Pestilent Hex – The Ashen Abhorrence – Album Review

Artist: Pestilent Hex

Album Title: The Ashen Abhorrence

Label: Debemur Morti Productions

Date of Release: 8 July 2022

Melodic black metal and I have always been keen bedfellows, so the opportunity to check out a debut album from a new player in the scene was too tempting an offer to pass up. In fact, I’ve been keeping an eye open for this album from Pestilent Hex since it was announced a while back and became more interested upon hearing the first single and opening track, ‘The Ashen Abhorrence’ a month or so ago.

The band Pestilent Hex hail from Finland, an entity comprised of just two musicians. Better known for their work in other genres, namely death and doom metal, the duo features L. Oathe (Lauri ‘LL’ Laaksonen of Desolate Shrine fame), who handles all of the instrumentation alongside vocalist and lyricist M. Malignant (Matti ‘MM’ Mäkelä of Corpsessed, Tyranny, ex-Wormphlegm and many others besides). This isn’t a rarity within black metal circles, but it never ceases to impress me how just two people can create such proficient and quality music. ‘The Ashen Abhorrence’ is no different in this regard either, as it’s a hugely solid album, particularly given that it is a debut release from Pestilent Hex.

The modus operandi of this Finnish duo becomes clear almost immediately that the album begins. ‘The Ashen Abhorrence’ is very much cut from the cloth of symphonic, melodic black metal in the style that was seemingly everywhere in the mid-late 90s. It’s the style that, for the most part, got me into the genre and gave me much enjoyment and aural gratification. The blend of aggressive and evil-sounding music with a softer underbelly of well-placed melody was like catnip to me, and I plundered as much of the scene as I possibly could in my late teens and early 20s. To hear that this style of music is undergoing something of a revival is wonderful as far as I’m concerned.

As with everything, though, there are numerous ways that something can be viewed. My delight could just as easily see others rolling their eyes and shrugging their shoulders, unhappy that a style of music is making a comeback rather than new bands pushing the envelope just that little bit further and offering an original sound. Depending on which side of the fence you sit, this review will either leave you cold or it might point you in the direction of the next album on your wish list. I sit firmly on the latter, as if you didn’t already know that.

Comprised of six tracks, ‘The Ashen Abhorrence’ takes the listener on a 42-minute ride that reminds me of why I fell for the charms of bands like Obtained Enslavement, early Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Abigor and many, many others. It demonstrates a really excellent and well thought out blend of extreme metal alongside plenty of rich, dark atmosphere, melody, and a sense of grandiosity.

The title track wastes no time in hitting the ground running, featuring blast beats and a malevolent-sounding fast-picked riffs. It is all laced in an opulent gown of orchestration, where tinkling keys and bold organs emerge alongside layers of synths to add a touch of Gothic splendour to the composition. The vocals are full-on nasty, with plenty of high-pitched shrieks, accented by some deep and gruesome growls. But the changes of pace, from all-out speed to more a more measured mid-tempo, alongside occasional deviations into quieter moments creates a variety to the composition that is then further enhanced by the delicate melodic sensibilities of the song.

It’s a great opening but, if anything, ‘Chapter II: ‘Nature Of The Spirit’ is even better. Again, it opens with real intent, driving forward with blast beats and long, tortured growls of anger. If anyone was under the impression that the music of Pestilent Hex wasn’t particularly extreme because of their melodic tendencies, should think again. But with that said, this second track is easily the most immediate and melodic of the entire lot – either that or the chosen melodies just resonate with me most strongly. I love the way that the song shifts effortlessly from all-out attack to epic grandeur in the blink of an eye, offering fantastic entertainment in either guise. There’s even space within the composition for some spoken-word lyrics, followed by the kind of piano tinkling that so beguiled me on Dimmu Borgir’s ‘Enthrone, Darkness, Triumphant’ record all those years ago.

The impossibly difficult to pronounce ‘Chapter III: ‘Mephistophelean Liaison’ comes next, and it features plenty of those classic frostbitten staccato riffs that I latch on to with eagerness. The song also feels like it is both the most grandiose and the heaviest at the same time, which is some feat in itself. The mid-song breather that sees clean guitars lay out a delicate solo melody is quickly seized upon, only to build into something far heavier and really rather striking, especially when the lead guitar lines sneak up on you in the latter stages.

