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November 5, 2006

Azaghal: Luciferin valo

Azaghal: Luciferin valoCD, Avantgarde Music 2006

Track list: Black Terror Metal - Ilmestyskirjan ratsastajat - Tuhoaja - Kuin lampaat teuraalle - Verta ja tuhkaa - Teen paholaisen työtä - Azaghal Terror Cult - Hyvästit maailmalle - Olematon - Luciferin Valo

Azaghal's black metal is simple and straight-forward. I like it; there are few surprisingly catchy tracks. The only negative is the heavily cliche-laden lyrics, but once you get over that (and enjoy the few exceptionally funny lines), it's all good. Nothing special, perhaps, but it's a good, steady ride. Few of the tracks stand out and will definitely remain on my playlist. ****

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November 4, 2006

Luna Ad Noctum: The Perfect Evil in Mortal

Luna Ad Noctum: The Perfect Evil in MortalCD, Metal Mind Records 2006

Track list: Phantoms ov Wrath (Intro) - The Perfect Evil in Mortal - Diablex Virus - Devilrising Impact - Humana Androide - Deviante Obscurante - Deceptive Fatality - Dimness in Me - Loneliness Ruined My Life

Polish Luna Ad Noctum plays fairly aggressive black metal in the style of Dimmu Borgir, Old Man's Child and Cradle of Filth. While their style isn't the most unique, it's still fresh enough so that I wouldn't necessarily label them as another clone band. There's some good energy here. However, the tracks are pretty bland, mostly - not enough hooks. Still; if you're fan of Dimmu Borgir, check this out. ***

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October 11, 2006

Ansur: Axiom

Ansur: AxiomCD, Candlelight Records 2006

Track list: Earth Erasure - Post-Apocalyptic Wastelands - Interloper - Desert Messiah - Sowers of Discord - The Axiom Depicted

Axiom is a curious batch of extreme metal with all sorts of tricks involved. The roots are in black metal, but the tree branches out to progressive metal and whatnot. It takes few rounds to get your head around it all, but I've enjoyed it since. I wouldn't mind if they improved the vocals, though; now the distorted vocals are sparse and feel a bit pasted-on. Proper, well-sung vocals would've made a huge difference here. ****

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October 9, 2006

Slechtvalk: At the Dawn of War

Slechtvalk: At the Dawn of WarCD, Fear Dark Records 2005

Track list: From Out of the Mist We Came Forth - Call to Arms - Mortal Serenity - On the Eve of Battle - Besieged - The Spoils of Treason - Thunder of War - Black Raven Death - Desertion - Under a Moonlit Sky

Slechtvalk is a black/dark metal band; musically, it's black metal alright, but the lyrical concepts lean to epic power metal with all the glory of the medieval warfare. The whole blast works pretty well - there are real musical highlights, like Besieged. The clean vocals are a bit clumsy and the song-writing isn't top-notch throughout the album, but still: a decent album. ****

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October 8, 2006

I Shalt Become: Wanderings

I Shalt Become: WanderingsCD, Moribund Records 2006

Track list: Intro - Fragments - The Funeral Rain - Winter Lights - Pantings in a Gallery - Labyrinthine - Thorns - Insects - Her Demons - A Once Great Man - Outro - En ring til aa herske (Burzum) - The Heavens Drop with Human Gore (Judas Iscariot) - I Filled with Woes the Passing Wind (Judas Iscariot)

Here we have a cult classic of sorts. The album has been lying in the Moribund archives for ten years, but now it has seen the day of light again. I Shalt Become is a follower of Burzum; the style is the same, dismal and depressive hypnotic monotony. It's executed well enough to lift I Shalt Become from being just another copycat. Despite thelack of sound quality and the rough edges of some of the tracks, Wanderings is a fine album for the fans of suicidally depressive black metal, and now there's even three appropriate covers as bonus tracks. ****

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October 7, 2006

Fear of Eternity: Ancient Symbolism

Fear of Eternity: Ancient SymbolismCD, Moribund Records 2006

Track list: Intro (Passing) - Fragments of Wisdom - Tale of Prophecy - Throne of the Gods - Malignant Spirits - Ancient Symbolism - Descension Human Weakness - Golden Columns - The End of Times - Outro (Irae)

Fear of Eternity is an Italian one-man band focused on creating gloomy atmosphere. While the music has a background in black metal, the guitars are toned low and the horror-film synths and organs take the spotlight. The vocals are a disgusting (in a good sense) growl, which is a direct nod to black metal. The atmosphere is indeed dark, but otherwise this is not my cup of tea and I'm quite sure I'm in majority here. Check this out if you know you'll like it. **

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October 6, 2006

Taketh: Freakshow

Taketh: FreakshowCD, Fear Dark Records 2006

Track list: Welcome - Evil - Ignore - Not Quite Right - Consequence (of abusing human weakness) - Silence - Freakshow - Paths and Crossroads - Högmod - Your Master - Mind Numbing Crap - Past the Horizon - Bring Me Water - A New Day

Swedish Taketh plays technical death metal with thrashy and even some small black metal influences. I like the way they've kept their songs short, around three minute mark, but there are few too many. More variety would've been necessary. I think they could also use a better vocalist. Now the result is fairly mediocre, to be honest, but at their best, Taketh really shines. ***

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July 20, 2006

Cradle of Filth: Bitter Suites to Succubi

Cradle of Filth: Bitter Suites to SuccubiCD, Abracadaver 2001

Track list: Sin Deep My Wicked Angel - All Hope In Eclipse - Born In A Burial Gown - Summer Dying Fast - No Time To Cry - The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh - Suicide And Other Comforts - Dinner At Deviant's Palace - The Black Goddess Rises II - Scorched Earth Erotica

Cradle of Filth has put together a mixed bag of stuff. Couple of instrumental pieces, some new tracks, a cover, some remade older tracks... Most of the stuff have one thing in common and that's their mediocrity. Cradle of Filth has made better stuff, and even the decent tracks, like The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, sounded better the first time they were released. The only glimpse of light on the album is the excellent Sisters of Mercy cover No Time to Cry. The rest of it can be forgotten. **

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Nachtmystium: Demise

Nachtmystium: DemiseCD, Autopsy Kitchen Records 2004

Track list: Intro - Solitary Voyage - Scorpio Incarnate - Ashes to Ashes - The Glorious Moment - Rise and Fall - Transmission Postmortem

I'm quite unfamiliar with the US black metal scene, but apparently there's life in the underground. Demise is, at least, a solid proof of that. Armed with a cold, bleak style reminiscent of Burzum's coldness, Nachtmystium paints some pretty convincing soundscapes. The album sounds simply dismal. It's not pure gold, though - the album-ending ambient noise piece Transmission Postmorten is uninspiring filler stuff. I'd prefer proper music. ****

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March 9, 2006

Mystic Circle: The Bloody Path of God

Mystic Circle: The Bloody Path of GodCD, Dockyard 1 2006

Track list: Psalm of the End - The Bloody Path of God - Doomsday Prophecy - Nine Plagues of Egypt - The Grim Reaper - Riders of the Apocalypse - Hellborn - Church of Sacrifice - The Forgotten - Unholy Terror - Memento Mori - Circle of the Tyrants

What's up with metal bands and religion? If they really hate religion so much, why the love affair with the religious imagery? The Bloody Path of God, for example, is a very religious album, with just about every song drawing inspiration from god and church. How boring is that? The music's not superb, either. Mystic Circle has moved from black metal to death metal, practically removing most black metal influences from their music (the song Unholy Terror is an exception). The result is, frankly, fairly boring. **

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March 8, 2006

Goathemy: Frostland

Goathemy: FrostlandCD, Rebellion Brothers Records 2006

Track list: New Era of Disgust - Cursing the Venomous Waters - My Demons - Sweet Purgatory - Rebellion Morningstar - Frostland - Opus Funerale - Hands of Immorality - Cold Sky Promise

Goathemy is Finnish black metal band. Their personal touch is the heavy use of a female vocalist. She's definitely the brightest thing about Frostland, as the album is fairly mediocre otherwise. Technically it's alright, but the songs just lack the final shine that would make any of them really stand out. **

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March 7, 2006

Dark Fortress: Séance

Dark Fortress: SéanceCD, Century Media 2006

Track list: Ghastly Indoctrination - CataWomb - Requiem Grotesque - While They Sleep - To Harvest the Artefacts of Mockery - Poltergeist - REvolution:Vanity - Incide - Shardfigures - Insomnia

This German group mixes paranormal themes, black metal and slow doom influences to create an interesting and surprisingly fresh mixture of metal. The best track on the album is While They Sleep, which is spiced with very clever string arrangements. Even though there are low points, the end result is fresh, interesting and atmospheric. ****

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March 6, 2006

Catacombs: In the Depths of R'lyeh

Catacombs: In the Depths of R'lyehCD, Moribund Records 2006

Track list: In the Depths of R'lyeh - Dead Dripping City - At the Edge of the Abyss - Where No Light Hath Shone - Fallen into Shadow - Awakening of the World's Doom

Xathagorra Mlandroth is the man behind this new extreme doom metal band. Extreme is indeed a good word for this album, since I reckon most people - even those who enjoy metal in general - will probably find In the Depths of R'lyeh unlistenable. Long songs featuring slow, crawling beats, wailing guitars and an ominous low grumble for vocals aren't for everybody. Those who fancy that sort of thing will enjoy In the Depths of R'lyeh immensely; for others, this has nothing to offer. ****

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March 5, 2006

Belenos: Chants de Bataille

Belenos: Chants de BatailleCD, Adipocere Records 2006

Track list: Ode - L'ombre du chaos - Chemin de brume - Vers la victoire - Prélude guerrier - Colère de feu - Galv ar brezel - Fureur Celtique - Galian da viken - Chant de bataille - P.m.q.f. - Sacrifies - An enor salv - Funerailles

Quality black metal from France, how refreshing! Drawing from Celtic spirit, Belenos is a French group hailing from Brittany. Their elegant black metal sounds pleasant in my ears. Don't know why - it's not exactly unique, but somehow the whole mixture of influences comes together just right. Chants de bataille is one of the better black metal albums recently. ****

