Asa-Noir – The Fall Of The Idols

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    If you are looking for a real musical adventure then listening to The Fall Of The Idols, the new album from Finnish metallers Asa-Noir is high on the list of recommendations. Everything about the release is adventure, from its aural exploration and lyrical narrative through to its appetite inflaming flavouring and exhausting imagination. Band and album make a riveting and forcibly compelling endeavour with more distinct metal variants than flood warnings found in the UK right now. It is a glorious and seamless blending of textures and sounds into that extensive range of styles, a fusion which emerges as something mouth-wateringly invigorating, boldly exciting, and strikingly unique.

     The band found its seeds in the Finnish town of Hämeenlinna where guitarist Ville Oravala and drummer Ilkka Koivisto united their skills in 2004.Taking inspiration from the Norwegian black metal scene into their fascination with Norse mythology and Gothic horror fiction, Asa-Noir evolved and emerged with initially a heathen black metal encounter but as time passed and the band expanded, and from all accounts persistently changed, so did its sound. Now a sextet of vocalist Henri Asikainen, guitarist Kalle Hotti, bassist Antti Koivisto, and Toni Haapasaari on keys alongside Ville Oravala and Ilkka Koivisto, the magnetic metallers unleash The Fall Of The Idols, a record which given the chance will bring the band new and greater recognition you can only surmise as it seduces and voraciously toys with the passions.

     Released via WormHoleDeath Records, The Fall Of The Idols continues the band’s lyrical premise and artistic investigation based in the native European religion Asatru whilst infusing elements and visually stimulating aspects of the works of writers such as Poe and Lovecraft. Being our first meeting with Asa-Noir, how the new album differs from the band’s earlier sounds is impossible to reflect on but with a presence which can only be described as passion raising metal in all its melodically buoyant and aggressively hungry glory, The Fall Of The Idols is an enthralling and masterful provocateur which to be truthful we cannot get enough of.

     The opening instrumental Lokasenna gets it all off to a stunning start. It is an epically toned flight through an evocative and stirring desert like sultry landscape, sands of time and dusts of generations flying across thoughts whilst holding ominous and dangerous secrets. It is a rapturous start, a visually incendiary soundscape setting the listener up perfectly for the blazing tempest of the following title track. Immediately consuming the ears in a sea of symphonic and power metal rapaciousness with snarling riffs and reserved but intensive rhythms, the track takes little time in igniting thoughts and emotions. The vocals of Asikainen provide a grizzled texture to the melodically elegant keys and folkish warmth which emerges, his tones as gritty as sand but soaked in enticement rather than threat. It is a transfixing piece of malevolent but fully welcoming persuasion leaving an urgent hunger to delve even deeper into the album.

    The Cosmogonic Process follows with a more electronic and industrially honed opening, though guitars and bass are soon entwining the radiance with strict preying riffs. Not as instantly accessible as its predecessor and less intensively aggressive, the song unites dark shadows and melodic beauty in a tantalising flame of enterprise latched to dramatic textures created with open and incisive craft. There is so much going on in the song, with a similarly potent sparking of the imagination in tow, that you almost need to take a song one at a time to bask in and reflect on everything you have heard for full appreciation, but then again with a fully raging appetite from almost the first minute too impatient to wait you just have to move on and admit that to explore individual moments more that is what repeat listens are for.

    From the previous track which at times brings Canadian underground metallers The New Jacobin Club to mind, Asa-Noir open up Solitude In Silence with an orchestral piece which is again wholly cinematic though igniting a comparison to films like Love Story with its romantic air. It is just an early caress though as the track breaks into a muscular stride with an anthemically fuelled flame to its evolving melodic expedition. It once more creates a web of temptation which is impossible to resist or remove emotions and energy from, the embracing swagger and triumphant gait of the song aggressively spellbinding.

