Black Lava – Soul Furnace 8.5/10
Melbourne’s BLACK LAVA has unleashed a furious debut offering within a year of their formation. Soul Furnace featuring members from HADAL MAW, NE OBLIVISCARIS and BLACKHELM, is a truly brutal offering, and the calibre of music is undeniable and visceral.
From the sinister opener that is ‘’Origins,’’ the idea of taking death metal and converging it with Black Metal is nothing new, but Black Lava does not fall into something so simple as evident from the foreboding opening moments of ‘’Aurora’’. Whether it be the ethereal nature of the guitars on ‘’Eye of the Moon’’ or their powerful dissonant nightmare-inducing effect on ‘’ Necrocatacomb’’. The power of Soul Furnace is the band’s ability to display their powerful death metal roots and imbue them with the unholy forces of nature that they command, whether it be progressive, melodic or the very fringe of extreme metal.
‘’Baptised In Ice’’ is punishing with its infectious energy, and the percussive juggernaut that is ‘’ Northern Dawn’’ continues the seamless merging of the technical with the fury of punishing death metal and the suitably caustic vocals that shriek, growl, and whisper their torments. The subtlety makes a great counterpoint to the aggression and inherent chaos.
The title track ‘’Soul Furnace ‘’ concludes the album on an ominous note that combines the cloying dense rhythms with vocals to create a hypnotic nightmare that lingers long into the silence. Soul Furnace is a debut of incredible proportions and diversity. It has the ability to feel familiar yet is undeniably creative, heavy, and a clear statement in the darkness of the music.
Project 34 – Project 34 10/10
Project 34 is a completely immersive experience that chronicles the life of man over 19 tracks. Based In Australia, it is a project that involves over 30 musicians and styles from every part of the planet.
From the power and horror of ‘’Words’’, the dissonance of ‘’Memorial Vale’ ’and its classical vision, the beauty of ‘’Reflect’’, the chaos of ‘’Emit ‘’with its blast beats and post Black Metal darkness, to the glorious uplifting solo of ‘’Ebony’’, Project 34 is an experience unlike no other, a journey that you will connect with as you travail the perils and triumphs of humankind’s powerful yet fragile existence. As real as emotions and yet as intangible as trying to label them.
Releases simply do not get more stunning than this. Project 34 will consume you, the haunting subtlety of Prayer with its strings versus whispered horrors of heartache and despair, the primal urge that is ‘’Heritage” and its undeniable heaviness. Some of the passages are brief moments in time, such as “Sunrise” and “Sunset”, that offer a glimmer of light against the Juggernaut that is ‘’Regret.” Project 34 takes ideas of genres and labels and shatters them. Try not to describe it rather, experience it and let it devour you with its compelling imagination and innovation.
The musicianship is aplomb, and beyond reproach, and at four years in the making, the result is stunning in its cohesiveness and vision. Not a moment is wasted or self-indulgent. It’s emotional (Re-unite), purposeful (Walking) and adventurous (Cryptic). Mature and yet at times deliberately irrational, you will be left speechless by the fearlessness, determination, and ability to surprise of not an album but an essential work of musical art.
Fredlös – Fredlös 8/10
Hailing from Nortallje, northeast of Stockholm. Fredlös is a new outfit that will release its self-titled debut album at the beginning of 2023.
Liv Hope’s vocals are quite frankly incredible. Her phrasing and technique raise Fredlös to another level. Her octave work on the truly epic ‘’Requiem” has to be heard to be appreciated. But it’s not all dulcet melodies and beautiful indoctrinations. The riff to “Uprorr” is cracking, heaving and soul-stirring, as is the beautiful traditionally infused ‘’Undergang’’. Of the nine tracks on offer, they present a wonderful juxtaposition of ideas and influences that transcend the thought of modern folk metal. ‘’Vat varm Jord’’ seamlessly brings beauty and tradition with heaviness without it becoming forlorn or falling into doom scenarios. The harsh vocals are a great balance and counterpoint, and the great double kick is not often heard in the genre but is a very welcome addition to their majesty.
Each Song is epic in scope and creation “Otto” is more folk mastery, the authentic native language adds to the mystery, the strings are rousing and alluring, whilst Victor Dahlin Keyboards add some subtlety and extra texture to songs. “Farsot ‘’ is another heavy offering that deals with the nature of disease and part of the overall concept that recounts the Middle Ages from the perspective of common people, again complimented by the superb vocal delivery and a healthy dose of pure metal speed.
Fredlös is a brooding much heavier offering than expected. Combined with superb vocals and some fantastic ideas, this is a warm tapestry of sounds that is visually creative and very memorable. An uplifting experience that finds hope in the dark.
Veliu Namai – Alkai 8/10
Led by Julius Mite, Veliu Namai invites you to experience the Baltics’ mystical world- to feel its ancient past’s sacredness. Alkai represents the tapestry and musical emotions woven into a ritualistic tapestry of dark folk, cold wave and electronica.
From the opening of “Aftensinn” (“Evening Mood”) this Lithuanian act have on this their fourth album has presented an introspective, reflective piece of work that takes the cold dance-like patterns and seamlessly merges them with the ancient vocals rhythms, Veliu Namai uses the electronica to replicate the primal percussion and create a dream-inducing effect. The warm vocals (Including a guest appearance by Liucija Nanartaviciute) are the juxtaposition to technology.
Cinematic in scope and redefining folk (perhaps updating it into the digital age?) The double bass and elements of extreme appear on “Nótt” (“The Night”), yet the primary effect of Alkai is a hypnotic trance-like singular piece broken into chapters. The beautiful melodies are made from guitars, lutes, and ethnic string instruments (the Turkish baglama). Yet, the keyboards are also prominent, adding texture to the enigmatic piece, ’’ Invocation of the Nine-Horned God’’. ‘’ Vilkobelle’’ induces a suspended vision-like state with its ritual and ethereal keys, whilst’’ The Plateau’’ is a more updated techno-inspired work with otherworldly chant-like vocals. The effect is a minimalistic primal evocation that uses hard techno to assist in the ceremony.
Celebrating the summer solstice and yet also embracing solitude and the lingering spectre of mortality, what may appear polarising becomes more natural the deeper you explore and enjoy. Alkaiis is a unique journey through the soundscapes of time and tradition, utilising both the original and modern to create moods that leave an indelible impression on the listener.