Adam Gardiner
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2067 reviews/ratings
WINTERHORDE - Underwatermoon Melodic Black Metal | review permalink
SONIC PULSAR - Playing the Universe Progressive Metal | review permalink
STAR ONE - Victims of the Modern Age Progressive Metal | review permalink
BEYOND TWILIGHT - For the Love of Art and the Making Progressive Metal | review permalink
REBELLION - Miklagard - The History of the Vikings Volume II Power Metal | review permalink
BEYOND TWILIGHT - Section X Progressive Metal | review permalink
IMMORTAL - At the Heart of Winter Black Metal | review permalink
DARKOLOGY - Altered Reflections Progressive Metal | review permalink
CRUACHAN - Folk-Lore Folk Metal | review permalink
ALICE IN CHAINS - Black Gives Way To Blue Alternative Metal | review permalink
AYREON - The Final Experiment Progressive Metal | review permalink
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal | review permalink
EPICA - The Divine Conspiracy Symphonic Metal | review permalink
AYREON - The Human Equation Progressive Metal | review permalink
EPICA - Design Your Universe Symphonic Metal | review permalink
ASTARTE - Quod Superius Sicut Inferius Melodic Black Metal
AVANTASIA - The Metal Opera Power Metal
AYREON - 01011001 Progressive Metal | review permalink
REBELLION - Arise: From Ginnungagap to Ragnarök - The History of the Vikings Volume III Power Metal | review permalink
TO-MERA - Delusions Progressive Metal | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 319 4.12
2 Progressive Metal 235 4.10
3 Traditional heavy metal 199 3.84
4 US Power Metal 121 4.20
5 Atmospheric Black Metal 119 4.07
6 Black Metal 114 3.78
7 Folk Metal 100 3.92
8 Symphonic Metal 93 3.75
9 Thrash Metal 87 4.01
10 Hard Rock 80 3.83
11 Non-Metal 68 3.90
12 Death Metal 66 3.82
13 Technical Death Metal 59 4.18
14 Melodic Black Metal 44 4.08
15 Melodic Death Metal 40 3.81
16 Speed Metal 40 3.90
17 Metal Related 35 3.90
18 Alternative Metal 35 3.44
19 Doom Metal 32 3.98
20 Gothic Metal 26 3.81
21 Symphonic Black Metal 24 4.10
22 Groove Metal 23 3.63
23 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 16 3.88
24 Avant-garde Metal 14 3.82
25 Metalcore 14 2.82
26 NWoBHM 12 4.46
27 Depressive Black Metal 9 3.67
28 Brutal Death Metal 8 2.81
29 Industrial Metal 6 3.25
30 Sludge Metal 6 4.33
31 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.50
32 Deathcore 3 2.50
33 Drone Metal 3 3.50
34 Stoner Metal 3 4.00
35 Neoclassical metal 3 3.83
36 Funeral Doom Metal 2 3.25
37 Death 'n' Roll 2 3.00
38 Crossover Thrash 1 3.50
39 Hardcore and crust 1 4.00
40 Proto-Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

TODESSTOß Hirngemeer

Album · 2015 · Depressive Black Metal
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In the world of avant-garde metal there are many crazy albums. There are many downright weird albums. And there are also albums like Hirngemeer (2015) by German act Todesstoß, which sound like something straight out of a nightmare and are completely fucking unhinged. The release is the seventh full-length album released under the moniker, but the first with an extended line-up. Joining founder and previous sole member Martin Lang is Euer Gnaden (bass) and Flesh of L (vocals). Hirngemeer (apparently meaning Brainworm if Google Translate is accurate), contains just three tracks but lasts for a massive near seventy-five minutes of music.

