Greenleaf, Echoes From A Mass (Napalm Records 2021)

A new album from Sweden’s Greenleaf is always a reason to celebrate and the new one pushes the envelope on anticipation.

Greenleaf has been laying down tracks for a couple decades now. Their most recent album was 2018’s Hear The Rivers and while the new one has the familiar presence that earlier one had, it is a step up and beyond. The band is Tommi Holappa (guitar), Sebastian Olsson (drums), Hans Fröhlich (bass), and Arvid Jonsson (vocals).

The album has ten fuzzy, psychedelic tracks that will wrap around you and soak right in. The opener is “Tides,” a get-to-know you track that lays down the blanket in the grass. “Good God I Better Run Away” follows and it is bursting with energy and urgency. It is positively loaded with wonderizing guitar work. Then “Needle In My Eye” has an ethereal quality to it, echoing as it does off the walls and telling as it does a sinister tale. You hear these three songs back-to-back and you start to drift, confident in your choice of music.

All the pieces come together on this album in the way we expect from the earlier ones. I get an extra bounce on this one, though – something about it is bigger to me. Every song has something extraordinary about it. “A Hand Of Might” sticks in my mind for its rolling tremulousness; “March On Higher Grounds” for its restless insistence. “What Have We Become” is the last song of the set and it is a meditation. On what? That might be different for every person who listens to it. At first it put me in a fog but by the end my vision had cleared. It is a good way to come down.

Echoes From A Mass is waiting for you right now. Links below. Highly recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://greenleaf-sweden.bandcamp.com/

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

Label, https://label.napalmrecords.com/greenleaf

Greenleaf, Echoes From A Mass (Napalm Records 2021)

Tribulation, Where The Gloom Becomes Sound (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Tribulation strike out on their fifth crusade of long-playing gothic horror, tuning the guitars to mysticism and setting the compass toward cemeteries.

The band began in Sweden around the turn of the century under another name playing a style of death metal that curved over time toward gothic metal and doom. Since 2004, Johannes Andersson (vocals and bass) and Adam Zaars (guitar) have been the driving forces in the band. Oscar Leander (drums) and Joseph Tholl (guitar) arrived more recently to ply sonic dimensions of decay with the founders. The most recent studio album was Down Below (2018) and the band released a live set in 2019, Alive and Dead at Södra Teatern.

The music begins sounding for all the world like the soundtrack to a horror movie – you can see in your mind the dancing skeletons when you hear the eerie refrain. The guitars land with a muted push, and the vocals are presented at a death metal crossover level. The melody of the guitar is an echoing lament and the chorus is solidly rooted in an old school metal style. The bridges are theatrical, mimicking bow-touched strings. The lead break is a soaring epitaph. It is a major production, “In Remembrance,” and it is just the first song.

In some ways, the music is a bit like a modulated, more approachable Mercyful Fate essence, although clearly less doctrinaire in the narrative. The songs are more about the vaporous essence and feeling than they are about pushing a specific idea or intention. “Leviathans,” for example has lilting quality to it while being surrounded all the while by a heavy mist that could be holding dire consequences.

“Lethe” is a lovely, sad piano piece and the very next song (my favorite on the album) is the crashing, rampaging “Daughter of the Djinn.” Heading toward the end of the album, “Funeral Pyre” is an adrenaline-fueled climax, setting up “The Wilderness,” the final song that walks you into the woods and leaves you there, feeling somehow ready to face the unknown. The experience is dark and dramatic. Recommended.

Where The Gloom Becomes Sound is available now from Metal Blade Records in all manner of visual variants.

Links.

Website, https://www.tribulation.se/

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

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

Tribulation, Where The Gloom Becomes Sound (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Trial, Sisters Of The Moon (Metal Blade Records 2021)

The new vocalist for Sweden’s metal band Trial debuts on an EP of cover tunes.

Trial (sometimes Trial (swe) ) has been honing their approach to heavy metal for ten years, most recently with the well-received Motherless (2017). The song writing and musical style has evolved over the years, and the solid guitar-driven metal on this new EP is a tantalizing preview of things to come. The members of Trial are Arthur W. Andersson (vocals), Alexander Ellström (guitar), Andreas Johnsson (guitar), Andreas Olsson (bass), and Martin Svensson (drums).

The first song, “Sisters Of The Moon,” is a Fleetwood Mac cover from Tusk. That’s right, Tusk. It might be lost to history now, but that album was the follow-up to the absolutely unfollowable Rumours. There was nothing Fleetwood Mac could have done at the time to get people to like Tusk (or any other album they might have released then) as much as they loved Rumours, no matter how good it was. Interesting, then, that Trial picked this one of all Fleetwood Mac songs to cover. They have laid the metal in heavy compared to the original and this new versions pulses with energy and life.

