Fen - Epoch album cover

SENTENCING: A HEFTY PILE OF REVIEWS TO DIGEST BEFORE THE NEXT ISSUE

Deadlines are a head-scratching time and some reviews, for one reason or another, miss publication in Zero Tolerance Magazine when it heads off to the printers. Rather than leave them on the bench, we’ve put them together here for you to read while you wait for the next installment of the printed magazine!

VERDICTS
6 Masterpiece
5 Exceptional
4 Commendable
3 Solid
2 Second rate
1 Firing blanks
0 Sitting Duck

11 paranoias11 Paranoias
Stealing Fire From Heaven
ritual productions
Adam Richardson (bass/keyboards/vocals) raises instant antagonism from the critic when stating, rather pretentiously, “Any idiot can write a great song, learn it, and record it, but this traditional approach has become dead to us…” What absolute bollocks! On the contrary, bitch! Nothing is easier than taking a massive bong hit and then indulging in jamming with your chums. “It takes guts, blood, trance-dwelling exploration of inner and outer space,” Richardson muses on. The ironic thing is that the end result does not at all bring us to some uncharted domains. In fact, the result is startlingly familiar, which means no true depths were reached – more like the closer-to-surface level of the band members’ tastes ‘spontaneously’ becoming manifest. Stealing Fire From Heaven comprises psych-tinged sludge, the freeform aspect of which provides it with nigh funereal slo-mo doom vibes. The band are talented enough to come up with decent results even when pretending that not really trying is, in fact, boldly going where no man has gone before. Many have! avi pitchon 3

AbazagorathAbazagorath
The Satanic Verses
Eternal Death

Abazagorath have been around forever, and they’re still pursuing the same melodic-but-raw BM path they’ve always followed. The plus side of this is that they are, by now, really good at it; they always were, but time has sharpened rather than blunted their skill, especially compositionally. The negative side is that you basically already know what this sounds like: BLACK METAL in the second-wave sense. The use of keyboards is minimal (used only when the atmosphere demands a majesty that a wall of tremolo-picked guitars can’t provide), and Warhead’s vocals are better than ever. In fact, over the course of a few listens, I started to wonder why Abazagorath aren’t held in the same regard as better-known USBM peers: this is as good as anything in this style the US has produced, and some aspects (the seamless blending of early Gorgoroth BM with Slayer-esque riffing) couldn’t be done better. With the caveat that it’s straightforward orthodox BM that isn’t trying to do anything especially new, it’s a great album. will pinfold 4.5

Aghast-All-The-RageAghast!
All The rage
Self-release
Not to be confused with about ten other bands named Aghast, this is the UK progressive death metal mob’s self-released debut album, after releasing countless EPs. Fusing straight-up death metal with a modern vibe, it’s a solid entrance. A breakneck pace with the standard growled/barked vocals and fervent guitars make for a tried-and-tested combination, but one proven to work. The thrashier elements start to emerge as the album moves on, as does the risk that they may spread their sound too thin. They manage to avoid that and put in a commendable debut, even if the production values aren’t exactly top-notch. graham matthews 3

ancient vvisdomAncient Vvisdom
Sacrificial

Magic Bullet
Personally, I found the last Ancient VVisdom album, Deathlike, to be a frustrating listen. On the surface, it seemed to offer so much, but ultimately delivered only scraps of the brilliance promised, like an enticing desert mirage whose clear waters were in reality just a mouthful of sand and dust. With those memories in mind, I approached Sacrificial with healthy scepticism… only to find that somehow, through the subtlest of changes, all the stars in Ancient VVisdom’s constellation have aligned. Heavier, more direct, more darkly atmospheric, and yet more sublimely melodic, Sacrificial is the real deal. Sweetly hypnotic, it winds around you, ensnaring you with deceptively simple and beguiling songs that are powerfully addictive. There’s a lazy drift to the songs that lulls you into a careless, unguarded state. Nathan Opposition’s pure vocal tones are the silver thread you follow into darkness, and by the time you realise you’re hopelessly lost, you no longer care. Occult rock at its most potent and appealing. chris kee 4.5