The album should come with a warning sticker telling potential listeners not to approach unless they are feeling brave and open-minded. In every traditional sense of what music is supposed to be, Hirngemeer just isn't it. It's three tracks clock in at 28:25, 34:05 and 12:18 respectively and on the surface nothing seems particularly structured and certainly not good in the usual way that music is supposed to be, but it's all an illusion. Pay closer attention to what's happening and there's a method in the madness that's actually quite out in the open, with some true genius in the instrumental work from the two instrumentalists, especially the bass of Euer Gnaden. Martin Lang does everything else, including liberal use of a harmonica on opener Verwehung, while Flesh of L spews the German language lyrics, sometimes like he's been possessed by a demon, at others like he's desperately trying to escape its menacing clutches and is utterly terrified about what it might do to him. It's depressive black metal at its core, with many other elements detectable the more the album is listened to, notably funeral doom metal and ambient ideas, but seems more designed to drive its listener to madness than suicide.

That's the first track at least, the second and longest Narbenkäfig is surprisingly more restrained on its use of these elements, though it still maintains a lot of them and a general air of menace. And it goes on for such a long time that it really does present the impression that they'll be no escape from whatever hell Todesstoß are trapped in. Finally, the shortest of the three tracks is Strom der Augenblicke, which actually takes the album in a non-metal direction to finish the bizarre journey off but is of course no less dark and creepy for the lack of metal elements.

Hirngemeer is just too crazy to be an album that many could enjoy on a regular basis, but I admit to finding a strange kind of fascination with it. It's something that you could listen to a dozen times and still not really understand and I think that may even be the band's intention. You're not meant to understand the album. It's a window into a warped mind, one you wouldn't want to own but is kind of eye-opening to visit and an album that's quite unlike anything else I've ever come across, not even the other Todesstoß album I've heard, Ebne Graun (2017), which is comparatively sane and structured. Listen to this when you reach the point where you feel that you've heard everything else black metal has to offer.


EP · 2014 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Myrkur (2014) is the debut EP release by Danish one woman black metal act Myrkur, which is both the name of the artist and the pseudonym used by its sole musician. There's been a bit of mystery surrounding the identity of Myrkur but most sources seemed to believe that it was the work of Amalie Bruun, a singer/songwriter and a member of the pop act Ex Cops (as well as a model), which seems to have now been confirmed. Her story is not your typical when discovering a new black metal act on the scene and fortunately the music on the debut EP of Myrkur tells a similar story.

The most notably thing about the music on Myrkur is that vocals do not play that much of a major role in the sound. Musically Myrkur treats her listeners to some well crafted atmospheric black metal that is actually pretty relaxing stuff to immerse yourself in, especially when you consider that what vocals are here are actually sung cleanly in a choral fashion rather than delivered in a black metal rasp. Not that those are entirely absent from the EP but Myrkur is definitely a case where the music is undeniably black metal but clean vocals outweigh the growls. Her vocals also feel like a part of the overall atmosphere of the music rather than the element that leads the songs. Like an extra instrument if you prefer.

I've heard music that had strong black metal roots but used clean vocals before but Myrkur is the first time I've found something that near enough fully embraces that mix, especially from the musical point of view. Not that Myrkur spends all of her time accompanied by raw riffs and blast beats, far from it, Frosne Vind for example isn't even a metal track, but a short folksy piece. The mix of ideas proves effective, making Myrkur an impressive first release from Myrkur. I think I'd like to hear her incorporate more of a traditional black metal vocal approach in addition to her singing in the future, but I'm eager to hear where she takes her music on a full-length basis, which is already being worked on. This is a nice little EP though as is so a 4 star rating seems fair.


Album · 2015 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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M (2015) is the debut album by US based Danish one woman black metal act Myrkur. It follows up the self-titled EP that was released in 2014. Initially surrounded in mystery, the identity of Myrkur's sole musician was quickly revealed to be Amalie Bruun, previously known as one half of a pop duo called Ex Cops. It's a pretty big jump she's made in her music career, to go from pop to black metal. On her first EP I thought she presented some interesting ideas, but also a fair bit of unrealised potential. However I did enjoy the Myrkur EP quite a bit so the release of M is something I've been looking forward to for some time now.

