Sunday, 30 October 2011

Isengard - Høstmørke

You know you've met the girl of your dreams when you can go haunt record stores with her and she taps you on the shoulder to show you the obscure metal LP she's managed to unearth, buys it before you can wrestle it out of her clutches, and spends the next hour gloating that she found it before you.
When you don't COMPLETELY hate her for it, then I guess that's love.

Now that I've typed the most vomitously sentimental thing I've ever said, time to actually get into what record I'm talking about.

I'm by no means the world's biggest black metal fan, and FAR from an authority on the subject, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of the genre will be familiar with one Gylve Nagell, better known as Fenriz.

 I'm not going to delve too deeply into the myriad reasons why Fenriz is one of the most legendary, and hilarious, figures in metal, but safe to say the man is a true music fanatic.

From the death metal of the first Darkthrone album, to the genre-defining classics like A Blaze In The Northern Sky, Transilvanian Hunger et al, to the later punked-up speed metal, his music is nothing if not varied, and in all my years of listening to his stuff, I've never actually heard anywhere NEAR all of his assorted projects. One of those albums to have slipped under my radar was his completely solo record, created under the name Isengard.

I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this album, but I'm pretty excited to check it out because Fenriz is like the cool older brother that I (and a few thousand other nerds) never had.
Strangely enough, side A is first up...
Is that... is that fucking YODELLING!? I am almost tempted to put a colon-capital-d here because of the reaction this inspires in me. Yodelling. Amazing.
Knowing that he played all the instruments on this record himself, as well as sang/yodelled makes this seem actually pretty damn impressive. The riff in this track is pretty basic, but goddamn, it's almost... groovey? I can see why he did this as a seperate project, because there's a warmth and to his tone and a bounce in his playing that just wouldn't have worked in mid-90s Darkthrone, and a (I'm assuming) humour in the aforementioned yodelling and the maniacal laughs interjected into the vocals occasionally.

Most of the lyrics are in Norwegian as far as I can tell, but his voice itself is pretty damn brilliant, a real strong bellow thats a far cry from the shrieks and growls you'd associate with his main band's output at the time. I've no idea what he's yelling about, but it sounds good whatever it is.

One thing I can't get over is how great the production is! As the man himself puts it on the liner notes 'Engineered and produced [...] in Necrohell Studios to get that fine demo - sound. No clinical life - sound here!'. Yes, quite.
It has that great atmosphere to it that I like about the rawer end of black metal, Darkthrone in particular, it sounds like it couldn't possibly have been created by normal human beings, but at the same time... it does? Wow, it's a good job I don't write this shit for a living, huh? I can't put into words what I mean. Which, in a way, is exactly what I mean. There's an intangible, otherwordly quality to it, despite the fact that you know for a fact it's just a few Norwegian weirdos in a dingy little studio somewhere with fuck all to do except create this cacaphony.
But the fact that the resultant noise can send chills up spines worldwide... they must be doing something right.

I've lost track of what the fuck I was actually trying to say there... the production sounds real, human, and absolutely fuck all like most black metal, I think that was it...

Side A ends with 'I ei Gran Borti Nordre Åsen' which, regardless of what the title means, is some horn-blowing Norse insanity. This album is fucking brilliant, in the weirdest way.

Side B opens up with more surprisingly soulful vocal acrobatics, backed by an almost doom-y plod, which reminds me of, strangely enough considering this album predates it by a decade, the stuff Celtic Frost came back with on Monotheist. Thats as far as my doom-through-a-black-metal-spectrum knowledge stretches I'm afraid. Also, is that like the 50th time I've used the word spectrum in his post? Fucking hell, someone buy me some backened doom records and a thesaurus, cheers.

The next track, 'Thornspawn Chalice' is more like what I was expecting to hear from this album, opening with some splashy cymbalwork, descending into some very definitively black riffage, and tortured throat-shredding vocals. I dig it. It basically sounds like a one-man-band version of Darkthrone, and it's awesome. Sorry, Ted.

The final track, Total Death, is again purest, unfiltered black, and really does sound like it should fit somewhere on the Darkthrone album of the same name. I wonder if it's just tacked on here as filler? Because this album sure as fuck isn't a coherent body of work, considering it goes from yodelling and groovey riffs, through Norse horn nonsense, to tremolo picking and blastbeats in the final minutes... it's not boring, I'll give it that! And when I said 'filler' regarding this final track, I only meant it because it's a little... incongrous. The song itself is fucking killer.
As is this album, if you don't take it too seriously.

I would try and find somewhere that you can get hold of a vinyl copy of this slab of weirdness for yourself, but it's midnight, and I've had a long-ass day, and frankly I cannot be fucking bothered. The record was originally released by Moonfog in '95, but a quick glance at their website shows that they only have the CD version for sale now, and the website hasn't even been updated since 2007. So... good luck with that.

