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metal music reviews (new releases)

PENSÉES NOCTURNES Douce Fange

Album · 2022 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
In the world of modern black metal, perhaps no other nation has produced so many innovative experimental artists as France with the best known examples of Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord and Peste Noire leading the way however they have hardly been the only ambitious black metal acts emerging from this part of the world though with other bands like Escotrilihum and Véhémence expanding the boundaries of black metal even further. One of the strangest newer acts to emerge from France has been the crazy PENSÉES NOCTURNES which has essentially been the solo project of Vaerohn since 2008.

While black metal may have started out shedding all traces of traditional sounds that have gestated throughout time, modern black metal has catapulted forth by hybridizing with many of the traditional folk sounds of various cultures of the world ranging from the Central Asian sounds heard in Darkestrah to the Nordic sounds of various Scandinavian third wavers. PENSEE NOCTURNES has unapologetically mined the world of French traditional folk music, dark cabaret and most French sounding musical style of all, musette and stringing it all together in a black metal frenzy.

Vaerohn returns in early 2022 with the seventh PENSEE NOCTURNES album DOUCE FANGE (Sweet Mud) and unleashes another unthinkable mixture of circus music, jazz, musette and even tango with his usual blend of classical fueled depressive black metal madness. This is the kind of experimental black metal that will drive purists crazy. The pompous romp of tango fueled accordions with black metal blastbeats and over the top dramatic vocals that sound like the lamenting of a circus tent set aflame, PENSEE NOCTURNES’ propensity for super exaggerated juxtapositions of such elements is an attention getter for sure but given the fragile tightrope act of such metal hybridizations, it’s a very difficult juggling act to maintain over an entire career.

As with many similar styled bands that use black metal as a contrasting element to more traditional folk styles that also add in ingredients from other disparate genres, what begins as a recipe that incorporates adequate supplies of the metal part of the equation for the voracious consumers of head banging music, often the metal aspects get tamped down in favor of the folky elements. Such is the case of DOUCE FANGE. While PENSEE NOCTURNES began its run in a rather unique way on the 2009 debut “Vacuum” which crafted a classical music mix of high octane black metal, on 2013’s “Nom dune Pipe!” Vaerohn switched gears and offered the first true mix of black metal and the traditional French sounds of musette. PENSEE NOCTURNES has been a wild ride of carnival music fueled hysteria ever since.

While incorporating all of the elements that made PENSEE NOCTURNES what it is today, DOUCE FANGE seems to have gone for the jugular by adding even more ethnic sounds. The most glaring example is the Argentinean sounds of the tango on the album’s first single “Le Tango Du Vieuloniste.” This track despite its exquisite musicality supplies an ample dose of cartoonish absurdity and showcases an example of what it would sound like if Astor Piazzolla had hooked up with Yann Tiersen and perhaps early Summoning. Add some spoken word dialogue from some undisclosed source, plenty of frantic screams and a never-ending supply of black metal weaving in and out of the carnavelesque jocularity and DOUCE FANGE comes off as an even more avant-garde experience that will leave the uninitiated listener pushing the stop button in no time at all.

It goes without saying that PENSEE NOCTURNE is an acquired taste and shouldn’t really be thought of as a black metal act at all despite black metal sounds being a part of the recipe. This is an example of an avant-garde metal eccentricity completely escaping the playbook of any pesky definitions and artistic expression solely for the purpose of being artistic, a very French trait which has produced some of the world’s most enduring artists of many trades.

For my tolerant tastes i actually have an appetite for this exotic musical specimen that is part cheese, part bombast, part timeless authenticity and 100% insane! In comparison to previous albums DOUCE FANGE seems to have fallen off the rails a bit as i found 2019’s “Grand Guignol Orchestra” to sound a bit more balanced but i have to admit that this crazy concoction certainly is not without its appeal. Perhaps my least favorite PENSEE NOCTURNES albums but certainly engaging enough to appeal to my freakish avant-garde sensibilities. One of the drawbacks here is that the black metal has become too watered down with an assault of psychedelic organs, circus music effects and a nonstop display of uplifting folk moods in direct opposition to depressive black metal bleakness. It certainly offers a unique brackish water effect but seems to be the least focused album of this unique scatterbrained act so far especially when stray saxophone squawks enter the scene without any clear context.

