What a week!
If you’ve been following us on Facebook (and you damn well should!) you’ll see that my article about the hypocrisies of Orphaned Land got a lot of people talking, including someone inviting me to eat a “juicy dick”. It even got their singer to send two open letters criticizing what I wrote, while still managing to avoid the main issues altogether.
Still, no amount juicy dicks will keep us away from great independent metal artists, so we’re back with even more reviews!
Infernal Awakening – Enlightened by Lucifer’s Flame
Location: United States
Label: Independent Release
Hailing from, of all places, Tucson, Arizona, Infernal Awakening are a symphonic “orthodox” black metal band that promises to set the world on fire. Their philosophical approach to music is reminiscent of that of Dissection, in the sense that theistic Satanism (I can’t tell what their specific flavor is though) appears front and center in their material. They’re not shy about their message, even mentioning (although in what I’d like to believe is a tongue-in-cheek manner) that they endorse and encourage “the use ov hard drugs, alcohol, body modification/mutilation, murder, and all other forms ov debauchery which may lead to gratification. Remember kids, no body no case”.
In a genre that seems to be increasingly dominated by music that imitates the sound Watain, these guys dare to try something different, including some more “orchestral” arrangements (from a synth, but you know what I mean), giving the whole thing a more epic feel. For better or worse, I get some hints of Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir in the sound, even though many would like to pretend that neither band ever existed in the first place.
The problem with a symphonic approach to black metal is that there’s always the possibility of taking away some of the strength of the final product, and that you end up with, well, Dimmu Borgir. Infernal Awakening’s ambitious project actually managed to avoid this, and still delivers a powerful and heavy black metal release, while still maintaining a nice melodic and epic feel throughout the record.
Although for many the juvenile Satanist angle might be a deterrent (and I honestly do not think they’re serious, particularly when they invite us to “smoke Satan and hail crack”) I really believe that you should give them a shot. If this is what they are capable of doing with a self-released record (and still manage to get a fairly good production) I can only imagine what they’ll be able to come up with within a more professional setting.
Servants of the Mist – Gross Knowledge of Genital Mutilation
Label: Independent Release
When I see the term “sludge” used to describe a band, I usually assume there’s going to be a healthy dose of stoner-friendly blues riffs, mixed with doom metal. Bands like Eyehategod, Crowbar, and Acid Bath all had a lot of extreme metal influences, and even a healthy dose of hardcore, but there were always elements of heavy blues at the core of their sound. Florida’s Servants of the Mist have absolutely no blues in their sound, and yet sludge seems to be the most appropriate name for their brand of metal.
Gross Knowledge of Genital Mutilation, the latest EP by Servants of the Mist is one of the bleakest sounding records I’ve ever had the opportunity to listen to. The sound is murky and absolutely monolithic, almost like some massive creature rising out of the very depths of the swamps in Florida. The guitars give off a lot of heavy feedback, and the keyboards add a layer of grime to the tone which, for the most part, grinds along at snail’s pace (“Commit Suicide” being the exception, playing a bit more mid-tempo). A couple of bands that come to mind that have a similar vibe are Coffinworm and Lord Mantis, though they’re a bit more black metal-oriented at times. The sound clips utilized throughout are often as horrifying as the music, with images of violence, perversion, and psychosis being presented from interviews and documentaries. The title track, “Gross Knowledge of Genital Mutilation,” is really the center-piece of the EP, with some of the heaviest riffs on the record, and a perfect distillation of what Servants of the Mist are all about.
The production isn’t super clean but, really, that would take away from the impact of the music. You can still hear what each instrument is doing, and there’s plenty of rumbly low end, giving the riffs extra weight. The vocals are high in the mix, with a slight reverb that gives them an other-worldly feel. The keyboards feel like an extension of the guitars, with a similar tone to what Noah from Neurosis uses; the keys are more about atmosphere than melody here.
As I said before, the music Servants of the Mist present here is super dark, and truly some of the heaviest stuff I’ve heard in the sludge underground, or all of extreme metal, for that matter. If they continue to put out material of this quality, I think it’s safe to say that they are going to be a buzz-band pretty quickly in the extreme metal world. If you like your metal dark and slow, grab this EP as soon as possible.
Atrum Tempestas – Néant
Label: Nordavind Records
Atrum Tempestas represent the more atmospheric side of Juha-Matti Perttunen’s (vocalist for Finnish melodic black metal outfit Catamenia) musical output. Formed in 2007, alongside fellow Finnish black metal musician Jarmo Kylmäaho, Perttunen has sought to create a much more introspective side to black metal.
Néant is the duo’s debut full length and, from the first minute of playing, it immediately evokes comparisons to like-minded atmospheric metal bands such as Altar Of Plagues and Agalloch. The emphasis is placed on creating an almost sorrowful mood, which also draws comparisons to Austere and Coldworld, though not necessarily as suicidal as those two artists get. There are moments of genuine serenity, such as the cleaner sounding guitar bits at the beginning of the opener “Quitter ceux qui étaient déjà partis.” The music goes up and down in tone, from an almost dream-like quality to a more metallic approach, though the transitions aren’t always smooth. On “Et après… le néant,” about a minute in, the music goes from the melancholy, slightly more downbeat style that you hear on the rest of the record to a harsher crunch. There’s still plenty of melody in the riff, but it just really changes the vibe way too abruptly, which is unfortunate, because the song as a whole is a decent, moody piece of music.
The production sounds a little home-made, and when the songs slow down, the fact that Atrum Tempestas aren’t using a live drum kit is glaringly apparent. I don’t have anything against electronic drums, if they’re mixed in properly, but in the case of Néant they really stand out like a sore thumb. Another fly in the soup are the transitions; when the song goes into a crunchier guitar section, the guitar sounds like it was plugged straight into a computer. Again, if mixed well, this wouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re going for a more ambient sound, you want a little more echo in your guitar tone, and that doesn’t always happen with this record.
Atrum Tempestas have some great ideas, and there are moments of “holy shit, this is good,” but there are definitely some kinks to work out. Fans of the atmospheric side of black metal along the lines of Altar Of Plagues and Agalloch will certainly enjoy Néant, just like I did.. at least for the most part. With a little more tweaking, some stronger production, Atrum Tempestas could really become a band to look out for.
Well, that’s it for now! Tune in next Wednesday to see what new demos we’ll have for you!