Apr 01 2018

Soul Dissolution – Stardust

My recent taste for black metal seemed to pan towards the ambient/atmospheric variety, with bands like FenWinterfylleth, and Wodensthrone being regulars on my daily playlist of late. Yet few bands really manage to create the perfect atmosphere to communicate the emotions as well as they potentially could. Enter Belgium’s Soul Dissolution, with their sophomore full length album, Stardust.

The first thing that really grabbed my attention though is the beautiful artwork on Stardust, a mixture of calmness of the night sea, and the wonders of the cosmos – almost leading me to think if this were gonna be an atmospheric version of the recent Vyre that I reviewed.

Instead, there is a certain sense of beauty that is present on Soul Dissolution‘s material. The cinematic opener Vision leaves one feeling almost as though one were watching a prelude to an epic war scene. And while Stardust is far from a visual experience, the band puts the listener through an aural experience that is of equal epic proportions. Circle of Torment introduces the band’s brand of black metal to the listener, at equal parts aggressive and melancholic. The crushing riffs that instrumentalist Jabawock creates is contrasted by that lone lead melody that is constantly present at the background. One often can’t help feeling that sadness and desperation that is brought out by the vocals of Acharan and his soul-soaked growls and shrieks. At the same time, there is that little bit of folkish elements mixed into the atmospherics, that is rather reminiscent of the works of Fen or Winterfylleth.

What really made Stardust such an engaging listen is the whole cauldron of emotions that the band manages to conjure, and evoke in the listener. Many moments on the album, one finds himself at the crossroads of rather conflicting emotions, first with the negativity and hopelessness in the vocals of Acharan, then with the beautiful backdrop that Jabawock creates, almost giving one some semblance of light at the end of the tunnel.

The production on Stardust is stellar, with an impressive soundstage that provides one with a completely immersive listening experience. There is sufficient rawness in allowing the pure energy of the band to infect the listener, yet modern enough to provide for a rather clean sound as a result, especially key in the inclusion of the synths and orchestration on the album. For instance, the way the production synergises with the musical style of the band is best heard on the instrumental interlude Mountain Path, leading to The Last Farewell.

There have been many times where a band releases an album with breathtaking artwork, only to leave listeners feeling overhyped, and underwhelmed in its actual material. Fortunately Soul Dissolution manages to bring across their message effectively, and suitably, with Stardust.

Mar 30 2018

Interview with Kalmah

With a string of high quality releases over their illustrious career, Kalmah has to be one of Finland’s best kept melodic death metal secret. This year the band releases their eighth full length album, Palo, and celebrate their 20th anniversary. We had the opportunity to talk to Pekka, guitarist and vocalist of the band to learn more.

Greetings Kalmah, thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you. Before we begin the interview proper, let’s talk about your upcoming album, Palo. The new record will be released on April 6th 2018 via Spinefarm Records. What can fans expect from the new record?

Pekka (guitars, vocals): I believe that they expect a true melodic death metal album and that’s exactly what are they gonna get! The album contains 10 songs with different tempos, melodies and lots of nuances that will please our fans, that´s for sure!

The band will be embarking on the a tour in support of Palo, which will see the band performing in 4 cities. Will the set list be specifically focus on the new album song?

I think we’re going to play 3-4 songs from our new album. We just cannot drop out some songs that we have composed before just because there are fans that want to hear those. I think it’s going to be very interesting to write a new setlist.

The band released the first lyric video to Evil Kin from the upcoming album last month. Were there any particular reasons for releasing this song as the first single off the upcoming album?

I think we just tried to save the better songs for the album… To be honest, there was not any main reason why we released that particular song. Well, maybe because that has to do something with the length but I’m not sure.

Palo is the band’s first album in 5 years. There seems to be a longer gap in between both releases considering the band’s gap is usually around 2 to 3 years. Was there a shift in the song-writing process that caused the longer gap?

I have to say no. We have so many other things going on in our lives so we just decided that we will write a new album when the time is right, So now it was.

The album artwork for Palo was done by Niklas Sundin from Dark Tranquillity; the artwork was pretty distinctive compared to the band’s previous album. Are there any concepts behind the artwork, and what was the band’s direction for Niklas upon choosing him to conceive the artwork for the new album?

Well he seemed to be a very talented artist so we send him the idea of the artwork and he send us his vision and that was exactly what we wanted so we hired him.

Finland has a big metal scene with a number of notable metal bands that have established themselves internationally, such as Amorphis, Nightwish, and Lordi. Kalmah having been around since 1998, what’s your thoughts on the current state of the music industry as a whole in Finland?

