APESHIT’s Top Metal Albums of 2013

carcass.surgicalsteelOnce again, another fruitful year in extreme music draws to a close.  We saw some long awaited comebacks by legends, three quarters of the original SABBATH line up, VOIVOD and CARCASS.  The godfathers of U.S. death metal had a healthy year with strong releases by SUFFOCATION, DEICIDE, and IMMOLATION.  We also saw young superstars, GHOST B.C. and KVELERTAK, release good sophomore albums.  Perhaps the most polarizing and criticized album is SATYRICON‘s self-titled album, which was roasted by the majority of the media and fans.

Among the mountains of releases, there is one album that we’ll gush about again and again, and that’s CARCASS‘ comeback album, Surgical Steel.  There are always good and interesting albums coming out all the time, and then there are the untouchable albums that only the legendary bands could create.  Surgical Steel scorches everything in its path and clearly shows that in the pantheon of active bands, they are at the top.

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SATYRICON – Satyricon

Satyricon - SatyriconFive years of touring and recuperation have yielded a superior record than SATYRICON‘s 2008 release, Age of Nero.  In the spirit of progress, SATYRICON explores new territory with their new self titled record.

The first half of Satyricon may catch many by surprise with its decidedly subdued, sublime style. A stripped down, straight forward feel comes with the mostly single string riffs. The band also employs plenty of their distinctive melodies.  For lack of a better word, one could describe this as SATYRICON at their “doomiest,” especially opening track “Voice of the Shadows,” which sounds like a ceremonial exhumation of a pharaoh’s tomb.

A gem in the band’s catalogue is “Phoenix,” featuring vocals by Sivert Høyem of Norway’s MADRUGADA.  It’s not just the first SATYRICON song to exclusively have clean vocals but it’s downright good.  It’s gloriously powerful and ranks as one of the band’s best songs.

Side A is not about traditional metal notions of heaviness or aggression. The silence and quietness of it all creates a thick, heavy atmosphere.  This is a new side to the band and some may find it off-putting.

Side B sees some of that SATYRICON speed and aggression but on average, it does not get faster than Diabolical, Now or Age of Nero tempos.  “Walker Upon the Wind” and “Ageless Northern Spirit” feature that good old, biting aggression of latter day SATYRICON. “Nekrohaven“‘s hooks catchy in a punk/post-punk way.

Without a doubt, “The Infinity of Time and Space” is the centerpiece of  Satyricon.  The classic sound of the first three records meets the sound of the last few albums in quite a soulful journey.  The song perfectly captures the essence of the band – that strong will and the inexorable Norwegian black metal spirit.  Closing track, “Natt” (“night” in Norwegian), brings it all back to folk era of the band and serves as a great closing instrumental.  Listen carefully for the whispers.

While many extreme metal bands are looking to push the envelopes of sonic brutality and heaviness, SATYRICON use the power of silence and piano sections (the music technique, not the instrument) to convey heavy atmospheres.  While Satyricon may not rank as the band’s best work, it is certainly a very interesting, stimulating and commendable one on several levels.  The vision and artistry cannot be denied.  Bravo.  (Nuclear Blast Records)

New SATYRICON Song from Self-Titled Album Online

A song from SATYRICON‘s upcoming self-titled album, “Our World, It Rumbles Tonight,” has been posted online.  Check it out below:

As you can hear, the album is a bit different from their past material.

Satyricon is set for a September 9th release in Europe and September 17th release in North America.

“We are back. Sorry it took so long, but we needed the time to be able pull off a record like this,” states band frontman Sigurd “Satyr” Wongraven. “Comparing this one to previous records is time wasted, it is SATYRICON; constantly on the move. Naming this record Satyricon was the most obvious thing in the world. We have never done a record which captures the spirit of this band in such a way. Ever. It will demand a lot from you as a listener, but I know you will love it. It will grow on you and that is why it will stay with you forever. We won’t tour as much in the future as we used to, and that will just make every tour more special. This album is for you and ourselves. It is our moment!”

