mardi 1 novembre 2016

Selvans / Downfall of Nur - Self Titled
Symphonic Black Metal / Atmospheric Black Metal

Review Summary: The Sun and the Moon working together on this majestic collaboration

Downfall Of Nur and Selvans are two acts of Avangarde Records that have managed to build a good fanbase with both their first album respectively Umbras de Barbagia and Lupercalia. Downfall of Nur hailing from Argentina and Selvans from Italy, both these bands aim toward promoting their origins and culture through their instruments and lyrics. The two being one of the most known bands under this label, having a split record was a pleasant surprise, yet predictable. 

The two bands having very distinct sounds, one could believe that we would get a record divided into two distinct styles, yet the album flows perfectly. Consisting of an instrumental intro, outro and two songs, yet lasting for about 40 minutes, this leaves plenty of time for long song structures and diversity. Created to represent the dichotomy of the Sun and Moon, the tow different styles not only allows the record to have a diversity but also represent perfectly the Sun and Moon separately. Selvans crafted a thirteen minutes piece consisting of an alternation of chaotic, mesmerizing symphonic black metal and softer, folk sections with clean vocals that could easily represent the Sun’s ever changing and exploding surface, while Downfall Of Nur’s eighteen minutes piece is more structured and colder like the Moon’s dead surface and core.

Although using two different styles of Black Metal, the two bands supplement each other rather than opposes themselves. Selvans’s ending of Pater Surgens will remind you of Downfall Of Nur’s use of flutes while Downfall Of Nur included some flutes that will remind you of Selvans’s Lupercalia. Each band inspiring each other and moving toward a similar goal, this album feels more of a collaborative album rather than a split record where each bands would play their part separately and differently. The only flaw that could be worked on here would be the intro and outro that, although not breaking the flow of the record, don’t bring anything to the soundscape either. Dany Tee’s vocals on Mater Universi are a little more scorched and less wind-like as it was on Umbras de Babargia which allows him to use a wider range, and therefore express even more emotions. 

As a first collaboration between Selvans and Downfall Of Nur, this feels like the two had known each other forever, and that’s what makes this record a great piece of music. Using each band’s qualities, both have erased their respective flaws that you could found on their respective releases, and that makes for an awesome collaboration. Looking forward to see what the future for these two bands hold, either continuing their path separately or continuing their collaboration is promising a good future.

mardi 18 octobre 2016

Belenos - Kornog
Pagan Metal / Black Metal / Atmospheric Black Metal

Review Summary: A heavy Celtic trip to Brittany.

Hailing from Brittany (West of France) Belenos was created as a one-man-project by Loic Cellier in 1995. Behind this project was a will to sing about Brittany’s culture (Belenos being the Celtic god of the Sun) and this has been taken further since the lyrics have been sung in Breton since 2010’s Yen Sonn Gardis, the old Celtic language of Brittany. Influenced by Norway’s early Black Metal scene (Enslaved, Burzum, Emperor) in terms of technicality, Belenos uses the dark and slow parts of Pagan Metal to allow the listener to visualize a travel to the wild, dark moors and traditions of the Celtic Lands.

The mix of Black Metal and Pagan Metal allows Loic to build a thick wall of guitar and drums and add melodies through the choir and lead guitar. This record is a constant mix of fast paced aggressive Black Metal and slower melodic parts with clean singing usually in a choir style. Loic plays all instruments in studio and recruited live players for shows, yet none of the instruments feel simply played, whether on blast beats, lead guitars, the awesome and dynamic vocals or the few bass lines that helps craft the different section of songs together. Some of the best example of this are on the first two songs, with the opener Kornog and its follower Sklosenn Ur Vag. A nice addition to the traditional guitar, bass and drums are the use of traditional instruments to introduce most of the songs or are used to bring melodies and change the pace of the songs. Sometimes using Nature’s sounds like the waves of the first songs, it gives this album an atmosphere that is proper to Brittany’s culture of Sea life. 

Although that mix of influence makes for a very pleasant experience, the album doesn’t bring anything else to the table, and with songs lasting for no less than six minute (apart from the interlude Treizhadenn-noz and the closer Lusenn An Ankou) the lack of differences between the songs can create a sense of déjà vu after a few listens. What saves this record from a repetition of the same formula and thus being boring is the diversity of sounds used during the slower parts. Another high point of this record is the quality of the production. Clean yet keeping the dark and raw atmosphere of Black Metal. The addition of female vocals of Armorika creates a surreal and beautiful atmosphere before heading to a mesmerizing black metal verse that later changes into a slower paced choir lead atmosphere.

