The FOLK METAL Radar (Episode #1/2019)

I believe that the combination of heavy metal with folk and epic music is one of the most successful of the last thirty years. These two genres seem to have been born to be blended together and one reinforces the other. Unfortunately, however, all successful discoveries attract hordes of bands without ideas and creativity that seek to emerge by just following trends and fashions, without adding anything new to the genre that they play.

For this reason, I think it’s important to isolate those bands that really manage to produce something interesting and valid. In the case of folk metal music, I’m convinced that this means being able to produce songs that are folk and metal, which is something different from playing folk music with heavy metal instruments, or heavy metal with some folk melody inside.

In the first episode of my new digest dedicated to folk metal I’m presenting five albums that I consider the most relevant among those published since the beginning of 2019. You’ll find here both well-established formation but also some interesting underground stuff. As far as geography is concerned, we have one band from Noway (Týr), one from Italy (Furor Gallico), one from Denmark (Vanir), one from Romania (Dirty Shirts), and a multi-national collaborative project (Ahl Sina).

Enjoy this first episode of the folk metal radar, and stay tuned for future updates.

“Hel”, by Týr

Without any doubt, one of the most awaited events by all folk metal enthusiasts was the publication of the new album by Týr, the legendary band from the Faroe Islands. The LP, called Hel, interrupts in fact a gap of six years from their previous publication, which is also the longest time between two albums that they ever experienced to date.

Once released, Hel confirmed to be a very good record. In this respect, all the years that were spent waiting for the new album have been rewarded by the release of one of the most engaging and solid folk metal records of the recent times.

Those who have been following the band throughout their long career were probably expecting something even more brilliant, an album that could shine in the night like the “Northern Star” that the band was aiming in one of their most famous songs. But when a band is as good as Týr, it manages to excite even when it doesn’t reach the highest peaks of its production.

I’ve published a dedicated review of Týr‘s new album, you can read it from here.

“Troops of Pain”, by Ahl Sina

In the early days of the year, I had the opportunity to listen to an odd album called Troops of Pain, played by a curious band named Ahl Sina. After some study, I learned that Troops of Pain was conceived almost ten years ago, but only in recent times, the members of the band found themselves in the right condition to record and release the material. Ahl Sina, in true honesty, should be treated more as a collaborative project rather than a proper band, if only because their members never met and they assembled the songs by putting together pieces that were recorded in separate countries.

It’s not the first time that I come across to such kind of projects and usually the results depend very much on the basic idea that generated the collaboration, in particular on how strong and cohesive is the originating concept, because this shall compensate for the loss of naturalness that’s naturally caused by the absence of a direct and immediate relationship between the musicians. In the case of Ahl Sina, the unifying element was the idea to mix together the elements of traditional middle eastern music with the sounds of progressive metal and to use the music to tell about ancient, fascinating and timeless stories. Nothing particularly new, to tell the truth, and in fact, the album in its essence looks like one of many other entries in the widely explored genre of Oriental Extreme Metal. But there were two things that caught my attention and made me reconsider my first (negative) reaction about the LP.

First: in the album there are actually a few particularly nice and catchy songs (the best one, for me, is called Miracle Demise); when we listen to these tracks we manage to forget, at least for a brief span of time, the inaccuracies and defects that today affect Ahl Sina’s music: from the fairly approximate musical production which generated the muffled sounds we hear in the album, to the songwriting (practically there isn’t any harmonic development in the songs of the LP: all the instruments, and also the voice, seem to follow the same melodic lines).

Secondly, beyond the stylistic considerations, I perceive in this debut LP a genuineness of intents and a passion for oriental music and folk legends that effectively impregnate all the songs of the album. Therefore, despite Troops of Pain is definitely far from being the album which can shake and revolt the world of folk metal, there is still something good and curious in this music, something which makes this project worthy of a mention, and also of our encouragement for the future.

“Dark of the Ages”, by Furor Gallico

I am extremely pleased to mention in this article the new release from an Italian band that has already collected some notoriety in the international folk metal scene. The band is called Furor Gallico, they come from Lombardia, in the Northern part of my beautiful peninsula, and they have already turned ten years of activity.

Dusk of the Ages is Furor Gallico’s third and newest LP. The album offers a new collection of nice melodic songs that are inspired by the stories and the sounds of the Celtic tradition. One of the key characteristics of this album is definitely the duality: two voices (one growling and one angelic), two languages (some songs are in Italian, others in English), two types of sound (moments of melodic death metal are opposed to atmospheric sections with acoustic arrangements). All of these contrasting elements guarantee an internal dynamic for the songs that keep the record alive from the beginning to the end, although the musical offer remains somehow restricted within the same track that has already been travelled by many other bands.

A special note of merit goes to the acoustic sections, which in my opinion give the most exciting moments of the album. Who knows what would happen if these guys will decide one day to switch to 100% acoustic music.

“Allfather”, by Vanir

Danish band Vanir is not a newcomer in the international folk metal scene, as witnessed by the fact that as the band is turning the ten years of career they have already released their fifth studio album, called Allfather. Despite a certain prolificity in publications, however, these musicians from Roskilde have not yet achieved a celebrity and a success comparable to the commitment they have always shown in the production of new material.

Will Allfather be the record capable of projecting the band higher up in the ladder of success? Honestly, I’m not sure. The metal formula that this band proposes, in fact, seems too much a hybrid of different things that is likely to leave quite dissatisfied both those who seek epic and catchy songs and those who instead adore more complex and articulated musical structures. Vanir’s new record, in this respect, is quite in the middle between these two characteristics of folk/Viking metal, without being effective in either of them.

In summary, Allfather is an album with lots of good ideas and which highlights the dedication and the passion of the band when playing their music. At the same time, if I still recommend it for the diehard fans of Viking metal, the LP won’t remain among the things that have impressed me the most in this first part of the year.

