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Antestor

-- "Return of the Black Death" (11 Tracks. 57:07) Black/Forest Metal. NORWAY.

Fans of Horde and Kekel pay attention. This new album from Antestor leaves the more Doom oriented style of "Martyrium" for the more shrill and primitive sounds of Black/Forest Metal. From the beginning this disc recalls the sound and style of "Hellig Usvart". Of course, being a full band Antestor sound much better and polished than Horde, but the comparison remains. Also, Martyr's vocals are easier to listen to than Anonymous'. The music is generally fast and accents the high end guitar sound. Unlike Horde, though, this album is much easier to listen to and a bit more diverse. There aren't any totally chaotic tracks which sound like a train wreck. The music is often melodic, even. And, like their music in the past, Antestor is able to evoke powerful emotions. Remember "Mercy, Lord" from "Martyrium" and the "Northern Lights" CD's? "Sorg" (Sorrow) and "Kongsblod" on this disc are equally emotive, powerful.

While comparisons to Horde and Kekel come easily to Christian listeners, it should be noted that this disc sounds a lot like Ulver's "Nattens Madrigal" (Madrigal of the Night) in style. It should also be noted that this disc is on Cacophanous Records, a Black Metal label in England with such bands as Bal Sagoth, early Dimmu Borgir, etc. This should attest to the credibility of this great CD.

One other note, the CD is mostly in Norwegian. I admire that about Norwegian bands; i.e., that they don't cater to the "English speaking world" but do their own thing. If I understand correctly this CD will soon be rare, so, if you think you want it, don't hesitate to get it.

Ashen Mortality

“Your Caress” (7 Tracks. 37:27). ENGLAND. $17.00

I think it is fair to say at this point that Ian Arkley has created a sound of his own. This is an important point to make when so many reviewers are comparing Ashen Mortality to Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. Ashen Mortality do come from the same neck of the woods as those other two bands and do play a similar vein of metal, but, they have been consistent only to themselves. Even on this disc, Arkley’s finest since Seventh Angel’s Lament For The Weary, has that “sound”. Your Caress is a Gothic/Doom metal masterpiece. More satisfying than Sleepless Remorse in many ways, Caress has top-notch production, beautiful poetic lyrics, and emotionally stirring music. The highlight of the disc is the title song, “Your Caress” which is so hypnotic you’ll find yourself singing it all day. But don’t forget the Medieval sounds of Ian’s acoustic guitar and Melanie’s vocals on songs like, “Broken Bonds” and “Our Eden”.

Aunt Bettys

“Ford Supersonic” (18 tracks. 59:57. Marathon) Alternative. USA

When John Lennon saw a picture his son Julian drew it inspired him to write the song, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (not LSD). The song, “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was inspired by a poster. In short, the Beatles had a rare magic. Four guys with a knack and some charisma. I can’t help but feel the same is true of the Aunt Bettys. Singer/songwriter/sinner Mike Knott singing, wailing. Andrew Carter’s affective guitar playing, the solid rhythm of Brian Doidge on Bass and Chuck Cummings on Drums. These guys had a special magic. Between the two AB’s releases these guys have pumped out nearly thirty songs that go beyond way beyond average. We have seen and heard many impressive things from Knott and Doidge over the years but, frankly, the Bettys stuff is the best.

Though this new release doesn’t have the lush (no pun intended) production of the debut, the sound quality and charisma is still there. We learn that some of these songs are preproduction demos but they sound better than some of the Blonde Vinyl releases. There are some really solid rockers on here like, “Two Timin’ Jack”, “Sugar Cane” (one of my favorites), a hard rock/surf version of “Rock Stars on H”, the hilarious “Ricky Racer” and “Motor Queen”. Other songs like, “Movie Star”, “Popsicle Stick”, and “Top of the World” lament the hard times many of us face trying to make ends meet. These songs are truly moving. The song, “Popsicle Stick” in particular reveals Knott’s creative genius in drawing the spiritual from such a simple illustration from his daughter, much like John Lennon did from his son Julian. Sadly, the Bettys are no more. This is due to hard times. One wonders how it could happen to one of the greatest bands in the world. My guess is that we ran our mouths and told everybody they were “Christian”. That probably ruined their chances.
Finally, there are some hidden live tracks at the end. Two are of an old Irish pub song, the other two are “Rock Stars on H” and “Two Timin’ Jack”. This is a great CD and should be bought by everyone. (See also, LSU).