Choosing a highlight on this record is quite difficult as most of the songs resemble each other, but Armorika, the opener Kornog and the twelve minute epic D’an Usved are some of the best songs in this record. Having visited Brittany a few times, I can confirm that this album transcends the atmosphere of this region of France quite well. The fast paced guitars and drums act like the storm-like winds and heavy rains that this region is known for yet the beautiful choirs and melodies are similar to the beautiful and mystic Celtic culture and way of life.

lundi 19 septembre 2016

Saor - Guardians
Pagan Metal / Black Metal / Atmospheric Black Metal

Review Summary: Take a trip to the Highlands, Saor will be your guide.

Saor appeared on my music radar two years ago with the release of his second album Aura. Blending Celtic folk music and Black Metal, Andy Marshall created a unique and recognizable sound in the Metal spectrum. This one man project has always echoed the beautiful soundscapes of Scotland and its culture in his music, through its atmospheric melodies. In that particular goal, Guardians does a perfect job.

Oh, never to perish, their names let us cherish, / The martyrs of Scotland that now are away.”

The record is divided into five songs all lasting ten to eleven minutes. In comparison to his previous releases, this album is less aggressive and more melodic. The length of the songs allows Andy to change the pace of the songs in order to build an atmosphere of strong folkloric melodies and saturated guitars. Much like Aura, Andy composed all of the songs and used session musicians to record his songs. Using strings, Fiddle, Bodhran, drums and Highland bagpipes to build his melodies, Andrew almost takes you on a journey to the Highlands with his evocative music, and connects with the listener through his emotional lyrics.

“Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn / Thy banish'd peace, thy laurels torn! “

While none of the songs are fillers, there are a few that stand out from this fifty minute experience. The opener Guardians, with its acoustic guitar introduction that leads to Bagpipes and then towards the saturated riffage of Folkloric Black Metal, is one of the finest moment of this record. Another song that stands out is Hearth, with amazing melodies and the use of clean vocals to sing one of the best verse on this record, a verse that easily describes the goal of this record: “This is my home / My heart / My soul / My hearth”. The choice of lyrics from his favorite poems about Scotland brings another dimension to his work, making it more than just a musical experience but a cultural one too. The strings are beautifully played here and firmly stand out as one of the best traits about the album.

“Noble dead that sleep below, / We your valour ne'er forget; / Soft the heroes' rest who know / Hearts like theirs are beating yet.”

In a way, this album almost feels like climbing a mountain. The momentum slowly builds with each passing song, finally reaching its peak with the intense climax of Hearth. This song creates the heaviest and most cathartic atmosphere of the record, which then gradually descends back into where the journey began. Andrew crafted once again a masterpiece of Scottish Folkloric Black Metal that ends the same way it started, with bagpipes and guitar. While fans of his more aggressive previous releases might find it a little soft, this record demonstrates that Andrew can still change the formula and stay relevant to the genre. The folkloric instruments bring a whole new depth to his soundscape that wasn’t as important as on this record and this is emphasized by the great composition of the songs.

Sad shall it be, though sun be shed / Golden bright on field and flood; / E'en the heather's crimson red / Holds the memory of blood.”

Needless to say, Andy is a busy artist. After two Saor albums, he created a 90’s Black Metal tribute side project (Fuath) and released an album in early 2016, I. He toured with Saor for two years but recently announced his last show and that the band will continue as a studio project only. Guardians will be released on the 11th of November under Northern Silence.

jeudi 25 août 2016

Echo Tail - Drowning The Pacific
Post-Rock / Progressive Rock / Metal

Review Summary: Echo Tail has found its voice, and it is full of emotions.

Since releasing their first album in 2014 (Mirroring), Echo Tail have released five more albums. Needless to say to in two years, this band has been very busy. Introducing vocals in Fields Of Vision, their previous record, the band has continuously evolved into their latest sound, "Drowning The Pacific". While the beginning of their discography revolved around instrumentals in the metal and post-metal genre, Mark Stebbing (mastermind of the band) and his brother Tom has since been incorporating more diverse and experimental sounds to their composition.

