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BLACK SABBATH The End

EP · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.57 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"The End" is an EP release by UK heavy/doom metal act Black Sabbath. The EP was released through Vertigo Records in January 2016. "The End" features 4 unreleased studio tracks, recorded during the sessions for "13 (2013)", and 4 live tracks recorded on the tour ("The Reunion Tour") supporting the album (recorded between April 2013 and April 2014). So while the EP was released to coincide with Black Sabbath final farewell tour ("The END Tour"), and was only available for purchase at shows on that tour, it actually doesn´t feature material recorded live from said tour.

Stylistically the studio tracks pretty much follow the same heavy/doom metal formula as the band also played on "13 (2013)". Quality wise it´s not necessarily obvious why these four tracks were left off "13 (2013)", as they are generally as memorable and powerful as the material featured on the album. Especially "Season of the Dead" is quite a brilliant track. The sound production resembles the one on "13 (2013)", which is again natural as these tracks were recorded during the same sessions as the material on "13 (2013)". The sound production is powerful, dark, and organic, although the drums could have prospered from a more organic tone.

The live recordings feature a professional sound quality, and the instrumental part of the performances is of high quality throughout. Ozzy Osbourne´s performances are a bit more up and down. He for example sounds great on "Under the Sun" (from "Vol 4 (1972)"), while his performances on the three tracks off "13 (2013)" ("God is Dead?", "End of the Beginning", and "Age of Reason"), vary a bit more in quality. He generally sounds alright when he sings loud anthemic parts, but he has a hard time hitting the right notes when he sings more mellow, and occassionally it even borders the embarresing. Overall the live tracks are pretty great though.

So while "The End" is not a perfect release, it´s certainly a release that fans of the band should find a worthy purchase, and especially those who enjoyed "13 (2013)" should find a lot to like here. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ENTROPIA Ufonaut

Album · 2016 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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adg211288
Ufonaut (2016) is the second album by Polish post-black metal act Entropia. Since the release of Vesper (2013) the band have parted ways with guitarist Michał Duda and replaced him with Kuba Cołta. On Ufonaut all band members have adopted single letter pseudonymous, spelling out the word 'ultra'. I'm unsure what the meaning behind that is though I'm sure there's a story there somewhere.

I can't see it being as interesting as the album itself though. With a sound that is best described as a meeting of black metal and sludge metal elements with a dose of progressive influence on the side, Entropia fit in a niche of acts that includes the likes of Cobalt and Vattnet Viskar (now just Vattnet). The vocals really sound more in line with sludge metal than the raspy growls of black metal and musically the album certainly gives off a massively different atmosphere to black metal's norm, but it still mostly fits that mould, delivering a riff driven, aggressive and even a bit technical approach to the genre, the latter of which is more unusual for black metal than other forms of extreme metal (notably death and thrash).

It's impressive as it stands and a recommended listen if that's the sort of thing you look for in the genre, but what puts Ufonaut up to the next level for me is the ideas that creep into the background, often in the form of melodies and keyboard parts, which bring a lot of different dimensions to the music. The kind of things that require a few listens to really realise, such as the eerily psychedelic sounds in Samsara or the oriental sounding Mandala. Things that allow each track to form its own identity and make Ufonaut such a compelling album.

I hadn't heard of Entropia before this release, but they've proved here that they're an impressive band and certainly Ufonaut is in my top ten albums for the year so far. And though I've chosen this point to review it, I'm still looking forward to it realising what further mastery the album may reveal with yet more listens – listens that I'm guaranteed to be having in the near future.

ENTHEAN Priests of Annihilation

Album · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 3 ratings
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Nightfly
It’s always great when you discover a new band that blows you away. Such a recent discovery for me is USA death metaller’s Enthean (Thanks Adam!). To call Enthean simply death metal though is only giving you a small part of the picture. Sure, there’s no shortage of technical death metal riffs and blast beats but we also get prog metal, some black metal and symphonic elements. The eight compositions contain a myriad of changes ranging from some pretty brutal riffing to quiet calm. Complex for sure but a strong sense of melody is rarely absent.