SATYRICON Returns with Long Awaited New Album

After a long hiatus, SATYRICON have announced their self titled new album set for a September 9th release.

Speaking about the band’s new album and return to the live fray in Europe, mainman Satyr comments: “We are back! Sorry it took so long, but we needed the time to be able pull off a record like this. Comparing this one to previous records is time wasted, it is SATYRICON; constantly on the move. Naming this record ‘Satyricon‘ was the most obvious thing in the world. We have never done a record which captures the spirit of this band in such a way. Ever. It will demand a lot from you as a listener, but I know you will love it. It will grow on you and that is why it will stay with you forever. We won’t tour as much in the future as we used to, and that will just make every tour more special. This album and this tour is for you and ourselves. It is our moment!”

Satyricon was produced by Satyr and recorded in their native Norway, and mixed by Adam Kasper.

Underground Gems: THORN’s Stigma Diabolicum

In 2011, the world knows and reveres legendary Norwegian black metal bands such as EMPEROR, MAYHEM, IMMORTAL, and SATYRICON. But where’s the love for the seminal Norwegian band that helped to spur the creative explosion of the 90′s black metal scene?

Formed in 1989, STIGMA DIABOLICUM, which would later be named THORNS, helped to pioneer the cold, black atmospheres and riffing style that would become synonymous with the label “Norwegian black metal.” The band only have two official releases, which include the godly self-titled album from 2001 and the equally stimulating 1998 collaboration with EMPEROR that are both available on Satyr‘s Moonfog Productions. Prior to that the band had two demos/rehearsal tapes, Grymyrk and Trøndertun. Thankfully, the good people at Kyrck Productions released both on a limited edition release under the THORNS name entitled Stigma Diabolicum. As the side note, Kyrck Productions has put out a lot of rare demos/early releases by, now, legendary black metal bands. Check them out.

By their nature, the songs on Stigma Diabolicum are raw and unrefined in their production values, performance, and songwriting. But man, you can hear and feel the birth of a new sound in these songs. Plus, it’s so easy to hear how influential this band was when you compare it to what followed. One of the most obvious homages can be found in DISSECTION‘s “Where Dead Angels Lie” by way of THORNS‘ “Aerie Descent.”

If you can get your hands on this limited compilation, do not hesitate.

ICS Vortex’s Debut Solo Album, Storm Seeker, Coming Out August 2011

ICS Vortex, former DIMMU BORGIR and current BORKNAGAR and ARCTURUS member, has announced that his debut solo album, Storm Seeker, will be released on August 22nd, 2011 in Europe and August 23rd, 2011 in North America via Century Media Records.

Check out the track, “The Blackmobile,” below:

The album’s line-up reads as follows:

ICS Vortex – Vocals
Asgeir Mickelson – Drums (SARKE, SPIRAL ARCHITECT, ex-BORKNAGAR)
Terje “Cyrus” Andersen – Guitar (SUSPERIA)
Jens F. Ryland – Guitar (BORKNAGAR)
Steinar “Azarak” Gundersen – Bass (SPIRAL ARCHITECT, SATYRICON)

DOCTOR MIDNIGHT & THE MERCY CULT – I Declare: Treason

When Hank von Helvete abruptly and quietly quit Norwegian death punk gods TURBONEGRO in 2010, it shocked and saddened fans. And with the same suddenness he is back with a new band, DOCTOR MIDNIGHT & THE MERCY CULT. This super group also features ex-members of APOPTYGMA BERZERK, CADAVER, EXTOL, KMFDM, and MARILYN MANSON. Their sound is straight up metal with a mean, dark, and brooding edge.

It doesn’t take much to discern that the theme of I Declare: Treason deals with very personal issues such as betrayal, disillusionment, revenge, misunderstandings, redemption, and broken relationships. There’s no doubting that Hank is singing from the heart.