“Letchology”, by Dirty Shirt

When we speak about the combination of metal with world music or folk music, typically we have in mind those cases where metal is influenced by Celtic, Nordic or Middle Eastern traditions. Every so often, however, we come across formations that are coming from areas of the World that are quite distant from the usual ones and, in these case, we may enjoy more curious variations of the “metal folk” recipe.

Last year we were impressed by Alien Weaponry, a young band from New Zealand which debuted with a formidable collection of groove songs marked by the sounds and the hymns of the Maori tradition. This year we could appreciate an album from Romania which is offering to the fans of this kind of mixtures a nice and funny version of metal that’s impregnated with the sounds and the melodies from Eastern Europe’s tradition. The band is called Dirty Shirt, and their most recent record is Letchology.

My approach towards folk metal is based on the idea that we shall always try to distinguish between the aspects of originality and curiosity, which are those which impress at first, and the absolute value of the music. In this respect, the initial reaction that I had with Letchology was that of a funny, curious, eccentric album, but not particularly significant from the point of view of the “metal” content. This is mainly because the band’s style is characterized by evident ease of accessibility and also the adoption of riffs and progressions that – if we except the ethnic flavours – don’t bring so much innovation to the culture of groove music.

After a few more listenings the situation has improved and, progressively, I recognized that behind such light-hearted and irreverent facade it’s possible to appreciate the effort of these guys in making each song of the album quite different from the others, and I could discern also a number of interesting ideas that remain valid even beyond the initial appearance of easy-listening metal.

I’m collecting the best folk metal songs of the year in a special playlist, called The FOLK METAL Radar. It’s now featuring a bunch of tracks but it’s going to grow with time.

Quick Review: “New Moon” by Superlynx

Sometimes it’s surprising to see how we can obtain something new and intriguing by just altering a few proportions within a recipe that’s so well consolidated and standardised like the psychedelic stoner doom. In the case of the Norwegian band called Superlynx, it was sufficient to insert a singsong female voice and to increase slightly the amount of the stoner component, to get a result that’s as delicate as it’s dreamy and fascinating.

New Moon is the second full-length from the band, and it arrives three years after their debut LP LVX. Considering that this trio was formed in 2013, we understand that this band likes taking enough time to write, refine, and improve their songs before going into the recording studio. With very good results.

I really liked this album, and I’m actually getting more and more into this music as I keep on listening to it. New Moon manages to tell about darkness and our everyday difficulties but always with a light and poetic touch. From a musical point of view, in fact, the slowness and the heaviness of doom are softened by the introduction of angelic voice and also by the psychedelic and stoner inserts.

Thematically, “New Moon” is mainly dealing with processing challenging times. But as much as the album is about darkness it is also about conquering the difficulties, and a new beginning. Getting through the darkness and holding on to what is good in this world.

From Superlynx’s Bandcamp page

This music is brilliant, and I belieive that there is still a lot of growth potential in this trio. My overall rating for the LP is 7.5/10. My favourite songs of New Moon are Breath, Hex and The Groove.

New Moon is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. Songs from the LP are now featured in the playlist The PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM Radar, which collects the best song released since the beginning of the year.

Quick Review: “Hel” by Týr

In the course of the last twenty years, Faroese band Týr have gained the status of “masters of folk metal”, and many lovers of this genre of music include some of the band’s LPs among the best folk metal albums that were ever released. Even myself, who don’t belong to the family of the most diehard fans of folk metal, I’ve literally consumed some of their historical releases, especially the couple of albums that were published at the turn of the last decade (2009’s By the Light of the Northern Star and 2011’s The Lay of Thrym).

Despite the physiological ups and downs that characterize the discography of every band, especially those who’ve been playing for so long, there are – and there will always be – some special characteristics in the music of Týr that make their records so unique and enjoyable. These include the capacity to generate tangible feelings of bravery and courage, together with a “desire to fighting” that we can leverage also for our everyday battles.

Týr’s newest album, called Hel, interrupts a gap of six years from their previous LP, which is also the longest distance between two albums in their discography. That’s why all the fans of the band became immediately excited when the news of a new record started to circulate on the media.

One of the reasons for the time which passed after the previous record is that in the last years the band underwent through many important changes in the line-up, including the departure of one of the historical members of the formation. After 17 years spent with the band, in 2018 guitarist Terji Skibenæs announced his intention to quit. And because there were also a few replacements for the drummer’s seat, the result is that the new line-up of the band is for 50% different from the one which recorded the two masterpieces that I mentioned at the beginning of the article.

After so many years, it’s not easy to quantify how much a certain change of style is due to the changes in the band’s line-up rather than to a natural evolution in their musical sensibility. The fact, however, is that Týr’s new album, although still exciting and engaging, seems to have lost part of the immediacy and the facility to engage the listener which we appreciated in the band’s best works.

I consider Hel as a very good record, there is no doubt about it, and Týr confirms their status as one of the most important and valuable bands in the domain of folk and Viking metal. In this respect, all the years that were spent waiting for the new album have been rewarded by the release of one of the most engaging and solid folk metal records of the recent times. Those who have been following the band throughout their long career were probably expecting something even more brilliant, an album that could shine in the night like the “Northern Star” that the band was aiming in one of their most famous songs. But when a band is as good as Týr, it manages to excite even when it doesn’t reach the highest peaks of its production.

My overall rating for Hel is 7/10. Among the best songs of the album I can definitely mention Garmr, Far From the Worries of the World, and the two singles which anticipated the LP: Sunset Shore and Ragnars Kvæði.

Týr’s new album can be streamed from Spotify, and it’s now featured in The FOLK METAL radar, which is the playlist that collects the best songs released in 2019. Follow it, and check it periodically because it’s going to grow with time.