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March 4, 2006

Hacavitz: Venganza

Hacavitz: VenganzaCD, Moribund Records 2006

Track list: Nightwinds - Ultimate Covenant - Tsita Ndäte - Fathom Thee Eerie - Old Rancor - Lusting the Dead ov Nite - Venganza - Mixtla Miquixtli - Lightning Bolts ov Dead - Viaje a Mictlan

Mexico is home for many quite aggressive bands, and Hacavitz is no exception. They marry technical death metal with the evil sound of black metal with good results. I particulary enjoyed Mixtla Miquixtli, it's definitely the high point of the album. The rest of it sounds fierce and is good, ibutnot exceptional. ***

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February 11, 2006

Loits: Ei Kahetse Midagi

Loits: Ei Kahetse MidagiCD, Nailboard Records 2005

Track list: Tulisilma sünd - Sinimäed 1944 - Tõelised kuningad - Valge nägu - Hauast aupaistesse - Kolmjalg - Veri - Sinu mees, sinu vend, sinu poeg - Tõelised kuningad (early version) - Valge nägu (live)

This Estonian metal album has seen the light day years ago and has since been released several times. This CD release by Nailboard Records, digging the vaults of Estonian metal, is the latest and greatest. This one hasn't been rerecorded, but it has been digitally remastered. The result sounds good and is quite convincing. At best (Tõelised kuningad, for example), Loits performs rather impressive black metal. Most of the album, however, is ok, but nothing spectacular. ***

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February 10, 2006

Salem: Strings Attached

Salem: Strings AttachedCD, Holy Records 2005

Track list: A Moment of Silence - Anno Domini - Coming End of Reason - Dying Embers - Winter's Tear - Ha'ayara Bo'eret - Eyes to Match a Soul - Slave - Old Wounds - Hourglass - The Fading - Recall - Old Wounds (Guest Vocalists Version) - The 2nd Coming (Alternate Version)

Old Israeli metal group has joined forces with the string quartet ICSQ and a classical choir. Their collaboration is so intense that Salem's own metal sound has been pushed far back. Grunts, distorted guitars and blastbeats are there, but so are strings and choir vocals. Which is nice, as that's definitely the better part of this album. I particularly enjoyed the classical intermission Slave (reminds me of Balanescu Quartet) and the old Hebrew song Ha'ayara Bo'eret. Surprisingly pop Winter's Tear is one of the highlights as well. ***

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February 7, 2006

Ruins: Spun Forth as Dark Nets

Ruins: Spun Forth as Dark NetsCD, Neurotic Records 2005

Track list: Spun Forth as Dark Nets - Cold Dark Sea - Long and Mournful Shores - Draw Near the Ice - No Trace or Rumour - The Ends of the Earth - Loops of Time -Feed the Emptiness

Some mixture of black and death metal is what these Tasmanian guys have to offer. I like the sound, but the songs don't impress me. Nothing spectacular here, I find it pretty hard to even remember what the music sounds when it's not playing. It's not bad, just somewhat boring. Still, a decent debut and perhaps their next album will be more interesting. ***

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February 4, 2006

Newbreed: If I Were the Rain

Newbreed: If I Were the RainCD, Foreshadow 2005

Track list:...Rain - Cloudy-Coloured Window - Confusion - Grey - Blue Truths - Dancing Trees - Inside All of Us - Daylight... at Last

Newbreed is a bunch of Opeth fans from Poland. It's not an Opeth cover band, even though that's hard to believe when you hear the music. It's almost 1:1 Opeth: long, winding progressive death metal, played with skill and emotion. The death metal growling is absent, as is some of the beautiful sensitivity in Opeth's music. The apprentices aren't quite as good as their masters, but close enough. Opeth fans should check this out; others, start at Opeth. ****

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February 3, 2006

IC Rex: Sielun kadotuksen sinfonia

IC Rex: Sielun kadotuksen sinfoniaCD, Hammer of Hate 2005

Track list: Tulikäärmeen kutsu - Luciferin miekka - Tuli kylmästä jäästä - Ikuisen tuskan hybris - Luomattoman jumalan pauloissa - Asura - Kasvotusten absoluutin kanssa

Hammer of Hate is dedicated to releasing new Finnish puritanist underground black metal. IC Rex is a perfect example. Raw black metal with satanic and occult lyrics, played with a burning passion. Instead of having distorted guitars, they have distorted everything - their sound is leaning towards noise. This is clearly extreme music for extreme people. My first reaction was dismissal, but after some time it all came to me: yes, this is perfectly evil. The album sounds absolutely cruel and violent, which is exactly what's right for this kind of music. This is definitely not for everyone, but for fans of raw underground black metal, Sielun kadotuksen sinfonia is a perfect choice. ****

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December 29, 2005

Opeth: Ghost Reveries

Opeth: Ghost ReveriesCD, Roadrunner Records 2005

Track list: Ghost of Perdition - The Baying of the Hounds - Beneath the Mire - Atonement - Reverie/Harlequin Forest - Hours of Wealth - The Grand Conjuration - Isolation Years

Well, what can you say about the new Opeth album? Of course it's good, very good. But that is no surprise, as Opeth is a constant source of high quality. What's interesting about Ghost Reveries is how deep it has its hands in the pockets of seventies progressive rock. I almost classified this one as rock, but I suppose the death metal is still there enough. If the trend continues, next Opeth album is progressive rock, not metal. But who cares? If it's this good, I know I won't. *****

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December 20, 2005

Helrunar: Frostnacht

Helrunar: FrostnachtCD, Lupus Lounge 2005

Track list: Birke Im Moor - Frostnacht - Unten und im Norden - ...bis die Seele friert - Nachtfrost - Der Trank des Gehängten - Neun Nächte - Älter als das Kreuz - Dreifach Dorn - Mimmis brunnr

German newcomers Helrunar play Scandinavian black metal. No keyboards this time, just brutal guitars with some acoustic flavour. The German vocals are very good, very convincing and all. There's some pagan metal flavour, but not much. Frostnacht is a good start and well above average, but not quite on top of it all yet. ****

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December 19, 2005

Dornenreich: Hexenwind

Dornenreich: HexenwindCD, Prophecy Productions 2005

Track list:Von der Quelle - Der Hexe flammend' blick - Der Hexe nächtlich' ritt - Aus längst verhalltem Lied - Zu Träumen wecke sich, wer kann

Dornenreich paints a dark and sleepy portrait. The mists surround the music, which is based on monotony of a single riff for each song and flourishes from acoustic guitar. Lone voice whisper German words on fantasy and magic. it's a world of mystery and as such, an interesting piece of art. Appreciating Hexenwind takes patience and a quiet moment. It's not my world, but a beautiful world nonetheless. ****

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December 16, 2005

Nebular Mystic: Necrotic

Nebular Mystic: NecroticCD, Karmageddon Media 2005

Track list: Intro - Legions - Serpent - Suspended in Chains - Necrotic - Kingdom of Death - Seeds of Suffering - Children of Black Hearts - Forradt

Nebular Mystic scored a recording deal with their fifth demo. Karmageddon Media decided to publish the demo as it was. No wonder, as it sounds totally ready. Necrotic is certainly not demo-quality. The tracks are a bit similar and there's more Satyricon and other influences here than necessary, but I don't really care. It might be the same old same old, but it's all done really well and the music sounds really, really good (it took me a while to get used to the sharp, high guitar sound, but it was worth it). Not best of the best, but very good, nonetheless. ****

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December 15, 2005

Solgrav: Auringon hauta

Solgrav: Auringon hautaCD, Nocturnal Woodlands Productions 2005

Track list: Synnyn liekki - Maa aamunsa kajossa - Noitakansa - Hetki ennen - Auringon hauta - Hourejumala - Lopun alku - Kuolleen Maan lapsia - Kuun varjossa kuollut Maa

Finnish folk-inspired pagan black metal, sounds original... Solgrav does a pretty good job, actually - they have enough spirit and even sense of humour, and that's what folk metal often needs in my opinion. However, Auringon hauta falls short on the production, as the album sounds like a demo: guitars and drums are too weak. Even if the band calls their music forest metal, it doesn't have to sound like it was recorded in a forest. **

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December 14, 2005

Mörk Gryning: Mörk Gryning

Mörk Gryning: Mörk GryningCD, Black Lodge 2005

Track list: Lazarus Rising - Ingen dyrkan - The Sun - Into Oblivion - The Aurora - Pure - All Discarded - Disguise My Parting - Neverwhere (At the Gates cover)

Swedish black metallers Mörk Gryning called it quits after the band leader Goth Gorgon didn't want to continue. However, the pressure from their fans got the band into a studio one more time. The result is here, a glorious swan song. Mörk Gryning is one of the better black metal albums recently, with killer tracks like Ingen dyrkan and The Aurora. Definitely worth checking out for anybody into black metal. *****

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December 12, 2005

Falchion: Legacy of Heathens

Falchion: Legacy of HeathensCD, World Chaos Productions 2005

Track list: Immortal Heroes - The Ancient Tale - Folk in the Golden Town - Broken Stone - Journey in the Woods - Swordmaster of the Dragonland - The Darkest Valleys of Mist - Burning the Gates - Black Crown

These young guys from Finland claim to play folk-inspired pagan viking metal. In practise, their music is some blend of death and black metal - at least I have a hard time hearing any folk influences here. Judging their music by what it is, I'll have to say I find it rather boring. Technically correct, yes, but not much spirit or originality in it. At it's best, it's decent, but that's not quite enough. **

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November 12, 2005

Apostasy: Devilution

Apostasy: DevilutionCD, Black Mark 2005

Track list: Malignant - Sulphur Injection - Virus - Supreme Architecture - Vengeance - Salvation Denied - Soulgrime - Suicide Breeze

Apostasy is back, with another album full of symphonic black metal. With dashes of death metal, Devilution hits pretty hard. However, while it's technically well-played and sounds good, the album has a bit of a lack of originality. Still, fans of symphonic black metal in the vein of Dimmu Borgir should probably check this one out. ***

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November 11, 2005

Månegarm: Vredens Tid

Månegarm: Vredens TidCD, Displeased Records 2005

Track list: Vid hargen - Sigrblot - Skymningsresa - Kolöga trolltand - Dödens strand - Preludium - Vredens tid - Svunna minnen - Frekastein - Hemfärd - Segervisa