Eva O

“Damnation: Ride The Madness” (10 Tracks. 37:39. MCM). $16.00. Imagine yourself at an outdoor amphitheater at night. The stage is lit by the flames of torches. Out of the darkness steps an actor with a black cape, red face, and horns. The actor gives a long soliloquy; this is the devil speaking. Well, if you can picture that, then you have a grasp of what this CD is about. Damnation: Ride The Madness is, in my opinion, a drama about the devil and his work in an almost Shakespearean fashion. Many people expecting a CD with ten catchy tunes and an upbeat message will totally miss the point. There is music on this CD but it is there mostly to accent the message and create the mood. This said, it must be pointed out that track 8, “The Devil” is pretty catchy. Eva’s voice will also throw some people. She has a very thick voice similar to Rez’s Wendy Kaiser or the female vocalist for Sanctum. Her vocal style on this album is known in educated musical circles as recitative (sprechgesang in German). It is kind of a spoken, dramatic style of speaking which once again puts us in the mindset of a Shakespearean drama. The whole experience is impressive and effective when you keep these things in mind. The CD ends on a positive note, which prepares us for “act two” entitled, Salvation. This final track sounds somewhat like it could be a track on one of Saviour Machine’s Legend albums, which is no surprise since this CD is produced by Eric Clayton. I have no way of comparing this to Eva’s previous works but I have the impression that this one is unique for her. It’s not for the weak of heart. But if you love a good drama, filled with atmosphere, it will please.

Immortal Souls/Mordecai (split EP)

(8 Tracks. 35:11). Classic/Death Metal & Black Metal. FINLAND.


Immortal Souls “Divine Winter”

If there is a Norwegian sound then there is definitely a Finnish sound as well. Though Finnish bands vary in style there is a somewhat definable set of characteristics that seem to fit a lot of them. For one thing, they seem to focus more on classic metal guitar styles and song structures than their Norwegian brothers. They tend to be more melodic as well. I think this is an appropriate way to describe the sound of Immortal Souls. These four songs, “Snow Soul”, “Divine Wintertime”, “Morning Mist”, and “Christ Mass” have the characteristics described above. Fans of earlier Amorphis and Sentenced alike will find themselves liking these tunes, though they have growling vocals like those of Carcass (England). I also think that Immortal Souls would be a great opening act for Deuteronomium as they share a similar musical style. Production is crisp and one can assume that much time was put into the recording and production.

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Mortification

“Triumph of Mercy” (9 Tracks. 42:30. Rowe) Heavy Classic Metal! AUSTRALIA

Back in June 1996 I interviewed Steve Rowe at a club in Atlanta. He said, “We've been doing albums every year for seven years so we'll probably have a longer gap before the next one.” I’m sure he didn’t have Leukemia in mind when he said this, however, with everything past and this album in hand, it all now seems like nothing more than a two-year interval. Of course, that’s easy for me to say . . .

We were all curious to say the least as to how this album would sound. Now, after hearing it for over a month I must say that you would never know that anything ever happened. Sure there is a variation in sound as Mort has been prone to do from album to album. But really, starting with Blood World they have maintained a fairly consistent sound. This disc is no exception. The main difference here is that the music might be slightly heavier than the last three. As true as this is, though, Mortification has so set themselves into a formula that I would say the differences are minimal. All things considered I’d say that is quite an accomplishment.