Bethlehem-HexakosioihexekontahexaphobiaBethlehem
Hexakosiohexekontahexaphobia
Prophecy

‘Dark metal’ is a pretty vague description at best, but it fits Bethlehem in 2014 as well as it did in the early ‘90s. The defining tone of Hexakosiohexekontahexaphobia is several shades less gloomy than in the days of dark metal, but the general atmosphere is one of reflective sadness, the clean vocals having a forlorn quality lacking in their more aggressive work. As with the last few releases (excepting the lacklustre re-recording of S.U.i.Z.i.D.), there’s a strong alt-rock influence, ‘Egon Erwin’s Mongo Mumu’ in particular coming off as an unsuccessful attempt at a Pixies-style song, sadly lacking the fire of Black Francis and co. in their prime. It’s followed by the most BM-influenced track on the album, ‘Verbracht In Plastiknacht’, highlighting the album’s weakness: it feels like a band looking for a style, trying stuff out, but never stamping their personality on it. The best songs here, like opener ‘Ein Kettenwolf Greint 13:11-18’ are well-crafted and evocative, and even the weakest tracks have great parts, but overall, it just doesn’t quite gel. will pinfold 3

bhlegBhleg
Draumr ást
Nordvis

Bhleg initially impress by the most basic of black metal means: an extremely simple, atmospheric two-chord riff, some primitive drumming, and classic raw BM vocals. Done properly, it’s an endlessly great sound, and they do it properly. Bhleg are from Gothenburg, but their sound isn’t in the classic Swedish style, though there is a passing resemblance to the early work of fellow Gothenburg dwellers Styggelse, as well as the expected (and effective) echoes of Burzum. For all its primitive aspects, Bhleg have an unexpectedly delicate touch at times, as demonstrated on skeletally beautiful instrumental ‘Nyckeln Till Livskraftens Ursprung’ and the occasional bit of synth/piano or sonorous choral vocals, which never disrupt the minimalist feel of the music. Overall, it just shows how much variation can exist within the fairly proscriptive boundaries of orthodox, raw black metal. If you haven’t heard any BM for a while, this may make you intensely nostalgic; if you have, it’s one of those albums that may not be indispensable, but which just does pretty much everything exactly right. will pinfold 4.5

convent guiltConvent Guilt
Guns For Hire

Cruz Del Sur
Anybody who has ever watched the skate videos of the ‘90s will get a bit of a nostalgia kick from this one because it sounds like a full album of that punky metal that used to accompany rad Aussie dudes (often called Brad) pulling ollies in town squares and busting their balls on step rails. There’s a wee bit of early Metallica to be had on occasion, but only in the odd melody, and more a brief, reminiscent whiff than a full-blown memory of thrash greatness. There’s also a hint of AC/DC now and again as it plods along without any sense of originality or willingness to treat us to anything that hasn’t been heard a gazillion times before. By the time we hit penultimate track ‘Convict At Arms’, it seems like the cues are being taken from Spinal Tap, and when the final track kicks in, I have to double-check that we’re not back in the middle of the first song. There seems to be an attempt at keeping this quite varied, but there’s a lack of…something…in the creative process here that makes this sound the same from start to finish. john norby 2

darkspaceDarkspace
Darkspace III I
Avantgarde Music

Swiss ‘space BM’ pioneers Darkspace remain as mysterious as ever. Their fourth album consists of three pieces (‘Dark 4.18’, ‘Dark 4.19’, and ‘Dark 4.20’) over 70 minutes, ranging from pure ambience to semi-industrial BM and many things between. Despite the length (‘Dark 4.18’ is almost half an hour long), it’s not inaccessible; it’s tightly structured, rarely lapsing into formlessness and never into wishy-washy muzak. Highlights include the Front 242-esque techno assault beginning the album and the thrashy riffing in ‘Dark 4.19’, but it’s hard to discuss in parts: best just to hear it. will pinfold 4