Månegarm's music is metal with folk influences. I like Vredens Tid, it certainly has its moments. Sigrblot, for example, is a pretty fine track. The whole of it isn't quite top-notch, but almost. The folk instruments could stand out a bit more, I think - now they drown under the metal part. Which sounds good, by the way - this is one well-done album and despite my criticism a good choice for someone who's looking for Scandinavian folk metal. ***

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November 9, 2005

Eisblut: Schlachtwerk

Eisblut: SchlachtwerkCD, Massacre Records 2005

Track list: Wenn der König stirbt - Silbersarg - Sag: Ich will tot sein - Überreste - Wiegenlied vom Totschlag - Gespenst - In den Trümmern - ? - Schlachtwerk - Krankes Herz - Über dem Jenseits - Menschenfleischwolf - Am Glockenseil - Altersheim

This piece of bizarre German metal simply fails to impress me. There's an odd weaker piece to counter every good bit on the album. In general it all sounds pretty good and the best black metal parts are certainly decent, but the rest of it just leaves me confused. Nothing spectacular here. **

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November 8, 2005

Mael Mórdha: Cluain Tarb

Mael Mórdha: Cluain TarbCD, Karmageddon Media 2005

Track list: An Tus - Winds of One Thousand Winters - The Serpent and the Black Lake - Cluain Tarb - I am the Wench's Bane - The Man All Hate to Love - Pauper of Souls - Realms of Insanity

Celtic metal rocks! Mael Mórdha offers an invigorating mix of traditional folk music and metal. No bagpipes or tin whistles this time. Instead, Mael Mórdha has one of the better metal vocalists: what a voice! I recommend checking out Winds of One Thousand Winters or The Serpent and the Black Lake for some really inspiring and rowdy metal. At its best, this is superb material. ****

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November 7, 2005

Paths of Possession: Promises in Blood

Paths of Possession: Promises in BloodCD, Metal Blade Records 2005

Track list: Backlands - The Butchers Bargain - Bleed The Meek - The Second Coming - Where The Empty Gods Lie - A Heart For A Heart - In My Eyes - Erzsebet - Promises In Blood - Bring Me The Heart Of Christ - Through The Fiery Halls - The Icy Flow Of Death

Paths of Possession boasts the Cannibal Corpse vocalist Corpsegrinder in vocals. It's not Cannibal Corpse, though, but more like Swedish melodic death - with rather nifty vocals, too. There are certainly brighter spots on the album, but unfortunately it's not quite enough to make the album really shine. In the end, Promises in Blood is yet another decent but not stunning death metal album. ***

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October 6, 2005

HateSphere: The Sickness Within

HateSphere: The Sickness WithinCD, SPV/Steamhammer 2005

Track list: The White Fever - The Fallen Shall Rise in a River of Blood - Reaper of Life - Sickness Within - Murderous Intent - The Coming of Chaos - Bleed to Death - Heaven is Ready to Fall - Seeds of Shame - Chamber Master - Marked by Darkness

Danish thrashers HateSphere are back with a new album. Thrash fans should envoy these quite groovy tracks, with plenty of aggression to share. The Sickness Within is certainly decent, with enough speed and power, but I'm not sure it'll leave an lasting impression. Thrash fans, check this out. ***

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September 6, 2005

Sargatanas Reign: Bloodwork

Sargatanas Reign: BloodworkCD, Regain Records 2005

Track list: Preface - Techniques of Torture - Chaos Theory - Sliver - Come Greet Me Crawlers - Hellnation - Blood Katharsis - The Parnassus Journal - Blindfolded - Kevlar Throat

Sargatanas Reign plays modern death metal with a tricky twist. Their songs flutter from one tempo to another, throwing obstacles to the listener. It's not the easiest possible style, but I find the songs rewarding enough. Bloodwork is certainly not boring, like so many death metal records are. ****

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June 19, 2005

Rutthna: Doomsdaylight

Rutthna: DoomsdaylightCD, Black Lodge 2005

Track list: Doomsdaylight - Bleed Your Wounds - Season of Huge Mortality - Daughter of Chaos - Words of Prey - The Fifth Angel - Evolution's End

Rutthna's black metal sound relies on wicked mood and slower tempos than usual. No blindingly fast blastbeats here, but that's fine: I like the result anyway. However, even though the songs sound good, the content's a bit lacking. Nothing really sticks to my mind, and that usually means that I won't return to the album after I'm finished reviewing it. It's a shame, but perhaps Rutthna's next album will be better? There's certainly potential. ***

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June 17, 2005

Hidden: Alexisstar Morphalite

Hidden: Alexisstar MorphaliteCD, Baphomet Records 2005

Track list: Introduction - Interferometer - Hydrodynamic Physics - Infinity Express - Deathstar Oblivion - The Search for Where Life May Have Existed - Interplanetary Space Physics and Climatology - Ripples in Time - Planets of Metal - Extraterrestrial Illusions

I'll confess: I don't get this. Alexisstar Morphalite consists of rather crappy underground (eg. demo-quality) black metal, with lyrics about astrophysics. This must be a joke of some kind I don't get. The things aren't helped by musicians hiding in the cover of anonymity. All I know is they are Finnish. Why this album was released? That's a question for which we'll never know the answer, I suppose. Meanwhile, avoid this unless you're a physicist with affinity for underground black metal. *

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June 16, 2005

MindGrinder: Riot Detonator

MindGrinder: Riot DetonatorCD, Nocturnal Art Productions 2005

Track list: Warhead - Pathetic Submission - The Rebellion - Transition - Epilogue - Hellfire - Concept of Honesty - Death's Disciples - Obligation to Prevail

Riot Detonator is a rough death metal attack. It's quite like the band's previous album, MindTech. The material was complete, says the info sheet, when that album was released, so perhaps it's not a coincidence. I'm still a bit lukewarm about MindGrinder. I see what they're doing, but perhaps it's just not for me. There's plenty of better death metal, that's for sure. ***

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June 15, 2005

Cryptic Wintermoon: Of Shadows... And the Dark Things You Fear

Cryptic Wintermoon: Of Shadows... And the Dark Things You FearCD, Massacre Records 2005

Track list: The Dark Things You Fear - Thrashomatic Overdrive - Portals of Nightfall - Bonegrinder 1916 - Synthetic God - Where the Oceans Meet Eternity - Grave Without a Name - Once... In the Windblasted North - W.A.R. (Without Any Regret) - Heavy Armed Assault - Open Fire - Grim Frost

Cryptic Wintermoon's black metal is laced with thrash and heavy metal elements. At some points it's full on black metal blast, at others the heavy metal melodies rule. That's actually quite nice, as it all works out rather well. There are some very good tracks (Bonegrinder 1916, Once... In the Windblasted North), even though the rest of the album doesn't quite stand out. Decent, if nothing really memorable. ***

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April 11, 2005

Belef: Infection Purification

Belef: Infection PurificationCD, Candlelight Records 2005

Track list: Brutal Destruction - I Need Enemies - Torment Dominator - Man Slayer - Barbarian Steel - Corpse - Veincut Exctasy - Immortal Abomination

French Belef blasts out extreme black metal with maniacal speed. Fortunately the production is decent - had they fallen for underground sound, this would've been complete rubbish. Now it at least sounds pretty good. However, it certainly lacks control. Being such a violent album, the songs are also a bit too long; five minutes of monotonous blasting is too much. **

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April 10, 2005

Black Witchery: Upheaval of Satanic Might

Black Witchery: Upheaval of Satanic MightCD, Osmose Productions 2005

Track list: Blood Oath - Heretic Death Call - Profane Savagery - Baphomet Throne Exaltation - Holocaust Summoning - Hellstorm of Evil Vengeance - Darkness Attack - Scorned and Crucified - Upheaval of Satanic Might

The cover says it all: aggressive, primitive, satanic and underground black metal. The tracks sound all exactly the same (except the intro), especially as the production values are very low. It's all the same fuzzy jumble. Fans of extreme black metal might like this, but I'd certainly appreciate it more if the album had better production. **

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April 9, 2005

Thy Nemesis: Christcrushing Anthems

Thy Nemesis: Christcrushing AnthemsCD, CCP Records 2005

Track list: An Friedhofsmauern - Ravenway - From the Ashes of Purgatory - Basilisk - Lucifer's Tower - Worm of Fire - The Brotherslayer - Brenn i Helvete

It's pretty hard to say anything positive about Christcrushing Anthems. It's an example of mediocrity at it's darkest: the songs aren't really very interesting (well, An Friedhofsmauern is a pleasant exception), the vocals are just too typical, the album doesn't sound good (for example it's pretty hard to believe that the band actually has a drummer - sounds too clean, too much like a machine). **

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April 8, 2005

Crionics: Armageddon's Evolution

Crionics: Armageddon's EvolutionCD, Candlelight Records 2005

Track list: Arrival of Non Parallel Aeons - Final Inversion - Armageddon's Evolution - Chant of Rebel Angels (intro) - FFF (Freesing Fields of Infinity) - Xenomorphized Soul Devoured - Disconnected Minds - Celestial Interference - Black Manifest (The Sermon to the Masses) - Dept 666 - The Loss and Curse of Reverence

Crionics, the Emperor of Poland. There's no doubt where these guys get their inspiration from: Armageddon's Evolution is newer Emperor all over again. I'd go as far as call it a pastiche, really. To emphasize the obvious, they've even added a carbon copy cover of The Loss and Curse of Reverence as a bonus track. So - do you like Emperor? If you do, you'll like Crionics. It's that simple. ****

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March 24, 2005

Scarecrow: La Morte Vivante

Scarecrow: La Morte VivanteCD, Devil's Shitburner Records 2005

Track list: Funeral Begin... - Mourning from the Grave - Wizard of Gore - Black Bullet - Hunters in the Night - Umbrella (Biohazard Fuckers) - Poison Gas - The End

Here's some party music for the living dead. Scarecrow plays catchy horror punk (like Devil's Whorehouse) and does it well. Fast, nice chorus lines, bloody themes, what else you need? If your concept of good fun involves skulls, gore and pathology, La Morte Vivante provides the soundtrack. ***

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February 16, 2005

Sturmgeist: Meister Mephisto

Sturmgeist: Meister MephistoCD, Season of Mist 2005

Track list: Ragnarok - Shock & Awe - Erlkönig - Army of Odin (Hafrsfjord) - Master Hunter - Rattenfänger - Grimmer than Ugly - Walpurgisnacht

