Watain, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Notorious black metal band Watain release their seventh studio album on an unsuspecting world, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain.

It has been almost twenty-five years that Watain has stalked the earth now. This black metal band from Sweden has a reputation like no other, building loyal fans from all over the world by creating unique dark music with no compromises. Their first full-length album, Rabid Death’s Curse (2000), was a sign to anyone who wanted to read it, and the promises made then are fulfilled with every new set.

Anyone who has seen Watain live surely has a story about the experience. It is a journey bathed in darkness. The band has found a way to capture the live experience more essentially than ever before with the new album, which was itself recorded live in the studio, where founding members Erik Danielsson, Håkan Jonsson, and Pelle Forsberg, were joined by Alvaro Lillo, Hampus Eriksson, and Emil Forcas.

“Ecstasies In Night Infinite” breaks through the veil first with an unrelenting, monstrous assault. The combination of the roaring speed with cascading riffs overlaid by a black lace of cogent lyrical hooks is a structure that stands up to the many twists and turns presented. The vocals are coarse and intimately discernable; the lead breaks are savage and crackling. Watain stands alone in the way they combine dark, heavy elements into music that is approachable in the groove and complex on every individual layer as well as in the spaces between them. Just listen and you will hear it in every song.

“The Howling” is next, and it offers us more of everything from other angles we hadn’t contemplated before. The groove is seductive and black metal is razor sharp. “Serimosa” shows a down-shifted tempo perspective with theatrical balancing, further demonstrating the variety and complexity of the music Watain presents on this album. “Leper’s Grace” is another example of the unexpected in rhythm and pace – it is one of my favorites from the set as it left me tipsy by the halfway mark.

“Before The Cataclysm” is especially eerie, and that is saying something in the context of this music. Here again, it is the fascinating combination of elements that are themselves individually stunning and somehow, in their amalgamation, rise to another place altogether. “Septentrion” brings the curtain down in a grand fashion, hearkening to the mystery and wonder of the spaces in the cold dark north. It is an enduring culmination.

This music is not meant for the weak of heart or mind. The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain is out through Nuclear Blast Records on Friday, April 29th. Recommended.

Live photos by Wayne Edwards, Webster Theater, Hartford, 2019.

Links.

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

Bandcamp, https://watainsom.bandcamp.com/album/the-agony-ecstasy-of-watain

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://www.nuclearblast.com/eu/band/watain

© Wayne Edwards

Watain, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Grimtone, Polaris (Void Wanderer 2022)

Darkness convenes on the new Grimtone album, Polaris.

With origins marked in 2015, Sweden’s black metal maelstrom Grimtone plies a regimen of oblique, inky metal. The band is Michael Lang, who broke out of the gates in a flurry of recording, with three full-length albums between 2017 and 2019: Memento Mori, Morte in Vitam, and Hymner till döden. Just last year Grimtone appeared on the five-way split Mourning in Autumn and also released an EP, The Awakening. And now there is Polaris – he must have a lot to say. After all, it is not just Grimtone, is it? There is also Arsonists of Lucifer, Dommedag, etc. Prolificity by thy name.

The standard is set by the first track, “Creed Of Hate.” A rapid, raking riff sets up a steady percussive entry and the gloomy, distanced vocals. It is a murky affair, with a solid hook. The order is more apparent here than the chaos in this black metal statement. “Streams Of Polaris” waken slumbering denizens with a callous affront that is curiously salved in the coming bars, creating a salubrious avenue for mental ingestion. It is a surprising choice that works exceptionally well.

There is no pivot to look out for as the music flows over you. Certainly there is variation and there are angular takes, as in the elegance of the opening of “Burning The Rye” and the furtive ending to “Calls Of The Bells.” Even with these textures in the landscape, the dedication to evoked principles never wanes. My favorite track is perhaps “Haunt The Realm” as it makes me feel chased and at risk, but every track has a culminating insight. This my first experience with Grimtone, and I am impressed. Recommended.

Polaris is out now. Void Wanderer Productions has the cassette (limited to 50) and digital. War Productions has a CD version (limited to 100).

Links.

