OLD MUSIC: Forgotten Spell – Desecrated, Decayed and Still Holy

Forgotten Spell - Desecrated, Decayed, and Still Holy

Salvaging one of  my few Number of the Blog reviews that I could find.

German black metal is an interesting beast, in that a lot of it sucks, but sucks in a very endearing manner. Some of Germany’s best black metal releases are sloppy and amateur sounding, making up in effort and soul what it lacks and professionalism. But occasionally a German band comes a long that is able to buck the trend of enjoyable shittiness. Your Tha-Norrs, Lunar Auroras, and now Forgotten Spell.

Let’s start with the obvious thing: The production on this demo sucks. There’s no dancing around the issue, it just sucks. In fact, it makes Moon seem decently produced in comparison. Everything sounds buried or feels like it was recorded at a distance, with the drums heavily muffled, and the vocals barely being audible over the constant roar and screech of the guitars. The whole thing has a very dry sound, if that makes any sense (It makes my mouth feel dry; odd that music can do that). But yeah, Dimmu Borgir this ain’t.

Another thing one might notice when looking at this tape is how insanely long it is. Consisting of 9 tracks and clocking in at just under 90 minutes, Desecrated, Decayed, And Still Holy is longer than most full length albums. Two of the songs clock in at 16 minutes long, and sitting through the entire demo can be hard at times. It does require a certain patience to sit through, but if you’re looking for obscure black metal demo tapes, you’ve probably built up a tolerance to this kind of bullshit.

Anyways, let’s talk about the music (the reason why Forgotten Spell is awesome). Not gonna beat around the bush: The riffing on this demo is some of the finest riffing that I’ve heard from a black metal band in a long time (excepting the riff-masters Immortal and Inquisition). There are so many riffs on this album that it’s hard to count them all. The muddy production also has a tendency to blend many of the riffs together, so the transitions seem to happen without notice. But that’s ok, it’s part of the charm. And with riffs as awesome as these I’m not going to complain about some muddy transitions. I think my favorite riffs are the ones in ‘The Incarnation in Contemplation of the Creator’ and the title track. The album also has some pretty good melodies, but those are kind of hard to pick out over the rest of the murk and noise.

Now, this band follows the Orthodox Black Metal trend that has been making waves lately. While I find the concept of Orthodox Black Metal almost as stupid as Christian Black Metal (since Orthodox BM is based around the premise that Catholicism/Christianity is true, but the bands have chosen to venerate Satan rather than God. It differs from your typical Satanic stuff in that it treats God and Satan as real beings rather than symbolic icons (or just being Satanic because that’s what black metal bands do)), there are some Orthodox bands I like. But overall I’m kind of meh on the whole movement. Forgotten Spell reveals the true potential of the scene, managing to create and maintain an atmosphere of evil and obscurity much better than certain other bands that shall go unnamed.

In summation, if you want to hear some German black metal at its finest, than I highly recommend Desecrated, Decayed, And Still Holy as it is far superior to many many full length albums.

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Magic Circle – Magic Circle

Magic Circle - Magic Circle

I was introduced to this band by my (internet) friend and former fellow TNOTB writer Zane (Sophus), with him saying something to the effect of “boy, do these guys love Pagan Altar.” Now, comparing something to Pagan Altar is one of the fastest ways to get me to check out a band (because Pagan Altar rules you see). When I heard the title track, I was instantly struck by how much it reminded me of ‘Judgement of the Dead,’ so I knew I would have to check out the rest of this album.

Magic Circle hail from Massachusetts, and are apparently made up of a bunch of dudes from various hardcore punk bands, but despite the  dissimilar background, these guys have a supremely good ear for old school doom metal. As the first paragraph mentioned, these guys are heavily influenced by the almighty Pagan Altar, though the title track / Judgement of the Dead comparison is the only one that’s really obvious, if you listen closely and are familiar enough with Pagan Altar’s music you’ll definitely began to hear not only the similarity in riffing, but also a similar type of lead playing, being shreddy and virtuosic while staying rooted in its subservience to the riffs, much in the way Alan Jones plays.