 

execrationExecration
Morbid Dimensions
Duplicate
I’ve never heard Execration, but Morbid Dimensions is their third album, so maybe I’m a bit behind the times. I’ve also never heard of Duplicate Records, so I’m just terrible at this, probably. The name, titles, etc., tells me this is going to be more Swedeath rehash, but opener ‘Cosmic Mausoleum’ rips into a gloomy Black Sabbathy (the riff/song itself, not the band) note, with hanging, cold notes to accentuate; I’m intrigued. A few minutes later, however, my suspicions are somewhat honoured: there’s not a Boss HM-2 anywhere to be found, but Execration are definitely Norwegian dudes playing death metal. So, we’re still in Scandinavia, at least. Morbid Dimensions is thrashy and deathly, but it’s fresh. Their cosmic slant to the themes and sounds is gaining steam, but still fresh enough to not be lame yet. Morbid Dimensions is full of cool slimy riffs, and a gurgly rancid singer, but the production is a bit thin. I’d be willing to guess these dudes are trying to go all weird ala Morbus Chron or Tribulation, but I haven’t heard their old shit and this one is good, but not intriguing enough for me to care to listen to the old stuff to find out. justin stubbs 3.5

DHWESHADhwesha
Sthoopa

Dunkelheit Produktionen
This debut LP from India’s Dhwesha takes cues from thundering, rolling death metal like Bolt Thrower and Dead Congregation, but isn’t as consistent as these influences. The production feels disjointed, with different parts of the mix rising and falling. Kicks occasionally override, the vocals are often incongruous, and the snare sometimes rings out over everything. Dhwesha’s low-end death metal, offset nicely with thrashier bridges and melodies, seems to be compensating through the production rather than being heavy itself. There is a lot of potential here, but Sthoopa seems slightly restrained or lacking some fire. The eight songs are competent, if not derivative, variations of Bolt Thrower-esque riffs and harmonies, but they make for almost dull listening after a while. Since Sthoopa lacks the required adrenaline and doesn’t always push the aggression, the same tempos and mood, relied on throughout the record, drag. There are some very promising moments, though, where the energy and songwriting do coalesce towards the end of the album, and if Dhwesha can harness this – and sort out their production – they could really conjure realms of chaos. daragh markham 3

encoffinationEncoffination
III – Hear Me’ O’ Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs)
Selfmadegod

Not entirely certain why is this band still tagged death-doom, described as if possessing an original angle by slowing down death riffs (some claim specific riffs by specific bands) to re-conjure those in the more abhorrent form of doom. It might have been possible to state so in the past. With Encoffination’s third album, all of the above is rendered irrelevant. With an extremely narrow margin of variation manifest in what might be some nightmare-shrouded shreds of a disembodied keyboard here (‘Cemeteries Of Purgation’), a sample opening a track there (‘From His Holy Cup Drink; Comes Death’), or an even more abysmally ritualistic drumming than usual deeper down there (‘Pale Voices’), we’re dealing with absolute, pure funeral doom here, through and through: a subgenre for fundamentalists, which demands absolute surrender of individuality and total capitulation to the rotten dirge of the passing of the flesh. Attempting to review the most orthodoxly obedient of sounds in metal is mistaking ritual for art. avi pitchon 3.5

endocrine wolfEndocrine Wolf
S/T
Rad Nauseum / Vetala Productions

A fascinating project, Endocrine Wolf sees the meeting of creative writing and powerviolence in a DIY cassette/zine combo with a wolf-get-revenge-over-man plot, all in aid of the UK Wolf Conservation Trust. Comparable with Pentii Linkola’s radical views on ecology, Endocrine Wolf functions as an embittered lament at humanity’s cruel egocentrism, and the blend of crust, powerviolence, and abrasive hardcore with anguished vocals and clever samples pushes the right buttons. There is much to be said for the efficacy of the format, as reading the flawed-but-passionate tale of the wolf’s transformation and the power shift that entails certainly gives the music an added quality, bringing us closer to the mind of its creators. geoff birchenall 4.5

engraved disillusionEngraved Disillusion
The Eternal Rest
Self-release
It’s good to see British bands stepping up and standing shoulder to shoulder with their European counterparts. Engraved Disillusion bring the great qualities of Dark Tranquillity and Katatonia – to cite but a small frame of reference to their melodic, catchy, yet mournful strains – to the fore. They fuse this to a modern metal approach to present a polished beast of undeniable quality. A beautiful production helps breathe all the life the songs deserve into the mix, allowing the band to truly flourish. The Eternal Rest effortlessly oozes quality from start to finish. sam crowley 4.5

