Album of the Year 2016 – Number 14

Hello and welcome to the latest post in my Album of the Year 2016 top 30 countdown, one man’s lone opinion in a tumultuous worldwide sea of opinions about music.

As I have said before, I am picking my albums based on one thing: the impact that they have made on me during the past 12 months. I don’t care if the artist is big, small, underground or more mainstream – it is the music that counts and that alone.

as a result, there will be choices that I make that some of you will disagree with and certainly some omissions that many of you will find glaring and unbelievable. However, I have spent the year listening to and reviewing as much music as it was humanly possible for one man to do properly. But I have missed things and there are definitely albums that have passed me by simply by coming along at the wrong time. Nevertheless, I’m very happy with my choices and stand by them wholeheartedly…I think!

If you want to read any of the other posts in this series, the links to these re at the bottom of this post – please feel free to check them out and comment appropriately.

And, with that said, let’s get on with today’s choice…

Number 14

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Insomnium
Winter’s Gate
Century Media Records

 

“As it turns out…‘Winter’s Gate’ is better than I ever really dared to imagine. It contains everything that I like in my extreme metal, namely strong melodic sensibilities, drama, intensity, frequent changes in tempo, texture and mood and an overall feeling that the band believe 100% in this work, that it is as honest as it is undeniably pretentious. And I don’t mean this last comment negatively either, because damn it, I love pretentious music if it has the substance to back it up.

Epic’ is a word used far too often in music reviews. However, ‘Winter’s Gate’ deserves this adjective. With it, Insomnium have arguably created their masterpiece, their tour-de-force. People will be talking about this record for years to come and rightly so. ‘Winter’s Gate’ has been created by a band at the top of their game …”

Read the full review here

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The thought of an album comprised of a single 40-minute track is enough to strike fear into the hearts of many. In a day and age where attention spans are eroding faster than the polar ice caps, it is a brave move to attempt such a feat in 2016. However, Finnish melodeathers Insomnium felt up to the challenge, duly releasing ‘Winter’s Gate’ as the vehicle for this ambitious endeavour.

Any concerns I had about this release were expunged within moments of pressing play for the first time. This isn’t some garage band producing something for a laugh, ‘Winter’s Gate’ is the real deal, released by a band who have proved that they have the musicianship as well as the song-writing know-how to succeed and succeed very well indeed.

This concept piece has been laced with rich and evocative atmospheres and creates more than enough drama to ensure that listeners become fully invested in the music. Passages of quiet introspection collide with moments of all-out aggression, whilst both gentle and grandiose melodies vie with segments that are far more non-conformist, spikier and less immediate. The whole thing comes together to do exactly what it is supposed to do, namely to tell a story and take the listener on a journey through the medium of doom-tinged epic melodic death metal.

Crucially, I’m as sold on this album as I was when it was released. That’s the hallmark of quality right there.

In case you’ve missed any of the other posts in the 2016 series, here they are for you to explore and enjoy:

Album of the Year 2016 – number 15
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2016 – number 17
Album of the Year 2016 – number 18
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2016 – number 20
Album of the Year 2016 – number 21
Album of the Year 2016 – number 22
Album of the Year 2016 – number 23
Album of the Year 2016 – number 24
Album of the Year 2016 – number 25
Album of the Year 2016 – number 26
Album of the Year 2016 – number 27
Album of the Year 2016 – number 28
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

Arkona – Lunaris – Album Review

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Artist: Arkona

Album Title: Lunaris

Label: Debemur Morti Productions

Date Of Release: 4 November 2016

The focus of this review is the Polish black metal band Arkona. They are not to be confused with any other Arkona, of which there are many it seems, particularly from Russia. Anyway, I simply had to review this record for two main reasons. Firstly, the music by this is actually really rather good. Secondly, I could not waste the opportunity of poking fun at the ludicrous press that accompanied this promo. Are you ready?

‘”Lunaris” is a palimpsest of haunted modernity with an underlying raw howl straight from primitive lifeblood”

Say what now? And if you thought that was bad, the very next sentence reads:

“With this emphatic new record, Arkona trigger a free-fall deep into the metaphysical dream logic of the genre.”

Come again?

I’m all for flowery language and the occasional descent into hyperbole but this is utterly ridiculous. A press release needs to be grounded in some semblance of reality but more importantly, it needs to make sense and be understandable. This is neither and, to be honest, reading it just makes me laugh, albeit with a hint of incredulity and despair. I mean, come on people, Arkona are a black metal band, not some aural gateway into life’s thesaurus for the overly verbose. Oh hell, they’ve got me at it now…

Mocking aside, the press release does get it a little more accurate elsewhere, albeit rather pompously, when it declares:

“Consolidating and updating the earthen grandiosity perfected on classic 1996 debut ‘Imperium’, Arkona have created the perfect synthesis of forward-reaching Pagan Black Metal, dark neo-classical melodicism, corrupted romanticism and raging existential power.”