It’s the dynamics present in these songs along with the melody that make it such a captivating listen, Before You, I Am being the perfect example. There’s plenty of technical parts but not at the expense of killer riffs. These guys are no slouches either with each player at the top of their game. Some of the songs break the seven minute barrier giving them plenty of chance to stretch out, but to be honest they still manage to fit a lot in on even the shorter songs and to their credit do so without it becoming fragmented. It doesn’t get any better than Behold the Primordial where compelling riffs and shredding are set against some effective orchestration. In fact these orchestral elements are an integral part of the band’s sound and are going to help them stand out in an over-crowded extreme metal world. The production’s pretty good too, everything’s clear enough, but if I had a minor complaint it could just do with sharpening up a bit and a little more bite.

If you’re into the more extreme side of metal and enjoy it when different sub-genres collide then Enthean could just be the band for you. Well worth checking out and a band to keep an eye on in the future.

INVERLOCH Distance | Collapsed

Album · 2016 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Distance | Collapsed" is the debut full-length studio album by Australian doom/death metal act Inverloch. The album was released through Relapse Records in March 2016. Inverloch was formed 2011 under the d.USK monicker but changed band name the same year to Inverloch. Inverloch features Paul Mazziotta (drums) and Matthew Skarajew (guitars) in the lineup, who were also members of the prolific early 90s doom/death metal act diSEMBOWELMENT. diSEMBOWELMENT released the groundbreaking "Transcendence into the Peripheral" album in 1993, but disbanded shortly after. Since the release of the 2012 "Dusk... Subside" EP, there´s been one lineup change as bassist Tony Bryant has been replaced by Chris Jordon.

Stylistically the material on "Distance | Collapsed" continues the heavy doom/death style of the "Dusk... Subside (2012)" EP. We´re of course also treated to the Inverloch/diSEMBOWELMENT speciality, which is occasional blast beat sections. A feature which is quite unusual in doom/death, and especially in funeral doom, which Inverloch can often be labelled. This is predominanly really, really heavy music though, with long sustained chords, and slow doomy rhythms. There´s an almost ritualistic occult atmosphere to the rhythm patterns, and the drumming is generally quite inventive. The vocals vary between low in the mix unintelligible growling vocals and a blackened snarling croak.

The material on the 5 track, 39:26 minutes long album is well written, compositionally unconventional (doesn´t follow a vers/chorus formula), and generally quite intriguing. For the style it´s also relatively varied and "Distance Collapsed (In Rubble)" and "Lucid Delirium", which are some of the more "busy" tracks on the album, are complimented by the more repetitive atmospheric tracks "From the Eventide Pool", "The Empyrean Torment", and "Cataclysm of Lacuna".

The musicianship is generally on a high level, and as mentioned above the drumming is especially adventurous. There are some really intriguing drum moments spread out on the album. Sometimes it´s just an off-beat cymbal crash or a section with double bass drums which work to great effect (so it´s not necessarily technically flashy playing), but it´s obvious that a lot of thought has been put into creating the rhythms on the album. "Distance | Collapsed" is a well produced album too, and upon conclusion it is an album where everything go hand in hand from the high level musicianship and the intriguing songwriting, to the well sounding production, and it´s through and through a high quality release. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

THRENODY Bad Dreams Do Come True

Album · 2016 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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adg211288
Bad Dreams Do Come True (2016) is the debut full-length album by US atmospheric black metal act Threnody. The band have released the album for free via their Bandcamp page.

There are only three tracks on Bad Dreams Do Come True, so we're dealing with a couple of long compositions here. The final shorter track is a cover of the Burzum song Lost Wisdom. I'd say that Burzum is a decent point of reference for how Threnody sound on Bad Dreams Do Come True. Especially regarding the growled vocals of Ben Skonecki where it sounds like he's really going for matching the style of growling used by Varg Vikernes. That's not necessarily a good thing as although I do think Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994) is a masterpiece of a black metal record, I've always found Vikernes' style grating after a while. Though I do listen to Burzum this particular song is not one I'm familiar with, but when Threnody perform it it sounds like a solid black metal piece.