Sturmgeist is a side project of Cornelius Jackhelln of Solefald. He's gone all Germanic with this Goethe-inspired theme album. Meister Mephisto promises to be a hardcore party soundtrack, but fails to deliver. It's a pity, because the best songs would indeed work that way. In the end the result is somewhat pointless and probably won't receive much playtime from me. **

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February 15, 2005

Communic: Conspiracy in Mind

Communic: Conspiracy in MindCD, Nuclear Blast 2005

Track list: Conspiracy in Mind - History Reversed - They Feed on Our Fear - Communication Sublime - The Distance - Ocean Bed - Silence Surrounds

Norwegian trio Communic is formed on the ruins of Ingermanland. Their style is kind of progressive metal, with lots of influences elsewhere - there's a healthy dose of power metal, for example. For some reason I don't quite like it. Conspiracy in Mind is a decent album, but nothing more. The vocalist is one part of it - his style isn't into my liking. ***

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February 14, 2005

Moonsorrow: Verisäkeet

Moonsorrow: VerisäkeetCD, Spikefarm 2005

Track list: Karhunkynsi - Haaska - Pimeä - Jotunheim - Kaiku

Moonsorrow has gone wild with their tracks. The three opening tracks of this album all clock in over 14 minutes and Jotunheim - the home of the giants, you know - weighs in at 19 and half minutes! The five tracks total over 70 minutes of epic metal music. That's all good and well and fortunately the long tracks are built of several parts. Verisäkeet is rather impressive album. Will it beat Kivenkantaja as my favourite Moonsorrow album is another thing, but at least at this point I'm really satisfied with the album. ****

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December 17, 2004

Slumber: Fallout

Slumber: FalloutCD, Karmageddon Media 2004

Track list: Rapture - Conflict - Where Nothing Was Left - Fallout - Distress - Dreamscape - A Wanderer's Star

Swedish Slumber was formed back in 2001 and has now come up with their debut album. Fallout is very mature, high-quality album that's directly comparable to works of Opeth and like. Slumber plays melodic, atmospheric death metal, full of gloom and melancholy. Only thing I'm seriously missing is more range on vocals: band's vocalist Siavosh Bigonah does good work, but only in death metal style. Clear vocals would've spiced this album up in a nice way. And that's the only bigger flaw I can see - Fallout is a very good album and one of the 2004 highlights. ****

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December 14, 2004

Zatokrev: Zatokrev

Zatokrev: ZatokrevCD, Codebreaker 2004

Track list: Reveal - C Through - Alive - ...Zato Krev - Fourem

Switzerland doesn't have a huge reputation as a metal country, even though it is the home of Celtic Frost. Zatokrev tries to polish the shield a bit and succeeds fairly well. This, their debut, is actually a demo recorded in their rehearsal room. Despite the lack of any remastering or polish, the result is surprisingly good. Their flavour of metal leans on metalcore, mostly due to the aggressive and energetic screaming vocals. The result is heavy and depressive. ****

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December 13, 2004

Phazm: Hate at First Seed

Phazm: Hate at First SeedCD, Osmose Productions 2004

Track list: In Chaos - What a Wonderful Death - Resinous Balm - Forest Recipe - Devoured Tenderness - Vicious Seed - Fleshback - Loneliness - Dogs

France is home for many bad metal acts, but Phazm is surprisingly good. What makes Hate at First Seed so interesting the pure rock'n'roll attitude and sound that is mixed well with elements of black and death metal. It's hardly unique, but sounds reasonably fresh. Hate at First Seeds sets up high expectations for Phazm's next album. ***

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December 11, 2004

Deinonychus: Insomnia

Deinonychus: InsomniaCD, My Kingdom Music 2004

Track list: Nightfall guides insomnia to be an everlasting mental torture, with this being the consequence - We have uncovered a question and now we must unearth the answer - To diagnose the fortunes of paranoia consuming consciousness and sanity - Long I feared that my sins would return to visit me, and the cost is more than I can bear - Reasons to open your eyelids and awake the apocalypse Iris is telling you

This album has the longest song titles I've seen in a long time. Dutch Marco Kehren doesn't take the short way, it seems. The songs are long as well and the mood is very gloomy doomy. The album describes the suffering of an insomniac. It's painfully depressed and - I believe - needs the listener to be in a dark state of mind to be fully enjoyed. It's dark, it's sad, it's beautiful, but I still prefer Shape of Despair. ***

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November 27, 2004

Twilight Ophera: The End of Halcyon Age

Twilight Ophera: The End of Halcyon AgeCD, Low Frequency 2004

Track list: Chaosworm - Trapped in Husk of a White Crow - Bow Before My Dark - The End of Halcyon Age - Pseudogods - Gothic Prelude to Capricious Equanimity - Leperthrone - Cruciferous Lunacy - Paragon of Pregnant Night

Twilight Ophera is already eight years old, but The End of Halcyon Age is just their third album. When the music starts, the sources become fairly obvious: the likes of Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth aren't that far from Twilight Ophera's symphonic black metal. I'm not too keen on this one, but the fans of more symphonic black metal should enjoy. ***

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October 26, 2004

Anorexia Nervosa: Redemption Process

Anorexia Nervosa: Redemption ProcessCD, Listenable Records 2004

Track list: The Shining - Antiferno - Sister September - Worship Manifesto - Codex-Veritas - An Amen - The Sacrament

French symphonic black metallers Anorexia Nervosa (what a silly name) play intense, but unimpressive music. With the possible exception of the very best track of the album - Sister September - it is all quite boring. Cradle of Filth has done it all and much better. Fans of symphonic black metal might want to check this one out, but for others - you don't need this. **

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October 25, 2004

Shape of Despair: Illusion's Play

Shape of Despair: Illusion's PlayCD, Spikefarm 2004

Track list: Sleep Mirrored - Still-motion - Entwined in Misery - Curse Life - Fragile Emptiness - Illusion's Play

Shape of Despair is a product of the long and dark Finnish winters. Illusion's Play is slow and gloomy doom metal, with long and many-faceted songs. Do not listen to the songs out of context, it's the whole album what you want to hear. Of course, slow doom is not for the easily bored - music-lovers with patience and an ear for beauty will adore this one. ****

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Red Harvest: Internal Punishment Programs

Red Harvest: Internal Punishment ProgramsCD, Nocturnal Art Productions 2004

Track list: Anatomy of the Unknown - Fall of Fate - Abstract Morality Junction - Mekanizm - Symbol of Decay - Teknocrate - Synthesize My DNA - Wormz - 4-4-1-8 - Internal Punishment Programs

Norwegian industrial metallers Red Harvest are back with another album full of industrial-flavoured metal. And that's what this is - industrial fans will be disappointed, so don't bother. One could compare Internal Punishment Programs to some cuts from Ministry or Front Line Assembly, but it's more straight-forward, more metal. There's some variety in the songs, that's always good, but in the end the material just isn't that good. ***

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October 23, 2004

Jigsore Terror: World End Carnage

Jigsore Terror: World End CarnageCD, Listenable Records 2004

Track list: Gorging on Exposed Arteries - Skeletal Decomposition - Slaughtered Existance - Death Rattle Cacophony - Senseless Slaughter - Rotten Heads - Reeking Death - Insane Torture - Scattered Cranial Remains - Violent Molestation - Corpses on Fire - Feast of Dismembered Limbs - Brutally Murdered - Bestial Frenzy - World End Carnage

Swedish trio Jigsore Terror plays grindcore - easy enough to figure out from the song titles. Nothing to complain about in it, either, it's all well done. Producer Mieszko Talarczky from Nasum had probably something do with it, as the album sounds pretty good. However, there's little new on offer, only the same old done pretty well. ***

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Acheron: Decade Infernus 1988-1998

Acheron: Decade Infernus 1988-1998CD, Black Lotus Records 2004

Track list: Thou Art Lord - God Is Dead - Slaughterization for Satan - Blessed by Damnation - Immortal Sigil - Let Us Depart - Satanic Erotica - One With Darkness - Fuck the Ways of Christ - Lifeforce - The Enochian Key - Six Six Six - Enter Thy Coven - Final Harvest - Ave Satanas - Prayer of Hell - Out of Body - Alla Xul - To Thee We Confess - Shemhamforash - Purification Day - Hekal Tiamat - Seven Deadly Sins - Cursed Nazarene - Necromanteion Communion - Baptism for Devlyn Alexandra - Legions of Hatred - Unholy Praises - Summoning the Master - Voices Within - Undead Celebration - The Entity

Acheron has done a long career in satanic death metal, over fifteen years already. This two-cd compilation sums up the first ten years. It offers a wide selection of tracks, being a good choice for newcomers to the Acheron faith. Those with full collections have nothing to gain from this one. However, even those who have no Acheron albums might want to consider: Acheron sounds a bit outdated, the songs are fairly monotonic and the whole of it just doesn't impress that much. Still, if you want something from Acheron, this is probably your best bet. ***

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October 22, 2004

God Among Insects: World Wide Death

God Among Insects: World Wide DeathCD, Threeman Recordings 2004

Track list: Legions of Darkness - A Gush of Blood - Headless Nun Whore - Wretched Hatching - Chainsawed Christians - Purified in Carnage - Uprising of the Rotten - Severe Facial Reconstruction - Uhr-Nazuur

God Among Insects connects members from Dark Funeral, Sanctification, Project Hate and Vomitory as a death metal super group. The result, World Wide Death, isn't super, but still a rather enjoyable piece of old school death metal. The album sounds very good and songs are fairly good, but something's missing. Perhaps World Wide Death is a bit of a therapy album? Still, it's more than decent offering for the fans of traditional death metal. ***

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October 21, 2004

Seth: Era-Decay

Seth: Era-DecayCD, Avantgarde Music 2004

Track list: Marchemergence - March of the Consistory - Umbilical Cutting - Co-Existent Species - Ascention - H-Eradicate - Xtasian Ostix - A Pallbearer's Gloom - The Blade Upon Mankind

French Seth is a curious beast. They have steady black metal background, including co-operation with Fenriz and a song on Mayhem tribute, but they incorporate industrial sounds in their music. The result sounds pretty good, even though it isn't as ground-breaking as such union might be. Still, Era-Decay might be an interesting album for those interested in the more avantgarde end of black metal spectrum. ***

