Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Chaos, Darkness & Emptiness" by Bane - REVIEW

While I expected Bane to sound similar to other Serbian black metal bands such as May Result and the Stone, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this album. This is by far one of the best melodic black metal albums I’ve heard this year, and I could definitely see this band doing well for themselves on the international level.

What struck me as most memorable about this album was the atmosphere, as it wasn’t just “grim and frostbitten” all the way through like so many other albums of the genre. Bane balance things out very well, whether it’s the feeling of forgotten majesty in slower songs such as “The Haunting Presence”, the icy melodies of “Pandemonium” and “Inherited Infection”, or the creepy, carnival-like overtones of “Abhorrence”. Furthermore, it’s worth mentioning that those of you who are allergic to cheesy keyboards need not fear, as keyboards on this album are used sparsely and only in intro tracks (like in the awesome, early-era Mortiis-esque “Awakening of the Evil Spirits”, and “Dysthymia”, which recalls Ildjarn‘s ambient stuff). The ominous acoustic guitar melody in "Lost Shadows" is a nice touch as well, as it only further reinforces the album's atmosphere and also provides a brief break from the intensity.

While the songs are catchy, dark, and pretty much all you can ask for in a melodic black metal album, it’s worth calling attention to both the high-quality production and musicianship on this album as well. The guitar playing is flawless, the solos are classy, and the drums are top-notch, without sounding fake or over-produced. The vocals also suit the music quite well, as Branislav’s death metal growl and Khargash’s black metal rasp compliment each other perfectly and give the music another dimension. I could definitely see both black and death metal fans digging this album. It’s also good to see high-quality metal like this coming out of Serbia, as I’m not too familiar with what the metal scene is like there, but if Bane is any indication of the overall quality of the Serbian underground, then I’m excited to see what else this scene has in store for us.

When I first gave “Chaos, Darkness, & Emptiness” a listen I felt that I was listening to a Dimmu Borgir knockoff, and while I’m assuming that Dimmu is a huge influence on these guys, Bane definitely has enough of its own character to separate itself from the imitators. This and Istapp’s debut album earlier this year are, for me, some of the best melodic black metal to come out in 2010. I would definitely recommend this album for fans of Dimmu Borgir, Catamenia, Dissection, Old Man’s Child, etc.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The State of Metal 2010: Judge Dredd's Dreaded Top 10

Overall, I unfortunately don't think this was a very strong year for metal when considering how colossal the last few years of the decade have been as far as supplying great and innovative releases. However, there is certainly hope with a number of bands releasing their debuts. Some of these debuts made my top ten (Humo del Cairo, Kvelertak) while some didn't quite make it, but whose future work is bound to produce "Dredd's Dreaded Top Ten" results (Castevet, Coffinworm). Speaking of, Profound Lore is hands down the metal record label of the year in this man's humble opinion. Profound Lore had some great releases from Agalloch, Coffinworm, Castevet, and Dawnbringer among others.

I think the greatest part of the year in metal would be the fact that already established artists were able to push their sound even more and experiment, experiment, experiment. Bands like Nachtmystium, Ihsahn, and The Dillinger Escape Plan pushed the envelope even further than they had in the past with their own music. Bands like Drudkh, Alcest, and Lantlos continue to push the preconceived boundaries of black metal...or even post-black metal. And you know...Deathspell Omega is just Deathspell Omega.

Speaking of (again), the French metal scene continues to go only from strength to strength with new releases from Alcest, Deathspell Omega, Les Discrets...although I suppose the new Blut Aus Nord was a bit disappointing.

The most disappointing aspect of the year for me was the so called resurgence of Southern, sludge-inspired metal-specifically that of the Georgian scene. After absolutely essential releases from both Baroness and Mastodon last year, I had high hopes for that of bands like Kylesa and Black Tusk among many others. However, there seems to be a contrived sound and aesthetic that all these bands are gunning for. Now compare that to the heyday of the NOLA scene when each major player had their very own style, though uniquely "NOLA" all the same (compare Soilent Green to EyeHateGod to Down to Crowbar and you'll know what I mean...and that's even when most of those bands shared members ). Furthermore, ALL THESE NEW SOUTHERN METAL BANDS HAVE ARTWORK BY JOHN BAIZLEY THAT LOOKS EXACTLY THE SAME, which also makes it at times impossible to aesthetically distinguish the bands.

From my perspective, and despite how inane this may sound, the theme of this year is one of growth. Most of the albums listed below took time to grow on me. It may be my high expectations I've honed and developed for metal over the years, or it may just be because of a few bands I adore decided to step out of their comfort zones, which in turn forced me to step out of mine.

So here it is. Judge Dredd's Dreaded Top 10 of 2010:

1. "Paracletus" by Deathspell Omega
2. "Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. 2" by Nachtmystium
3. "Axioma Ethica Odini" by Enslaved
4. "s/t" by Kvelertak
5. "Nucleus" by Dawnbringer
6. "s/t" by Humo del Cairo
7. "Option Paralysis" by The Dillinger Escape Plan
8. "The Tenant" by Ludicra
9. ".Neon" by Lantlos
10. "After" by Ihsahn

Honorable Mentions (in order):
"Majesty and Decay" by Immolation
"Mounds of Ash" by Castevet
"Marrow of the Spirit" by Agalloch
"When All Became None" by Coffinworm
"Songs for Singles" by Torche
"Mechanize" by Fear Factory
"Handful of Stars" by Drudkh
"Belus" by Burzum