Before I move onto the music found on M proper, there's a little something I feel I need to address right from the get go. If you are in any way a black metal purist stop reading right now and go back to whatever uninspired lo-fi black metal act you currently find so kvlt and interesting: Myrkur's M will be beyond you and you may even find it offensive the way Myrkur thinks outside the box when it comes to black metal conventions. I've already seen this sort of narrow-minded criticism aimed at the album before it was even released and some have even called it hipster black metal and said things like 'the only people rating this are the same people who thought Liturgy's Aesthethica was any good'. That's probably the biggest insult that someone could say about M and also one of the most unfounded. I've heard Aesthethica and it's truly one of the worst black metal records I've ever come across. A completely messy and repetitive affair (even by black metal standards) with maybe enough good ideas on the whole record for them to have crafted one decent track. M is exactly the opposite. Worse still I've also seem some outright sexist comments aimed at Amalie Bruun, which is of course totally uncalled for, even if her take on black metal is not your thing. It's things like this that make me fucking ashamed to call myself a metalhead, especially one who appreciates black metal where the tolerance level seems to be at its lowest.

And it's really too bad if you are one of the people who has already written Myrkur off without a proper listen to her music, because in M she's produced one of the most interesting black metal records I've heard for quite a while. Not since Hail Spirit Noir's Oi Magoi (2014) have I been this interested in a new black metal release, the better part of two years ago.

One of the biggest ways that Myrkur changes up the way she does black metal is that she uses a lot of clean singing. Clean vocals certainly aren't unheard of in black metal, but here it's pretty much her main vocal style, though there are more black metal style screams on M than there were on the prior EP. Amalie's voice has this ethereal sort of quality to it, which works well against the atmospheric black metal backdrop, to the point that to my ears she actually makes it sound valid to use exclusively clean vocals in a black metal context. But she does scream too and when she does the music can turn pretty damn aggressive with it, such as in Hævnen. Her vocals are pretty much incomprehensible, but that's a problem a lot of growlers have, whether it's in black or death metal or another context entirely. I tend to think of them as being an extra instrument in the atmosphere that Myrkur creates, and her two voice styles work equally well in that manner, while also finding a perfect balance between the two.

Some folk influences creep into the sound, particularly during the first two songs. They are naturally of a darker and melancholic kind than the lively, happy kind of popular folk metal bands and are a nice addition to the music. There are also some forays into other metal genres that add variety to the atmospheric black metal sound. Hævnen has a kind of doom feel with its heavy, slow guitars but more notably is Mordet where Myrkur teams up with former Arch Enemy guitarist Christopher Amott to produce a much more in your face and direct metal assault that edges the music into thrash metal territory. Such a track may seem rather out of place on paper but I personally like it. It works to stir up the pace of the album effectively and as such doesn't harm the album's flow in any way. The combined atmosphere that has been created with all these different ideas is really easy to get immersed in. The actual instrumentation may often seem simplistic but that's black metal for you. It isn't about being showy and certainly doesn't need to be in order to be impressive.

M isn't an overly long album, just shy of 37 minutes, but I feel it accomplishes quite a lot in that time. It isn't perfect by any means; there's a bit too much of that 37 minute running time given over to interlude pieces like Vølvens spådom and Nordlys for one. There's quite a focus on piano and choral parts in such times, which work to a point but are slightly overused in my opinion. I'd like to have heard a few more actual songs because as it is I actually got to hear five of these in the run up to the album, which didn't leave overly much to discover upon release. M is however high quality debut album from Myrkur, even with its faults. 4.5 stars and quite possibly the best black metal release you'll find from 2015.

PURE WRATH Ascetic Eventide

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Indonesia musician Januaryo Hardy is not someone whose music I have personally encountered before, but it seems that even at just twenty-three years old at the time of writing that he's already built up a quite impressive CV within the scene of brutal death metal. He is a member of the groups Cadavoracity (playing bass and doing drum programming) and Omnivorous (doing vocals) and has a solo project within the style as well, Perverted Dexterity. He also has a number of mixing and mastering credits to his name, mostly for fellow Indonesian artists (he is the owner of Insidious Soundlab).