HANGING GARDEN Neither Moth nor Rust

EP · 2022 · Gothic Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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lukretion
I was surprised to see a new Hanging Garden’s album popping up in the list of promos, given that the Finnish melodic doomsters have released their 7th full-length album Skeleton Lake only a few months ago. I really liked that album, so I did not hesitate to give a spin to this new opus, an EP titled Neither Moth Nor Rust. It contains six tracks for a total duration just above 25 minutes. Music-wise, it feels a lot like an appendix to Skeleton Lake, albeit with more freedom to explore sonic spaces that were perhaps left somewhat in the background in the full-length release. As such, the new EP makes for an interesting complement to the Finns’ 2021 album, although one that would probably mostly appeal to fans of the band rather than newcomers.

EPs often give artists freedom to explore more diverse and adventurous landscapes that may be instead sacrificed in full-length releases, where sonic coherence is often a priority. Neither Moth Nor Rust is no exception in this sense, and finds Hanging Garden gently experimenting with new influences, while at the same time retaining their identity as melodic doom/death band. The title-track branches out towards sonorities that remind me of Amorphis in the late 1990s, rich in folk and psychedelic undertones and with big, ear-worming melodies at the heart of the song. The interplay between growls, male cleans, and female cleans is very entertaining, each vocal style adding its own different shade to the composition. The next two tracks are even more interesting. “The Last Dance” is based on huge dynamics, swinging majestically between pop-tinged verses with tastefully autotuned vocals, an ultra-heavy and dissonant bridge with double-tracked growls, and a melancholic chorus where Riikka Hatakka’s subdued vocals truly shine. “And Leave All Love Behind” opens with gentle piano arpeggios and acoustic guitars, before developing into a quasi-ambient tune that again draws on folk and psychedelia as its core influences.

The second-half of the EP is somewhat less interesting. “The Raven Portrait” is a short piano interlude, while “On the Shore of Eternity” is perhaps the most conventional track on the EP in the sense that is closest to the material from Skeleton Lake, with marked doom / dark metal influences that may delight fans of bands like Katatonia or Anathema. The EP closes with “Field of Reed”, which is actually the biggest surprise here. The song is a remake of the homonymous track from the band’s 2021 LP, completely rearranged as electronic pop, with beats, keyboards and samples dominating over the rest of the instrumentation. It’s not a terribly successful experiment, in my opinion, partly because the song relies on somewhat weak melodies that do not really have the strength to transform it in an electro-pop hit single. Moreover, in 2022 this type of remakes come as no surprise to metal fans, as goth/doom metal bands have engaged in electro-pop experimentation since the late 1990s. As such “Field of Reed” does not really seem to add much, neither to the band’s catalogue nor to the genre as a whole.

Despite the slightly weaker second half, Neither Moth Nor Rust is an interesting EP that fans of the band may want to grab (the physical CD is limited to 200 copies, so hurry up if you are interested in this release). Although there is no revolution in the band’s sound here, the EP brings to the fore influences that may have been slightly buried on the recent LP, which is always interesting to hear. In fact, I would have liked Hanging Garden to spend more time developing these influences across more songs, ideally in the context of a more organic, full-length release. But perhaps this is what EPs’ main function actually is: leaving you wanting to hear more from the band and curious to see what they will do on their next full-length album. And this cannot possibly be a bad thing, can it?

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

MORTAL VISION Mind Manipulation

Album · 2021 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.64 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Mind Manipulation" is the debut full-length studio album by Ukraine thrash metal act Mortal Vision. The album was released through Redefining Darkness Records in October 2021. Mortal Vision formed in 2019 and released the "Madness of Messiah" single in October 2019.

The two non-album tracks featured on the "Madness of Messiah" (2019) single show a band heavily influenced by late 80s/early 90s death/thrash Sepultura (and to a lesser degree 1987-89-era Sodom), and the material on "Mind Manipulation" continue that formula too. The riff style, the solo style, the drumming, and the lead vocals, which sound a lot like Max Cavalera, are all features of the band´s music that lead your thoughts toward the Brazilian band and the late 80s/early 90s era of their discography. So it´s difficult to talk about Mortal Vision without mentioning Sepultura, and "Mind Manipulation" is not an album you put on to listen to something new and innovative.

