Winter's Wake


 Winter's Wake are an Independent Viking Metal band from Staten Island New York. Yes, I know what you might be thinking, what on earth is a band from New York of all places playing Viking Metal? While it may seem strange to some, don't let this be a deterrence

While Viking Metal may also get a rep for being cheesy and being lumped together with it's Folk Metal and Pagan compatriots, Winter's Wake does a fairly good job at distancing themselves from the "Cheese factor"and adding catchy, upbeat and well tunes with memorable solid riffs. As with any good Viking metal band, battle esque interludes and intros are aplenty and prepare you for the ensuing battle.

With their reissuing of their  Full Length, we are gifted with 3 bonus tracks and completely revamped and remastered sound.  This creates for a great  and enjoyable listening experience with the meshing together of the various folk and orchestral sections with that rawness and extreme metal edge. Plus lets not kid ourselves, who doesn't love bonuses?


Deuil - Shock/Deny

This morning, I took a bit of a tumble down the rabbit hole.  Except instead of finding opium-smoking insects and mentally ill hat proprietors, the charred landscape was filled with perverse creatures beyond comprehension.   Thus is the not-so-whimsical world of Deuil, a black metal act out Liege, Belgium.  With only two roughly 30 minute EP’s on bandcamp, Deuil follows the same less-is-more philosophy that has worked well for rising acts like Malthusian.  What Shock/Deny may lack in girth, it makes up for in palpable atmosphere.
But make no mistake, this is not the cheerful, indie-riff-infused “atmospheric black metal” that seems to become ever more popular these days.  No.  This is a lone walk through a dark, twisted forest.  A gaze into the abyss.  Deuil harken back to the early days of Burzum, where lengthy compositions were filled with equal parts malice and mystique.  Not post-rock and meditative catharsis.
To grossly oversimplify, Shock/Deny has two modes: groove-driven trudges and tremolo-blastbeat frenzies.  The former is highly focused on riff, with layered guitars and crunchy basslines.  The rhythm parts maintain a trance-inducing focus on time with which one can’t resist bobbing their head.  The lead guitar then takes this hypnosis to the deranged with simple, circular picking patterns that stick in the mind.  “Deny” is arguably quite doomy with its molasses pacing, sustained bass notes, and even some female spoken-word.  There are also some brief ambient sections at the open and close of “Shock” that would have been right at home on a Silent Hill game soundtrack.
When things pick up pace, and they will, transitions are quite smooth.  Almost Tool-ish delay effects give way to pounding drums and walls of distortion.  Jangly guitars a la early Gorgoroth or Taake threaten to wear the pick down to a nub with their speed and ferocity.  While these segments are extremely melodious, you can leave your fedora at home, because Sunbather this ain’t.  The emotions I find myself awash in are those of grief, sorrow, and regret.
I have to say that Shock/Deny is a marked step up from the previous Acceptance/Rebuild.  The polar-opposite album title is a pretty strong indicator of the shift.  Compositions have been tightened up greatly with memorable hooks, fetching drums, and above all, more powerful vocals.  Deuil have dropped the under-produced, distant howls for sickening wretches more comparable to Melechesh or even Indian.  Front and center, this added presence completes the increased focus on the evil and unhinged.
Final word: skip the McDonalds today and spend your 5 Euro on this album.  It’s rich with atmosphere, tightly constructed, and highly emotive.  I think those who enjoyed the Akhlys debut this year will also find much to revel in with Shock/Deny.  Also recommended for fans of Burzum, Leviathan, and perhaps even Lord Mantis.  Here’s hoping Deuil only continue to grow and mature in the years to come. You can stream and purchase the album HERE.


Barbelith - Mirror Unveiled

A little more post-black for you today.  The drumming and vocals remind me a lot of the latest Bosse-De-Nage album, but the guitars and songwriting are a little "blacker" and do away with more of the indie rock influences.  Still, this has the same ups and downs between uplifting and sorrowful as many albums in the genre.  The first two tracks particularly wowed me.  My hats off to the drummer.  Stream it or buy it for $5 on BANDCAMP.


