post punk / new wave / goth rock
Heading from Bristol, Naut decided to ignore all current trends and to look back to the dark eighties. Now, this five-piece comes with a baffling debut EP, containing five pitch black goth rock tunes. Influences from bands like Sisters Of Mercy and Killing Joke run rampant and come with the overwhelming energy of post punk acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain. Song like opener 'Disintegration' and 'I'm Here' are destined to fill dark dancefloors everywhere. My personal favorite here is closer 'XVI'. It makes me curious and hungry for more, but for now I'm sure that this EP will be an excellent addition to every post punk / goth rock collection.
doom / sludge
Sheffield doom mongers Kurokuma return with a two track EP, based on the Dope Rider strip from High Times in the 70s. The artwork comes from Paul Kirchner, the creator of the strip. The music is another slab of severe psychotic sludge doom, five and eight minutes long. Part 1 also showcases something industrial, reflected by repetitive, almost methodical drums. Part 2 simply continues to slow but brutal pummeling. Fans of bands like Conan, Dopethrone and Yob can easily trust Kurokuma to deliver the monolithic riffs and fierce vocals they crave so much. So if you want your sludge metal as destructive as a wrecking ball, this EP should do.
post-metal / doom / alternative rock
Several months after the release of 'Serrated', Dutch heavy rockers An Evening With Knives unleash three songs that did not make the album because of the limited space on the vinyl. Yet, these songs were to important for the band to be ignored. Opener and title track 'Fade Out' deals with the death of Marco’s father due to Alzheimer disease. It's a long, heavy and cathartic lamentation, showcasing the darkest side of this band. The other two songs follow that example, be it a bit shorter. They all walk a similar path as the songs on 'Serrated', and thus would also fit perfectly into every sludge, doom and grunge collection. These guys are growing steadily, that's for sure.
electronic / ambient / experimental
An alienating two track EP that will leave you confused and entangled, that is what Soho Rezanejad delivers. Subtle electronics, minimalist drones, gloomy soundscapes and her vocals come together in two lengthy modern day folk songs. I can't help but think about a mix between Zola Jesus and Diamanda Galas, be it a bit less creepy than the latter. Yet, there is emotion, there is fear, mourning, wonder and hope in these two tracks. There is a mystifying atmosphere, one that borrows elements from dark ambient. Yet, above all perhaps, this is a unique piece of work, reminding me of an act like Dark Ensemble. Recommended only for eternally wandering souls.
post rock / post metal / stoner / sludge
In today's post rock scene, new bands pop up like mushrooms. Würzburg residents The Man Within are one of those newcomers. Mostly, that first effort comes with a low production and a careful introduction in what the band really is capable of. Yet, here that results in a full-blown post metal album with seven outstanding tracks. Most of them, including 'Mount Santo', my favorite 'Institution' (that rolling bass is hot!!!) and the massive 'Limitless' can easily entertain audiences far and wide. Although firmly rooted in the post-scene, elements from sludge metal, psychedelic rock and stoner rock are never far away. A great introduction, now let's hope they can confirm this in the near future.
The new brainchild of Nachtzeit, the man behind ambient dark metal project Lustre, comes up with an interesting dark ambient album. Although playful at time, this album takes us back to the mysterious and dark age of the Norse gods. Early in 'Drömmarna' acts like Mortiis (on Cold Meat Industry) and Wongraven come to mind. Synths, soundscapes and dreamy melodies guide the listening on a musical tour of medieval Europe, so it seems, highlighting in 'Löftet' and 'Tårarn'. Strangely, the title track 'Hädanfärden' has an X-Files OST feeling about it, which isn't bad, on the contrary. Fans of old school medieval dark ambient can easily appreciate this album.
