Mini-Reviews From Around the Bowl: 1/31/20

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Don’t have time to read a whole-ass 1000-word review? That’s fine; we don’t have time to write them, either.


Death VanishTotal Solitary Instinct
Eternal Death | November 8, 2019

After a pretty rough-sounding debut, the latest release from this solo project of One Master‘s Valder tones things down just enough that individual elements become discernible. It’s still raw as fuck, but weirdly, most of that effect is created by the distortion on the vocals and the drum sound, particularly the hissing cymbals. The guitars don’t contribute a lot of noise, often sounding peculiarly clean, if still slathered in reverb. This makes for a unique sound and an ominous atmosphere that I haven’t heard anyone else do. Fittingly, the tempo is mostly slow, with bangers like the third track being the exception. The image it evokes is one of half-naked, blood-spattered cultists writhing and screaming at the bottom of a cavern in some drug-fueled ritual of unfathomable purpose. Good times! –Hans


Bränd JordÖvertro & oförmåga
Independent | March 10, 2019

Bränd Jord (“scorched earth”) have always done a good job of sounding like an accompaniment to the picture their name paints, with a low-gain, clean yet gnarly sound that resembles dry, cracked earth from which it seems nothing could ever sprout, but which has cultivated its own peculiar semblance of life. Occasional melodies or guitar solos dot the landscape like withered and twisted flora, some of which sports peculiar colours and is probably hallucinogenic. This time around, the focus lies a bit more on the furious winds that blast over the plain, as the band frequently picks up the tempo. Other than that, not much has changed in this hostile hellscape, which is kinda comforting. By now, Bränd Jord’s unique bränd of extreme metal feels like I’m coming home to my favourite desolate wasteland. –Hans


BednjaDoline Su Ostale Iza Nas
Transcending Obscurity | November 29, 2019

In my experience, a lot of bands playing a blend of black metal and hardcore tend to skew things too much in favour of the latter, playing what essentially amounts to hardcore with a few blackened elements. Bednja was therefore a pleasant surprise. The intro track already roots their debut firmly in black metal territory with sounds of rain and a droning riff before the band kick things into gear by… shouting their name. Well, that’s hardcore for ya. Going forward though, that element is largely limited to the vocal styles of the two singers and finds little musical manifestation. It’s basically atmospheric black metal with an occasional dash of youthful energy that, while not groundbreaking, successfully puts you in a melancholic headspace. –Hans


UnreqvitedMosaic II: La Déteste et La Détresse
Prophecy Productions | January 10th, 2020

In stark contrast to 2018’s Mosaic I: L’amour et L’ardeur, which focused on the lighter parts of life, Mosaic II: La Déteste et La Détresse — as the name already implies — focuses on the darker side. It shows in tracks like “Nightfall” and “Wasteland,” which seriously tug at the heartstrings, but it certainly isn’t your typical depressive suicidal black metal fodder. While horror and sorrow prevails, there is a strange beauty in the songs that has written for this record. It even is uplifting at some points. Not euphoric, like Mosaic I was, but the expression of an artist trying to find the silver linings in sadness and anxiety. Mosaic II, while incredibly thematic, is surprisingly incalculable and a joy to listen to. – SLNC


GrimahIntricacies of Bowed Wisdom
Vertebrae | January 3rd, 2020

I took notice of this debut record while Bandcamp spelunking, as Black Metal Porkins so lovingly calls it. Thus Spake The Stone was the preview track and got me hyped. Release day rolls around and, after the first half… I was a tad disappointed. It is well constructed and played melodic black metal, obviously inspired by Mgła, but not quite worship. It is easy to listen to, it is decently produced. My disappointment mostly stemmed from my feeling of them not trying to shake up the formula enough, creating monotony. But it was catchy, catchy enough that I kept listening and, by the second half, started to really like it. There is where Grimah really come into their own, creating plenty of variation in between the blast beats and putting the “melodic” into melodic black metal. It is almost funny, how the most Mgła-esque track on this record is the one to bait me into hype, and then turned out to be my least favorite of all. Intricacies of Bowed Wisdom is not breaking new ground, which probably is where my initial disappointment came from, but it is made with passion and I respect that. I hope Grimah keep on paving their own path, because there is a plenty of talent to be found here. – SLNC


RageWings of Rage 
Nuclear Blast | January 10th 2020

Rage seems to have been garnering much more attention after Smolsky’s departure than they have for the past several years, even if it’s mostly for the express purpose of contemplating whether a band that had existed for 20 years before Smolsky joined could be any good after his time had passed. Unfortunately, for a time, the answer seemed to be not all too well. Both of the previous two records managed good moments, stylistically revisiting the earlier 90’s, but also contained a lot of material built on the same riff Smolsky’s carved his entire career from. Wings of Rage continues to use the same template, but gives gives more weight to the band’s melodic side. Peavy isn’t a technically fantastic vocalist, but the trio gets as much out of his voice as humanly possible, calming down here and there and even revisiting the symphonic influences to a point where “Nameless Grave” could have been written during the Ghosts sessions.  Most of the first half is still the same, formulaic and temperate heavy metal with nondescript riffs that work just fine enough, only now slightly more nuanced than in a good few years. The second half introduces a darker and more introspective Rage, revisiting not only the symphonic influences, but also mildly progressive tones often eschewing their blocky riffwork completely in favour of a more impassioned Peavy, more meaningful and beautiful solos than they’ve had in a decade and more vivid songwriting. At 54 minutes, Wings of Rage is little too long for it’s own sake, and both the re-recording of “Higher Than The Sky” and the tepid “Tomorrow” seem like obvious choices to cut, but it’s also 20 minute shorter than either of it’s direct predecessors (What. The. Hell) so Rage can be said to be moving to a promising direction, getting more things done in a shorter span. –KARHU


Seven KingdomsEmpty Eyes
Independent | October 22nd, 2019

I consider Seven Kingdoms a quintessential NA power metal band; they do everything US power metal bands are known for, and they do it quite well. Sabrina Valentine is a vocal powerhouse, and the riffs are as triumphant and driving, but simultaneously more substantial and less cheesy than one expects from the stereotypical power metal act. Empty Eyes changes things up a bit, moving away from their speed metal rooted sound for something a bit more modern (with the exception of the title track, which very much draws from 80’s arena rock). “Monster” mixes some sweet dueling melodies with fat, low-tuned grooves that continue into some vaguely Nevermore-sounding riffs on “The Water Dance.” “Valonqar” plays the power ballad way more seriously than one typically expects of its ilk, and it all closes out on an excellent cover of “Barracuda.” It’s short and sweet, and infinitely replayable. – Spear

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