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

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

Void Wanderer Productions, https://voidwanderer.com/product/grimtone-polaris-mc/

War Productions, https://war-productions.org/warproductions/

© Wayne Edwards

Grimtone, Polaris (Void Wanderer 2022)

Meshuggah, Immutable (Atomic Fire 2022)

Meshuggah sets the heavy music world on fire again with Immutable.

Meshuggah came together in Sweden in the late 1980s. Flashing talent and affection for technical metal with an unmistakable groove, the band took a prominent place instantly in the heavy music scene. Their full-length albums now number nine, and there has been a large helping of splits and EPs produced along the way as well. It is incredible how each album presents music that is very new and also undeniably Meshuggah – nothing ever feels worn or re-hashed, and that goes doubly for Immutable. The band is Jens Kidman (vocals), Mårten Hagström (guitars), Dick Lövgren (bass), Fredrik Thordendal (guitars), and Tomas Haake (drums).

The first three tracks set you up for the long haul. “Broken Cog” is filled with whispering creepiness and urgent pushes. “The Abysmal Eye” chokes off dissent with its heightening technicality and its consistent employment of mysteriousness. “Light The Shortening Fuse” drops in with a savage chop that separates the gristle from the bone. There is a middle breather but that gives you just enough stamina to press on to the end.

If somehow you have never heard Meshuggah before, this is a good album to step in on because it shows you so many sides to the band’s music. It is creative, robust, and variegated. Songs like “Ligature Marks” juxtapose a savage narrative theme with a compelling and emotional exit after a four minute battering. The very next track, “God He Sees In Mirrors,” is positively relentless, offering no respite. And then, exactly in the middle of the album, is “They Mover Below,” a nine-and-a-half-minute instrumental odyssey that is absolutely breathtaking.

Other stand-out tracks for me are “Black Cathedral” and “The Faultless” – and I could say the same about “I Am That Thirst” and “Armies Of The Preposterous.” There is not a single weak moment in the entire set. It is too early in the year to declare a top ten list, but I have no doubt that this album is going to be on a lot of them at the end of 2022. Highly recommended.

The irrepressible Immutable is out through Atomic Fire Records now on CD, vinyl (with variants), cassette, and, of course, digital.

Band photo by Edvard Hansson and Brendan Baldwin.

Link.

Meshuggah website, https://www.meshuggah.net/home

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

Atomic Fire Records, https://visionmerch.com/atomicfire/meshuggah/

© Wayne Edwards.

Meshuggah, Immutable (Atomic Fire 2022)

Hellacopters, Eyes Of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast 2022)

After a fourteen-year recording hiatus, The Hellacopters are back with a new studio album, Eyes Of Oblivion.

Starting off as a garage rock-style band in 1994, Sweden’s Hellacopters forged a following with a big start opening for Kiss not long after releasing their debut long-player Supershitty to the Max! in 1996. They released six more studio albums in the following years before embarking on a farewell tour in 2008 and wrapping things up. You can’t keep a good thing down forever, though, and the band reëmerged in 2016 for some anniversary appearances. Now we have Eyes Of Oblivion.

What’s the new one sound like? The band’s Nicke Andersson has a few thoughts. “The album has 10 songs and although it’s obviously not easy to be objective at all, I think musically it sums up everything we’ve touched upon from the start in 1994 up until now. Some of the songs date back as far as 10 years or more, and some were written more recently. It’s rock and roll played with high energy, so for lack of a better term I say High Energy Rock And Roll.” It is hard to argue with that. The music on the album is a kind of summary, in a way. Given the long history of the band and its legion of fans, new music that has a familiar flavor is bound to be just what the people want.

“Reap A Hurricane” breaks the ice with a catchy, guitar-driven hard rock head rattler. The chorus has you singing along immediately and every time the guitar breaks through it is cause for a fist-pump. “Can It Wait” has a more serious tone – a little – and takes a couple more chances with tempo. “So Sorry I Could Die” is a heavy-hearted blues number that that shifts from head-bobbing to a cool sway. Very nice.

I really like the title track, I must say, and it is clearly a banner-carrier for the album, as we might expect. Crisp and clippy, it has radio written all over it. Listen to this track first if you want a get-acquainted ramp. The top track for me is “Beguiled” for its incredible urgency and the way it got stuck in my synapses on the first play. Play that one second, then start at the beginning and go all the way through.