    The likes of the irrepressibly tantalising Hawthorns and the rich foreboding imaginative storm of Rise Of The Lokean continue the ever intensifying entangling of thoughts and emotions whilst Spirit Of The Unrest works its way almost insidiously into the passions with a symphonic, gothic, and slightly thrash blessed united suasion that feel like a gift with barbarous intent, a sonic Trojan Horse of sorts. Amidst these though lies the pinnacle of the album, the magnificent Naglfahr Lounge Music. It is festivity and anthem sculpted into an irresistible riling of the heart, and almost alone a reason why Asa-Noir should be sought out.

     Completed by the rigorously commanding and tempting Torn By Thorns and the closing portentous instrumental Drowning, it is impossible to validly offer anything up to temper the virtual lust we have for The Fall Of The Idols. People’s tastes and wants obviously vary but it is hard to imagine that fans of melodic metal however it comes, and the album probably employs it anyway, not finding a real feeling for and pleasure from this immense offering from Asa-Noir, a band turning metallic ‘theatrical drama’ into something to greedily devour.

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10/10

RingMaster 04/02/2014

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Vreid: Welcome Farewell

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    Following up their immense 2011 album V, Norwegian melodic black metallers Vreid have in Welcome Farewell unleashed another impressive and enthralling encounter. Whether it is the equal of its stunning predecessor is debatable but certainly the new nine track journey of enterprise and invention is a masterful confrontation of the imagination and thoughts as well as the instigator of another wash of passion for the ingenuity of the quartet.

Across their impressive albums the band has shown that tagging them as merely melodic black metal is short changing their invention as the band weave a web of sounds which court varied flames of rock and metal across numerous decades. Often referred to as Black & Roll their sound once more upon Welcome Farewell explores and re-invents a varied spicery to create songs which are consistently compelling and perpetually thrilling. Since forming in 2004 out of the demise of Windir, the band has been a blur of releases and touring, Vreid having performed over 300 shows in 22 different countries across 3 continents, lit up numerous festivals, played alongside the likes of Enslaved, Pestilence, Marduk, Unleashed, Eluvetie, Belphegor, Einherjer, Paradise Lost, and Kampfar, and released acclaimed albums in the shape of Kraft (2004), Pitch Black Brigade (2006), I Krig (2007), Milorg (2009), and of course their tour de force V.

Released via Indie Recordings and produced by bassist Hváll (Jarle Kvåle), Welcome Farewell brings the senses into its arms with01framside the opening melodic mists of first track The Ramble. It is a gentle beckoning which before long opens up its muscles with rumbling rhythms, a seductive groove and sultry sonics weaved into a hungry rampant surging gait. The bass of Hváll growls with hungry saliva dripping from its carnivorous tones whilst the beats of Steingrim (Jørn Holen) jab, punch, and roll over the ear with merciless intent. Carved into compelling shape by the exceptional craft brought to bear by guitarists Strom (Stian Bakketeig) and Sture (Sture Dingsøyr) whose vocals grasp and rasp over the senses with serpentine malevolence to temper and compliment the heated melodic wash, the track commands attention and rewards with a mix of uncomplicated and finely crafted sounds.

From next up Way Of The Serpent with its rampaging breath and slight folk metal whispers, the album lights up thoughts and emotions with a perpetual cascades of flavours and invention. The following Devil’s Hand opens its claws with an energising punk rock abrasion ridden by venomous vocals before merging thrash and rock n roll into its blackened touch whilst the title track offers a classic metal and prog embrace within the intensive ravaging which breathes within the track. It is a continuing and enthralling blend of seamlessly entwined spicery which sets each song apart from each other and Vreid distinct within black metal.

The magnificent Sights of Old takes the album to one of its loftiest pinnacle, a song which challenges and rewards with fiery invention. From a slow stroking of melodic licks the track explodes into a furnace of vicious insatiable rhythms and a spiteful twisted groove which seduces and spears the senses with sabre accuracy. Across its corrosive journey the song evolves and shifts its character to ignite intrigue and unrivalled focus upon the tempting twisted wash of predatory and mesmeric splendour. It is a song you cannot predict one note of and continually keeps the listener off guard and absorbed with the dawning shifting landscape.

