Tag Archives: At The Gates

The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave – Album Review

The_Lurking_Fear_2017_Cover

Artist: The Lurking Fear

Album Title: Out of the Voiceless Grave

Label: Century Media Records

Date Of Release: 11 August 2017

I could be wrong but I’m pretty certain that Tomas Lindberg has never been involved in any band, project or record that has been anything less than solid. In fact, the vast majority of the material in which he has played some part, has been a lot better than ‘solid’, with much of it falling into ‘excellent’ or even ‘classic’ territory. It’s one heck of a list too, but most will be familiar with the Swede and his caustic gruff vocals as a result of his work with the peerless melodic death metal behemoth At The Gates. Personally-speaking, I also want to tip my cap to the criminally underrated Nightrage whilst I’m at it.

And now, not content with everything he has achieved to date, Lindberg pops up as the vocalist for The Lurking Fear, a brand new band that will naturally attract the dreaded ‘supergroup’ tag. Joining Lindberg is none other than his At The Gates sticksman Adrian Erlandsson, guitarists Jonas Stålhammar (Crippled Black Phoenix, God Macabre) and Fredrik Wallenberg (Skitsystem), as well as bassist Andreas Axelson (Disfear).

The band moniker is inspired by a short story written by H.P Lovecraft but apparently, that’s not where the inspiration finished, for it was musical inspiration that pulled this impressive quintet together in spite of their demanding day jobs. To illustrate this point, according to the press release, the guys came together and incredibly composed 18 songs in just two months.

‘Out Of The Voiceless Grave’ has since been trimmed down and thus features twelve tracks with a brisk running time of a little over 42 minutes. But what a 42 minutes it is, especially if you have a weakness for old-school death metal. This is a record that has clearly come from the modern era but which is imbued with many of the traits that made death metal so essential some twenty or thirty years ago.

What I hear is a record with a raw, nasty intensity to it as well as a bleak, suffocating atmosphere. The music is well-honed and tightly-performed but there’s enough fluidity to allow it to avoid sounding overly-precise or sterile. Instead, coupled with a production that blends the best of old and new, there’s an organic aspect to it, making it feel like the music lives and breathes.

Press_Photos_07

Credit: Martin Ahx

The Lovecraft-inspiration doesn’t cease at the band moniker either, as a sense of darkness and foreboding, in keeping with the literature of the Victorian/Edwardian author, looms large over ‘Out Of The Voiceless Grave’ right from the off. The opening instrumental title track provides an unsettling and clandestine soundtrack, murky and depraved. It may be a wasted track for many, but importantly, it sets the tone of the album, a tone that’s consistent as the record develops.

Those left in any doubt about the rhetoric surrounding The Lurking Fear and their love of old-school death metal need only listen to the opening few bars of ‘Vortex Spawn’ to be convinced. It might not be the best track on the record but it is an opening statement of real intent, switching between all-out speed and swirling lead guitar solos to more of a plodding, doomy pace, allowing the guitars to introduce some memorable riffing in that ever-so-familiar tone.

Next is ‘The Starving Gods Of Old’ and as it kicks in, I can hear more than a touch of thrash within it. It is also a much stronger track overall, with a break-neck pace for the most part, juxtaposed with a smattering of groove and topped off by a wild lead solo that threatens to spiral out of control almost as soon as it begins.

‘The Infernal Dread’ reintroduces the sounds of the opening instrumental before delivering something a little more melodic and immediate. The sound of tolling bells is a nice touch, injecting a little more atmosphere into the music but regardless, this is a very strong track.

After a few spins however, the realisation dawns on me that ‘Out of the Voiceless Grave’ is markedly stronger in the latter stages. I like the ominous mid-section stomp of ‘With Death Engraved In Their Bones’ amongst others, but by track seven, the magic happens on a more frequent basis as far as I’m concerned.

‘Teeth Of The Dark Plains’ begins in standard bruising fashion but just after the mid-way mark, the guitars have some real fun, delivering something more NWOBHM within the confines of their extreme metal cocoon. It’s a masterstroke, proving that there is more to The Lurking Fear than just out-and-out savagery and I like this album all the more for it.

Some spoken-word samples are injected into a slower section of ‘The Cold Jaws of Death’, giving the track a vague Gothic feel, which I hadn’t anticipated, whilst closing track, ‘Beneath Menacing Sands’ slows the pace more consistently, and brings the record to an end in a much more ponderous and overtly melodic manner, albeit without losing any of that atmospheric darkness that fits the Lovecraftian themes so well. In between, both ‘Winged Death’ and ‘Tentacles of Blackened Horror’ deliver yet more powerful and deliciously caustic content.

