Sunday, October 28, 2007

There Are Thousands Of Graves Amongst The Trees ...

As previously mentioned, Paramaecium is an Australian Doom/Death metal band with Christian themes. They are often compared to early My Dying Bride, but having never heard any My Dying Bride albums, I'll have to take their word for it. What I do know is that Paramaecium play solid crushing doom metal with sickly death growls and gothic ambiance.

On the bands sophomore album "Within The Ancient Forest" we see them take a bit more of a melodic edge and more emphasis on female vocals and a mish mash of alternate instruments. However, the bone-crushing guitars are still predominant and Andrew Tompkins death growls make up the majority of the vocals.

"Within The Ancient Forest" is a concept album based on Andrew Tompkins novel of the same name and is essential the tale of an old man's journey of spiritual enlightenment.

The album starts with the hymn-like "In Exordium" which is a powerful and moving song and starts the album off on a high emotional point. Then "Song Of The Ancients" takes it down a notch, though still melodic with an uplifting feel. However, the crunchy doom riffs and deathy vocals help to create a sweetly melancholic sound.

"I Am Not Alive" is probably my favourite track here, opening with a harpsichord before moving into a crushing dark, doomy thrash riff with female soprano vocals carrying over. A real nice eerie touch. "Of My Darkest Hour" is similar in style, though a little thicker and crunchier with haunting, dark melodies with a dash a hope.

"The Grave, My Soul" is a droning doom song that feels dragging, but mixes things up towards the end though perhaps a little late in the song. "Gone Is My Former Resolve" opens with a Metallica style acoustic intro into a heavy death/doom song with thrashy riffs and haunting melodies for a more gothy sound.

The album closes with "Darkness Dies" which is a moving, hopeful doom song and a nice acoustic/flute intro.

"Within The Ancient Forest" was my most anticipated of Paramaecium's releases, but is my least favourite. The mix of vocals is nice, but the death style seems muddled and incoherent and the songs don't have the staying power of their other releases.

Up next, I'll look Paramaecium's third outing "A Time To Mourn" which is the album I tend to go to when I wanna hear solid doom/death metal.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Our Warcry Fills The Sky, The Glorious Falcon Flies

On Slechtvalk's third outing the band takes another turn towards a viking metal sound as well as losing the heavy symphonic sound of their earlier works. That's not to say the keyboards are not present, but they are used mostly to thicken the sound and enhance the viking choruses and folk styles.

With each album Slechtvalk gets stronger and better. "Falconry" was a good debut, "The War That Plagues The Land" continued the strong song writing and with the addition of a band the music did not sound as manufactured. With "At The Dawn Of War" the production is great and the music is melodic and memorable and brutal and dark.

The album begins with the bard-like medievally folk tune "From Out Of The Mist We Came Forth". The acoustic guitars and wood winds create an authentic mood for this album of battles and spoils. That's the biggest thing I noticed here, the absence of their (or at least Shamgar's) Christian leanings and instead focuses on the brutality of war with fairly realistic vividness.

After a haunting, eerie intro "Call To Arms" blasts into us with fierce black metal (again with strong influences of newer Antestor). It's a epic song with haunting interludes and Viking majesty. "The Spoils Of Treason" is the other epic majestically Viking tune and not only is it my favourite track here, but also my favourite Slechtvalk song in their catalogue. Much like "My Last Call" from "T.W.T.P.T.L" it is rhythmically bleak with majestic atmospheric viking influenced black metal. With huge choir choruses and brilliant and moving guitar work "The Spoils Of Treason" shows victories dark side.

"Mortal Serenity", "Besieged" and "Thunder Of War" are solid black metal songs straight forward and brutal each with their unique blends of soprano/choir vocals to create some atmosphere. "Mortal Serenity" has a dark killer riff in the last bit of the song.

"Desertion" is a fast brutal black metal song with an acoustic interlude, and "Black Raven Death (or Dead)" is pummelling with dark, sinister and haunting overtones. "On The Eve Of Battle" is melodic and hooky and moving with some nice piano.

"Under A Moonlit Sky" closes the album with folk like symphonic black metal and is melodic and rhythmic. It is a little throw back to old Slechtvalk sound and although it is a good song, it does feel a little out of place. That's just a minor critique though.

"At The Dawn Of War" in my opinion is Slechtvalk's best album and I love the melodic brutality. I'm looking forward to this band's future work.

Up next I'm going to finish off the album catalogue of doom/death metal band Paramaecium. Feel free to get a jump on them by reading my first posting on their first full length album "Exhumed Of The Earth".


Sunday, October 14, 2007

My King Has Shown Me Mecry, When I Should Have Been Punished By Death

After the success of Shamgar's Slechtvalk solo venture "Falconry" he took the opportunity to form a band and by 2002, Slechtvalk were (back) in the studio to record their adventurous sophomore (band debut) release "The War That Plagues The Land". They also released a split ep with Fear Dark label mates Kekal as a teaser just before, but I don't own that.

