Forlorn Skies: An Introduction to Melodic Death Metal

Everyone knows how death metal started, more or less, even if the details can be a bit hazy to those who haven’t done their due diligence. But what about melodic death metal? What about the innovators, bands that played an in between of the commercial sounds of later days and the classics, or the rare bands that eschewed all trends to just do their own thing?

In an epoch where fans are very familiar with all the different subgenres and regional scenes within Death Metal, it is sometimes forgotten all those distinctions were not present during the genre’s early era (1985-1993). Sure, there were bands described in zines/magazines as Brutal/Technical/Melodic, but those sound distinctions weren’t engraved into specific sub-subgenres…yet. In that same manner, Melodic Death Metal began as a valid offshoot of Death Metal. Reading zines from the genesis of the genre (91-95 roughly), many were praising this new direction and re-invention of the genre by bands like Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, Eucharist, etc. Early Melodic Death Metal got attention primarily through the releases of Wrong Again Records who put out some of the seminal early releases in the genre and issued the now famous W.A.R compilation Volume 1 in 1995 which gave the world a taste of this new emerging sound that was here to stay.

Read the article on Toilet Ov Hell. Published on 10/26/2019.

Interview with Brendan Radigan of Magic Circle, Pagan Altar, Stone Dagger, and more

For the last decade or so, heavy metal has had a new rising star with the prolific Brendan Radigan. He’s probably the best known in our community for singing in Magic Circle and, more recently, as Pagan Altar’s live vocalist. His singing and songwriting on the Stone Dagger demo is the talk of the underground, as is constant speculation about when there’ll be more- but none of this prowess came from nothingness, as Brendan had been a known member of Boston’s hardcore scene for years before his first foray into heavy metal. 

With the release of Magic Circle’s third album and a successful tour with Pagan Altar, it seemed a good time to ask Brendan some questions about his past, what he’s been up to in recent days, and what’s coming up next. 

Read the interview on Ride Into Glory. Published on October 24, 2019.

Interview with Robert Garven from Cirith Ungol

Not all legends of yore got the praise they deserved when they were still active. Cirith Ungol is one of the very first metal bands, both inside the United States and beyond it, and each of their three studio albums are venerated by ever-growing legions of heavy metal fans in the modern day—but it wasn’t always like this. Disillusioned by a lack of success, lineup difficulties, and exploitative labels, Cirith Ungol broke up in 1992, swearing to never return, with some members even throwing down their instruments supposedly permanently.

Read the interview on Toilet Ov Hell. Published October 24, 2019.

Review: Mortiferum – Disgorged From Psychotic Depths

Expectation, as I’ve said before, can be a terrible thing. Massive fan excitement can lead to disappointment and revilement upon a follow-up release just as easily as it can lead to festival dates or touring opportunities, and to fail to deliver for a band such as Mortiferum, whose debut demo in 2017 opened a seemingly infinite amount of doors for them, would be the band’s death.

Fortunately, Mortiferum have not sat by idly in these last couple of years, and the strength of Disgorged From Psychotic Depths is a wonderful thing to behold. The concern in any relatively quick follow-up is always that the album was rushed to capitalize on the attention the demo material received, but that concern is ill-founded here. Disgorged’s core sound is an expansion on the demo, which itself was a crushing form of death/doom reminiscent of the more aggressive early days of the genre with some mixed in Finnish-isms. Some gloomy atmosphere and leads also popped through the mix on the demo, but here it is much more fully realized, with more atmospheric parts, leads, and melody that recall the best moody bands of the ‘90s without sinking as far into that sound as some people might be afraid reading this review. The bulk of the music is still comprised of huge death/doom riffs, and there’s far more aggression than subtlety.

The subtlety is what sets Mortiferum aside from their competition, however, so it should not be dismissed. There are only really five songs on this record, once you discount the interlude, and all but one are over seven minutes long; pulling that off requires more care than something with shorter compositions, and Mortiferum tackle that challenge with rotting energy. Powerful tremolo lines can break as easily into haunting leads as into power chords, and power chords are as likely to be the backdrop to a melody as they are to be a primitive attack on the senses. Unlike many similar bands, Mortiferum do not rely on repetition to build atmosphere, and are happy to either build on a motif or to change riffs rapidly through the course of a song to keep everything flowing. Each change is written in such a way as to feel organic, a slithering creep through dark halls (psychotic depths, perhaps?) more than a frenzied dance through the longer playtimes of the songs- though this is not to say that faster tempos are excluded from the album, and occasional fleetness of assault is used well by the band as befits some of the songs.

