HAD - HAD
Jonathan Fraser – Heaven Is At A Distance
Kiova – Empty Fields and Smoke-Filled Skies
Various Artists – Dirt [Redux]
Cryptic Shift/ Replicant/ Inoculation/ Astral Tomb – Chasm of Aeons (Split)
HAD - HAD
death metal / black metal / thrash
Dark Descent Records is one of the most important labels in modern Death Metal, also because they are based in Death Metal Heaven aka Denver, Colorado and because they release the records of death metal megalith’s “Blood Incantation”. With the eponymous debut-EP by the relentless monster called HAD from Copenhagen they released another high quality record by a band that never forgives. HAD is Danish for “hate” and the name is definitely part of the party program. You get 20 minutes of high-octane death metal with no fresh air, no hopeful light, no sound to soothe. Speedy as hell and executing with a blunt axe but making for that lack of precision by mere violence. I think I counted one little break within the four songs and that was in the middle of the final track “Skingrer de døendes pinefulde skrig” (which translates to something like “Dispelling the tormenting cries of the Dying”) and even this little slow-down never comes close to something like doom, it’s still rather midtempo. I am pretty sure that the live shows by this outfit will be something to behold, but best to be witnessed with an oxygen mask and a little reminder that you will be allowed to leave the venue afterwards. Some members of the audience should be given that in order for them not to break down in front of such HAD and speedy masterclass craftsmanship.
Jonathan Fraser – Heaven Is At A Distance
blackmetal / blackgaze
Jonathan Fraser is one of the perfect examples of how often we are led astray by our subconscious labeling of people – one would never guess that there is a black metal soul inside this very humble and gentle person. But when listening to his music it becomes clear that there are some inner demons having taken hold of this man, who together with the help of some friends recorded some wonderful blackgaze music very much in the vein of Skyforest or Numenorean. A lot of swirling, swooshing, uplifting spherical guitar-work that is happening in these songs that are perfectly contrastingly laid upon driving drums. Speaking of drums; that is something one should behold on this record: The drums are sharp and poignant but never pounding, which means, they are the force majeure on the album but never try to outperform the other instruments – signs of a good and thoughtful mix. The other, dominant instrument is, of course, the guitar, and here Fraser delivers so many brilliant moments, for example the move from high-pitched crescendos to intimate picking after a bit more than three minutes of “Empty Prayers, Hollow Gestures”. This track also leads to the motivation behind the album: the artist Jonathan Fraser wrote this for the person Jonathan Fraser, who for near-two years has been suffering from the loss of his dear mother to cancer. He even published an “EP” with “music” that was recorded alongside his mum’s dying. In the booklet one found documents to show how he experienced this slow decay; Fraser himself doesn’t even consider this a proper release but it seems to be his chronicle for those nine months. And somehow there is a connection between these records – the strong intimacy created by his work, the simplicity of some of the synth structures building upon each other, the heartfelt pain going into every hit on the keys. Jonathan is – as of now – not healthy, he probably wouldn’t even say that himself. It’s an ongoing process: learning to live on, to live again, to be again. To cope and not be ashamed of still being here. For him, this new album is the next step; for us, it is a good record to listen to. Blackgaze á la mode de 2020.
Kiova – Empty Fields and Smoke-Filled Skies
post hardcore / black metal
Most of the time, Finland is associated with black metal or doom metal bands, also because there are brilliant examples for both genres from the land of the thousand lakes. Not very often is it associated with Post-Metal or Blackened Post-Hardcore, but Kiova from Oulu, Finland might change that. A sound that can keep up with some of the most advanced and well-known post-metal big players (think of Postvorta or Amenra, Sons of a Wanted Man or Envy) – a result of some brilliant recording and mixing, thanks to Joonas Manninen and Topon Das. The reference that comes to mind most frequently is Fall of Efrafa, as new Kiova-vocalist Janne Pussinen is able to deliver a lot of intriguing vocals including black metal screams as well as hellish growls. “JP” is the new man on the mic for the band after former vocalist Otto Eräjöki, who could be heard on the two splits from 2020 as well as on the debut EP from 2018, left the band months ago. Another feature that they share with Fall of Efrafa and other crust-bands as well is the raging speed that seems to have the drums tumble over each other and still not losing but rather gathering speed. These speed-attacks are often countered by spiraling guitars heading all the time for an ultimate crescendo. This might be the most promising newcomer on the European blackened post-hardcore scene. Keep your eyes open!
