Behemoth, Opvs Contra Natvram (Nuclear Blast 2022)

The twelfth album from Behemoth is a milestone in the band’s historic career: Opvs Contra Natvram.

For more than thirty years, Polish black metal band Behemoth has been one the leading bands in heavy music. They are known for black metal, but their music is more of a combination of black and death metal, and traditional metal as well, in combination with dramatic and complex arrangements. Often imitated but never equaled, Behemoth does truly stand apart from its contemporaries. The band is Nergal, Inferno, and Orion.

It took me a long time to finally catch up with Behemoth live. I saw them on Slayer’s final tour a few years back, and I remember thinking at the time that they were the best act on the card. I have been looking forward to this new album for a while.

Talking about the album, Nergal has this to say … “The album title means going against the current. It’s the negative of the values and morals and ethics that I stand against. I’ve seriously been wrestling with destructive tendencies in pop culture – cancel culture, social media, and tools which I feel are very dangerous weapons in the hands of people who are not competent to judge others. That’s something which I find very destructive and disturbing and extremely limiting coming from an artists’ perspective. This is my middle finger to that.” That’s a fairly positive message for such a villainized band, huh.

“Post-God Nirvana” is the first of ten tracks on the album, and it functions as an effective introduction to the experience. Loaded with effects and production, the vocals dig deep in your psyche and the growing guitar punches land harder and harder as the song progresses. “Malaria Vulgata” is a more contained song. In its brief two-minute run, the well-defined boundaries are filled to breaking. “The Deathless Sun” is more of a campaign by comparison. The guitar breaks are the sound of a charging weapon, and Nergal’s vocals are commands. The meshed death and black metal is a towering monument that cannot be ignored once it comes into your life, and that ideal is epitomized in this song.

The music continues the story and depth of expression in variety and in encouraged reinforcement throughout the entire set. “Neo-Spartacus” uses dissonance melodically, if you can imagine that. “Once Upon A Pale Horse” is among the most dramatic songs, and its theatrical nature is extremely engaging. The closer, “Versus Christus,” begins melodically, with growing urgency. The music is quite dramatic, and in a way gathers and restates the thesis of the entire work in a new package. Excellent. I recommend this album for Behemoth fans and newcomers alike.

Opvs Contra Natvram is out now through Nuclear Blast Records. Investigate the possibilities at the links below.

Links.

Behemoth. website, https://www.behemoth.pl/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/behemoth

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

© Wayne Edwards

Behemoth, Opvs Contra Natvram (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Monasterium, Cold Are The Graves (Nine Records 2022)

Cold Are The Graves is the new album from doom powerhouse Monasterium.

Hailing from Kraków, Poland, Monasterium is an epic doom band that formed in 2014. Up to now they have released two full-length albums, including their self-titled debut in 2016 and Church Of Bones in 2019. Known for grand and sweepingly dramatic doom metal compositions, Monasterium walks the world revealing dark secrets in a shroud of arcane mystery. The band is Michał Strzelecki (vocals), Tomasz Gurgul (guitars), Filip Malinowski (bass), and Maciej Berniak (drums).

There are eight compelling songs on the new album, beginning with “The Stigmatic.” Strzelecki’s voice is the pillar the guitar riffs surround, establishing an emblematic insistence that is returned to frequently throughout the record. The pace is measured and the rhythm is sturdy, granular. It is a bit like a doom version of a combination of Ronnie James Dio and King Diamond, told in a lower tone. “Cimmeria” follows and the pace accelerates. This song puts me in mind of 1980s era dark fantasy metal, reminiscent in some ways of early Fates Warning in its slower tempo moments. Excellent, pushing and surging metal.

“The Great Plague” brings us back to darker times, and structures its composition in a somber theatrical stance. “Seven Swords of Wayland,” on the other hand, has the feel of an adventure tale to it even as it retains a serious menace, rather in the manner of Iron Maiden, you might say, in their extended pieces. And then “Remembered” is completely different, with a sorrowful gentleness and the pervasive worry of loss.