 

Ghost-Brigade-IV-One-With-the-StormGhost Brigade
IV – One With The Storm
Season Of Mist

What is it with Sweden/Finland when it comes to dark, melancholic emo-as-hell rock? Search far and wide (believe me, I have) and outside the occasional rarity such as Green Carnation, there just isn’t anyone who does it better. And thus, Finn sextet Ghost Brigade release their fourth album, appropriately titled IV – One With The Storm. In this current climate of records ‘dropping’ or ‘blowing up’ or ‘hitting’, the word release becomes even more ideal regarding …One With The Storm, because you feel as if each note, every morose harmony, has been pulled from the collective’s very soul. Mid-paced yet driven, opener ‘Wretched Blues’ conjures forth Down/Frozen-era Sentenced, or Paradise Lost’s much-underrated Draconian Times, groovy yet resigned to defeat. ‘Aurora’ is hypnotic, the drums and keys taking centre stage, resulting in an experience often unheard in this often-standard verse/chorus/verse style, ending with a climactic vocal harmony reminiscent of Staley/Cantrell’s Alice In Chains, while the ten-plus-minute ‘Electra Complex’ condenses the best parts of …One With The Storm into one heart-rending masterpiece, making way for the heavier second half of the album, ‘The Knife’ leaving this headphone-wearing listener drained, yet reaching wearily for the ‘repeat disc’ button. lord randall  5

job for a cowboyJob For A Cowboy
Sun Eater
Metal Blade
“Not those deathcore wankers again!” If you’re someone who believes a band can never change their stripes no matter how young they were when they started out, then you’re probably not a fan of Job For A Cowboy. True, their early work was full of pig squeals, stupid bree noises, and everything wrong about the genre they once spearheaded, but they were just teenagers back then. Sun Eater is testament to how much they’ve grown and developed into a proper modern death metal band. No gimmicks or trends, instead, it’s a vicious creation that even injects a bit of melody at points, such as on ‘The Synthetic Sea’. Booming vocals that have a slight rasp to them keep things far from monotonous, while ‘A Global Shift’ features one of a few thundering solos littered throughout. Rather than sensing relief as ‘Worming Nightfall’ draws proceedings to a close, it feels like a fitting ending to the JFAC story so far, but one that could well provide more (un?)pleasant surprises in the near future – of course, not if you still see them as 15-year-old kids. graham matthews 4

khaosKhaos
Risen
MRR Records / PHD

When you find out that this is mastered by Tom Coyne, who has worked with Adele, you know there isn’t going to be much in the way of metal going on here. In fact, there’s not a great deal of anything going on to pique the interest of those with a penchant for the darker things in life. There is a slight maudlin edge in places, and perhaps fans of latter-day Katatonia will find something to hang on to here and there, but this will find a better home amongst the NME ranks than here in ZT. sam crowley 2

 

manimalismManimalism
S/T
Adversum

Kim Sølve is best known for his stunning contemporary design work for the likes of Ulver (recent) and Shining (NOR), alongside his partner Trine Paulsen. He is, however a multi-talented individual and actually started Manimalism in 1992 as a mischievously silent member of that amazing period when Norwegian black metal went all post- on us, with the likes of Ved Buens Ende and Fleurety. Two demos were released under the name Taarenes Vaar in 1996 and 1997, both gaining cult status. Fast forward 22 years from the band’s conception and Sølve has seen fit to release the first Manimalism album proper, revisiting the original demo tracks and two other songs written in the ‘90s. Manimalism is quite the oddity, giving base elements of black metal and doom an unsettling veneer via some genuine crooning. With songs such as ‘Demons In Tuxedos’ Sølve is perhaps more Danzig than Sinatra and you can almost see the influences of black comedies such as Delicatessen, which seeing as it was contemporary with many of the compositions would make sense. It may be 2014 but this is pure ‘90s avant-garde black metal. If Solefald’s Neonism tickled your fancy then I posit that Manimalism should be firmly placed on your ‘to buy’ list. geoff birchenall 4.5