I can reluctantly agree with the majority of this. Ok, so I know nothing of the band’s back catalogue and Akona’s sixth album ‘Lunaris’ is not ‘perfect’. But importantly, it does provide the kind of black metal that I like, namely heavy, powerful, melodic and symphonic. In many ways it reminds me of the early output of Dissection thanks to the fast and abrasive tremolo-style riffing, relentless rhythm section and burst of grand melody. Given that ‘Storm Of The Light’s Bane’ is a top 20 of all-time record for me, I’m giving Arkona a fair compliment here.

‘Nie Dia Mnie Litość’ is a case in point; the drum rolls and fills are very reminiscent of Dissection, as is the galloping tempo and the riffs that dominate the first half of the song before it descends into something much quieter and eerie, complete with hammer-horror organ. It’s a cracking song if I’m honest.

As I mentioned earlier, ‘Lunaris’ isn’t perfect and it definitely doesn’t reinvent any wheels. The influences are worn on the sleeves of the quartet which, as far as I can tell, is a very new incarnation, with three members joining the band within the last two years. Joining founder Khorzon (guitars, keyboards) are guitarist Nechrist, drummer Zaala and vocalist/bassist Drac.

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The production is typical of the days of black metal yore, namely raw and slightly treble-heavy meaning that the bass is rendered almost redundant for the most part. However, what it does do is provide the listener with some very high quality music, the kind that I had almost forgotten that I loved. On close inspection, there really isn’t a weak track amongst the six that comprise this album and it brings a rather bleak but satisfied smile to my face as I listen.

The album begins in ominous fashion with synths casting a dark shadow and a fetid atmosphere in true 90s black metal fashion before relentless drumming and fast-picked riffs come from nowhere to bludgeon the listener into an early submission. Conventional raspy and unintelligible screams join the fray before the tempo reduces slightly and a bouncier riff takes centre stage. And in classic symphonic black metal style, the mood changes appreciably at the half-way mark as a wonderfully groovy and catchy melody kicks in. ‘This is marvellous’, I mutter to myself and that’s before the heaviness departs momentarily to allow the synths to carry a super film score-like melody alongside choral effects that add an undeniably epic quality.

‘Ziemia’ is more of a mid-tempo stomper of a track but with the ability to accelerate up to warp speed when required. There’s less emphasis on overt melodies but Arkona are still able to make the song both dark and accessible, a neat trick that they pull off cleverly.

The unpronounceable ‘Śmierć I Odrodzenie’ follows and is quite possibly my favourite track on the album. The true definition of epic, the layers of keyboards come to the fore to underpin the incessant battery of the rhythm section and those cold, jagged riffs. The moment of ambient, synth-led calm is both grand and superbly atmospheric, a welcome counterpoint to the bruising extreme metal that surrounds it. Again, tempo changes are prominent, allowing for more accessible melody to come to the fore when the speed is reined in.

It is down to the title track to carry ‘Lunaris’ over the finish line and, in keeping with the preceding 40 or so minutes, it doesn’t let us down. It starts off in frenetic fashion as is the Arkona way but blossoms into an epic anthem that finally gives way to a few moments of stunning ambient beauty and simplicity.

This might not be everyone’s cup of tea but with ‘Lunaris’, Arkona scratch a real itch with me. I adore this kind of extreme metal that’s heavy and uncompromising one minute and gloriously melodic the next and where the symphonic elements make the whole thing rather epic, grandiose and almost pompous. If you have a similar weakness, then Arkona are definitely a band to check out.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
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

Insomnium – Winter’s Gate – Album Review

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Artist: Insomnium

Album Title: Winter’s Gate

Label: Century Media Records

Date Of Release: 23 September 2016

I am a big fan of melodic death metal, a genre normally considered to be the preserve of the Swedes who helped to create the very movement. However, over the past few years, Finland have muscled onto the scene and produced some melodeath big hitters of their own. The likes of Omnium Gatherum, Mors Principium Est and Before The Dawn spring to mind to name just a few alongside the subject of this review, Insomnium.

In the case of Insomnium, I have always felt that their own brand of melodic death metal was a little different to others in that it is not afraid to incorporate different influences into the mix, including a slight black metal feel, strong melodic metal overtones and more epic, doom influences, occasionally drawing fleeting comparisons to the likes of their compatriots Swallow The Sun.

I, for one, was not surprised then when I heard that the new Insomnium album, ‘Winter’s Gate’ would be a 40-minute one-track concept piece, based around a short story composed by the vocalist & bassist Niilo Sevänen and inspired, in part, by Edge Of Sanity’s ‘Crimson’ record. I wasn’t sure in all honesty how it might end up sounding, but I was certainly intrigued and knew that if anyone could attempt such a feat and pull it off, Insomnium were, in theory, one of the bands capable of succeeding. Their flair for the dramatic and their ability to imbue their previous albums with rich atmospheres, bold aural soundscapes and a sense of the epic meant that they had a solid base from which to build.