The bigger draw to this band though is their original material rather than their Burzum cover. Though just two songs they clock in at 27:35 and 12:21 respectively. Taking up over half of the album's duration on its own, the first is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which as you might expect from the name is based on the classic 1968 film by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, to the point which it samples the iconic theme music from the film as well as dialogue, particularly that of HAL 9000. It takes Threnody a little while to get their black metal music started, to the point where I was starting to wonder if it ever would, but once it does get going the 2001 dialogue against the atmospheric black backdrop proves to be surprisingly effective and even quite sinister sounding.

The middle track is the title track Bad Dreams Do Come True which while still quite long is a much more direct black metal composition from Threnody since it forgoes the voice-overs of 2001: A Space Odyssey except at its very beginning. The track to my ears doesn't flow as well as it could though as there are a couple of instances where it seems to be fading out and ending only to abruptly restart in such a way that it sounds as if the next track has started, as if Threnody just glued a few shorter songs together with cheap sellotape that isn't quite managing to hold everything together.

Though it displays a couple of noted issues their interpretation of 2001: A Space Odyssey alone makes Bad Dreams Do Come True quite the promising debut album from Threnody. It will be interesting to hear what they can come up with next.

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KMFDM What Do You Know, Deutschland?

Album · 1986 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Unitron
KMFDM - What Do You Know, Deutschland?

What Do You Know, Deutschland? is the second studio album from industrial metal/rock band KMFDM. Two years after their limited released debut, KMFDM released their first wide-released album. Interestingly, they changed their sound a bit with this first wide release.

Unlike the previous album, What Do You Know, Deutschland? is a lot less noisy, instead featuring a lot more industrial dance elements. There are still only sporadic metal moments here, this time mixed with industrial dance and funk instead of noisy industrial rock. Opener "Kickin' Ass" does just that, and kicks good. Thumping bass, funky beats, and sneering vocals make up this song and the other best songs like "Conillon", "Me I Funk", and the humorous "Zip". The latter has vocals that have the stoner quality of Krautrock bands like Can.

Everyone goes nuts over Nine Inch Nails' debut Pretty Hate Machine, but that album probably wouldn't have existed without this album. This album is also a lot more varied, with most songs having their own distinct sound. Also, is it just me or does the beginning of "Conillon" sound like proto-dubstep? Not only that, but there's some great guitar riffs as well.

For those like me who love funk and industrial, this is certainly worth more than a few listens. A bit of an underrated gem, with some of the tastiest funky bass licks you'll ever hear. Hope you found this review helpful.

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SLEEP Volume One

Album · 1991 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 4 ratings
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aglasshouse
Sleep's debut is everything a debut should be: a spotlight of everything that the band stood for and would continue to stand for in the future. The slow dragging of lead footed guitar grinds that nod sleepily along to the heart-pounding jam of the drums was something doom metal, especially the stonerriffic Sleep's brand, would be known for. A small con, if you could call it that, is the hoarse, screaming vocals of Al Cisneros, whose style is very akin to Page Hamilton of Helmet. The only difference being Helmet's addition of noise rock to their alternative metal slamming style filled in any amateurish gaps that Hamilton's voice didn't. Cisneros has the problem that he has a lower quality voice, and sticks out a bit from the music. Even with that, Volume One does utilize a dream-like metal state (very truthful to the band's nomenclature), advertised well with Dali's fried bacon portrait. This album's darker tone would be left behind slightly in subsequent albums, so you can expect some uniqueness that you wouldn't find in the rest of the band's discography. Great start!

BUCKETHEAD Pike 20 - Thaw

Album · 2013 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
PIKE 20 - THAW is the 10th album released by BUCKETHEAD in 2013 and the 50th overall solo studio album. Another zany all instrumental album finding BUCKETHEAD delivering all the musical performances but at this point the production is still handled by Dan Monti and Albert. This PIKE was simultaneously released with “Pike 19 - Teeter Slaughter” and delivers another wild and whacked out ride in BUCKETHEADLAND

“Thaw" (8:07) starts out with highly distorted jangly guitar chords striking and sustaining and then it becomes even more distorted and turns into very slow grungy doom metal. The tempo picks up with drums but it stays mid-tempo that eventually turns into an alternating clean guitar section and a thrash metal section. Generally speaking, this one throws a new style at us and sustains it for a few measures and then tries something new bases on the same melodic development. The true grit is in the heavy distortion and doom inspired dreadful mood