But while this is hardly unique music, Mortal Vision thankfully slay in the execution of their material. These guys are hard-edged, aggressive, and very well playing/singing, and the tracks are also well composed and effective death/thrash tunes, that you can both bang our head to and mosh around breaking furniture in your house to. Death/thrashy sonic violence performed with passion and conviction.

Featuring 8 tracks and a total playing time of 33:25, it´s a short, to-the-point type of release, and it´s not the most varied release out there. In fact it´s slightly one-dimensional and the songs don´t quite stick the first time you listen to the album. They sound a bit too much the same, but as mentioned above this is still high quality death/thrash metal performed by a well playing unit, and as the music is packed in a powerful, raw, and well sounding production too, this is a good quality debut release by Mortal Vision. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 304 - Rainbow Bridge

Album · 2022 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
BUCKETHEAD has been quite erratic in releasing PIKEs in the last couple of years but it seems like 2022 is when the chicken lover is turning on the spigot once again to let the PIKEs flow! PIKE 304 - RAINBOW BRIDGE features four tracks and only reaches over the 27-minute mark. This one is the second release in 2022 and is the typical PIKE of being digitally downloadable and featuring BH playing all instruments.

The opening title track is a rather generic affair featuring one of those heavy rock riffing sessions and sounds like pretty much a gazillion other eggs that have already hatched. Some of BH’s PIKEs are heavy enough to qualify as metal but this one is a little bit more laid back and should be considered heavy alternative rock. The title track is a throwaway in my book. I’ve long grown weary of redundancy. 
“Toy Museum” is quite a different story however and is quite refreshingly new. Something about the combination of the atmosphere, the guitar tones, the unique style of riffing and steady beat that makes this one a real treat. It has some nice gurgling guitar effects which sort of replicate turntablism. It’s also the longest track at over 10 minutes. BH’s instrumentals are so hit and miss. This one is a hit.

“Water Molecule” is a funky hard rock number that sounds something like the Red Hot Chili Peppers may have conjured up in the 1990s only without the bass guitar antics of Flea. The guitar riffs though are more rooted to 1970s bluesy hard rock like Aerosmith, Robert Trower or UFO. It’s officially OK but nothing outstanding either. It’s a little feistier and fast tempoed than 70s hard rock and this track straddles on the line of being metal and hard rock.

“Invisible Trees” continues the bluesy hard rock riffing but a bit calmer than the previous track. Basically same pattern with guitar riffs, muffled bass and uninspired drumming. This one is probably the most authentically 70s sounding hard rock track. The problem with this is that the lack of vocals make this sound a bit empty. That’s the problem with many of these PIKEs actually. If there are trees somewhere i can’t see them!

Another mediocre PIKE here. Once again, nothing offensively bad or unlistenable but nothing that will blow your mind either. “Toy Museum” is the best track and the only one that offers something a bit different otherwise this sounds like one of those assembly line PIKEs that will be quickly forgotten at least by my ears. Oh well, i’m sure another PIKE will hatch soon. Until then, hasta la vista!

CARCASS Torn Arteries

Album · 2021 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 4.34 | 17 ratings
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UMUR
"Torn Arteries" is the 7th full-length studio album by UK death metal act Carcass. The album was released through Nuclear Blast in September 2021, almost to the day 8 years after the release of the preceding album "Surgical Steel" from September 2013. Carcass have been quite busy in the intermediate years though, touring the world and trying to profit as much as possible on their long awaited comeback. In addition to touring, the band have also released the "Surgical Remission / Surplus Steel" EP in 2014 and the "Despicable" EP in 2020, so there have been some new material for the fans between the two album releases. "Despicable" (2020) ended up being released as a gap release because Carcass didn´t want to release "Torn Arteries" during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was originally planned for a summer 2020 release, and the band had already released the teaser single track "Under the Scalpel Blade" in December 2019 to promote the release of the album, but as things turned out, they opted to push the album release little over a year.