Quick Review: “Vatan” by Samavayo

Even though I’m used to listening to industrial quantities of new music every week, there always comes the time when I come across to a record released by what I think to be a new band, but then, as soon as I check on google, it turns out that the formation is active for a long time. And when the music played by the band is as interesting as what I found in the new album by Samavayo, the pleasure of having finally filled a gap in your musical knowledge is combined with the regret of not having followed the musical growth of the band, which means not having enjoyed in full what they did in the past. In any case: better late than never.

Samavayo is a trio of German rockers based in Berlin. The band is active since 2000 and with their newest LP, called Vatan, they have published to date six full-length records. When approaches them for the first time (as I did) it’s fairly unlikely to guess that they come from the heart of Europe. The style played by Samavayo, in fact, is absolutely impregnated with the flavours of desert stoner and alternative metal, two kinds of music that usually accompany the production of American bands. Regardless of their Country of origin, however, what really impresses of Satamayo is that they play a kind of music that’s absolutely enjoyable and exciting to hear.

Vatan offers a sequence of truly amazing tracks that you will start to appreciate from the very first listening. From a musical point of view, their sound is basically what you would get by injecting heavy doses of fuzz and stoner into the music of Tool. This comparison is anything but risky, given the fact that really many passages that we hear in Vatan are clearly inspired from the songs of the legendary band from California, starting from the very first notes that we hear in Vatan‘s opening track Prevarication Nation.

The resemblance with Tool is more than just a hint, and this is at the same time a positive aspect of Vatan but also, in hindsight, the major limit of this record. It’s not by chance, thus, that most of the tracks that impressed me the most are those where the stoner and psychedelic influences become more strong, like for example in the title track, or the closing song Children of Kobane.

My final rating is a convinced 7/10. Favourite songs: Prevarication Nation, Sirens, the title-track Vatan, and Children of Kobane.

Samavayo’s new album is avilable on Bandcamp, and it can be streamed also from Spotify.

Quick Review: “The Last Rain” by Cân Bardd

When an artist or a band decides to mix together different styles and influences, the result usually depends on two main factors: first, it’s necessary that the various components are well-balanced and there is not one that prevails excessively on the other; then, it’s desirable that such a combination of ingredients produces a music that’s original as it’s enjoyable and nice to hear. The Last Rain, which is the new album released by Cân Bardd, aims at blending together atmospheric black metal with folk music. And the goal is achieved with excellent results on all fronts: fluidity, balance and originality.

To make things even more amazing, we shall consider that Cân Bardd is basically a one-man-band project created by Malo Civelli, from Switzerland, and that The Last Rain is just his second LP after last year’s debut LP Nature Stays Silent. Everything suggests here that we’re in front of another creative genius of black atmospheric music and, in this respect, it’s fairly curious that this album arrives just a few weeks after we enjoyed Emin Guliyev‘s new Violet Cold LP. Civelli and Guliyev evidently share the same tastes for atmospheric and evocative music, but also a similar approach to composition and recording.

As said, Marco Civelli plays all the main instruments that we hear in his songs: guitars, bass, vocals and keyboards. Keyboards and orchestration, in particular, seem to play a fairly important role in Civelli’s music and it’s not by chance that he’s also the keyboardist of another Swiss folk metal act called Kaatarakt, which has released to date a couple of nice EPs. As we could expect, atmospheric and folk components have a prominent role in The Last Rain. In the album, there are really many long sections, and even one entire song (Fog of War), without the presence of a proper metal section. This stylistic choice creates a situation in which the artist draws fascinating and evocative musical landscapes that slowly become darker, and incrementally loaded with underlying energy and tension until the heaviest sections eventually arrive and shock the listener with dramatic power and the intrinsic sadness of black metal progressions. This process takes place with remarkable naturalness, and the softer and heavier moments alternate in an absolutely brilliant way. As a matter of fact, The Last Rain demonstrates a maturity of songwriting and also a musical sensibility that many bands reach only after decades of extensive playing, if they get it at all.

The Last Rain is an excellent new entry in that category of albums which manage to combine elegance with desperation, delicacy with heaviness, originality with enjoyability. And it’s also a work that allows us to appreciate the qualities of a promising musician, one who has managed to achieve an impressive level of maturity in the time-span of just a few years.

My overall rating for the LP is 7/10. My favourite song of the album is Celestial Horizon.

The Last Rain is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.

Quick Review: “Descent of the Serpent” by Forged in Black

The new LP released by the British formation Forged in Black shows how exciting and intriguing heavy metal music can be when the songs contain the right amount of creativity and inspiration. Descent of the Serpent, which is the second full-length record from the band, features, in fact, nothing more than the usual ingredients that we typically expect from an heavy metal album, and it has also a sound that is blatantly borrowed from legendary records like Dream Theater’s Awake. But everything is combined so well, and also accompanied by extremely engaging riffs and solos, that we are immediately captured by the music and forget all the rest.

Said in other words, so often we are looking for original and innovative songs and styles that sometimes we get surprised when we come across to an album which offers pure and simple heavy metal, but damn enjoyable to hear.

Pay attention, however, you don’t have to make the mistake of thinking that Descent of the Serpent is just a sequence of catchy riffs, nice solos and melodic choruses. Indeed, it’s impressive to see how every song of this record is absolutely rich of many details, intriguing musical ideas and nuances. Listening to the nine tracks of the album we clearly recognize how much passion and care has been dedicated by these five guys from Essex in perfecting and improving every single piece of their work. And the result is really good.

The band describes their sound as “fresh, melodic and powerful Heavy Metal where you can find classic elements from british bands like IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST or ANGEL WITCH“. I feel, however, that the riffs and the songs’ structures of Descent of the Serpent are enough articulated and powerful to appeal also to the fans of bands such as Symphony X, Royal Hunt, and the already mentioned Dream Theater .

I was positively impressed by this record, much beyond my initial expectations. My rating for the LP is 6.5/10, and my favourite songs are the first two pieces of the album (Seek No Evil and One in the Chamber) and the title-track Descent of the Serpent.