I think it says something about my personal tastes as well as the strength of the death metal releases in 2017 that an album this good is unlikely to be at the top of my list this year. Nevertheless, if you’re after a lovingly and expertly crafted death metal album that embraces a bygone era of the genre with authenticity, then this filthy, raw album is the one for you, without doubt.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising – Album Review

deserted_fear_-_dead_shores_rising_cover_2016

Artist: Deserted Fear

Album Title: Dead Shores Rising

Label: Century Media Records

Date of Release: 2017

My ambition to try to listen to more bands than ever in 2017 is off to a flyer with yet another new discovery that ticks plenty of boxes. The band in question is Deserted Fear, a German old school death metal trio comprised of guitarist/vocalist Manuel Glatter, guitarist Fabian Hildebrandt and drummer Simon Mengs. I say old school because the music on this, their third album ‘Dead Shores Rising’ is full of that groove and understated melody that typified much of the output from around 20 years ago.

What makes ‘Dead Shores Rising’ more interesting for me but will divide opinion amongst death metal aficionados the world over, is the choice of production. Sure there are still some raw edges to be heard and enjoyed, such as the harsh, guttural and raspy vocals from Glatter or the overall tone of the rumbling guitars that sound like the aural equivalent of wading through treacle. However, thanks to some mixing and mastering magic by Dan Swanö, there is an undeniably modern sheen to the music.

From the thoroughly brilliant and rousing opening intro that sounds like it could have been culled from a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster, you’re under no illusion that time and effort has been taken on the production, a theme that continues at the midway mark with the minute-long pause for breath ‘Interlude’. And then, throughout the remaining nine album tracks and two bonus cuts, one of which contains a guest vocal appearance from At The Gates’ Tomas Lindberg (‘The Path Of Sorrow’) you can hear the general polish that has been applied to soften a few of the rougher edges. The aforementioned guitars are just a little too monstrous and rich, the drums are just a little too crisp and the mix is just a little too clear and balanced for this to be a bona fide old school death metal album from back in the day.

I’ll probably take a lot of flack for this but I actually have no problem with this kind of groovy mid-tempo death metal having a clearer, stronger production. As with black metal, there are some within death metal circles who will like the rawer production as it conveys, in their eyes, more authenticity. I do agree but at the same time, if the music is good, I want to be able to hear it. I certainly don’t subscribe to the ‘recorded in a shoebox with a machine powered by the tears of squirrels’ approach to production, that’s for sure. As a result, ‘Dead Shores Rising’ sounds very nice to my ears indeed. But more importantly, the vibe and intensity remains intact.

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Musically-speaking, I am equally satisfied with the end result. I remember the days when I heard Entombed for the first time or Obituary, Dismember or even At The Gates. To a greater or lesser extent, these are all good reference points for the output of Deserted Fear and I get the same kind of overall feelings listening to ‘Dead Shores Rising’ as I did when I first listened to the aforementioned. The power, the brutality, the malevolence, the clandestine melodies, and the more overt hooks – it is all there and it is thoroughly absorbing. This is the kind of no-frills, headbanging, groove-laden death metal with a hint or two of melodeath that I really enjoy listening to. This stuff makes me smile, I just can’t help it. Or to save face, perhaps it just makes me grin wickedly.

From the opening moments of ‘The Fall of Leaden Skies’ to the final notes of ‘The Path Of Sorrow’, the riffs, courtesy of Hildebrandt and Glatter are the king of Deserted Fear’s world. They bludgeon, they groove, they scythe and they relentlessly pummel for nigh on 45 minutes, but they do it with no small amount of style and panache. Admittedly there is a paucity of variation on ‘Dead Shores Rising’ but why would you want the music to be markedly different from song to song when the quality of what they offer is so high in the first place? There are times where you want to be entertained without having to think too hard. And, without denigrating the musicians involved or their collective talents and efforts, this is the perfect extreme metal record for just that purpose.

And whilst the guitar riffs dominate, they are more than ably assisted by the other instruments, including the drumming from Simon Mengs, which lays down a meaty foundation upon which the relentless six string action can take place. In addition to the riffs, I like the fact that there are lead guitar lines that introduce some measure of melody and that there are just enough lead solos to keep things interesting, helping to quench my personal thirst for such things, without derailing the impact of the tracks too much.