"Under the Scalpel Blade" is included on the tracklist of "Torn Arteries", but other than that track, which was both released as an individual single and as part of "Despicable" (2020) (and is an absolutely brilliant track), all other tracks are new original compositions. Stylistically the material are unmistakably the sound of Carcass and you´ll hear elements on the album which will remind you of "Surgical Steel" (2013), but also elements from the three albums released from 1991-1996 ("Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious (1991)", "Heartwork (1993)", and "Swansong (1996)"). Sharp, aggressive, and melodic death metal with both thrash metal and tradtional heavy metal leanings. The lead vocals are predominantly handled by vocalist/bassist Jeff Walker (in his usual raw and aggressive snarling vocal style), which has been the case since the early 90s, but guitarist Bill Steer actually contributes a few of his low growling vocals too a few times during the playing time, and it´s a treat to fans of the early albums.

"Torn Arteries" is probably the most varied Carcass album yet, and stylistically it´s arguably a little inconsistent. When you opt to put a death´n´roll influenced track like "Dance of IXTAB (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No.1 in B)" on the same album as a death metal/goregrind track like "Under the Scalpel Blade" (the 9:42 minutes long "Flesh Ripping Torment Limited" also stands out as a unique song on the album), some listeners are bound to find either the former or the latter most interesting and hoping to hear more of the same, but if we´ve learned anything from Carcass over the years, it´s that they write and release exactly what they feel like witing and releasing. They are not an act who you can count on releasing formulaic albums. So "Torn Arteries" is not necessarily an album which will hook you on first listen. It takes time and an effort to listen to the album and hear all the details and let the different stylistic features sink in. Overall all tracks of course still sound unmistakably like Carcass. The vocals are described above, and the same with the death/thrashy riffs, but the many well played guitar leads and harmonies also deserve a special mention. Steer has again produced many memorable and powerful lead guitar moments.

The album features a darker and more organic sounding production that the more clinical, sharp, and sterile sound production on "Surgical Steel" (2013), and that production choice suits the material on "Torn Arteries" well. Upon conclusion it was worth the wait as "Torn Arteries" is a high quality Carcass album. It´s familiar enough to please the fans, but still features enough development and small experiments with sound and form to keep Carcass relevant. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY Harakiri for the Sky

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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DeathofMan
Harakiri for the Sky's first album has this strange calming effect on me. The harsh black metal screaming contrasted with the calm post-metal guitar melodies seem to say "The world is crumbling, and there's nothing we can do. Just sit back and watch it happen."

I think the first track can make or break an album. The first track on this album is "Lungs Filled With Water", and it's really good! The huge commanding guitar melody in this song seems to overwhelm the vocals, with the singer fighting with all his might to barely break out above the onslaught. He's really screaming his lungs out on this song. I'm not sure if this is done purposely to create the image of drowning, but it works really well considering the song title.

The next track on the album, 02:19 AM, Psychosis, another great one. It starts with a deathly scream, as if it came from a ghoul, rose fresh from a grave. As the song goes on, some quiet clean vocals are added, which have an ancient, mystic quality to them. The lyrics tell us of someone who lived a life of pain and misery, now doomed to die in a small apartment in a city, slowly going mad. The song ends with these chilling lyrics: "The silence of winter is a deafening noise to my ears/These nights drag unendingly and and shadows grow longer/I can't understand this agony, what is it for?/When will I at last find my autumn asylum?"

Those are my two favorite tracks on the album, but they are all very good. This is also my favorite Harakiri for the Sky album. On later albums, the band abandons some of their black metal harshness for a cleaner, more marketable sound, a more sanitized production, and less harsh vocals. Their later albums are still good, but this one really hits that sweet spot of harsh black metal sound combined with atmospheric and emotional post metal melodies.

My rating: 8.5/10

PAKENI Celestial Mechanics

Album · 1999 · Death 'n' Roll
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Celestial Mechanics" is the debut full-length studio album by Finnish goregrind/death´n´roll act Pakeni. The album was released through Napalm Records America in 1999. It´s the successor to the 1996 "Detergent Bubble Bath" EP. Unfortunately "Celestial Mechanics" would be the band´s sole full-length album in their original run. Pakeni formed in 1992 and released two demos, an EP, and this album before disbanding.

