Sometimes I receive promo packs in the mail and wonder how the label got my address…Maybe I am getting old or the Arizona heat is starting to bake my brain…At any rate, Sun and Moon Records is one such label, sending a healthy batch of discs my way, unflinching with their request for my record review dissection. As their website says, their name is symbolic: day and night, past and future, sun and moon. The diversity of their releases is also a reflection of such philosophies, intriguing, honest and full of talent, regardless of genre…

With the ever present somewhat instrumental introduction track, the debut full length from Beyond Light begins to take form. What follows is a collection of songs that combine psychedelic clean guitars with raw vocals and simple keyboard ambiance to form ‘Eclipsed Sun Path’, 9 tracks totally 46 minutes of hit-or-miss ‘extreme’ music. Sole member Belfalas supposedly draws great influence from the early works of Pink Floyd, which I honestly fail to hear, luckily, since I don’t hear the Beatles either. Lacking production aspects such as the ‘sea of reverb’ that one might expect, there is a lack of vocals where the more repetive passages may have benefitted from. What we do have on ‘Eclipsed Sun Path’ is 3 tracks under the 2 minute mark and the majority of the others well beyond 6, which allows me to see that the passages herein are visions before they are songs…one man’s interpretation and expression of an emotion, experience or philosophy. The general lack of lyrics on tracks like ‘Sealed In Yesterday’ deny the listener any insight as to the nature of Beyond Light and is left to draw their own conclusion. The guitar work is done well but is anything from extraordinary and serves as a background to a meditation but little else.  With tracks like ‘Blackened Sunlight’ and ‘S

This debut album from Brits Anniversary Circle is a step outside the extreme metal circle, to say the least. I definitely do not solicit Forbidden Magazine as a source or reviews and feedback on music that reminds me more of Bauhaus than Burzum, but since it came in the same promo pack as Nocturnal Depression, I figured we should do a little comparison and contrast.
There is little that I specifically dislike about the album; the haunting atmosphere of the title track was enough to sell me. Maybe I have been listening to too much Marduk, but the lack of drums, delay saturated female vocals and free-form composition is a breath of fresh air. Is it extreme? To some, yes. You would have to define extreme and by the standards of Forbidden Magazine, Anniversary Circle falls short of any definition of the word. The buried-in-the-mix guitar grit on  ‘See Me’ does little to make me give a fuck, sounding sad and silly under the endless droning vocals and raver drum beat. I can’t really go on as confused as I am about this album, after seeing the label put out the handful of raw and timeless black metal releases that it has.

A cold wind blows from Canada with A Winter Lost’s debut, Weltenende, offering a half hour spread over six tracks of straight forward frost-bitten despair and dread. The trio, made up of Canadian and Virginian members, have written a handful of decent songs that are full of unoriginal ambiance while still putting a few of their owns marks upon the music. The female vocals, when raspy and raw, are well done and compliment the drifting fog of the guitar melody well and occasionally sing melody to clean instrumentation without sounding too contrived or fucking lame.  I am not a fan of the clean / distorted / clean / distorted formulated arrangement of ‘Der Traumende’ but the mellow intro and outro passages of ‘Der Strum’ are flawless, lending themselves to the entire experience without error. A Winter Lost seems to shine brightest when they keep the same momentum, such as in album opener ‘Der Schrei’. The progressions in guitar chords and melody work well in the scope of the songs; nothing flashy or fancy, just slow moving melancholy and malaise as it should be. Although I give praise to A Winter Lost for the well-paced songs and strong vocals assault, Weltenende keeps me interested for its duration but offers little to bring me back for multiple listens.

‘Four Seasons to a Depression’ from French Cult Nocturnal Depression is perhaps the groups most memorable demo, consisting of 4 lengthy tracks, each corresponding and titled after the four seasons. ‘Spring’, with its repetitive major key chord progression, grows tiresome soon but retains a handful of enjoyable qualities that overshadow its rather monotonous drone.  Minimal and unpolished, the recordings on ‘Four Season…’ are mirrored to the performance; nothing flashy or fancy but well executed and without flaw. No sour guitar notes, stumbling drum rolls or muddy and nonsensical noise pollutes this slow moving album. The doom of ‘Summer’ lazily drags the broken body of spring along toward autumn. The eerie clean guitar that floats in at around four and a half minutes adds an unearthly element to the song, pushing the listener deeper down into the hot, dark night. ‘Autumn’ begins with a melodic and clean guitar much like the ambient passages in ‘Summer’, and with whispered vocals, haunts the listener for nearly four minutes before drums and fuzztone guitars return. Easily the most simple and forgettable song on the release, ‘Autumn’ nonetheless tears at the soul with its painful melody and unending tormented vocal layers. Closing out the album with style is ‘Winter’, the only up-tempo song, blasting and whipping a furious storm of darkness with pounding drums and knife-life guitars. Upon hearing the blasting drums, I could not help but to visualize the violent winter wind dropping hours of snow across a dark horizon before calming into the familiar mid-tempo melancholy and granting a vision of a silent and frozen landscape. Yeah, sure, the whole theme of a nocturnal, snow-covered forest has been used in 80% of black metal but when presented as an honest personification of emotion and experience as ‘Four Seasons…’ does, it doesn’t get old and never fucking will.