"Melting Season" (2:26) is a much more energetic and frenetic number with a screeching guitar giving way to low tuned chugging riffs sounding rather sludgy

”Room of Frozen Combs" (3:12) is back to slow and doomy feeling with a strange slide guitar thing going on. Sounds like the guitars are tuned down as humanly possible. Has a weird drone section between a section with percussion and a clean guitar unaccompanied arpeggio section. Reverts back to grungy doom metal and continues to trade off sections

"Kept in Batteries" (2:46) is another screecher with a strange high pitched guitar lick that becomes joined by a grungy doom inspired mid-tempo guitar riff. The two styles trade-off and heavier parts become heavier. Has very strange time sigs at times

"Dry" (3:05) is another heavily distorted doom-fueled guitar intro that suddenly gets joined by a funky bass line that funkifies the doom guitar grunge. Then back to mid-tempo doom metal and then back to doom funk etc and even gets thrashy

"Fragmented" (6:53) is a slower doom metal track that reminds of early Sabbath only more distorted and incorporates some thrashy riffs that sustain alternate with the slowed down doom metal. Patterns repeat with some swirling electronic effects in the background. This one has a solo and clean guitar parts as well and has a little freak out towards the end

"Dust Filter" (2:15) is a bluesy metal rocker with a mid-tempo grungy riff workout with the same doom distortion effects that sounds like a demo or something

"In the Bin" (1:54) is a short little bluesy rocker that is quite uninspiring

"Fountains in a Wire" (1:32) is a short clean arpeggiated guitar riff with bass and drums that breaks into classic 80s metal fury and then a bit of doom metal and then poof it’s gone

This one has some great stuff on it but many of the tracks use the same ideas albeit in different ways. The cool parts are really cool but there is a bit of repetition to this PIKE and the last three tracks are just filler

ÖXXÖ XÖÖX (2) Rëvëürt

Album · 2011 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
The term “progressive” gets tossed around a lot in the 20th century but in reality most bands that don this description on their badge are actually just participating in a form of retro worship of their favorite 70s prog bands with touches of modernity. Thankfully there are still bands who put the true meaning back into the word “progressive” and actually nudge a musical genre (or two) a few notches into hitherto unexplored directions and take the listener on a true intergalactic sonic experience where despite hosting similarities with past bands is more akin to a convergent evolutionary feel sort of like life sprouting up simultaneously in the universe under the same laws of physics but evolves into something very similar but weirdly different. The music sounds like the perfect sonic companion to the organic yet freaky logo and album cover that graces the listener’s first impression.

ÖXXÖ XÖÖX is one of those strange bands that have managed to take existing musical genres and put them in a blender and seeded them with kernels of creativity and reaped their harvests in most peculiar ways. The band originates from the Normandy coastal region of France in the small city of Dieppe but one would be hard pressed to discern such a fact from the lyrics alone since like their fellow countrymen Magma, they have invented their own unique language with a basic vocabulary of about 300 words to grace their musical expressions which adds a whole extra layer of exoticness and complexity which is explained on their BandCamp site. The name of the band isn’t an umlaut lover’s cutesy version of “hugs and kisses” but rather is a code that means 69 in their invented language. RËVËÜRT is their debut release and the music is very much like the eerie artwork that graces the cover. ÖXXÖ XÖÖX is truly a unique band that takes various elements of doom and gothic metal and mixes it with symphonic classical, dark ambient, chamber music and avant-garde time signatures that unpredictably hop, skip and jump from one passage to another eschewing virtually any known methods of songwriting construction. The music generally marches along at mid-tempo with occasional outbursts of energy.

