Summer is a-coming in, arise arise! Although the heat isn’t on yet, the green veil over everything refreshes your mind almost subconsciously. Still something bleak and melancholic is always lurking in the background: you find yourself thinking shadows instead of sunshine; you find a dead frog from an empty barrel; rain showers hit both your skin and thoughts. Because of this, Ulver’s elegant tribute to 60ies’ folk/psychedelia bands, Childhood’s End has been my official soundtrack for this June. However, I chose three other releases for this month’s The Chosen Three. After this there will be a silent period for a week or two because of my trip to Berlin, but I’ll get back with the last pick from the issue #6 when I get back. Let the summer continue!
PÕHJAST: Thou Strong, Stern Death (Spikefarm 2012)
I have been always quite skeptical what comes to Spinefarm’s new (and oh well, old too) signings, but something in Põhjast got my attention. Maybe it was the respectable but quite bragging “sounds like” list – Immortal, Primordial and Bathory – or the fact that Eric Syre from the mighty Thesyre is operating behind the microphone. Well, be the reason this or that, I took the risk and this time it was worth of it: Thou Strong, Stern Death is an epic pagan black metal album which combines screeching riffs from Immortal’s At the Heart of the Winter, monumental nature of Primordial and traditional atmosphere of Bathory and Morrigan. You get what you expect to get, without surprises or failures. The songs keep their ideas quite well, and although Syre’s clean (but not so clean) vocals are rather distant, they deliver the message. It’s easy to put Thou Strong, Stern Death to your record player and go through its 30+ minutes. Well played, boys.
TRAGEDY: Darker Days Ahead (Tragedy 2012)
Tragedy has been a wolf among the sheep. A warrior among the posers. A truth among the lies. Or just a damn fine crust band that combines different elements so easily that you feel yourself an idiot when you describe them just a crust band. From the ashes of His Hero Is Gone this wolfpack progressed and took their talent and power to the max with their Vengeance album (2002), but also the follower, a bit more melodic Nerve Damage (2006) was a killer album. Darker Days Ahead wanders deeper into dusk, being an atmospheric but still ravishing attack of cynical hate and pessimistic visions. Someone could say that this album is even too mellow, but I would say that this has just more feeling and dimensions – more Amebix if you want to drop some names. And if you want more names, you can mention Bolt Thrower (and midpace death metal in general) and even Killing Joke when Tragedy gets its most sentimental. This is maybe the weakest point in Darker Days Ahead: sometimes Tragedy tries to be too soft, and especially vocals suffer from this attempt to be too melodic and “musical”. But in the end these are just little things – minor details which you can forget when the wave of musical pessimism and darkness drowns you. Sweet tragedy.
YEAR OF THE GOAT: Lucem Ferre (Ván 2011)
Okay, maybe I should write about Year Of The Goat’s latest output, a seven inch called This Will Be Mine (which is a quality release, no doubt), but this Swedish band’s first offering, a MCD from 2011, has stuck to my record player even more tightly. Although some of you have got enough of this retro occult rock wave, I can guarantee that Year Of The Goat travels on another level. Easy-going but still challenging song writing, catchy melodies and vocals full of talent and dedication – the whole package penetrates your mind and leaves you breathless. The first track, Of Darkness is certainly a hit song, but it’s a good hit song: quite soft and harmless but it has enough hooks for a swarm of listeners. Vermillion Clouds is a more massive case but the dialogue between silence and storm works very well. Dark Lord – a cover song from Sam Gopal – is a steady rock song but then you get back to the realm of YOTG with an instrumental title track, which lull you back to sleep with nice guitar work. I dare to say that this MCD has same charm than another MCD by Ván Records has, and it’s The Devil’s Blood’s Come, Reap. But don’t get me wrong, these two bands have similarities but also lots of differences. Year Of The Goat stands on its own, and I hope they get new material out soon.