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I

Iced Earth - "Horror Show" (Century Media, CD, 2001)
One of the most awaited releases of the last months, this new album from one of the best bands in the Heavy Metal scene, and it was worth the waiting.
At their 6th album, Iced Earth release a really strong work, a conceptual album based on imaginary monsters. The guitars, mostly work of the ever-present Jon Schaffer (who also wrote about half of the lyrics) are very fierce and solid, ranging from the more aggressive ("Jack" or "Damien" for example) to the more calm, acoustic stuff (beginning of "Dracula" and "Ghost of freedom", this last one a ballad that kind of remembers me of "The Fiddler on the Green", from the Demons and Wizards project).
Consistence is some of the first things that leap out of this record - not only the guitar, but everything here is very solid, and the album maintains a very consistent obscure aura throughout the whole record...maybe too consistent for some...
Gary Barlow also has a very inspirated participation, very varied and powerful, managing to transport some of the feeling carried by the stories themselves to the listener...difficult to choose my favorite vocalizations...they're all good and equilibrated...he even gets to sing a duet with a female singer on the epic "The Phantom Opera Ghost". The drums (Richard Christy) are fierce and accurate, the lead guitars (Larry Tarnowski) sound good (big iron maiden influence, like everyone else in the band) and the bass (Steve DiGiorgio, who's not in the band anymore) is also good...consistence again!
One of the best Heavy Metal albums from these last months, probably one of the best of the year, not an instant-listening one, but that will keep you going through it for a lot of time. A special version of this release comes with a "Transylvania" (from Iron Maiden) cover.

Tracklist:
1 - Wolf
2 - Damien
3 - Jack
4 - Ghost Of Freedom
5 - Im-Ho-Tep (Pharaoh's Curse)
6 - Jeckyl & Hyde
7 - Dragon's Child
8 - Frankenstein
9 - Dracula
10 - Phantom Opera Ghost
11 - Transylvania

18,5/20

Zoid

Immortal - "Battles in the North" (Osmose Productions, CD, 1995)
Cold, raw, epic, light-speed winter metal. This is as accurate as i can classify the norwegian masters Immortal's latest work. 
It is damn fast, is the first thing you notice. There are few slow moments in this album, for Abbath (both the band's vocalist, bass, drummer and synth (almost inexistant) player) have decided to totally blast out the skins for this demonic release. Unfortunately, i guess the guys in the studio weren't with great patience for the recording, so you can notice some nasty mistakes, and the drums sometimes sound a little bit repetitive.
The guitar work, provided by Demonaz, is constituted mainly of cold, winter riffs, not very technical but highly effective, sometimes intercalated with very cool leads or, in the case of the last song, "blashyrkh (mighty ravendark)", fantastic epic acustic parts. The bass follows the guitar in most ocasions, but sometimes also gives an air of its grace (the beggining of "cursed realms of the winterdemons", for example). Only a slight defect - many songs begin with the same chord and similar rhythm (so don't listen only to the intros, or you'll think this release has a utter lack of originality!).
The vocals are done in a very cold, epic, imponent style, with Abbath screaming out majestic words of power (the lyrics go around ravens, ice mountains, northern realms...very epic stuff, no pseudo-evil "satan is my boss" bullshit here!); there are small english errors, though, but most people won't even notice (although Immortal could do an effort to avoid them in future releases).
The production work has it's flaws, such as the drum recording mentioned above, and the not 100% cristaline sound, but is is reasonable nonetheless, much like most extreme metal recordings of that time (grieghallen, should i say more?...).
Simple, effective, this is Immortal's latest release. Musically similar to black metal, but should not be considered to belong to such a style (the band preffer to call it "holocaust metal"), for it is something quite unique. I agree.

Tracklist:
1- Battles In The North
2- Grim And Frostbitten Kingdoms
3- Descent Into Eminent Silence
4 - Throned by Blackstorms
5- Moonrise Fields of Sorrow
6- Cursed Realms of the Winterdemons
7- At The Stormy Gates of Mist
8- Through The Halls of Eternity
9- Circling Above In Time Before Time
10- Blashyrkh - mighty Ravendark

