Diabolical Messiah – Demonic Weapons Against the Sacred

Big hooks and big tremolo riffs  are the first thing to come to mind listening to Diabolical Messiah’s second studio album; throughout the album’s short duration, those two are the defining characteristics of the Chilean veterans’ songwriting along with the nearly constant roar of the band’s vocalist. Almost every song is a brief burst of fire, burning bright and then ending after alternating and repeating the same two or three riffs in a manner reminiscent of Nunslaughter in approach, if not in sound, with nine of the ten songs on the twenty five minute album being around three minutes long or shorter. In contrast to the relatively simplistic composition, a lot of the best riffs are catchy and well-written long form melodies that draw me in consistently, demanding attention after shorter sections of ripping shorter riffs that range from the more chaotic sounds of Incantation’s fastest riffs to reminding me of Sadistic Intent and to things that are unique to Diabolical Messiah.

Despite the fact that most of the album is right around the same tempo and despite the fact that the drumming is nearly constantly doing similar blasting patterns, Diabolical Messiah know when to ride a series of short phrases and when to shift to a melody (or to do one of the relatively few slow parts) in order to keep memorability at a maximum and keep listeners engaged. Sparse harmonization adds flavor without being overused enough to start feeling saccharine, and the guitar tone and production are massive enough to really let the guitars carry the album; though death metal at its best is often a combination of catchy vocal lines, heavy and interesting drum patterns, and sick riffs, Demonic Weapons Against the Sacred is, by virtue of the fantastic guitarwork overlaid over repetitive drumming and vocals, a fundamentally riff-centric album. While this would often be a bit of a detriment to me, the songwriting here is strong enough to keep me coming back consistently, and after a few months of listening, to it, I can’t recommend the album enough.  Demonic Weapons Against the Sacred is a great accomplishment for Diabolical Messiah, and yet another excellent addition to the Dark Descent Records catalog.

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Wampyrinacht – We Will Be Watching. Les cultes de Satan et les mystères de la mort

Finally, fifteen years after being recorded, Wampyrinacht’s full length debut has been unleashed upon the world. Jumping from ripping speed metal rhythms to more traditional eerie Hellenic black metal to interspersed moments of neoclassical shred, Wampyrinacht have really recorded something special and, at least to my ears, unique. The atmosphere is tremendously Greek in the best of ways despite the regular tempo and sometimes even style shifts within a song, with a doom metal dirge sometimes shifting to a keyboard-laden section of gloom to more neoclassicism to black metal again in a single stupendous long piece. “Ambitious” is probably the best word to describe the album; not content with just rehashing standard Rotting Christ or Necromantia tropes, Wampyrinacht have really shoved enough quality content into each song that attempting to describe it all individually would nearly require a section by section description, and as much as I hate schizophrenic bands that attempt something similar, Necrolord and Mantus really managed to avoid the jammed-together feeling that lesser songwriters evoke when doing something comparable.

Past the songwriting itself, some other things that deserve mention are Necrolord’s fantastic vocals and the solid production that gives the whole mix room to breathe without sounding too clean for comfort. While I don’t generally like the choice to forsake an old logo for text, in this one case it fits the sampled artwork (Luis Falero’s “Witches on the Sabbath”) fantastically, lending a nice touch of good presentation to the overall package. Classic Hellenic sounding stuff is more or less my favorite sort of black metal, and it’s great to hear so many killer additions to it this year (Wampyrinacht, Cult of Eibon, Caedes Cruenta, and more). a1693470863_10I desperately hope that this makes it to vinyl at some point, and that it gets the attention that it deserves.

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Legionnaire – Dawn of Genesis

I’ve been watching this band for a couple of years now waiting for this to come out- though their demos were a bit sloppy, the sheer potential that I saw for a great album merited periodic checkups to see when it was coming, and Legionnaire have not disappointed. The classic sounds of USPM groups and related bands are some of my favorites, and based on my preferences, Dawn of Genesis almost feels tailor made for me; massive hooks and leads hearkening to Slough Feg and Brocas Helm tie in with the speedy rhythms of Liege Lord or early European power metal groups such as Scanner, and only rarely do the influences become specific enough to a particular song or album to become noticeable. Big harmonized leads and rousing gallops intertwine in a familiar way, and vocalist/guitarist Aku Tienssuu’s powerful voice croons over the instruments with enough authenticity and barbaric charm to win over anyone familiar enough with heavy metal to ignore that he’s (quite intentionally) less pristine than some listeners are used to.