As it turns out though, ‘Winter’s Gate’ is better than I ever really dared to imagine. It contains everything that I like in my extreme metal, namely strong melodic sensibilities, drama, intensity, frequent changes in tempo, texture and mood and an overall feeling that the band believe 100% in this work, that it is as honest as it is undeniably pretentious. And I don’t mean this last comment negatively either, because damn it, I love pretentious music if it has the substance to back it up.

If it isn’t executed in the right manner, longer pieces of music can easily become boring and akin to wading through treacle. With ‘Winter’s Gate’, the 2400 seconds just fly by. I have listened to the song several times now, each time approaching it with excitement rather than trepidation and not once have I found my mind wandering or descending into clock-watching for any other purpose than referencing the sections and movements that make up this composition.

In suitably fitting fashion, ‘Winters Gate’ opens to the cold and strangely melancholy sound of a buffeting wind out in the unforgiving wilds immediately communicating a sense of isolation and desolation. Before long, a quiet, haunting melody drifts in on the lonely stiff breeze. A sense of what is to come is crafted beautifully and then, after around 90 seconds, the composition explodes with serious intent. A blast beat from drummer Markus Hirvonen, imposing rhythm section rounded out by bassist Niilo Sevänen and frenetic black metal-esque picked riffing courtesy of Ville Friman and Markus Vanhala sit at the centre of the proceedings before things calm to a more measured tempo. All the while however, the melodic sensibilities are never far away, adding a layer of immediacy and accessibility to the music, albeit with undeniably harsh and sombre overtones. As opens go, this is genuinely epic-sounding, portraying a sense of drama and huge scope on which to build and develop.

A more groove-oriented melodic death metal vibe is evident in spades at around the five-minute mark, before ploughing back into frenetic territory, complete with enormous keys from Swallow The Sun’s very own Aleksi Munter that layer the music with a multitude of textures as well as lashings of atmosphere. It even sounds like there is a choir buried deep in the background, as the grandiosity builds to new heights.

As we near seven minutes, a heavily-affected spoken word vocal can be heard above a momentary lull in the aggression where acoustic guitars are audible for the first time. The acoustic guitars make a return a couple of minutes later after another blast of groove-laden and melodic riffing.

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The vocals take a different turn as we near the 10-minute mark, being clean-sung and emotive. However, the song quickly reverts back to that central riff, those choral sounds and the explosive blastbeats that continue to weave in and out of the composition with devastating effect.

After the preceding tumult, the song falls away into minimalist, almost ambient territory at the 12 minute mark. It creates a welcome juxtaposition and a nice respite before slowly rebuilding, led by some bold bass and drum work slightly Tool-esque in delivery. The keys are once again central, as the drama is slowly and deliberately increased, via delicate spoken word vocals as well as a soulful and melodic lead guitar embellishment.

The ensuing riff is ponderous but full of sinister intent, joined by gruff vocals full of malevolence. The Dissection-like lead guitar melody is brilliant, as the darkness is lifted marginally by more of those epic and rich synths that bathe this section in a grand cinematic glow.

Another acoustic section at the 19-minute mark, really reminds me of Swallow The Sun. The clean vocals offer a folk feel which then segues into a beautiful lead guitar-led melody, with a strangely upbeat feel, underpinned by yet more of those almost choral-sounding effects.

More superb clean vocals make an appearance and there’s another flamboyant and expressive lead guitar solo to usher in another heavy and melodic riff atop more of the hugely symphonic sounds and textures.

As good as ‘Winter’s Gate’ is up until now, at the 24-minute point, all I can say is ‘wow!’ Everything falls away to be replaced by a lone piano that plays a desperately sombre melody, the aural soundtrack to misery, despair and loneliness. Synths gently increase around the piano as there’s the palpable feeling that something is about to happen. And it does. Ushered in by a rumble of thunder, a crushing doom-like riff enters the fray along with some of the harshest vocals anywhere on the record. Swallow The Sun parallels are again drawn whilst I pick my jaw off the floor, set my face in some kind of hideous grin and allow goosebumps to appear everywhere. And yet, for all this, the music remains melodic and grandiose in scope, gently easing into a melody that shifts almost insidiously into something a little more positive, almost hopeful in tone.

We’re nearing the three-quarter mark at this point, but I’ve almost lost track of the twists and turns already offered from this gargantuan piece of music. It doesn’t end there either, and the band certainly don’t rest on their laurels. More aggressive riffs underpinned by bludgeoning and incessant blastbeats feature heavily as the composition nears its conclusion.

Earlier strong melodic refrains are reprised in the latter stages of the song, as well as an increase in the speed and intensity, with the keys coming back prominently. It’s hard to imagine such an epic track offering anything more epic to conclude but it very briefly delivers, as everything in the band’s armoury comes to the fore one glorious, final time. After that, it is up to the acoustic guitars, piano and calming synths to see the album out, leaving the final moments of the story to be told by the sounds of nature and those buffeting winds on the shores of a bleak and unforgiving expanse.