17,5/20

Zoid

Immortal - "At the Heart of Winter" (Osmose Productions, CD, 1999)
Although Immortal might be considered, in terms of sound, Blackmetal, their lyrics never integrated the standard "fuck christ" stuff. At their fifth album, the same happens. This was the first thing I noted when I bought "at the heart of winter", even before hearing it - the lyrics continue to be about grimness, winter, always in the style immortal have habituated us to, now more epic than ever.
Now the music... Immortal has a new line-up, as Demonaz, due to arm problems, left the band, leaving the composition work to Abbath. I must confess I was kind of scared of hearing this album, because I thought that maybe Abbath couldn't handle all the composition work (except for the drums, which are very well taken care of by Horgh). I was completely wrong!
Immortal managed to reinvent themselves, when they released this masterpiece of extreme metal. The music has suffered a big evolution, now the songs are way more complex, featuring an incredibly inspirated and direct guitar work (and I thought that Abbath could only handle the bass...), now more melodic and powerful than ever. 
The songs are also much more majestic, recovering a bit of the atmospheric feeling that "diabolical fullmoon mysticism" had; to that thing contributes the length of each track: a medium running time of about 7 minutes; Abbath's voice continues to be dark, grim, raw and imponent, completely fitting the great lyrics (work of Demonaz, who has written all of them for this album).
There will be of course fans, more fond of the more direct immortal sound, featured for example in "battles in the north" who will disapprove the direction of the band, but I believe that, by doing this record (which runs for the title of best album of the year, in my opinion...) immortal have managed to gain a new strength, and of course, lots of new fans.

Tracklist:
1 - Withstand the Fall of Time
2 - SolarFall
3 - Tragedies Blow at Horizon
4 - Where Dark and Light don´t Differ
5 - At the Heart of Winter
6 - Years of Silent Sorrow

18,5/20

Zoid

Immortal - "Damned in Black" (Osmose Productions, CD, 2000)
A year and so after the release of the mighty "At the Heart of Winter", the great masters of nebula frost (duh...) are back with a new release, "Damned in Black". 
The band now has included a permanent bass-player, iscariah, who, despite having not contributed in terms of composition to this album (because when he arrived at the band the making was almost done), will contribute to the next one.
Don't expect a return to the very raw style featured in the older albums, but know that this album is way more direct and brutal than the last one, incorporating several 80's influences. 
The songs are no more 7 minute epics, but 3-4 minute war cries. The lyrics, work of Demonaz again, continue in the same vein, now slightly more direct to adjust the musical landscape. The instrumentation is also in the same vein, with the guitars being more in-your-face and the drums being really awesome, aggressive and groovy (great work Horgh!).
But this isn't the masterpiece "at the heart of winter" was. I mean, there are great tracks in the album, like for example "triumph" or "wrath from above", but, when you listen to the album, you sometimes get the idea that it could be better, maybe Immortal could wait some 3 months more to get the album better or something...but don't think this is a bad release, 9 out of 10 Immortal fans will love it, and many who disliked the band's more epic approach will join the legion once again!

Tracklist:
1 - Triumph
2 - Wrath from above
3 - Against the Tide
4 - My Dimension
5 - The Darkness that Embrace Me
6 - In our Mystic Visions Blest
7 - Damned in Black

16/20

Zoid

Impiety - "Kaos Kommand 696" (Osmose Productions, CD,2002)
If by any chance you thought that Impiety's previous album "Skullfucking Armageddon" was good, then you should really get this one ASAP. These 3 maniacs from Singapore really know what they're doing, and the proof comes within this extreme and violent album. Concisely, here we have 8 war anthems of pure desecration and astonishing aggressiveness showed through killer riffs leading the angerly spitted vocals by Shaityain, both supported by Fauzzt's frenetic drumming filled with constant blast beats.
Concerning the album's production, everyone can notice that it's clearly less muffled than the one featured on its predecessor, which turned out to be a necessary and quite relevant improvement in order to enhance the band's intensity; the vocals were also reviewed and therefore they sound more aligned with the other elements. Anyway, if you want to have a cleaner idea of Impiety try to imagine the natural evolution of Angelcorpse's sonority if they were still active: a devastating hurricane punching your face mercilessly!
As for favourite tracks, I must say that despite the homogenity here featured my choice goes to "ChristfuckingChrist" and "Wardaemonic Overkill", both already repeated by my stereo speakers 'till exaustion.
"Kaos Kommand 696" can be considered a real breath of fresh air within the scene, as we impotently assist to its invasion by useless fags [normally from an abhorrent town called Gothenburg] who proudly deliver "nice-and-harmonic-shit" appropriate for 12 year-old kids who desperately crave for completely dull stuff.
If you're into bands like Krisiun, Belphegor and so on, erase them from your memory immediately because when compared to Impiety, they're nothing but pretty-looking innocent girls playing romantic ballads. This is definitely one of my favourite releases for 2002, it really struck me with the strenght of something like a jackhammer.

Tracklist:
1 - christfuckingchrist
2 - Apokalyptic Nuclear BattleBeasts
3 - Wardaemonic Overkill
4 - Atomic Wrath of Azzazzel
5 - Bestial Genocidal Goatvomit
6 - Bloodred Angelshred
7 - Abominate Fornicate Desecrate
8 - Kaos Kommand 696

19/20

Damned

Incantation - "The Infernal Storm" (Relapse Records, CD, 2000)
Probably everyone who's reading this review knows at least something about this cult american Deathmetal band much influenced by Death's first albums. Formed in 1989 by John McEntee and Paul Ledney, they're line-up consists now in John McEntee (guitar), Rob Yench (bass), Mike Saez (guitars/vox), and Duane Timlin (he's from Sarcophagus and is the drummer only for touring effects). Well, 2 years have passed since their last release entitled "Diabolical Conquest" and the changes in this "Infernal Storm" are almost inexistent (they're one of the few bands that still remains faithful to its roots). This is fast satanic death metal; a blending of heavy, really intense passages with fast-paced and brutal catchy riffs. Concerning the lyrical concept, with track names such as "Apocalyptic Destroyer of Angels" and "Heaven Departed", I guess you'll know what to expect from here (unless you're retarded, but that's not my fault). As for the production, I think the sound is a bit low when compared with the "Diabolical Conquest" album, but that's not much relevant. Despite the absence of something new here, this is a very good album, one more triumph to the true warriors of blasphemy.

Tracklist:
1 - Anoint the Chosen
2 - Extinguishing Salvation
3 - Impetuous Rage
4 - Sempiternal Pandemonium
5 - Lustful Demise
6 - Heaven Departed
7 - Apocalyptic Destroyer of Angels
8 - Nocturnal Kingdom of Demonic Enlightenment

17/20

Damned

Infernüs - "Ódio Infernal"  (Purodium Rekords, Promo-Tape, 2002)
Before this release reach my hands I heard an instrumental track from this guys, and I was really impressed, because I never though
I would walk backward to the 80’s Black Metal, darkness, rawness and terror. This is the debut release from this Portuguese band from Beira Baixa and they present us two Raw and Cold Black Metal tracks. This band should have more credit for the balls this guys have to write the lyrics in Portuguese, not a matter of pride but the bands should write more lyrics in Portuguese, just an opinion.
This demo sounds raw the way it should be as we can define the bass, the guitar, the drums and the vocals. This isn’t well played music, this is Black Metal or in other words, it has more feeling than properly technique. This band has a great feeling at my point of view; they have the essential for it. The guitar riffs are very demoniac, specially the first ones of the song “Sacrifício Maligno” and those riffs on the middle of “Cristo em Chamas” on the slow part, it is repetitive in a good way, because the songs aren’t very long. In what concerns the vocalizations, it seems an alcoholic screaming, but he does it with a great feeling… the drums are well played, Impur handle it well, he performs mostly fast beat but not the way I can say he’s a cyborg. The bass, well I don’t know who performed it on this record, probably a guest-member, but it has a bass line, simple but it is present here. The production is fine, the instruments sounds raw but we can’t hear any unwanted noises on this release. For the end, I think this band sound cavernous and rudimentary; they perform a simple Black Metal but with a lot of feeling and no great techniques… loyal to the 80’s Black Metal.