alternative rock / hard rock / grunge
Belgian hard rock duo Breakfast At Midnight proves that two is enough to create heaps of noise. On this debut EP they blast seven tracks through our speakers, beginning with the heavy rocking 'Kidi Coke'. From then on, the rock doesn't seem to stop. Inspired by anything between Tool, Queens Of The Stone Age and Stone Temple Pilots, these two feed an everlasting fire. Most tracks drive on sheer energy but in 'What I'm To Say' and in '1813', the band delves deeply into the Pearl Jam version of grunge rock. Here, the vocals are excellent and clean while the other tunes contain heaps of aggressive screams. Not that I mind, this is pure rock 'n roll: raw, rough and heavy.
black metal / death metal
Grab onto something now because Ukrainian trio Goatsperm is about to unload a hellish, chaotic and vulgar EP, loaded with orthodox black/death metal. 'Voice In The Womb' contains three tracks, each one being a pummeling piece of extreme metal, as dark as Satan's butthole but with an ambient breather here and there. Somehow, this trio manages to combine atmospheric passages with sheer metallic terror, something that might indeed make a lot of banging heads turn their way in the near future. Besides, 'Into The Deep Waters Of Catacombs' is one of the fiercest black metal tunes I've heard this year. If you're a self-respecting extremist, you need this.
krautrock / shoegaze / punk
What would have happened if Ramones used My Bloody Valentine's guitar effects? What would a punk rock cover album of Neu! songs sound like? Well, Finnish six piece Teksti-TV 666 might have a decent answer for you. 'Aidattu Tulevaisuus' delivers six high-octane krautrock tunes with the raw energy of punk and the immersive nature of shoegaze. I admit, it is something different from the usual slabs of rock 'n roll that appear here but 'Turbo-Mondeo' and 'Aidattu tulevaisuus' can easily get your behind shaking. My favorite here is the somewhat slower 'Rauhankone', which might be described as a down-to-earth space rock track. Recommended? Hell yeah!
ambient / electronic / experimental
Hailing from Porto, Vitor Joaquim is a sound sculptor and visual artist, active around the strange borders between soothing ambient and otherworldly noise. This new album, 'Impermanence' contains seven tracks, revolving around repetitive soundscapes, almost subconscious loops and immersive musical textures. Here and there vocals samples have been added to increase the narrative nature of the music. That, along with the minimal soundscapes, makes the title track my favorite here but I'm sure that every fan of decent ambient music can appreciate these sounds. Obviously, this comes highly recommended.
ambient / drone / experimental / noise
An even more noisy and experimental variation on ambient sounds comes from Han, a project by Vitor Joaquim and Emidio Buchinho. This album revolves around live improvisation and real time processing, which results in something severely unusual and highly experimental. Yet, behind the gritty freestyle on the guitar, beautiful ambient loops lurk. These seven tracks are weird, immersive in one way, yet restrained and peculiar. Somehow this album feels like the early days of drone experimentation, when artists were exploring the other possibilities of their instruments. In all, this is an interesting release to dive into, but only for experienced avant gardists...
An Evening With Knives - Serrated
post-metal / doom / alternative rock
Autger - God Kissing Carrion
dark jazz / ambient / experimental / trip hop
Lamirāl - This EP Has No Name And It's Alright
Gray Dog - The Deal
Paulie Jan - Yukio (A Brief Sonic Evocation)
dark ambient / noise
Lachrymose - The Unseen
doom / occult metal
Disowning - Battle of Neverness
Gravecoven - Coughing Blood
black metal / doom / death metal
Vandal Moon - Wild Insane
post punk / synth pop
Sense Fracture - In My Escape I look For A Weapon
breakcore / industrial
Richard James Simpson - Sweet Birds Of Youth
alternative rock / blues
style of Tool and quite a bit of grunge - vocals that remind of Cobain included. So go buy this one if you appreciate something that refuses to fit into one box.
Nhung Nguyen – Oblivion
ambient / experimental
A few decades ago, Moonspell became one of my favorite bands ever. With masterpieces like 'Wolfheart' and 'Irreligious', the Portuguese gothic metal horde literally changed my life. For the record, Tiamat and The Gathering belong in that same category. That era was a defining one in my life, and in that of countless of other people.
Yet, as has happened with a lot of bands, I gradually moved away from the genre and into other things. Those two records remained a constant but most of the others simply passed me by. Again, Tiamat and The Gathering belong in that same category.