Various Artists – Dirt [Redux]
post metal / grunge
Usually, we do not cover “cover bands” or “cover albums” on Merchants Of Air; however, Magnetic Eye Records has released such an impressive list of “[Redux]” records of classic rock records lately, that we simply had to talk about it. Being an old Seattle-grunge-head the author had no alternative to choosing their version of Alice in Chains’ classic “Dirt” now re-imagined in complete by some of the finest in all of post-metal: Thou, Khemnis, 16 or The Otolith to mention just a few. In some ways, this approach is very similar to the style of “Robotic Empire” who did some cover albums for Nirvana’s three full-lengths (by the way, Thou were also part of all of those cover albums, maybe they are just into showing off their roots). Special about this record is certainly the fact that the bands really pay homage to the originals by not trying to alter them too much, they mostly clad them in a new sound scaffolding. The basis and walls are still the very same, but the production of these songs is now fresher and more direct. It becomes obvious how powerful these songs are, how unbreakable the songwriting was, how remarkably well they hold up. The highlights are certainly the new version of “Rooster” by Howling Giant (now less of a soul classic and a stronger emphasis on the riffs and less on the choir) and “Would?” by The Otolith (now with female vocals creating a completely new, less-despaired atmosphere) but as the originals are so mind-blowing, so are these cover-versions. If you want to buy one covers-album this year, this would be my recommendation!
Cryptic Shift/ Replicant/ Inoculation/ Astral Tomb – Chasm of Aeons (Split)
Once again a great release by Swedish death powerhouse Blood Harvest. They accumulate four awesome death metal bands – each with a distinctively own style – on this four-way split. Chasm of Aeons first of all really impresses with its stylish high-class artwork, that reminds one of The Sword’s “Warp Riders” and the Blood Incantation space-themed covers. Then the assembly of bands: Cryptic Shift, who showed all their might and strength on their Blood Harvest-debut earlier this year, New Brunswick’s very own Replicant and Cleveland’s pride Inoculation flex their muscles and Astral Tomb from Denver (see first review above) finish this 19-minute massacre. Cryptic Shift do not disappoint with their track “Cosmic Dreams” and neither do Replicant or Inoculation, but the highlight is definitely Astral Tomb’s “Transcendence from the Mortal Plane (Guided by Familiar Phantasm)” (that title!!!!) because of its rowdy, feisty, biting and scratching noise intro, by a drum kit that intentionally is completely out of tune and trash to the max – if Slipknot ever made real tech death metal, this is what it would sound like. There is even a moment of tribal drumming in these five minutes. Accompanied by an awesome solo and a lot of noisy guitars, there is no better ending for an awesome split than this one. There is no I in team, there is also no I on this split. All blends perfectly together from Cryptic Shift’s ´near-classic-rock´-track (the solo!!!) to Astral Tomb’s cat in heat-noise-tech-death!
For Greater Good - ... Unfolds
ambient / dark folk / cinematic
So, if the first three tracks of a four track EP already remind me of acts like Nick Cave, Penitent, Raison d'ètre, Aphex Twin and Biosphere, I guess it's alright to call this a pretty damn varied release. And then comes 'Synchronism', a goosebumps inducing dark pop anthem with vocals by Raya. In all, '...Unfolds' indicates a more than welcome return for a highly exciting ambient project. Recommended? Dûh!
