Another strong year is in the books for heavy music, so strong that making a year end list seemed unfair to every release that we did not include in our lists. The underground continues to thrive with releases from legendary bands such as DARK FUNERAL, VADER, and NEUROSIS that will stand the test of time. Actually, most of the long running bands did not fail to meet or exceed expectations. Thrash metal pioneers, MEGADETH, VOIVOD, and TESTAMENT, certainly released excellent records. What is more important is that 2016 saw a lot of great releases from less trendy, more obscure bands.
This past year is personally notable as lost a dear friend and contributor, Brandon Stratton AKA rocknro11chef13. As a small tribute, we’ve included albums that he would’ve likely picked for his year end list. Life is short, my friends. Embrace it.
Black metal kings, EMPEROR, played their first show performing In the Nightside Eclipse as part of the album’s 20th anniversary at the Sweden Rock Festival this past Saturday. Hopefully, you were one of the lucky ones at the show.
Let’s pray for a full, official band reunion as we enjoy these clips from the show. Cheers to Niclas Johansson for the footage.
Candlelight Records today confirms October 22 as the North American release date for Das Seelenbrechen, the fifth solo album from IHSAHN. Das Seelenbrechen will be available on compact disc, a limited edition digibook (with expanded graphics and liner notes), and double 180-gram clear vinyl. Pre-orders are set to launch via online and physical retail outlets beginning September 10.
“Musically, this album is a very deliberate sidestep to what I have been doing; a necessity to reset the creative parameters so not to fall into formula,” shares IHSAHN. “I think I do my best work slightly outside of my comfort zone and I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time. Free form and improvisational can be scary for a musician but it is very liberating at the same time.”
Recorded at his studio in Norway in collaboration with drummer Tobias Ornes Anderson (LEPROUS), Das Seelenbrechen courageously eschews traditional metal instrumentation in favor of a limitless textural landscape that evokes the freewheeling spirit of artists like DIAMANDA GALAS, SCOTT WALKER, and JOHN ZORN. In discussing the album IHSAHN notes, “even though my music has changed over the years, I feel there is a source of inspiration at the bottom of it all that is constant. The general idea for this album was to try and dig deep into this raw source and express it without too much refinery and do so within a less familiar musical landscape. It is the reason for several purely improvised songs and parts on this album. I spontaneously performed with just lyrics and the idea of the atmosphere I was wishing to create. While many will feel it sounds different, I don’t think it is necessarily different from my previous album. And in my head, it will fit in perfectly with my plans for the sixth album.”
Das Seelenbrechen takes its name from Nietzche‘s famed Human, All Too Human: A Book of Free Spirits. Writings by the 19th century philosopher and other historical figures have often found their way into IHSAHN‘s songwriting. “The title is taken from one of his aphorisms on art and how, in its purest form, is neither good nor bad,” says IHSAHN. The album’s abstract packaging, again conceived by Spanish graphic artist Ritxi Ostariz, embraces the aphorisms essence.
“Of all my albums, my goals for this one have been the most abstract. I’ve had quite a rollercoaster ride putting it together but now that it is done I must say I am very pleased.”
With the recent news that EMPEROR will reunite for Wacken Open Air next year (as well as Bloodstock 2014), it got me in the EMPEROR/EMPEROR-related mood. Thus, let’s check out IHSAHN‘s performance at this year’s Wacken Open Air earlier this month.
It’s a pretty good set. It helps tremendously that Ihsahn‘s backing band are Norwegian progsters, LEPROUS. Good shit.
Norwegian avant garde band STAROFASH have been working on the follow up to 2011’s excellent, Lakhesis. Here is what mastermind Heidi S. Tveitan had to say about the new record:
“The swift and short February is over today, and I´m almost ready to share some new music with you. When writing music, my main motivation is to create something I like, that is honest and heart felt. I often start with a chord progression, and keep writing and rewriting it, until it sounds right to me. Sometimes I add some parameters to work within, and for these two first songs of my 2013 project I wanted to:
“1. Have a winter kind of feel to them
“2. You should be able to dance to them.
“3. Approval from my number 1 fan. He´s five, and is probably the only person in the world who ranks me higher than Kiss.
“So did I succeed? I think I have number one under control, as I have sampled and used the winter, making it into beats, drums and textures. Number two can maybe be a yes if I am not very particular about it, however it´s definitely not dance club hits. Point three was a Hurrah, so that worked well 🙂
“Wishing everyone a lovely day and hope to be with you again soon x
“(If you don´t know what I am talking about and want to know more, please feel free to read my first blog post).”
After spending a very eventful and busy year promoting their latest album release, Bilateral, acclaimed Norwegian progsters LEPROUS have now started their recording sessions for their upcoming, currently untitled studio album, set to be released before summer 2013 worldwide via InsideOut Music.
LEPROUS singer/synth-player Einar Solberg checked in with a status report:
“As many of you already know, we’ve started recording our new album. The drums are finished, and we’re now focusing on the guitars. Also this time we’re using Vegard ‘Ihsahn’ Tveitan and Heidi ‘StarOfAsh’ S. Tveitan as our producers / technicians. The drums were recorded in the really cool and old school Juke Joint Studio (http://www.jukejointstudio.com/ ), and we’re really satisfied with the result.