“The Siege” marches out and “Necronomicon” angles the fear of eternal torment toward our visage. The danger seems very real in the listening, and the lead guitar work here is the most compelling so far. The album ends on the title track, the longest and most musically diverse piece of the set. The elements that define the band really come together here, from the solid doom to the elegant lead guitar to the stalwart vocals. This final song closes the curtain with a memorable flourish. Recommended.

Cold Are The Graves is out on Nine Records on Friday, June 10th. Check it out at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ninerecords.bandcamp.com/album/cold-are-the-graves

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/monasteriumdoom

Nine Records, http://shop.nine-records.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Monasterium, Cold Are The Graves (Nine Records 2022)

Death Denied, Through Waters, Through Flames (Sarcophagus Records 2022)

Polish metal band Death Denied release their third long-player this week, Through Waters, Through Flames.

Originating in Łódź, Poland in 2009, Death Denied plays a grungy form of Southern-tinted Metal. That is not what you usually expect to hear from a Polish metal band, is it? These guys do it right, hitting all the grooves with an expert touch, along with plenty of blues-infused melodies and engaging change-ups. After putting out an EP in 2011, they released their first full-length set in 2014, Transfuse the Booze, following up with their sophomore effort four years later: A Prayer to the Carrion Kind. The new one is a high water mark, I think, and a great listen all the way through.

The set opens with “The Apostate Soul,” which has a very doom-feeling few bars at the front. A peppier groovy hook sets in quickly to take you through the rest of the tune. “High Priestess Of Down Low” is next, and here the band flashes its thrash teeth a little with a few rapid flourishes. These high energy cracks are juxtaposed with a reflective cooldown and unexpected syncopation. This song is a cooking cauldron. “Lesser Daemons” rolls up extra bluesy and walks you down a dark alley. The seductive lead break toward the end is a beautiful thing.

Other stand-out tracks for me include “The Machine,” which has an irresistible charging quality that is unrelenting, even with a tempo change. I also gravitated toward “Behind The Surreal” for its dark and dingy feel that put me in mind of grunge bands of old. Fantastic song. And if you are looking for the Southern Metal sound, “Concrete Cathedrals” is the tune for you. The album goes out on the eight-minute thrummer “Nocturnal,” and that has to be on the hit list, too. The saxophone is a bold choice and it is absolutely stunning in this song. I really like this album – I am putting it in the queue so I can hear it again. Recommended.

Through Waters, Through Flames is out on Friday, April 7th, and you can hear it on the usual streaming platforms. Bandcamp will have the digital for download. You can also listen to Death Denied’s other albums there.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://deathdenied.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/deathdenied

© Wayne Edwards.

Death Denied, Through Waters, Through Flames (Sarcophagus Records 2022)

Thy Worshiper, Bajki o Staruchu (Pagan Records 2021)

Innovative metal band Thy Worshiper unleash their fifth long-player, Bajki o Staruchu.

Stationed in Dublin, Thy Worshiper originated in Poland in the early 1990s. Their music is in the line of black folk metal, with heavy death metal vibes occasionally blinking in and out. Pagan themes and mysticism are infused throughout resulting in both an apparent lightening and a clear sinister deepening. The band is Monika Lubas (vocals), Marcin Gasiorowski (vocals and guitar), Dariusz Kubala (vocals and guitar), Krystian Mazur (bass), Marcin Pazera (drums), and Tomasz Grzesik (vocals and percussion).

I read that Bajki o Staruchu translates into English as “Fairytales about an old man.” Further, the album is “a concept with eight new tracks based on fairy tales that are held together by the main character of the album title, the Old Man.” That adds up for a folk metal set.

The compositions have some familiar elements found in many folk metal constructions. The unique aspects are the placements of traditional-sounding instruments and interplay of the more modern black (and even death) metal workings in the context of folk tellings unfamiliar to many who will listen to them. The metal elements are not as scritchy as they would be in metal-only music and the folk entries are moreso than you typically hear in blended musical paradigms. It is an intoxicating combination.

The beautiful voice of Monika Lubas contributes immeasurably to the cohesiveness of the music. Lovely, lilting singing engages you in parts of the songs and macabre whispers or chants appear elsewhere. The hypnotic nature of much of the music is the set stone to the experience. You are pulled in and brought along by the rhythm and the voices, even when you do not understand the language the words are sung in. I can see how playing this album could become a ritual for me. Recommended.

Bajki o Staruchu is out now from Pagan Records.

Links.

Website, https://www.thyworshiper.com/

Bandcamp, https://thyworshiper.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/thyworshiper/

Pagan Records, https://pagan-records.com/

Thy Worshiper, Bajki o Staruchu (Pagan Records 2021)

Hate, Rugia (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Blackened death metal band Hate releases their twelfth full-length album, Rugia.

Since the mid-1990s, Polish band Hate has been has been issuing rock solid death metal. Their style has evolved somewhat over the years, moving from a strictly death metal approach toward an amalgam of black and death metal. Their lyrical themes have changed, too, concentrating in more recent years on mysticism and esoteric perambulations. Armed with a new drummer, the latest album is “a refreshing new chapter to our discography, composing nine truly sinister onslaughts of pure rage,” according to the band.

The set opens with the title track, offering an engaging percussion/riff combination before settling in with a thrumming death metal standard. The music is dramatic, even theatrical toward the end, dressing the stage for the deeper shades of dark to come. The question of where to place the title track (when there is one) has always fascinated me. It could be anywhere – the anchor position, sorted in the middle, or right up front. I think starting with “Rugia” is a blatant display of confidence, one that is well deserved.

Most tracks are relatively brief for this type of music, keeping the focus razor-sharp. Watch (listen) for “Exiles of Pantheon” especially, and “Resurgence,” for pummeling rhythm enhanced by unexpected turns in the harmony. “Sun Of Extinction” is a stand-out track for me because of its challenging, almost prog-ish, opening and determined follow-through. And “Awakening The Gods Within” has a cliff dropping shift from the doom laden opening to the savage assault that follows. These are all thrilling for their own reasons.

All the stops are pulled for the final track, “Sacred Dnieper.” It is a consolidated fury that sounds for all the world as if it spewed directly from the blackest void. This album is a roving, unrelenting menace that will dislodge your peace of mind. Recommended.

Rugia is available now through Metal Blade Records. Examine the varieties at the label link below.

Band photo by Daniel Rusilowicz.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hate.bandcamp.com/album/rugia

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/HATEOFFICIAL

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/hate/

Hate, Rugia (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Wingless, Nonconform (Selfmadegod Records 2021)

Polish metal trio Wingless let loose with their fourth album, Nonconform.

Nearly a decade ago, Wingless came together as a group of seasoned musicians playing heavy metal from a modern angle. As time passed, the music solidified into a more classic death and doom sound, and that is what we hear on Nonconform. The band is comprised of the newest member, Michał “Xaay” Loranc (vocals), founder Grzegorz Luzar (guitar and bass), and Piotr Wójcik (drums), who has been with the group since 2018.

The nine-track album starts with “Imperceptible,” which opens like waking up with the house on fire – heavy and loud from the first note. After the first movement, there is a slowed-down spoken word segment then a return to the bestial pummeling. The pace shifts are a regular feature of the landscape on Nonconform.

The songs are often a negotiated truce between Death Metal elements and Doom Metal presence. And frequently a mixture of the two, like in “Separated From All Life” where we have doom guitars and vocals with a more peppery percussion. Some of the tracks do start out with a slower pace at the gate – “Sadness Filled With Silence” and “Nyctophilia,” for example – and maintain it throughout. Shifting tempo is more common, however.

