We run the gamut of genres with the second installment of Fast Rites, as we review a variety of releases from both newcomers and veterans. We had a bit of discussion about the inclusion of a review of the new album from Poland’s Infernal War, A X I O M, on Agonia Records. Like Burzum, Infernal War is a band that you’ll have to make a personal decision about whether to listen to, or tacitly support in some manner. For what it’s worth, A X I O M is pretty good, blast away black metal from a purely musical standpoint and nothing else, but let the controversy commence.
ERED – NIGHT OF ETERNAL DOOM
Worth a listen? Yeah, but not much more. Spanish black metal outfit Ered forge ahead with straightaway deathened black metal with just about every cliché tossed in for good measure. Riffs, blasts, a musical approach somewhere close to Marduk, etc., etc. Unoriginal in every way, but it’s catchy enough, especially when it actually slows down some. Unsurprisingly, it’s on second tier label War Anthem Records.
A FOREST OF STARS – BEWARE THE SWORD YOU CANNOT SEE
You don’t go around saying bands are basically the spiritual cousin to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum all willy-nilly-like; proper analogs should be dealt judiciously. The fourth full-length from these Leeds lunatics is also their most accessible …although inasmuch as say, California was Mr. Bungle’s most accessible album. The essential nature of the band is still intact, only—and this may sound like a fucking Macbook commercial or something—smarter, sleeker, and more refined. Moments like the Hammond-slanted detour in the second minute of “Hive Mindless” or the insistent bass pulses urging “Virtus Sola Invicta” are all hallmarks of a deeper confidence growing in this mysterious Gentlemen’s Club. They still make time for a welcome repeated motif to carry the listener through daunting territory, like the conclusion of Part 4 in the sprawling “Pawn on the Universal Chessboard” six-part saga, which tastefully delves into Norse mythology, but not in an overt Amon Amarth-y way. Nod to the old ways, but don’t be dominated by them. If you follow the avant-garde directions taken by Sigh (but prefer violin and flute over sax), dig the psychedelic leanings of Oranssi Pazuzu, and wish to span the varied retro gradients of Hail Spirit Noir in a different shade, you’ll find focused kindred conjuring in A Forest Of Stars. This sort of button- and boundary-pushing is why we must tack ‘progressive’ onto genre titles.
ENFORCER – FROM BEYOND
My first encounter with Enforcer was 2013’s Death By Fire. At the time, plenty of people said “this is just a rip-off of all the good stuff that’s already been done in metal,” and while I couldn’t necessarily disagree with them, the album’s charm was that it reminded me of all kinds of great stuff while not sounding exactly like any of them. With From Beyond, that charm is gone. The Swedish quartet just feels less passionate, and when you’re playing music this retreaded, simply going through the motions won’t cut it. The strongest element of the band is definitely Olof Wikstrand’s vocal melodies—”Undying Evil” and “Hell Will Follow” are highlights thanks to the vocalist—so it doesn’t help when the melody from the title track is ripped directly from “The Final Countdown” (do you really want that stuck in your head?) or songs like “One With Fire” are literally indistinguishable from the last album. We’ve all been wondering how long Enforcer could keep up their retro-worship and still be interesting. Sadly, the answer seems to have been “not very long at all.”
RAVEN – EXTERMINATION
Speed-drenched riffs that split the difference between thrash and Saxon? That’s so Raven! Vocals that alternate between a pub-soaked snarl and insane high-pitched wails, just like it was in 1982? That’s so Raven! A palpable, giddy, almost superhuman energy that drives everything forward at a breakneck pace that totally and magically belies the fact that this band has been around for 41 years? That’s so Raven! Some great tunes like “Destroy All Monsters” and “It’s Not What You Got” alongside some lesser tracks like the last four that round out this overlong (but otherwise solid) disc? That’s so Raven! Another good album that’s fun while it lasts, and should certainly satiate the trad-metal legions, but still doesn’t quite achieve the heights of the first three? That’s so Raven!
HOUSE OF ATREUS – THE SPEAR AND THE ICHOR THAT FOLLOWS
House Of Atreus is an atypical addition to the Dark Descent Records’ roster. Where many of the bands on the label favor a dark, old-school sound, House Of Atreus, with its full-length debut, The Spear And The Ichor That Follows, is comparatively bright and modern sounding. With lyrics taken from Greek tragedies, the subject matter is certainly dark and bloody, and the band does play death metal, but it is of a more melodic variety. There is a triumphant, martial air to the music that brings to mind Amon Amarth, but with more bite and variety. Catchy, flawlessly executed and highlighted by excellent lead work, The Spear And The Ichor That Follows might just hit the spot if you’re a little burnt-out on old-school death.
SIX FEET UNDER – CRYPT OF THE DEVIL
Detractors (and I’m usually one of them), say what you will about Six Feet Under and its pedestrian approach to basic death metal, but the last two albums were a renaissance of sorts as Barnes and company appeared to shake off their cannabis-enhanced haze and deliver two solid albums of very catchy and well written (if still pedestrian) death metal. Unfortunately, the renaissance has ended with Crypt Of The Devil. Still largely an up tempo affair that’s well produced with a few hooks, but it’s just not as catchy or as well written as Undead or Unborn. A few good tracks do appear, though, so Six Feet Under isn’t quite six feet under yet.
INFERNAL WAR – A X I O M
Infernal War has a lot in common with Marduk. They’re a blast-centric black metal quintet with an obsession with Satan and Nazi Germany. They play extremely fast music, and they’re a lot more enjoyable in small doses. The lyrics on A X I O M are very much the “rip down Christian institutions” lyrics we’ve come to expect from bands like Marduk and Behemoth. It makes sense that Behemoth would be a heavy influence on Infernal War, since they hail from Poland and Polish vocalists have a particular style they seem to share. Herr Warcrimer’s vocal style is at least 80% comprehensible, and blends well with the guitars of Triumphator and Zyklon. The bassist is named Godcrusher, though, and he plays an extremely generic part. Drummer Stormblast really only does one thing, but he does it with extreme proficiency. Infernal War has a good song—pick any of the 11 on this album—but I really don’t need to hear it 11 times in a row. “No Forgiveness” distinguishes itself with mid-tempo sections, but even with that sort of element, I can barely tell one song from another. I do like listening to A X I O M, but never more than two or three songs at a time. Perhaps an EP would be a good choice for the band.
Several members of Infernal War have past ties to NS bands, so if the prospect of perhaps listening to actual Nazis sing about Nazis and Satan rather than just pretend Nazis singing about Nazis and Satan worries you, perhaps give this one a skip.