Lingua Franca by Matias Melim
Here we are once again, my dear friends. After last time’s visit to the rock genre in its different facets – that somehow involved Finnish surfing cowboy – today we’ve got a far darker journey to undertake. So without further a due, let’s undertake… her (yes, I know technically/correctly it’s “undertake “it”” but this way the sound we get when reading is undertaker so it’s dark and gloomy as the bands and albums you’ll be hearing about today – dad jokes 101).
In this edition of Lingua Franca, Undertaker Jr. Matias will present you his thoughts and opinions on four albums of the darker realms of metal. These albums come from: Blodtår, Runemagick, Setanera and Mystic Circle.
Tears of Blood!
Det förtegna förflutna, meaning in English “The Forgotten Past”, is the debut album of the Swedish black metal duo Blodtår and it transmits what I think is the best feeling black metal can transmit: awe. From the get go, one can understand that this isn’t one generic directionless black metal album that starts with drums exploding, guitars getting shredded and someone screeching until their throats start bleeding. And why is that? Because this feels like a passion project that was well thought out from start to finish.
The album’s first track is the one I consider to be above all others, as it is the one that seems most complex and sets the mood for the rest of the album, not really regarding its style, but about its atmospheric theme of “lost legend”. Det förtegna förflutna kicks in with a “folk-ish” hymn-like tone that slowly evolves to a moderate style of black metal and ends calmly to the sound of an acoustic guitar. As for the rest of this album, it offers a more concise experience of black metal that is constantly permeated by a sense of epic battle that is felt with latent sorrow felt both in the vocals and by the occasional returning of the acoustic element.
As I inferred, Blodtår seem to have built a multi-layered album, in terms of its meaning, and since I don’t really believe in Google Translate to understand the lyrics, I can’t say for sure if this album has a really concise “story”. However, it really transmits the feeling of an epic and dark journey through the harsh Nordic blizzards. And for creating such an intense picture while maintaining a consistent good sound. However, I think this is one of those albums you have to listen to, in order to understand it your own way. (10/10)
Unlike most albums I usually review, this one comes from a band with already some history, having started their musical efforts during the 90’s. The band in question is Mystic Circle, a band that released its first full-length work when I was just four months old…so, yeah; respect your elders, kids! This year, they released their ninth album titled Erzdämon (“archdemon” in German), a death metal piece that surely deserves your attention.
The starting track already puts the bar pretty high with its glorious guitar initial riff and overall tone that reminded me of the heroic context of the Metalocalypse show. After this first one, we soon realize that Mystic Circle decided to experiment, even if just a little bit, in the way they start their songs (as an example the first track starts with some chants and the second starts with a synth “arrangement”), while the real meat of the songs maintains some normality offering a brand of death metal that adds some very much appreciated melodic combinations that we all love.
In its whole, Erzdämon is a breeze of fresh air. Opposite to the feeling of impending doom and evil, this album, despite its clear demonic tone, develops its music in a palatable way with intense riffs that most of the times feel, once again, more glorious than putrid, something that caught me by surprise taking into account the image associated with the band and album. Don’t get me wrong, this is trough and trough a “black-ish” death metal album with plenty of satanic themes and has the atmosphere one would expect from such an album. What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t “bend the knee” to some stereotypes of what a death metal album should sound like. As such, Mystic Circle presents a very strong and well put together work with Erzdämon. (9/10)
Is that a Cosmic Shambler?
Ok…remember when on the last review I talked about how unusual it was for me to review albums from bands with extensive history? This is yet another case. But as I’m not a profound connoisseur of bands in the heavier genres, I’ll treat this review as I did the last, so let’s pretend this is the first time we hear about Runemagick! Fun fact: even though I’m a bit empty in death metal knowledge, I’m almost sure I made a review on their previous release and suspect I enjoyed it (my memory isn’t as good as it used to be).
Having started their career in the early 90’s and released their first two works towards the end of the last century, Runemagick present their 13th album on the 28th of April – two days from the day this review is being written – with the intimidating title of Beyond the Cenotaph of Mankind. So yes, depending on when this article is released, this could be a not so early sneak peek.
Now, a bit of a warning/disclaimer: this album is, beyond any doubt, the heaviest of the four here reviewed in the sense that, at least for me, it’s not the type of album you hear on your way to the groceries or taking a walk around town. Instead, Beyond the Cenotaph of Mankind is an album best listened to with some concentration due to how intense it manages to be.
Its style is better described as death metal (the more brutal type) that traps the listener in a hypnotic atmosphere of destruction marked by doom metal elements such as the discordant and dragged guitar chords. Being fateful to their Lovecraft-inspired legacy, Runemagick create a very palpable hellscape that transmits the real essence of cosmicism where humanity is but a speck of dust in the fabric of reality with the vocals almost being the sound of some eldritch being.
All in all, this was a very interesting listening. The first time I listened to it from start to finish, I didn’t like it because it was a bit too heavy for my taste (pardon me for having sensitive ears). However on a second try, this album really resonated with me. It’s a type of powerful sound that creates a very specific type of hypnotic atmosphere that you don’t get from just any band. As such, it’s Yog-Sothoth approved (Cthulhu is normie stuff)! (9.5/10)
Fifty Shades of Silk
To switch things up, now we’ll take another type of dark metal. One that in spite of being less intense still manages to create plenty of memorable moments: I’m talking obviously of gothic metal. In this case, I’m speaking of the Italians Setanera.
Equilibrium, their latest release of this year and second overall, is a twelve-part album that is more easily described as goth just by itself, than by metal or rock. This happens because this album is marked by particular inventiveness. After its atmospheric start, you’d think some clean but deep chords would start sounding… but no, instead you get the Doom game riff. No, not the most recent soundtracks. I’m talking of the classical Doom riff that apparently goes by “At Doom’s Gate” online. And I must say: I loved this decision. It also suggested the album wouldn’t be average in its content neither in quality nor continuity and it seems I was correct.
This album has a very varied constitution. You’ll get some parts that go for rock, other that go for a more metal sound, some that go for new metal and the strangest of them all (perhaps my favorite) a very small segment of “jazz”. All these combinations are complemented or complement themselves the high quality lead female vocals that, as it is normal in this style of music, are squeaky clean. Overall, it’s a very compelling work that shows how music can transcend genres and show that Setanera can become a reference in goth music (this coming from someone that was never goth). (8/10)
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