But it is the compositions themselves that transform what is an already strong blueprint into something rather brilliant. Nothing is extraneous, nothing is unnecessary. Each composition is a tight, well drilled and excellently executed slice of extreme heavy metal. Aside from one track, ‘Carry On’, no track extends much beyond four minutes, meaning that the material is a well-honed beast that wastes no time in making its mark on the listener.

In many ways, given the strength of the entire album, it would be unfair to pick out specific highlights. But I can’t let this review pass without mentioning a couple of my personal favourites.

‘The Fall Of Leaden Skies’ is a killer composition, setting the album on its way masterfully. After a flamboyant drum intro, the blend of fast-paced and groovy riffs atop an almost perpetual blastbeat makes an instant impression, culminating in a chorus that is almost catchy.

‘Open Their Gates’ on the other hand contains hints of early Obituary primarily in the monumentally heavy and groovy mid-tempo sections and via Glatter’s more contorted and convulsive vocal delivery.

And then there’s my personal favourite, the masterful ‘Face Our Destiny’, which cuts loose a little more. It therefore features more in the way of lead guitar histrionics, stronger more pronounced melodies within the chorus and an epic-sounding 45-second outro complete with wailing lead guitar.

I have absolutely fallen for the immense charms of Deserted Fear and this, their third full-length studio album. ‘Dead Shores Rising’ is a totally compelling album that has completely renewed and reinvigorated my love for death metal. It is bold, it is savage and it kicks some serious butt. What more could you possibly want?

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Album Of The Year 2014 – Number 11

Now that Christmas is over for another year, it’s about time that I got back on with my Album of the Year 2014 countdown. Despite my best efforts, a growing family and fatherly responsibilities have meant that I’m unlikely to complete the full list before the end of the Year. But hey-ho, it’s the thought that counts and I shall plough on regardless thanks to all the positive comments and feedback I’ve received to date.

As always, if you’re late to the party and need or want to catch up on the posts in this year’s countdown to date, the links can be found at the bottom of this post. So can links to my 2012 and 2013 lists.

But back to the main event and my choice at Number 11:

01 ATGAt The Gates
‘At War With Reality’
Century Media Records

A few years ago, an appearance in one of these year-end lists from At The Gates would have been unthinkable. One of the original and best bands within the melodic death metal scene, one of a handful that helped to create the ‘Gothenburg Sound’, called it a day in 1995, bowing out after the release of arguably one of the finest albums that the genre has to offer, the absolute classic ‘Slaughter of the Soul’. this near perfect tour-de-force as their final hurrah in that same year meant that their status has become near-legendary over the intervening period, with thoughts of a reunion merely a fervent pipe dream amongst fans. And then, in 2008, At the Gates reformed for a handful of farewell shows. I was at Bloodstock for one of those emotional and electric performances.

00 ATG

Within the past year, as the live shows increased in frequency, we began to dare to believe and, at the tail-end of 2013, we were greeted with the news we all craved: a new album was in the making. I interviewed Tomas Lindberg this year and playfully asked for my money back on the ‘farewell’ t-shirt I bought at Bloodstock. The truth is, is don’t really care about that because a new album is far more exciting.

The excitement prior to release was, however, tinged with a certain nervousness I must admit because I hoped a new record would not damage the reputation of At The Gates. Would it live up to the hype and the impossibly high expectations? I needn’t have worried though.

‘At War With Reality’ is every inch the album that it needed to be. It isn’t a ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ copycat and neither is it the natural follow-up to it either. What it is, is a great blend of old and new, both paying homage to their past and accepting that the landscape of extreme metal has changed over the past couple of decades. The riffs are naturally the bedrock upon which all else sits and on this record, they’re a big winner – they are really strong, powerful and downright filthy, everything you want from At The Gates.

Personally, I can hear echoes of all of the band’s past endeavours from the early, more experimental days of ‘The Red In The Sky is Ours’ to the more straight-up groove-laden intensity of ‘Slaughter of the Soul’, all topped off by the unmistakably caustic yet intelligent bark of Tomas Lindberg himself. The melodies are there but are wonderfully understated and the whole thing feels right if I can say that; its neither contrived nor forced and it’s certainly relevant for 2014.

Put as simply as I can, ‘At War With Reality’ is a passionate, vital and hungry-sounding album that proves to anyone that ever doubted it, that At The Gates remain one of the most influential, talented and inspired bands in the world of melodic death metal.