obscure burialObscure Burial
Epiphany
Invictus
This is the second demo from Finnish death cult Obscure Burial, featuring four songs of chaotic, clattering – but wickedly atmospheric – riff-laden magic. The band’s photos stir up memories of early Entombed shots, and there’s an air of the earliest days of the Scandinavian death metal scene about Obscure Burial. It’s a real pleasure to hear the raw, snarling guitar riffs, to soak up the energy and enthusiasm that radiates from these barely controlled sonic explosions, feel the adrenalin rush from the howled chaos incantations. These four tracks are making me feel young again: magic indeed! The vocal roar at the beginning of ‘Night Queen’ is enough to give you goose-bumps, the bass sound when ‘Dweller In The Abyss’ drags itself into the light, the primal Morbid Angel feel to ‘Epiphany’…there are moments of bloody brilliance all over this unfettered cacophony. There may not be very much new about Obscure Burial, but they’re successfully invoking a time when metal was exciting – and that excitement is worth any amount of ground breaking originality. chris kee 4.5

preemptive strikePreemptive Strike 0.1
Pierce Their Husk
Sonic Hell

This dark electro EP/mini-album has BM allegiances (guest appearances by Kvarforth and ex-Belphegor drummer Nefstus), but surprises by being somewhat dance-oriented rather than grinding and industrial. The title track appears in two forms, both featuring a surprisingly restrained but effective Kvarforth vocal. The original mix is surprisingly clean and bouncy, while the Skiltron NV 101 remix is almost thrashy, the synth bass-riff instead being played by guitars, giving the song a far more aggressive feel while preserving the beats-and-samples feel and ominous sense of drama. ‘Interstellar Threat’, meanwhile, appears in three forms: a forceful trance-like version, a heavy industrial mix with machine-gun guitar riffs, and a peculiar, almost acid house take on the track – dancey but do people dance to this kind of thing? ‘The New Era Of Immortality’ is in a similar vein, while ‘Insects Intrude/The War Against the Bugs’ is an almost Deathstars-like metal disco track but far heavier and without the goth posturing. Interesting and sometimes powerful stuff, not just for Kvarforth completists. will pinfold 3.5

Scapes-wpcf_289x300Scapes
One: Unseen: One
Night In Terrors

Hmm: this will find its audience, but probably I won’t be part of it. Finnish experimental blackened doom is one way it has been described, but it is far closer to a band like Paradise Lost at their most gothic and accessible. There’s definitely nothing wrong with it; instrumentally, it varies from very pretty and atmospheric to properly rock, in a kinda-stadium way. Vocalist/guitarist/drummer Olli is a good singer, too, but his smooth/husky, semi-anguished tones become tiresome after two or three soaring melodies. Very well done, but not thrilling. will pinfold 2.5

 

sivyj yarSivyj Yar
From The Dead
Villages’ Darkness
Avantgarde

I’ll admit that From The Dead Villages’ Darkness is the first I’ve heard from Russian horde Sivyj Yar, yet this is the fourth full-length from the one-man band. The sound that Vladimir, the man behind Sivyj Yar, achieves here is nuanced epic pagan black metal, with a harsher sound than many genre imitators and occasional violin and acoustic guitar sections used sparsely enough not to feel overdone. In the main, the ingredients combine well and are topped off by some intricate guitar solos. The title track is a highlight, featuring what sounds like a sped-up sample of a woman reciting a prayer or incantation, one of several samples used to decent effect. The murky and highly evocative synth-line halfway through the title song is an indication of a Burzum influence, although there is too much going on to play the ‘sounds like’ game. Vladimir’s screams are definitely on the DSBM spectrum, resembling the desperate final plea of a lost soul, while the album’s artwork, depicting a snapshot of impoverished village life in days gone by, reflects the sadness that resonates at the heart of this well-executed but fairly conservative black metal release. geoff birchenall 3

sssSSS
Limp.Gasp.Collapse.

