Hammerheart America
P.O. Box 42323
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

Website: Hammerheart America


“Burning the Shroud” (10 tracks. 52:17).

The title song, “Burning the Shroud”, is a promise of things to come on a soon to be released album (actually, it is now released but I don’t have it and I forgot the title!). In the meantime we have this release to hold us over with two songs from the Shadows of Old recording sessions, “Midnatt Storm” and “Raven and Blood (1999 version)”. Even better, there are several tracks included here that are extremely rare because they come from 7” releases and such: “Dark Rage,” “Fire and Wind”, and “In the Darkest Circles of Time.” But best of all are 4 live tracks: “To Enter the Realm of Legend,” “When the Crow’s Shadow Falls,” “The Summoning of Shadows,” and “Cuchulain”. These live tracks show why Aeturnus are such a great band. That is, aside from a great sound recording professionally done, the songs are played with extreme accuracy. So with the great sound and the band’s tightness, you might actually forget you are listening to a live recording! It is very impressive. And there is one other important thing to know about this CD: while it is definitely a full-length album and well worth a full-length price, it is only $8 while supplies last! If you haven’t heard this band, then this is the essential release to introduce yourself to their awesome, tight death metal.


“Absolute Purity” (10 tracks. 44:45).

I popped this CD in and started really enjoying it without even noticing who was in the band. Driving down the road I came to a red light and just had to know who was in this awesome sounding band. Quickly I glanced at the credits, and to my surprise, the name Erik Rutan jumped out at me. Could this be a coincidence? A mistake? I thought Erik Rutan was this guitar player for Morbid Angel and Hate Eternal. I saw him with Hate Eternal last summer, but they didn’t sound like this! Needless to say, everyone who knows of Erik Rutan may know what a skilled guitar player he is, but now you need to know what a diverse guitar player he is. In other words, don’t expect another Morbid Angel/Hate Eternal type of death metal album. No, while this album is HEAVY and has some complex guitar playing, it is more appropriately labeled, “progressive” metal. Now don’t get confused here. “Progressive” in this case is like Believer or Atheist. The riffs are very deliberate, often slow, and sometimes off tempo. But let me repeat: it is also very heavy. In contrast to all this complexity and heaviness are the soaring soprano vocals of Martina Hornbacher Astner. It is her vocal performance that gives Alas a much fuller dimension. I mentioned Believer earlier because Ms. Astner’s vocals brings the female vocals on Believer’s Dimension album to mind. And if comparisons are any indication of greatness, then anyone into that kind of metal will truly enjoy this album.


“Increased Damnation” (15 tracks. 51:47).

I have dreams about albums like this one. In my dream I am at a music store or a friends house, or I get a package in the mail; either way, I end up discovering an awesome CD that I never knew about. Does this make sense to you? If I knew nothing else about this band, the very fact that much of the guitar work is done by Blasphemer (Mayhem) is enough to make me want it. But that isn’t all. Several of the tracks are sung by Fenriz of Darkthrone, while the rest of the album is performed by Aggressor and Apollyon. Now I confess that I haven’t kept up with the “Who’s Who” of black metal all that well, so I am not sure who these last two are. But no matter, they obviously rock! Even so, what makes this album such a great find is not just who is on it, nor the fact that its fifteen tracks are a combination of recording sessions under different line-ups and live performances. No, what makes this a great CD is that is kicks ass in the vein of Venom meets Destruction with a hint of primitive black metal. Of course, with a guitarist like Blasphemer, the music is going to be very technical, but his technicality is counterbalanced by the raw, aggressive sound. As the subtitle reads, this CD is “unholy thrash metal”. It is like the CD from the early 90’s that was forgotten and then rediscovered. Anyone who passes on this one is a poseur!


“The Secret Kingdom of Avrigus” (10 tracks. 52:27).

Simon Gruer and Judy Chiara of Avrigus have once again proven themselves to be a band with substance. Many of us longtime metal heads have often found ourselves branching out into other non-commercial forms of music such as ambient, celtic, darkwave, gothic, etc. for our listening pleasure. Avrigus must also take an interest in these alternate forms of music because they incorporate each of them into their doom-oriented, atmospheric music. They sound something like a Metal version of Autumn Tears or Black Tape for a Blue Girl, though fans of Rain Fell Within, and My Dying Bride to a lesser extent, will swoon with ecstasy over this album. Let me use the word “substance” again. This music is inspiring because there is more to it than riffs or some “formula for success” (i.e. Gothenburg sound, etc.) that other bands follow to be recognized. One gets the impression that Avrigus would make this kind of music whether anyone bought it or not. And that is what makes it so great, that is, the idea that they make this wonderful music in order to please their own tastes. And for those of us listening for music of substance, something we can return to over and over again, Avrigus satisfies completely.


“His Creation Reversed” (9 tracks. 44:44).

