Sunday, May 27, 2018

Avenger - Shadows of the Damned (1997)

   As black metal slowly took larger role over the underground scene, more bands felt inspired by this style that didn't counted as something new already, but as the new pretender. In the late '90s had it's final fight with the sceptics of metal journalism before gaining wider attention in the audience.
   Avenger started as an old school death metal band with exciting rotting sound, but they went through a fast change while their debut came out. They kept the heaviness of death metal, but the noisy sound was gone and they involved the influence of Nordic black metal. Their themes turned catchier, more fitting to the new influences, and a bit more melodic. The vocal style also changed from deep growling to black style, and the English lyrics were switched off too, they preferred Czech afterwards. The result was blackened death in a style that could be compared to Unanimated and Grotesque. So to the more balanced-sounding bands of the style, that are between the melodic-sizzling softer projects and the endlessly exaggerated black/death blasphemies. The band kept it's style until they split-up, and always produced the same high quality musical materials.

Asmodina - Inferno (1997)

   Most well known metal musicians which became the part of the "elite" of the main scene from the late '90s, started to play in old school style. It's enough to think about the plenty of melodic death, progressive or romantic death/doom bands. It wasn't different in the case of Angela Gossow either, who ran a nice career with Arch Enemy.
   Earlier she had a band named Asmodina, that was more death metal related. Similar to most German bands in this style, their music wasn't easy to compare to others, or to find out any evident references or influences. They preferred mid speed with simple and raw guitar themes. Even though it wasn't a progressive competition either, their music may have a raw impression that they tried to compense occasionally with catchier melodies. For an effective contrast the measure of these melodies is too low, so the heaviness stays in focus. Miss Gossow had a different vocal style in Asmodina, so it's not surprising if Arch Enemy fans may not experience déjá vu by hearing something familiar they heard before somewhere else. Her powerful screams became the most characteristic feature of her style, while in Asmodina she preferred deep growling.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Dimmu Borgir - Enthrone Darkness Triumphant (1997)

     I remember having a conversation with a friend who refereed to one of their favorite albums as being the "apex" of the bands career. With the release of "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant", Dimmu Borgir established themselves securely in the genre of symphonic black metal and it's legions. The album brings out what's great about symphonic black metal in that it gives us a, subjectively speaking, prettier, more musically enjoyable version of what was Emperor era black metal. The album presents itself as a turning point for the band, where it becomes the sound the Dimmu is known for today. Production wise, for black metal, Enthrone would be considered top notch, as it allows the album to still remain dark and broody, but not overly produced and leaving melodies inaudible. 
     There are a few songs that stick out to me on this album, but all in all, the entire album flows smoothly, each song complimenting the one before it. The entire album gives an ethereal atmosphere, something new and exciting for Dimmu as a whole, thanks to their different approach to keyboard use for the album than it's predecessors. I often recommend Spellbound and Mourning Palace to people who may have never heard black metal before or who are looking to get into the genre. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Blackstar - Barbed Wire Soul (1997)

   The British just love their '70s and '80s heavy metal scene, so it's not surprising if retro endeavours overcome on them. The same thing happened in the case of Blackstar, a short living band that was form on the ruins of Carcass.
    By knowing anything about the musical past of the members, it's evident that this wasn't a project of high notes singing, half naked heavy metal warriors in leather pants, but still it was something far different way for sure. Their one and only album was like a transition of classical heavy metal into the late '90s by adding the actual influences. This is the same way how stoner rock was born, so the similarity of their music may not count as a coincidence. The sound had to be heavier, noisier and the vocal style more harsh for the same serious effect in the late '90s, like a few decades earlier. The lyrics about life, personal issues and inner struggles are also modernized versions of the old school heavy metal lyrical style. The album is kind of party-compatible filled with catchy themes and it's very entertaining in general. It's a proof that great musicians are able to create good music in various genres and styles.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Electric Wizard - Come My Fanatics.... (1997)

   The new sound of doom metal that Cathedral have started in the early '90s, was continued and raised to another level by Electric Wizard.
   Their first album left no doubts about their similar ambitions, but by "Come My Fanatics...." they went even further. The sound became so distorted and exaggerated as it's possible, and redefined the term of heaviness. This slowly rolling stoner/doom noise opened new perspectives for the style and made Electric Wizard to it's new master. The background concept was very simple by the way, it's not different from what Black Sabbath did a few decades earlier and how they became the noisiest band of the '70s. The rough sound didn't increase only the heaviness of their music, but the level of desperate, bitter rage too, that simply floods by the echoing vocal style. And of course made the main view quite unfriendly and demoralizing too. Apocalyptic and witchcraft related lyrics entertaining the listener who certainly can upgrade it's resistance against brain damage after listening this remarkable stoner/doom metal masterpiece.