The metal music here is a part of the mainstream so I think we’re doing well. I have to tell that I’m not following the scene so passionately that I’m not that aware what’s happening underground. But this is a small country so I will find out pretty quickly when something radical happens.

I understand that Timo and Janne took part in the making of the Finnish Comedy Movie Hevi Reissu (A Heavy Trip). The trailer of the movie is currently making a hit within the metal community. How did both of them end up in the making of the movie?

I know nothing about that.

Next year will be Kalmah’s 20th Anniversary. Would there be any plans for special anniversary shows or special releases for the band to celebrate 20 years of Kalmah?

At least now we have not made any plans what’s going to happen. Let’s see.

Recently, Singapore has its fair share of Finland’s finest bands such as Mors Principium Est, who recently played in February. Our local fans here definitely look forward to watch Kalmah live in Singapore. Are there any plans for the band to do an Asia tour for the new album?

Yes, we have some consultations going on right now regarding the Asian tour but I don’t know what will happen. Stay alert!

Alright, we have come to the last question of this interview. Any last words for Kalmah fans from Singapore?

Stay Kalmah

Mar 24 2018

Aorlhac – L’esprit des vents

The French black metal scene of late seems to have been  divided into two main factions – the already very familiar dissonant style fronted by bands like Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, and my recently discovered atmospheric style of bands like The Great Old OnesAorlhac‘s musical style leans more towards those of the latter with their third full length album, L’esprit des vents, their first post-reunion release.

One is thrown into a cold atmosphere from the get go with Aldérica, as the band throws out rather bleak riffs that immediately remind one of the works of bands such as Drudkh, with the emotional sensabilities of their compatriots The Great Old Ones. Melody is one of the key elements of the works of Aorlhac, and one often finds himself mesmerised by the more melodic moments on the album, as the lead guitars of Lonn features pretty prominently throughout. For instance, that almost folkish tune at the opening of La révolte des tuchins reminds one of the works of Wintersun and their themes of the freezing winter – bringing together the contrasting emotions of desolation and beauty.

Folk metal also seems to be a huge influence on the band’s music – from the riffs unleashed by Lonn and NKS, to the vocal patterns. The choral vocals on Infâme Saurimonde give the track that heroic feel that one often gets from folk metal releases, and the arrangement of the track even reminds one of the faster-paced material of bands like Moonsorrow.

At the same time there is that urgency that is in their music, with the most part of the album seeing Aorlhac going at rather high octane speeds. The more aggressive moments present even brings to mind the Finnish black metal style of bands like Sargeist or Horna, with the utter coldness combined with the relentless speed, though Aorlhac on L’esprit des vents does has a sharper, more polished sound in its production.

While the dissonant, chaotic form of French black metal may be a more polarising style of the genre to get into, the material produced by bands like Aorlhac may be more accessible to those looking into exploring the more atmospheric, melodic side of the genre. L’esprit des vents may be a new release with a refreshed lineup, but the band has proven that they have come back stronger than before after a 7 year hiatus. 

Feb 16 2018

Kosmogyr – Eviternity

Kosmogyr is an atmospheric black metal duo that features members from Prague and Shanghai, two countries with cultures that can’t be more different from each other. This leaves one to wonder what they might sound like on their debut full length release, Eviternity. Would the band sound more like the raw style of bands like China’s Skeletal Augury, or lean towards the occult of Czech Republic’s Cult of Fire?

Turns out to be neither, but this doesn’t discount the fact that Kosmogyr‘s Eviternity could still be a potentially, erm, potent release. Instead, Eviternity is a release that sees Kosmogyr indulging in heavy atmospherics, and one that the listener easily finds himself being lost in.

Opener Sui Generis brings about some folk metal leanings, but as soon as the band kicks into high gear with The Wane, the bleakness that the band brings forth with their music quickly reminds one of the works of legends such as DrudkhWinterfylleth, or even Wodensthrone. The trebly, furiously trem-picked riffs reek of freezing coldness, and is complemented by the desperate shrieks. This often leaves the listener with an overwhelming hopelessness, as Kosmogyr easily sucks all semblance of light out with their artform.

The more aggressive moments on the album even bear resemblance to recent releases of the Finnish scene. Tracks like Quiescent for example is not unlike the later works of bands like Sargeist or Behexen, taking a gruffer and more confrontational tone than what one would expect for the more atmospheric bands of the genre. Yet there is that intertwining of softer and acoustic moments that is so reminiscent of the works of UK’s Fen.

The ease with which Kosmogyr fuses the different elements from the various styles of black metal  into Eviternity is probably what sets them apart. The band basks in the negativity that each of the sub-genres provide, resulting in an album that is at once beautiful, yet violent and destructive as hell.

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