Jonathan Hill Dot EU

A Soapbox for Uninformed Opinions

By

Ihsahn The Adversary Review

General Information:

Artist: Ihsahn
Album: The Adversary
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Black Metal, Progressive Metal
Released: 2006
Length: 50 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Candlelight Records, Mnemosyne Productions

Track List:

01. Invocation
02. Called by the Fire
03. Citizen
04. Homecoming
05. Astera Ton Proinon
06. Panem et Circenses
07. And He Shall Walk in Empty Places
08. Will You Love Me Now?
09. The Pain is Still Mine

Ihsahn The Adversary Cover

Ihsahn The Adversary Cover

Ihsahn The Adversary Review

The Adversary is the debut solo album of Emperor front man and multi-instrumentalist Ihsahn. The sound of The Adversary is a continuation of the black metal and progressive metal hybrid that Emperor experimented with on their final album, Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise.

Starting with Invocation, the listener gets a compact overview of what direction Ihsahn is taking as he introduces The Adversary with an intense black metal verse with matching lyrics and a screeched vocal delivery to invoke apocalyptic imagery before crying “let it all come down” which is appropriately accompanied by relentless blast beat drumming, courtesy of Asgeir Mickelson, to tie the lyrics and music together in a dramatic style.

Keyboards are employed as a background instrument in both the hard and soft segments of the song, the latter of which lasts for about 2 minutes after the explosive blast beats, and introduces Ihsahn’s clean singing style that goes from even tempered to a strained falsetto wail.

While Ihsahn shows some skill as a singer among his other musical talents Kristoffer Rygg (of Ulver fame) offers a stronger sung performance on Homecoming that can’t help but make the listener think that Ihsahn should have performed the harsh vocals while getting Kristoffer Rygg to cover the sung portion of The Adversary. The music on Homecoming also introduces more textural qualities when Kristoffer Rygg sings and this gives off the impression that at least parts of the song was written with his specific voice in mind but however you look at it, it proves to be a well-executed endeavour.

The Pain is Still Mine is a little over 10 minutes long, making it twice the length of the other songs, but it gives the progressive metal strain much more room the breathe as you might expect if you are familiar with the subgenre. It should also be said that most of the progressive metal elements come in the form of each song having several different consecutive verses or instrumental passages and this isn’t the kind of album that lies on the virtuosity end of the progressive spectrum.

Like any musician or band that blends polarising genres or sounds together, they must take care to fuse them together properly less they end up with a patchwork quilt of an album at worst or some head scratching transitions at best. In the case of The Adversary this sort of pitfall is avoided in most instances and there are only a couple of questionable transitional sections to be heard. One of these moments is the sudden stop half way into Citizen where you think that the song has ended but before you can finish that thought a piano melody comes out of nowhere and makes you think that it’s an entirely different song. However when this is spliced together with bursts of wrathful vocals and clean guitar playing later in the song the blending of styles is much more convincing.

Perhaps the biggest drawback of this album is Ihsahn’s harsh vocal style which can often sound strained like Marge Simpson if she had a sore throat but for die hard Emperor fans wanting more material from one of black metals early stalwart musicians then this will hardly be something to fault. If you are a fan of indulgent-free progressive metal with a harder edge coming from the black metal realm then The Adversary is an ideal and relatively accessible point of reference to start with.

Performers:

Ihsahn: Vocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards
Asgeir Mickelson: Drums
Kristoffer Rygg: Guest vocals on “Homecoming”

External Links:

Ihsahn Homepage
Ihsahn on Wikipedia
The Adversary on Wikipedia

By

Agalloch Pale Folklore Review

General Information:

Artist: Agalloch
Album: Pale Folklore
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Black Metal, Progressive Metal
Released: 1999
Length: 62 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): The End Records

Track List:

01. She Painted Fire Across the Skyline I
02. She Painted Fire Across the Skyline II
03. She Painted Fire Across the Skyline III
04. The Misshapen Steed
05. Hallways of Enchanted Ebony
06. Dead Winter Days
07. As Embers Dress the Sky
08. The Melancholy Spirit

Agalloch Pale Folklore Cover

Agalloch Pale Folklore Cover

Agalloch Pale Folklore Review

Pale Folklore is the debut album of American heavy metal band Agalloch. The band has lofty ambitions that are shown through their blending of different metal genres, namely black metal and progressive metal, with neofolk and some other non-genre specific sounds. On top of that, these genres are woven into lengthy songs with much of it being composed of instrumental passages.