Stylistically the material on "Celestial Mechanics" is a dark and energetic death´n´roll style. Pakeni included Carcass influenced goregrind elements on their early releases, but those influences are more or less gone on "Celestial Mechanics" and only the band´s death´n´roll influences remain. Pakeni are an incredibly well playing, tight, organic, and groove oriented band, and they deliver their death´n´roll with a great charm and gleam in the eye, but personally I miss the unique combination of Carcass influenced goregrind and stoner metal/death´n´roll, which was featured on the two preceding releases. That combination and the odd sonic experiments that the band also incorporated on those releases, are what made Pakeni unique, and it´s hard not to feel that "Celestial Mechanics" in comparison is a slightly more generic release (sounding a little like a more adventurous Furbowl).

"Celestial Mechanics" is well produced feauturing a warm, heavy, and organic sounding production, which suits the organic nature of the material well. Upon conclusion "Celestial Mechanics" is a good quality death´n´roll album by Pakeni, but it´s not at all what I had hoped for coming to the album after listening to "Virgin's Delirium" (1993) and "Detergent Bubble Bath" (1996), which are both very unique and unusual releases. Still a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

PAKENI Detergent Bubble Bath

EP · 1996 · Death 'n' Roll
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Detergent Bubble Bath" is an EP release by Finnish goregrind/death´n´roll act Pakeni. The EP was released through Morbid Records in 1996. It´s the follow-up release to the band´s two 1993 demos "The Silent Majority" and "Virgin's Delirium".

Stylistically the material on "Detergent Bubble Bath" continue the odd and unique combination of Carcass influenced goregrind and stoner metal/death´n´roll, but this time around with even more experiments that go beyond those music styles (female backing vocals and saxophone parts occur). Pakeni are definitely one of the more unusual acts out there, but despite combining elements which really shouldn´t work together, that´s exactly what Pakeni make them do. Heavy stoner metal/death´n´roll riffs, heavy grooves (and the occasional blast beat), the occasional use of organ/piano, and goregrind/death metal vocals performed by an energetic and well playing band. That´s the unique sound of Pakeni. The only other band from those days I can come up with at the top of my head, which was as crazy and unconventional as Pakeni is Disharmonic Orchestra.

"Detergent Bubble Bath" features a well sounding production job, which provides the perfect platform for the material to shine. Upon conclusion "Detergent Bubble Bath" is a great first label release by Pakeni and great follow-up to the promising "Virgin's Delirium (1993)" demo. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

PAKENI Virgin's Delirium

Demo · 1993 · Death 'n' Roll
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Virgin's Delirium" is the 2nd demo by Finnish goregrind/death´n´roll act Pakeni. The demo was independently released in 1993. It´s the successor to "The Silent Majority" demo released earlier the same year. Pakeni formed in 1992 and released two demos, an EP, and an album before disbanding.

Stylistically this is one of the more unusual extreme metal demos I´ve come across, as Pakeni combine Carcass goregrind influences with stoner metal/death´n´roll elements (strongly influenced by their fellow countrymen in Xysma), and as if it´s a perfectly natural thing to do, they also on occasion add melodic and epic keyboard sections. I don´t think I´ve ever heard anything quite like this before. Needless to say this is a pretty unique sounding recording, and featuring a well sounding and detailed demo quality sound production, you get to hear all the details of this bizarre glory of a demo.

What this demo does so well, is that it not only combines musical elements which shouldn´t go well together and make them gel, but also manages to disply the strong musical performances as a result of the well sounding production job. The deep growling vocals has the right morbid and juicy tone to them, the drumming is busy and groovy, and the many heavy and groove laden stoner metal riffs combined with the goregrind lyrics and fast-paced death metal/grindcore parts, create an odd overall sound, but it works. A high quality release this one fully deserving a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

SPOCK'S BEARD Day for Night

Album · 1999 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.22 | 9 ratings
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Warthur
On their previous album, The Kindness of Strangers, Spock's Beard had tried to find the precarious balancing point between their prog instincts and broader accessibility. On Day For Night, they hit the sweet spot - producing an album which at once sounds up-to-date and modern (for the time it game out) whilst at the same time showing as much influence from 1960s sunshine pop and 1970s power pop as it does from prog.