Standout tracks for me are “Constellations” and the sinister title track, both of which, in their own ways, highlight the strengths of the band. The final track is “When You Are Short Of Tears,” a solemn song with a powerful arc that resolves in quietude. The classic influences from two metal lineages coalesce in a fulfilling heavy music experience. This is the best album I have heard from Wingless. Recommended.

Digital and CD formats are available from Selfmadegod Records on the first Friday in October, the 1st.

Links.

Wingless Bandcamp, https://wingless.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/winglessofficial

Selfmadegod Store, https://selfmadegod-store.com/

Wingless, Nonconform (Selfmadegod Records 2021)

71TonMan, War Is Peace // Peace Is Slavery (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

If you like your Doom slow, massive, and pulverizing, 71TonMan is the band for you.

71TonMan has been shaking the earth for ten years. Their first album, 71TonMan, came out in 2013 and Earthwreck followed four years later. The new one is a three-track EP, and each song is very different.

“War Is Peace” is that slow, massive, and pulverizing music I was talking about. The riffs are so heavy your headphones will threaten to collapse under the pressure. It is hammering Doom Metal. “Peace Is Slavery” is more actively aggressive, more like Death Metal – faster, with more vocals and ravaging percussion – in the first half of the song. In the second half, the weight of the world pushes down hard.

“Ignorance Is Strength” finds an ethereal plane to enter on. It is spacey, with a creepy intermittent voiceover. A little over halfway through a beeping beacon disturbs the journey, and the voice is back, even creepier. This continues to the end and the voice becomes more compelling, convincing, hypnotizing. By the time you realize you are being talked into something it is too late.

I recommend this EP particularly for the first two killer tracks. The third is best absorbed as part of a meditation in an altered state. How you get to that altered state is up to you, but once you are there “Ignorance Is Strength” will start to speak to you on a whole different level.

War Is Peace // Peace Is Slavery is out now from Transcending Obscurity. You can order through Bandcamp or at the label’s US store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://71tonmanband.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/71TonMan

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

71TonMan, War Is Peace // Peace Is Slavery (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Suffer Yourself, Rip Tide (Aesthetic Death 2021)

Intricate Funeral Doom laced with Death Metal is what you can expect from the new Suffer Yourself album, Rip Tide.

Suffer Yourself began in Poland as a one-man operation by Stanislav Govorukha (guitars and vocals). Over the years the roster has expanded and the new album includes contributions by Lars Abrahamsson (guitars), Kateryna Osmuk (drums), and Johan Selleskog (bass). Rip Tide is the third set from the band, following Ectoplasm (2016) and Inner Sanctum (2014).

The music is Funeral Doom, a category most glum. Suffer Yourself takes an expansive perspective on the genre and is not satisfied with ambient morosity. Instead, each song either has many movements that create a variegated aural landscape or has a second (and third) persistent intricacy that elevates the composition.

There are three tracks on Ripe Tide, starting with “Spit In The Chasm,” a twenty minute suite. It is here you find the full spectrum of the band on display, including soaking Funeral Doom, eerily floating vocals and calls, sudden burst of speed and diversions into torrid Death and Black Metal territory. It is a complex affair that unfolds like a darkly absorbing drama laid bare before you.

Next is “Désir de trépas maritime (Au bord de la mer je veux mourir)” which is quiet and somber  and features a beautiful, mournful cello in its first movement. Before the three minute mark, the music changes from sad to threatening with guitars issuing an obvious warning. In the final third of the song, there has an oddly upsetting spoken word passage joined by the cello and other discordant instruments and effects.

The closer is a short ambient drone piece, “Submerging,” which is more of an exhortation regarding things to come than it is a wind-down. Taken together these three pieces coalesce into an unforgettable cortège moving toward oblivion. Recommended.