The virulent Black Waves also ignites the deepest richest rapture with its goth/blackened swagger and riveting aural shadows armed with lethal barbed hooks and melodic mischief. From drums to bass, guitars to vocals, the song entices and recruits the passions with a lure as catchy and as destructive as you could wish for.

Offering a final almighty slab of muscular grandeur in the best moment on the album, the brilliant At The Brook, Welcome Farewell is simply sensational. This outstanding song is another which breeds an addiction in the listener with its predatory stance and voracious groove amidst an all devouring and insatiable acidic progressive glaze. It with ease leads you right back to the start of the album as after its esurient rewards resistance to the band is impossible.

If there is to be a better black metal release this year than Welcome Farewell it will be something quite spectacular as Vreid yet again has set the benchmark impossibly high.

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9/10

RingMaster 25/02/2013

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Satan’s Wrath – Galloping Blasphemy

With a bio for the album proudly declaring that Greek band Satan’s Wrath were to unleash ‘relentless blasphemy, unholy sacraments of evil made by dwellers of the twilight, horrors that will make priests vomit in agony, abominations that the prophecies of old kept hidden’ and that the duo ’is the only band in the world in communication with thy master through ceremonial black magic and necromantic rituals’, not forgetting that ‘One member alone controls 13 satanic covens worldwide and organizes the most hideous sabbaths which our lord graces in the form of the black goat’, it would have been so easy to quickly move on in the expectation that all the vivid declarations was masking a weakness in the actual important part about them, the music. Luckily and very satisfyingly it is not the case, the new album Galloping Blasphemy being a ferocious blend of aural artistry and sonic imagination. Ok it is not the bestial violation it wants to be, the ultimate blasphemous outrage to decimate and destroy senses, but it is a thoroughly compelling release which over shadows the, to be honest the underwhelming and predictable attempt at being your worst nightmare.

Consisting of Tas Danazoglou (vocals, drums, bass) and Stamos K (guitars), Satan’s Wrath has produced an album which is impressive and captivating, its fresh blend of black, classic, and thrash metal with plenty of progressive essences an absorbing concoction. Black metal cored, the band remind of the likes of Impaled Nazarene, Burzum, and a little bit Slayer, though it is just part of the picture and ear catching triumphs the pair brew. The album is not flawless nor arguably openly original in its intent or sound but nevertheless captivates from start to finish with ease, with enterprise, and with unmistakable invention.

A predatory consumption of menace opens up first track Leonard Rising – Night of the Whip, the initial toxic atmosphere venomous and scarring. It is not long before the guitars are winding tightly around the senses, their acidic touch scything deeply. The sacrificial element of the song evolves into a full orgy of heated grooves, sharp air rupturing melodic invention, and guttural unforgiving vocals, the combination an ever shifting and hungry and evil magnetic companion.

Between Belial and Satan and One Thousand Goats in Sodom both bruise and ignite the senses equally, the first with its insurgent thrash rampage and arrogant malevolence and the second with an astringent weave of cutting sonics and raw melodics within a caustic energy. The musicianship on show here and throughout the album is impressive, the guitar play Stamos of alone more than worthy of a close attentive listen to the release.

Hail Tritone, Hail Lucifer, the stunning and masterful instrumental title track, and the insatiable hardcore spiced Death To Life, further let loose artistry and imagination to eagerly feast upon, whilst the corruption that is Slaves of the Inverted Cross just opens the door to further passions. The songs which make up Galloping Blasphemy from a distance are strong and easily digestible slabs of metal but it is when one delves deeper, immerses themselves in the heart of the tracks, that the real quality of the songwriting and skilled musicianship is evident. That makes for an album possibly needing more focus and work than others but it certainly gives much more back in return.