Now don’t get me wrong, despite how much I’ve mentioned them, Magic Circle is not just a blatant Pagan Altar clone. The influence is obvious but they stand out enough on their own to be their own entity. One of the most obvious differences lies in the vocals. They’re nasally but ultimately full of energy and vigor, which shows up a lot throughout the album. Nasally yet throaty, I guess. They certainly sound like their own thing, and Brendan Radigan doesn’t sound like he’s trying to ape anyone in particular, though he does sound a bit like Ozzy, which is honestly just a thing that tends to happen in this genre. In addition to the energetic vocals, Magic Circle will often pick up the pace of the riffing at several places, providing a nice balance between the slow plodding doom, and the faster US trad metal sound.

All in all, this is a really nice album. While it doesn’t do anything particularity new, Magic Circle manages to create their own definite sound while paying homage to the masters of their genre.

On a scale of Trivium to Manilla Road, I give it a Covenant-era Morbid Angel.

Sacriphyx – The Western Front

Sacriphyx - The Western Front

Here’s another band that was introduced to me by Sophus. Actually, he only reminded me of this album, since I’m pretty sure I’ve run across these guys while looking through Nuclear War Now!‘s bandcamp page. Anyways, Sacriphyx are a black/thrash band. From Australia. I don’t need to do the math for you (black/thrash + Australia = probably really damn good). They’ve apparently been floating around since 2007, but this is their first album after a demo and a couple of splits. Upon being reminded of this band’s existence and the impending release of The Western Front, I went and listened to all their previous material. From those releases, I realized that Sacriphyx had a lot promise to live up to on this release. Thankfully they manage to surpass my expectations here.

The Western Front is very much a thematic album. By which I mean the lyrical subject is mostly singular and really drives the direction of the music. As you can surmise from the album title and cover, this is all about the western front of World War I. The atmosphere that Sacriphyx seem to be trying to create here is one of both aggression and sorrow, capturing the sorrow of the pointless mass slaughter of an entire generation, while also maintaining the ferocity of war.

Unlike Bolt Thrower, the focus of this album is not pounding aggression but rather overwhelming oppression. The riffs are pretty much all mid-paced Australian black/thrash riffs, but the production gives them a weird jagged quality that is slightly strange but all the more captivating. The sorrow of WWI musically comes through in the form of the melodic leads woven throughout the entire album. The leads range from slower, atmospheric solos to fast shredding. Even without the lyrics the sorrow and horror of WWI comes through all to clear.

One last thing; I really love the lyrics on this album. Yeah yeah metal has covered the horrors of war many times over, but the stark reality of these lyrics, the lack of any glorification, of heroics, or of any triumphs mark this album. Seriously, these lyrics are graphic and depressing:

Draped over the trench, a bloated and sickening corpse
Staring down from above with its leering vacant eyes
Its mouth slightly ajar, perhaps in a mocking smirk
Its skin seems alive with a hundred flies

Ultimately, this album is amazing. One of my absolute favorites of this year. Every song is amazing (yes, even the acoustic ballad), and every song contributes to the rest of the album as a whole. Far more than the sum of its parts, even though all the parts are amazing. The whole thing is streaming over at NWN!’s bandcamp page, so go give it a listen.

On a scale of Pantera to Iron Maiden, I give this album a Running Wild.

What Am I Doing?

So I started this blog as a school assignment. After making a single, unenthusiastic post on a topic I was required to write about, I decided to instead start writing about things that I’m actually passionate about. So here we go.

Who am I? Well, I used to write for the now defunct Number of the Blog under the moniker Tr00 Nate (I also go under the name SPna15 around the web). The glorious crashing and burning of the entire site could not have happened at a better time for me, as I was burned out, depressed, and uninterested in writing really anything that I didn’t absolutely have to write. I’ve kept in contact with some of the writers for TNOTB, but for the most part we have all gone our seperate ways. I tried to be less of a shut-in and not spend all my time on the internet, so I’ve been pretty much absent from the web for almost two years now. I occasionally comment over at No Clean Singing, and Islander has been gracious enough to post my best of 2011 and 2012 lists. But now I have this blog (uncreatively named after the former home of my internet ramblings), and I might as well use it for something.

That something will most likely be album reviews, primarily of metal albums, since well, that’s probably about 90% of what I listen to. You might see the occasional review of some drone/ambient/shoegaze/neofolk album, but that’s probably going to be rare. I’m also occasionally going to write about older albums that I really like.

So yeah, strap-in.