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Hellebaard: Strijdkracht

Hellebaard: StrijdkrachtCD, CCP Records 2004

Track list: Een Duuster Begin - In Walhalla - Wodan's Lof Gewijden - Strijdkracht - Roode Dageraad - Weidevolk - De Valsche List - Bergschawud - Een Bitter End

Thunder from Netherlands! Hellebaard is my first experience with black metal sung in Dutch. Interesting, but unfortunately Strijdkracht is, frankly, crap. Boring pagan metal with cheap synths, very bad sound quality, uninspiring songs... Sorry, but there are simply too many other bands who do this kind of thing in much superior way. *

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October 20, 2004

Ajattara: Kuolema

Ajattara: KuolemaCD, Spikefarm 2003

Track list: Antakaa elää - Surman henki - Haureus - Huoran alla - Ikiyössä - Musta leski - Sielun särkijä - Kituvan kiitos - Helvetissä on syntisen taivas - Rauhassa

It took me a while to get Ajattara's second album, even though I enjoyed the first one a lot - I have certain principles when it comes to copy controlled cd's. Ripping the mp3's took, by the way, about fifteen seconds. Anyway, Ajattara keeps on pounding their blackish metal, pretty much like before. Their greatest strength is in the Finnish lyrics, which use the means of old Finnish poetry. Quite unique and very effective. Their greatest weakness, in the other hand, is monotony. Kuolema sounds just like Itse and can be equally boring in long quantities. Thus, less stars than before: Kuolema is good, but brings little new to fans of Itse. ****

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September 4, 2004

Axis of Advance: Obey

Axis of Advance: ObeyCD, Osmose Productions 2004

Track list: Of One to Conflict It - Revolution Decimation - Veiled Cast of Judgement - Wrath Pounding - God-Eye Command - In Wait Lie - Cube of Odium - Masterrorder

Canadian battle metal group Axis of Advance beats down fast, furious and chaotic death metal. The album is full of energy and rarely slows down. The result sounds good, I especially enjoyed the drums (performed by J. Read of Revenge and Conqueror). Fans of heavy and chaotic death metal should enjoy the command. I know I did. ****

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Withering Surface: Force the Pace

Withering Surface: Force the PaceCD, Scarlet Records 2004

Track list: Gears - Exit Sculpture - This View - Force the Pace - Hold the Line - Machinery - Inhale the Hyper Pulse - State of Emergency - Anything Goes - Urban Glasses

Danish Withering Surface plays rather Swedish metal. Well, it isn't such a long way from Göteborg to Denmark. Unfortunately, something has been lost - Force the Pace is unfortunately rather bland and boring music. Fans of the genre might enjoy this one, but others should not bother. There are better albums in the genre to start with. **

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September 3, 2004

Cirith Gorgor: Firestorm Apocalypse

Cirith Gorgor: Firestorm ApocalypseCD, Ketzer Records 2004

Track list: The Gates of Hell - Degeneration of Mankind - Arcane Illusion - Prelude to the Final Holocaust - Fields of Eternal Glory - Perishing Nights - Eternal Damnation - Firestorm Apocalypse: The Coming of a Greater Era

Cirith Gorgor is pure primitive black metal. Firestorm Apocalypse packs almost 60 minutes (a lot, but not too much) of intensive and downright evil music. The songs, while long, manage to keep interest and the album sounds fairly good (except somewhat absent bass). In it's genre, Cirith Gorgor does a good job. Of course, the problem is that the genre - rather extreme black metal - isn't too well-liked. I like it, however, and anyone into old school black metal should enjoy Firestorm Apocalypse as well. ****

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Arkhon Infaustus: Perdition Insanabilis

Arkhon Infaustus: Perdition InsanabilisCD, Osmose Productions 2004

Track list: Genesis of Loss - M33 Constellation - Abortion of the Kathavatthu - Six Seals Salvation - Saturn Motion Theology - Oratio Descendere - Profanis Codex LXVI - Whirlwind Journey - Absurd Omega Revelation

French Arkhon Infaustus mixes black and death metal with some cult success. The use of two vocalists (one with black vocals and another with death vocals) is not used to it's best ability. The songs aren't quite top-notch - lots of energy, indeed, but the result is unfortunately quite boring. For the fans of extreme death metal this will be a better catch, looking from a black metal point of view it's a bit of a disappointment, really. **

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September 2, 2004

Lord Belial: The Seal of Belial

Lord Belial: The Seal of BelialCD, Regain Records 2004

Track list: Prolusio: Acies Sigillum - Sons of Belial - Chariot of Fire - Abysmal Hate - Legio Inferi - Mark of the Beast - Armageddon Revelation - Scythe of Death

Swedish Lord Belial performs atmospheric midtempo black metal with few thrills and low uniqueness. I've heard most of this before, but occasional better moments (for example Mark of the Beast) make the album stand out from the most average material. For those who like their black metal slightly slower, The Seal of Belial is worth checking out. ***

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Cult of Catharsis / Opus Forgotten: Split

Cult of Catharsis / Opus Forgotten: SplitCD, Aftermath Music 2004

Track list: Cult of Catharsis: - In Times of the Oath - Blade of the Prowler - Enter the Mist - Rage & Thunder - Lord of the Gallows - Opus Forgotten: - Unleash the Fury - The Prophecy - Corpse of Divinity - House of the Holy - Bloodfrozen Memories - Wish for Death - Demon of Destruction

This split features two inactive bands. Cult of Catharsis has already called it quits and it's members are currently active in Einherjer, Malice in Wonderland and Taake to name a few. Opus Forgotten is still together, but very quiet, it seems.
Cult of Catharsis side of the split is pretty boring metal, with semi-clean vocals and quite calm mood. It's certainly not black metal. It's nice, but nothing particularly interesting.
Opus Forgotten, in the other hand, combines black metals and violins with an interesting effect. I like it and would be interested to hear more had I a chance. ***

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Garwall: Black Beast

Garwall: Black BeastCD, Holy Records 2004

Track list: Pride - Mass of Worms - The Seventh Seal of Consequences - Abyssus Abyssum Invocat - Garwall - Veni Vidi Vici - Les Ecorchés - Black Beast

This first album of the French black metal act Garwall doesn't quite impress me. Their music is mostly melodic riffs after one another, with little attention given to things like song structures. The end result isn't really interesting. Technically the album is quite well made and the limited edition includes a DVD with live performances, as well. Unfortunately the band is pretty far from being a charming performer, too. **

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September 1, 2004

Turisas: Battle Metal

Turisas: Battle MetalCD, Century Media 2004

Track list: Victoriae & Triumphi Dominus - As Torches Rise - Battle Metal - The Land of Hope and Glory - The Messenger - One More - Midnight Sunrise - Among Ancestors - Sahti-Waari - Prologue for R.R.R. - Rex Regi Rebellis - Katuman kaiku

I'm a big fan of Moonsorrow and I like the whole genre of folk music -influenced metal a lot. Turisas is very much like Moonsorrow, both in style and quality. Battle Metal is an excellent and diverse album, full of interesting songs and elements. There's folk music, accordions, even modern drum loops and retro Hammonds. Amazing, how it all works so well together. For the fans of rowdy folk metal, this is a must-buy. ****

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Diabolical Breed: Compendium Infernum

Diabolical Breed: Compendium InfernumCD, WorldChaos Productions 2004

Track list: Dies Irae - Descendants of Satan - In Majorem Sathanas Gloriam - Hominis Nocturn - The Night of Shooting Star - In the Eye of the Storm - Falne Krigere

Diabolical Breed is a new Norwegian black metal group, who happens to have a Japanese label. Interesting. Their music is pretty old-fashioned black metal with a heavy symphonic touch. Even though the production is pretty bad, Compendium Infernum works fairly well. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in black metal with lots of synths, this album is definitely worth checking out. Others might not want to bother, it's not that special. ***

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August 24, 2004

Ewigkeit: Radio Ixtlan

Ewigkeit: Radio IxtlanCD, Earache 2004

Track list: About time - esc. - PowerPlant - Journey to IXTLAN - Live at Palenque 2012 - Conquer the Fear - Platonic Verses - Strange Volk - The New Way

Ewigkeit, an English - despite the name - one man group mixes solid death and black metal background with lots of different influences: tribal, folk, industrial, psychedelia, industrial, you name it. Result is an interesting concoction that suits my taste almost perfectly. The promo information suggests Radio Ixtlan is a genre-defining work and a possible way forward for the scene - but I disagree. For death metal scene, this is too different. I don't the scene purists will approve. For those who prefer their metal experimental, Radio Ixtlan is a treat. ****

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June 30, 2004

Cruachan: Pagan

Cruachan: PaganCD, Karmageddon Media 2004

Track list: Michael Collins - Pagan - The Gael - Ard Rí Na Heireann - The March to Cluain Tairbh - Viking Slayer - 1014 A.D. - Some Say the Devil Is Dead - Summoning of the Sidhe - A Thousand Years - Lament for the Wild Geese - Erinsong - The Fall of Gondolin

I'm surprised - there isn't a single bagpipe playing on this album. It's still very celtic-influenced music, the folky stuff always within the reach in the metal songs. The black metal origins of Cruachan are also closer than on The Middle Kingdom. All in all, it's a fine piece of Celtic folk metal. It's refreshing change to the Nordic folk metal - with songs like Viking Slayer, where the vikings are the prey. ****

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Skymning: Machina Genova

Skymning: Machina GenovaCD, Blackend 2004

Track list: ProKill - Berzerk Cirkus Circle - Riot Revelation / Club Monroe - ForceBender - ScalpLeech - Bubblegum Generation - Mondo Bizarre Glorification - Swallow the Holy Piss - Silicone Animation / MadShaper - TrollTekk/AggroTekk - Bodüoutline/PlanetEater - Rebel Cult!

