The grip of winter has started finally to fade away, and although as a true servant of black and death and doom I should curse all this light and warmness, I can’t do anything else than just caress this coming spring. Great things are happening in a Kaleidoscope camp, and the posts in this blog will have a totally new meaning soon. You will see.
This month’s cocktail is quite interesting: it’s balancing on the edge of cold and warm, Nordic and exotic, so be open-minded.
CULTES DES GHOULES: Henbane (Under the Sign of Garazel 2013)
Somehow I hadn’t paid attention to Cultes Des Ghoules before this – this is just one of those situations that you know the band but don’t bother to check them out. Luckily I changed my mind, because this Polish act proves to be a unique band – and their latest album Henbane is one of the highlights of the early 2013.
But where does lie the charm of Henbane? I guess the trick is the way how Cultes Des Ghoules combines old and new. As one of the song titles say, this is ‘Vintage Black Magic’ so you get lots of Celtic Frost, Tormentor and Mayhem but same time you get long songs with different shifts and changes. Simple caveman riffs are interrupted by twisted guitar attacks, and the vocals – one of the strongest elements on this album – differ from chanting mumbles to screams from a grave. There is something similar with Negative Plane, and surprise surprise – Nameless Void, a guitarist/vocalist of this US occult metal group, is lending his talent on Henbane. By these powers, Cultes Des Ghoules creates five stunning songs. My personal favourite is maybe Festival of Devotion, which is one of the best metal songs I have heard for a long time – from thrashing Mayhem tributes to blast frenzies and limping grooves, everything works… and the song is almost nine minutes long!
Another element which is very powerful in Henbane is horror – be it horror stories, horror movies, pure occult mysteries or tales of myths, this album dives deep into the darkness and weaves a web of fear. And what is the best part, this element isn’t just a random frosting but can be heard in music too. Check the tormenting downbeat/guitar wailing end of The Passion of a Sorceress or the lurking atmosphere of Vintage Black Magic for example – if that’s not horror, I don’t know what horror is.
A heavy black horror metal album. Sounds an extravagant description, but that’s how it goes. Okay, a bit dull and tiring sometimes, but as I said, still one of the surprises and dark highlights of 2013.
Festival of Devotion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lM7_y9QHuQ
SACRAMENTUM: Far Away from the Sun (Adipocere 1996 / Century Media 2013)
Ah, the memories of the mid nineties… Nuclear Blast catalogs and feverish searching for every band which had Dissection, In Flames or Dark Tranquillity references. Well, during those times I introduced myself to many good bands like Dawn but also stuck my hand in shit (anybody remember a band called Embracing for example?). I guess Sacramentum was too aggressive and ‘evil’ to me back then but now I have a second chance with this Swedish (of course they’re Swedish!) band, when Century Media re-releases their debut album (remastered by Dan Swanö, who else?) with nice liner notes by the band.
What you get is genially fast and dynamic melodic black/death metal which is so full of melodies that you almost taste sugar in your mouth. Luckily Far Away from the Sun isn’t a light album – the raspy vocals of Nisse Karlén, blasting drums of Nicklas Rudolfsson and a general dark aura take care of it. If you think of the structure of this album and also the songs themselves, Sacramentum plays a bit safe – the songs are quite similar compared to each other, and you get those trademark elements like a monumental epic (Beyond All Horizons, a simply brilliant song!). But same time this trio brings everything on the edge, pushing every note and every pace to the max, so it’s impossible to resist the charm of Far Away from the Sun.
Buy this, even the price (12 euros) isn’t an excuse in this case.
And if you’re still unsure, I’ll give the stage to my colleague in Serpentscope, Antti Korpinen of The Serpent Bearer magazine. As an expert of the music like Sacramentum, he’s ready to explain what makes Sacramentum a noteworthy melodic black/death metal band. And if the stars had been in a right position, would Sacramentum have been the next Dissection?
– I probably don’t have a softer spot than the one I have for mid-90s Swedish melodic black metal. Of course I mean bands like Vinterland, Swordmaster, Mörk Gryning, Setherial, Dawn, Vergelmer, Midvinter, Ancient Wisdom and – yes! – Sacramentum. At their best, these bands are just the pure amalgamation of fire and ice – intense and cold, freezing and aflame. And there are other bands, although many of them are the ones you use once and then destroy. Even when you look at the names I mentioned, without doubt their candles burnt bright but not very long. Alas, that’s what happened to Sacramentum as well. While Far Away from the Sun could be considered exceptional – if not original or unique, per se – their second and third albums were real letdowns.
– So I think that answers the second part of your question. The band had the financial backing of Century Media, so I think the stars actually were aligned for Sacramentum, and the only thing missing was a really good second and/or third album. Then again, we’re yet to see a band that fills Dissection’s boots. As far as I’m concerned, Dissection died with their fuckin’ boots on (Reinkaos reigns!) anyway. At any rate, for me, Far Away from the Sun is among the top three releases in that school (not counting Dissection albums) with Vinterland’s sole full-length and Mörk Gryning’s Tusen År Har Gått. So if you’re not Dan Swanö who still laments that Edge of Sanity didn’t make it as big as In Flames, you won’t care about Sacramentum never making it to the big league. Whatever unmet commercial potential Sacramentum might’ve had 17 years ago is meaningless, whereas the artistic accomplishment that is Far Away from the Sun still stands tall.
Sacramentum in Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sacramentum.death.metal
Beyond All Horizons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjSKWrq2hGc
GOAT: World Music (Rocket 2012)
A band called Goat. A song called Goatlord. What is happening here? Well, very strange things I must say. Take a bunch of musical outcasts from Korpilombolo (Northern Sweden), give them strings, percussions, maracas, shamanistic outfits and a record deal, and you get World Music. This nicely packed album represents its name very well – spices from African, Indian and Scandinavian world music are mixed in a big bowl with the seventies’ psych rock, and the result is interesting. Songs are like improvised pieces of musical rituals, full of hysteric female chanting, screeching guitars, repetitive rhythms, ethnic tempos and those maracas. Also the lo-fi soundscape takes your thoughts to some cheap African music compilations – but this time music is actually good. It’s hard to describe Goat completely, check yourselves and see what happens.