In the end, a band like Legionnaire is as firmly nostalgic as can be- heavy metal to the bones, and gloriously unashamed of it. Half of the tracks start off with the catchy dual leads that countless bands have used as their bread and butter, and at times, it feels like as many rhythms are variations on gallops as not, but none of the nostalgia harms the album for me. There are plenty of newer heavy metal bands that dip a bit too closely to the sounds of the legends that they emulate, detracting from the music via familiarity, but as much as I can hear my favorite bands in Dawn of Genesis, I hear them in the same way that I hear lesser known peers rather than in the same way I do a clone. Each time I listen to the album, I revel in the searing love for heavy metal that Legionnaire want to share so badly with the world. Though I haven’t been particularly impressed with a lot of the recent heavy metal and speed metal coming from Finland, this album and the recent debut release from countrymen Chevalier (who I understand are friendly with Legionnaire, with the two having played shows together) prove that the country is still producing incredible heavy metal.

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Ravenous Death – Ominous Deathcult

A lot of modern death metal eschews the entire concept of being catchy- not all of it, certainly, but often the focus of a band is to crush, or forge a certain atmosphere at the expense of memorability, or to rage chaotically without giving much of a chance to grasp onto anything. That’s not necessarily a criticism- I adore a lot of stuff that does that- but a big reason why I love Altars of Madness and Scream Bloody Gore so much is that they’re endlessly catchy, and Ravenous Death deliver hooks and instant catchiness in a way that’s not at the forefront of death metal today. Hailing from Mexico and comprising of a group of scene veterans that come from more bands each than many albums have songs, Ravenous Death put their long songwriting experience to excellent use on this first EP release.

Ominous Deathcult is a fairly varied affair that tears through five songs that range from massive crushers to fast tremolo-heavy somewhat more melodic affairs to the doom, gloom, and eeriness of the EP’s closer, but for all that the songs are different, they don’t sound random, and flow together satisfyingly throughout the duration of the 19 minute release. Enthralling tremolo melodies intertwine with big chugging rhythms, with just enough harmonization of the leads to attract attention without overusing harmony like some groups do. Influences from bands like Morbid Angel, Entombed, and even moments that remind me of Demigod  are present but Ravenous Death have done a good job of forging their own sound even on their first release, and as much as it’s familiar, Ominous Death is not nostalgic, and it definitely stands on its own feet. The rare solo section is short and sweet, which is how I like them in death metal, and the production is pretty good overall. There’s only a single section I’m not particularly fond of in the entire demo- a bit of the chugging rhythm work on “Throwing Up Guts”- but given how good the release is overall, it’s a very minor complaint. Very much interested in seeing where Ravenous Death goes from here- the band has announced their pairing to Memento Mori for their upcoming full length, and given the quality of the music on this EP, it’s well deserved.

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Necrot – Blood Offerings

Necrot is a band that’s best described as being absolutely pummeling, with no intention other than to pound listeners into submission. They don’t play technical or complex music, they don’t sell themselves as introspective- they just crush and rip their way through their approach on death metal, and that’s why so many people have come to love them in recent years. Pounding and groovy riffs are reminiscent of Bolt Thrower, the least mystical sections that Demigod conjured, or some of the other groups that extremely prolific members of the band are also involved with, but despite being reminiscent of other groups Necrot have their own distinguishing flavor that I keep coming back to. Brief moments of melody pop up for just long enough to draw attention and vanish just as quickly, adding an extra layer to an already extremely catchy album. Vocalist Luca Indrio rasps over the music at a pitch that’s just a bit higher than what listeners unfamiliar with the band might expect from their music, but he does so excellently, perfectly fitting the music, and timing his assaults well with the riffs and the primal drumming, which ranges from more standard death metal beats to some punk ones, always perfectly suiting the music, and often carrying a riff far further than it might otherwise be palatable.