‘Epic’ is a word used far too often in music reviews. However, ‘Winter’s Gate’ deserves this adjective. With it, Insomnium have arguably created their masterpiece, their tour-de-force. People will be talking about this record for years to come and rightly so. ‘Winter’s Gate’ has been created by a band at the top of their game and thus stands at the pinnacle of melodic death metal and what this terrific genre can produce.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
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

Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes) – Album Review

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Artist: Glorior Belli

Album Title: Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)

Label: Agonia Records

Date Of Release: 13 May 2016

It would appear, certainly to me anyway, that black metal features more one-man bands than any other genre of metal. And here we have another in the form of Glorior Belli, the brainchild of French multi-instrumentalist Infestvvs. Glorior Belli was formed in the early-mid noughties and, throughout its history has always been tagged with the descriptors of ‘avant-garde’ and ‘progressive’; quite reasonably too, because no two albums has ever been quite the same, always willing to experiment. Infestvvs, as a musician, either has a short attention span or, more likely, is simply keen to explore different musical avenues, wherever they may take him.

Starting out life as a more straight-up conventional black metal band, the past few albums have seen an increasing divergence away from that blueprint. In fact, whilst there is a faint undertone of black metal to Glorior Belli’s previous albums, such as ‘The Great Southern Darkness’ (2011) and ‘Gators Rumble, Chaos Unfurls’ (2013), it is arguably more in tune with the dirty and sludgy Southern Rock genre, otherwise referred to as ‘NOLA’. In light of this, I felt the need to approach album number six, ‘Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)’, with a certain amount of caution. To be honest, I’ve always been a bigger fan of black metal than Southern rock and as such I wasn’t too keen on the last album or two.

As I expected from an ‘avant-garde’ artist, the sonic output of this record delivered quite a shock, although not in the way that I had expected. I was braced for just about anything and everything except, that is, a return to the more traditional black metal structures. Frankly, it was a good shock, but it threw me to begin with.

Within a few moments of opening track ‘Strangled Skies’, I could hear with incredulity and relative delight the fast-picked tremolo riffs associated with classic black metal, not to mention furious double-pedal drumming, chord progressions and raspy vocals that call to mind the great and the good of the genre throughout the heady 90s and before.

However, allow the subtleties of the music to seep in and it becomes clear that Infestvvs has not abandoned some of the things he has learned over the years. There’s some lovely melody buried within the tumult as well as a really nice element of groove here and there.

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‘World So Spurious’ continues at breakneck speed with more gloriously wrought black metal and if anything, is even better than the opener. If you like early Dissection with a splash of early Emperor, this should find favour with you. The bass guitar, when it can be heard and appreciated, has a lovely guttural rumble to it, really accentuating the slower mid-song groove segment to great effect.

‘Rebels in Disguise’ represents the first foray in a different direction. Those Southern rock influences come back with vengeance as the track writhes and lurches out of the swamps to a more pronounced stoner-like groove and with more immediacy in terms of the melodies at play.

In addition to the occasional sludgy moment, ‘Thrall of Illusions’ returns to batter the listener with more black metal menace that, for my money, tips its hat in the direction of Celtic Frost. It’s the longest track on the record and also the most epic in terms of the sheer grandiosity and ferociousness of the assault, not forgetting the grainy choral, almost operatic outro.

Elsewhere, the title track injects a tribal element to it via the repetitive nature of the ‘Sundown’ chanting and the employment of deep vocals, whilst ‘Satanists Out Of Cosmic Jail’ combines a ludicrous title with sampled French spoken-word parts and some of the most extreme battery on the entire record.

All-in-all, ‘Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)’ is an interesting album that provides no little entertainment. It still fits within the ‘avant-garde’ realm but more importantly as far as I’m concerned, it is really gratifying to hear an artist that isn’t afraid to go back to rediscover and subtlety redefine his roots rather than push the boundaries ever further into the realms of the bizarre. It shows a real strength of character that has to be admired and this record is the stronger for it.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.25

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
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

Heavy Metal is Not Just ‘Noise’

A while back, I wrote a blog post entitled ‘heavy metal is not just shouty music’ wherein I discussed the fact that metal vocalists don’t just growl, shout and swear. This was underlined by focusing on a handful of vocalists within the genre who can really sing. And when I say that they can sing, I really mean it. Don’t believe me? Check out my post here and tell me I’m wrong.

Today, I try to confront that other annoying and completely inaccurate dismissive phrase that hear all too often: ‘heavy metal is just noise’. As I admit in my previous post, there are many bands and a whole subgenre dedicated specifically to creating noise. But this doesn’t mean that all heavy metal can be discarded as such. Far from it. And whilst it’s not the most original of topics, this is the post, via several bands and songs that I love, where I try to prove exactly why that is.