“As far as the new music, we can only remind you that LEPROUS will never be the kind of band to re-create the mood from previous works, and it’s very important for us that each album has its own strong character. We have great belief in this album and we promise something fresh, challenging and soulful! This album will also be mixed and mastered by Mr. Jens Bogren @ Fascination Street Studios.”
Check out a special studio video from the drum recording sessions here:
Candlelight Records has announced that Ihsahn’s new album, Eremita, will be released in North America on June 19, 2012.
Alongside Ihsahn, the album features performances from drummer Tobias Ornes Andersen (LEPROUS), saxophonist Jorgen Munkeby (SHINING (Norway)), guitarist Jeff Loomis (ex-NEVERMORE), and vocalists Devin Townsend, Einar Solberg (LEPROUS), and Heidi S. Tveitan (STAROFASH). The album’s packaging has been created by award-winning Spanish designer Ritxi Ostariz viewable here.
Reflecting on the recording process Ihsahn notes, “This is right where I want to be musically, with lots of room for dynamics and expressive variety. Tobias and Jorgen have really added to the organic vibe I was going for and have contributed to the overall feel with their fantastic musicianship. And to have Devin, Jeff, Einar and Heidi adding their special moments, I am very privileged to be able to work with such a talented group of people. I really feel this is some of my most inspired work yet.”
A special two-minute video preview for Eremita, featuring audio segments from the record and exclusive footage filmed during the album’s creation can be viewed below:
Eremita will be available on standard CD and a limited edition deluxe digibook (featuring an exclusive bonus track).
There are two things that come to mind after listening to Bilateral: (1) Wow, this is very impressive; and (2) why haven’t I heard of this band earlier? Album number three from this Norwegian progressive band is just so damn impressive that it easily nullifies the existence of lesser bands (and there are plenty of those).
LEPROUS can do so much and they exercise that ability by blending in progressive rock/metal (i.e. DREAM THEATER, KING CRIMSON), Norwegian black metal, heavy rock (i.e. FAITH NO MORE), MESHUGGAH, and DEVIN TOWNSEND among others. While they do show their incredible musicianship, it’s never done as a wank fest like so many contemporary progressive bands indulge in. It’s always done within the context of the songs. A standout characteristic of Bilateral is that with each song, you don’t know what to expect. They never tread the same ground or follow a predictable song formula but at the same time, this isn’t a cut and paste or genre hopping record. A song like “Mb. Indiferrentia” is very quiet and gentle whereas the preceding song, “Thorns,” has a slow, heavy, and dark part with none other than friend, Ihsahn (EMPEROR), on guest vocals. Contrast that with “Waste of Air” that starts off with blast beats and becomes an exercise in building and releasing tension.
While I hate to single one member out among this talented band, Einar Solberg (vocals/synth) is absolutely fantastic. He’s got a comparable vocal range and presence to that of the great Devin Townsend and Mike Patton. So often with these kinds of bands, the vocalist can really make or break it for many listeners and Einar definitely makes it. C’mon, EMPEROR and IHSAHN have utilized him for live performances. What does that say?
Bilateral is an intriguing, adventurous, compelling, and stimulating experience. If you’re looking for such music, then look no further. (Inside Out Music)
For those familiar with STAROFASH‘s back catalogue, it’s a fact that the band’s releases are all precious gems of art. The beautiful new record, Lakhesis, is no different. Never looking to repeat themselves, the new record is distinct and unique compared to its predecessors.
Lakhesis is a predominantly guitar/piano/drum driven record with some subtle programmed samples that add color and atmosphere to the songs. Band leader Ihriel chose to write an more uptempo album that still retains those fragile quiet moments yet does not go into those ethereal, atmospheric moments on previous records.
Touch guitarist Markus Reuter returns with his unique progressive fusion style. LEPROUS‘ Tobias Ø. Andersen and Einar Solberg appear on drums and vocals, respectively. EMPEROR fans may recognize Einar Solberg from his live session work with EMPEROR for their farewell shows. He does an amazing job with his soothing yet strong vocals on songs such as “Panther in the Glove,” “Nona” and “The Fooling of the Fates.” It’s fair to say that he channels his inner Ihsahn for his performance.
Songs like “Sunlight Scattered” and “The Cereyneian Hin” are stripped down and straight forward by STAROFASH standards when it comes to the verse song sections that feature Ihriel‘s vocals, quiet guitars, and drums. Opener “Panther in the Glove” is the most decadent and heavy song on Lakhesis. Closer “The Fooling of the Fates” sucks the air out of the room due to its heavy tone and profoundness.
While Lakhesis may be the band’s most stripped down and straight forward album to date, it does not take away from the express of the band in any degree. If anything, it clearly demonstrates the songwriting mastery that we have grown accustomed to enjoying from STAROFASH. (Mnemosyne Productions/The End Records)