Hopefully the popularity of Havayoth’s gifted vocalist will not overshadow this excellent band. While the vocalist’s name, A. Hedlund as listed on the CD doesn’t ring familiar, the more familiar Vintersorg will. And yes, he has added his trademark vocals to this great album. But don’t let that be the only thing you get out of this review, because the rest of Havayoth, M. Norman (guitars, keys, programming) and M. Hansson (bass), have created a wonderful atmospheric album. It is one of those albums that is heavy not because of the music, but because of the mood. Were it not for the title of the album, I’d say that this was a real “worshipful” album, in a heavy way; particularly the tunes “Starfall” and “Teloah”. Naturally there is a more “promethean” ideology in the lyrics on this album (i.e., rebellion against God/the gods). No where is this more apparent than on the final number, “Fallen”. The overall mood of this album, while stylistically different, certainly brings Tiamat’s Clouds album to mind. But it also brings Vintersorg’s albums to mind, especially the atmosphere. So imagine what a Swedish band intent on atmosphere and clean vocals can do and you’ll have a great idea of what Havayoth is. It is a very respectable release.

As a side note, I assume that the band name, Havayoth, is Hebrew. If so, my very limited knowledge of the language has made it difficult for me to locate it in my lexicon. I also assume that the song title, “Teloah” may also be Hebrew. If anyone out there knows please let me know if I am right or totally wrong. Thanks.


“Neither of gods” (12 tracks. 41:50).

Just from listening to this CD I would have guessed that they were either from Florida or Poland. Comparisons to Morbid Angel and Hate Eternal immediately come to mind on the one hand, and Hate or Belfegor on the other. But brutal death metal isn’t foreign to Sweden. There are, after all, Swedish bands that do not follow in the Gothenburg sound, namely Hypocrisy, and apparently Throneaeon. The production job on this album, done by the band, is masterful, a death metal delight. Each of the instruments are clearly distinguishable, yet barbarically heavy. The tempos are fast, the riffs are chunky, and the mood is downright violent! Generally I don’t get real excited over this kind of music, but I can definitely make an exception as these Swedes have created a worthy CD. If they are given a fair listen by the heavy metal media, they will likely be very successful.


“Urkraft” (12 tracks).

This release has been out for quite a while. It had even been out a while when I received it back in the summer, but due to some frustrating computer problems and a much needed break from writing reviews, I am only now getting around to reviewing it. (Thankfully, Hammerheart/Martyr is not dependent on my little piss ant publication to get the word out!) Anyway, I first came to know this band when I bought their self-titled album. Unless I am mistaken, that was their first album and Valdr Galga was the second. If I am correct in this, then I have their first and third albums, and I must make note of the clear differences between the two. For one thing, the self-titled album is more along the lines of what I would call “Viking metal”, whereas this album, though it has many of the same elements, is heavier and more deserving of the title, “death metal.” But then again, maybe the only real distinction is that the music here is a bit heavier and more straight-forward than the first album. And that is very consistent with the things I’ve read about Thyrfing in interviews and reviews. What is especially nice about them is that they don’t sound like all the other death metal bands coming from Sweden, nor do they sound like a black metal band. And while they are largely original, I’d say that they have their admirers in other bands that also seek to incorporate the folk elements of Norse culture into their music, namely Finntroll. If you haven’t bought this solid release yet, you are missing out on a fine CD.


Martyr Music Group


“Intimate Portrait” (12 tracks. 56:12).

This is a truly unique offering. While one could easily start pulling words out of a hat to describe this band’s sound, and comparisons to other bands would easily follow, it wouldn’t do this band justice. They have to be heard to be understood. Nevertheless, I imagine that some descriptive words and comparisons might help the reader make a determination about whether to purchase the album or not. To begin with, the sound is a very heavy, sometimes slow death sound. In terms of guitars only, one may hear similarities to early My Dying Bride from the As the Flower Withers era. Brian Griffith’s vocals also remind of early My Dying Bride. However, the song structures don’t bear a lot of resemblance to MDB, though November’s Doom does come to mind. The structures are more progressive at times, similar in a way to Lacuna Coil, especially with Bunny’s vocals providing the smooth female counterbalance to Griffith’s deep growl. Thankfully, Bunny has a real full sounding voice, not the whiney sound of gothic chic vocals. Lita Ford comes to mind for comparison. Em Sinfonia’s music also features occasional keyboard embellishments and violins. Once again November’s Doom comes to mind as both bands seem to make the proper use of dynamics (i.e., loud parts, soft parts), suggesting that Em Sinfonia understands how songs are written. They successfully maintain a careful balance between the heavy side of metal and its smoother side. Commercial? No. Accessible? Yes. Each track is uniquely crafted and has the ability to hold your attention. You can listen to this entire album without wanting to skip ahead to the next song. So if this hasn’t convinced you to take an interest in Em Sinfonia, I think you’d better start listening to Country.

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