To begin gently, lets take a look at the melodic metal subgenre as a whole. If ever there was a section of the metal community that disproves the ‘noise’ argument, it’s this. With a focus on melody and big memorable choruses, melodic metal can really scratch that itch for something more accessible and, if I can say it, good solid fun. That’s not to say that the music can’t be heavy; indeed there is still plenty of bite and crunch within the compositions, setting it apart from it’s more mainstream cousin, the melodic rock scene.

A few of my personal favourites and good examples include Vanishing Point and Serenity. Vanishing Point have been a favourite since the turn of the millennium and feature one of my favourite vocalists in metal, Silvio Massaro. They also know how to blend melody with proper heaviness, creating a wonderfully rewarding sonic experience.

serenity warThe latter, Serenity, are another brilliant example of the sub genre, juxtaposing memorable songwriting with anthemic choruses and an over-the-top grandiose bombast that is a pure joy to listen to. Their dual male/female vocal approach is just the icing on the cake.

Black metal is another subgenre that’s often dismissed as an evil noise. The truth of this statement however depends upon your viewpoint and attitude towards this style of music. There are those who subscribe to the view that black metal only refers to those bands that shun modern production and anything resembling accessibility, instead favouring lo-fi productions and a rawness that can be a little hard to get into. It’s all about the ‘feel’ of the record and an authentically malignant sound rather than anything else. This, I grant you, can be rather impenetrable and it’s not always to my personal taste either.

However, there’s another school of thought within black metal circles. It doesn’t shun modernity, grandiosity and big production values. Sure, the music is still heavy as hell and not for everyone. But, if you give it time and listen properly, theres more to the music than a noisy mess.

cof duskTo illustrate the point, take this track for example. It is by Cradle Of Filth and was the very first track to get me into the realm of extreme metal in the first place. I’d heard and liked other songs by the band but ‘Funeral In Carpathia’ represented that eureka moment where my whole body became covered in goosebumps. The opening is brutal, fast and relentless, topped off by some of the most extreme vocals imaginable. But listen more carefully. There’s a subtle beauty to the keyboards that softens the music ever so slightly and gives it a more majestic feel than might be apparent on a first, cursory listen. Then there’s the mid-track melodic breakdown. It is stunning, beautiful, elegant and very memorable. It was this section of the song that drew me in for repeated listens and the more I listened, the better the entire song became.

For all its evil and savage intent, the genre of black metal is littered with other similar examples. Naturally, Dimmu Borgir provide many, as do the sadly defunct Dissection for another good example. Check out these samples to see what I mean.

And now onto the genre and band that was the catalyst for this whole post: death metal and more specifically, Nile. My partner has pretty broad tastes and enjoys some metal. ‘But Nile is just noise’ she said to me one afternoon. I’m sorry, say what?!

I will accede to the argument that this US death metal band is something of an acquired taste. It is brutal, intense and extreme of course. But if you’re prepared to listen, I’m willing to bet you’ll admit to being wrong about the ‘noise’ comment. But first, let me ease you in more gently.

As with the black metal subgenre, death metal can be split into several further sub-subgenres if one can use that terminology. Melodic death metal sits at the fringes and would be the easiest way in to what can be a pretty unforgiving style of music. It was my way in to the scene and remains of great interest to me. Perhaps, if you think of it as melodic metal with heavier guitars and growled vocals, it might seem a bit more accessible. Try this track from In Flames as a starter for ten and focus on the guitar harmonies rather than the more extreme elements for example.

Then there are those bands that fall into a group that are perhaps best described as less technical but more intent on straight forward bludgeoning intensity. Take a band like Obituary for example. The heaviness may be as subtle as a brick wall, but check out this track and tell me that the groove contained within it is not infectious. If you get through the entire track without nodding your head or tapping your foot, I think you might be a lost cause!

nileSo, Nile. Where do I start? What song do I pick? Well, after much consideration, I’ve chosen the title track from the band’s turn of the millennium release, ‘Black Seeds Of Vengeance’. The opening minute or two is pretty intense and on first listen may appear to be an impenetrable wall of noise. However, take a deep breath and listen again. The vocals are, arguably not meant to be understood, at least not in their entirety. Instead, think of them as another instrument in the band’s considerable armoury. An extra bass guitar perhaps, whatever works for you, but one that creates much of the deliberately ominous intent.

Listen to the drumming too. It is amazingly powerful and intense, creating a sonic battery, the sheer technicality of which is mind-blowing. The guitar riffs are fast, technical and demonstrate an impressive fretboard dexterity, particularly when the solos kick in. This is not just noise, it is a finely-honed and expertly executed piece of musicianship. At this point, little pleasure may be derived, but you cannot argue against the musicianship.