There are many twists and turns on the record. Enjoy the regular emergence of rock and roll piano in the rhythm section and absolutely delightful homages. The Hellacopters have come together and put out a great record that is a truly welcome return. I hope many more will follow. Recommended.

Eyes Of Oblivion is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. Check out the links below to see what and all can be had.

Link.

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

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/cd/cd/the-hellacopters-eyes-of-oblivion.html

© Wayne Edwards.

Hellacopters, Eyes Of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Spiral Skies, Death Is But A Door (AOP Records 2022)

Radio-friendly heavy psych band Spiral Skies release their second album, Death Is But A Door.

Centered in Stockholm, Sweden , Spiral Skies is a band of mystery. They released an EP in 2015 called A Queendom To Come, and their debut full-length album, Blues For A Dying Planet (2018), attracted good notices. Their musical style is an amalgam of 1970s and 1980s European rock themes combined with a light version of heavy psych, perhaps designed to reach a broader audience than a heavy stoner vibe likely would. The band is Frida Eurenius (vocals), Dan Svanljung (guitar, key, didgeridoo), Jonas Lyander (guitar), Eric Sandberg (bass), and Daniel Bäckman (drums).

There are nine tracks on the album, starting with “The Endless Sea” which begins sweetly then turns toward the aggressively dramatic before you have a chance to get fully settled in. The shifting landscape in this composition signals what is to come. Not every song plays with this much variety, but a good deal of ground is covered throughout the set. “Into The Night,” for example, is a peppy, radio-friendly song, and a diversion from its predecessor. It reminds me a little of some of the music by Demon I used to listen to in the eighties, except more lyrical and, well, better.

“Time” is a track to look out for as it has nice lead guitar work. The closer, “Mirror Of Illusion,” is quiet and reflective, and it turned out to be a favorite of mine as well. The music is very listenable. Frida Eurenius’ voice is beautiful to hear, and the compositions are engaging and approachable. The guitar-driven light stoner vibe is just the ticket when you are in that place in your head. Recommended.

Death Is But A Door is out through AOP Records on Friday, March 25th. Links below.

Links.

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

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

AOP Records, http://www.aoprecords.de/

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Spiral Skies, Death Is But A Door (AOP Records 2022)

Monolord and Firebreather at Black Circle Brewing, March 19, 2022

Two bands from Gothenburg, Sweden rolled in to Indianapolis on Saturday night and laid down the doom.

Black Circle Brewing is a restaurant and bar in Indianapolis that attracts an impressive roster of heavy music acts throughout the year. On Saturday night, it was Monolord and Firebreather who took the stage. Both stoner / doom bands from Sweden are touring on new albums. The local opener was Ancient Days, and they have new music out, too.

Ancient Days is a five-piece doom outfit with a mysterious, bewitching vibe. I arrived at Black Circle just as they started to play, so I head their sonic emanations spilling out into the neighborhood as darkness was folding over the city. It was an amazing way for the show to begin. Check out their music at Bandcamp – their latest album is Sign of the Times.

Firebreather is playing every stop on the tour, and they have a titanic rumble about them. Their latest album is Dwell In The Fog, and once you hear it, you won’t be able to stop listening. The music is a rambling groove of rushing heavy, and their live performance is a nonstop push that probes your cerebellum and gets your head swinging.

Monolord is a band I have been following for years and years. Your Time To Shine is their latest album, and I have been on the bandwagon since Empress Rising. I don’t know how it is possible, but this is the first time I had ever seen them live. I have heard every song they have released and I’ve seen recordings of their performances, but being there is a whole different experience. That’s why we go to shows, right.

Black Circle Brewing is a small, intimate place. There is no pit, so you can stand right up by the stage, which rises only a couple feet so it feels like the band is in the same space you are. The show was sold out and the crowd was a solid sea of doom fans. We got everything we were looking for and more. Unsurprisingly, this performance made me want to see Monolord again even more, if that is possible. Then again, how could it go any other way? I know for sure I’ll catch them at Psycho Las Vegas at the end of the summer – get those tickets while you still can because that event is going to legendary.