You might notice that over the years Mortification songs have undergone not just a shift in musical style but also in lyrical style. Whereas their earlier songs seemed to be pointed more outwardly exposing the world to the Gospel, it seems to me that their more recent music is pointed more at the Christian audience, to inspire, challenge, and chasten. I could be wrong but that is my impression. In any event consider this: while other bands have fallen with their labels or died from lack of commitment, nothing—and I mean nothing—seems to stop these guys from sharing the Gospel. Rock on! (reviews for every other Mort release can be found on the Synopticon section of the Metal Page).
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Saviour Machine

“Legend Part I” (12 Tracks. 77:40. Massacre) Gothic. USA

When I first heard that these guys were going to create a three CD epic on the book of Revelation I was astonished. Of course the book of Revalation has been the focus of lots of musical projects from Pop to Heavy Metal, as well as lots of movies. And of course Terry Taylor and the DA boys did an epic of Revelation on side two of Shotgun Angel. This was later remixed with Bible readings and musical segueways and released as The Revelation. (You may remember that Taylor produced the first Savior Machine). But three CDs? That is ambitious. One cannot do this unless they are pretty studious. And, it is obvious from these CD’s that Eric Clayton has put countless hours of study into this work. Frankly, it will take any listener many listenings to take it all in.

Musically this disc is quite beautiful. It has some pretty melodies like in, “Legend I:I” and “The Woman”. There are several musical themes that repeat themselves throughout which lend credence to the notion that this is an Opera. The only thing these guys are missing, in my opinion, are female vocals to provide an antithesis to the male vocals. Oh, well.

A brief word on interpretation: There are three basic approaches to interpreting the book of Revelation. These are discussed later on in this ‘zine. Suffice it to say that Savior Machine follow a Pre-millenial interpretation, as does Taylor’s The Revelation. Those this is not the interpretation I follow I find that I have no problem to listen to and enjoy this disc. One should never be too insistent on an interpretation of a book like Revelation. Listen and enjoy.


Saviour Machine

“Legend Part II” (16 Tracks. 79:29. Massacre) Gothic. USA

If there is one thing that sets this disc apart from Legend Part I it is the intensity of the music. Whereas the first installment of this series started out with spoken word and then a beautiful ballad, “Legend 1:1”, part II goes directly into some intense, heavily layered music. It is so intense that one has trouble taking it in all at once. The intensity is maintained all the way through until you get to the song, “The Martyrs’ Cry”. This song calms the scene for some softer music until one comes to the section that bridges “The Bride of Christ” to “Rapture: The Seventh Seal”. Then, slowly, the musical intensity builds and climaxes in “War In Heaven - The Second Fall”. This CD sounds much more like a Germanic Opera than their other works, in my opinion. No doubt the intensity on this disc is meant to represent the intensity of what is happening in the text.

Legend II picks up where Legend I left off in the text of Revelation. The lyrics on this CD, like the last, are not simply quotations from that book, but interpretations. I say this because, as an example, historical persons such as Saladin are mentioned, though his name is not found in Revelation. This is clearly giving a specific interpretation and the listener should be aware of this. Hopefully I made it clear in the previous review that I follow a different interpretation of this book. However, let me repeat how much I appreciate the beauty and intricacy of these albums. I admire and commend Eric Clayton and Savior Machine on their work. How often does a band with international recognition work so hard and diligently to explain scripture. Certainly the urgency of the book of Revelation is accurately portrayed here. I can’t wait for part III.


Saviour Machine

“Behold A Pale Horse” (4 Tracks. Massacre) Gothic. Gothic. USA.

As if 80 minutes were not enough (I say this jokingly), there was a song recorded for Legend Part II that had to be excluded from the disc because there simply wasn’t enough room on the disc for all the songs. So this track, “New World Order,”is included here with three remixes of the song, “Behold, A Pale Horse”. It is interesting to me that pre-millenialists have latched on to the phrase “new world order”. I’m sure that this phrase had a lot to do with George Bush’s failure to get reelected as President. What gets me is that, if he is no longer a political figure with power, and his plans of a “new world order” are now dismissed, what purpose is there in using it now. Undoubtedly the real reason is that this phrase summarizes what premillenialists expect to happen.

The three remixes of “Behold, A Pale Horse” are awesome. The second remix, the “ego” remix, is a neat, jazzy version which is then followed by the beautiful “classical” remix which really features the piano skills of Nathan Van Hala who is the real musical star of all these discs. Don’t debate over this disc if you are a real fan. It is worth getting.



Saviour Machine

“Behold the Mask” (5 Tracks. 22:48) Gothic. $15.00
This CD is part of a series put out by Massacre Records featuring odd shaped discs and selections from each band’s repertoire. The Saviour Machine edition is appropriately a mask-shaped CD with the following tracks: “Behold, A Pale Horse” from Legend II, “Love Never Dies” from Saviour Machine II, “Carnival of Souls” from Saviour Machine, “The Lamb” from Legend I, and “Enter the Idol” from Saviour Machine II. Admittedly there is no new material here but no doubt collectors will want to get this rare (only 3,000 made) CD for their collection. For others who’ve never heard Saviour Machine, this is the perfect CD to buy to become aquainted with their music since it covers selections from all their studio releases.

Veni Domine

“Spiritual Wasteland” (10 Tracks. 61:18) Progressive/Gothic Metal. SWEDEN.

Over the last 6 years or so Veni Domine have released a trilogy of epic albums chronicling the decay of society and the advent of the Kingdom of Heaven. Starting with “Fall Babylon, Fall” followed by “Material Sanctuary” and now, “Spiritual Wasteland” they have exposed the cracks in worldliness showing man’s need for a savior. This reveals the appropriateness of their name Veni Domine, which means “come, Lord.”

This album, well worth the delay, finds Veni Domine back and stronger with a new bassist (Gabriel Ingemarson) and a full-time keyboardist (Mattias Cederlund, ex-Bishop Garden). “Spiritual Wasteland” blows “Material Sanctuary” away—though I like that album—and even raises Veni Domine beyond the level of “Fall Babylon, Fall”. It possesses a strength of confidence that only an experienced band with a sense of purpose has. You can hear that in every song care has been taken to perfect each part.

Musically “Spiritual Wasteland” sounds recognizably like the Veni Domine we’re familiar with but also evinces a slight change in style. Most of this change comes with the addition of keyboardist Mattias Cederlund. It does not diminish the guitars in anyway. What he manages to do is add a more sinister element to much of the music such as “The Last Letter From Earth”, “If I Fall Asleep” and others. At times the keyboards have a very Darkwave/dark ambient effect which highly compliments Veni Domine’s apocalyptic sound. No doubt many will compare the sound on this album with later Queensryche and Savior Machine and I’d have to agree. With this CD the line between Progressive Metal and Gothic gets a little thinner. But let me emphasize that it still leans to the metal side. It is one powerful, dramatic listen.

Visionaire

“Mystical Dominion” (9 Tracks. 47:39). U.S. $13.00

This disc is absolutely the best find of the year. Not knowing anything about this disc I might have sworn I was listening to a Swedish band. Though James Allin has relatives from Denmark and Sweden he is from the US and, he is the only member in this band (think Ole Borud of Schaliach). The music is very dramatic and polished but also very powerful. It’s Scandinavian metal without being Black Metal, more like the Swedish bands Tiamat or Bathory from Twilight of the Gods. Others who are familiar with Alastis (Swiss) and early Therion (Ger) will hear musical similarities. Heavy guitars, classical acoustic guitars, keyboard accents, guttural male vocals and pleasant female vocals, tight drumming . . . it’s all there with a lot of variation. I’d say that James spent a lot of time perfecting each song. Fans of Ashen Mortality, Veni Domine, Undish and the other bands mentioned above will be quite satisfied with this disc.

Reviews of other Veni Domine releases can be found on the Metal Page. Go to the Synopticon then click on the appropriate link

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