I Declare: Treason is quite diverse in its metal riffing. It’s a seamless blend of classic and contemporary thrash, death metal, and black metal that doesn’t seek to blow the listener apart with speed or heaviness. I Declare: Treason is not necessarily about being hard hitting, immediately gratifying, or extreme either. Instead the band focuses on strong riffs, hooks, muscular grooves, and spacing. Credit must certainly be given to this veteran line-up.

Hank von Helvete lays down, perhaps, his most soulful and diverse vocal performance here (i.e. “Ok (We’re Just About to Die)“). His vocal lines fit in with whatever the song calls for instead of being a one trick pony. His hardcore punk background also helps to inject some attitude that is often missing from other bands.

Taken as a whole, the album hits its stride often with some less potent songs in the mix. Stylistically, it may take some time to adjust to the band’s unique style but it’s definitely worth it. If you can get the digipak version which contains two bonus songs, go for it. I Declare: Treason is a damn good debut album that may be one of the year’s best releases. They got the snarling attitude and the songs to back it up. (Season of Mist)

Video of the Day: The Hidden Gem in KEEP OF KALESSIN’s Back Catalogue

Tried and true underground metal warriors are all familiar with Norway’s KEEP OF KALESSIN. No doubt they’re a worthy band with good records. However, one of their releases, the rare Reclaim EP, is something that may have eluded the access of many. If you can find this hard to find release, I suggest you snatch it up immediately.

Band mainman/guitarist, Obsidian C., recruited black metal legends, Attila Csihar (vocals) and Frost (drums), for this glorious undertaking. What resulted is one of the coolest pieces of black metal in an easy to enjoy EP format.

Check out this track and then prove me wrong:

1349 – Demonoir

1349 is a band that has flown under the radar for years now, despite having one of the most skilled drummers in the world – Frost of SATYRICON fame. Even their Norwegian brethren KEEP OF KALESSIN have grown more popular than these blast masters. While 1349 turned off a large percentage of their fan base with the experimental Revelations of the Black Flame album, Demonoir returns to proper form with unrelenting, ugly black metal, the way it’s supposed to be.

As with Revelations of the Black Flame, Demonoir features ambient tracks, but the ambient passages on this album should be looked at as completely separate “music” from the actual songs. This works to 1349’s advantage as the flip flop of ambient tracks and regular songs breaks up the speed and intense battery of Frost’s hellfire to avoid the monotonous blast formula as evidenced on some MARDUK releases. Demonoir consists of seven ambient parts which alone make up an amazing horror soundtrack, as well as the six actual songs to assault the ears with.

Atomic Chapel” starts the chaos with blazing double bass and blasts reminiscent of Hellfire with SATYRICON riffs thrown in. The intense non-stop blast fest of “When I Was Flesh” pushes speed and beats per minute (bpm) to the limit before peaking with “Psalm 7:77,” which incorporates a thrashy main riff, insane drum fills, and can be best described as “controlled chaos.”

Hints of Beyond the Apocalypse and Hellfire can be found in “Pandemonium War Bells,” but these riffs still sound fresh and Frost’s use of the high hat and ride cymbals are best heard when listened to at maximum volume. “The Devil of the Deserts” shows where SATYRICON would be if they continued with the style of writing as witnessed on Nemesis Divina – great riffs, balanced with the brutal machine gun blastbeat attack is definitely not for the faint of heart. Although the piano piece is oddly placed at the end of the track, it creates an atmosphere fitting to lead into the last track, “Demonoir.” The final opus slows down the pace, and takes the approach of latter SATYRICON-era riffs – the simplistic yet heavy riffing that would make even Satyr jealous.

Demonoir can be characterized as the typical fast Norwegian black metal album, but 1349 is still underrated and underappreciated in the extreme metal circuit. As always, the best part of 1349’s albums is the fury that Frost unleashes, and unlike being told what drum beats to play, like for the OV HELL project, he doesn’t hold back this time around. Demonoir is uncompromising, raw, with no pretty melodies, and anyone opposed to that style should stay clear of this brilliant piece of work. (Prosthetic Records)