Emptiness – Error
“Error” is the third album from Belgian black/death metal band Emptiness. The band prominently features two members of the band Enthroned (I guess they like ‘E’ band names.)
This is one of those albums that has atmosphere in spades and production quality is given short shrift. Normally this would bother me, but something about this, maybe it is just the style they are playing, responds well to this treatment. Nine times out of ten when someone says an album has good atmosphere I think they are just rationalizing poor production, but here I actually believe it. This album sounds…humid. Imagine a dark cavernous place where hot volcanic steam is emanating from the rocks, hellfire glows ominously, the air reeks of sulfur and you can just make out the sound of something large and evil, possibly Satan, intoning wicked incantations. That is what this album sounds like to me.
Contrary to my initial impression I find I like Emptiness. Check them out below, but abandon all hope, ye who enter here…
Põhjast – Thou Strong, Stern Death
I cannot find much information on Põhjast other than they are a German/Estonian black metal band signed to Spinefarm Records and “Thou Strong, Stern Death” is their first full album. Given the style, the album cover and the typically complicated pointy black metal logo, I was expecting something much harsher than what this turned out to be. I thought it would be reverb-saturated buzzsaw blades with yowling cats buried in the mix somewhere, and I was completely dead wrong. I was thinking “I Am the Black Wizards” Emperor style black metal when in actuality it turned out to be more like Bathory old school black metal.
The production on “Thou Strong, Stern Death” leaves something to be desired, but the songs themselves are fairly enjoyable. The music is mostly mid-tempo metal and the vocals range from a harsh-edged singing to a slightly strained clean sound. The vocals probably remind me of Quorthon the most. I would not exactly call this Bathory-worship, but I think the influence is definitely front and center. Being a fanatical Quorthon fan myself I am all in favor of people perpetuating the Bathory metal sound. I will gladly give this album the RMC stamp of approval. I hope to hear more from this band in the future.
Never to Arise – Hacked to Perfection
Never to Arise are a two-man death metal duo from Florida and “Hacked to Perfection” is their first album. From the first few notes of this album my initial impression was “Is this over yet?” Muddy production sound combined with deep harsh vocals where I cannot make out any words does not make for an album I am eager to hear end to end. I am frequently hamstrung by my own first impressions, so I dug in for ten songs and 50 minutes to see how things would turn out.
The best thing I can say about this album is that there is some cool guitar work; I would normally expect a wall of distortion with vocals like these, making the music a muddy mess, but the guitars are actually the easiest part of this mix to make out. There are certainly far worse metal albums out there, but this one is mediocre with a bullet. It is a first album, so maybe they will add some band members and sound better next time around, but “Hacked to Perfection” just does not do anything for me. Check out the track “Hyperbaric Torture Chamber.”
Nexhymn – Black Horizon
“Black Horizon” is the first album from Colorado death metal band Nexhymn. The band is female-fronted and features the harsh vocals of Holly Wedel. This album is a definite step up from Never to Arise in terms of quality, but something about it is not clicking with me. The band display competent technical skill and the production quality falls within acceptable range, but there is something missing.
I am sure there are plenty of people who will get behind this album, and I will not disagree with them. There is plenty to like about this album, but it lacks the spark that ignites my excitement. I can listen to the album and form an opinion based on technical merit and production quality, but that is just going through the motions. Maybe that is my problem with this album; technically it is good but it does not have any soul or spirit, and so feels like they are just going through the motions of creating music. The album shambles around looking for brains to eat, but there is nothing going on behind the eyes.
Septekh – The Seth Avalanche
I was pleasantly surprised upon listening to “The Seth Avalanche”, the second EP from Swedish death/thrash band Septekh. With an opening track titled “Fuckslut from Hell” I presumed this would be some sort of aimless noise metal or perhaps some crusty punk metal, but as it turns out these guys produce some fairly solid thrash.
The sound quality on this EP is so crisp and in-your-face that I have to admit I am impressed. The guitars and drums are a tight, solid core which forms a vehicle for the Mille/Kreator style harsh vocals, which perch on top, hood surfing as they careen down the road with the speedometer needle buried in the red.
I am very much digging this EP. I say get these guys into the studio and crank out a full album. Check out the video for “Shoot Them All.” It has a goat in it. And some scary half naked dude in a gimp mask. Enjoy.