You could, perhaps, interpret the approach they take here as answering the question "what if prog had emerged from the West Coast psych-pop scene of the Byrds and the Beach Boys, rather than the UK underground scene haunted by the likes of Pink Floyd and Soft Machine?" - there's a certain 1960s sunniness to proceedings here which means that, whilst the band's centre of gravity is in undeniably prog territory, there's a certain openness and immediate appeal to the music here.

Whilst much of the music on here isn't necessarily enormously complex by itself, the sheer range of styles the band touch on over the running time - from sunny tranquility to foreboding heaviness - means that there's lots of ground covered, and whilst the individual bits might vary in complexity from refreshingly direct and simple to subtly intricate, the compositional complexity is rather cleverly handled.

The end result is an album which is simultaneously jauntily radio-friendly and at the same still satisfying from a prog perspective, as well as having a sound to it which is distinctly the band's own. It's on the one hand an album I'd have no qualms about handing to someone who hasn't previously heard much prog who wanted to hear what Spock's Beard was all about, but at the same time should keep many prog fans happy.

ROTTING CHRIST Ade's Winds

Demo · 1992 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Ade's Winds" is the 4th demo by Greek death/black metal (later black/gothic metal) act Rotting Christ. The demo was independently released on cassette tape in the autumn of 1992. It bridges the gap between the May 1991 EP "Passage to Arcturo" and the band´s debut full-length studio album "Thy Mighty Contract" from November 1993.

The demo features 2 tracks and a total playing time of 11:20 minutes. Both tracks from the demo appear in re-recorded versions on "Thy Mighty Contract" (1993). The music style is a continuation of the death/black metal style which was initiated on the October 1989 "Satanas Tedeum" demo and continued and further developed on the May 1991 "Passage to Arcturo" EP. Although Rotting Christ are often associated with black metal, this is not your typical blasting black metal release with harsh snarling vocals. It´s rather an atmospheric and predominantly mid-paced type of death/black metal. The occasional use of horror tinged keyboards only further enhance the occult and at times epic atmosphere of the band´s music.

The musicianship is still the weak link, and the clumsy drumming and not particularly developed lead guitar work aren´t that interesting to listen to. The vocals sound really great and Rotting Christ definitely have some strong songwriting ideas too, so there are definitely positives to mention here. "Ade's Winds" features a relatively well sounding demo quality sound production, which isn´t perfect, but does present the material in a decent way. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

ROTTING CHRIST Passage to Arcturo

EP · 1991 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.09 | 3 ratings
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"Passage to Arcturo" is an EP release by Greek death/black metal (later black/gothic metal) act Rotting Christ. The EP was released through Decapiated Records in May 1991. 1990 didn´t see any releases from Rotting Christ so the last release before this EP was the "Satanas Tedeum" demo from October 1989.

Stylistically the over a year long recording break, has meant a maturity in the songwriting, but "Passage to Arcturo" still sounds like the natural successor to "Satanas Tedeum" (1989). It´s maybe slightly more black metal tinged (the guitar sound on both releases have that thin black metal sound to them), but the music is still a combination of death metal and black metal elements. Labelling this a pure black metal release would be wrong (personally I think this release swings more towards death metal). Just listen to the vocals, which are predominantly death metal growling. The band again incorporate the occassional horror tinged keyboard part (and even piano on "Gloria De Domino Inferni"), which enhances the dark an occult atmosphere of the music. "The Forest of N'Gai" is an example of the use of keyboards, but they appear more frequently here than on the preceding demo.

"Passage to Arcturo" features a raw demo quality sound production, but it´s not bad sounding at all and you´re able to hear every instrument and vocal part in the mix. If anything the relatively lo-fi sounding production values only add to the authenticity and occult atmosphere of the EP. Upon conclusion "Passage to Arcturo" shows progress and development from Rotting Christ, and although it´s not a perfect release (the musicianship is still a bit untight, and the spoken work sections unnecessary and a bit cringe worthy), it´s a good quality death/black metal release. A 3 star 60%) rating is warranted.

