And so, another month, another selection of short reviews. As always, it’s an eclectic selection, taking in a dark abmient soundtrack by Guillermo Pizarro; classic speed metal from Wardance; a reissue of some occult black metal, courtesy of Shaidar Logoth and Sentient Ruin; retro-rock from Wheel in the Sky; stomping hardcore from Peace of Mind; and some crushing death metal in the shape of Skeletal Serpent‘s self-titled EP. Enjoy!
Guillermo Pizarro – Three: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Label: Flag Day Recordings
Fairly short, at just over ten minutes, Three still manages to be a very unsettling listen even when divorced of its motion picture context. Guillermo Pizarro weaves together dark ambient and drone in to a soundscape that tells its own story, full of tension and fear, where escape is an illusion – even the relatively sedate ‘A Father’s Love’ takes on an uncomfortable air thanks to its surrounding tracks.
Even though the tension remains high throughout, there is a nice ebb and flow to the actual music, with a good understanding of space being vital to the success of Three. It’s not a comfortable listen by any stretch, but its relative brevity, and origin as a soundtrack, give it an accessibility that is often lacking in such music – and that’s a plus.
Wardance – Heaven is for Sale
Label: Dying Victims Productions
How good is that artwork? Originally released at the start of the 90’s, Heaven is for Sale is the only album release from German power/thrash/speed band Wardance, now being reissued by Dying Victims Productions. It’s easy to hear why it’s being given a new lease of life; with its energetic riffs and non-stop forward pace, this is classic speed metal through-and-through – unfashionable as fuck and all the better for it.
There’s a bit of a rough edge to Heaven is for Sale, thanks in large part to Sandra Schumacher’s vocals. Melodic yet raw, they have an undeniable power and charisma that’s more in line with punk vocals that what might be expected from classic metal. There’s a fair bit of variety to the album, too, with ragers such as ‘Neverending Nightmare’ sat next to the epic not-quite-a-ballad that is ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’. The album is really all about getting fists pumping and heads banging, and it does a fine job of that. Hardly flashy, but a lot of fun. The CD version contains a heap of bonus tracks, too, making it of interest to old fans.
Shaidar Logoth – Chapter II: The Ritualist
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
As well as releasing some of the best, most challenging underground metal out there, Sentient Ruin are also doing a great job of giving new (un)life to records that might otherwise have slipped through the cracks, lost to time thanks to record label closures and the like. That could well have been the fate of Chapter II: The Ritualist by Shaidar Logoth, but this piece of excellent USBM is now available again.
Whilst most black metal is music of hate, this is an album filled instead with dread and terror; there are aspects of dark ambient here that compliment the ritualistic black metal well. Said metal is reminiscent of Weakling, not so much in sound (though a comparisson is valid), but certainly in terms of atmosphere. Chapter II: The Ritualist is music that taps in to the other, and deserves to be talked of in the same breath as the likes of Ash Borer or Blut Aus Nord’s more experimental works. It’s an excellent record, and I’m so glad it’s been given another chance to unleash its horrors upon the underground.
Wheel in the Sky – Beyond the Pale
Label: The Sign Records
Listening to Beyond the Pale had me checking the promo information a few minutes in – is this really being released in 2018? I don’t mean this in a negative way, but so convincing are its retro-rock vibes that, production aside, the latest album from Wheel in the Sky could easily be mistaken for a reissue and remaster of some long-lost 70’s cult classic. This is classic rock through-and-through, with the ghosts of bands like Fleetwood Mac hanging heavy over it.
Is it original? Hardly, but nor is it trying to me. The hints of gothic rock that ocassionally raise their heads throughout the course of Beyond the Pale don’t change its fundamental character – musically conservative, learning the lessons of old and pulling together the best parts from past masters. It’s music for knocking back drinks, having a little dance, and generally having a grand old time with your best buddies (and new friends, too). My dad would probably love this, and for such music, I can’t think of a higher compliment.
Peace of Mind – Penance
Label: Dead Serious Recordings
The hardcore delivered by Peace of Mind is absolutely of the no-bullshit variety, as during the course of Penance, the kind of comparisons that come to mind are Madball, Terror, and the hardest-hitting of hardcore. Heavy beatdown riffs, crushing breakdowns, and impassioned vocals are the order of the day, and it all sounds absolutely great.
At just over twenty-five minutes, Penance is pretty much the ideal length for a beatdown album; long enough to leave a lasting impression, but brief enough not to be exhausting. There’s a melodic riffs, too – as on ‘How Does it Feel’, which also includes some clean vocals – which helps stop the album’s brutality becoming overwhelming. Yet nor does it ever really let up, providing a constant rush of energy, and the kind of riffs that practically demand spontaneous moshing in your bedroom. Great stuff!
Skeletal Serpent – s/t
Label: Blackened Death Records
Yet another project that Pope Richard of Blackened Death Records is involved in, making this roughly seventeen bajillion at the last count. With Skeletal Serpent, he’s teamed up with Andy Kang, who has handled all of the music, whilst the Pope contributes vocals. Their self-titled EP is a three-track blast of death and doom metal (though not quite death/doom, if that makes sense), with a slightly melancholic edge and a hell of a lot of power.
Crushing death metal riffs are the driving force behind the EP, with the tempos veering between the glacial and the punishingly fast. There’s some surprisingly deft moments amongst the brutality, too, such as the bass melody just after the mid-point of ‘Bone Collector’, and the piano-led outro to closer ‘Serpentagram’. For such a short record, there’s a lot of variety present on Skeletal Serpent, and it’d be very interesting to see what the duo can do with a full-length.