Pyrrhon - Growth Without End

Time to speed things up a bit.  Fast, technical insanity here to leave you bruised and possibly pregnant.  You can catch it HERE at bandcamp when it drops June 1st.  Two tracks are available for preview.  I am interested to see how the whole thing turns out.  For now, I'll let the music do the talking.  You can also check out their previous release HERE.


Doomed - Wrath Monolith

I have always been quite choosey about my doom metal. Or, as the hardcore doomers might say, I just don't “get it.” I think a lot of it comes down to guitar work. A player myself, this tends to be the first thing that my ears go to. While I agree that I am somewhat missing the point of funeral doom in looking for hooks, that doesn't make the endless dirges of sustained power chords any more interesting for me to listen to. Fortunately, Doomed doesn't see these elements as mutually exclusive.

Wrath Monolith instantly caught my attention with its fusion of death metal vox and riffs with funeral doom atmosphere. Vocals are primarily deep growls with the occasional retch. Meanwhile the guitars provide a dual trudge of crunchy chords with effects-laden leads that are simplistic, but highly infectious and well-crafted. Songs run the gamut of slow, atmospheric marches like opener, “Paradoxon” to more mid-paced, palm-mute heavy affairs like “Our Ruin Silhouettes.” The latter sports some excellent soloing and use of harmonics that made this a fast favorite.

There are some notable progressive elements as well. Songs may open with a misleadingly quiet, somewhat ominous piano or errant guitar picking only to evolve into a full-on head-banger death march (“Euphoria's End”). Doomed play with a a variety of sonic spaces with much success throughout the album. The tempo changes, shifting drum patterns, and ever-present personality of the lead guitar all serve to engage the listener whether the song is 5 minutes or 12. Additions of bells, horns, and subtle synth effects further Wrath Monolith's agenda to provide an air of class and as it levels everything in its wake.

Unfamiliar with Doomed, I decided to delve a bit deeper into their discography. Doing so only served to further improve my already high regard for this latest outing. While similar in overall sound, earlier works are a bit more 50/50 when it comes to the funeral doom and death metal. Songs felt slower and more depressive in atmosphere. With each album, the heaviness has been creeping closer to death, but the slogging paces of certain tracks have left them more firmly grounded in the extreme doom genre.

I feel that Wrath Monolith represents a larger leap away from My Dying Bride towards Morbid Angel. The mixture is far closer to a 70/30 in favor of the latter. “The Triumph – Spit” even has a portion that seems to forgo any doom elements altogether, leaving only a crushing wake of ferocious vocals and pounding double bass. There are other innovations as well. Songwriting is elevated with concise arrangements, more memorable hooks, and clear delineation between songs. Each track has its own personality while benefiting the overall aesthetic. The pacing is also stronger with more ups and downs.

For those who prefer Doomed's slower moments, I doubt you will find yourself disappointed either. There are still some melodic, more conventionally “doom-sounding” songs as with “Looking Back,” which features some moody clean singing and the trademark mournful vibe. Wrath Monolith is a veritable smorgasbord of emotional climates, but what is most impressive is how they are woven together to create a cohesive concept.

Final word: this is a highly recommended release for fans of all extreme metal sub-genres. With a very heavy dose of death, Wrath Monolith is doom metal for those desiring something perhaps more riff-driven. Far from a rote fest of drawn-out power chords and endless dirges, this album is filled with catchy hooks and punishing vocals. Furthermore, longtime fans will find familiar elements at play, but with increased vigor and presented differently enough to stand apart from Doomed's previous discography.  The album is available for stream HERE and purchasable for the low price of 7 Euro, though they also offer a digipack and some excellent bundles for a bit more. 