The album's opener, Pacific, is the perfect example of how the band has evolved. Starting off on a calm and clean riff, the vocals are full of emotions and drive the song towards an explosion of saturated guitar riffs. The leads present on this song are outstanding and are probably the best part of this album. Mark really knows how to create melodic and perfectly fitting guitar leads whether acoustic on 'Ends To A Mean' or electric on 'Pacific'. Although present on one song in Fields Of Vision, the vocals are the main new feature of this record, and they work perfectly. In fact, they add a whole new dimension of emotions with the lyrics and the intensity of the singing. Most of the time they are calm, but a few times Mark screams like on Pacific.

Although the compositions feel perfectly thoughtout, they sometimes end abruptly and leaves you feeling like a little more time to think about an ending would have been necessary. The perfect example for this is the ending of 'Season of Violence', where the song ends on a fading repetitive guitar riff. Talking about a repetitive pattern, the record relies a little bit too much on the high pitch tremolo picking. Although it creates a mystical atmosphere, the repetition over the whole record makes it lose its importance and feels almost like listening to the same song over again. What saves the record from that feeling is the little variations like at the end of 'A Shadow Among Us' that fades into a Pink Floyd-esque beginning for Midori.

The atmosphere created by Echo Tail is the one of the Post-Rock/metal genre with a touch of progressive rock. Although this release isn’t a concept album, the lyric’s theme focuses on problems of trust and secret revealing. Finding highlight on this record is a little hard as the whole album flows perfectly (minor a few endings) but some songs stand out, mostly thanks to the leads and songwriting. Those songs are the opener Pacific, the closer In The Absence of Faith and Ends to a Mean.

Drowning the Pacific is definitely a move forward for Echo Tail. The addition of vocals really sent the band towards more emotional composition. Whether the band will continue in that direction is unknown, but Mark hinted that he will probably take a break and continue in the indie rock or electronic spectrum, being more comfortable for his vocal range. Whatever the future of this band will be, they can be proud of their work and this record shows their ability to evolve into new territories and still have a creative mind after seven releases in two years.

Interview with the mastermind of Echo Tail, Mark Stebbing:

Tell me about your musical background, did you study music? Do you have other bands?

I never actually studied any Music when I was in school or university!  I was recommended to take music forward when I was younger, but back then, I was not very serious with my guitar playing so I stupidly decided to ignore the subject itself.  This was one of the biggest regrets of my life so far because who knows how much better I could be if I took Music further in my life.  Echo Tail is the only music band that I am currently in at the moment, I have been in small bands with my friends before but they did not last long, we never even created one proper full length song!

What are your favorite artist (name a few) and what mostly inspires your work with Echo Tail?

Currently, my favourite artists are Thrice, Russian Circles and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, they have had the biggest influence on my songwriting at the moment but overall I shape my creations around the bands like Pink Floyd and Nine Inch Nails in some ways, they have been the bands I have looked up to since a young age and has had a major input on how I shape my music.  Another influence, though slightly bizarre and not obvious, is when I am thinking about concepts and lyrics, I tend to look towards the Final Fantasy video game series for inspiration for some reason.  From a very young age, I grew up with the fascinating stories in these games and I tend to draw some ideas from these into my own music too in terms of coming up with a concept.

How was Echo Tail created?

The band used to be just me at university creating some random songs on my laptop back in 2008.  I created an album called 'We Sold Our Souls To Infinity' which included 10 minute prog songs and very ambient tracks.  I still have it saved on my laptop as demos, though the production quality is pretty poor in comparison to the new stuff as I was still learning how to do mixing and mastering.  I may release these someday if I can find a way to make it more listenable.  The band itself only really took off when my brother, Tom, decided to help out as he started to take interest in the band and could play drums way better than I ever could, this was in July 2014, and from there we created our first album, 'Mirroring'.

What is the general idea/concept behind Drowning The Pacific? If some songs have special meanings, feel free to go into detail on them.

Initially, Drowning the Pacific was not going to be a concept album as such compared to King Defeatism, it was meant to be just a series of individual songs.  But as the recording process went on, it was much easier to put a subtle theme to the album to make things a bit more coherent and relatable.  The album's theme focuses on people who deal with the problems of trust and revealing secrets to the people he/she are close with. The lyrics of the album aim to portray this concept and is meant to be one of the focuses when listening to the album.

Did you have a special way of writing your song and recording them?

Not particularly, it was the same process as before with the previous albums.  I do have a weird way of starting a song off by making the song titles up first, then making a song from the names, it allows me to picture in my head what the song should sound like sonically.

Vocals are the main addition on this album, was it hard to accept on the songs? Do you plan on doing vocals for your future releases?