Though the band can clearly play their instruments, showing off their musicianship is clearly not among Mortiferum’s goals for Disgorged. Outside of some of the faster drumming sections, nothing can be called more than particularly competent, which strikes me as a good move- flashy soloing, Seinfeld bass, or drum insanity would detract from the record more than it would add, and it shows humility and good sense to leave out the noodling. Creaking bass compliments the massive riffing on the album and locks tight with the massive drums, and the rhythm section is tight enough to hold everything together whenever a single lead guitar rises above the mix to provide a touch more gloom, or to carry songs alongside the putrid low growls of the lead vocals. Almost as good as the music itself is the extremely organic production of music, which could nearly be a live performance if not for how well the drums cut through the guitars. Everything in Disgorged From Psychotic Depths feels gloriously natural, a festering darkness that emerged from evil minds rather than from a studio somewhere, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Follow Profound Lore Records on Facebook here, and buy Disgorged From Psychotic Depths here.

Review: Sölicitör – EP 2019

When Substratum broke up, I mourned. Though they were only around for a few short years, they put out three full length albums, a couple of demos, and a couple of splits – not to mention that they put on a hell of a live show. Things seemed to be on the rise for the band when out of nowhere they broke up with the sudden departure of guitarist and riffwriter Max. Fortunately for fans, Substratum’s loss doesn’t mean the loss of all of the musicians involved, and both guitarist Matt Vogan and vocalist Amy Lee Carlson have carried on and started a new band – Sölicitör.

Read the review on Ride Into Glory. Published on October 14, 2019.

Interview with Michael Denner of Mercyful Fate, Brats, and more

We were fortunate enough to sit down with Michael Denner (Mercyful Fate, Denner’s Inferno, Brats) to discuss his 40+ year career as one of metal’s most legendary guitarists.

BW: Did you ever expect back in the Brats days that you’d be a household name for heavy metal maniacs decades later?

Michael Denner: I had hopes and I had a feeling that we had something special going on, cause there were not one single band in Denmark who played the music we did back then and got it released on a big label (CBS).

Read the interview on Toilet Ov Hell. Published on October 7, 2019.

Review: Magic Circle – Departed Souls

One of the most exciting things in music is getting new material from a band you’ve known and loved for years. Even more exciting is when the material actually lives up to the band’s previous albums, and to the legacy of the members’ collective musical output. Magic Circle are a veritable supergroup at this point (though it wasn’t always that way, unless you’re a hardcore fanatic!), with musicians from bands like Pagan Altar, Torture Chain, Sumerlands, and Innumerable Forms just to name a few of many. These guys are crazy prolific, and somehow, that doesn’t mean that they’re putting quality control to the wayside. Rumor has it that many more songs have been written for some of their groups that were then abandoned for the sake of having high standards, which is just wild with how busy they stay.

Read the review at Ride Into Glory. Published on October 1, 2019.

Review: Unaussprechlichen Kulten – Teufelsbücher

Some people hear Chile in association with death metal and think of fantastic bands such as Pentagram and Dominus Xul. Some people, who I think are sadly ignorant of one of the world’s richest metal scenes, don’t think of much at all. Unaussprechlichen Kulten are firmly on my list of classic Chilean bands worth listening to. Much like Drawn and Quartered and Funebrarum, they’ve been operating since the ‘90s but got started just a little too late to be considered a classic band, or to debut when their style of death metal had many fans active. Add that to the issues that all South Americans have with breaking out and you get one of death metal’s most consistent and killer bands being sadly unappreciated in the larger scene, something that I hope will finally change with the band’s fifth full-length album, Teufelsbücher.

Read the review at Toilet Ov Hell. Published on September 25, 2019.

Review: Agatus – The Eternalist

It’s not often that an old favorite completely surprises you. Whatever band it is, they’re an old favorite for a reason—they’ve been consistent, and maybe had some serious evolution along the way, but they’ve been good at what they do for a long time and probably haven’t done anything too out of left field since they were a much younger band.

Read the review at Toilet Ov Hell. Published September 24, 2019.

Review: Capilla Ardiente – The Siege

Chile is, and has been since the ‘80s, a hotbed of metal that is most appreciated by the extreme diehards of the genre and by people that actually live in Chile. There are not many breakout bands that have enjoyed the same universal success as American, Canadian, or European groups; for whatever combination of reasons, Chilean bands do their thing and mostly never escape South America. This is a real travesty, as some of the genre’s best have been Chilean, and even those on bigger international labels just don’t get the attention of comparable bands from more marketable locales.

Read the review at Toilet Ov Hell. Published September 20, 2019.