If you're into machine beats, Machina Genova is a good choice. Skymning churns out rough riff-based machine metal with a very straigth-forward engine beat. I like it a lot! The atmosphere is dark and industrial (even though Machina Genova is far from industrial music). The only negative side is the monotony of the vocalist. The Antichrist knows only one way to shout out his message. It's fine, but you'll probably grow tired if you listen to it too much. ****

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June 29, 2004

Antaeus: Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan (2nd edition)

Antaeus: Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan (2nd edition)CD, Osmose Productions 2004

Track list: Inner War - Seventh Ceremony - Devotee - Those with no Eyes - Specimen 23 - Bleeding Blasphemy - Nihil Chaos - Blood War III (video) - Three live videos

Antaeus hails from France, which I've never considered as remarkable metal country. Cut Your Flesh... certainly does a good job proving me wrong. It is rather primitive and aggressive album and cuts the corners straight. No bells and whistles, just pure aggression. That works for me, and I'm quite satisfied with this album. The new edition has lost one track, but adds one music video and three live clips. The new album cover art is also fantastic. ****

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Azrael: Into Shadows Act 2 - Through Horned Shadows Glimpse

Azrael: Into Shadows Act 2 - Through Horned Shadows GlimpseCD, Moribund Records 2004

Track list: Tracks are untitled

Azrael aims for progressive and avantgarde black metal expression. Their methods include primitive underground black metal and acoustic instruments (guitar and double bass). Unfortunately, the black metal is too underground: the sound quality is reminiscent of some demo tapes. That's too bad for a cd release, I think. With better sound quality and somewhat better songs, Into Shadows Act 2 could be a decent album. Now it's quite mediocre. Only the double bass parts save it and make it worth three stars. ***

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June 28, 2004

Reign of Erebus: Inversion Principle

Reign of Erebus: Inversion PrincipleCD, Blackend 2004

Track list: Reclamation and Mastery - Maelstrom - Feeding the Furnace - The Storm - Constrictor - ...Angels Brought Thee Ashes - To Shame the Skies - Inversion Principle - Warfare

Now this is brilliant. Reign of Erebus focuses on what's important in black metal - and that's pure wrath - and delivers a thundering blast. Inversion Principle is simply the best black metal album of 2004 this far (and I'm impressed, if something comes up that's even better). Their sound features prominent drums, buzzing guitars, well-done vocals and subtle synth effects. In addition of their own, very good songs, Reign of Erebus covers the classic Warfare from Zyklon-B. *****

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Stormlord: The Gorgon Cult

Stormlord: The Gorgon CultCD, Scarlet Records 2004

Track list: The Torchbearer - Dance of Hecate - Wurdulak - Under the Boards (195, M.A.) - The Oath of the Legion - The Gorgon Cult - Memories of Lemuria - Medusa's Coil - Moonchild - Nightbreed

Melodic, synth-driven black metal with power metal influences is the name of the game for this Italian group. The album is technically well made, but suffers from weak songs. Iron Maiden cover Moonchild is the best of the crop, other songs are nice, but sound way too familiar. The album has little new to offer, but if one enjoys the genre and doesn't expect anything new, it should be enjoyable. ***

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June 27, 2004

Final Dawn: Under the Bleeding Sky

Final Dawn: Under the Bleeding SkyCD, New Aeon Media 2004

Track list: Solemn Art - Ardent - Aggression Overdrive - Doze - Regression Is Transgression - Bleeding Sky - What Flows Within - My Pain

Under the Bleeding Sky is the debut album of this Oulu-based Finnish death metal band. It's a fairly nice piece of work, but still I think something's missing. It all sounds pretty good, but what is won in style is lost in substance. Better songs would make this album stand out a bit more. Still, I think it's a decent job as a debut album, but the next one should have better songs. ***

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June 25, 2004

Imperanon: Stained

Imperanon: StainedCD, Nuclear Blast 2004

Track list: Blade - Memories to Dust - Stained - Prisoner in Me - Sold - Hollow Man - Rhythm of Pain - Shadowsouls - Vein (I Bleed) - The End

This new Finnish metal band has really did well record label -wise, landing a contract with Nuclear Blast. Unfortunately their album is quite far from perfect. With the exception of few brighter spots, Stained is somewhat boring album. The band performs very well, but the songs are slightly soulless. I do expect Imperanon to succeed well in their career and Stained might be quite popular, as well, but I don't find it that interesting. ***

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June 21, 2004

MindGrinder: MindTech

MindGrinder: MindTechCD, Nocturnal Art Productions 2004

Track list: Repulsive Evolution - Regeneration - War Solution - Deception - Starspawned Vision- Human Error - Fire & Equanimity - Sadistic Images - Surviving Gadzooks - Soul Inferno

Norwegian MindGrinder plays brutal death metal, but fails to impress. Their debut album is not bad, not at all, but just slightly boring. None of the tracks really stand out even after intensive repeat play. Death metal fans should enjoy the album, but I doubt if anyone would name it as one of the best albums of this year or so. **

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April 17, 2004

Sethery: Kholera

Sethery: KholeraCD, Woodcut Records 2004

Track list: Demons Spoke the Lullaby - Mindblast Cholera - Impasse and Lick of the Serpent - Hellvision Designed - (I Am) Condemnation - The Sheep Who Always Lied - Amen and Nightmare - Vulturous Hectoric Aspect

Sethery is a new Finnish black metal band; Kholera is their debut. Their style is synth-heavy melodic black metal. That they do well, like straight from the synth black metal 101 guide book. However, even though their technical skills are good, the content and originality are lacking. Vocalist could develop a bit more personal style, the music could be a bit more original and the lyrics a bit less cliche-y. Anyway, Kholera is a pretty strong debut and I'm sure we'll hear from Sethery before long. ***

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Lunaris: Cyclic

Lunaris: CyclicCD, Elitist Records 2004

Track list: Mendacities of a Corporate Messiah - I.A.D. - Lessons in Futility - Cyclic - Slaves of Opinion - When It Ends - Casualties of Piece - Existence Unveiled - Altruismens Gravol - In Nothing - Mot Natt

Cyclic is an intriguing mix of experimental death and black metal. However, despite it's famous guest stars and innovative style, the album doesn't completely satisfy me. While the basis of the album rests in synth-led black metal, it's still a bit too messy bunch of different influences. Nice, but nothing really exceptional. ***

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Secrets of the Moon: Carved in Stigmata Wounds

Secrets of the Moon: Carved in Stigmata WoundsCD, Lupus Lounge 2004

Track list: Crowns - Cosmogenesis - Miasma - Psychoccult Hymn - To the Ultimate Embers and Ash - Kaosthrone - Evolution Valour Admission - Epoch - Carved in Stigmata Wounds - Dust

These German occult black metalists were previously unknown to me. I'm glad I found them, because after some deliberation, I've come to realise that Carved in Stigmata Wounds is pretty good album. It's perhaps a bit too long (over 70 minutes), but there are some quite good songs and the rest of it is certainly passable. It's not a masterpiece in avantgarde, but still it's more interesting than your average black metal album. Nice work. ****

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April 16, 2004

Dark Funeral: De Profundis Clamavi Ad Te Domine

Dark Funeral: De Profundis Clamavi Ad Te DomineCD, Regain Records 2004

Track list: Intro - The Arrival of Satan's Empire - An Apprentice of Satan - The Dawn No More Rises - Thy Legions Come - Hail Murder - Goddess of Sodomy - The Secrets of the Black Arts - Vobiscum Satanas - Shadows Over Transylvania - Open the Gates - Ineffable Kings of Darkness - Thus I Have Spoken - My Dark Desires - Armageddon Finally Comes

The Dark Funeral live album features songs mostly from their latest album, Diabolis Interium. That's all good and well, because it's a very good album. Other two albums are represented by three songs both; I suppose the songs selected are the best tracks from each. However, the album offers rather little, especially if you have Diabolis Interium already. The fact that it's live means the sound quality is bad and as the probably awesome live show doesn't come through the album, the result is rather bad. I'd rather listen to the studio versions. **

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April 14, 2004

Crest of Darkness: Evil Knows Evil

Crest of Darkness: Evil Knows EvilCD, My Kingdom Music 2004

Track list: Chapter One - Inexplicable Bloodthirstiness - From the Shadows - Black Hole Mystery - Power of Hate - The Lust - As a Part of Your Universe - Cosmic Terror - The Greatest Gift - Warhead 666

Crest of Darkness mixes black metal, trash metal and electronics on their fourth album. The result leaves a lot to wish for. I'm not satisfied with this. In the other hand, black metal purists won't like this one either. I'm afraid the album will leave most audiences cold. There's some interesting parts, but most of the album is really quite bad. Faithful following of LaVey's ideals and interest in vampirism doesn't yet make a good black metal album - it takes good musicianship, too. **

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Conspiracy A.D.: Humanity=Destruction... The End Is Near

Conspiracy A.D.: Humanity=Destruction... The End Is NearCD, Crash Music 2003

Track list: Prelude to the Apocalypse - Bloody Revenge - Killers of Justice - Enslavement - The Endless Darkness - Tales from a Dark Soul (Bleed You White) - Death and Blood - The Sadness of Mankind - Warfare Part I - Warfare Part II - Distorted Visions of a Dying World

This Italian death metal album is rather focused on death, destruction and sadness, as can be seen from the track titles. That's of course all good and well, when you're talking about death metal. However, I'm not quite satisfied with the contents of the album. Pretty much everything about it is of slightly below average level. There's promise, but the result isn't really satisfying. **

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April 13, 2004

Withering: Gospel of Madness

Withering: Gospel of MadnessCD, Warhorse Records 2004

Track list: Northern Breeze - Quarrelsome - On Death's Colour - Two Suns - Reborn - Mausoleum - Penance - The Feeble Morning - Anguish of Frustration - Justification for Unavoidable - Not Yet the Last

Gospel of Madness is the debut album of this group founded in 1999. It's a strong, mature debut that promises a lot. Withering's style is melodic death metal, in vein of Tales from the Thousand Lakes from Amorphis but without the synths. The album features nice guitar melodies, grunted vocals and pretty good production (Tico-Tico Studios, which usually means good results). While I'm not completely sold on this, I think it's a good debut and will probably do well amongs the Finnish metal crowd. ***

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Disillusion: Back to Times of Splendor

Disillusion: Back to Times of SplendorCD, Metal Blade 2004

Track list: And the Mirror Cracked - Fall - Alone I Stand in Fires - Back to Times of Splendor - A Day by the Lake - The Sleep of Restless Hours

