Dawn of a Dark Age – Transumanza 8.5/10
There is Avant Garde and then there is true Avant Garde where conventions, genres and preconceived notions do not apply. Italian Vittorio Sabelli is an accomplished jazz musician, and his clarinet work is prominent in his music. Dawn of a Dark Age is also pure Iconoclast Black Metal with its fury untempered, Transumanza is the eighth release in a varied journey that is as experimental as it is extreme.
Transumanza is not so much an album as it is a journey through the homelands with elements of folk and tradition combined with the modern fury of Black Metal and its bleak aggression. From the surprisingly mood ridden opening and the clarinet of ‘’ La scasata’’ where less is more it is calm and atmospheric. Compare it to the utter chaos of ‘’Il Gran Tratturo Magno’’ with its mania and jazz-infused piano (some of the time changes are incredible) it itself is tempered by the subtle beauty of the female led ‘’Cantico Tra Cielo E Mare’’ and its rich memorable vocal lines and instantly memorable acoustic melodies. Emanuele Prandoni’s vocals particularly shine throughout and make a great counterpoint to the harshness within ‘’ Preghiera pagana (dell’abbandono)’’ is the briefest of acoustic respites, whilst ‘’ Transumante’’ offers the more jazz-infused timing to an extreme black metal framework, the tremolo is frantic along with the percussion, with multiple timings and vocals happening all at once. It demands to be heard for the complex arrangement and at ten minutes it contains nearly every element and instrument at Vittorio’s formidable disposal.
Exciting, confusing, confounding, and incredible. At times you can feel the soft wind of a warm summer’s evening and yet the cold loneliness and darkness of midnight where the unmentionable inhabit. Wildly experimental Transumanza is an album that needs to be heard to be experienced and is a valuable addition to a prolific artist’s canon.
Watain – Die in Fire 8/10
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Watain, the Swedish black metal stalwarts have delivered another live album to commemorate this accomplishment. The show recorded was part of the ‘Chariots of Fire European Tour and took place on October 7, 2022, at Fållanin in front of 1800-plus faithful devotees.
Perfectly capturing the mayhem and derangement of their live shows, this new offering contains a setlist that is comprised of many tracks from their last studio album ‘’ The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain’’ and ‘Ecstasies in Night Infinite’ is the intense opener. The sound is brutal and intense as any Watain offering should be and is excellently recorded, the live atmosphere is present but never overbearing “Devils Blood’’ Swirls malevolently with inherent violence, Erik Danielsson’s vocals are intense and enthusiastic and the rhythm section is given great bottom end power that makes such tracks as ‘’ Reaping Death’’ and epic ‘’Before the Cataclysm’’ highlights in a set that is filled with great moments, including the obligatory yet incredibly intense version of Bathory’s ‘’ The Return of Darkness and Evil’’.
The intensity in the live performance is beyond rebuke ‘’ Black Flames March’’ and its great riffing and stomping wickedness is excellence represented as is the vileness of ‘Black Salvation’ that drips old school hellfire and closer ‘’Malfeitor’’that rounds out a set that represents a tour and a band that is among giants in the genre and a fantastic live act.
By no means a greatest hits collection ‘’ Die in Fire’’ is an excellent snapshot of a moment in time that celebrates an enduring legacy that continues to grow and evolve, for those invested in diabolic fury, it is nothing short of essential.
Malicious – Merciless Storm 9/10
Four tracks eleven minutes. That’s it. That’s all you need, Finland’s Malicious has taken the better part of three years to release four new tracks since the debut of ‘’ Deranged Hexes’’ in 2020.
In eleven minutes, the black metal presented is quite simply merciless, it is far too brief but that’s what makes it so effective, the speed attack is unrelenting, the solos unhinged and frantic. The title track and ‘’ Invasive Terror’’ are violent odes of aggression with no respite, it takes a slight punk aesthetic and give it that pure black metal cold wave of fury that is the highlight, ‘’Ambient Sonic Annihilation’’, nothing ambient about it just utter annihilation delivered at an exhausting pace.
Merciless Storm doesn’t care for subtleties, yet the arrangements are strong and intense. The eighties thrash infused solos add to the chaos that is the percussion. It is the blast of anger that is best survived with the senses irreparably damaged. It is blistering, exhausting and highly addictive Malicious indeed!
Swansong – Awakening 8/10
Proudly metal, capturing the essence of eighties and nineties music and giving it that modern metal edge, Finland’s Swansong is the creation of former Up Yours- punk vocalist Jemiina and Verjnuarmu guitarist Topi Pitkänen. The debut album is Awakening and it’s a true metal offering.
Given that melodic death metal is considered the modern-era version of true metal. Swansong conquers it excellently whilst giving it that Maiden twin guitar harmonious attack that is instantly memorable but no less punishing. ‘’ Maiden Of Death’’ has the guitar parts that makes metal truly excellent the riffing is so tight and precise given the clarity of a great recording with soaring twin harmonies. The up-tempo attack propels it forward into something special. Jemiina’s vocals are truly harsh and aggressive that with tracks ‘’Fight or Die’’ draw comparisons to Arch Enemy. Unafraid to Gallop like the masters and let the music breathe in spaces before returning to intense rhythms, the energy to their music and crunch is contagious and memorable. ‘’Blood Widow” is on the more extreme side yet allows the guitar work of Topi Pitkänen and Tuomas Leskinen to truly shine.
The title track is pure modern European metal goodness and represents an album that on repeated listens grows in stature and becomes more memorable and intense with every listen. That solo at the end of ‘’Awakening’ and track ‘’Fury of the Witch “ is so metal it gives you goosebumps! Being able to seamlessly cross genres and add some subtlety to their attack, “’ Frost of Winter’’ is another multidimensional highlight’,
Swansong has created an album that is as captivating as it is neck-cracking addictive. Celebrating all things metal is a feast for the ears and the senses!