Morgion - Among Majestic Ruin (1997)

   Morgion lately increased the numbers of romance and melancholy based death/doom bands which were quite popular in Europe from the late '90s. But their full-lenght debut was closer to the ordinary style of the subgenre.
   "Among Majestic Ruins" was probably their best album that still included the heaviness of death/doom, but already stepped through the borders of it's aesthetic-less, raw sound. Melodies and excellent themes took a remarkable role on the side of noisy basics, and these deep growls are no more about desperate suffering or the inevitable arrival of death, but about nature, sorrow and mysticism. The contrast of the two sides created an enjoyable balance, and made the album more diverse than most old school or new waved death/doom albums. A strong atmosphere completing the main view, and often fusioning with the melodies. The occasional return of raw, old school referring themes are nostalgic and refreshing the same time. These returns are very effective after the extented lenght of melancholic melodies. "Among Majestic Ruins" is one of the masterpieces of death/doom metal.

Evilution - Shrine of Desecration (1997)

   Those who missed the good old times of death metal, occasionally could find a few albums which were made with the same spirit, only came out a bit late.
   Evilution had only one short album during their 10 years of activity. "Shrine of Desecration", this mostly Cannibal Corpse and Monstrosity influenced old school brutal death rampage in the late '90s was like a lonely headstone in a desolated landscape, sentenced to be unnoticed and forgotten. Even though the album was very intense, had excellent sound and themes, and referred to the bigger names of the genre; for the main audience seemed probably nothing more, than an enjoyable nostalgia of a fan made project. But Evilution didn't simply copy the favorites. From the late '90s brutal death and it's progressive or technical versions were in highlights in the suddenly shranked undergoud scene, and "Shrine of Desecration" could count as of the first ones of these modernized albums. An effective piece of old school influenced brutality!

Crisis - The Hollowing (1997)

   Crisis was a very interesting band in the main metal scene, not only because their style was everything but ordinary, but also because their music was very difficult to cathegorize.
   They started with some death metal influenced mix of weird alternative style and hardcore, and lately they ended up with sludge and metalcore influences. This progression counts only partly as a "keep up" with the main trends, because they kept their extraordinary style. The roots of these problems are based on a common thing: the simpler music a band plays, the more difficult to determine it's features, especially in the case of very diverse influences. We can't say that Crisis was a death metal, or hardcore, or alternative rock, or sludge, or thrash metal, or metalcore ect. band, but their simple themes included all of these influences, and even more. Definitely Karyn was the soul of the band, and she was in main focus too. Her vocal style and range of voice counts very unique even nowadays, when it's not a big thing to find female metal vocalists. It seemed like no problem for her to suddenly switch from clear singing to growling or insane screaming. Such as the previous 2 albums, "The Hollowing" is also not free fom uncommon musical solutions and ideas, but it sounds like they seeked for a more unified sound than before. Catchier themes, intense bass lines, and melancholic melodies are it's main characteristics. And of course the rageful, desperate, insane screams of Karyn, that is still something unmatched.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Vibrion - Closed Frontiers (1997)

   Vibrion was one of the oldest Argentinean death metal bands, and probably an influental one too for the local scene. But the main cause that made them extraordinary is that their style was quite different from what was usual at old school South American metal bands.
   They debuted with an ordinary death metal album, so it didn't sound like a mix of related genres. The pure aggressiveness they performed on "Diseased", returned in a different way on "Closed Frontiers". The main scene was changing and death metal lost it's actuality already, and it seemed like they tried to follow the style of late Sepultura. The guitar themes sounding very characteristic on the album, so it's almost impossible to confuse them with other bands. Their repetitive groovy themes are already suspecting their late ambitions to involve industrial influences. The vocal style is more like aggressive shouting than growling, so even though it was the same on the first album too, it also sounds like a hint for a style change. Their drummer tried to compense with constant snare drumming that he simply couldn't play so fast as it was needed, so the main view is quite interesting, but not bad at all. It's hard to decide if "Closed Frontiers" counts as an experimenting album, or the way how the musicians tried to find their own way through their confined abilities made it exciting. Probably both.