This was the newest challenge for the band to try and fit vocals into a song.  We were already comfortable with making riffs and solos, but we wanted to evolve our sound and reach a new audience.  This meant we had to change the way we structure our tracks, allowing space for vocals to be put in and tone down on the guitar work during those verses.  It was hard to accept at first, and vocal takes were the most frustrating and draining processes of the album, but in the end it is all about resilience and becoming stronger as a songwriter at the end of the tunnel.  The experience was incredibly rewarded and we are indeed going to add vocals in the future releases too.

What is the future of Echo Tail or other project you might have?

This is the question I always ask myself after each album release.  I think after seven albums in 2 years, it is time to take an extended break and allow myself to recharge and not exhaust myself of ideas.  I think that Drowning the Pacific may be the last 'metal' or 'heavy' album that we will release for a while, I think we have exhausted that genre a bit.  I would like to move onto something a bit more upbeat and adventurous in sound, a slight move towards some indie rock or electronic as it is more comfortable for my vocal range and style.  There are collaborations in the pipeline in the near future with other bands and also there could be a small EP of covers too.

dimanche 21 août 2016

Erudite Stoner - Erudite Stoner

Acoustic / Metal /Classic / Post-Metal / Instrumental


Review Summary: An instrumental introspection, take the journey of opening your mind.

There are not many bands that gives you the feeling that you can let go and relax while listening to their music. Erudite Stoner, a one man project from Brazil does exactly that. Using influences from classical and post-metal Erudite Stoner has crafted an instrumental story that makes you think about your own life. That is probably because of his writing method, late at night when moments of reflection came to him. This self-titled release is his first and let’s be honest, it’s already an awesome release.

When it comes to instrumental, you have to be able to tell words or give feelings that a voice and lyrics would, but only with your instruments. In this case, Erudite Stoner did an awesome job. Most of his melodies have a blend of classical and dark-folk feel allowing you to drift away and imagine the journey of the story. Although the story is open to interpretation, it is about that moment when you realize that there is so much more in the World than what you know and embark on a soul searching journey. Songs act like different stages of the journey, each one perfectly expressing the feeling and surroundings of the moment. The happiness of a Ride To Nowhere, full of curiosity and energy while being Far Away From City Walls, to the melancholic realization that There Is No Home. Waiting For The Storm sees Erudite Stoner building up intensity to end on a saturated electric guitar riff, describing the arrival of a storm. What makes this album and story open to interpretation is that is basically tells the story of opening your mind and realizing that all you know might not be the only thing out there. It can apply to a lot of situations from a real journey to opening up to different musical genres.

Finding weaknesses on this album is a tough job, but the first that came to mind was the length. It last for thirty three minutes, which is a little short, especially when you’re deeply relaxed and thinking while listening to the album. Highlights from this release are probably the opener Spiritual Deliverance and the seven minutes long Roads to Somewhere that builds up an entire atmosphere of hope. The album ends on the classically influenced Left Behind that acts both as a perfect closer yet leaves you wanting for more as it only last for a minute and forty seconds.

Released in 2015, Erudite Stoner is slowly building up momentum and recognition in the Post-Metal community. Matheus Novaes released a video for his song There Is No Home in July 2016 and is currently working on releasing physical copies of his first release. The evolution of this project is definitely something to look for.

Interview with the mastermind of Erudite Stoner:

1)Why the name Erudite Stoner?

This name is open for interpretations and has many meanings, one of them is that sums my guitar playing style, i had classical guitar classes but i didn't had the discipline that a erudite musician must have. The Stoner denomination sums this for me, escape from something pretty straight forward and expected

2)What are your influences and what bands played a role in the shaping of your album?

I had influence of classical guitar, shoegaze, slowcore and post-metal. Alcest and Gustavo Santaolalla influenced the shaping of my album.

3)How was the album created? What are the meaning of the songs to you? Do the titles have special meanings?

The songs from my album has a special meaning for me even more for being my first album. All songs was composed on the late, when i was alone and there was silence, were moments of reflection that became songs. The titles were created to give a context to the album, because there is a story to be told on this record.

4)What is the future for Erudite Stoner or you as a musician?

Step by step i'm reaching some goals, recently i released an official video in in partnership with my girlfriend Babi Bertagnoli. I want to release physical copies of my debut album, i'm working in some compositions but i have other tasks to do beyond the music.

Sputnikmusic link: