully Valdur will release a new album soon and for USBM Valdur is placed high at the top with few other bands. Valdur is band to keep an eye out for because I am sure you will be hearing more about the band as times goes on. Raven God Amongst Us was recorded and mixed at Trench Studios the album was mastered at Morbid Mastering. Check Bloody Mountain Records to order a copy of Raven God Amongst Us.

Rating 9.8/10

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ophis- Withered Shades

Withered Shades by Ophis is there 2010 release and also second full length album. My first encounter with Ophis came in the form of the first release Stream of Misery, upon putting Withered Shades in my CD player I noticed how much Ophis had improved their musicianship overall. Don't get me wrong Stream of Misery the last album definitely kicked some ass that is for certain. Ophis plays death/doom metal that crushes your inner soul and leaves you with nothing, but scares and bruises from the sheer heaviness and atmosphere of the songs.

Withered Shades was recorded, mixed and mastered at 3rd A. Studio. The Halls of Sorrow has a number of various tempo's that include clean guitars, fast guitars and also trademark doom guitar crushing. Pieces of death metal can also be noticed as well with Halls of Sorrow the song is plainly epic lasting fourteen minutes and thirty eight seconds. Guest vocals by Seuche are featured on Suffering is a Virtue. Suffering is a Virtue is one of the strongest songs on Withered Shades musically as the guitars is what hooked me on song for a few repeated listens. The death metal growls are deep and menacing, also one of the shortest songs on the album around nine minutes and thirty-seven seconds that carries the brutal pace to keep up with the other four remaining songs. Earth Expired jolts along at mid tempo pace and here is where the doom moments come through during I would also like to point out there is some excellent bass playing in the song like an instrumental with the guitars playing as well. Withered Shades is one of those releases where every song is a standout track, so at times this makes picking out a strong song very hard. After a couple of listens as mentioned earlier in the review the strongest song to me is Suffering is a Virtue.

Withered Shades is going on my top-ten list, I would recommend Withered Shades to listeners of Mourning Beloveth, Evoken, etc.......... or any death/doom metal band. This is where suffering is born.

Rating 10/10

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gloria Morti- Anthems of Annihilation

Anthems of Annihilation is the third full-length album by Finish black/death metal band Gloria Morti. Gloria Morti's brand of black/death metal encompasses the use of keyboard arrangements, which in return there are some good moments on Anthems of Annihilation. The line-up on the album consists of Psycho on vocals, Juho Raiha and Juho Matikainen on guitars, Aki Salonen on bass, Kauko Kuusisalo on drums and Lars Eikind on keyboards.

The vocals on Anthems of Annihilation are made up of a combination of death metal growls and black metal high pitched screams. Two bands that are a close comparison two Gloria Morti are Zyklon and Behemoth, this is easily noticeable throughout the entire running time of the album. Solution Called War is one of the better songs on the album due to the use of the keyboard arrangements in the song. Solution Called War is a fast paced songs with a few moments of rest, but the track quickly picks up the pace when needed. Clean guitars start off Swallowed By Defeat as the track is an instrumental and Redemption seems to be a standout track on the albums, in particularly the drums as they standout the most along with the keyboards. Also I want to mention that the songs on Anthems of Annihilation also show a bit of technical proficiency.

In final I would say that Anthems of Annihilation is just an average release. Gloria Morti has the skills, but in all reality the music displayed on this album has been done numerous times before by other bands and possibly even better. Anthems of Annihilation was mastered at Chartmakers by Svante Forsback. Fans of Behemoth and Zyklon I would recommend them in checking out Anthems of Annihilation.

Rating 6.5/10

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fall of Empyrean- A Life Spent Dying

Doom/death has literally got to be one of my favorite genre's of metal based on the case that the bands use death metal growls along with clean vocals in their sound, and that is what Fall of Empyrean does on their new album A Life Spent Dying. Resulting in a perfect combination that results in devastation, despair and anger. Fall of Empyrean's new album A Life Spent Dying finally is released the album was supposed to come out in May, but got delayed a bit.

Fall of Empyrean also use a keyboard that plays a major part to the overall sound on A Life Spent Dying. The production is really clear as I am able to distinguish each instrument in the mix, the vocals of Richard Medina are a death metal growl that shatters everything in site, he also switches over to clean vocals during some of the songs. Anhendonia and Lifeless In My Arms are well constructed acoustic instrumentals. A Long Silence is filled with sorrow and anguish based on reading the lyrics and also gives off a visual of sorts, mournful keyboard work fills the track. The keyboard work in Veins Split Wide has some sort of symphonic feel as well and making the song a standout track on the album. Catharsis starts off with blasting drums and overall the song seems more toward the death metal side.

When it comes to doom/death for the United States it looks like I have one bands releases to look forward to and that is Fall of Empyrean. Hopefully Fall of Empyrean will continue to release albums in the future and here is one band I will be keeping up with, because I am certain they will be able to release other quality albums.

Rating 8.0/10