    Satan’s Wrath, the song, closes up what is a engaging and creative album in Galloping Blasphemy, a release which all black metal and extreme melodic metal fans would be making a mistake with if they did not give it definite and prolonged attention. The band may leave one unimpressed with their ‘back’ story but easily achieve the opposite with their release.

RingMaster 25/09/2012

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Huntress: Spell Eater

Before a sound was really heard the buzz behind Californian metal band Huntress was beginning an avalanche like consumption, the coming of a new force in metal being shouted from the rooftops. Good and creative, if not forceful PR is essential for any band to gain attention but it is of course with the sounds where things accelerate or grind to a halt. Spell Eater is the debut album from Huntress following on from just one single and it without doubt declares that this really is a band going places and swiftly. The album is not striving to create new directions and sounds but simply staying true to its metal inspirations, it also will and has spawn divided and often vociferous opinions on the band, but it is impossible to ignore it. The band creates metal firmly veined with classic metal alongside melodic black and thrash metal plus extras all brought with modern thought and intent. Their music is an event, a show that you immerse within or not. It is not world changing or life altering but a show that leaves one satisfied and energised. It is like a musical version of Xena Warrior Princess, bold and in the face, at times over the top and occasionally verging on silly, but always brought with a great quality and drama plus most of all it is just great fun.

All attention and even band info is seemingly centred on front woman Jill Janus which is understandable though a little unfair on the fine musicianship and sounds from the rest of the band who include ex-members of Professor, Dark Black and Skeletonwitch. She is certainly the initial focus the band is gaining attention for, a force with a voice and style as striking as her appearance and demeanour. A classically trained singer who toured Europe as a teenage opera starlet, she has already marked her resume with things like performing with Dave Navarro in a project called Under the Covers, creating Felliniesque cabarets and parties, working as a club promoter, DJ, and appearing in Playboy, but Huntress is certainly her greatest triumph. The seeds of the band began really when she met LA underground metal band Professor in 2009, the moment things fell into place.

Two years on and Huntress sign with Napalm Records, with first single/video Eight of Swords being released just before. The beginning of this year saw the recording of Spell Eater and April 27th its release to what surely will be a great response either positively or negatively, for it is an album that will not simply creep in and out again, it is here to make a noise. Produced by Chris Rakestraw of Sunset Lodge Recording, the release is a rampant and salacious feast for the senses, an easy to get to know and impossible to forget slab of metal. It preys upon and stirs up the senses with the wicked mischievousness of a horny witch and the evil deviousness of a snake, all venomous intent and delicious temptation.

The album opens up on the title track and slicing melodic intrusions from guitarists Blake Meahl and Ian Alden which instantly grab attention before they join in a galloping assault through the ear alongside the strong muscular bass of Eric Harris and the combative rhythms of drummer Carl Wierzbicky. As this takes root Janus steps forward with her startling and impressive delivery and voice. Whether she strikes with elevated clean notes or her imposing and deeply pleasing coarse style she never misses the mark, her training and natural ability put to a full and riveting use.

The song itself is a strong opener without being anything notable but that is soon changed with the following Senicide and its following companions. The growling bass paces behind the expressive guitars adding a menace to the acidic creativity, whilst the eager riffs and commanding rhythms forge a mighty framework for the vocals to mesmerise and thrill within. The song as the album is confident and complimentary to all that produced it, the music allowed to shine as much as the vocals and all individual parts given open clarity without losing the tight group sound.

The album simply gets better and better as it winds its metallic charms around the senses. From the excellent Sleep And Death, where Janus soars the vocals skies whilst bringing a serpentine malevolence, through the slightly bestial Night Rape and the best track on the release Snow Witch, to the predatory Children, the album thrills and lights up the ear with accomplished sounds and ideas. It is not as mentioned groundbreaking stuff but it is damn infectious.

If you liked previous song Eight Of Swords, also on the album, you will love Spell Eater as that is arguably the least impressive song on the album. Huntress might be the beneficiaries of much hype but as the album proves they are not exactly proving it wrong.

RingMaster 23/04/2012

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