Rip Tide will be released on Friday, June 25th by Aesthetic Death on CD, vinyl, and digital. In the US, Bandcamp is a good place to pick it up.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://sufferyourself.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SufferYourself

Aesthetic Death, https://www.aestheticdeath.com/

Aesthetic Death Bandcamp, https://aestheticdeath.bandcamp.com/

Suffer Yourself, Rip Tide (Aesthetic Death 2021)

Trauma, Acrimony (Selfmadegod Records 2021)

Veteran Polish Death Metal titans Trauma add to their canon with Acrimony.

Since the early 1990s Trauma has been writing powerful Death Metal music. They fit in perfectly with the strong tradition of heavy metal bands in Poland and their compositions have a traditional feel to them and a polished production. The band is Arkadiusz Sinica (drums), Jarosław Misterkiewicz (guitar, bass), and Artur Chudewniak (vocals).

Last year’s Ominous Black album was well received by fans and the songs from the new EP Acrimony were recorded at the same time. There is a beautiful stylistic connection in the album cover art to match the cabalistic connection between the previous LP and the new set. If you liked the album you are going to want this companion to go with it. One does not feel quite complete without the other.

“Internal Sacrifice” is a stylized epic metal song, with a big build and a massive payoff. “The Godless Abyss” has a more direct approach and also has a theatrical construction. “Reign of Terror” quietens down a bit, at least at the start. The solitude does not last long and the peaceful serenity is dismembered by blast beats and crushing riffs.

The final song is a cover of the Gorefest favorite “Reality When You Die.” This is the longest track and it is rager once it gets going, seeming to have a ravenous need to engulf you. These four tracks form an excellent set to take us through until the next album comes out. Recommended.

Acrimony is out now from Selfmadegod Records and is available through Bandcamp as well as the other usual outlets. Take a minute to think about rounding up some other Trauma releases while you are at it if you don’t have them yet.

Links.

Website, http://www.traumaofficial.com/

Bandcamp, https://traumadeath.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/TraumaOfficialPage

Selfmadegod Records, https://selfmadegod-store.com/

Trauma, Acrimony (Selfmadegod Records 2021)

XificurK, 1410 (Void Wanderer Productions 2021)

Polish band XificurK return with a blacker-than-black metal EP, 1410.

The band is a duo who think that Black Metal has gone soft and wants to reinforce the underpinnings, labeling their own work Blackest Metal. They certainly are committed to the themes that surrounded the early movement in the genre, I can attest to that. The music carriers the requisite heaviness and also offers a notable variety in instrumentation and tonal execution. The Metal Archives record the band members as being Sitre De Sitirin (drums, bass, and keys) and Temira De Temirin (vocals, guitar, and drums).

You can hear church bells ringing and the steps of someone walking on hard ground as the song opens. Voices from the crowd outside subside when the door is closed and a gentle refrain takes up, followed by a solitary voice singing in devotional tones, Gregorian chants. The metal kicks in at the two minute mark, coarse and ravaging. Just past the midway point, keys take over as the foundational instrument and the feeling goes over to eerie and, even more, somber. The metal returns for a final battle, and we are walked out on gentle notes. That is how the EP begins, “Vilthaaen.”

“Durmak” is next, followed by “Donabad” and then “Tasna.” There is a driving, story-telling element to the way the music progresses in each song that exists outside of the lyrics. The soundscape generated inhabits a three dimensional space, and in any particular direction it is nonlinear but followable. The compositions take unexpected turns while holding the line on the precept thereby generating reliability and ingenuity simultaneously. Listen to it twice (at least) to soak in the nuance and receive the transference. It is heavy, penetrating Black Metal. Recommended.

The digital version of 1410 is available now and a very limited edition cassette will be out from Void Wanderer on March 31st.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://voidwandererproductions.bandcamp.com/album/1410

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Xificurk.Official

Label, https://voidwanderer.com/

XificurK, 1410 (Void Wanderer Productions 2021)