Mendel - Oblivion

Let me start by getting some cursory stuff out of the way:  Mendel is a virtuoso for people who don’t normally go down for the usual wankery.  Sure, you could easily put Oblivion on shuffle with Yngwie, Satriani, and Vai; but I don’t even keep those guys in my iTunes.  While the hardcore fans of such monumental names may dispute my claims, I feel that what makes artists like Mendel more impressive is a profound vision for songwriting.  Sure, Joe and Steve may be able to outshred me, but at the end of the day I really don’t give a shit unless it is enjoyable to listen to. 
Fortunately, much like the previous Shaking Hands with the Devil and Subliminal Colors, Oblivion is anything but boring.  The style feels less like a “look at me and how good I am” and more “let's build an awesome song.” There are inevitably those who will question the appeal of instrumental music, but I assure you that in this case vocals are utterly unnecessary.  Mendel conveys more than enough emotion through his axe to engage the listener on a visceral level.  Perhaps more importantly, I would say that he has stepped up his game in several areas.
For one, there seems to be a more cohesive vision and concept to the album as a whole.  Though Mendel has assured me otherwise, it feels as though there is an underlying story and this is the soundtrack.  The overall aesthetic definitely fits the sci-fi cover art (done by Sven de Caluwe).  While each song does an exemplary job differentiating itself, there is a uniting theme to the general sound that just screams outer space.
This brings me to another level of innovation: Mendel seems to have stepped up his melding of effects and alternative instrumentation.  There are moments right off the bat with “Discover” and the 8-bit-sounding intro to “Pulse” that add dimension and intrigue to the blistering compositions.  The cascading delay effects at the beginning of “Horizon” are just keen for a guitar nerd like me, not to mention the addition of Wah-wah.  Also, can I just say saxophone solo?  This contribution to one my favorite tracks, “Horizon,” (courtesy of Reina van Triest) tickled me in all the right ways.  Proggy keys, music box, choral synths: the list goes on, but none of it is phoned in.
Schmancy pedals and synthesizers aside, the basic (if you can call it that) guitar noodlery is still very much intact and as strong as ever.  I never cease to be amazed at how many different styles Mendel manages to capture in a single cohesive piece; from the straight neo-classical solos to bangable prog-metal chord progressions that run the gamut from Protest the Hero to Enslaved.  There are moments during “Oblivion Pt. 2” where I couldn't help but just smile, and there's a part about midway through where Mendel’s death metal proclivities creep through the cracks.  You would think this would clash with the strange instrumentation that immediately follows, yet like everything else it somehow works.  Last but not least, there are two exquisite guest solos from Benjamin Ellis (Bloodshot Dawn) and Jan Vermeulen (Mendel's former guitar teacher) that you do not want to miss.
Final word: Mendel has done it again. Foregoing the self-indulgent qualities associated with most virtuosos, Oblivion represents the union of vast technical ability with a commendable foundation of songwriting chops. That's not to mention the increased focus on overall concept and new musical additions.  This is a must-have for guitar aficionados and a must-listen for any music fan whether you are into metal or not.  You can stream the whole thing HERE via bandcamp.  At $7 for digital, this is a no-brainer purchase.  The neat artwork might warrant picking up the digipack as well.


Tengger Cavalry - Blood Sacrifice Shaman (2015)

History Channel Metal. That is my personal tag for Tengger Cavalry's latest opus. While it is true that Blood Sacrifice Shaman is a reworking of the band's debut, this is anything but a re-record. What the original sports in black metal rawness, this 2015 version counters with a vision of beauty. Gone are most of the harsh vocals, replaced with an increased focus on throat-singing and instrumental compositions. Listening to this is a journey through time and a celebration of cultural heritage. This is quality metal even your mother could appreciate.

I made an important note in my review for Ancient Call that I think warrants repeating: there is not even a hint of parody in anything that Tengger Cavalry does. While I am a fan of acts like Ensiferum and Equilibrium, their take on folk metal is a decidedly more silly one based on costuming and audience fist-pumping. Those things are fun and all, but sometimes I crave a level of class and true appreciation for the real history behind these lyrics and arrangements. These are the things for which I find myself coming back to Tengger Cavalry time and time again.