Hardy's latest musical venture of his own is a second solo project. It may carry the rather corny and angry sounding moniker of Pure Wrath, a name that kinda implies something in the ballpark of his other work, or at least something quite violent sounding, but the cover art of debut album Ascetic Eventide (2017) alone should be enough to tell prospective listeners that this project marks a departure from the brutal death metal pastures of his other groups. The artwork brings mind to nature themed black metal acts such as Winterfylleth and Saor and that's exactly the kind of music the album contains: Januaryo Hardy has released his first attempt at an atmospheric black metal album.

I say attempt, but really that sells what Januaryo Hardy has created a bit short, as Ascetic Eventide is quick to show that it's a stunning debut record for the Pure Wrath project. Hardy shows that he's very adept at creating excellent atmospheric black metal right off the bat with the opening Colourless Grassland and then continues to deliver across a further five tracks. Expect in addition to traditional atmospheric black metal guitar rhythms some use of folk elements, haunting piano parts and ambient sound effects that really promote the whole naturalistic vibe. The formula isn't changed up all that much across the six tracks but at forty-three minutes the total length of the album is about right for it to work very well at being something the listener can lose themselves in for a time. The highpoint for me personally though is the closing track, Between Water and Winds. Here, Pure Wrath goes all out and ends up creating a mini-masterpiece of the genre.

You'd think that Hardy had spent all his time creating atmospheric black metal rather than the very different style of brutal death metal based on Ascetic Eventide. The album sees me coming away with the thought that it's one of 2017's most surprising gems of the atmospheric black metal genre. I'm definitely eager to hear more from this project now.


Album · 2001 · Melodic Black Metal
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As far as household names of melodic black metal go, then Norway's Windir is right up there with Sweden's Dissection, arguable the style's pioneer. They were the brainchild of one Terje Bakken, known as Valfar, who started the band in 1994. Windir's is one of the genre's tragic tales though, as in 2004, while journeying to his family's cabin in Fagereggi, Norway, Valfar was caught in a snow storm and never made it. His body was discovered three days later in the Sogndal Valley near the town of Reppastolen, where he had died of hypothermia. He was just 25 years old at the time of his death. Although Windir was only able to exist for a decade, four well regarded full-length albums were produced. The third of these was 1184 (2001), where for the first time Valfar had expanded his project into a full six strong group and switched primarily to English lyrics instead of the Sognamål Norwegian dialect.

Compared to all the other Windir full-length albums, 1184 is also the most unique and experimental one among them. Windir, with their choice of lyrical themes and cover artwork, had the air of Viking/Pagan styling about them but that didn't stop Valfar and company from trying some new things on 1184 that weren't really in context with that, such the use of electronic elements, most notably on the final track Journey to the End. This may somewhat explain why fans are said to have been a bit divided by the album at the time of its release, as compared to the prior Sóknardalr (1997) and Arntor (1999) this one also features some departures, featuring less developed folk ideas and being more in line with the so called Viking metal sound, with some really rich sounding ambient synths being used, which you can hear right away in the opening track Todeswalzer. At its heart though, 1184 remains very much a melodic black metal album, guitar based and lively and even a bit thrashy in some places. I struggle to really follow the vocals of Valfar himself but they're delivered with an infectious sort of energy that makes me instantly dig what the band are doing. I also find that their choice of guest clean vocalist to be an improvement on the first two albums, with Cosmocrator replacing Steinarson.

With albums like 1184 to his name, Valfar left a small but amazing legacy that few melodic black metal acts will ever hope to match. The key tracks on this one for me have to be the epic Destroy, which instantly strikes as an absolute beast of a track, and also Dance of Mortal Lust which is made of the same stuff. The closing Journey to the End is also deserving of another mention as it's the most surprising track, initially starting as a typical Windir song but then at about a third of the way through it changes into ambient/electronic music, which actually displays some really good melodies. It's the kind of moment that makes you sit up and wonder if you really just heard the band do that. It's surprises like this that make, for my money at least, 1184 the best of Windir's four albums. I'd consider this one an absolute essential for anyone with even a small interest in black metal to purchase.

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