The album is introduced with wind sound effects and a slow guitar melody which goes on for 2 minutes before the distortion is played up and the drums kick in on the first part of the She Painted Fire Across the Skyline trilogy. This quickly demonstrates some of the unevenness that permeates Pale Folklore because Agalloch intentionally use lo-fi production techniques on the black metal elements but not in other places (in the same song no less). The end result is clunky and muffled percussion that lifelessly patters around in the background while vocalist John Haughm rasp-speaks many of the lyrics, which gives way to the soft, cleanly produced moments with an opera singer wailing before jumping back to the lo-fi black metal sound.

She Painted Fire Across the Skyline I and II are bridged together with more wind sound effects before turning into a straight-forward black metal song that lies on the softer end of the spectrum and contains another jarring transition near the end that upsets the flow needlessly. The final part of the trilogy has some quirks about it although it manages to remain the most focused part and it is a better example of their progressive metal song-writing. The dramatic clean singing moment is out of place but the performance by John Haughm deserves praising for his compelling delivery. Tubular bells make a brief appearance later on and they offer an interesting and memorable dynamic that is unfortunately short lived.

Agalloch over-indulge on the wind sound effects as they make further appearances on The Melancholy Spirit and Hallways of Enchanted Ebony, which eventually descends into the ill-advised inclusion of animal noises and barking. These needless indulgences take on the form of sound effects more often than not but one exception is the out of place hammering of a piano right at the end of Dead Winter Days, which is an otherwise stand out song.

The soft side of Agalloch is fully embraced on The Misshapen Steed, a melancholic ballad-turned-dramatic incidental music piece that has a cinematic quality to it. This song strays outside of heavy metal territory entirely and instead focuses on tasteful piano and keyboard playing.

As Embers Dress the Sky is another well-rounded black metal excursion and is the second song to feature the unnamed opera singer. This time the raspy vocals and her own trade off each other in a well-executed beauty and the beast style before transitioning flawlessly into an acoustic passage. The heavy metal guitar work then jumps back in awkwardly and if it hasn’t become clear that Agalloch haven’t quite got the transitional elements of their song-writing down yet then this will convince you.

Agalloch are a forward-thinking band that has demonstrated a great deal of potential on their debut album and while their song-writing can be unfocused and unpolished at times, it is clear that they have plenty ambition that if refined will yield some exciting results for the heavy metal community.

Performers:

Don Anderson: Guitar
John Haughm: Vocals, guitar, drums
Jason William Walton: Bass
Shane Breyer: Keyboards
Unnamed: Operatic vocals (tracks 1 and 7)

External Links:

Agalloch Homepage
Agalloch on Wikipedia
Pale Folklore on Wikipedia

By

Shylmagoghnar Emergence Review

General Information:

Artist: Shylmagoghnar
Album: Emergence
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Black Metal, Progressive Metal
Released: 2014
Length: 52 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): N/A

Track List:

01. I Am the Abyss
02. Emergence
03. Edin in Ashes
04. This World Shall Fall
05. Squandered Paradise
06. Eternal Forest
07. The Cosmic Tide
08. A New Dawn
09. The Sun No Longer

Shylmagoghnar Emergence Cover

Shylmagoghnar Emergence Cover

Shylmagoghnar Emergence Review

Emergence is the self-released debut album of Dutch metallers Shylmagoghnar. While the core of the band’s sound is black metal they take cues from progressive metal to create longer, multi-faceted passages without ever needing to resort to self-indulgent musicianship. There are also influences from melodic death metal, most notably on the lead guitar, and the band makes good use of this along with tasteful keyboard arrangements to contrast with the black metal aesthetic which manages to be polished and accessible without attempting to pander to anyone.

There are 4 instrumental songs to be heard on Emergence. Eternal Forest and The Cosmic Tide are both performed in the aforementioned black metal/progressive metal style whereas I Am the Abyss has noticeable influence from post rock/metal and is the longest song on the album at 9 minutes. This is a bold introductory song that grabs your attention and establishes Shylmagoghnar’s musical vision while expressing a great deal of personality and depth so effortlessly.

