Vidharr – Eclipse

Operatic vocals and booming timpani drums open up this Italian horde’s full length, released in 2009.  I was just about to make a mad dash for the CD player, punch the eject button and place this album back into its case when the clouds parted and the ‘Syzygia’ was completed, casting the full moon’s light onto Vidharr‘s true face.

With a production that is intelligible without being glossy, Eclipse bashes your skull like a hammer and claws flesh from bones with its long and unclean talons. ‘Self Destructive Paraphernalia’ literally unloads a full automatic into the listener, setting the tone for the suicidal anthem. Dual guitars open wound after wound with recognizable black metal overtones and manage to stay interesting without being redundant. Although they are not the prime focus of the release, the vocals contain only the all-too-familiar rants about misanthropy and hatred, offering us nothing new with their exaggerated emphasis.

Overall, I will be listening to Eclipse again. I enjoyed its fucking negative attitude, the punishing drum performance and razor-mania guitars.  The songs are structured in a way that each instrument has an opportunity to shine as well as remain subtle when necessary. Cold and calculating at one moment and completely unrelenting the next, Vidharr have called you to witness the stars align!

Odem – Rape Your God and Pray For Reprieve

With a rusty and jagged blade, Odem tear into the stomach of a long dead corpse with this self released debut.  Twin guitars of evil begin lacerating immediately while a solid rhythm section breaks bones faster than you can count. At first listen, Rape Your God…is challenging with its disjointed and shambling arrangements of songs that shift unpredictably from breakneck blasts to odd-metered grinds.  Fans of nu-school death-core nonsense would eat it up if they could only get a more colorful album cover and a haircut kid singer. Luckily, the masochistic lyrical themes and disfigured humanoids paraded in the extensive CD booklet let us know that Odem is not looking to make friends after school.

The clearest and, for me, the most oppressive atmosphere on Rape Your God…comes from the album opener, “Crucifixtion – His Blessing”. Quickly changing gears into something different altogether, “Tortured by Razors” and the equally epic (7+ minutes) “VII” expand idea upon idea in an ever evolving amalgam of black, grind and death metal madness with expert musicianship. With all their gratuitous amounts of musical diversity and crushing delivery, I can’t help but feel that Odem‘s sense of direction has suffered from attempts at genre-defying over-experimentation.

Fourth Monarchy – Amphilochia

The slick packaging of Amphilochia left me disappointed at the contents within.  This Italian trio welcomed a session keyboardist into the studio, effectively drowning out principle songwriter Lohengrin’s impressive guitar work and leaving the album bloated with over-production pizazz. The majority of the album is enjoyable if you can stomach the keys which, in one moment, are sweeping over you with unnecessary ambiance and in the next sprinkling you with hand-bells and fairy dust.

Exuding the dramatic aura of a concept album, this three-part release is in the Italian (and, apparently, Greek as well…) tongue, so I am no more enlightened now after three solid listens than I was before my first. In this time, I was fortunate enough to pick up on the overall feeling and message being relayed.  Keyboard passages aren’t really necessary when dealing with this level of guitar work and rhythm section destruction.  Amphilochia does grow on you but I am curious as to whether fans of conceptual and somewhat-symphonic black metal will give it time to do so…

Helvetin Musta Peto

I had just about had it with flashy and fancy fucking packaging. Everything Helvete sent me looked great and utterly impressive.  No ‘cold’ Xerox covers, no ‘grim’ knife-wielding ghouls from the forest caught on film. Judging by the digi-book package, I expected lavish keyboard arrangements, seven-part vocals harmonies and producer credits from Bob Rock. Thankfully, the compilation opens with Anal Blasphemy shitting on the cross for an exclusive seven minute ritual titled ‘Beast of Thousand Faces’. Today’s lesson: judge no book by its cover.

Raw, gritty and utterly disturbing, this 76 minute, 9 band communication to other worlds is nearly indescribable. While it retains enough muffled production and distorted bass grime to sedate a horse, fans of the blasting black metal herd mentality may have to step up their listening skills with Helvetin Musta Peto. The 16+ minute track from Ride for Revenge carries the torch up the mountain side for an eternity, changing form all the while. Much of the album drifts and floats in a constant haze of ambiance and mystery, leading the listener to either a swift and silent death or an unmentionable meeting with their astral double. The album ends with ‘The Conqueror Worms’, a furious invocation from Finland’s Svartkraft.

Helvetin Musta Peto really does have something for everyone and is diverse enough that if you grow tired of one sound you can easily find something different on the next track. Harshly contrasting the intricate artwork and impressive packaging with its often low fidelity sound, the true nature of the music is represented in the detail offered by the album artist.

The Helvetin Musta Peto compilation is limited to 666 copies and includes the following artists: Anal Blasphemy, Forgjord, Saturnian Mist, Ride For Revenge, Barathrum, Musta Kappeli, Azaghal, Verge and Svartkraft.