Swallow The Sun – Lumina Aurea

It’s been a while since Finnish beloved doom metal masters Swallow The Sun released new music and while we wait for the next full length “When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light” in January 2019 right now the new EP “Lumina Aurea”, which includes the lengthy title track and the instrumental version of the same song, is bound to generate mixed feelings. First of all, this is not what Swallow The Sun usually compose or what fans expect but it’s an atmospheric mystical opus that emerges from the darkest depths of the human heart.

The Latin narratives and Gregorian style chants can feel like the ultimate ode to darkness carrying a mighty arcane vibe that spreads infectiously across the gelid Northern landscapes while the refined atmospheric waves and ominous orchestral arrangements can sound impossibly tormented or even simply fragile. This is what suffering sounds like, this is an open wound that will never heal. To release a unique cinematic sonic experience like “Lumina Aurea” could be considered audacious but this song definitely belongs to the band’s artistic realm of gloom, beauty and despair.

Esben And The Witch – Nowhere

So far post-rock trio Esben And The Witch has delighted us with an enchanting music vision that aims to spellbind you once again on the brand new full length “Nowhere”.

“A Desire for Light” opens the album with a darkened grandeur featuring shoegaze inspired atmospheric crescendos and loads of wistful melodic guitars that will morph into a fiercely distorted entity towards the end while a profound solace can be perceived through the maze of dreamy harmonies and ethereal vocals.

The immersive nature of “Dull Gret” is evident in the minimalist acoustic phrases and fascinating vocals that hold an essential role in the creation of multiple moody textures while guitars maintain a daydreaming melodic flow yet occasionally acquire harsher tonalities leading to darker fiery rhythmic patterns.

The mood becomes increasingly darker on “The Unspoiled” as bold guitars deliver doom oriented riffing ensuring heavier ominous dynamics while the graceful atmospheric accents and the alluring vocals still evoke hazy shoegaze vibes.

As the title suggests “Darkness (I Too Am Here)” feels like a stylish ode to darkness constantly embellished by cinematic arrangements that certainly add mystical vibes and melodic guitars can lead to enigmatic soundscapes with monochromatic seductive nuances as well as more energetic rhythmic segments fueled by a raw obscure force.

Esben And The Witch have the ability to create emotionally charged songs where darkness and uplifting nuances blend naturally and “Nowhere” is a bewitching and seductive sonic experience that you simply cannot miss.

In The Woods… – Cease The Day

Norwegian band In The Woods… has always created intriguing music following an elegant avant-garde approach that still feels prominent in the composition of the latest release “Cease The Day”.

“Empty Streets” is a majestic album opener that begins with dreamy folk melodies making you feel in the middle of a forest and such wintry emotions will be further enhanced by the outpouring melancholia evoked by grim melodic guitars and soulful clean vocals. This lengthy track packs other style variations such as the fiery blackened rhythmic blasts amplified by a faster tempo and raspy growls yet the whole instrumentation always returns to the main melodic gloom.

“Substance Vortex” follows a similar sonic formula putting in the spotlight graceful nostalgia infused guitar melodies in the midst of refined atmospheric arrangements that will inevitably convey darkly ethereal emotions while the rhythmic segments can often acquire harsh tonalities with wicked guitar riffing.

“Respect My Solitude” holds a subtle blackened force but tends to focus mainly on extremely wistful as guitars meticulously craft profoundly emotive melodies and dreamy acoustic passages resulting in a series of lavish introspective soundscapes emphasized by elegant atmospheric textures.

There are moments of sheer melodic beauty on “Cloud Seeder” as solemn vocals, stylish atmospheric layers and minimalist piano melodies generate utterly dramatic textures until darkened guitar progressions become dominant within the song’s structure crafting loads of compelling melodies and a fair dosage of accessible heavier grooves.

On “Strike Up With The Dawn” melancholic harmonies still feel absolutely meaningful in the creation of lavish guitar melodies and the gorgeous charismatic orchestrations add a poetic mood that will ultimately become quite obscure during the primal blackened segments.

Probably what renders “Cease The Day” particularly appealing is the multifaceted songwriting approach chosen by In The Woods…, which you learn to appreciate even more after multiple listening sessions, and while there is still a strong connection with their past music endeavors they are moving forward to explore variegated music territories.