"The War That Plagues The Land" is a concept album about a warrior reprieved by his King after letting his troops get slaughtered by falling asleep while on watch. It tells of his journey for self forgiveness and his confrontation with Death and eternal life. All the while contemplating the state of the world and its wickedness.

The story is a little disjointed and simplistic, but if I recall an interview with Shamgar, he stated that he would most likely not tackle a concept album again as it is too hard to confine his larger stories to the formats of a metal album while keeping the story and characters complete.

All the same, Shamgar tackles a tale of medieval honour and human frailty with the subtle undertones of Christian moralities. Or so I got out of it. The music, however, is epic, bleak and brutal with emotional conviction.

"T.W.T.P.T.L." starts off with no interlude-ish opening often used to start concept albums, but blasts right into a solid force of symphonic black metal with a viking metal touch on the album opener "Of Slumber And Death". The viking influence is mostly with the male chorus's and clean narratives on a few tracks.

"From Behind The Trees" is similar with more narrative and features soprano vocals by Fionnghuala. "A Call In The Night" is a mid-paced melodic Viking metal influenced piece with some dark touches. And "War Of The Ancients" symphonic epic-ness brings to mind Viking metal legends Thyrfing. "The Falcon's Flight" is a majestic instrumental with melodic guitar work.

"And Thus It Burns" is a fast straight forward black metal tune. "Burying The Dead" is a majestic black metal piece with atmospheric melodies and "The Dragon's Children" is a bleak and darkly sinister song with the heaviest riff on the album whose eerie, airy outro leads into the album closer "In Paradisium"

If I'm not correct, and there is a good chance I might be, but I think Shamgar has said that "In Paradisium" is one of the first Slechtvalk songs written and yet it fits beautifully at the end of this epic adventure. It starts off with a dark doom/gothic feel and builds into a powerful, majestic and hauntingly uplifting song.

This album is chalked full of quality music, but the songs that stand out are "A Plea For The King" which is a hauntingly bleak atmospheric black metal song. The chilling soprano vocals is a nice contrast to the black/death vocals. My favourite track is "My Last Call". It's bleak and sorrowful yet epically majestic. It has the melodic sensibility of European power metal in a black metal tune. A fantastic song.

"The War That Plagues The Land" shows Slechtvalk are not a fleeting band, but have the staying power of black metal greats. Their sound is solid and stylistic and refreshingly familiar. For a debut band release, this is a strong album with great songs and excellent musicians.

Up next is Slechtvalk's third opus "At The Dawn Of War" and the band reminds us what it's like to be brutally melodic.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Satanic Forest Consumed By Flames ...

Slechtvalk began as a one man project by Dutchman Shamgar and has grown into a full band (with 6 or 7 members at one point). Today, I'll be reviewing the first full length album "Falconry" by the man Shamgar. No demos were ever recorded so "Falconry" is a progression of Shamgar's growth as a songwriter over a couple years. The earlier written songs have a strong keyboard element whereas the later written songs are more straight forward black metal.

"Falconry" kicks off with the symphonic laden "Cries Of The Haunted". It's bleak raw sound reminds me of "Return Of The Black Death" era Antestor. It's fast and melodic and one of the better tracks on the album. "T.M.B.W.G.M.N.I" continues the strong keyboard sound with more of an industrial feel not unlike Kekal (fellow label mates).

"In Hell I Burn" is the first straight up black metal song. It's raw and fast without losing melody. The outro is enhanced by the keyboards and creates a sorrowful feeling. "My Bleeding Heart" intros with a gothic sound and mechanical sounding drums (all done via drum machine and for the most part very well done). This song is slower and majestic.

"To Praise The Unpraised" is a solid slab of black metal with the guitar riff carrying a lot of the melody. It's a little faster with dual black and death vocals. It's catchy and brutally uplifting. But not as much as "The Satanic Forest". This song is probably my favourite on the album. It's keyboard heavy with a very uplifting melody and the song moves with a majestic flow. A very memorable tune.

"Consumed By Flames" opens with eerie keyboards before bludgeoning us with an epically majestic black metal tune. This song is solid symphonic black metal. Very melodic. "My Eternal Beloved" is more bleak with the heaviest riff on the album and more death metal vocal stylings mixed with the black screech. It's slower and sorrowful.

The album closer "De Verdrongen Tekenen" finishes with a little faster pace and melodic black metal. the keys aren't as prominent and the sound is raw and sad.

This is not Shamgar's best work, but a very strong start. The production suffers mildly with some muffledness, but given this was recorded on his home computer, it's pretty solid. The mix is good with nothing being to over bearing, though the vocals at times seem to low. A miner critiqued that is fixed by just cranking the volume! The drum work is solid and though you can pick out the machine feel, they tend to blend with music and do not sound hollow and fake.

Next week I'll be taking a look at Slechtvalk the band and let me just say that Shamgar (with "Falconry") has begun something very good.