Monolord and Firebreather have several more dates in March in Texas, Arizona, and southern California. Check out the tour poster below and see if they are coming your way.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Monolord, https://monolord.bandcamp.com/

Firebreather, https://firebreatherdoom.bandcamp.com/

Ancient Days, https://ancientdays.bandcamp.com/

Black Circle Brewing, https://www.blackcirclebrewing.com/black-circle

© Wayne Edwards.

Monolord and Firebreather at Black Circle Brewing, March 19, 2022

Necrophagous, In Chaos Ascend (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

The debut album from Swedish death metal band Necrophagous tells terrifying tales with blast beats, growls, and tsunamic guitar riffs.

The band is comprised of Visceral Bleeding and Entrails members Tommy Carlsson (vocals, guitar), Jocke Svensson (bass), and Martin Michaelsson (drums). The music they have created for In Chaos Ascend embraces the baseline assumptions of the accepted death metal canon and then bends and folds fresh new ideas into the primordial maavu. The result is consistently impressive and revealing.

There are ten tracks on the new album, plus an intro segment. The seal is broken by “Order Of The Lion,” and the hammers swing meaty on this one. A consistent pattern of heaving hitting, groovy riffs and rambunctious percussion continues as you traverse the shadows and shifting landscape, all the while serenaded by gruff, coarse singing.

The title track is a stand-out for its consciousness-clearing shifts and juts. The rambler steady-on riff is a faithful raft on a raging river. “Blood On The Stone Of Thee Monuments” also captured my imagination. The bass lines are a big part of all the songs on the album and the bass really eats your lunch here. And then there is “The Plague And The Arts” which is a shocking affair that will stand for no nonsense. It shakes your pockets empty.

The closer is “Wreaker Of Pain,” a clandestine apothecary of metal abundance. It bellows and howls in a magnificent statement that declares Necrophagous a band to be reckoned with in any discussion of heavy music in 2022. This album is a great way for death metal fans to kick off the new year. Recommended.

In Chaos Ascend is out through Transcending Obscurity Records on Friday, January 7th. Check out the label’s US on-line store or Bandcamp for the goods.

Links.

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

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/necrophagous.sweden/

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

Necrophagous, In Chaos Ascend (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

Funeral Mist, Deiform (NoEvDia 2021)

Deiform marks the fourth long-player from Swedish black metal stalwart Funeral Mist.

Daniel Rostén is the singularity behind Funeral Mist. Playing all the instruments and vocalizing the performances, Rostén is the master of the creations that result. Working with a black metal foundation, the music on the new album is aptly described in the press release as “… musical pieces contemplating the nature of divinity and mortal existence through the fiery lens of black metal.”

There are seven tracks on the new album, mostly quite long with four hovering around the nine minute mark. “Twilight of the Flesh” offers chants and a solitary guitar as an opening incantation, followed by steady, driving rhythm and an emergent theme. The ritual feel cannot be ignored. Halfway through, the music explodes in rampaging aggression. In the final quarter a dramatic, theatrical pall consumes us as the distant voices come back into orbit. It is a mesmerizing song.

One of the shorter songs comes next, “Apokalyptikon,” and it is delivered at a blistering pace with vocals coming in a manic mechanic voice. It is sharp and biting; industrial. Someone opens a door and the next song is “In Here,” matching the speed of its predecessor. The resolution of the track is very odd and disturbing. The pairing of children’s voices with black metal tropes in “Children of the Urn” destabilizes the ground you stand on, leaving you unprepared for the fury of “Hooks of Hunger.” I needed to sit down after this one.

The final two songs, together running over eighteen minutes, are the title track then “Into Ashes.” The music is at first a doom-soaked journey seeking hoary wisdom, and it is a treacherous path. These two pieces go together in my mind, the earlier one being more discernably narrative and the latter taking on an aura of inevitability. The music on this album is full-strength black metal told in a tongue I have not heard before. Recommended.