What I WILL suggest  is that you check out the shop where this was discovered, on the grimm, troo frostbitten streets of Edinburgh. If you ever find yourself up in the great grey North, make your way to Leith Walk, and trawl the racks of Vinyl Villains for some surprising finds. Make sure you buy something LP-sized, if only to get one of these cool-as-fuck bags.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Saviours - Death's Procession

For this post I should probably start with a disclaimer as to why this 'review' might be a little, um... glowing, shall I say? I've been an absolutely massive fan of Oakland, CA's Saviours ever since I saw them blow The Sword off the stage about three and a half years ago.
Despite being unemployed at the time, I did what I usually do when a band destroys my vertebrae through sheer headbang-age, and blew every single penny I had to my name at their merch table. Which at the time meant walking away with only their first two albums, Crucifire and Into Abbadon. Ever since that night, and those albums, I've been hooked.

Which brings me to my much-anticipated first spin of their latest slab of wax, the recently released Death's Procession.

I haven't heard a single note from this album except for the song Crete'n, which was accompanied by what is probably the best music video I have seen in a long time. If you like bikes, beers, brawls and blood, you should probably check it out.

Anyway, enough preamble, I'm gonna get into the record now.

It comes in a pretty simple, but awesome sleeve. The bizarre* patterns and shapes on the front are actually embossed, which makes this record super fun to pick up and paw, if you're as incredibly easily amused by minor sensory details as I am.

The first track, The Eye Obscene, opens with a lumbering riff which quickly gives way to widdly-widdly twin guitars. I normally don't have much time for this sort of thing, but this band does it out of love and reverance for classic rock staples like Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top, not to be show-offy pricks about it. Once the histrionics are done with, Austin Barber's vocals kick in, and you can actually hear it in this voice how much weed this guy smokes. He's never been the most vocally acrobatic and adventurous singer, and this hasn't really changed, but what he lacks in range and variety, he makes up with in... something. Whatever it is, he fucking BELTS out every damn line.
The track is a stoned stomp, with little interjections of dual-guitar flair, and is a pretty awesome tone-setter for the rest of the record.

To The Grave Possessed fucking WAILS out of the speakers with yet more squealing classic rock guitars. That's something that has evolved into their sound more and more with each release, I've noticed. Going back and listening to Into Abaddon before this album, you can really hear the evolution from their doom-y, chugging beginnings into the nimble-fingered '70s throwback rippers they're putting out now.
ANYWAY, I'm getting distracted. Once the wail-age is over, it breaks down to a solid driving rythm, in the most literal sense of the word. I can't drive, but if I could, I would blast this song with the windows down and the volume way the fuck up. Perfect semi-boogie riffage.

Fire Of Old is the third track in a row that begins with a Lizzy-worshipping dual guitar attack, and to be honest, it's starting to get a little (Fire Of) old. Fucking hell, why did no-one stop me from typing that 'joke'? I need an editor or something...
This is another mid-paced classic-rock-40-years-too-late song. One thing I'll say about this album is if you're expecting innovation, originality, and the reinvention of the wheel, well, you ain't gonna get it. If you want a soundtrack to donning your finest double-denim ensemble, downing a couple of beers, and nodding your head, then this record is probably gonna be the soundtrack to your life for the next few months.
I know it'll probably be mine.

Side A ends with Earthen Dagger, which is a return to their doomier, slower roots. It's awesome. Not really much more to say about it than that...

Side B opens with the aforementioned Crete'n, which you can probably make your own mind up about by watching the video up there. A fast-paced, straight-up, no-bullshit banger, and probably my favourite track from the new record so far. Cannot wait to (hopefully) catch this one played live.

Gods End opens with rumbling drums, before hurtling into what sounds like a speeded-up version of the Crete'n riff. This sounds like it should be a Motörhead b-side, which is obviously a great thing. Actually, now I kinda just want to listen to Motörhead... that will have to wait until I finish this side. An overly-long guitar solo in the middle of this song kinda spoils it for me. If edited down to a 3 minute ripper, it would be a contender for my favourite track.

Next is... oh fuck. Fuck. FUCK!
A creeping, crawling, doom-as-fuck riff drags itself out of my speakers. It lurches, lumbers... is that more of my beloved dirty-ass organ sound barely audible in the background? Okay. Forget the fast stuff. THIS is my jam!
The riff mutates, becomes a different, creepier beast before shifting up a considerable amount of gears, launching into the driving steamrolling riffmachine Saviours that I fell in hesher love with.
I've been waiting for a track like this the whole record.
Okay, I can't even write enough about how fucking good this song is, but seriously, buy the album for this one alone.

The album ends with Walk To The Light, which begins with (sigh) yet more twin-guitar harmonies. I hope I can get over my hatred for guitar solos enough to really get into this album, because like I said at the start, I've been a pretty huge fan of this band before now.
The solos get put on the backburner for long enough to let an actual RIFF shine through, and it's a meandering, twisted sonofabitch. Barber even approaches a croon with his vocals. Albeit a croon executed with a shredded throatful of dopesmoke.
Halfway through this song abruptly switches direction and yet again reminds me of the Saviours of old, chugchugchug-tinyvariationonguitaranddrumfillsection-chugchugchug. I dig this part. I focus on the rythm and not the lead, and it's a pretty awesome end to a record that I hope I grow to love.

If you want to worship the riff, pay into Saviours' beer n' weed fund by buying their records and shirts

and keep semi-up-to-date with 'em here

*shout out to the girl who used this word approximately 639 times last weekend. I still owe you a thesaurus...