Once more, they have not let me down. In fact, the atmospheric qualities that have been increasingly explored with each TC album have certainly reached some sort of benchmark. “The Wolf Ritual” is a masterful piece of art, perfectly incorporating traditional Chinese instruments with crunchy guitar chords. Placement and orchestration are delicate tools for which frontman, Nature, has a clear knack. Even shorter tracks like “Rootless” and “The Native” refuse to fall into the filler category with gripping string performances that warrant every ounce of your attention. Then there are the more typical folk-metal war marches of songs like “Horseman” and “Tengger Cavalry,” which feel like continuations of ideas from last year's equally spectacular Ancient Call.

Also of note is the improved level of production on this album. While there is a certain amount of charm I attribute to the raw-sounding distortion of previous releases, the increased lushness is something that does Blood Sacrifice Shaman oh-so-right. The reverb, balanced levels, and overall polish create an experience that is wholly immersive. Every instrument feels absolutely vibrant and alive. I want to step into the space that Nature has created and build a quaint little home on the landscape. Of course, then the hordes might come burn it down; but it would be worth it.

I want to say so much more about this album, but words fail me. This is something I would classify more as an “experience” than simply metal. As such, Blood Sacrifice Shaman is something you should explore for yourself. I realize that this sounds like a cop-out, as well as just an obvious thing to say about any album, but sometimes things just defy a standard reviewing format. In short, it's heavy enough to please the head-bangers while displaying more than enough mature songwriting skills to attract even the most high-profile director. Paging Quentin Tarantino.  $9.99 on bandcamp and $8.99 on Amazon.


Secrets of the Sky - Pathway

How about a little progressive post metal today?  Unlike the more sludge-inclined stuff from the genre I tend to post, Secrets of the Sky are much heavier on the prog side of things.  The guitar effects sport hints of Tool, and the overall sound is comparable to acts like Minsk.  However, I think that this is a bit more engaging than the latter due to the concise song-writing and brevity.  I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed this, but with those cool bass lines, perfect mixture of spacy cleans and melodeath-sounding growls, and the hooky guitars; what's not to like?  It's a journey worth taking more than once.  You can stream the whole thing HERE at Invisible Oranges.  Then you can buy it HERE for $8.99.  I'm definitely considering it.


God Damn - Vultures

How about a change of pace?  Something less extreme, but still fast and hard?  Give this new hard rock/stoner rock release a gander.  Loads of distortion, some occasional trippy guitar effects, and vocals not dissimilar from White Zombie.  The comparison is probably most apparent on "We Don't Like You," which is just an all-around great track.  I could also see this shuffling with Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Kyuss, Torche, and the like.  Good stuff.  The album drops tomorrow, but you can listen to the full stream early HERE.  The album is $8.99 for digital via Amazon.


نار جهنم Narjahanam

نار جهنم - وما خفي كان أعظم 

It's always a treat for me coming across a band from the Middle East, maybe for them less so. In a region so politically clout the mere playing of such music can be condemnable which automatically draws me to them. In the small country Bahrain, Narajahanam do just this. While Bahrain is slightly more liberal, I can't imagine their  style of Oriental-esque Death Metal being  embraced and welcomed with open arms. The music is electric and thunderous with its Death and Black Metal influences and the Exotic vibes are ever so present  Middle Eastern influences. The meshing together of Western and Eastern elements and influences in a non-kitschy way is what gives this the fresh sound it has.


Dendritic Arbor - Romantic Love

Make no mistake, there is nothing romantic about this album.  I am still in the process of truly digesting all that is going on.  What genre is it?  At times I feel like I am listening to a particularly grimy grindcore act, others I am thinking about black and death metal in the vein of Malthusian or Portal.  Then they hit you with the occasional breather of straight ambient, even when the music is at its most vile.  It is all over the place, and I love it.  It has already shot up pretty high on my 2015 list.  Not quite top 10 material, but who knows what a few more listens might bring?  Be sure to stick around for the full run time, as things don't truly pick up until my personal favorite, "Horizontal Key Vertical Gate."  "Ewaste" is also quite good.  Check out the whole album HERE.  It's only $5 for


Gigan - Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery and Super Science

Well that title is certainly a mouthful.  I suppose it matches the girth of the guitar work.  This is some truly original death metal that maintains an oddly psychedelic atmosphere.  Plenty of guitar work for the avid student to drool over without become an arduous affair.  While things do get a little off-the-wall at times, there are plenty of hooks and headbanging rhythms to keep everyone happy.  You can check it out or purchase it HERE or HERE if you prefer.