Fans of Opeth should pay heed - Disillusion offers an album full of progressive death metal, with many familiar features. There are long songs (six songs, totalling 56 minutes, two songs that are about 15 minutes long), a variety of vocal styles (grunting, clear singing, half-spoken parts) and many technical tricks and bits. It sounds wicked. Back to Times of Splendor is not as good an album as the latest Opeth offerings, but it's almost as good. ****

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April 12, 2004

Hate: Awakening of the Liar

Hate: Awakening of the LiarCD, Listenable Records 2004

Track list: Flagellation - Anti-God Extremity - Close to the Nephilim - Immolate the Pope - The Shroud (A Hellish Value) - The Scrolls - Awakening of the Liar - Serve God : Rely on Me (Hymn of Asa'el) - Grail in the Flesh - Spirit of Gospa

Poland rocks. The home of the Pope is also home for this brutal death metal group who are finally breaking out in the Western Europe and States, too. 14 years of experience means they play mean and well. Awakening of the Liar is thirty minutes and ten songs of rage against God (seems quite natural for a band coming from Poland). Awakening of the Liar is highly recommended for death metal fans and it's attitude and message should please those bent on black metal as well. ****

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April 4, 2004

Ragnarok: Blackdoor Miracle

Ragnarok: Blackdoor MiracleCD, Regain Records 2004

Track list: Preludium - Heir of Darkness - Recreation of the Angel - Rites of Geburah - Blackdoor Miracle - Murder - Kneel - Bless Thee for Granting Me Pain - Journey from Life

Ragnarok is rather Norwegian. Their idea of black metal is brutal, aggressive and straightforward. The result is, however, surprisingly good. The album is full of interesting tracks, which is fairly rare - many black metal albums suffer from songs that all sound the same. Blackdoor Miracle features several interesting tracks that really stand out. If the album was more progressive and brought something new to the genre, it'd be worth five stars. Now, solid four, if you like your black metal served in the Norwegian style. ****

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Orphaned Land: Mabool - The Story of the Three Sons of Seven

Orphaned Land: Mabool - The Story of the Three Sons of SevenCD, Century Media 2004

Track list: Birth of the Three (The Unification) - Ocean Land (The Revelation) - The Kiss of Babylon (The Sins) - A'salk - Halo Dies (The Wrath of God) - A Call to Awake (The Quest) - Building the Ark - Nora El Nora (Entering the Ark) - The Calm Before the Flood - Mabool (The Flood) - The Storm Still Rages Inside - Rainbow (The Resurrection)

Orphaned Land hails from Israel and are actually the first Israeli metal band I've come across. One can hear their origins in the music, too. Their progressive death metal is spiced with Middle-Eastern and Arabic influences - they call it "Middle-Eastern Metal" themselves. The result is rather fresh and interesting. The album has a biblical theme, it tells the story of the Flood. Their songs certainly have narrative elements, so listening to the whole album in correct order is the recommended way to enjoy Mabool. ****

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February 7, 2004

Devils Whorehouse: Revelation Unorthodox

Devils Whorehouse: Revelation UnorthodoxCD, Regain Records 2004

Track list: Death from Beyond - Swallow Your Soul - Howling - The Raven - Bondage Goddess - Revelation Unorthodox - Funeral Dream - Pentagram Murderer - Blood Angels Recital - Erotikill - Blood Nymphoman - Deathwish - We Live Again

This one should be put in "horror punk" category, but I don't have one. Black metal is pretty close. At least when you start to listen to this album, that's what you'll think, until the vocals kick in. This band features members of Marduk and the sound is definitely black metal-ish. However, the clean vocals lean towards punk. The result sounds slightly confusing. However, once you get over that, the music is pretty ok. Their black metal punk rock is actually quite nice party music, especially if you like the horror / bondage / sex theme. ***

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February 5, 2004

Behexen: By the Blessing of Satan

Behexen: By the Blessing of SatanCD, Woodcut Records 2004

Track list: By the Blessing of Satan - Fist of the Satanist - Sieluni Saatanan Vihasta Roihuten - Celebration of christ's Fall - Black Metal Baptism - Watchers of My Black Temple - Under the Eye of Lord

Behexen plays pure old school black metal, much like Nattefrost. And that's just fine for me... Their vocalist Torog has a haunting voice and to back that up, they manage to create an impressive wall of sound. Good work. Lyrics invoke Satan - hard to say more, because the promo version doesn't include printed lyrics and Torog isn't the easiest vocalist to understand. Very old school, very primitive, very effective. However, I'll give it only three stars, because simply put, there's little new on this album. Still, it's a good album if you're into primitive old school black metal. ***

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January 19, 2004

Council of the Fallen: Deciphering the Soul

Council of the Fallen: Deciphering the SoulCD, Season of Mist 2004

Track list: Intro - Longing for Clarity - Acceptance in Silence - No Vision of Prophecy - Scourge of Thy Enemy - Distant Memories - Tempting Angelic Pride - Resurgence - Falling Through Decades - Repetition Breeds Insanity - Outro

Deciphering the Soul is a technically sound album, but for some reason, I don't find it that interesting. The artists involved are all famous from various bands (Hate Eternal, for example), so I guess it's some sort of a supergroup. I'm not familiar with any of those bands, so it's of little significance for me... The album is perhaps too American, even though it mixes Florida-death with some Scandinavian influences. There's not enough Scandinavia and too much Florida, I'd say... So it's not for me, but certainly for someone who likes fast and brutal American death metal. ***

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January 16, 2004

Nattefrost: Blood & Vomit

Nattefrost: Blood & VomitCD, Season of Mist 2004

Track list: Ancient Devil Worshipping - Sluts of Hell - Satanic Victory - Universal Funeral - The Act of Spiritual Purification - Sanctum 666 - Whore (Filthy Whore) - Mass-Destruction - Nattefrost Takes a Piss - The Gate of Nanna - Still Reaching for Hell

Cover art tells you enough: Blood & Vomit is honest underground black metal. Vocalist-guitarist Nattefrost from Carpathian Forest has vomited a disc full of rocking black metal, just the way it was meant to be. This, of course, means that the target audience of this album is fairly limited. Anyway, I like it. It rocks, at least until the Beherit-cover The Gate of Nanna, which is slow and boring. After that, the album doesn't really pick up the speed. Enjoying Blood & Vomit to the fullest requires also a bad sense of humour. As an interesting curiosity, I should note that one of the euphemism used for vomiting in Finnish is "speaking Norwegian". How fitting. ****

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Frost: Talking to God

Frost: Talking to GodCD, Rage of Achilles 2004

Track list: Sickness - Filthy Black Shit - And Still the Dreamer Sleeps - The Eternal Sea - Subliminal Hell - The End - Two of a Kind - No Light - Talking to God

Frost has an interesting line-up: multi-instrumentalist and two vocalists. Unfortunately the presence of two vocalists isn't really that significant. That's a small disappointment. The guy behind the music, Irrumator from Anaal Nathrakh (never heard) does his job well. Frost sounds good, if not that unique. Their sound is thick and gloomy. Not so furious, really - most of the album is pretty midtempo stuff. Choirs and female vocals are used to spice the tracks a bit, which is good. Talking to God is a good start for the black metal year 2004. ****

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January 5, 2004

Blood Duster: s/t

Blood Duster: s/tCD, Season of Mist 2003

Track list: ForThoseAboutToFuck - Idi - SixSixSixteen - CockJunkie - Sellout - IWannaDoItWithADonna - FruityRelationships - HeroinPunk - Sk8ergrrl - BadHabbits - OnTheStage - VeganFeast - DrinkFightFuck - TonyGoesToCourt (Skit) - OnTheHunt - CurrentTrends - Underground - DrugFiend - Achin'ForAn'A'Cup - DahmerTheEmbalmer - She'sAJunkie - NuCorprate - OrneryHornery - 66.6OnYourFMDial - TicketToRide + PainfullNoise Entitled"htabbaskcalb" - Let's Fuck

The album is full of short songs, most under two minutes. The styles vary from Carcass-like death metal to rather plain rock or punk. All are united by an idiot sense of humour. At their best the songs are pretty ok, but most of them are rather uninspired. Avoid. *

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Gorgasm: Masticate to Dominate

Gorgasm: Masticate to DominateCD, Unique Leader Records 2003

Track list: Anal Skewer - Stitched Oral Asphyxia - Corpsefiend - Lacerated Mastarbation - Masticate to Dominate - Charred Vaginal Effluence - Repulsive Cuntortion - Concubine of Despise - Seminal Embalment - Deadfuck

If you can forget the totally disgusting lyrics and ugly shocker cover art, Masticate to Dominate is a fairly decent gore metal album. It's not too far from Carcass, but falls a bit short nonetheless. Still, if you like the genre, Gorgasm is a good purchase. I wouldn't support this smut with my money, but if you can find the concept of raping and slaughtering women entertaining, go forth. I would've liked this much better, had the lyrics been a bit more intelligent. **

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December 16, 2003

Apostasy: Cell 666

Apostasy: Cell 666CD, Black Mark 2004

Track list: Crowned in Thorns - Infernal Majesty - Cell 666 - Icon - 7th Throne - Beneath the Lies of Prophecy - Reign of Chaos - Beauty of Death - Metempsychosis

Fans of Arcturus and like might want to check Cell 666 out. Apostasy spices up their black-ish metal sound with classical influences (that is: piano bits), reaching fairly progressive sound. Unfortunately, Cell 666 falls far from such masterpieces as Sham Mirrors. It's pretty good, but that's just about it. ***

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December 7, 2003

Swallow the Sun: The Morning Never Came

Swallow the Sun: The Morning Never CameCD, Firebox 2003

Track list: Through Her Silvery Body - Deadly Nightshade - Out of This Gloomy Light - Swallow (Horror pt. 1) - Silence of the Womb - Hold This Woe - Under the Waves - The Morning Never Came

As you can see from the song titles, Swallow the Sun isn't a group of merry men. Their sound is heavy and bleak, leaning towards doom metal. If you want to be drowned in sorrow, The Morning Never Came is a pretty good choice. As a debut, it is very convincing - these guys from Jyväskylä, Finland will go far. The album sounds and looks very good. ****