Check out the other posts in this series:

Album of the Year 2014 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 20

And if you’re interested, my similar countdowns from previous years can be accessed here:

Top 20 of 2012
Album of the Year 2013

Mors Principium Est – Dawn Of The 5th Era – Album Review

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Artist: More Principium Est

Album Title: Dawn Of The 5th Era

Label: AFM Records

Year of Release: 2014

Based on the number of strong releases throughout 2014, AFM Records are rapidly becoming one of my favourite record labels. Not only have they brought us the insanely brilliant ‘Hymns For The Broken’ from Evergrey, ‘The Heart of the Matter’ by Triosphere bears their logo too. And now we have ‘Dawn Of The 5th Era’, unsurprisingly the fifth album from Finnish metallers Mors Principium Est.

The first thing to say is that this album has a super sound. These days, polished productions are relatively easy to come by; so long as you have a decent budget, the tools are there to make the job simpler than ever before. But too often, that perfect production can then rob the material of a certain amount of authenticity. Admittedly, the sound has been compressed quite a bit and the bass could be higher in the mix but these minor ailments are quickly forgotten because this album otherwise successfully brings together a modern clarity with a demonstrable old-school feel. The result is an album that’s a joy to listen to but which also has a gritty, almost dirty underbelly.

And then, compositionally speaking, I would be prepared to stick my neck out and say that this is the best body of work that Mors Principium Est have ever created. Over the course of their fifteen year, five album career, the quintet have already released some cracking material but this is their best and I have no hesitation in putting it in the same bracket as At The Gates’ new Opus, making ‘dawn Of The 5th Era’ one of my favourite melodic death metal albums of 2014.

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At the forefront on the Mors Principium Est sound, you’re treated to a enthralling blend of savagery, brutality and beauty. For every razor sharp riff, there’s a melodic dual guitar harmony and for every blast of uncompromising extremity, there’s a majestic chorus or a memorable lead break. The end result is a well-balanced, finely-honed set of songs that is very impressive indeed and which should appeal many.

The album begins with ‘Enter The Asylum’, a short instrumental intro that builds the tension before first song proper, ‘God Has Fallen’ wastes no time in ripping your head off in fine style. The pace is fast, the rhythm section courtesy of drummer Mikko Sipola and bassist Teemu Heinola is powerful and some incisive riffing is overlaid with a catchy lead guitar line, topped off by the gruff yet intelligible vocals of Ville Viljanen.

‘Leader Of The Titans’ swiftly follows and impresses thanks to an ambitious construction all the while supported by instantly gratifying melodic intent. It’s one of the standout tracks on the album as far as I’m concerned. But then again, such is the consistency here, just about every track is a highlight. ‘We Are The Sleep’ is ushered in with the help of some subtle electronics before offering one of the most epic and catchiest choruses on the album, one that’s mildly reminiscent of mid era Dark Tranquillity. It’s a big track and a massive high point for the album too.

‘Innocence Lost’ pays yet more homage to the classic sounds of the 90s with a sharp, penetrating central riff before ‘I Am War’ takes over, quickly becoming my favourite song on the album. The mid-section is simply to die for with a gigantic mid-tempo melody followed by some stunning lead guitar trade offs and duelling between non-Finnish guitarists Andy Gillion and Kevin Verlay. I might just have listened to this track a few times on repeat, but can you blame me?

Interestingly, as the album develops, Mors Principium Est increase the black metal influences within their death metal blueprint. ‘Monster In Me’, has a definite echo of Dissection about it, particularly within the core riffs and the song construction. Then, after a short instrumental interlude that again showcases some fantastically emotive lead guitar work, we’re hit with ‘Wrath Of Indra’ and ‘The Journey’, the latter of which is almost pure symphonic black metal worship. The opening staccato riffing accompanied by relentless blast beats and the subtle synths underneath all scream black metal and call to mind a Dissection-meets-Emperor hybrid with a dash of Dimmu Borgir for good measure. I really like it and it further demonstrates just how talented and versatile Mors Principium Est really are.

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Finally, ‘The Forsaken’ closes the album just as impressively as it opened. It is the longest track on the album and begins serenely with a piano melody underpinned by gentle synths. However it doesn’t take long to increase in intensity thanks to some of the fastest material anywhere on the record and then one of the most uplifting sing-along choruses I’ve heard from this genre of music in many a year, meaning it’s likely to be big hit live.