Haken – Vector

British progressive metal darlings Haken return with “Vector” the 5th studio album and follow up to the acclaimed “Affinity.” Massively heavy and decidedly darker In tone, this release sees the chaps changing things up a tad, but fret not, it’s just the right amount.

After a rather short yet unsettling introduction track “Clear”, that perfectly sets up the darker tone of Vector with a baroque tinged keyboard performance, we are treated to the most Haken-esque track on the album, “The Good Doctor.” This song has all the usual twists and turns we’ve come to expect from the sextet. 8 string guitar riffs a plenty, quirky-jagged keyboard accents, soaring and hooky vocal parts, with downright funky bass work.

Veil is perhaps the most progressive song and also the longest on the record, which falls in line with their discography. Every Haken album Must have a song over ten minutes apparently! Around the seven minute mark this song take on a Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree personality replete with a slide guitar harmony.

The more 70’s Genesis and Gentle Giant influences seem to have evaporated this time around in favor of a harder edge. Organ sounds are still used throughout the album as in Veil but that is about the only remaining facet of that sound.  Also of note is that there are no fun/silly type of songs reminiscent of “Cockroach King” or “1985.” It makes sense considering the subject matter and most likely wouldn’t fit the overarching concept, but this further hammers home that Haken is changing their album makeup and sound.

“Nil By Mouth” is easily the heaviest song Haken has written thus far. Starting off with a Devin Townsend/Meshuggah groove cascading into more familiar Waters …it’s a bit confounding as to why this is an instrumental track however. There is plenty of room for vocal parts and   A vocalist as talented as Ross Jennings would certainly find no difficulties in finding the right spots to place them. Aside from the one grievance, the track acts as a good transitional point in the record acting as a climax of sorts.

“Host” is the antithesis to the preceding track. With a touching and lyrical flugelhorn solo courtesy of guest musician Miguel Gorodi and lush vocals, this is perhaps the most touching song Haken has written since “Earthlings.” Especially considering the lyrical content, the ending of this song is one the most powerful moments on the record, emotionally and musically. If there is a Haken song that could bring the listener to tears, this is the one.

Of particular note is how far drummer Ray Herne has elevated his perfomances. While his parts were by no means inferior on previous effort, Affinity, this time around every part is just a bit Extra. Extra complicated groves, beats, and fills. “Nil by Mouth” is essentially a drum solo, where Herne is allowed to flex’s his drum chops to their max. The superb recording quality from Adam “Nolly” Getgood is breathtaking not just from a beautiful drum sound but overall band mix. It feels and sounds “real”, for lack of a better description, In a world of overly polished and replaced/sampled instrumentation.

For studio album number five, Haken could have easily just rested on their laurels and they would please their fans regardless. This album sees them crafting their most accessible record yet, which is not a bad thing. With this accessibility the album feels decidedly more succinct than previous efforts, but the overall effect is much more potent this time around. There is absolutely zero filler material to be found. The decision to be heavier and darker definitely reflects  our current global cultural climate and casts a wider net into the vast progressive metal fanbase, all the while not varying the core principals in Haken’s sound. Highly recommended!

Chthonic – Battlefields Of Asura

The politically charged metal outfit Chthonic this time embarks on an adventurous journey with Taiwanese immortals on the anticipated epic release “Battlefields Of Asura” which also features a collaboration with Hong Kong diva Denise Ho.

Matching the album’s darkly heroic themes “The Silent One’s Torch” blends symphonic and blackened elements so you will find loads of bold guitar riffs and wicked growls marching through triumphant atmospheric layers.

On “Flames Upon The Weeping Winds” subtle atmospheres introduce a harsher sonic realm where the epic accents are still present but the primal black metal force dictates a frantic pace and deeply influences the guitar driven grooves.

“Souls Of The Revolution” showcases an opulent symphonic approach with solemn orchestrations and while guitar riffs are still roaring in the background the melodic aspects of the song tend to feel more dominant.

“Taste The Black Tears” stands out for the lavish folk atmospheres that generate magical melodic nuances in contrast with the heavier blackened momentum emphasized by the hellish vocals and the darkly powerful guitar work.

“One Thousand Eyes” continues to successfully blend diverse tonalities leading to a mixture of profoundly darkened moody guitar melodies supported by monumental rhythmic sections and surrounded by sumptuous arrangements & majestic chants.