Prosthetic
I’ve got to admit that I’d kinda forgotten about Liverpudlian crossover heroes Short Sharp Shock (to give them their full, elongated title), but Limp.Gasp.Collapse.is the perfect reminder of their power and potency. This album is packed with fantastic songs, all delivered with righteous rage and the kind of energy and adrenaline overdose that puts a smile on your face and a twisted excitement in your gut. These crisp, punchy riffs are enough to make an old man like me want to get back in the pit for one last tour of duty. The 14 tracks fly by in a glorious blur: not because they are all indistinct speedballs, but because even during more measured parts, there’s a furious, barely contained energy in the music; you’re propelled from one song to the next, a headlong charge to ultimate destruction. Still, even as you’re careering to the finish, certain songs lodge themselves particularly deeply in your speed-addled brain – the explosive riffs and killer solo of ‘Shape Of Things To Come’, for example, or the inexorable drive and savage vocals of  ‘Beige’. SSS are sounding better than ever – buy without hesitation. chris kee 5

tellus terrorTellus Terror
Ez Life Dv8
Self-release
Tellus Terror are a six-piece band from Brazil, and they play ‘M.M.S.’ – or ‘Mixed Metal Styles’ – a term they created themselves to describe their music. What this means in more familiar parlance is a collision of death metal, black metal, and some jarring metalcore/deathcore. I can’t fault Tellus Terror for their freethinking approach, or indeed for their admirable technical abilities; however, how many fans they will find willing to embrace both blastbeats and breakdowns, blackened screams and macho vocal shouts, all in the same song, I’m not sure. Impressive to a degree, but almost inevitably confused and directionless, as well. chris kee 2.5

thouThe Body / Thou
You, Whom I Have Always Hated
Thrill Jockey

After 2013’s collaboration, culminated in the excellent Released From Love, The Body and Thou are at it again, coming together for You, Whom I Have Always Hated. The Body, an ever-evolving sludge outfit comprising of two guys who’ve played together for an age, while at times deadly alone, often achieve their best work while working with others, as evinced on I Shall Die Here, featuring Haxan Cloak. Thou, meanwhile, are building a reputation as the crème de la crème of apocalyptic doom and are consistently brilliant, this year’s Heathen representing their career best album. YWIHAH is a superbly paced assault on the senses, incorporating The Body’s increasing awareness of the vital role of space in music. This is notable on the terrifying ‘Her Strongholds Unvanquishable’, which is given a lo-fi production that works beautifully. The album benefits from Thou’s unquenchable thirst for menacing, powerful, fuzz-drenched doom, and is spiced up by a stellar cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Terrible Lie’. YWIHAH is pretty relentless throughout, sometimes begging for the injection of some subtlety, although brief respite is derived from the sample-heavy ‘He Returns To The Place Of His Iniquity’. This visceral collaboration in the main, however, reaps the rewards of two bands fast approaching their creative zeniths. geoff birchenall 4.5

thestralThestral
Y Canu Brud
Vanguard

Considering the first demo EP came in 1998, it has been a long wait for the first Thestral full-length, Y Canu Brud. Belying its limitation of 300 on cassette via Vanguard Productions, Y Canu Brud is the sort of release that makes digging around in the black metal underground worthwhile. Although based in Pennsylvania, the man behind Thestral is Welsh-American, and the album deals with Cymru’s ancient past and conjures an authentically raw, windswept, Celtic black metal feel without the need for folk instrumentation or gimmicks to build the wonderful atmosphere. Including an inspired cover of Joy Division’s ‘Insight’, Y Canu Brood might just be one of the most exhilarating underground cassette-only black metal releases this year. geoff birchenall 5