Noiss - Deafening EP
alternative rock / punk / grunge
Katapult - A Fistful of Truth
WARD041 - Uoltam
dark ambient / drone
Rutger Zuydervelt - Porcelain
drone / ambient / soundtrack
Machinefabriek with Anne Bakker - Oehoe
drone / ambient
Petrolio - GLVWXUER#DQVLD#JHQHUDOL]]DWR
industrial / dark ambient / noise
Hellstorm Of Flaming Nothingness - I Am An Empty Shell
drone / dark ambient
speed metal / thrash metal / black metal
Well, nine o' clock in the evening. Time for the neighbor's little kid to crawl into bed and have a good night sleep, right? Well, no, fuck that toddler and fuck everybody else's night's rest for that matter. The time for sleep is over and there is an intense reason for that.
Belgian speed metal behemoths Bütcher have a new album, one which calls to be played non-stop until the plague brakes out. These guys are set to demolish everything in their raging path to extreme metal glory. So prepare yourself, Antwerp, this city will be in ruins in no time.
In all seriousness, at first glance I had to giggle when I first laid my eyes on this release. Everything, and I mean everything, about Bütcher looks like an ancient metal cliché. The logo, the artwork, titles like 'Iron Bitch' and 'Viking Funeral'. It feels like it's all done before. Yet, instead of simply accumulating these properties, Bütcher have managed to make them their own and become the most convincing act within their genre. Obviously, for the laymen among us, this will be something to frown upon, but for the initiate metal heads, this album is an absolute must-have.
How it sounds? Well, it starts with an impending into, 'Inauguration of Steele', only to burst out in a bloody violent rage with the aforementioned 'Iron Bitch'. From then on, this quartet rages like rabid hounds from hell, driven forward by hyperspeed guitars, shrieking vocals and brutal drums. Flashes of Slayer, Darkthrone, Sodom and Exiter appear in my mind. Hell, even Helloween comes to mind, be in a ferocious thrash metal karaoke style, screamed by Satan himself. The only moment of rest appears in the first few seconds of title track '666 Goats Carry My Chariot'.
That one is my favorite here. While most tracks focus on high speed thrash metal, '666 Goats Carry My Chariot' dives into the realm of symphonic black metal, reminding me of those old 'World Domination' samplers, for example. It's also the only track you can headbang to without the skin in your neck being ripped to shreds and your spine being fractured. So for safety measures: if you're new to this genre, start with this one. Please do not start with 'Viking Funeral' as it will murder you immediately.
If you are familiar with Bütcher you should have already pre-ordered the living shit out of this filthy little record. In all, this is one of the few reasons why I'm quite proud to be Belgian. Bands like Bütcher, but also many others, have managed to create convincing and highly respected musical scenes throughout this country and far across its borders. '666 Goats Carry My Chariot' is another statement of this solid brotherhood. This album is vile, harsh and intense, but mostly it's a stranglehold, performed to extreme perfection. All hail Bûtcher.
Maximilian Latva - Nekyia
noise / dark ambient / experimental
HIN - Warmer Weather
Winterblind - Effigy
progressive / metal / black metal
Plague 9 - Mr. Ass
heavy metal / thrash metal
Things That Aren’t There - Vicious Cycles
downtempo / electronic / post rock / shoegaze
Wykan - Brigid - Of The Night
psychedelic / doom
Radien - Aste
sludge / black metal
Peter Jørgensen - Alt i Stykker
ambient / modern classical / experimental
Boobs Of Doom - Sorcerer
drone / doom / noise / experimental
Temple Music - The Unquiet Mind
ambient / electronic
Lunden - Lunden
Jimbo - Where The Vultures Gather
stoner rock / grunge / alternative rock
metal / metalcore
While browsing through my pile of CDs to be reviewed, I found this little thing. I think it has been there for a while. I remembered when it came in. I opened the envelop and saw the CD plus the biography. I read the words "symphonic" and "metalcore" which almost caused the album to become forgotten.