But recently, '1755' came in, and I, having returned back to my many roots since becoming a music journalist, was curious. On one hand, I didn't really want to review the album. The philosophy of Merchants Of Air is to push young, up and coming bands, which Moonspell is not. Second, there are those two albums from the nineties, which will forever haunt my image about Moonspell. Yet, eventually I decided to give it a listen and bark out a few words about the thing.
The album opens with a bombastic piece of neoclassical music, combined with those well-known grunts, in 'Em Nome Do Medo'. This might be one of the longest intros for metal albums ever. Either that or Moonspell turned into something even Richard Wagner would appreciate. The intense classical arrangements remain a constant throughout the entire album. Here and there, they even remind me more of Therion than Moonspell.
Nonetheless, once again Moonspell showcase their flair for combining excellent songwriting with immersive riffing. 'Abanão', for instance, is so epic that it immediately catapults the listener to those glorious nineties. That being said, perhaps some fans might find these arrangements and choirs a bit over the top. I have to admit, they are extremely present. But as far as nostalgia goes, this album is a smasher.
The verdict? Well, with brilliant pieces of music like 'Evento' and 'Ruinas' and headbangers like 'De Novembro', Moonspell delivered another classic in a genre that urgently needs this kind of forward thinking musicality. '1755' is no 'Wolfheart' or 'Irreligious' but it's undoubtedly a strong and vibrant Moonspell album which definitely earns a place in your ever expanding collection. Fans can easily trust this one to be to their liking, that's for sure. Check it out if you haven't already.
doom / gothic metal
Yesterday, I was at a friend's house, drinking Irish coffee and talking about music. The subject was differences in quality between classic albums and modern day attempts. Every musical genre has its classic, must-have albums, released years or decades ago. My friend claimed that modern day albums rarely, if ever, reach the overall quality of those old favorites. I respectfully disagreed, mostly because I know that people define their opinion on "classic, genre defining albums" around their 16th year. Everything that comes after that, is usually new stuff, not to be adored as much as the so-called pioneers. It's just how our brain works.
In my opinion, there are loads of classic albums out there. The old bands just forgot to write and record them, which leaves that possibility open to other ones. Of course, as a music reviewer I have actually encountered several of them. I think I have uttered the phrase "if this album was recorded in (insert year), this album might by now be a classic in the genre" many times before and I am going to have to use it again.
Polish gothic doom act Medebor takes us right back to the nineties. Founded in 1997, these guys obviously know their classics. Paradise Lost, Type O Negative, Tiamat, Moonspell, My Dying Bride, Anathema, November's Doom, Amorphis.... I too have heard them all, I've seen them all live and I recognize their influences in this epic album. In short: 'Dark Eternal' can easily stand right next to your favorite melodic doom albums.
The album opens with a strange, spoken word intro which lasts for a while before the guitars eventually kick in. But when they do, they immediately place themselves among the aforementioned giants in this genre. Melodic doom metal with both grunts and clean vocals, while the guitars and drums create a dark but immersive atmosphere. It's pretty much everything we loved so much back in the days.
I'm not sure which my favorite songs on this album are. I absolutely love the opener 'Forest Of Deranged' and the lingering doomer 'Never To Be Forgotten' but pretty much all the song carry the same quality, the same atmosphere and the same doom metal delight. In all, I can only recommend this beast to all you doomers out there, especially the ones who are nostalgic for that nineties era. Medebor will not disappoint you, that's a fact.
gothic / doom / metal / darkwave
A beautiful album with nine tracks, The Sad Wonder Of The Sun is best described as a dense, profound and renitent poetic quest for exceedingly perfect and pure melodies, constantly flirting with the light winds of an everlasting spring, flowing through a mosaic of surreal elevated majesty. The colorful and bright harmonious waves of Ecnephias, brilliantly mixing a very peculiar kind of soft gothic rock with a brave, intoxicating and marvelously melancholic, but smoothly melodic type of dark wave, inebriates the listener with an amazingly singular style of music, that infuses into an obscure realm of dreaming divinities the preordained sense of an oblique grandiosity, that engraves in their music the uniqueness of a symphony destined to shape in the world a more sensible and gentle perpetual twilight of comprehension and lucidity.
