New selection of metal records released in 2018. For this material, we've chosen latest albums and EPs from such acts as Abstract Void, Eneferens (US), Stilla (SE), Godless (IN), Twilight Fauna (US), and Samskaras (CA).
Abstract Void – "Back to Reality"
Synthwave and black metal, I’ll be honest I was expecting to dislike this, it sounds like a marriage that wouldn’t work and would most likely come off as cheesy. I don’t really know how Abstract Void have managed to pull this off but it’s a surprising and refreshing take on black metal, it’s very unlike most black metal out there but does bring to mind some of the ‘Sects’ work of Blut Aus Nord.
It sounds like the kind of Black Metal the inhabitants of Tron would make, it’s a bit whacky and at times happier than one would anticipate black metal to be but it’s competent and does what it does flawlessly. My only gripe is the vocal work, it’s heavily processed — something I associate with the 'naked' vocals not being at a good enough skill-level, I might be wrong but it’s the only turn-off for me on this album. It’s by no means something I’d listen to everyday but something I can definitely imagine bringing out once in a while.
Eneferens – "The Bleakness of our constant"
Atmospheric black metal — almost sounds like a misnomer doesn’t it? In my mind all black metal should be atmospheric, but the sub-genre junkies weren’t too happy with that, they descended and now any release which seems to be drenched in reverb, sparse passages and is relatively melodic/uplifting gets filed into that pigeonhole. So, here we have Eneferens, an atmospheric black metal band from the USA and their 3rd album "The Bleakness of our Constant"’.
Now, I can’t say that this particular sub-genre is my joie de vivre but I can say that this album is enjoyable, it has certainly melodic and has some great atmospheric open passages, "The Onward Reach" at times brings to mind Bell Witch’s sublime "Mirror Reaper" from 2017. For the rest of the album there is a nice variety of content, there is a tasteful use of clean vocals and other instrumentation. Fans of Alcest, Agalloch and Fen will likely find some things to enjoy within.
Stilla – "Synviljor"
Apparently Stilla’s latest album is for fans of Ved Buens Ende, Code, DHG and Khold/Tulus, having appreciated all of these bands greatly at some point or another I was excited to see what was on offer here. Hailing from Sweden, "Synviljor" is their 4th outing in nearly as many years, either Stilla are brimming with ideas or they just feel compelled to create as much music as possible regardless of quality.
The truth lies somewhere between the two, there are some good ideas in here and I can definitely hear some of their influences, unfortunately the majority of it never really comes to fruition and there is nothing that would ever convince me to stop listening to Ved Buens Ende or Code. There are some great passages but there is a lot to be desired from the album as a whole; the production doesn’t do much to help matters either. The tone of the guitars is piercing, far too much treble and gain, they could do with being dialled back a notch and having more body, instead of the buzzsaw approach. At times, the level of the guitars encroaches on the territory of the synths in the mix "En närvaro av då" displays this at its worst, the space the synths should bring to the song end up in a muddled mess.
It’s not bad but it could be a damn sight better, Stilla have some good ideas but really need to work on constructing songs around the 'weirder' parts of their music and building them into cohesive songs, instead of inserting avant-garde pieces that are surrounded by average black metal.
Godless – "Swarm"
Thrash/death that does little to sound original, with heavy core influences. Godless sounds like a fitting placeholder for anyone looking for some by-the-numbers modern death metal to while away 15 mins whilst they wait for the next generic cookie-cutter death metal band to release something.
Twilight Fauna – "Where birds sing my name"
Bluegrass and black metal? Sure, why not. I enjoyed Glorior Belli’s forays into Americana, surely there must be something interesting here? It seems I was right, there is something good here, unfortunately it’s the parts that are devoid of any black metal influence.
"Where birds sing my name" showcases a bunch of songs with an identity crisis, at some times mellow and soothing atmospheric pieces, other times enjoyable bluegrass romps, but when the black metal influence shows up, it all goes rapidly downhill. With drums far too high in the mix, the cymbals high mids overshadow and mask 90% of what the guitars are doing and the vocals….don’t get me started on the vocals! They’re weak, heavily processed and lacking in any kind of force behind them, they sound like when someones heard a few black metal records and then thinks they’re Atilla or Mortuus. The ‘aggressive’ portions of the songs are dreary and lack any reason to be memorable, the only place the music shines is when the black metal parts retreat completely.
Fuck...give me a full album of the material from "As autumn turns to spring", "The path home" & "Crying shame" and I’d enjoy it more than the rest of the droll black metal that is in the rest of the album...maybe get another clean singer though. I’d even take an album of the average, delay soaked, atmospheric guitar parts over the other material.
I was hoping for a blend of styles — it’s a clunky and disjointed collection of influences, that far too often feel disparate, regardless of the intent. Had more of the acoustic/bluegrass influences been melded with the black metal, the outcome may have been more compelling.
Samskaras – "Lithification"
Samskaras are doing a fine job of skirting the edges of genres like tech death, classic death metal and modern death metal even with all of its ‘core trappings. In 4 short tracks they’ve managed to pack in a whole bunch of riffs and influences, fortunately it never feels muddled or misguided. All of the songs work and are executed superbly, there is a cohesiveness to the variation that ensures none of the songs overstay their welcome or become boring.
The only thing that doesn’t appeal to me is the vocals; some people are into the mid-range tough-guy barked/spoken vocals, they’re just not for me. Aside from that there’s little that I can find to fault this E.P., i’d surely be interested to see what they can achieve with a full album release.
Also listen to:
- Whoredom Rife, Druj, Thron, Demonbreed, Unleashed, and Selvans
- Sulphur Aeon, CNTMPT, Odious Devotion, Sigh, and Shibalba
Reviewed by Dan Thaumitan