We have almost reached the end of this year, and the snow has covered Tampere too. During this year I have noticed more clearly how the seasons have affected on my mood about music, but it has been usually the good ol’ favourites that come and go with springs and autumns – the new music isn’t so chained to this phenomenon. Therefore The Chosen Three of November includes music from the sunny shores of Greece and Australia – but you will get also some frozen Finnish black metal too. Onwards to 2013!
KAWIR: Isotheos (Deathrune 2012)
Kawir has sneaked its way to my personal pantheon of Greek black metal like a thief. I can’t even remember anymore where I heard this band first time or which album I bought first. But the truth is that Kawir has cemented its status in my record shelf and it was a day of joy when I finally got their new album to my clutches.
Isotheos is an interesting piece of metal. Kawir is known of their melodic and “folk” approach to pagan black metal, but this time they concentrate on making long, epic waves instead of tricky details. The weapons are usual: guitars, drums, flutes, keyboards and clean (Isengard-style!) and raw vocals, but on this one Kawir pays tribute more to Bathory than to Greece’s metal legacy. Some parts also wander to Drudkh’s territories in my opinion. The songs are long but they don’t have so much variance than before, but this hypnotic atmosphere really works. Of course someone could say that Kawir sounds too basic and “safe” on Isotheos, but I would say that it requires lots of courage to change your way so much and make an album like this.
Isotheos serves many catchy and breathtaking moments but also there is room for quiet interludes. Also the aggressive side is present, and especially the title track is prime sample of old school hammering. Of course every riff isn’t top notch and the production is a bit too polished, but in general Kawir stands alongside gods with Isotheos.
BAPTISM: As the Darkness Enters (Northern Heritage 2012)
HIM of black metal. I can’t recall who came up with this description, but there is a seed of truth in this statement. Lord Sargofagian has always been interested in the melancholic side of darkness, and the use of melodies and waving riffs have worked well so far. But how is it with this fourth long journey to the night?
No worries, Baptism keeps its standards. Again we are treated with Finnish black metal quality, which is leaning to the dialogue of different tempos, melancholy and anguish. But I would say that this time the collection of songs is more coherent than before, and stylistic flaws are few – for example the oh so traditional thrashy mid tempo riffs are missing.
Baptism has also swayed nicely to a more religious direction without losing its original roots. Backing vocals of sg.7 and Johannes Nefastos’s lyrics create the devout atmosphere but As the Darkness Enters is still a black metal album, not a black mass. This album doesn’t contain such hit songs like Wisdom & Hate or Morbid Wings of Sathanas but it’s still an enjoyable ride through esoteric spheres.
MONGREL’S CROSS: The Sins of Aquarius (Hell’s Headbangers 2012)
Besides Greek black metal, also Australian madness smashes my head quite often. And here is the latest hammer: Mongrel’s Cross gave me a warning in the split with amazing Innsmouth, and this full length shows that this band isn’t a one hit wonder. Of course this is Australian like kangaroos and Foster’s – thrashy death/black metal which smells of old school denim vests and bullet belts. The similarities with Deströyer 666 are quite audible but there is more than that on The Sins of Aquarius: the aura is dark and ominous, like the cover art made by one and only Alexander Brown.
Another interesting thing is that Mongrel’s Cross doesn’t make stylistic mishmash but keeps the selected genres quite pure: when the band thrashes, it thrashes, and when the band goes epic, you really hear the wind and the eagles around you. In the vocals section you get quite low and raspy growling which isn’t maybe the best option for every song on The Sins of Aquarius, but you can live with that. Another disadvantage is that the songs tend to get quite long and lose their dynamics. On the other hand there are lots of dynamic material on The Sins of Aquarius, like stomping Lead Them from the Promised Land.
It’s hard to put this to words, but somehow I feel that Mongrel’s Cross is here to stay. This trio stands on a solid ground, a serious look in their eyes, and although they don’t invent anything totally new with their music, they are more than a bunch of blokes playing old school riffs just because they have them. Keep an eye on this band.