Then, as the song reaches its climax, it explodes into a more quasi-melodic conclusion, where atmosphere takes over and instead of an unrelenting tumult, you’re greeted with a much more groovy and accessible section of music. The drums are insane, the menacing intent remains but with the inclusion of the mantra-like groove and the foreboding keyboards, it all adds up to one hell of a piece of music. And it’s only about three-and-a-half minutes long.

For this post to work, it requires an open mind. If you’re prepared to give me this and suspend your prejudices for a few minutes, you might admit that maybe, just maybe, you were wrong to dismiss this music as ‘noise’.

My Route to Becoming A Metalhead

One of the most fascinating conversations I have with fellow music lovers and metalheads in particular is about the route they took when discovering this magnificent genre of music. Everybody has a different journey, one that inevitably leads to a different ending. Sure, we may all like roughly the same bands, but it is rare to find two metal fans who have the same favourite band or set of bands.

And, whilst I have covered much of this topic in some of my very earliest blogs (‘the early years’, ‘the University years’ and ‘the post University years’) I thought it might be fun to plot my journey to date a little more briefly via the bands that helped me to get from this…

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…to this…

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…via this…

goth matt

Starting at the very beginning, I was brought up on a diet of Queen, ELO and Dire Straits. My Dad would play albums by these three bands in particular in the car on a very frequent basis and, as I got older, began somewhat inevitably to appreciate these bands and, on a wider scale, guitar-based music in general. Of the three, Queen remain my favourite, with ‘Innuendo’ my album of choice. That said, songs like ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ and ‘Brothers in Arms’ hold a special place in my heart.

I didn’t really get more interested in music until my early teens when I bought my first CD player. At that time, I was heavily influenced by my best friend who, at a year older than me, was already a fair way along his own personal journey. He introduced me to both Guns ‘N’ Roses and Def Leppard, both of which remain important to me.

However, I’ve got to be honest and say that Bon Jovi were also a pivotal figure in my early listening, albeit no longer. I never really got into the whole ‘hair metal’ scene, despite an initial and lasting love of ‘Slave To The Grind’ by Skid Row – a classic album in my opinion.

I dabbled with these bands for a long while but, as I became more adventurous, two new names became massively important: Iron Maiden and Metallica. The former I became a fan of via their album ‘The Number Of The Beast’ and the track ‘Hallowed Be thy Name’ in particular. The latter, I admit, came to my attention via the ‘Black Album’, although I was quick to delve into their back catalogue once the seeds had been sown. To be honest, I rarely listen to their 1991 classic album anymore, although I am not silly enough to decry its obvious importance to me.

So far, so very ordinary I guess. But then, as I was about to get into thrash metal in a big way, thanks to the likes of Megadeth et al, I found myself suddenly veering down a more modern path, discovering new kids on the block Pantera, Machine Head and Fear Factory. What’s strange though, is that aside from these three bands, my attention was not held for long. I still listen a lot to these three, but as far as many of their contemporaries are concerned, I was only vaguely interested at best. The result of this, I must admit that I have never got into thrash metal as much as perhaps I should have done. There are certain bands that I listen to a lot, such as Exodus and Testament but in general, the scene has, to date, passed me by a little.

I never ventured into grunge territory and nu-metal turned me off immediately. I wanted ‘proper’ metal, not what I perceived at the time to be ‘rap-rock rubbish’. To a certain extent, I maintain this view although my description may be a little more measured and less dismissive these days.

And so, whilst many of my peers were discovering a whole new sub-genre, I found myself going completely the other way. Beginning with the dark Gothic overtones of Type O Negative, early Anathema ,Sentenced and Moonspell, I eventually found myself embroiled in the black metal scene. Cradle Of Filth sat front and centre of this new-found love, although thanks to the fortunate discovery of ‘Enthrone, Darkness, Triumphant’, Dimmu Borgir were never far behind. Neither were Emperor to be honest. I loved the mix of fast aggression and melodic interludes that many black metal bands of the mid 90s provided and I devoured this scene. I still love the early albums by Cradle Of Filth and with a small dose of home-town loyalty, they’ll always be a special band for me.

Not long after heading to University, my head was turned yet again. This time, the sub-genre was ‘the Gothenburg scene’ or ‘New Wave Of Swedish Death Metal’. Dissection blew me away, acting as the bridge between the black and death metal thanks to their opus ‘Storm Of The Lights Bane’.

However, soon after, it was In Flames that captured my heart. The album was ‘The Jester Race’ and the song that cemented the love was the instrumental ‘The Jester’s Dance’. Sublime.

Dark Tranquillity, Soilwork and early Arch Enemy quickly followed into my collection. And, whilst I still adore the former two, I must admit that my enjoyment of Arch Enemy has waned somewhat over the years. It would be unfair to attribute all of that to the change in vocalist, but the dismissal of Johan Liiva was a mistake in my opinion.