“Millenia’s Faith Undone” could not sound more epic with an overdose of solemn atmospheres, alluring ancestral tonalities and theatrical aesthetics that feel absolutely crucial in the song’s structure further embellished by fancy melodic guitar soloing and Denise Ho elegant vocal delivery.

“Battlefields Of Asura” is definitely a grandiose music journey and a mystical quest that will please the band’s devoted fans therefore it feels like the right way to celebrate the return of Chthonic.

Glacial Tomb – Glacial Tomb

Fronted by Ben Hutcherson of Khemmis, Glacial Tomb are still fairly new to the underground metal scene yet their new self titled full length showcases mature songwriting and an intriguing sludge/extreme metal style.

We can probably say that “Monolithos” is aptly full of monolithic doom oriented elements as guitars fiercely concoct crushing riffing as well as loads of mournful melodies yet there are diverse style choices on this track that will lead to obscure tonalities and merciless rhythmic sections obviously amplified by the hellish growls.

On “Breath Of Pestilence” a primordial force fuels the tight guitar riffing rampage and the relentless drum blasts until mighty waves of doom tonalities and funereal guitar melodies begin to convey an ominous mood successfully matched by ferocious growls.

Doom inspired guitar melodies become very prominent on “Drowned” leading to a claustrophobic atmosphere as the rhythmic core bounces from brief uncompromising fast segments to unsettling darkened grooves following slightly slower yet immensely heavy dynamics.

“Shackled To The Burning Earth” features monumental guitar riffs full of steady ominous vibes that ultimately craft a series of intense rhythmic crescendos spontaneously enhanced by belligerent drum blasts while the lead guitar work will effortlessly take the spotlight with enigmatic tonalities and edgy technical phrases.

Undoubtedly on this eponymous album Glacial Tomb can sound quite aggressive delivering a cohesive sonic assault that will demand your attention and following an energetic creative force they often go beyond the standard death or doom metal categorization.  

Failure – In The Future Your body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind

Influential alternative rock trio Failure is ready to embark on a personal music journey with the fifth studio album entitled “In The Future Your body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind”.

Despite the consistent fun upbeats “Dark Speed” has a bittersweet mood fully expressed by the psychedelic accents embedded in the guitar work that also doesn’t leave behind softer melodies.

“Solar Eyes” is almost gritty and definitely spacey with irresistible acidic guitar tones following an easy melancholic pace enhanced by a soft vocal delivery and a smooth melodic guitar solo until the throbbing alt rock grooves become more dominant.

There is a darkened emotive atmosphere on “Found A Way” while the fuzzy guitar passages are responsible for the energetic catchy momentum matched by the bright chorus.

On “Distorted Fields” guitars acquire a crunchy distortion, as the title might suggest, and such moody tonalities render the instrumental sections less predictable without sacrificing the impactful rhythmic core featuring bolder bass lines and the recurring spaced out melodies.

The approachable melodic nature of “Heavy And Blind” is immediately palpable with a series of mellow guitar phrases and heartfelt vocals that lead to kaleidoscopic atmospheric & rhythmic progressions.

“Apocalypse Blooms” features another spacey sonic ride that convey a dreamy mood and shoegaze accents so atmospheric arrangements hold a crucial role gently surrounding the warm guitar melodies.

“Force Fed Rainbow” is another highlight on this album blending minimalist guitar melodies and edgy tonalities with the right dosage of serene atmospheric layers flowing through introspective rhythmic crescendos.

“The Pineal Electorate” has a more intricate approach featuring timeless classic rock vibes and peaceful piano melodies but at the same time compelling fuzzy guitar soloing and eclectic refined arrangements might make you space out.

Besides the fact that “In The Future Your body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind” probably wins for most original album title of the year what stands out is how the spacey tonalities spontaneously entwine with psychedelic vibes as Failure here offers a sincerely emotional sonic experience.

Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor

The mighty Spock’s Beard return with a new release. Continuing with Ted Leonard on vocals, you know you can expect greatness.

“To Breathe Another Day”… The vocal harmonies are so good.

“What Becomes Of Me” has sort of a spacey intro that pick up into a Rush styled groove, but much more detailed. Ted’s vocals kick in and they’re so clear and understandable. I can’t stress enough how well he fits into this band. The bridge section is pretty cool. You get lead, vocals, solo. Just very well written.