Forged in Black’s new album is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.

Forged in Black are now featured in The PROGRESSIVE METAL Radar, which is the playlist that collects all the best progressive metal songs that have been relased in 2019. Check it out and follow it since the playlist is going to grow as soon as new good albums are released.

Quick Review: “Yn Ol I Annwyn” by Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard

Sometimes the most intriguing and beautiful things arrive completely unexpected. This was for me the case of the new LP released by Welsh metal band Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, named Yn Ol I Annwyn. This album is the third full-length record of their career and it arrives after their debut in 2015 (Noeth ac Anoeth) and a second LP in 2016 (Y Proffwyd Dwyll). Certainly, the name of the band is a bit extreme, and I can understand if someone should approach them with a good dose of scepticism. But their music, believe me, is absolutely enjoyable and valid, and it’s also full of many different elements of interest.

If you search for them on the web you’ll see that the band is typically tagged as sludge/doom. Their new record, however, basically offers a good selection of psychedelic doom songs, with very few elements of sludge. In fact, in the eight tracks of Yn Ol I Annwyn the band has softened the abrasiveness of sludge through the introduction of poetical melodies, huge doses of psychedelia, epic riffs, and the beautiful female voice of the singer Jessica Biel.

The eight songs that comprise thes album, sees the band delve deeper into their collective influences, embracing full on space rock, atmospheric film soundtracks, melancholic acoustic interludes, psychedelia, cosmic moogs and percussion, moments of introspection and light … and of course, large helpings of doom.

From the album’s Bandcamp page

The music played by Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard is heavy and slow, but thanks to the skilful balance of distorted guitars with many other different sounds it has the effect of an obsessive and hypnotizing stream of sounds rather than that of a rough and violent blow of energy. The combination of psychedelic sounds and catchy riffs that are repeated over and over until the exhaustion has really the capacity of dragging you down into hallucinated and colourful worlds: the unpronounceable Yn Ol I Annwyn becomes, in the end, a psychedelic heavy trip that eventually leaves you drained, and exhausted.

One thing which is really good of this album is the nice variety among the different tracks: we have atmospheric pieces with only voices, synths and arpeggios (no distortions, no drums), alongside with powerful and psychedelic songs, and also very long doomish tracks based on the obsessive repetition of a single epic motif.

My overall rating for the album is 7/10. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard play a very nice version of doom which is fascinating and powerful at the same time. This is a band that shall be followed with attention and curiosity because we can expect even greater things from them.

My favourite songs of the LP are Katyusha (a 13 minutes epic doom song), Fata Morgana (a delicate and soft atmospheric ballad), and The Spaceship of Ezekiel (one of the most psychedelic tracks of the album).

Yn OI I Annwyn is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are now featured in SLOWLY, the famous playlist with the best of new sludge, doom and post-metal, but also in The PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM Radar, the playlist that’s totally dedicated to the best songs of 2019.

The PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM Radar (Episode #1/2019)

The history of music of the recent decades teaches us that the musical style referred to as stoner doom was born as an interesting derivation of the classic doom genre. This version of doom metal, however, over time has assumed the characteristics of a well-defined sub-genre and we have today many excellent formations that are grouped into this category of music.

In this new series of articles, I’m selecting and presenting to your attention the most interesting records that are published in the context of this style of music, including also those bands that have added a strong dose of psychedelia in the recipe of music.

This is the first episode for 2019, and it includes five different albums that were published in the first two months of the year.

As far as geography is concerned, we have two bands from Sweden (Ordos and Witchers Creed), two from U.S.A. (Yatra and Palace in Thunderland), and one from Estonia (Mang Ont).

Enjoy the ride, and don’t forget to come back periodically to check the future updates of the PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM Radar.

“The End”, by Ordos

Expectations were very high for the new LP by Swedish band Ordos, if only because their previous album (2017’s House of The Dead) received so many appreciations from both critics and fans. Here in this blog, it was included in the list of the best albums of the year, taking into account all genres of music.

The band’s new LP, The End, basically confirms the same style of stoner doom that was already offered in their previous record, with the addition of higher doses of psychedelic and occult rock. Also, the melodic component, which was already a key point in House of The Dead, has acquired fairly greater importance, making the songs of The End gain remarkable ease of assimilation.

In more general terms, maybe I was expecting something more innovative from Ordos’s new record, but, on the other hand, their music remains so exciting and fascinating than just the fact of having new songs to listen from the band is something that can change your day for the better.

I have dedicated a specific review to the LP, you can read it from here.

“Death Ritual”, by Yatra

If The End, by Ordos, was a sort of confirmation of what we’ve heard so far from the band, one of the most interesting surprises we had in the first months of the year was definitely the debut album by Maryland-based trio Yatra, and I’m not referring only to the perimeter of stoner doom.

Death Ritual is the first LP from this promising formation, and it’s one of those records that have the capacity to take you away from the physical world, projecting your mind into a magical dimension full of pagan rituals, dangerous spells, ancient legends and dark visions.

I wrote a dedicated review of the album, you can read it for a few more details about the LP.

“Awakened From the Tomb…”, by Witchers Creed

Witchers Creed is one of those bands that I discovered almost by chance thanks to a recommendation that I’ve read on a social media, and which became an instant favourite.

This is a formation of young musicians from Sweden, who grew up influenced by the music of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, and then eventually released their first (impressive) LP: Awakened From The Tomb…

Their sound is characterized by a few but effective features: a warm and powerful stoner-like bass, which perhaps the element which impressed me the most in the LP, a guitar that churns out endless sequences of catchy and sticky riffs, a simple yet effective rhythmic session and, last but not least, a powerful and fascinating voice.

I have published a short review of the LP, you can find there additional details about this excellent debut album.