veldesVeldes
Skyward
Razed Soul

So-called DSBM (depressive suicidal black metal) has never sat well with me as a genre name. Not that there hasn’t been some great music so classified (Shining, Lifelover, Silencer, etc), but because none of it actually depresses me – unless it is badly played, as is often the case! Yet Veldes, hailing from Slovenia, have produced a contender for EP of the year in Skyward, whose subtleties and mournful atmosphere have had bloggers furiously typing DSBM next to their reviews. Skyward is rather four tracks of beautiful, wistful black metal that reaches for the stars, and if it falls short, it is only due to its brevity. ColdWorld are a major influence – no bad thing, as there is plenty of originality to be found in these four tracks. The cleverly utilised keyboard and piano passages work in tandem with heavily distorted guitars, as on ‘Woe Eater’, where, towards the end of the song, as the guitars evaporate and finally the keyboard and piano melodies fade out, the listener is left entranced and bewitched. Striking in its simplicity and splendour, this is an EP that could mark an important beginning, and I implore you to seek it out before it disappears into the mists of time. geoff birchenall 5

wayfarerWayfarer
Children Of The Iron Age
Prosthetic

A decent debut by the Denver four-piece, even if completely by-the-numbers when it comes to this type of music. With the exception of two tracks, everything on here is either approaching or over the ten-minute mark, all very carefully woven into expansive musical tapestries that cover everything from black metal (atmospheric black metal, of course) and rock to folk and world music. Three references should give a close fix on what these dudes are offering, and they are Alcest, An Autumn For Crippled Children, and Agalloch – and, come to think of it, pretty much every other band that create this type of meandering metal. Although there has clearly been a serious amount of time spent in the construction and execution of these songs, there’s nothing at all surprising or outstanding about any of them. In that respect, it’s quite difficult to get excited about this album, both despite and because of the fact that they have masterfully emulated what the aforementioned bands have offered in the past. Children Of The Iron Age is a decent album, but it’s not nearly as creative as it likes to think it is. john norby 3

woodtempleWoodtemple
Forgotten Pride
Sacrilege Records
The only other Woodtemple release in my possession is 2008’s Sorrow Of The Wind, a not-very-remarkable album that I have a lot of affection for, so I gave it a spin before checking out Forgotten Pride. The structure of both albums is identical: atmospheric intro, four real songs, atmospheric outro. The content is similar, too: pagan BM, borrowing heavily from Graveland, and at its best in the acoustic, atmospheric parts which crop up all over Sorrow… but are even more central here. The big flaw with Sorrow… was the horrible, thin production, which compressed most of the instrumentation in the harsh metal parts while foregrounding the vocals and drums in an incongruous way, and surprisingly, Forgotten Pride is only marginally better – a shame, because songs like ‘Sign Of The Sun’ have a Drudkh-like charm which should saturate the listener with melancholy but are, instead, distantly wistful. The strangely upfront drums are very likeable, but Aramath’s voice, fine in itself, tends to become detached from its surroundings. Another fine-but-flawed Woodtemple release. will pinfold 3

WREKMEISTER HARMONIESWrekmeister Harmonies
Then It All Came Down
Thrill Jockey

Wrekmeister Harmonies, the brainchild of J.R. Robinson, have been active since 2006, although this, the band’s second album proper, is the first time I’ve come across the material of this 12-piece drone/doom ensemble. The artwork for Then It All Came Down is provided by Grayson Currin, and the fact that he has worked with SunnO))), Earth, WITTR, et al, gives as much of a hint as to the content of the album as his beautifully realised design. TIACD takes its title from an interview with notorious entertainer- cum-murderer Bobby Beausoleil, by Truman Capote, which is believed to reveal hidden truths behind the events surrounding the Manson family. The album is a two-track treat, combining elements of the sort of elusive, minimal pulsing drone mastered by the likes Eleh and Eliane Radigue with doom and post-black metal elements, including the odd outburst of harsh vocals, which could see them completing a bill with Locrian and Menace Ruine. The way that WH manage to build intensity throughout is staggering, culminating in a fearsome finishing flourish, sounding like Godspeed… done Silent Hill-style. Gnaw Their Tongues man Mories’ work as Seirom is a reasonable reference point, although it is clear that there is an enormous amount of creative integrity to WH and they dance very much to their own tune. geoff birchenall 4.5

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