The second track is less of a surprise. More of an homage to Geezer Butler than to Tony Iommi, this cover of Black Sabbath’s “Die Young” would have pleased Ronnie James Dio, I think. Thankfully the airy, dream sequence from the original is a little less onerous here. Don’t get me wrong – I love this song, and Heaven and Hell was a great album. It was also the first one without Ozzy Osbourne so it continues to be bitter on my tongue. This new version is a banger, just like the original. And there is something cathartic in a way about an EP that pairs a Black Sabbath song with Fleetwood Mac song. Recommended.

Available on January 29th, Metal Blade has the goods (link below).

Links.

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

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

Metal Blade, https://www.metalblade.com/trial/

Trial, Sisters Of The Moon (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Draconian, Under A Godless Veil (Napalm Records 2020)

After a five year gap, Draconian gives us a solemn gothic album of sadness and reflection.

From the small town of Säffle, Sweden, the band coalesced from the art and intention of local musicians Johan Ericson, Jesper Stolpe, Andy Hindenäs, and Anders Jacobsson. Modulating a melodic Death Metal sound with a somber Gothicism resulted in a specific land of Doom that Draconian has helmed ever since. The sound has changed somewhat over the years, and so has the lineup, from time to time. The new album is particularly gloomy and less heavy than earlier sets. Following 2015’s Sovran, this is the second album with singer Heike Langhans, and her influence on the music has strengthened.

There are ten tracks on the new album, ranging from radio length to nearly nine minutes. Langhans’ beautiful, haunting voice is the preëminent element in the pieces, surrounded by layers of synth and guitar and juxtaposed with Anders Jacobsson’s gruffer singing. From “Sorrow of Sophia” to “Ascend Into Darkness,” shadows and demise are made alluring and unavoidable by the voluptuous Gothic entrenchment of the compositions. The music is uniformly infused by a dark forest mist of emotional hunger is unrelenting, encompassing, consuming. There are songs that have stronger Doom elements, like “Moon Over Saboath,” where the mood is more sinister and eerie, but they are in the minority. In the main, these songs come across to me as more human than fantastical. If the guitars have diminished somewhat on this album the impact of the music has not. Recommended.

Under A Godless Veil is available now – see the links below for the digital, physical, and merch.

Links.

Draconian website, https://draconianofficial.com/

Draconian Bandcamp, https://draconian.bandcamp.com/

Draconian Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/draconianofficial

Napalm Records, https://napalmrecords.com/english/draconian/

Draconian, Under A Godless Veil (Napalm Records 2020)

Wombbath, Tales Of Madness (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Back for a second round this year, Wombbath honors the past and looks to the future with Tales Of Madness.

Sweden’s highly regarded Death Metal band Wombbath came together in the early 1990s. Their first LP in 1993, Internal Caustic Torments, made a solid impression and the future looked more than merely promising. Events conspired to sidetrack the band, but the return came in 2015 with furious energy, releasing Downfall Rising, a resurrection to be sure. Since then they have been on a rampage. The Great Desolation came out in 2018, and earlier this year, Choirs Of The Fallen. And now, driving the final nail in 2020’s coffin, we have Tales Of Madness, a collection of re-recorded classics alongside new songs. The lineup has evolved over time, too. Originator Håkan Stuvemark is joined by Jonny Pettersson, Thomas Von Wachenfeldt, Jon Rudin, and Matthew Davidson.

There are eight tracks on the new album. Some of the re-recorded songs go back to the band’s earliest demo, Brutal Mights (1992), including “Tales From The Dark Side,” “Brutal Mights,” and “Unholy Madness.” One of my favorites from way back when is there, too, “Lavatory Suicide Remains” from the 1994 EP Lavatory. The newly worked versions are true to the original intentions, with an upgraded, fuller sound. Several bands have made this move on their older material, with varying degrees of accomplishment. Here it is a great success.

Among the new pieces, “The Fleshly Existence Of Man” stands out for me because of its intensity and penetrating opening guitar line that curls around your inner ear and stays there. It includes a haunting violin and whispering sinister choir segment that serves to drives the hard music in deeper. Overall, it is astonishing how well the new versions of the old songs match up with the current music created by the band. The clear arc between the past and the now bodes well for the future – new music has already been announced for next year. I can’t wait to hear it. Recommended.

Tales Of Madness is available now from Transcending Obscurity through their on-line shop(s) and other outlets as well, like Bandcamp. The digital is instant gratification, and if you are into solid objects, no label has greater variety or more impressive products than Transcending Obscurity.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://wombbathdeath.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-madness-death-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://tometal.com/

US Store, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Wombbath, Tales Of Madness (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Revolting, The Shadow At The World’s End review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

The next episode in the Revolting saga is another Old School Death Metal juggernaut.

Rogga Johansson is the driving force in Revolting. Joined by Tobias and Martin on the new album, they play in the Swedish Death Metal vein, old school style. That means a fast tempo, razor sharp, tight lead shreds, and the classic invader/dominator commanding coarse vocals. The band released a demo in 2008, and since then has issued an EP, a split with Morbid Ossuary, and six full length albums, the most recent being Monolith Of Madness in 2018. The Shadow At The World’s End, then, is their seventh LP, and if anything it is more creative and energetic than the ones that have come before.