Coal Chamber - Coal Chamber (1997)

   A new style was forming in the mid '90s in America to refresh the metal scene, instigated mainly by Korn and producer Ross Robinson (ex-Détente). Soon others joined to the newly found Nu Metal wave, such as Coal Chamber did too.
   Since almost everything was done in metal already that could be made, the newbies involved various different musical styles into metal. Hip-hop, alternative rock and industrial influences appeared, and that wasn't much different at Coal Chamber either. While most nu metal musicians tried to seem more chilled than others and went to the stage in tracksuit and skate shoes to rap and scream about their misty private life issues, Coal Chamber took the grotesque look of Marilyn Manson and completed that with extreme hair styles, significant amount of piercings and painted nails. To shock visually was almost same important feature of the genre like the music itself. Harsh vocal style, screaming and clear singing were same usual at them, while musically very simple, repetitive guitar themes was their main feature. Basicly it was the same like in industrial metal projects. The distorted effects on guitars may result a heavier impression, especially with the assistane of visuals, but in general their music is way softer than how it first seems like. The common appearence of probably fun-boredom inspired ideas also decreasing the heaviness and seriousness of the album. Coal Chamber took it's piece from the uprising nu metal scene as one of it's darker-wannabe bands.

Thorns of the Carrion - The Scarlet Tapestry (1997)

   Thorns of the Carrion debuted as a rough death/doom band, but from their second album they covered themselves into the fog of lovesickness and melancholic melodies.
   The change into this gothic influenced style was like to slip into the more popular alternative of death/doom, that took  the main role in the European metal scene already. And slipping out from the borders of the strictly beauty-less previous style the same time. The basics of "The Gardens of Dead Winter" were kept, but by the new features they sounded like a different band. Strong atmosphere creates the gloomy mist that softens the heavy, noisy death/doom features at one hand, but they opening new depths for melancholy the same time. Keyboards and occasionally short flute themes assisting to complete the circle of aesthetic suffering. On the side of the ordinary deep growling, clear singing and fading whisperings taking their parts too in convince the listener to find a suitable dark corner to live for self-tormenting ambitions. The combination of this singing style and the musical backbround reminds to old Cathedral. "The Scarlet Tapestry" includes very effective and catchy songs that are same motivating for self-pity and to drop tears silently in the chosen dark corner, like the biggest gothic doom bands of the late '90s.

Crusher - Daymares (1996)

   The debut of the Czech old school death metal band Crusher arrived a bit late, when extreme music lost it's previous wider attention. But better later than never.
   Even though it's barely known and badly underrated, "Daymares" had an excellent quality compared to most other projects of the '90s Eastern European scene. The album was very stunning both in sound and themes, it's probably one of the best materials of the scene. Their music convey a similar impression like Morta Skuld or Baphomet with their mainly mid speed themes. Very simple and short solos increasing the classical impression. The cawing vocals setting it up to a more aggressive level. In general heaviness is the main feature that is responsible for the intensiveness of "Daymares".  It could fit next to the greatest death metal albums of the '90s. The band lately left the old school line and by following the actual underground trends, involved grindcore influences into their music that became way more intense and insane.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Disgust - A World of No Beauty (1996)

   It's interesting that the simpler a music is, the more possibilities it could give for those who wants to sort music into exact styles.
   The most common standpoint is that Disgust was as a crust punk band, but grindcore also appeared as their style determination. It's because the band formed by some ex-members of Extreme Noise Terror and Michael Burston (ex-Motörhead), and they brought the main musical characteristics with themselves. That's why their music was a bit heavier than ordinary crust punk, but still it didn't reach the intensiveness of grindcore. The concept was the same like in crust punk, based on political and societal critics, especially if they are related to war and violence. In truth this unusual team-up resulted a project that sounds like the powered up and more monotone version of Master, and if it's about crust punk, the heavier version of Doom. Even if they had different roots, the concept was almost the same, and musically they are similar. The difference is that Disgust showed poorer diversity, the same basic punk hammering and simple guitar themes could be heard in eleven songs lenght. Except the last song, that is a slow, instrumental one, it wouldn't be even needed to divide the album into different tracks, cause they are just all the same. Except that "A World of No Beauty" could be very enjoyable for the fans of old school punk influenced metal.