Though I said earlier that the band willfully steps away from complicated songwriting, that isn’t to say that the composition was done carelessly- there’s a large variety of influences integrated into the album, and each song flows excellently through them, and even at their most similar, extremely well written transitions separate riffs that on a less competent album would blend together, leaving behind a distinctly memorable assault. On a related note, despite many sections of extreme repetition of a single riff or group of them as well as sections that spend a lot of time developing a single idea, Blood Offerings does an excellent job of avoiding overstaying its welcome at any point, and will likely be in my rotation for a long time. After the hype that Necrot built around themselves through years of excellent shows and several killer demos, it’s nice to see them deliver.

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Chevalier – A Call To Arms

Good raw speed metal  has been popping up more and more in the last few years, but this is certainly one of the best of the bunch that I’ve heard recently. Chevalier hearken back to many of my favorite classic USPM and international (particularly French) speed metal bands while forging their own sound entirely with big melodies, fast rhythms (with a few slower points that just make the rest of A Call To Arms hit that much harder), and a constant pounding drum beat in the background. Recorded in a rehearsal room, the “demo’s” lack of polish is stunningly charming, and makes for an interesting offset to the tightness of the entire performances, and speaks very, very deeply to my taste in heavy and speed metal.

This is a real guitarist’s album to me, with every song being chock full of tight solos that come in and out of the performance, popping up and then vanishing just as quickly, and with unexpected leads coming in and out of the rhythms constantly. Sometimes everything but the guitars drop out entirely, leaving only powerful and consciously medieval sounding leads to enrapture listeners, and every careful listen reveals new guitar parts that I missed on the previous listen. Despite the central focus on guitarwork, other aspects are far from ignored- the drumming is extremely competent, and the bass is audible and well done. There are some fantastic grooves where the two lock in together to great effect, and vocalist Emma Grönqvist fills everything out wonderfully from her place at the backseat of the recording; the choice to keep her mixed somewhat to the bottom of the mix both makes for a really cool effect and keeps her from overwhelming the absolutely fantastic riffing that makes the release so damn cool. There really aren’t any choruses in the traditional sense of the word, and that’s also a cool point to me- the whole thing is a showcase of unrelenting, uncompromising prowess, a love letter to speed metal and to heavy metal that gives me the shivers. I’m very much looking forward to more material, and hoping that the band’s plan of releasing the demo on vinyl at some point is realized. Until then, I’ll wait eagerly for the tape version to come out.

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Perdizione / Nihtglóm – split

I’ve been finding it hard to nail down exactly what I love so much about this split, but it really tickles me on a level that’s hard to put into words. Coming from obscure New Jersey metal cult Nihil Verum Nisi Mors, this split is at its most basic level a presentation of two anonymous one-man projects of  simple and sinister raw black metal. Though it’s a split, both sides tie together sonically, filling out a package that’s been filling a hole in my listening that I didn’t realize existed.

To start with Perdizione’s side: the whole thing is extremely muffled and distant in the best of ways, pounding its fury through a layer of reverb and separation that gives the project an ethereal feel. The wonderfully simple drums drive along melodic riffs that range from unconventional melodic lines that are almost hard to identify as black metal without the context of the rest of the music to more traditional trem bits, the entire thing being as hypnotizing an affair as I’ve ever heard, whether it’s carrying you through one of the more traditional bits or through the cool solo towards the end of Diavolo Odioso’s side; Perdizione carries you off to a dream, and the darkness of the project, supposedly about Catholic hell, is as rapturous as anything the Catholics ever wanted you to feel about their god.

Nihtglóm’s side immediately stands out as being much more direct in its gloomy attack, with much less distant production and a much more straightforward take on black metal, though it doesn’t suffer at all for it. Another thing that immediately stands out is that the bass is absolutely massive, sometimes playing the rhythm by itself and sometimes playing alongside the melodies, as much at the forefront as the guitar. The melodies that Nihtgenga, author of Nihtglóm’s music, creates are huge and captivating, endlessly catchy for all of their evil. Where Perdizione makes me throw back my head and worship, Nihtglóm makes me move it, as his side of the split is much more aggressive, marking a perfect counterpart to the dreaminess of the first half of the tape. Tasteful drumming ranges from blistering double bass to laid back single beats, carrying listeners to the depths of the cold night.

I’m really hoping to hear more from these two, because this tape has really blown me away, and left me with a deep craving for more.