Balmog Necroangel's Revelations 
With the increasing number of bands choosing the progressive or experimental (or any of the other derivative sub genres) route to black metal, there seems to be a craving in me for the more raw stuff. I’m talking about the no frills, jarringly abrasive noise that says a big fuck you to everything conventional. So it’s a good thing that I found Balmog when I did. This Spanish three piece’s 2010 EP ‘Necroangel’s Revelations’ was recently re-released by Blackseed Productions ahead of the band’s upcoming second full length. This EP screams out black metal from start to finish and what sets this band apart from most second wave clone bands, is the way the music doesn’t sound contrived.

‘First Revelation’ starts with some guitar feedback, before directly jumping into the action with tremolo riffs and the rapid drumming. From there on, the flow is very natural as the song shifts into a mid paced riffs before the guitars offer the slightest hint of melody with a small bridge section. All three tracks on the record are long and none of them overstay their welcome (well, except for the last track. I’ll get to that one). The way this works is, the band manages to bring in different varieties of the genre into the track. Balmog can go from tremolo frenzy to mid paced atmospheric arpeggios without the listener even noticing the change.

‘Second Revelation’ starts in a similar manner to the first and the sound of church bells add a very gothic tone to the music. There is the slightest hint of thrash metal influence, but at the core it’s unadulterated black metal. The rasps of the vocalist sound demonic, reinforcing that evil feel of the music. This track settles into a more comfortable pacing as it progresses, only to be disrupted by a solo that is well written and one that keeps up with the feel of the track.

The ‘Final Revelation’ starts on a more atmospheric note and the track itself has a less frenzied approach compared to the first two. Once again, this is a track that brings in all the black metal tropes to create an interesting mish mash. Around the half way point, the track slows down and gothic chants (I think it’s in Latin?) chime in. The guitars, the agonizing vocals and the mild chanting in the background create a very interesting dynamic which lasts for like a couple of minutes. After this, the guitars die down, but the chanting does not and it continues alone till the end of the track. Having a dramatic finish is fine, but having only gothic chants for two and half minutes is a bit annoying.
The last couple of minutes aside, Balmog’s ‘Necroangel’s Revelations’ is a solid black metal EP which carries the black metal motif like a classic. It’s a refreshing glimpse into the raw side of the genre, while everybody else is busy making it progressive.

Rating: 76%



If you have a taste for the ugly and obscene, but have yet to check out Indian, you are missing out.  This group of blackened sludge Chicagoans take crunchy, ominous riffs and apply Today Is The Day style wretches and shrieks.  Despite the sheer intensity of it all, compositions are quite catchy and not at all devoid of melody.  There has been a bit of an overhaul of line-ups between Indian and equally barbaric Lord Mantis.  Lord Mantis' frontman left/was ejected and has now formed Missing with several notable collaborators including Jeff Whitehead of Leviathan and Lurker of Chalice fame.  Meanwhile, the remaining members have shuffled with Indian to continue with the Lord Mantis moniker.  Both are poised to create some highly anticipated new material.  Indian have put out a number of albums, but my personal favorites are HERE and HERE.  That should keep you all pretty busy.


Vermin Womb - Permanence

Taking a break from 2015 releases, someone dropped this bomb on me yesterday from 2014.  Think Primitive Man meets Pig Destroyer on steroids.  Within these 18 minutes of "music" are some of the most brutal vocals I have heard to date.  Not to be outdone, the drums and guitars crank out some ugly, punishing riffs at breakneck crust speed.  There is a track that is less than a minute, but I think that one left the biggest smile on my face.  It takes a certain type of mind to leave a memorable mark within that short a timespan, and to Vermin Womb that seems to be just business as usual.  You can listen to the album HERE and also name your price for purchase.  Another easy decision added to my library.