Infinitum Obscure (Mexico): Sub Atras Caelis
Metal occultism—in the sense of certain guitar/drum patterns (not necessarily referring just to the lyrical methods) is a particular metal strand informed by its own perspective/tradition—is a real entity, as Infinitum Obscure amply shows on this album.
Quite a classy approach, this one takes, with the mighty metal of death guitar tone/sound/heritage, and with the drumming, too. This guitar tone is one of the bravest: with this guitar tone, you can hear what the band is playing because it is upfront and clear. Therefore, devoid of trickery or deceit, you can decipher the guitar and hear how the band has organized each song, from one riff to the next, and the one following that, until the song ends.
The first impression will be black/death metal, with the sounds of “darkness” and the “underground” tradition. It does have those things.
But listen closely and these guitar riffs, licks and solos will practically reach out and grab you ear. What is the result? Metal that sounds meticulously constructed down to the last detail, but which appears unusually smooth, fluid and with a particular elegance of style and harmonious.
These riffs are an open invitation to bang your head. Or, if like some people, your neck has health problems, you can at least nod along in metal agreement throughout the whole cd: the sounds of the metal of death have a very specific tradition, but they are also, pound for pound, some of the most talented of metal guitar work.
About the vocals: the vocals are closer, possibly, to black metal, but this is NOT shrieked/raspy vocals, but a thicker/heavier/deeper growl. In other words, its appeal is for both death and black metal.
The drum work is done so well and correct and smoothly, that it doesn’t distract from the song. It’s not about showing off or doing strange beats or things like that. Rather, the drumming is like very organized, but big-idea drumming. Check out the track “Messenger of Chaos, I” (from this album and available on myspace, too) and hear for yourself a great example of the type of guitar tone and sounds, the proficient drumming, the vocals, the swirling guitar work and the general atmosphere that has been created. Some would say, it is the “cold darkness” of this band that stands out.
OK, well, fine. One more thing: the whole album is at that level of quality. The above example song is no fluke and it is representative.
Liktjern (Norway): Kulde, Pest & Død
Necrogrim black metal with the corpsepaint, chains, spikes, hatchets, bullet belts, leather, inverted crosses, skulls and every kind of obscurantism you can imagine.
These vocals are tortured by the black metal insight; the guitar sound is no friend of the studio or your ears!
The four songs waste no time on experimentation or any funny business for that matter. Chaotic, sloppy black metal pounding along to tremolo riffs.
An abrasive sound that they go for in this recording, which has demo-quality sound. Avoid if you require good production.
“Kirkebrann” (4:57) is no friend of certain buildings but friendly to fire and pyromaniacs. The speed is not blasting or super speedy, though it is a nice headbanging/uptempo pace and those tremolo riffs wind their way in trance-repetition mode: it pretty much sounds like it’s the same chord for the whole song.
There are three other songs and they are demonstrations in how to make music that sounds like the vocalist is taking his vocal chords to the limit. And he likes it! And he’s not the only one that likes.
The band declares that what they have in mind is called “true Norwegian black metal” and that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
It is fugly, fugly metal.
Rotting Christ (Greece): Aealo (Season of Mist)
“Eon Aenaos” (3:59): A chunky chug-chug upbeat rhythm drives this, as well as an ear-candy melody (even pop-ish melodies); the growling is deep; uptempo song meant to be for headbanging; the result is something like a “rocking” upbeat, heavy-melodic goth track.
“Demonon Vrosis” (4:56): Midtempo goth-growl melodic, with a bluesy-melancholic guitar solo done in a very clear guitar tone, as are just about all the guitar melodies.
“Noctis Era” (4:49): Midtempo melodic goth-growl song; the energy level seems to have settled into a comfortable middle-of-the-road “rocking” along vibe; this is enhanced with background sounds that are kind of symphonic (but not too loud; it’s not upfront); of course, then there are those melodies played at a clear, high range.
“dub-sag-ta-ke” (2:59): Uptempo, harder “rocking” speedy track with some gang-shouting chanting and some high-clear singing. It goes by quickly
“Fire Death and Fear” (4:34): Another uptempo/midtempo track with some background “world-music” sounds (chanting, etc.); the track is part heavy, part light, but not in separate sections; rather, they run together and mix: “goth-growl” music? There is some “weirdness” or “experimentation” going on, but that’s taking place throughout the whole album
“Nekron Iahes” (1:08): Nothing but chanting something that sounds like the word “hey” being stretched out, as in “hhhheeeeyyyyyy heyyyyyyyyyyy” (don’t know exactly what the word could be) chanted in high voices and then it’s over; is this joke, genius or just plain annoying?!
There are other songs, of course. These are some examples from the first half of the album.
Hopefully that conveys the idea of what’s going on here. To some, this band is very hip or ahead of its time or adventurous or something like that. Whatever the word would be for people who are a pretty weird bunch but still use some, even substantial, metal elements. Maybe this is considered totally normal in some circles; or just normal goth metal. Don’t know.
This is the kind of album that some people will say that it opens their perspective to experimenting and things like that. The band obviously knows what they are doing.
On the other hand, if you are interested in words like “true” anything or “pure” this or you are “anti” this or “against” this or that “false” thing or whatever, you may want to stay away as far as possible because this band, this Rotting Christ, will make you angry or you’ll start ranting and raving. Save yourself the stress attack.
By the way, “Orders from the Dead” (Diamanda Galas cover) (8:57) is a spoken-word track, with some background music. It’s some sort of poem read aloud or something similar. Don’t know who they are covering. There is no singing or growling, but some person talking, sounding like a mystic or prophet or something like that (don’t know, really) declaring facts or observations. Some will understand and like; others might not; you decide.
Skogen (Sweden): Vittra (Frostscald/Hexenhammer)
How can Skogen be diverse elements and then bring them all together into cohesiveness?
Skogen is traditional, raw: tremolo riffs and those black metal vocals. Skogen is a prog metal band that has taken their prog to the lands of black metal; their songs often are eight or nine minutes long, where they work it out and bring it to fruition. Skogen is a folk/forest/atmospheric band that incorporated black metal into their craft; there are acoustic passages, and such other characteristic, important components. Skogen also uses some very clear and shiny guitar melancholies and even a bit of clean vocals for atmosphere. Of course, they do NOT use those clean vocals a lot and it’s not a formula; it’s a tiny bit, for background feeling, in a few places.
The album as a totality shows that they have done a lot with raw black metal, giving their music other angles, edges, sounds. This is big-idea, ambitious music and they sound as if they are making music only for themselves (there are only two people involved) and with no major goal of pleasing anyone else. The fact that other people like it, that’s a bonus. (Svensson and Nilsson play all instruments; drums are not listed, which may mean it’s a drum machine; the overall sound quality is good, though; maybe next time use a real drummer)
Something adventurous, different, but still very much for metal people, especially those into more ambitious music.
Here’s where you can listen: