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Album Review

Svartidauði – “Revelations of the Red Sword” [Album Review]

Revelations of the Red Sword is a deeply esoteric album, blessed with a huge presence and a constantly shifting undercurrent of unapologetic misanthropy. But it’s also a more refined expression than 2012’s Flesh Cathedral and a triumph for Iceland’s Svartidauði.

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The Icelandic black metal scene has been enjoying a fair amount of press of late [1] and Svartidauði, along with the likes of Wormlust, Carpe Noctem or Rebirth of Nefast [2], is one of the driving forces behind this scene. Their 2012 debut, Flesh Cathedral cemented their discordant, harrowing sound [3], one which has been favorably compared to Deathspell Omega, although Svartidauði comes across as far rawer and bleak. Their second album, Revelations of the Red Sword, sees its release six years to the day after that first full-length foray.

And what an album it is. Flesh Cathedral’s ritualistic assault may have turned heads, but Revelations of the Red Sword ascends to a higher level. Yes, it’s still deeply esoteric in theme; it is still blessed with a huge presence and a constantly shifting undercurrent, and it’s still unapologetically misanthropic. But it’s also a more refined expression, especially in terms of pacing. “The Howling Cynocephali” and “Reveries of Conflagration” conjure the likes of Blut Aus Nord in terms of an avant-garde disregard for convention, unexpected changes in mood and tempo are blatant shocks to the system that would be off-putting were it not for the stellar drum work. There are many incredible drummers in black metal – Frost, Dominator, Horgh, etc – and Magnús can definitely be added to this list. His sensitivity to how percussion can influence mood borders on jazz. At times ruthless and antagonistic, at times so delicate you almost forget it’s there.

Check out this track video of “Wolves of a Red Sun” off of the new record.


This is not to say that the other band members do not pull their weight. Sturla Viðar’s vocals are a rasping delight, delivering venom with every syllable, and while Þórir may not be the showiest guitarist, the sheer technical variety he displays on Revelations of the Red Sword is evidence of his considerable abilities. The balancing act of punishing dissonance versus clear arpeggiated melodies is an act few can follow. By way of example, the twin guitar harmony lines on “Aureum Lux” are eye-openers. More suited to melodic death or even power metal, these nevertheless mesh perfectly with the inexorable, creeping low-end to produce an absolute black metal gem; rough, unpolished, perhaps still crusted with the ancient leavings of the dirt from which it was torn, but breathtakingly beautiful.

Svartidauði may make their listeners wait six years for a new album [4], but it is obvious that this time has not been wasted. Revelations of the Red Sword is an apocalyptic soundtrack that captures a jaded, misanthropic zeitgeist of urban and human devolution perfectly, and, consequently, should not be missed.

Is there anything more foul-smelling than “Burning Worlds of Excrement”?


Revelations of the Red Sword Track Listing:

01. Sol Ascending
02. Burning Worlds of Excrement
03. The Howling Cynocephali
04. Wolves of a Red Sun
05. Reveries of Conflagration
06. Aureum Lux

Run Time: 47:32
Release Date: December 3, 2018
Record Label: Van Records

Footnotes:

01. Such as this Bandcamp daily piece here or the recently released Svártmalmur, a gorgeous photographic journal of the scene by Wormlust’s Hafsteinn Viðar Ársælsson, available from here.

02. Stephen Lockhart, AKA Wann, is more than just the creative force behind this one-man-metal project: he is also Svartidauði’s go-to producer.

03. Itself a dominant characteristic of Misþyrming and Mannveira, too: it seems the Icelandic black metal landscape is split between unearthly dissonance on one hand and soaring (yet still menacing) ambience on the other, as evidenced by outfits like Sinmara or Zhrine, while Naðra comfortably straddle both spheres.

04. Admittedly, three EPs and an official live recording were released in the interim.

This is Dayv. He writes stuff and makes being an aging goth cool again. Actually, nobody can do the latter, so let's just stick to him writing stuff. Predominantly about black metal, tattoos and other essential cultural necessities. He also makes pretty pictures, but that's just to pay the bills.

Album Review

The Eighty Six Seas – ‘Scenes from an Art Heist’ [Album Review]

Overall, this album does exactly what it sets out to do in encapsulating a fictionalized version of a famous art heist. Well done, The Eighty Six Seas!

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The Eighty Six Seas ‘Scenes from an Art Heist’ album artwork
The Eighty Six Seas ‘Scenes from an Art Heist’ album artwork

On February 23, 2024, The Eighty Six Seas released their first 11-track full-length album, Scenes from an Art Heist. Each track on this album is meant to represent a fictionalized story of the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

The first track sets out an eerie aura that aligns with the track’s title, a dedication to Isabella Stewart Gardner. The next song is a quick switch up from the first, with flighty strings and a whispered voice from lead singer Nick Stevens.

Moving on to track number three, “Coffee and Art,” you’ll hear a faster-paced, nearly techno piece that feels like caffeine hitting your bloodstream for the first time in the morning. Their next song, “Jenny,” is a piano-led ballad spotlighting Steven’s melancholy voice. With “Lonely Afternoon,” the track transforms back into the techno feel of “Coffee and Art,” but with a darker twist.

The next song, “Cat/Mouse,” sounds exactly as you’d expect—like a tense cat-and-mouse standoff, with the music accenting this push-and-pull dynamic. “Hey Little Bird” is more or less an instrumental, with occasional lyrics included, but it is clearly meant to be the interlude.

Moving on, we arrive at a track called “The Day I Die,” a techno piece with a fabulous crescendo after its quiet beginnings. Following that, “The Eighty Six Seas” provides its track, “Portrait of a Smuggler,” which quite literally encapsulates the feeling you have while walking through a park on a sunny day.

Next, we come to “Ghost in the Cityscape,” which has darker undertones, a sorrowful cello, and a slower tempo. The final piece is titled “Frames,” which will remind you of a love letter saying goodbye or a beautiful lullaby. Overall, this album does exactly what it sets out to do in encapsulating a fictionalized version of a famous art heist. Well done, The Eighty Six Seas.

Scenes from an Art Heist Track Listing:

1. For Isabella, March 1990
2. Scenes from an Art Heist
3. Coffee and Art
4. Jenny
5. Lonely Afternoon
6. Cat / Mouse
7. Hey Little Bird
8. The Day I Die
9. Portrait of a Smuggler
10. Ghost in the Cityscape
11. Frames

Run Time:
Release Date: February 23, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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Album Review

Blind Channel – ‘Exit Emotions’ [Album Review]

While ‘Exit Emotions’ (Century Media Records) contains many of the tropes from the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. Blind Channel continue to move from strength to strength.

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Blind Channel ‘Exit Emotions’ album artwork
Blind Channel ‘Exit Emotions’ album artwork

Cast your minds back to 2021; it was a dark time for humanity, with the entirety of the world still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries going in and out of lockdowns, and the entertainment industry being brought to its knees. Yet, in the midst of all of this, mankind fought on, with some events managing to take place. One of these was Eurovision, which has delivered, over the years, some incredible winners and given lesser-known artists global recognition. 2021 saw Måneskin take the crown, but on their heels was Finland’s own Blind Channel in sixth place with their song “Dark Side.”

The Finnish nu-metalers already had a handful of records to their name but it was Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous that contained their aforementioned Eurovision entry and made the world really sit up and take notice. With its mix of metal, hip-hop, synth and a touch of glam, it was a breath of fresh air from the European region better known for its output of, let’s say, the (much) heavier side of metal.

With Exit Emotions, Blind Channel now have their eyes focused on bigger things. Whilst they have broken through to the mainstream beyond their borders, it’s not enough for the six-piece, as they explore what it means to truly be on the global stage.

Exit Emotions kicks in hard with “Where’s the Exit,” with its distorted nu-metal beat laced with some techno elements followed swiftly by distorted vocals mixing rap and metal styles seamlessly. Dual vocalists Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen bounce off each other in a symbiotic way, indicating how in tune with each other these guys can be. “Where’s the Exit” feels like it throws everything the band can portray at the wall from their varying influences, and while, on paper, a mix of metal, rock, hip hop, techno, and synth, if difficult to get right, Blind Channel nail it with absolute precision. Several songs on this record follow this formula, like “Deadzone,” “Wolves of California,” and “XOXO” (amongst others), and if the entirety of the record kept to this, whilst fun to listen to, it would run the risk of becoming samey. Thankfully, Blind Channel does mix things up throughout.