Why? Well, I simply don't like metalcore and it has been ages since I listened to symphonic metal. Today the album almost literally fell into my lap while I was sorting out the CDs. I decided to give it a shot and I have to say, I am not as disappointed as I thought I would be.
The album opens with the powerful and forward pushing 'Lilith'. Immediately influences from bands like Arch Enemy, Trivium and Lacuna Coil appear. Fronted by the versatile Lola Van Loo, this Swiss band is a raging tribute to metal, certainly capable of causing most pits and crowd surfers. So far so good but the following track, 'Don't Waste Your Time' somewhat reduces the joy. Although this is not a bad song, you can hear a searching band, not yet fully convinced of their abilities. Either that, or they take the element of experimentation a bit too far.
Then again, 'Crawling In The Dirt' is a top level metal track, combining the best from Otep with the best of Arch Enemy and that is a serious compliment. It also show a bit of humor, which I think is a good thing. 'Blue Scorpion' is a cracker but also seems to drown in the planned versatility of the band. Sometimes I feel as if Chaoseum tried to adopt too many influences at once, giving the music an unnecessary complexity. In my opinion, fans will crave more tracks like the brutal 'F.T.S.' or the pummeling 'Devil's Wedding'.
'First Step To Hell' is not a bad album. In fact, it's certainly above average. The music is performed to perfection. There is plenty of power and the whole thing is varied enough to remain interesting, apart from a few missteps. What Chaoseum needs now is heaps of stage performances. If all goes well there, there is a big change for founding them on big stages in the future. In a few years, they might release a masterpiece. This CD has planted the seeds for that. There is potential, that's for sure.
Lethal Injury, risen in Ostend, a town at the Belgian North Sea coast. This thrash metal band was founded in January 2015. Band members are Josha Pylyser (bass), Dennis Wyffels (guitar), Kevin 'Rambo' Van Eeckhoutte (vocals), Jonjo Hardy (guitar) and Arthur Loobuyck (Drums).
Melancholia is their debut album which was released in September 2018. After the successful four track demo in 2015 and a new drummer, they could concentrate on their blasting full length debut album. Lethal Injury plays old school thrash metal. Their influences come from different styles of metal music.
They have played already a lot of live shows and shared the stage with some big names in the metal world like Anthrax, Hirax and Legion Of The Damned.
Lethal Injury stands for speedy guitar riffs like Slayer and Pantera. Rambo’s vocals are a mix between Steve Souza (Exodus) and Ihsahn (Emperor). His shrill hoarse voice is filled with anger and aggression. The band handles the speed and melodies with precision and the songs are provided with a lot of variation. A bombardment of firing guitar solos and thrash riffs merged with the terrifying shrieks of their lead singer, will revive a lot of thrash metal hearts.
High speed tracks are Mothman and Suicidal Call, which has an old fashioned intro before exploding to one of the best tracks on the album. Denounce contains a pure Slayer-like riff that makes you bang that head at the first hit of the strings. Melancholia II is a melodic peaceful break to prepare us for the last wicked track, Veiled Woman Of The Black. Speed metal given in the best possible way. This last piece is a more than seven minutes long attack of raging guitars and screams guided by pounding double bass drumming, spreading pure madness.
Following Evil Invaders, Lethal Injury delivers another supersonic thrash-speed metal album with balls from Belgium.
Dizorder - Moon Phases
alternative / metal / metalcore
Greyhawk - Ride Out
heavy metal / power metal
Gramma Vedetta - Proof of Concept
hard rock / stoner rock / alternative rock / grunge
Godless - Swarm
thrash / death metal
O n s e t - Unstructured Dissemination
Ssanahtes - Ssanahtes
doom / sludge / post hardcore
Frenzy Frenzy - Just Another
Charles In The Kitchen & Them Stones - Stones In The Kitchen
pop rock / alternative rock
After two split releases on 7 inch vinyl with the bands Rust and Purgatör, this two-member band release (12 October 2018) their debut album Infernal Moon.