“The King of the Empty Aeon”, by Palace in Thunderland

Just a quick mention for the new LP by Palace in Thunderland, a psychedelic stoner band from Springfield, Massachusetts, in the U.S.A. The band is formally active since 1998 but, after a period of standby, it was basically re-activated only in 2011. Since then they have released three LPs.

Their newest record is named The King of the Empty Aeon and it features nine enjoyable and intriguing songs alternating between heavy moments, and other fuzzier and definitely more psychedelic pieces. This second category of tracks is the one that I liked the most in their LP, especially the 11-minutes long song This Illusion’s Come Alive, which is right in the middle of the album.

For what concerns the heavier and quicker kind of songs, the single Vicarious is definitely a good hit.

“Maa Sarv”, by Mang Ont

I’m concluding this list of albums with Maa Sarv, which is the new LP from Mang Ont, a stoner doom metal trio which arrives from Estonia. The band is active since 2011 and their brand new release is the third entry in a discography which includes also the EP Neli Aastat (2015) and the debut LP Võhk (2017). The style of their music is characterized by slow, powerful and epic songs. Their sound is thick, heavy and impregnated with psychedelic and stoner atmospheres. In some sections of the band’s songs, we can also appreciate the inclusion of fuzzy drones that introduce a further element of restlessness to their sound.

Maa Sarv is an impressive record because in the short span of only three long tracks the band has managed to develop a journey into a hallucinated and psychedelic world: at first we are greeted by inviting and intriguing sounds, but soon we realize that we ended up in a universe of obsessive riffs and hypnotic rhythms from which it is almost impossible to go out.

Drawing inspiration from the album cover, some have described Mang Ont’s sound as “prehistoric riffs echo from the Mammoth’s cave”. This is actually another good way to transfer the idea of their special and intriguing sound of the band, for which I foresee a very promising future.

I’m starting to collect the best songs for this exciting category of albums in a dedicated playlist, called THE PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM RADAR. Check it out and follow it, it’s going to grow with time.

Another place where you can enjoy some good stoner doom is the famous playlist SLOWLY. It features more than 8 hours of the best doom, sludge and post-metal that was released in the last three years. If you weren’t already following it, you should do it.

The THRASH METAL Radar (Episode #2/2019)

Here we are again, looking at the most intriguing and important releases in the fantastic and crazy world of THRASH METAL.

This second episode of the thrash metal radar is focused to the main releases that happened during the month of February 2019, and features six different albums that were selected among all of those published in this period of time. For those who didn’t have the chance to see the previous article of this series, the first episode of the radar was released on late January and it introduced the latest LPs by Violblast, Inferno, Dust Bolt, Flotsam and Jetsam, Fusion Bomb and Insanity Alert.

As far as geography is concerned, in this new episode we have three American bands (Overkill, Judgement and Black Mass), two for Germany (Ravager and Rezet), and one from Spain (Death Above).

Enjoy this second episode of the THRASH METAL radar, and stay tuned for the future updates.

“Warlust”, by Black Mass

The month of February was extremely rich of new publications for thrash metal, and among the albums that I liked the most, there is Warlust, the second LP from Black Mass, which is the band formed by a trio of crazy thrashers from Boston, in the U.S.A.

Black Mass offers another interpretation of old school thrash metal, but it’s played so well and with such passion that their new LP is definitely enjoyable and nice to listen to. Something which is particularly interesting is the power and the lethal precision of the rhythmic component.
Cristian Azevedo‘s bass, in particular, really looks like a machine gun: it’s shots at supersonic speed but with impressive accuracy.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can read it from here.

“Iron Rule”, by Judgement

Let me mention here a debut album from a new thrash and crossover band called Judgement. They come from Rhode Island and New York, in the U.S.A., and they have released their first LP, called Iron Rule.

The style of music played by Judgement is basically a mid-paced thrash metal that’s all centred around the rhythm guitar: in fact in the LP you won’t hear anything else than an uninterrupted sequence of riffs (some good, some less), with very little space left to the lead guitar, and without any tangible variation on the basic rhythms scanned by the drums and the bass. The voice of the singer is powerful and abrasive, but he also offers very few variations throughout the entire disc.

Nevertheless, I wanted to introduce this group because in their music there is a good potential as evidenced by the last song of the album, Warhorse, which is really well done and engaging, and it’s definitely the most exciting moment of the album.

“Digital Breed”, by Death Above

Digital Breed, the new album by Spanish thrash band Death Above, was something that I was going to discard too quickly. When I started listening to the first track of the LP, I started to think that this was of the many records without temperament and personality. Thick but not memorable riffs, a fairly standard voice, and speedy moments alternated by sequences of melodic solo guitar leads that have the effect of lessening the tension instead of enriching the song.

But instead, as I was going forward along the twelve tracks of Digital Breed, I started to change my mind. What I realized, in fact, is that this band from the Canary Islands, which was unknown to me before this encounter, had managed to place in their LP a number of really engaging songs, and which fully reflect the very characteristics of thrash metal: speed, aggressiveness, and even a bit of healthy irreverence.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can read it from here.

“Thrashletics”, by Ravager

Ravager is a relatively new band which is trying to emerge in the German thrash scene with a recipe that blends the classic Teutonic metal style with inserts from Bay-area thrash style and also some influences from groove. Thrashletics is their second LP, which arrives two years after their debut record called Eradicate… Annihilate… Exterminate…

The approach to thrash metal that’s presented by this formation is very focused on the contrast between extremely furious and groovy moments, with the sporadic introduction of melodic sections that recall to mind the famous arpeggios of Master of Puppets. The riffing is decidedly aggressive and powerful and I would say that this group shows really good potential. What’s missing today is mostly the capacity to write memorable or even just relatively catchier tracks, but it seems to me that we’re definitely on the right track.