As you can probably tell from this review, I’ve been hugely impressed by this record. Blending that classic melodic death metal sound with modern flourishes and properly memorable melodies, ‘Dawn Of The 5th Era’ demonstrates that Mors Principium Est are at the very top of their game. This is, without doubt, one of the extreme metal highlights of 2014.

The Score of Much Metal: 9.0

Check out my other album reviews here:

Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

Upcoming New Releases in 2014 (Part 2)

Continuing with my look at what’s likely to greet us in 2014, here’s another selection of goodies that I’m sure will delight many…

(Part 1 can be viewed here)

ANATHEMA
‘TBC’

Liverpool’s Anathema have had a couple of big years and 2014 threatens to be another. The big question however, is this: can they match or top the slice of aural perfection that is ‘Weather Systems’? It is a big ask, but if anyone is capable, it’s Anathema.

KINGCROW
‘TBC’

Another band with a tough task on their hands is Italian progressive metal band Kingcrow. ‘In Crescendo’ featured in many people’s end-of-year best of lists thanks to some fantastically strong songwriting, memorable melodies and a production to die for. Early hints from the band suggest something slightly different but whatever they release, I’m sure it will have prog fans salivating.

IN FLAMES
‘TBC’

In Flames were the first melodic death metal band that I dicovered & were one of the pioneers of the ‘Gothenburg sound’ during the 90s. And, whilst some may bemoan their gradual departure from their early sound, the fact remains that In Flames tend to release quality albums full of heavy, catchy anthems. As such, I always look forward to new material from these Swedes.

A.C.T.
‘Circus Pandemonium’

One of the most underrated and unknown bands in prog rock circles finally return after a protracted hiatus with a new abum. The Swedes have become something of a cult band and those that know the name will rejoice at news of new material. The approach is quirky but brilliantly written and executed progressive rock. High hopes for this one.

AT THE GATES
‘At War With Reality’

The legendary At The Gates are back and are due to unleash a brand new studio album, their first for nearly a decade. Released in 1995, ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ remains one of the best-loved albums within the melodic death metal genre and so expectations are high for the new release. Naturally many fans are nervous and sceptical, but I’m sure the new album will be well worth the wait.

INSOMNIUM
‘TBC’

A firm favourite with me, news of a new Insomnium album is always very welcome. Princiapally a melodic death metal band, Insomnium are not afraid of adding other ingredients to their sound. The new album, according to the band will have a much more demonstrable death/black metal vibe and, based on the one track they’ve released as a teaser, I’m very excited about hearing the full album sometime in the spring.

Plus, if you missed my round-up of the best of 2013, that can be accessed via this link.

Intros, Outros and Instrumental Interludes…yes or no?

Ever since I began to listen to rock and metal some twenty years ago now, I have been delighted by and frustrated by a particular phenomenon…the instrumental interlude. Most of the time, these pieces of music are used as an introduction to an album or as a closer. Often, instrumentals act as book-ends, both opening and closing an album and frequently, they can be found littering albums at various points.

I’m not aware of many other genres of music employing this ‘technique’, if you can call it that and yet, rock and metal is riddled with it. In fact, there are certain genres (black metal for example) where it comes as a shock to the system when an album opens up with a blast beat or a shriek rather than a more soothing symphonic refrain courtesy of the resident keyboardist or, if the budget allows, a real orchestra.

But, the question remains – are instrumental intros, outros and interludes a waste of time or do they serve a genuine purpose?

The answer, as always, depends on the quality that is being offered. Some albums are rubbish and no amount of clever, atmospheric, challenging or downright weird pieces of music will save them. Sometimes, an instrumental piece will be an exercise in padding, to bulk out a shortfall in worthwhile material whilst others serve a better purpose, acting as introductions, bridges or narration to that very metal of inventions, the concept album.

Personally, if the piece of music is well-written and is not just a throw-away composition, I tend to be a fan of them. But, if they serve no logical purpose or if they simply don’t add anything of value to the album, I’d rather they were removed. For example, I don’t get those 20-second sections of noise that masquerade as an intro as they tend to start the album on a negative footing. Neither do I enjoy the inevitable disruption in flow when something similar pops up in the middle of a record. Nevertheless, as foibles go, I can generally cope with this one from the rock and metal scene.

But it wouldn’t be the same without a few examples, so here are a few of the best and worst that the scene has to offer in my opinion:

The bad

Type O Negative – I love Type O Negative. Not seeing them live is one of my biggest music-related regrets. And yet, their albums delight and annoy in equal measure. Both ‘Bloody Kisses’ and ‘October Rust’ are firm favourites of mine but both contain no less than three of these instrumental interludes, all of which are, in my opinion, an utter waste of time. Admittedly they don’t last long and are quickly forgotten but if that’s the case, what’s the point?