With a marvelously peculiar style that draws the strength of its inspirations from the sensible fugacity of an everlasting horizon of stone, Ecnephias merges a remarkable perception of profoundly poetic gothic aspirations with a more melancholic and melodic form of dark rock. The final result is a smooth, incisive, intense, dense and vigorously alternative sensible somber rock, that greatly uses gratifyingly delicate and expressively sensible harmonies to indulge their sonorous ambitions into a higher axis of literal rapture and commotion. Unfortunately, despite the ardently ascendant and formidable artistic sagacity of their music, Ecnephias sometimes gets too close to pop music and synthpop. Of course, not to the point of compromising the beauty of their art; nevertheless, some passages seem too overtly “happy”, indulging in what almost appears to be cabaret music.
Evidently, I completely understand the diversity, the uniqueness, the audacity and the experimentalism of their style – something which gets specially obvious in the fifth track –; Ecnephias is not just another band, let alone be qualified as an ordinary rock group. They are a melodic art act, and no ordinary label literally applies to them. This is something you really have to understand before listening to them. With Ecnephias, there is no ordinary music. Not at all. Labeling or categorizing them is not just extremely difficult: it’s impossible.
If there is a band capable of changing the entire scenario of the underground scene nowadays, and provoke a really consistent artistic, stylistic and sonorous evolution, this band is Ecnephias. Although I can’t really categorize The Sad Wonder Of The Sun as a masterpiece, there are songs on this album – like Povo De Santo and Nouvelle Orleans – that will literally blow your mind away. Fantastic symphonies of marvelously exponential beauty, if you like avant-garde metal, experimental music, or something completely out of the ordinary, you have to listen to this album. It is totally different from everything you’ve heard before. Be sure about that!
When I started these Brieviews series over a year ago, the initial idea is to empty my inbox by writing shorter reviews for EP's, reissues, singles and a few full length albums. Back then, I was talking about 900 unread emails. That amount has tripled since then and we're already at part 25. That's a lot of short reviews if you ask me. Anyway, here are some more Brieviews for your reading and listening enjoyment.
Vacuum Aeterna - Project:Darkscapes
Power Theory - Something Old, Something New & Something LIVE!!! From Europe
Bewitcher - Bewitcher
black metal / thrash metal
Gravita Silente - EP
Sp3ct3rs - Sigils
drone / dark ambient
The Fre3 Bastards - In Our World Of Bastards
stoner rock / hard rock
Sinners Moon - Far Beyond The Stars
gothic metal / symphonic metal
Satanize - Death Mass Execution
New Zero God - Under the Influence of Captain Pan Ikatac
post punk / gothic rock
Grid - Human Collapse Syndrome
gothic metal / doom
Many people will know French act Dark Sanctuary from the gothic and atmospheric anthems they have been creating over the years. But, and somehow that doesn't come as a surprise to me, Dark Sanctuary are metal fans. Occasionally, they use their recording breaks to flirt with guitars and drums and completely rework their songs.
Originally, this album was meant to be released in 2009 but it got left behind because the recording of their eponymous album 'Dark Sanctuary' was taking all their time and energy. Now the album finally sees the light of life. With six old tracks reworked, this album is remarkable one.
So how does the metal version of Dark Sanctuary sound? Apparently almost exactly like old Theatre Of Tragedy. Dark, gothic metal with angelic female vocals, bringing those amazing nineties back to mind, obviously also including bands like After Forever, Nightwish, Sirenia and so on. The way these songs have been reworked, you can hear flashes of the atmospheric Dark Sanctuary but if you don't know the band, you would definitely think that this was a vintage gothic metal band.