The album begins with thundering percussive claps, demonic church organs and a group sing along with the lead gothic male vocals of Laurent Lunois becoming joined in by the female ethereal vocals of Laure Le Prunenec aka Rïcïnn. Like all the monstrously long and slowly wending and winding tracks on RËVËÜRT, “Ägörth” takes its time to build up its thick atmospheres and musical intensity that delivers a synth-drenched gothic metal extravaganza with beautifully twisted classical melodies gone wild. The track is very representative of the entire album and RËVËÜRT really feels like variations of a single theme and at 77:57, a very long demanding theme but somehow this band is capable of delivering enough hooks and variations of the passages to keep my attention fully focused on their weird and twisted avant-garde take on perhaps a metal take on “Phantom Of The Opera” and even makes me think of what would happen if an avant-garde metal band like Unexpect joined in with goth tinged Type O Negative to create a mesmerizing, energetic and utterly unforgettable experience.

While the music is fairly consistent in its atmospheric delivery making me think of a haunted evening at Notre Dame where the spirits are restless, the moon is full and all kinds of dark magic is afoot, the unpredictability really comes in how the band unfold their tracks in the songwriting department. At times we will hear a Chopin-esque classical keyboard run accompanied by doom metal guitars, highly technical percussive chops with eerie synthesizers and Gothic vocal motifs and at other times whizzing harpsichords accompanied by string ensembles and operatic vocal interactions A combo of effects that leaves me begging for more. While RËVËÜRT is generally tagged as avant-garde metal, the truth is that the metal only occurs a portion of the time with many long passages being performed exclusively on piano, others on synth and others on drums with the metal only joining for the more aggressive sections. Whatever you want to call this, it is truly one that demands a few listens to sink in but one that has been enjoying a regular rotational spin in my world. The musical flow is totally intense and the vocals sung in this exotic language take the listener to extreme musical realms where the celestial and terrestrial temporarily become one.

ÖXXÖ XÖÖX (2) Nämïdäë

Album · 2015 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
After gracing the world with their new musical style created to foment the blooming of the mind that takes root in inner universal truths, the umlaut loving ÖXXÖ XÖÖX spent four long years crafting their sophomore album NÄMÏDÄË which once again displays their invented language created from their intuition and set to their own codification of rules. Once again we are treated to the progressive amalgamation and musical alchemy of the musical soul to create another haunting and riveting sequel to their debut “Rëvëürt.” After releasing the debut independently, this bizarre atmospheric goth and doom symphonic metal band moved things over to Blood Music and deliver another long winding operatic metal extravaganza that spans the lengthy time of 74:46 but like the previous offering leads the listener through a sonic epic musical journey that unfolds and reveals its charms slowly but never fails in the entertainment department as to keep me enthralled for the entirety of playing time.

Stylistically NÄMÏDÄË delivers the exact same recipe as the debut by incorporating classically inspired keyboard runs tainted with odd time signatures, technical drumming wizardry of Isarnos with the operatic dramatic flair of vocalists Laurent Lunoir and Laure Le Prunenec all accompanied by doom and gothic metal aggression. While the atmosphere and instrumentation remain the same on album number two, this one has more intense and interesting compositions. It seems that all the ingredients have been put on a higher flame and the result sizzle in a more dynamic and varied sounding album. The synthesized atmospheric generator is thicker than a fog filled evening in a cemetery, the metal is much more aggressive and appears more often with even scant traces of thrash creeping in whilst the lyrical delivery is even more vehemently pronounced, passionate and prophetic sounding. The compositions meander though softer and heavier passages and while Lunoir’s Gothic vocals are dominant on the softer passages, he utilizes more extreme metal shouting and growls on the heavier parts at times thus bringing the mood into more aggressive musical arenas, however the music generally marches along at mid-tempo.

Once again ÖXXÖ XÖÖX constructs a beautifully delicate album where the mixing and production of the all the sounds on board are perfectly woven together to create one of the most atmospheric drenching dark ambient gothic doom metal meets operatic classical music that easily sets this band apart from virtually any other in the world and beyond today. Where else are you gonna hear doom and goth metal played together with lush string sections, haunting church organs, harpsichords, tech drumming, passionate pleas in some exotic tongue all enshrouded in unorthodox song structures that eschew any rules yet all rooted in catchy classically based melodic developments? Well, if that sounds interesting to ya, then look no further than NÄMÏDÄË because this is the real progressive / avant-garde metal deal that takes all this disparate elements and blends them together seamlessly in sprawling epic tracks that flow together to create an utterly unique and mind-blowing listening experience.

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