“Deal With It”, by Rezet

There is another band from Germany which in the last few weeks released an interesting thrash metal album. They are named Rezet, and differently from Ravager they have already accumulated quite an extensive background in the Country’s metal scene. Active for about fifteen years, these guys from Schleswig have already released two EPs and four LPs. Their latest full-length record, called Deal With It, basically confirms their particular style of thrash that incorporates many elements of heavy metal, starting from the particular voice of Ricky Wagner, which has a decidedly classic approach, but also due to the presence of many moments dedicated to the lead guitar.

The element that in my opinion stands out most in Deal With It is the technical ability of the musicians, both as regards the guitars and also for what concerns the rhythm section. The LP offers a number of really beautiful moments in which the lead guitar unleashes fast and articulated solos while bass and drums push like crazy at high speed. From the point of view of the riffing, however, something is still missing to make the tracks more engaging. In general terms, this is for sure an enjoyable record of good and solid thrash, with an impressive technical performance. I would like to see these guys playing live.

“The Wings of War”, by Overkill

I couldn’t conlcude this digest without mentioning the new LP from Overkill, named The Wings of War, if only because for many fans of thrash this is presumably one of the major events that happened so far in 2019.

When we talk about Overkill we are speaking of one of the historical representatives of American thrash metal. The band was formed in New York City as back as 1980, but they somehow struggled to reach the same level of popularity of other legendary bands that were born in the same years. Maybe this is partially related to the fact that during their activity Overkill has gone through really many different changes in the line-up, and this didn’t favour the consolidation of a truly recognizable and solid style of thrashing.

Even for their latest LP, they arrived with a new member in the line-up, with Jason Bittner (ex-Shadows Fall and ex-Flotsam and Jetsam) replacing Ron Lipnicki, who was in the band since 2005 and participated to five of the nineteen albums of the band’s discography. In this case, however, the change seems to have been quite painless and, in fact, The Wings of Waris probably one of the most compact and solid albums of the last decade.

The latest musical offer from Overkill is certainly valuable and I believe that this record won’t disappoint the historical fans of the American band. Indeed, The Wings of War is probably the record that they’ve been waiting for since Ironbound, which is considered by many as the most successful and enjoyable albums from Overkill of the last decade.

As far as I am concerned, I must admit that I have never been one of the main fans of the band, this is because I don’t feel particularly connected with their particular style of thrashing. Anyway, I recognize and fully respect the dedication, constancy and integrity that the band has shown along with their impressive career.

If you like thrash metal, probably you will already have heard of THRASH METAL FEAST, the playlist on Spotify which features all the best and latest thrash metal songs.

Quick Review: “Digital Breed” by Death Above

Digital Breed, the new album by Spanish thrash band Death Above, was something that I was going to discard too quickly. When I started listening to the first track of the LP, I started to think that this was of the many records without temperament and personality. Thick but not memorable riffs, a relatively monochord voice, and speedy moments alternated by sequences of melodic solo guitar leads that have the effect of lessening the tension instead of enriching the song.

But instead, as I was going forward along the twelve tracks of Digital Breed, I started to change my mind. What I realized, in fact, is that this band from the Canary Islands, which was unknown to me before this encounter, had managed to place in their LP a number of really engaging songs, and which fully reflect the very characteristics of thrash metal: speed, aggressiveness, and even a bit of healthy irreverence. Unfortunately, these best songs are interspersed with a few less interesting moments, but this is something we can tolerate for a band that has just released the second album of their career.

From a musical point of view, the songs alternate between fast and very fast moments. There are a number of things that I really enjoyed of the LP: the rhythm section is frenetic but always precise, both the two guitars sound very compact and have a nice and enveloping sound, and in the best songs I appreciated also an intriguing mix of thrash and groove. Last, but not least, the lead guitar did an impressive job and it’s not confined to sporadic and predictable moments, but rather it’s a presence that characterizes many different moments of the song.

In summary: Digital Breed is a nice entry in the selection of the best thrash albums that we heard so far in 2019, and it further confirms the rising wave of good bands coming from the Mediterranean area.

My overall rating for the LP is 6.5/10. Favourite songs: G.R.B., No Vacancy in Hell, the final track Slaughter on October 31, and the damn fun Acoholic Bastards.

Digital Breed is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.

Death Above and their new LP Digital Breed are now featured in THRASH METAL FEAST, the succesfull playlist which features the best and latest thrash metal song. Check it out and follow it, it’s continuously updated.

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Quick Review: “The End” by Ordos

Back in 2017, the impressive second LP from Ordos (House of the Dead) was included here in this blog within the list of the Best Albums of the Year, across all genres of music. As I wrote at that time, I felt in love with the band and in particular with House of the Dead since the moment I started listening to the initial guitar riffs that are in that record, and the positive impression remained unchanged after many and many other listens of the entire work. This could justify the great expectations that I had for their new record, The End, which is the third LP of their career.

If their second LP was reminiscent of the ’70s and fitted with many elements from heavy rock and doom, The End further amplifies this aspect and introduces additional elements of psychedelic and occult rock. From this point of view, while it still maintains an extremely dark and gloomy sound, the music played by the Swedish band seems to have settled on the less abrasive side of stoner-doom. The melodic component, which was already a key point in their music, has acquired even greater importance, making the songs of the album gain remarkable ease of assimilation. In this regard, even the riffs seem to adopt almost all the same pattern throughout the entire record, where a chord, or a single note, is repeated obsessively, with the addition of small intervals of semi-tones in order to increase the sense of restlessness and gloom.

To give an example, the sixth track of the LP, Upsala (S:t Erik), which I presume is a cover from the first demo of the psychedelic Swedish band S:t Erik, begins with a blues and southern motif that seems to break the atmosphere of darkness and despair that characterized the earlier songs. But it takes only a minute and even this song returns to embrace the same style of the other songs, except for the sporadic return of the bluesy sounds during the chorus and the guitar solo.