The Sun No Longer is the final instrumental song and it also brings Emergence to a close all while being the biggest curveball on the album. While Nimblkorg is the primary song-writer, this one was composed by vocalist Skirge and is played entirely on keyboards with a melancholic feeling that isn’t present on any of the other songs. The feeling found here is thematically linked to his lyrics which deal with misanthropy and the end of humanity by citing the self-inflicted death and destruction done to one another throughout history. He then proceeds to mockingly cry “Hail the glorious humankind – Hail! Hail the splendour of our kind!” on Squandered Paradise to express his contempt.

While these themes are prominent throughout Emergence the tone changes on A New Dawn when Skirge reflects on his negative assessment of humanity and conclude that “what’s done is done; the dice were cast/and the only path before us lies/striding towards the riches of a new dawn”. Lyrically this leaves Emergence on a hopeful note and looking at the previous songs it appears as though they chronical the duo struggling with the seemingly endless troubles of the world (we once gave in/to endless waves of melancholy/the weight of the world/and the torment of troubled souls) before having an epiphany that allowed them to push on.

This World Shall Fall is another curveball found earlier in the album that is best described as “black metal without the guitars”. The tempo slows down and the focus is put on a drum and keyboard combination that is used to create a unique atmosphere that sets it apart from the other songs.

Emergence is an ambitious debut album that blends different subgenres of heavy metal together while showcasing some adventurous song-writing abilities that never fall short of the mark. Shylmagoghnar aren’t afraid to throw themselves in at the deep end and if they can continue down this path they will undoubtedly carve out a well-deserved niche within the heavy metal community.

Performers:

Nimblkorg: Music, guitars, bass, drums, synths, vocals/lyrics on Emergence, mixing and mastering
Skirge: Vocals, lyrics, music and synths on The Sun No Longer, additional compositions

External Links:

Shylmagoghnar Homepage
Shylmagoghnar on Bandcamp
Shylmagoghnar on Metal Archives

Thursday 01/10/15: An excerpt of this review has been published on Shylmagoghnar’s Bandcamp page at the request of the artist.

By

Behold the Arctopus Horrorcension Review

General Information:

Artist: Behold the Arctopus
Album: Horrorcension
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Progressive Metal
Released: 2012
Length: 28 minutes
Language(s): N/A
Label(s): Black Market Activities

Track List:

01. Disintegore
02. Monolithic Destractions
03. Horrorsentience
04. Deluge of Sores
05. Putrefucktion
06. Annihilvore

Behold the Arctopus Horrorscension Cover

Behold the Arctopus Horrorscension Cover

Behold the Arctopus Horrorcension Review

Horrorcension is the second round of auditory carnage by progressive metal outfit Behold the Arctopus. The songs found on their debut, Skullgrid, are mere pop songs in comparison to the 28 minutes endurance test of Horrorcension. Normally an album should be reviewed on its own merits without more than a quiet nod to another album or band but to express how far-out Behold the Arctopus have swam, drawing some comparisons with Skullgrid is hard to avoid.

While Skullgrid is certainly a difficult album, it did have some strong moments thrown in the mix along with a semi-sense of structure – a motif or reference point that the band went back to before taking the music in another direction. With Horrorcension there isn’t any of this and the music if far more outlandish than whatever you might think the ridiculous song titles allure to.

The songs twist and turn in every way imaginable and make it nearly impossible to follow anything, leaving you with nothing more than a senseless cacophony of guitar screeches and percussive slaps that won’t mean anything to you. There are very few breaks from the status quo and the most noticeable are the short, merciful interludes found on Horrorsentience and Putrefucktion. The most memorable moment can be found on Annihilvore when Behold the Arctopus exchange their progressive metal frenzy for a relatively straightforward black metal sound mid song.

While Horrorcension lacks emotion due to its intense focus on the technical skills and performance of the band, it is still guaranteed to give the listener an emotional reaction, albeit it will most likely be one of disgust.

Performers:

Mike Lerner: Guitars
Colin Marston: Warr Guitars
Weasel Walter: Drums

External Links:

Behold the Arctopus Homepage
Behold the Arctopus on Wikipedia | Horrorcension on Wikipedia