E, from France on vocals and guitar and R, from Holland plays drums. The two friends, who met while studying in Italy share the same interest for thrash and speed metal bands of the 80’s. R stands for Rene Aquarius who is known for his drumming in several experimental projects in The Netherlands (Dead Neanderthals, Cryptae and Celestial Bodies).
The duo plays old school thrash metal. The first track, Infernal Moon sets the key for the whole album. Filthy guitar riffs with a deep thrash throat and pumping drums refer to the legendary Celtic Frost-Hellhammer glory days. The musicians managed to put a certain punk attitude in their songs and production of the album. Although they bring nothing new, they still get away with it. E and R constructed their songs on one hand, with an eye and heart to their heroes and the other to avoid playing covers. The instruments are played very tight and with precision.
Solitudinem Mysteriis is to our opinion one of the best songs on the album together with Perpetual Funeral Winds, which starts with an old fashioned acoustic intro and altering into a very good, old school thrash metal song with a not so common style. The thought of Tom G. Warrior on vocals is never far away.
DungeönHammer kicks your butt with this eight song retro album. Infernal Moon brings nostalgia that reminds us the wonderful days of metal music in the 80’s. They play with deep respect in remembrance of the founders of old school black-thrash metal. We should honor those who honor and respect the old gods of metal. Let’s bang that head again.
Three years ago, when Merchants Of Air was still in its infancy, I got acquainted with Finnish heavy rockers Supremate. Back then they released their self-titled debut album, one in which I saw both potential and possible points of improvement. I remember writing the review from the perspective of a festival attendee, arriving at the event in the early afternoon. Now the band returns with a second full length, and I have to say, they have been evolving away from the young Nirvana, Offspring and Pantera coverband they used to be in the beginning of this century. Now Supremate is a full grown band with a solid and powerful sound.
'Uniting Flaw' contains ten tracks, all grafted from old school thrash metal. Opener 'Despite The Scars' immediately delivers the potent riffs and the raw, somewhat aggressive vocals. Although influences from their thrash, groove and heavy metal heroes are still present, the band seems to have found their own sound, one that most headbangers and riff enthusiasts will certainly appreciate. 'The Crown Don't Make A King' is a perfect example of that. It's loaded with delicious metal riffs but also leaves some room for experimentation, mainly in the drums.
My favorite track here is 'Territory' (not a Sepultura cover), closely followed by the crushing 'Blackness' and the groovy 'Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints'. These three songs show how much the band has been evolving in the past few years. Most of the instrumentation seems to come quite naturally. Only the vocals feel somewhat forced at times, as if the vocalist tries to overpower the music. I sure hope he can keep this level of aggression and roughness going for the foreseeable future.
I feel like the talent and potential of Supremate is slowly blooming. 'Uniting Flaw' shows a more coherent and experienced band than the debut album did, which is a good thing. Of course this album is no 'Master Of Puppets', 'Cowboys From Hell' or 'Rust In Piece' but it certainly is an entertaining piece of old school heavy metal. As before I think these songs will work better on stage than in the living room but if played loud enough you might find yourself banging your head multiple times. So check it out, you just might find a new favorite tune.
Objector - Social Intolerance
Chief Roberts - The Hopeless
stoner metal / sludge
RRRags - RRRags
psychedelic rock / stoner / blues
Hellstorm Of Flaming Nothingness - Sattva
drone / ambient
Forte Ruin - Rebuilding the Machinery
death metal / symphonic metal
Postcode - Dandelion Radio Session II
Hypnodial - Aether Alcoves
Dead Neanderthals - Life
drone / noise / ambient
Hiemis - Nachtstücke
Setaoc Mass - Solid Void
Meka Nism - The War Inside
symphonic metal / death metal
Severin - Safe Following Distance
electronic / experimental / breakcore