ROTTING CHRIST Satanas Tedeum

Demo · 1989 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Satanas Tedeum" is the 3rd demo by Greek death/black metal (later black/gothic metal) act Rotting Christ. The demo was independently released on cassette tape in October 1989. Rotting Christ started life as a grindcore act and that´s also the music style heard on their first two demos "Leprosy of Death" (November 1988) and "Decline's Return" (January 1989), but things have obviously changed a lot since the release of "Decline's Return" (1989).

Stylistically the material on the 5 track, 17:11 minutes long demo is death/black metal. The vocals are death metal growling and I´d predominantly label the instrumental part of the music death metal too, but there are some black metal traits in the music pointing in the future direction of the band ("The Nereid of Esgalduin" is for example a black metal tinged track, although the vocals are death metal growling). Atmospheric (horror tinged) keyboards occasionally play a role in the music and to great effect.

"Satanas Tedeum" features a well sounding demo production, where all instruments and vocals are audible in the soundscape. The demo reeks a dark and occult atmosphere, and it´s one of the great assets of the release. Considering the low quality of songwriting (or at least the one-dimensional nature of it) the band displayed on the first couple of demos, "Satanas Tedeum" comes off as a very impressive release, and it did lead to the band being signed by Decapitated Records for the release of the May 1991 EP "Passage to Arcturo". A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

ROTTING CHRIST Decline's Return

Demo · 1989 · Grindcore
Cover art 1.50 | 1 rating
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"Decline's Return" is the 2nd demo by Greek grindcore (later black/gothic metal) act Rotting Christ. The demo was independently released on cassette tape in January 1989. It´s the successor to the "Leprosy of Death" demo from November 1988.

The music style is still a raw and aggressive type of grindcore, loaded with heavy hardcore sections, and loads of noisy and furiously fast-paced blasting. Like the case was with "Leprosy of Death" (1988), the material on "Decline's Return" was also recorded live at the band´s rehearsal space (on the 25th of January 1989), but unlike the first demo, the lo-fi sounding (non)-production of the material on "Decline's Return" makes it an almost impossble release to listen to. I can hear a distored rumbling bass somewhere in the mix, a vocalist shouting, and maybe a cymbal here and there, but other than that this is just a muddy and dark collage of noise.

While the musical influences are obviously still acts like Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror, the band´s lyrical approach has shifted towards goregrind Carcass territory which song titles like "Baptised in Phlegm", "Pneumonovascular Carcinogenesis", and "Embryonic Necrocannibalism" are a testimony to. 10 tracks and a total playing time of 9:30 minutes and then the demo is over, and in this case it´s hard not to feel some sort of relief. I don´t hesitate to call this sonic violence on the ears and there are probably not many out there, who will be able to appreciate a recording this raw and extreme. A 1.5 star (30%) rating is warranted.

ROTTING CHRIST Leprosy Of Death

Demo · 1988 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Leprosy of Death" is the first demo by Greek grindcore (later black/gothic metal) act Rotting Christ. The demo was independently released on cassette tape in November 1988. Rotting Christ formed as far back as 1984 under the Black Church monicker but changed their name to the current one in 1987.

While Rotting Christ would soon turn towards a black metal oriented sound they play a raw, noisy, and fast-paced grindcore style on "Leprosy of Death". The demo features 9 tracks and a total playing time of 8:51 minutes. All material was recorded live during a rehearsal on the 11th of November 1988. The instruments don´t always sound like they are in tune, and there are feedback noise too, but it all just adds to the authenticity of the compositions. The music style is strongly influenced by early Napalm Death and other extreme grindcore/crust punk/hardcore artists of that era like Extreme Noise Terror, and S.O.B.

"Leprosy of Death" is a pretty extreme recording in every way possible. It´s recorded live in a rehearsal space and therefore the sound production is lo-fi and noisy (but actually still pretty well sounding), the performances aren´t exactly tight, and the songwriting is one-dimensional, but it´s as authentic as they get in terms of experiencing youthful anger and frustration through music. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

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