Deiform is out now through Norma Evangelium Diaboli. In the US, Bandcamp has the digital, CD, and vinyl versions.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://funeralmist.bandcamp.com/album/deiform

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

NoEvDia, https://www.noevdia.com/

Funeral Mist, Deiform (NoEvDia 2021)

Wombbath, Agma (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Thirty years in, Swedish death metal band Wombbath create an amazing new album that is one of the best they have ever released: Agma.

Wombbath started in 1990 and released the first EP of the band’s canon in 1992, Several Shapes. Having gained experience and popularity in the initial run through 1995, the musicians took a break for a couple of decades. Reforming in 2014, the band has been on a tear ever since, producing four long-players and five splits since, not including the new album. The writing is stronger and more inventive than ever, and Wombbath has positioned itself as a pivotal player in the international heavy music scene. The band includes founding member Håkan Stuvemark (guitar) with Jonny Pettersson (guitar and vocals), Thomas von Wachenfeldt (guitar and violin), Jon Rudin (drums), and Matt Davidson (bass).

Agma is a double album with sixteen tracks. The baseline is old school death metal, and you hear that in every track. In addition, most are augmented with surprising additions and twists that deepen the metal experience. For example, “At The Giant’s Feet” has unexpected high-pitch harmony vocals that drop from the sky and startle you. This song is followed by a string of punishing death metal songs, and then you hear “Blindly They Follow” with its soaring vocal pairing to go along with the blast beats and ravaging guitars. “Breathe In the Flames” rolls out at hyper-speed and also has a beautiful violin segment. The album is a sprawling forest of wonder.

Songs that stand out for me include “Misantropi Och Förakt” for its explosive moments and “The Age Of Death” for the sheer unlikeliness of its construction – elements work together that I would never have thought to join up. “In Decay They All Shall Fester” is another one that achieves unity by combining seemingly disparate constituents. The list of strand-outs could be a lot longer. Indeed, Agma might just be my favorite Wombbath album. Highly recommended.

Agma is out today through Transcending Obscurity Records. Check out the links below to see the stunning variety of merch, variants, and bundles that are available for this release. Transcending Obscurity is unmatched on this front – they always have incredible options for collectors.

Band painting by Benny Moberg.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://wombbathdeath.bandcamp.com/album/agma-death-metal

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

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

FFMB review of Tales Of Madness, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/12/18/wombbath-tales-of-madness-transcending-obscurity-2020/

Wombbath, Agma (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Abscession, Rot Of Ages (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Swedish death metal band Abscession takes another merciless swing with Rot Of Ages.

The demo Death Incarnate was the band’s first issue in 2010. Grave Offerings came five years later, their first full-length album. Right on schedule, Rot Of Ages is ready for fan consumption a little over one lustrum later. There is not a lot to go on when thinking about what to expect on the new record, but as it turns out the music is a rewarding avalanche of heavy metal surety. The band is comprised of Thomas Clifford (vocals), Skaldir (guitar, bass, keys), and Markus Porsklev (drums).

“Rat King Crawl” explodes at the jump in a race to the end of all things. It slams and pounds all the way through, not changing pace as much as it changes expression in the fourth quarter. It’s a killer. “Theater Of Pain” is more frantic and that’s fine because your blood is flowing fast from the opener. “Dead Man’s Hate” is a heavy metal breather with slightly less pace but just as much weight. The structure of the song allows for twists and turns, rushes and halts.

“Rains Of Death” is a blasting frenzy, capping the fairly short songs on Side 1, leading to the longer title track. “Rot Of Ages” rakes you over the coals for two straight minutes then abruptly drops into a beautiful solo piano aside, joined by clean vocals – for about a minute. Then the rampage returns, softened at the end by a piano callback.

The flip side has more delights in store, and the energy does not diminish at all. My favorite tracks on the back half are “When The Guillotine Falls” and “Prometheus Unbound,” both because of the way they deliver on expectations while jangling a couple of surprises in the mix. The music here is solid death metal at high speed, clinically structural rhythm, and a whole lot more. Recommended.

Rot Of Ages is out on Friday November 19th through Transcending Obscurity Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://abscessiondeath.bandcamp.com/album/rot-of-ages-death-metal

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

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

Abscession, Rot Of Ages (Transcending Obscurity 2021)