Based on these stylistic choices, and because of how homogeneous and similar are the various songs of the album, The End seems to be like a single story told through one haunting introduction, 6 gloomy chapters, and one instrumental conclusion. This aspect obviously has tangible positive effects in terms of the obsessive and emotional impact of the record, but it also carries with it the limits of making the LP definitely linear, and fairly monochord. This phenomenon is further amplified by the fact that the rhythms are constantly settled on an average mid-paced beat count, and in this respect there aren’t significant variations from one song to another.

On the other hand, the sounds, the melodies and the atmospheres that these guys from Uppsala can generate with their instruments are absolutely unique, beautiful and engaging, and the fact of finding yourself entangled in a continuous and uninterrupted flow of obsessive and repetitive music is something that can be definitely rewarding. Probably the longevity of the album will be compromised by the similarity that there is between all the songs, but, at least in the short term, the effect is absolutely impressive and overwhelming.

In summary: maybe I was expecting something more remarkable from Ordos. The End is basically a new collection of songs that confirm and consolidate the style that was already introduced in their previous work, except for a certain softening of the most abrasive parts in favor of the melody. On the other hand, their music remains absolutely exciting and fascinating, and the fact of having new songs to listen to is, by itself, something that can change your day for the better. My overall rating for the LP is 7/10.

Favourite songs: The Hunter of Hades, III, and the beautiful haunting intro Exordium.

The End is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.

Songs from The End have been included in some of the playlist that I’m curating on Spotify, such as SLOWLY (dedicated to stoner/doom and sludge), and THE DELICATE SOUND OF THUNDER (dedicated to the softer side of stoner music). Check these out!

The GOTHIC MUSIC Radar (Episode #1/2019)

Rather than pointing at a well defined and specified genre of music, the term Gothic indicates a broad scope of bands which combine heavy metal or rock sounds with dark atmospheres, melancholic melodies, romantic or gloomy lyrics. As a result, every good collection of gothic music can only be quite heterogeneous. Indeed, in this selection of the six most relevant records since the beginning of 2019, you will find genres ranging from grunge to atmospheric death metal, and touching also rock and doom. Everyone of the following LPs, however, has within all those elements of charm and darkness that we like so much in Gothic music.

As far as geography is concerned, we have two bands fro the United States of America (A Pale Horse Named Death and Cold Colours), one from Denmark (Demon Head), one from Finland (Swallow The Sun), one from Spain (Helevorn), and one from Germany (Ewigheim).

Enjoy this selection of LPs and stay tuned for the future updates of the GOTHIC MUSIC radar.

“When the World Becomes Undone”, by A Pale Horse Named Death

One of the major events of the first months of 2019 was definitely the release of the new album by A Pale Horse Named Death, which is the band founded by ex-Type O Negative and ex-Life of Agony drummer Sal Abruscato. The album, named When the World Becomes Undone, provided another good example of that intriguing mix of gothic metal and grunge that the band already introduced in the previous two albums.

I was truly impressed by this LP, specifically by the beautiful combination of dark atmospheres, heavy and melodic riffs, with slow – but not obsessive – rhythms. I’ve published a full review of the album, that was included among the category of the Best New Albums. You can check that out for the details.

“Hellfire Ocean Void”, by Demon Head

Among the albums of the first two months of 2019 than more than the others feature all the typical elements of gothic metal, there is for sure Hellfire Ocean Void, the new record from the Danish formation Demon Head. Active since 2012, this quintet from Copenhagen has released in February the third LP of a discography that has attracted so far the attention of both the fans of gothic rock and doom metal.

Their new work is definitely more oriented towards rock than metal, and it’s also characterized by a feeling of antiquity that is mainly due to the particular way in which the various instruments have been recorded for the LP. When you launch Hellfire Ocean Void in your stereo, it will look like you have taken an old record of the 70s for how the sound is dark and also fairly muffled. Assuming that this was a deliberate stylistic choice, I can see its positive aspects: first of all the sense of vintage that emerges from the songs of the LP and, from a certain point of view, the relative unicity of this style. At the same time, however, the sound of this album appears a little anachronistic and, in some moments, it doesn’t make justice to the captivating and fascinating melodies that are played by the band.

In short, Hellfire Ocean Void is a truly curious album: it’s beautiful to listen to for its fascinating and obscure songs, but it’s absolutely anti-modern for its sound and style.

“When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light”, by Swallow the Sun

The new LP by the Finnish band Swallow the Sun was already included in the digest that I released for doom metal, but When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light contains so many elements of Gothic that I had to mention also in this article.

The LP is fully permeated by dark atmospheres, but mainly because of the presence of an impressive number of beautiful melodies, it never becomes oppressive. In this respect, the band has really achieved an impressive maturity in songwriting: the guys from Jyväskylä really know how to build up and dissolve the tension, and how to balance melancholic and energetic moments so that the songs remain always well equilibrated and relatively enjoyable to hear.

There is on the blog a dedicated review of this LP, you can get some more details from there.

“Aamamata”, by Helevorn

There is another publication that will appear in two different editions of the radar. It is Aamamata, the fourth LP from Spanish band Helevorn, which features equal components of doom and gothic metal, and a final touch of death metal.

This sextet of musicians has always strived for the definition of an individual and original direction for their music, which has been always accompanied by excellent performance and also impeccable recording, something that we can appreciate also in the last work. But if the recipe of their style seems to be farily intriguing, Aamamata in my opinion signs a small step back for the band. The album, in fact, seems to lack that passion and intensity that I appreciated in the first works of Helevorn. Their music, today, is stylistically impeccable, but seems much less effective from the emotional point of view.

“Irrlichter”, by Ewigheim

Ewigheim, from Germany, embodies in all respects the stereotype of the Gothic band. Starting from the name, which in German means “Eternal Home”, that is a way of saying to represent death), but also for the sinister lyrics (at least those few I had the patience to translate from German) and the melodic and dark melodies of their songs.