In the case of ‘Bloody Kisses’, the album opens with ‘Machine Screw’ which is comprised of a woman moaning over a backdrop of a whining industrial noise whilst ‘Fay Wray Come Out and Play’ is a minute-long chant with howling wolves in the background.

‘October Rust’ on the other hand, doesn’t offer listeners anything closely resembling a song until track three. The album opens with ‘Bad Ground’, 30 seconds of an indeciperable noise before leading into an untitled track which is the band thanking fans for buying the album. It’s a nice enough touch but I question it’s necessity on the album.

Kamelot – Another band that I have liked for many years but who fall foul of the ‘pointless intro and interlude’ category. Their otherwise fantastic album ‘Epica’ for example features no less than five instrumental interludes and I’m hard-pressed to understand any of them. The band and die-hard fans will perhaps argue that they maintain an ebb and flow to the album but the fact remains that none of them are memorable or particularly interesting and I could happily live without them. I liken them to annoying advert breaks in the middle of your favourite TV show.

But arguably worse than this are the three interludes within ‘The Black Halo’, none of which contain anything that I would call music. Instead they’re just film-like excerpts within the album. Only one word required: skip.

There are, no doubt, a ton of other examples of poor or unnecessary instrumentals but these two culprits immediately spring to mind

The good

Bal Sagoth‘Black Dragons Soar Above The Mountain Of Shadows’

If ever there was an instrumental opener designed to get the blood pumping, this is it. Performed exclusively by keyboards, this is pure sci-fi fantasy music. It could easily be the soundtrack to your favourite fantasy novel such is it’s pomposity and grandiosity – personally, I picture Sparhawk, the hero in David Eddings’ ‘The Elenium’ and ‘The Tamuli’ trilogies astride his trusty steed on the edge of a windswept cliff as I listen. But I digress…

The minute I heard this instrumental opening, I knew I was going to enjoy Bal Sagoth. It is completely in keeping with the excesses on display throughout the remainder of the album and therefore gives listeners an gentle insight into the barbarian metal that is to follow. A great album overall, opened up by a fantastic instrumental piece.

In FlamesThe Jester’s Dance

In a slight change of pace, this instrumental does not open up ‘The Jester Race’, but instead sits in the track two position. This classic melodic death metal album begins with the brilliant ‘Moonshield’ before giving way to this beautiful two-minute instrumental. As mentioned in a previouds post, I discovered this album via a Spanish friend at University on a beaten-up old cassette tape. At first I was not sure about my first taste of melodic death metal. However, I loved this instrumental piece from the get-go and it gave me the incentive I needed to keep listening. Witout ‘The Jester Dance’ with it’s juxtaposition of sublime guitar melodies, galloping bass line and heavy riffing, I might not have got into this genre at the time and my musical development may have taken a completely different tack.

At The GatesThe Flames Of The End

What better way to round out a near-perfect and genre-defining album than with a sensational outro. With ‘Slaughter of the Soul’, At The Gates created what is regarded by many as the melodic death metal album, the album from which all else came and the one that is lauded as the creator of the melodic death metal scene now known as ‘The gothernburg sound’.

Aside from the massive opening track, it is the outro instrumental that I enjoy most on this album. The track builds wonderfully beginning with quietly and slowly, led initially by synths before being joined by a simple drum beat. And then, at the half-way mark, the guitars come in. First with a cool distorted riff and then all hell breaks loose. The riff continues but this time is overlaid with some awesome guitar feedback effects. It is a solo of sorts but all done through the medium of distortion feedback and it sounds epic. If you’ve never heard this instrumental, you’ve missed out.

Dimmu BorgirDet nye riket

If I’m being honest, the debut album from one of the most well-known extreme metal bands was pretty average. The compositions are not that inspiring and, in terms of black metal, the music is very much in keeping with the genre at that time. The budget, as you’d expect from a debut album, must have been small as the production and artwork left a lot to be desired.

And yet, the album opens with one of the most memorable and fantastic instrumentals that I have in my ever-increasing collection. Spanning over five minutes, it is a relatively long opening salvo but it immediately grabbed me and I listen to it on a regular basis. In addition to the simple, slow-paced melodies and faux-orchestral synth work, what makes this track even more special is the spoken-word section towards the end. The Norwegian language has never sounded so mysterious and downright ominous.