“Somebody’s Home” has a nice acoustic intro, then it picks up a bit. You get a folk oriented guitar lead. The verse is loaded with a lot of emotion. The chorus is super memorable. I’m telling you, Ted brought new life into this band.

“Have We All Gone Crazy Yet” has such a genesis styled intro, The distorted guitars kind of break that up though. The acoustic guitar kicks in and well, Spock’s Beard does what they do best. They just keep building up the song with a ton of energy that comes through in the recordings. This is the longest track on the album, but it really doesn’t feel that way. I won’t spoil it for you.

“Box Of Spiders” has sort of an 80’s retro synth opening, but then throws in quite the proggy curveball. Trust me you’ll see. This track get pretty aggressive. I absolutely love it. There’s a ton of groove and spacey feeling stuff happening. It’s probably one of my favorite tracks. It’s what every Prog fan wants to hear.

Overall this is an extremely well put together album, Spock’s Beard has proven that they’re here to stay. Listen for yourself and be the judge.

Venom – Storm The Gates

Featuring the unholy trinity of Cronos, Rage and Dante black metal progenitors Venom are ready to proudly rule the night once again with the loud blasphemous force of the new full length “Storm The Gates”.

“Bring Out Your Dead” immediately showcases a hellish sound embodied by the tight guitar riffing galore and the consequent pummeling rhythmic patterns and every instrumental passage holds that particular raw energy that fans absolutely love.

“Notorious” confidently offers another crushing round of consistently ravenous guitar riffs yet the rhythmic core is not just about upbeat thrash blasts as it features a rather catchy & raspy chorus as well as a thrilling guitar solo.

“I Dark Lord” benefits from the utterly sinister atmosphere as tempo is often dramatically slowed down to enhance a sense of impending doom until the fierce drums and the extreme tonalities of the guitar work build cohesive faster segments.

“100 Miles To Hell” aptly emerges from the darkest depths to deliver a mighty rhythmic section full of impactful guitar riffs that ultimately lead to extra groovy anthemic moments plus the killer guitar solo successfully channels major ominous vibes.

With a classic impactful guitar riffage and a rebellious rock spirit “Dark Night (Of The Soul)” goes straight to the point to deliver moshpit inducing grooves and of course the overall diabolical mood is amplified by the darkened guitar leads.

Savage drums introduce the infernal sonic realm of “Over My Dead Body” and guitars swiftly follow a thunderous rhythm reminiscent of old school thrash metal briefly interrupted by slower yet intensely obscure melodic moments.

The title track probably refers to Venom opening once again the gates of hell and in fact roaring guitar riffs march relentlessly throughout the song while the lead guitar work is ready to spice up the traditional instrumental structure with scattered inflamed licks.

A familiar primordial force maintains a classic Venom approach on the latest offering “Storm The Gates” which might not sound like a groundbreaking opus today but it definitely seems to incarnate the obscure metal style that the band’s faithful acolytes expect to hear.  

Kino – Radio Voltaire

The new album from Kino. A band I was never familiar with, but had heard the name. Definitely glad I gave them a chance.

“Radio Voltaire” I would normally say sets the overall tone for the album, but I don’t really think it does. It’s a standout track and also the longest. It feels very triumphant. The lead playing is very nice throughout it. Very “80’s” styled phrasing.

“The Dead Club” is a bit more rocking, with a big use of synthesizers. I kind of get a Porcupine Tree vibe in this track. The structure is “straight forward” yet packed with a lot of subtle details and changes.

“Idlewild” is another one of the longer tracks. It starts with a really nice piano intro that gets followed by the vocals. After a full run through, it picks up with all the other instruments, becoming even more memorable that the first time around. There’s a really tasteful solo that comes in. It’s arranged quite well.

“I Won’t Break So Easily Anymore” has a very calm intro with some cool audio samples. When the keys and vocals kick in, I get some Marillion vibes. This is probably my favorite track. The instruments display a lot of variety while the song maintains a catchy feel. There’s a really cool synth solo that reminds me of early Genesis. That alone wins me over.

“Out Of Time” manages to mix a 90’s rock with a British Invasion feel. There’s a very cool break that comes in and changes the feel utilizing… Lydian of course. Typical prog fashion. They continue to build on this theme, until a nice bass solo kicks in. You heard right. And it goes on for quite awhile. I really dig this track

I recommend this album. It’s simple enough to enjoy on the surface, but intricate enough to dig in deep.