Tracklist:
1 - Sacrifício Maligno
2 - Cristo em Chamas

Lord Infaustum

Inner Helvete/Front Beast - "United Terror Division" - (Ordealis Records,7’’EP, 2002)
This split contains two Black Metal bands, the Portuguese horde Inner Helvete and the Germans Front Beast. It is composed of two tracks from Inner Helvete, (one of them is the intro) and one track from Front Beast. This holocaust starts with a very dark atmosphere; it seems as if we are flying on the void and burning in the violent flames of hell at the same time. It is strange, we hear the wind and a melodic guitar riff without distortion… terror arrives, finally, the second track from Inner Helvete, starts. Distorted guitar with riffs that remind me of war as it has some noises on it and I think it fits well. The drums can be better… I think they should program it better. Well, what discounts in some things counts on others such as originality, on this second track “Allegiance to Satan (Total Warfare Version)” and last from Inner Helvete on this split, in the middle of the music, it all stops and we can hear some star wars ambient, like lasers, which personally I think it is innovator. At the beginning Inner Helvete didn’t arouse me much, nut I learned to appreciate their sound, and now I see the infernal feeling they have.
Front Beast crushes his side with one unholy hymn, “Slaughter the Heaven”, which I think is an excellent track, although it is very in the vein of Burzum which is preferable than Cradle of Filth clones… It starts with a thunderstorm, then, an epic riff starts to announce the slaughter of heaven. I must confess this song impressed me the first time I heard it because the vocals are so sick… it seems like this guy is begging for something really desperately. The guitars are epic on the entire track while the bass limits to follow the guitar. The drums are good. Generally I think this music is well done, mainly the construction of the track and specially the sequence of the guitar riffs.
For the end I would like to say that Inner Helvete has a more characteristic sound than Front Beast, anyway, both bands are very good and have the essence from the underground... I think the guttural “distorted” vocals on Inner Helvete aren’t so common on nowadays Black Metal so it distinguishes them from other bands…

Side A: (Inner Helvete)
1 - From the Bottomless Depths
2 - Allegiance to Satan (Total Warfare Version)
 

Side B:
1 - Slaughter the Heaven

 

17/20

Lord Infaustum

Insision - "Beneath The Folds of Flesh" (Earache Records, CD, 2002)
Just when you think that brutal death metal in Europe has died, another band appears and the corpse rolls over in it's grave. The last time I heard an album of this musical style with such attention/curiosity was somewhat in 1998, I really can't remember. Insision come from Sweden, but one can immediately tell they're not included among the crappy "melodic-meets-happy" Gothenburg style, wich for me is obviously a relief. Their debut "Beneath the Folds of Flesh" captured my attention right since the initial seconds of the opening track "World Impaled" mainly due to its blasting energy and instrumental accuracy; both elements are the keystone of a formula (let's call it this way) repeatedly showed through the remaining tracks. In addition to that, comes a layer of technical/fast riffing (sometimes reminding me of Suffocation but less downtuned) mixed with a certain amount of groove much in the vein of Cryptopsy's "None So Vile" (the bass performs here an important role), along with Thomas Daun's drumming that couldn't be more appropriate; coherent, fast when required and very precise when it comes to rhythm changes. As for the vocals, my expectations weren't wrong as I listen to Birath's constant cavernous growling throughout these nine neck-snapping tracks. Concerning the lyrics, they feature inspirations from HP Lovecraft, Satanism and some of Birath's personal reflexions, resulting in a great song writing. Althought I've heard better releases within the genre, "Beneath The Folds of Flesh" is an extremely violent album, clearly above the average; Insision came to prove that good Death Metal can still be made in Sweden, wich was indeed a bloody surprise for me.

Tracklist:
1 - World Impaled
2 - Trapped Within
3 - Sado God
4 - Temple of Flesh
5 - Rewind Into Chaos
6 - Impamiiz Gra
7 - My Fever
8 - Before My Altar
9 - Ex Oblivion

16,5/20

Tormentor

InThyFlesh - "Ode Nacional" (Demo-tape, Profanum Records, 2002)
This is one of the two demos release almost simultaneosly by this young band comming from the north of Portugal. "Ode Nacional" is a very good piece of cold and raw Blackmetal as it was done back in the old days. For such a young band they show already a great amount of coordenation and experience in writing the songs, so I have to congratulate them for that.
All the instruments are well played and have a strong role in the songs, for instance, the bass appears sometimes as lead (in the beginning of "Salvé Portugal!", for instance), but normally it is used as a rythmic base for the leads played by the guitar. The drum work is also well achieved with fast and slower paces with the right tempos.
Another thing that I've got to congratulate them is that they had the guts to write all the songs in Portuguese, which is not very common, but in my opinion should be.
InThyFlesh with the release of this demo strengthened the Underground Blackmetal scene in Portugal, that in the last few years has had a very good evolution, so if you follow intensively Blackmetal support this band (and all the Portuguese Blackmetal Underground), because they are a very good band and I think that in a few years they'll become one of the most important bands within the international Blackmetal scene.

Tracklist:
1 - Terra Pagã
2 - Sangue Luso
3 - Salvé Portugal!

 

Shemahmforash

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