If you were wondering about the presence of the ubiquitous instrumental workout, then wonder no longer as ‘Chapter IV: Interlude – ‘Mists Of Oneiros’ offers a two-minute respite from the black metal attack. If there was a weaker moment to be heard on ‘The Ashen Abhorrence’, this is it. It is incredibly dark and theatrical, but it doesn’t do an awful lot for me if I’m totally honest.

Never fear though, because we are back on track quickly with the delightfully named ‘Chapter V: ‘Old Hag’, which thrusts us straight back into the multi-layered melodic, symphonic black metal amphitheatre, albeit in a slightly more upbeat and playful manner, as the melodies seem to dance around with a little more whimsy unless I am very much mistaken.

The final track is ‘Chapter VI: ‘Banishment’, the longest of the record at nearly nine minutes in length. It uses this time to lay down an impressively varied and nuanced track, that’s part twisted malevolence, part thunderous aggression, and part majestic opus. And the final stages are glorious affair, where the pace is slowed, the melody is cranked up a notch, and we’re treated to a truly majestic final act, the kind of crescendo that’s befitting of such a great album.

Death metal stalwarts they may be but here, the two talented Finns of L. Oathe and M. Malignant have come together to create a masterful collection of melodic and symphonic black metal that recalls the mid-late 90s perfectly and provides me with a high level of consistent entertainment throughout. It may not be the most original or ground-breaking record you’ll ever hear, but I simply don’t care. When the final product is this impressive and enjoyable, originality be damned I say.

The Score of Much Metal: 90%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Porcupine Tree – Closure / Continuation

Conjurer – Páthos

Ironflame – Where Madness Dwells

Horizon Ignited – Towards The Dying Lands

Municipal Waste – Electrified Brain

Paganizer – Behind The Macabre

Philosophobia – Philosophobia

Darkane – Inhuman Spirits

Exocrine – The Hybrid Suns

Fallen Sanctuary – Terranova

Deathwhite – Grey Everlasting

Charlie Griffiths – Tiktaalika

Seven Kingdoms – Zenith

Brutta – Brutta

White Ward – False Light

Winds Of Tragedy – As Time Drifts Away

Tim Bowness – Butterfly Mind

Denouncement Pyre – Forever Burning

Truent – Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment

Wind Rose – Warfront

Kardashev – Liminal Rite

Artificial Brain -Artificial Brain

Seventh Wonder – The Testament

Kreator – Hate Über Alles

All Things Fallen – Shadow Way

Def Leppard – Diamond Star Halos

Lord Belial – Rapture

Buried Realm – Buried Realm

Stiriah – …Of Light

Remains Of Destruction – New Dawn

Crematory – Inglorious Darkness

IATT – Magnum Opus

Iris Divine – Mercurial

Decapitated – Cancer Culture

Bekmørk – The Path Nocturnal

Septic Flesh – Modern Primitive

Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses

Drift Into Black – Earthtorn

Spheric Universe Experience – Back Home

Outshine – The Awakening

Cosmic Putrefaction – Crepuscular Dirge For The Blessed Ones

Zero Hour – Agenda 21

Scitalis – Doomed Before Time

Morgue Supplier – Inevitability

Visions Of Atlantis – Pirates

Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)

OU – One

Haunter – Discarnate Ails

Aara – Triade II: Hemera

Pure Reason Revolution – Above Cirrus

Demonical – Mass Destroyer

I Am The Night – While The Gods Are Sleeping

Haunted By Silhouettes – No Man Isle

Delvoid – Swarmlife

LionSoul – A Pledge To Darkness

Watain – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain

Dischordia – Triptych

Dragonbreed – Necrohedron

Audrey Horne – Devil’s Bell

Vanum – Legend

Stone Broken – Revelation

Radiant – Written By Life

Skull Fist – Paid In Full

Hurakan – Via Aeturna

Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme

Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set

Monuments – In Stasis

Soledad – XIII

Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes

Credic – Vermillion Oceans

Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn

Darkher – The Buried Storm

Treat – The Endgame

Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone

Destruction – Diabolical

Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama

Angel Nation – Antares

Wolf – Shadowland

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Album Of The Year 2020 – Number 21

Welcome to day ten of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. I’m now one third of the way through my series, and there’s no sign of fatigue or boredom from me. In fact, the longer this goes on, the more excited I become as we get closer and closer to the top 10, the top 5, and then the number one choice.

If you’re new to this series, I’d like to remind you that this list represents my favourite 30 albums of the year, regardless of genre, technicality, or notoriety. If it made me smile or bang my head enough, it’ll be right here among the thirty. And between 16 and 30, there’s no real order to my picks – they all deserve to be in the list, so solid placings don’t appear until the half-way point.