Blind Channel, photo by Christian Ripkens

Blind Channel, photo by Christian Ripkens

Keeping it Surreal” maintains a relatively heavy approach but dials it back a tad to give the hip-hop elements more of a chance to shine and deliver a more emotional element with the band, highlighting the surrealness of their current position. This is followed by the extra-emotional “Die Another Day.” The tune opens with a piano melody and slows the entire pace of the record, and moves into ballad territory. Hokka and Moilanen are accompanied by RØRY, ensuring the sensitive lyrics portrayed are emphasized to the max. Despite the relative negativity of the lyrics, the trio somehow makes this extra melancholy tune drive forward positive feelings.

Exit Emotions is a great follow-up to Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous, and although it contains many of the tried and tested tropes of what was delivered in the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. The band has gone from strength to strength since their respectable placement at 2021’s Eurovision, which demonstrates they have lots more to offer than just their hit song “Dark Side.”

Read our interview with Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen at last year’s Download 20.

Exit Emotions Track Listing:

1. Where’s the Exit
2. Deadzone
W3. olves of California
4. XOXO
5. Keeping it Surreal
6. Die Another Day
7. Phobia
8. Happy Doomsday
9. Red Tail Lights
10. Not You Bro
11. Flatline
12. One Last Time… Again

Run Time: 35:15
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Record Label: Century Media Records

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Album Review

The Western Civilization – ‘Fractions of a Whole’ [Album Review]

The Western Civilization delivers expressive vocals and a wealth of stylistic aromas with an existential richness on ‘Fractions of a Whole.’

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The Western Civilization ‘Fractions of a Whole’ album artwork
The Western Civilization ‘Fractions of a Whole’ album artwork

It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Applied to Texas-based indie-rock outfit The Western Civilization, the adage refers to the chemistry between Rachel Hansbro and Reggie O’Farrell, a chemistry on display in their recently released album, Fractions of a Whole.

Speaking about the album, Hansbro says, “The new songs were inspired by the amazing people who are part of my chosen family. Reggie has always been good at reminding me of the positive things. (He is) another voice saying, ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.’”

Reggie O’Farrell and Rachel Hansbro first met while playing in separate bands. A friendship developed, resulting in two albums and performances at the Vans Warped Tour, SXSW, Halifax Pop Explosion, and, most importantly, an artistic alliance that survived a variety of obstacles.

Revolving around Hansbro and O’Farrell, The Western Civilization is a collaborative project with a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators who expose the actuality of Aristotle’s dictum.

The album opens with “Noctambulism,” a floating, folk-rock song with hints of Americana flowing through it. Driven by a sparkling piano topped by the voices of Hansbro and O’Farrell merging, the melody wafts and undulates like drifting clouds across the sky.

High points embrace “Bible Verses for Kids,” which reveals elusive Celtic flavors, a bit like The Cranberries. A rolling snare gives the rhythm a galloping motion as layered harmonies infuse the lyrics with choir-like textures verging on grandness.

A personal favorite because of Hansbro’s deliciously casual vocals, “Fool” resembles a child’s nursery rhyme reimagined as indie-rock – dreamy, drawling, almost discordant vocals riding over loose, garage rock harmonics. The imperfect, raggedy feel of the tune makes it wondrously genuine and gratifying.

Proselytism,” the closing track, travels on light, migrant surfaces as Hansbro’s soft, breathy vocals imbue the lyrics with subtle, eccentric whimsy, a kind of didactic reflection.

Expressive vocals, along with a wealth of stylistic aromas, invest Fractions of a Whole with an existential richness.

The Western Civilization in 2022, photo by Jack Potts

The Western Civilization in 2022, photo by Jack Potts

Fractions of a Whole Track Listing:

1. Noctambulism
2. Stitches (read our song review)
3. Bible Verses for Kids
4. She’s by the Sea
5. If You’re Lucky
6. Fool
7. My Mess
8. The Snake and The Saint
9. The Ocean’s on the Rise
10. Proselytism

Run Time: 42:18
Release Date: February 16, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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