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Akercocke: Choronzon

Akercocke: ChoronzonCD, Earache 2003

Track list: Praise the Name of Satan - Prince of the North - Leviathan - Enraptured by Evil - Choronzon - Valley of the Crucified - Bathykolpian Avatar - Upon Coriaceous Wings - Scapegoat - Son of the Morning - Becoming the Adversary - Goddess Flesh

Akercocke was a bit of a surprise. I had never heard of the band before I read a review of Choronzon and bought the album. Turns out I've missed a lot! Akercocke plays vicious black or death metal, with a satanic theme. The vocal range is wide, from high-pitched screaming to low death metal grumble, with occasional clear vocals. There's energy and aggression. Simply great. ****

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November 13, 2003

Forsaken, The: Traces of the Past

The Forsaken: Traces of the PastCD, Century Media 2003

Track list: A Time to Die - One More Kill - Acid with Acid - Piece by Piece - Glitches Will Tell - Traces of the Past - Serpent's Tongue - God of Demise - Massive Machinery - The Empire - First Weapon of Choice - Blackened

If you're into fast and technical death metal, here's a treat for you. The Forsaken is from Sweden, as many good death metal bands tend to be. However, I'm not completely thrilled. Sure, they play fast, technically brilliant and brutal music, but something's missing. There's little that would elevate them from the unfortunate mediocrity. It's certainly good album, but very good - no. The brightest sides of the album are not by the band themselves: the album cover by Niklas Sundin is beautiful and the album-ending Metallica cover, Blackened, is just great. ***

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November 12, 2003

Invocator: Through the Flesh to the Soul

Invocator: Through the Flesh to the SoulCD, Scarlet 2003

Track list: Intro - Through the Flesh to the Soul - Writhe in Spit - On My Knees - Flick It On - Infatuated I Am (Speak to Me) - There Is No Savior - The Chemistry of Restlessness - Under the Skin - Fire Cleanses All - Sand Between the Teeth

I used to have one of Invocator's earlier albums, but then I got bored with it and sold it. Their latest album will probably go the same way. It's rough trash metal, allright, but dead boring, really. They've been gone for seven years, but still sound the same as before. This doesn't impress me, but then again, trash metal hasn't been my thing before. It isn't now, either. The album cover is pretty cool, though. **

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October 28, 2003

Emperor: IX Equilibrium

Emperor: IX EquilibriumCD, Candlelight 1999

Track list: Curse You All Men - Decrystallizing Reason - An Elegy of Icaros - The Source of Icon E - Sworn - Nonus Aequilibrium - The Warriors of Modern Death - Of Blindness & Subsequent Seers

Emperor is the musical version of a vicious snowstorm. Many will probably find both equally unpleasant. Emperor's sound is difficult to take, if you're not familiar with black metal. There are slower parts and parts that actually sound beautiful, but that's hidden between the fierce and the wicked. Ihsahn's vocals are strong, even though it's quite difficult to hear the words. Fortunately they are printed in the booklet. The drummer Trym is another key player in the band, his furious drum style is very important part of the Emperor sound. IX Equilibrium offers rather excellent black metal, for those who can appreciate it. ****

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July 8, 2003

Black League, The: Ichor

The Black League: IchorCD, Spinefarm 2000

Track list: Doomwatcher - One Colour: Black - Deep Waters - Goin' to Hell - Avalon - We Die Alone - The Everlasting pt. II - Ozymandias - Blood of the Gods - Bunker King - Winter Winds Sing - Ecce Homo! - Night on Earth

The Black League features Taneli Jarva (ex-Sentenced, ex-Impaled Nazarene) and friends. The style could be heavy metal; I've filed this under death metal mostly because of Jarva's vocal style is rough and music is very bleak. Ichor is mostly rather slow (with the exception of few rockers like "One Colour: Black") and heavy, carved in stone like the beautiful booklet. Jarva's vocal style is angry and complements the music well. Recommended to all who like their metal heavy and bitter. ****

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April 13, 2003

Moonsorrow: Kivenkantaja

Moonsorrow: KivenkantajaCD, Spikefarm 2003

Track list: Raunioilla - Unohduksen lapsi - Jumalten kaupunki incl. Tuhatvuotinen perintö - Kivenkantaja - Tuulen tytär incl. Soturin tie - Matkan lopussa

My favourite vikings are back with a new album. Kivenkantaja is again an epic work of art, telling tales from the past. This time the tone is perhaps a bit less rowdy as on their previous album. Thus, the results are less captivating, but perhaps more epic and in a way more sacral. I'm especially fond of the elegant traditional song sung by a beautiful female voice in the end of the album. ****

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November 14, 2002

Opeth: Deliverance

Opeth: DeliveranceCD, Music for Nations 2002

Track list: Wreath - Deliverance - A Fair Judgement - For Absent Friends - Master's Apprentice - By the Pain I See in Others

Opeth's previous album Blackwater Park is one of my favourite metal albums ever. So, when I saw Deliverance in a record store, I couldn't resist the temptation. Well, I did listen to it there and I was pleased with what I heard. My only doubt was that I didn't hear any of the nice, clean vocals I enjoyed so much. However, my fear was in vain - there are very beautiful parts, with acoustic sounds and clean vocals in these songs. Excluding the 2-minute instrumental "For Absent Friends", each song is over 10 minutes long and full of detail. Wonderful! Deliverance isn't as experimental as the new Arcturus album, for example, but definitely on the more imaginative end of the spectrum. *****

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November 7, 2002

Arcturus: The Sham Mirrors

Arcturus: The Sham MirrorsCD, Ad Astra 2002

Track list: Kinetic - Nightmare Heaven - Ad Absurdum - Collapse Generation - Star-Crossed - Radical Cut - For to End Yet Again

Black metal isn't the best classification for this many-faced album. As in their previous work, Arcturus hasn't chosen the easiest way out. The Sham Mirrors proves that they are still in the very front of the progressive, out-reaching metal music. There are traces of their black metal past, but their influences are wider than that: electronics and trip-hop are two that spring to my mind first. It's difficult, perhaps even more so than their previous album La Masquerade Infernale, but nonetheless excellent. *****

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September 22, 2002

Finntroll: Midnattens Widunder

Finntroll: Midnattens WidunderCD, Spikefarm 1999

Track list: Intro - Svartberg - RivFader - Vätteanda - Bastuvisan - Blodnatt - Midnattens Widunder - Segersäng - Svampfest

To summarize Finntroll is easy: fast black metal with lots of synths and a good dose of humppa, a Finnish variation of polka. Lyrics are sung in Swedish and are about trolls who are plotting to take over the world and I suppose they execute the plan successfully, as well. And what great fun it all is! If you think black metal is all dead serious and therefore a bit silly, just listen to Finntroll and you can rest assured that even black metal people can sometimes have some fun. *****

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Ajattara: Itse

Ajattara: ItseCD, Spikefarm 2001

Track list: Yhdeksäs - Verivalta - Musta aurinko - Kuolevan rukous - Ägräs - Murhamiesi - Tulessa - Manan lapset - Rajan takaa - Vihan musta tanssi

While Amorphis has slowly eased up on the death metal element, grunting vocals and all that, Ajattara, a side project of the Amorphis vocalist Pasi Koskinen is definitely something else. Ajattara's music is mostly medium-tempo black metal with some synths thrown into spice things. The lyrics, sung in Finnish, are excellent and what's best, sung so well you can actually hear them without consulting the booklet. Itse is very catchy album, with many excellent, if a bit simple songs. *****

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August 16, 2002

Moonsorrow: Voimasta ja kunniasta

Moonsorrow: Voimasta ja kunniastaCD, Spikefarm 2001

Track metal: Tyven - Sankarihauta - Kylän päässä - Hiidenpelto including Häpeän hiljaiset vedet - Aurinko ja kuu - Sankaritarina

My first contact with Moonsorrow was "Kylän päässä" on Spikefarm Sampler cd. I thought it was brilliant... It took me a surprisingly long time to actually buy the album. Now I've done it, I wish I'd done it earlier. These guys rock! Their 10-minute long songs are epic, in a very positive sense. The lyrics are full of viking imagery, sense of honour and glory on the battlefield. Comparisons are drawn to Bathory, I personally think Moonsorrow is a black metal version of what Manowar is at their very best. *****

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June 28, 2002

Cradle of Filth: Midian

Cradle of Filth: MidianCD, Music for Nations 2000

Track list: At the Gates of Midian - Cthulhu Dawn - Saffron's Curse - Death Magick for Adepts - Lord Abortion - Amor e Morte - Creatures that Kissed in Cold Mirrors - Her Ghost in the Fog - Satanic Mantra - Tearing the Veil from Grace - Tortured Soul Asylum

I've always found Cradle of Filth a bit difficult band to deal with. I don't like the band very much, I don't like the somewhat misogynic tone in their lyrics, but I do like the atmosphere they can reach at their best and I do like some of their music. Dusk and Her Embrace was, for example, a fine album indeed. Midian isn't nearly as good, but has it's moments. The beginning of the album is good: "Cthulhu Dawn", "Saffron's Curse" and "Death Magick for Adepts" are all good tracks. Rest of it is less impressive. ****

Six Months Later:
I'm dropping a star here. Indeed, the beginning of the album is good, but the rest of it isn't as good. Also, Midian pales in comparison to their better work (mostly Dusk...). ***

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May 17, 2002

Dead Beginners, The: Sinners' Rebellion

The Dead Beginners: Sinners' RebellionCD, Spikefarm 2000

Track list: Calling Ruby (Last letter to the First Lady of Jesus Christ) - Treason via Magdalene - The Wounderable One - The Paragon and the Beast of Burden - Amadeus 2000 - La Cathedra - The Illfated - Sinners' Rebellion - Dead Beginners

The Dead Beginners is pretty much the multi-instrumentalist T. Sitomaniemi, who plays all the instruments except drums and most vocals. The music is quite typical synth-backed black metal, not exceptionally furious or imaginative. However, the third track, "The Wounderable One" sounds more interesting. So does "The Illfated", which is without a doubt the best track on the album in all of it's melancholic heaviness. "Sinners' Rebellion" features the strongest vocal performance of the album - and that's what connects the three songs: they all have vocals by T. Sitomaniemi. I rest my case. Those three songs are enough to warrant a better than average grade. ****

Six Months Later:
I think I'll take one star off. Sure, the good tracks are good, "The Illfated" being the best example, but the rest of it just isn't impressive enough. ***

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