And also, if you’re new to my series, you can check out the other picks so far in this year’s series at the end of this post alongside the entire lists from previous years.

But enough of that, here’s the next record..

Number 21

…And Oceans

Cosmic World Mother

Season Of Mist

Score Of Much Metal: 94%

For all of the music-related positives that 2020 has delivered, I must be honest and declare the year to have been a little disappointing from a black metal perspective. Normally, I have several candidates from this genre in my top 30, but this year, it has taken until number 21 for a black metal band to feature. And even then, in the case of ‘Cosmic World Mother’ by …And Oceans, the final output isn’t out-and-out black metal, as they seek to blend this with symphonic and electronic elements.

The end result is fascinating and it had me rapt from the very beginning. The music is aggressive in the way that you’d want black metal to be. But in addition, it is also full of melody, atmosphere, and a sense of the epic. The songs whizz by in a blur of fast-paced riffs and drumming, that then open into some serene and beautiful melodies, not to mention the odd meander into leftfield territory.

‘Cosmic World Mother’ is an album that continues to hold my attention, and provides massive amounts of enjoyment. And it does this whilst keeping me on my toes thanks to the injection of some occasional, well-placed experimentation, some of which only emerges as I listen more deeply. This is easily one of the best, if not THE best black metal album of 2020.

What I  wrote at the time:

“For me, there is little that’s more exhilarating than when extreme metal collides in glorious harmony with epic, serene melody. The blend, when done right, is intoxicating. I get goosebumps, I start smiling like a loon and I lose all ability to speak coherently. I start uttering phrases like ‘woah’, ‘oh my…wow…ugh…yeah!’ My inner pedant recoils in horror, whilst my inner metalhead goes bonkers. And that’s what …And Oceans have done with ‘Cosmic World Mother’.

What I like so much about the …And Oceans sound here, is the interplay between the quintessential fast-picked staccato riffing from the dual guitars and the synth work… Alone, both ingredients work well. Put them together, however, and the magic starts to happen.

And what a symphonic black metal band they are. Properly heavy, properly epic, properly melodic. Add in the more experimental electronic elements and you’re suddenly confronted with an album of epic proportions, where variety and boldness add to the sonic palette in such a powerful manner.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

If you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:








…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother – Album Review


Artist: …And Oceans

Album Title: Cosmic World Mother

Label: Season Of Mist

Date of Release: 8 May 2020

In my recent review of the new Naglfar album, ‘Cerecloth’, I mentioned that I discovered them via a black metal compilation on the Blackend record label in the mid-nineties. That was volume two. Fast forward to 1999 and the fifth instalment of that compilation series. It is there, with the Internet still a fledgling invention, that I discover a band called …And Oceans. It has to be said that they never made the same kind of impact on me as others within their chosen genre but their brand of symphonic black metal was something I enjoyed.

Unfortunately, as the band moved more into industrial and electronic realms, the Finns began to lose me as I was definitely more attuned to the symphonic black metal elements at the time. The electronic and industrial quota increased to the point where the band actually changed their name to Havoc Unit. I listened no longer, I must admit.

When I read recently that a return of the …And Oceans name was a reality and that we would hear new material for the first time in 18 years, since they released ‘Cypher’ in 2002, I was interested to hear the results. If nothing else, I thought it might be a nice trip into nostalgic territory. What I wasn’t expecting was to be blown away in quite the way that I have with ‘Cosmic World Mother’. This album is nothing short of sensational but crucially it isn’t a mere exercise in re-living and re-hashing the past.

For the ‘reformation’ under the …And Oceans moniker, there have been a few line-up changes to say the least. In fact, the only original members are guitarists Timo Kontio and Temu Saari. They have recruited vocalist Mathias Lillmåns, he of Finntroll fame as well as bassist Petri Seikkula, drummer Kauko Kuusisalo and synth/keyboardist Antti Simonen. From the very beginning, these six musicians have captured my imagination and pulled me along for the most glorious of extreme metal rides.

For me, there is little that’s more exhilarating than when extreme metal collides in glorious harmony with epic, serene melody. The blend, when done right, is intoxicating. I get goosebumps, I start smiling like a loon and I lose all ability to speak coherently. I start uttering phrases like ‘woah’, ‘oh my…wow…ugh…yeah!’ My inner pedant recoils in horror, whilst my inner metalhead goes bonkers. And that’s what …And Oceans have done with ‘Cosmic World Mother’.