And then, in something of a curveball, I found myself enjoying the less intense and more light-hearted (some might say ‘cheesy’) genre of power metal. It all began with a chance hearing of ‘Valley Of The Kings’ by Gamma Ray and for a few years on and off, the likes of Rhapsody, Dragonforce and Edguy gave me a lot of instant sonic gratification.

And as we near the present day, it will come as no surprise to learn that progressive metal is my newest and currently, my biggest love. I was hankering after a genre to really test me, to give me something to think about. Prog was the answer. After discovering Evergrey, the floodgates opened. I devoured much of the InsideOut Music label, discovering Pain Of Salvation, Vanden Plas and Haken in the process.

InsideOut remains one of the most important sources of music for me, but I am always on the look-out for other bands, whether or not they are well-known. That said, I am likely to forever be in the never-ending process of discovering everything that the genre and its spin-offs have to offer. I came too late to truly ‘get’ Rush but I am loving the neo-prog movement in latter years. And, as I get older, the lighter end of the prog spectrum is becoming ever-more enticing, with Big Big Train being the catalyst for this.

And, although prog metal is still my favourite subgenre, I still listen to everything that I have mentioned in this blog and so much more besides. The whole melodic doom metal genre to include bands like Swallow The Sun, Insomnium and Daylight Dies remains important to me.

And in addition, a new door that has opened in recent years is that of melodic rock and AOR. Sometimes a bit of musical fluff is exatly what I need to dilute all that aggression.

As I have written this blog, I have had my collection on shuffle, enjoying the likes of Amorphis, Slayer, Transatlantic, Katatonia and Audrey Horne in the process.

And, as for those that I have never ‘got’? Well thanks to this path I have taken over the years, I have to admit that aside from nu-metal and huge swathes of thrash metal, Motorhead, Aerosmith, Slipknot, Nirvana and Tool are just a few of the high-profile names that I’ve never really warmed to. That’s not to say I dislike them, just that they’ve never really hit the mark with me personally. The great thing about music however, is that I still have plenty of time to change that, should I so wish. Over to you…

The Internet, Heavy Metal & Me

Over the past few years, the music industry has changed almost beyond recognition thanks almost entirely to the rise of the Internet. You can bemoan this revolution, resent it as much as you want and even blame it for certain things. The demise of the independent record store (see previous blog) is one of the biggest disappointments that I have for example. However, the Internet is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future anyway. And it is difficult for me to be entirely anti the World Wide Web because if I think about it long enough, there have been plenty of positives that I can identify. This blog is therefore designed to airbrush the negativity for a short time by taking a look at some of my own personal positives that I can attribute to the Internet.

Firstly, and arguably most importantly, the Internet led to my discovery of Evergrey. I’m not saying for one minute that I would not have uncovered this Swedish melodic progressive metal gem eventually, but you never know. However, the fact remains that had I not made a mistake when using the Web, I wouldn’t have had my head turned at that precise moment. Who’s to say what twists and turns my musical journey may have taken if I hadn’t discovered Evergrey then. They were my route into progressive metal at a time when I was exploring more within the power metal sphere. Would I have ever got into prog? Probably, but it’s an unknown that I am fortunate enough not to have to think about.

In a similar vein, the Internet has made it easier for fans to share their thoughts via forums and for writers to offer their reviews to a wider audience. Not all of these forums offer constructive conversation and not all review sites on the ‘Net are well written, objective and accurate. However, it is easier to at least find out about new bands, albums and genres. Hell, I even write for two of these websites, ThisIsNotAScene and Ghost Cult, allowing my turgid waffle to be seen by many more metal fans, if they’re brave (or bored) enough! In fact,(*shameless plug alert*) if you’re feeling bored right now, feel free to pop over to my links page where you can read some of my reviews!

Back on topic, one of the very best forums I have discovered is the Perpetual Motion forum, which is an absolute gold mine if your particular preference is progressive metal. The conversation is constructive, friendly and extremely informative. It is blessedly free from the trolls that generally stalk forums offering their own unique brand of negativity and offensiveness. This forum would not exist if it wasn’t for the Internet and I know that my CD collection would have suffered as a result. The likes of Circus Maximus, Voyager, Fair To Midland and Leprous would arguably not have found their way into my collection had it not been for recommendations on this site. Even more importantly, it was this forum that forced me to check out Haken and then, once I’d fallen in love with the band, allowed me to spread the love to others and even get in contact with the band, leading to an interview for Powerplay Magazine at ProgPower Europe a couple of years ago.

That leads me onto another positive aspect of the Internet – the increased ease with which journalists and fans can communicate directly with bands, whether it is to offer feedback about an album, or something more in-depth. By reading their website and exchanging emails with Michael Håkansson, their then bassist, I was able to obtain a guest pass to an Evergrey gig in Gothenburg for their ‘A Night To Remember’ DVD show.

An invitation that could not be turned down!

With the advent of social media, it is even easier to keep up-to-date with your favourite bands and feel like you are more connected with them. To a certain extent, this can be very artificial, but when a genuine friendship develops with someone who, until recently, was just a musical ‘hero’ to you, it would be churlish to hate Facebook or Twitter.

