Given that the first installment went well, I’ll be trying to regularly release a series of shorter reviews. For February’s lot, I take a look at Ghost Horizon‘s Astral Possession; a split of unholy death/thrash/black between Turbocharged and Ragehammer in the form of their Enlightenment by Bloodletting 7″; Atrament unleash Eternal Downfall; Hellenic black metal from Meneapneontes on their Promachos album; Sorrow Plagues‘ self-titled post-black metal album; and the latest release by Hellenic black metal legends Rotting Christ, Rituals.
Atrament – Eternal Downfall
Not so much blackened crust as crust with blackened elements to it, Eternal Downfall is a prime example of how small differences can matter a lot. There’s plenty of typical d-beat and crust elements here, and fans of Wolfpack and Skitsystem will be well served. The black metal elements help give Atrament a bit of extra character, and mark them out from their more classic influences, but on the whole this is a solid slice of raging crust. It’s not the most revolutionary release, but what makes it stand out is the impressive violence and energy on display, and at just over 30 minutes long, there’s plenty here to sink your teeth in to.
Ghost Horizon – Astral Possession
This is an interesting one. The press release for the debut EP from Ghost Horizon mentions Wolves In The Throne Room and Alcest, and both are valid comparisons, but there’s also something about Astral Possession that makes me think of Bathory’s viking albums. It’s definitely more black than viking metal, but it has that same kind of epic scope, and a very real sense of ambition. There’s even post-rock elements, most notably during the section bridging together opener “Pale Apparition” and “Spectral Threnody”, but it all comes together and works – even if it takes a few listens to really get a handle on it all. There’s vast potential here, and I’ve heard few records recently that blend such diverse styles as well as Ghost Horizon do here.
Meneapneontes – Promachos
Label: Satanath Records
There’s no mistaking Promachos for anything other than what it is – Hellenic black metal, full of Greek pride and passion. There’s shades of later-day Rotting Christ to it too, particularly in some of the palm-muted riffs that launch in to undeniably epic sections (best exemplified by the opening title track). The production is fairly raw, giving the album a grounded, earthly feel, that keeps it rooted even as the lyrics tell tales of Greek heroism – songs such as “My Earth My Water” and closer “Roupel” are undeniably stirring, regardless of your background. Meneapneontes even throw some more creative elements in to the mix, as during “Alexandros”. A very assured debut, with signs that the duo could forge a very distinct identity within Greek black metal.
Rotting Christ – Rituals
Label: Season Of Mist
Confession time: I couldn’t stand this on first listen. It lacked that spark, that vitality that makes Rotting Christ such a great band. It’s there though, but the different direction the band have taken on Rituals might obscure it at first. Their latest evolution is more considered and weighty that previous records, with the moments of aggression more measured. It’s still a mighty album though, with “Elthe Kyrie” a particular highlight – not just because it’s one of the fastest songs, but for the desperate female vocals that provide a very anxious atmosphere. That it’s an evolution is apparent too, building naturally upon the path Rotting Christ have taken since Theogonia. Ranking it amongst their considerable discography with real certainty feels difficult at this point, but it’s definitely one of their better albums, even if it might take time to realise it.
Sorrow Plagues – Sorrow Plagues
Far be it from me to tell you what to do, but if you’re the kind of person who gets driven in to a “that’s not black metal!” rage by the thought of Deaheaven, Liturgy et al., then stay far, far away from the self-titled album by Sorrow Plagues. This isn’t so much post-black metal as it is shoegaze or dream-pop with very heavy black metal elements (post-blackgaze? Forget I suggested that). The guitars are almost always buried beneath wave upon wave of gorgeous synths and strings, and there’s no shortage of sorrowful piano and clean guitars. The harsh vocals represent the clearest link to black metal, and combined with often intense drumming and an overwhelming atmosphere, it all starts to work. Definitely one you need to be in the right kind of mood for though, though just what that mood is will vary – on one listen it feels euphoric, on another, utterly depressing. Certainly not one for those who care solely about kvlt, but adventurous music fans may well find a lot to love here.
Turbocharged / Ragehammer – Enlightenment By Bloodletting (split)
By contrast, Enlightenment By Bloodletting could hardly be more metal if it tried. Both Turbocharged and Ragehammer offer up extreme metal that recalls the 80’s, when the boundaries between thrash, death, and black metal were yet to be fully drawn, and all that mattered was whether the music made you bang your head. Both bands completely succeed on that count, with “Bloodletting” (Turbocharged) and “PanzerFaustian Enlightenment” (Ragehammer) being utterly blasphemous slices of extreme metal, full of attitude – I especially like the shift in to slower tempos during “Bloodletting”, which sets up the final minute very well. The only complaint is that both bands only get one song each – this split leaves me desperately wanting more, though that’s easily solved just by hitting play again. A great split, albeit one that’s very short.