Compared to the other albums that were introduced earlier in this digest, Irrlichter is the one that makes the most continuous and persistent use of piano and keyboards, while on the contrary, it’s definitely the one that shows the most simple and linear structures for the songs. The result is a collection of extremely accessible but at the same time melancholic and sad songs. The album releases a feeling of distrust, of lost opportunities, so it’s hardly the record that you’ll want to hear when there is the need for a little boost in motivation.

In the broader context of the band’s discography, Irrlichter is the seventh LP released by Ewigheim. The style follows substantially what was already heard in the previous album Finding Smooth Salvation in Death: it’s a kind of music that misses the depth and the longevity of the best works of gothic metal, but which is absolutely enjoyable to listen to.

“Northernmost”, by Cold Colours

The last album that I want to recommend for the lovers of Gothic metal is Northermost and was released by Cold Colours, an American band that has consolidated with the years a very nice and fairly original style of death metal that’s full of atmospheric and gothich elements.

The music played by this band blends the melodic and melancholic aspects of gothic with a growling-like style of singing, and also quite complex musical structures. The tracks featured in Northernmost are undoubtedly interesting, but unfortunately, the album has some approximations in terms of the arrangement and also for what concerns the production. These faults don’t permit this LP to reach the level of quality of the albums that were mentioned before. Although this is the fifth album of a career which approaches the twenty-five years, there is something amateurish in the way this formation has arrived at the making of their new album. And it’s sincerely a shame because, from the point of view of the creativity and also the songwriting, the band shows unquestionable qualities.

If you liked the music presented in this article, you will love the playlist GOTHIC, which collects some of the best gothic songs of the last period. Check it out and follow it, it’s going to grow with time.

Quick Review: “The Door to Doom” by Candlemass

All over the world, troops of fans of epic doom have been waiting many years for this moment, and finally, the wait is over. After almost seven years the historic Swedish band Candlemass has published their new album and since the moment it was announced many months ago, many clues made us presume the will of the band to claim a return to the origins. First of all the name of the LP: The Door to Doom, which brings to mind the first and unforgettable album of the band: Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, an album so important in the history of this genre that even the name of “doom metal” is somehow linked to this publication. Secondly, the announced return of the original singer of the band, Johan Längqvist, who had participated in the recording of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus but soon after left the group. After 32 years, we find Längqvist back in the band’s line-up, and expectations of fans and critics were absolutely sky-high.

Beyond ambitions and expectations of the fans, however, it seems to me that The Door to Doom is substantially more a continuation of the path that Candlemass embarked in the last decade than a true return to the origins. And this is not necessarily a piece of bad news.

In the last few albums that were published by Candlemass I appreciated an interesting fusion between doom and psychedelic rock, which is fully confirmed in the new work. We’re light years away from the majesty and the occult charm of the band’s early records but, in this sense, The Door to Doom appears more genuine than it would have been if the band had forced a style of metal that today, after three decades of activity, evidently is no longer what they feel to play. Furthermore, Johan Längqvist’s voice fits very well with the current sound of the band and the singer’s performance in the new LP is certainly valid and intriguing.

The real problem, to be honest, is that leaving aside the discussions about how the new album is connected with the origins of the band, what many were expecting from The Door to Doom was a collection of engaging and memorable songs. The sound is intriguing, the performance of the musicians impeccable, the production crystal clear, but the riffs struggle to impress. And, in the end, this is quite a serious problem for an LP of epic doom metal.

The Door to Doom contains many elements of interest and, frankly speaking, you can’t imagine a legendary band like Candlemass to produce something flat of insignificant. For the diehard fans of epic doom, however, the LP flows away without leaving the mark that we expected.

My overall rating for the LP is 6.5/10. Favourite songs: Death’s Wheel, Astrolus – the Great Octopus, House of Doom and Black Trinity.

The Door to Doom can be streamed from Spotify and it’s now featured in The DOOM METAL Radar, the playlist which collects all the best songs released since the beginning of the year.

Quick Review: “Awakened From the Tomb…” by Witchers Creed

Thanks to a very good recommendation from a Reddit user I came across this young Swedish band named Witchers Creed, which has just dropped its debut LP: Awakened From The Tomb… And it’s really surprising to see how these musicians manifest such impressive confidence in manipulating and re-elaborating sounds and influences from many heterogeneous and influential bands, spanning from Candlemass to Fu Manchu, generating a final result that is at the same time beautifully vintage but also fresh and lively.

Witchers Creed was founded a few years ago by three childhood friends who grew up influenced by the music of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. After a number of initial experiments, they eventually consolidated the current line-up which consists of Filip Andersson (guitar, vocals), Emil Bjällerhag (bass, vocals) and Charlie Rangstedt (drums). As said, however, despite their young age, the music played by Witcher Creed is anything but naive and superficial. And this clearly means that the three rockers have a great passion for what they do but also a remarkable talent: it must not be so easy to craft a style of rock that, although being impregnated with the legacy of the masters of doom and rock, still manages to appear fairly original and intriguing.

From a musical point of view, their sound is characterized by a few but effective features: a warm and powerful stoner-like bass, which is one of the element which impressed me the most of this LP, a guitar that churns out endless sequences of catchy and sticky riffs, a simple yet effective rhythmic session and, last but not least, a powerful and fascinating voice.

The album consists of some tracks that are basically pure and simple rock and roll songs, and another set of pieces which manifest a more evident stoner rock feeling. In both cases, there is always in the background an intriguing dark atmosphere which reflects their passion for classica doom.

Awakened From The Tomb… is a really nice and promising debut LP. I give it a convinced rating of 7/10.

My favourite songs are Raven’s Claw, the delicate Larissa, and the instrumental title-track, which closes the LP with a final rush of psychedelic stoner atmospheres.

Awakened From The Tomb… is available for streaming on Spotify.

The LP in now featured also in DUST and SAND, the playlist that I’m curating on Spotify with all the best and latests songs in stoner.