Via the Shadow Gallery website, I was able to negotiate with the artist directly for the sale of the original artwork commissioned for the band’s ‘Room V’ album. It now sits in my den of iniquity, otherwise referred to as the ‘man cave’ looking, let’s face it, rather awesome, as the picture at the top of this blog attests!

As I have already said ad nauseum, I’d much rather go into a record shop and buy a CD. Whatever it is that you’ve bought online, it is never the same waiting for it to pop through your letterbox – that buzz of finding it on the shelf cannot be replicated in my opinion. However, it must be said that the Internet has lowered prices and at the same time, increased the choice and availability for music fans. The likes of E-Bay and Amazon, for example, have not only made it possible to find certain albums that are not readily available in the High Street but offer them at competitive prices. The margins for the artists may not be so good as a result, but at least people are not put off by the idiotic £25 price-tag that I’ve seen in HMV from time to time for a regular CD.

Speaking of E-Bay, it has its problems but without it, I wouldn’t have as many rarities in my collection as I do. Naturally, my bank account and my fiancée are not as enamoured with the site as me, but hey, sometimes you’ve got to splash out – I don’t smoke or take drugs, other than alcohol, so I consider music as my drug.

E-Bay has become more corporate over the years and I use it less as a result. However, when it was much more of an auction site as opposed to a ‘buy it now’ site, I managed to pick up some real beauties, including two copies of the rare hand numbered ‘Saw You Drown’ EP by Katatonia, one as a present for my late brother. Then there are the two copies of Agalloch’s ‘Ashes Against The Grain’ boxset, one with the bones, the other with the ashes and a wooden box edition of Dissection’s ‘The Somberlain’.

Add all these things together and, as you can see, for all its undoubted flaws, the Internet can be a positive thing!

The Man Of Much Metal – The Uni Years

As I was nearing the end of my A Levels, I discovered a band that changed the course of my music-listening forever. That band was the local Suffolk metal band Cradle Of Filth. The fact that the lead singer still lives at the bottom of my parent’s road in Ipswich had nothing whatsoever to do with this, I promise!!

Cradle Of Filth have had their detractors over the years, saying that the band are not serious and that they definitely are not a black metal band. At the time, I didn’t care. The 10-minute track ‘Queen Of Winter, Throned’ was a revelation for me. Indeed, it was a revelation for my brother, as it gave him the inspiration to become a drummer. Maybe more on that another day. Black metal or not, I loved this band. The blend in their early days of lightning fast ferocity, extreme subject matter (albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek) and beautiful melody was a winner for me and I could not stop listening to them. To this day, ‘Dusk…And Her Embrace’ still remains one of my most cherished albums.

So it was that I went to University with a real desire to discover more extreme forms of heavy metal. I scoured the record stores of Canterbury for anything with even a loose connection with black metal, discovering the likes of Hecate Enthroned and Emperor along the way. Then there was Dimmu Borgir, another ‘quasi’ black metal band that was able to marry together the accessibility with the extremity and over-the-top theatrics. I began to think I’d found the greatest metal genre of them all.

Enter Miguel, a Spanish student at the same Uni. I can’t remember how or where we met, but meet we did and as well as sharing my love for black metal, he led me down another road. That road was named ‘blackened death metal’ and was eventually twinned with ‘melodic death metal’ street.

First up were the utterly mighty Dissection. No longer tongue-in-cheek nor theatrical, here was a band that was deadly serious about it’s music. It was still both melodic yet insanely heavy and it spoke to me. It did not matter that I was hearing this on a very old cassette tape with more snap, crackle and pop than a bowl of Rice Krispies because the genius of ‘Storm Of The Light’s Bane’ shone through. On the flip side of this knackered cassette was ‘The Jester Race’ by In Flames. It too sent shivers down my spine. Mainly I was fascinated how death metal could suddenly sound catchy and accessible whilst remaining brutal at it’s core. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Over the next couple of years, I bled the genres dry, uncovering the likes of Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates and Carcass amongst a mass of others. To add a little light relief perhaps, I also got more interested in the power metal genre. Bands like Gamma Ray and Helloween were a shot of undiluted metal sugar and whilst I still have plenty of these albums in my collection, I listen fairly irregularly as my tastes have gradually changed over the years.

Looking back now, I still find it fascinating how a chance discovery or an unexpected friendship can really influence the way in which we discover music. Had it not been for a blind purchase here or a fluke meeting with a like-minded individual, I may never have gone beyond the confines of NWOBHM or thrash metal. The chances are, I would have stumbled onto certain bands or genres eventually but who knows? I may not have or even if I had, I may not have been in the same mindset thereby dismissing a band instead of embracing them.

And then, after Uni, with the introduction of the Internet as more than just an early gimmick, the journey continued, embracing yet more twists and turns along the way…