Of course, that comes with a little problem. Isn't gothic metal outdated? Isn't is something for melancholic nineties metal fans? Hey, I am one of those melancholic nineties fans and I damn well approve of this effort. In fact, I think Dark Sanctuary would make a lot of people happy by touring with this material. I definitely want to see this live one day. But even if they won't, this album goes right into my "heavy nostalgic" playlist, I don't care if it's 1996, 2009 or 2017. Good gothic metal is good gothic metal and this album is exactly that.
industrial / gothic metal
The hardest thing about writing a review, is starting it. The opening paragraph usually defines the way the entire review is going to. Sometimes, like now, it takes a lot of time to get that first paragraph written. Sometimes that difficulty is caused by the album itself and quite frankly, that is the case here. This is one difficult album to write about.
Blut is an Italian industrial gothic metal band, formed as a one man act but gradually turned into a full band. On this new album, Blut continues the path of its predecessor, a stubborn mix of gothic metal and industrial.
The album opens with the song 'Double Trouble', a decent uptempo song with some electronics, male and female vocals. Bands like Samael have clearly influenced this band, which is a good thing. However, there seems to be something wrong with the production. I miss the bass. I miss the blasting sound that usually comes with industrial metal. Theatre Of Tragedy also comes to mind, which makes it a bit better again.
In fact, the first song that really gets to me is, 'Jerusalem Is Calling Me', an intense piece industrial metal, one many fans will bang their heads to. The Samael meets Theatre Of Tragedy reference still stand and as such, this becomes my favorite on this album. From then on, things seem to get more interesting and I really start digging the used electronics. 'Kesswill 25-7-18-1875' is a great electronic doom-dub track.
But the stubborn experimentality of Blut isn't always a good thing. The song 'Sigmund Freud Ist Mein Nachbar' is a superfluous intermezzo with accordion and folkish vocals, a dark waltz so to speak. Sure, it adds variation to the whole thing, but still, I think some dark folk bands can do this better and more convincing. Luckily, the song is followed by another highlight in the heavy 'Wind Ego' and 'Folly Of Two' is is an excellent gothic metal banger.
Although 'Inside My Mind Part II' is not a bad album, I think it would have benefitted from a professional production, preferably by a Swedish producer. The band must have been influenced by the Swedish and Scandinavian innovative styles, so I think there is no harm in trying to sound a bit more intense, bass filled and dynamic. Most of all, I think Blut is a live band and the stage is a best place for them to convince the audience.
Some say gothic rock is dead, mostly people who have heard 'Temple Of Love' twice and then moved on to easier digestible music (created by someone named Justin). So, if anyone ever claims that gothic rock is dead, you can rest assured that that person has no idea what he is talking about. Now, I have to say, there are not that many bands that can come up with a convincing sound these days. Or at least, we don't encounter them often here on Merchants Of Air. In the past few years, I've heard only a handful of decent recent goth rock albums. However, there is good news for all the black leather coats wearing folk out there.
The Black Capes is a band from Athens, Greece. In the past few years, the band members have been playing in bands like Potergeist, Inactive Messiah and Human Base but more recently, they came together to pay homage to the sound of Sisters Of Mercy, Type O Negative and 69 Eyes. On 'All These Monsters', The Black Capes showcase the fruit of their gothic endeavors and I must say, this rocks. With a bunch of uptempo gloomy rock songs, these guys immediately place themselves among their influences.
Perhaps the best comparison is Sisters Of Mercy in their 'Vision Thing' era or perhaps something between Fields Of The Nephilim and Moonspell. You know, dancing on the edge between gothic rock and gothic metal. In fact, some of these tunes would fit quite well on a modern day version of 'New Wave Club Classix', like the heavy rocking opener 'Sarah The Witch' or the highly immersive 'New Life'. the latter can even please some of the most headstrong headbangers among the gothic folk. That's why I mentioned Moonspell.
So take it from me, a guy that hosted and DJ'ed several gothic parties in the past, this album is an excellent modern day version of gothic rock, one that will definitely make some blair haired heads turn into their direction. I'm sure that I can play any of these songs on such a party without people leaving the dancefloor. The fact that the album is rather short makes me only hungrier for more. So I hope that many of those old school goths will join me in hoping that The Black Capes take this show on the road soon.