There are nine songs on the new album, all at radio length and every one a ripping sonic roar. “Defleshed” is the opener, and from the first note it is like coming in on the middle of a high speed car chase. The vocals are gruff yet decipherable, and the riffs are layered. “1888” is next with a clompy rhythm up front for a short breather before the title track throws sparks and kicks it up a notch. There are a few somewhat down-tempo paced tracks, like “Daggers That Mimic Life’s Pain,” and there the power goes into the heavy so “slow” is not really a good way to describe the music. The whirring pace of songs like “To The Bitter Bleeding End” keep you on your feet all the way through, and the relative brevity of the compositions allows no attention drift. This is another excellent set from Revolting. Recommended.

The Shadow At The World’s End is available now. You can get the digital at Bandcamp. You can also order any of the amazing bundles offered by Transcending Obscurity through Bandcamp or through the labels’ US store.

Links.

Revolting Bandcamp, https://revoltingdeath.bandcamp.com/album/the-shadow-at-the-worlds-end-death-metal

Revolting Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/revoltingdeathmetal

Label website, https://tometal.com/

Label Bandcamp, https://transcendingobscurity.bandcamp.com/

Label US Store, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/search/?q=revolting

Revolting, The Shadow At The World’s End review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Lykantropi, Tales To Be Told review (Despotz Records 2020)

Swedish rock band Lykantropi emerge from the woods with a new album, Tales To Be Told, building on the strength of their previous releases and reaching new clearings.

The music is guitar driven where the guitar is mostly clear toned with very little distortion (and the occasional phase shift). Flute is also center stage in the compositions but not in a Jethro Tull kind of way. It is more like the early Atlanta Rhythm Section music if it was folked-up a little bit and the songs were about tales of the distant past, love, and occult happenings.

The band is Martin Östlund (vocals and guitar), My Shaolin (vocals), Ia Öberg (flute), Tomas Eriksson (bass), Elias Håkansson (guitar), and Ola Rui Nygard (drums). Their first two albums have been recently re-released in advance of this new one, so if you want to take the journey, it is waiting for you.

The album starts with a deeply drawn breath. “Coming Your Way” is an easing-in passageway to the 1970s rock style of the band, having beautiful flute lines and hypnotic vocals to go along with the somewhat disturbing lyrics. There is a very psychedelic and dreamy feel to every song and it has a cumulative transportive effect when you listen to the entire album. There is a groovy melancholy in a way, too, but it is the kind of feeling that is not sad or depressing but more of an acceptance of the direction of things if not the actual things themselves.

A song to pay particular attention to is “Kom Ta Mig Ut.” It delivers an embodiment of the band’s elemental sound. Partnered with “Spell On Me,” which holds the narrative torch, and “Världen Går Vidare,” where the spirit lives (and the message I really needed today), Lykantropi has made a profound impression on me. If you are in a mellow mood, this music fits the bill. Recommended.

Tales To Be Told will be available on Bandcamp this Friday, November 6th. A couple of singles are there already.

Band photo by Svartna Film.

Links.

Band Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/lykantropiband

Band Bandcamp, http://lykantropi.bandcamp.com

Label, https://despotz.se/

Label Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/DespotzRecords

Lykantropi, Tales To Be Told review (Despotz Records 2020)

Furnace, Dark Vistas review (Soulseller Records 2020)

Swedish Death Metal band Furnace release their second album this year, Dark Vistas.

Rogga Johansson (guitars, lead vocals) and Peter Svensson (bass, backing vocals) are joined by drummer Lars Demoké for the concept album Dark Vistas. It is astonishing to have a second album this year from Furnace (according to the Metal Archives), most particularly because it is essentially one big story. That is a lot of music, taken together. Maybe it is just a release timing coincidence. In any case, it is great to have both albums out now. The other album is Black Stone Church, and make sure you give it a listen, too. It is very good.

The primary themes on the new one are in the Cthulhu Mythos H. P. Lovecraft created. The dark, magical world of decadence and suffering is the perfect place for Death Metal, and Furnace make the most of the complementarities.

The music is on the Heavy Metal side of Death Metal – that is, melodic and broad with enough of an edge to know there is a knife. The vocals are coarse and decipherable while the tempo hovers in the midrange. Cinematic I would call it.

If you have read Lovecraft, then you will slide right into the narrative of the album. If not, you can catch up as you go along. The music is riff-heavy, leaning on the vocals and guitar harmony rather than big lead breaks. Some of my favorite tracks include “From The Blackest Void” which manages to be dreary and upbeat at the same time, and “The Calling” (released as a single) for its grand scope and its insistent percussion. There is a through line binding the entire set together and so you will hear recurring elements until it is all resolved in the end.

Dark Vistas is out now and available from Soulseller Records. You can also get it at Bandcamp.

Links.

Furnace Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/blackstonechurch666/

Soulseller Records Bandcamp, https://soulsellerrecords.bandcamp.com/

Soulseller website, http://www.soulsellerrecords.com/

Furnace, Dark Vistas review (Soulseller Records 2020)