I’m not kidding when I say that there are so many great songs on this record. I genuinely love most, if not all of them. And that’s saying something when there are eleven tracks to digest and when the music does offer significant variety along the way.

In many ways, what …And Oceans have sought to do with ‘Cosmic World Mother’, is to pay homage to their past, from the very beginnings in the late nineties, right through to some of the material that adorned their Havoc Unit output. Or, at least, inject elements of these records into the music, because the beating heart of this album is symphonic black metal with lashings of stunning melodies.


What I like so much about the …And Oceans sound here, is the interplay between the quintessential fast-picked staccato riffing from the dual guitars and the synth work from Antti Simonen. Alone, both ingredients work well. Put them together, however, and the magic starts to happen. You can hear plenty of this within the opening, ferocious track, ‘The Dissolution Of Mind And Matter’, a song that knocks you flat on your backside within seconds. No fancy intro, no holding back; this is savage, extreme black metal. But in come the twin lead guitar riffs and the gentle synths to transcend the song from technically very good, to almost unforgettable.

But incredibly, the opener is not the best song on the record. That accolade is reserved for one of about three or four others. The first contender is ‘Five of Swords’ which delivers one of the most elegant melodies I’ve heard in extreme metal this year. After two frenetic and unrelenting minutes, the pace slows and the synths bathe the music in an ethereal glow. And then a lead guitar line enters to accent and enhance the already captivating melody to incredible proportions. The juxtaposition between the aggressive attack and the beauty is jaw-dropping.

‘As The After Becomes The Before’ shows hints of the electronic side of …And Oceans, particularly in the opening moments and latter stages. But again, this is a symphonic black metal track at heart and so it delivers yet more fast-paced aggression led by the rhythm section of bassist Petri Seikkula and drummer Kauko Kuusisalo, who seems equally at home producing blasts or something a little more subtle. The aggression is expertly teamed with more majestic melody to keep me grinning from ear to ear.

I mentioned earlier that ‘Cosmic World Mother’ is something of a homage to all aspects of the…And Oceans sound, and fittingly, the title track acts as one of the perfect examples. The electronic sounds emerge much more boldly, right from the beginning in fact via the keyboard intro that sounds just a little more sinister than normal thanks to some tinkering with the effects. Then, just after the half-way mark, the powerfully intense black metal onslaught gives way to a very bold electronic segment which, just like the song’s name, feels ‘cosmic’, complete with distorted keys and electronic beat. I shouldn’t like it but it works so well within the context of the song that I just do.

The fourth contender for ‘song of the album’, emerges as ‘Helminthiasis’ thanks to yet more spellbinding, grandiose beauty. The dual guitars are at the heart of the melody whilst Mathias Lillmåns, who I’ve not yet mentioned, barks with authority over the top. The song then moves into an industrial/electronic section that is cinematic and dystopian in the extreme, ended by more extreme black metal punishment before a shorter-than-desired melodic ending.

I honestly could mention more songs because they deserve it. Suffice to say that the experimentation continues, albeit in subtle ways as well as obvious, whilst all the time the band never lose sight that they are a symphonic black metal band. And what a symphonic black metal band they are. Properly heavy, properly epic, properly melodic. Add in the more experimental electronic elements and you’re suddenly confronted with an album of epic proportions, where variety and boldness add to the sonic palette in such a powerful manner. I cannot speak too highly of ‘Cosmic World Mother’ because, in a year of great extreme metal releases, it is easily one of the best I’ve heard so far. Mesmerising.

The Score of Much Metal: 94%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Arkona – Lunaris – Album Review


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.


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

My Top 20 of 2012 – Number 17

If you are late to the party and have missed days 1-3, never fear because day 1 can be found here, day 2 here and day 3 here.

bork 1Borknagar
Century Media Records

The number 17 slot belongs to Norwegian metallers Borknagar. I was going to say ‘Norwegian black metallers’ but really and truly, this is no longer an entirely accurate description. Some might say that it never was.

Black metal is certainly at the core of Borknagar’s sound but over their 20-year career, they have evolved into something much more difficult to pin down. With ‘Urd’, the band welcome back ex-Dimmu Borgir bassist/vocalist ICS Vortex into the fold. It is a great addition as his unique vocal talents counterpoint those of the equally interesting Vintersorg, thus lending another dimension to the folk-inspired, symphonic, progressive and occasionally avant-garde extreme metal.

bork 2

‘Urd’ is equal parts aggressive, melodic and downright quirky. As such it is 100% brilliant and is the culmination of many years honing and hard graft.

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