Sunday, September 21, 2014

Winterfylleth - The divination of antiquity

Genre : Folk black metal
Release : October 7th 2014 on Candlelight Records.

Winterfylleth became quite popular in the last few years, probably thanks to the frequency of their releases (one album every 2 years since 2008) but mostly thanks to their quality, I'd say. With this fourth full-length, this british atmospheric folk black metal band keeps its trademark but evolve into an even more melodic, less linear style. I loved the past two releases, yet I think that The divination of antiquity is even richer than the previous ones.

To explain this, I'd say that every track has more identity than before, because they're built on more different song structures, whereas The mercian sphere and The threnody of triumph had strong similarities from track to track. Even though I'd definitely admit that both those albums already were of a rare quality, what we've got here sounds more dynamic and intense than before. Maybe a couple listens to 'Whisper of the elements' on the bandcamp player just above will give you the same opinion. Also, this whole new release is probably more riff-driven than before, as heard on the aforementioned track, mostly towards its end. Drumming is more versatile too, and while it still strongly focuses on blastbeating, some songs successfully use a different approach such as  'A careworn heart'. However, it's good to hear that Winterfylleth made this more an evolution than a drastic change. The elements which made them great are still here, even the rich fully acoustic tracks such as 'The world ahead' or the deep male choirs it features... all this has been kept for that 2014 release. Of course, that's not all they were about already and if you don't know them yet, their sense of musical epicness and the quality of their dynamics will surely please you if you're into that kind of linear, atmospheric black metal with a hint of folk inside of it. Yeah, folk isn't a big part of their sound either, at least it isn't really used as frequent interludes inside tracks but more as stand-alones or intros for longest ones. But somehow, this helps Winterfylleth building their cold and solid atmosphere without any compromise for the listener.

I've always loved Winterfylleth's tunes and had faith in any of their new upcoming works, but for the first time, the result has been above my expectations. It still isn't much about impressively clever songwriting nor loads of traditional instrumentation building massive layers, but more about great musicians making great atmospheric black metal and putting this out with the perfect mixing for such sounds. Yet, incorporating much more melodic guitar lines was what those guys needed to make a step forward and join the most talented bands of the same genre. The divination of antiquity is their most intense release to date, and Winterfylleth demonstrates that complexity isn't a key element into making great tunes, when sincerity and skill can be just enough.

Personal highlights : A careworn heart, Over borderlands.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Falls of Rauros - Believe in no coming shore

Genre : Folk black metal
Release : October 1st 2014 on Bindrune Recordings.

I'm sure this band name and album title hooked you in a second, am I right? Well, it was the same for me when I received the promo, and first of all I'd like to drop some sincere thanks to Marty and Bindrune Recordings for allowing me to review this pearl, as well as giving Ethereal Soundscapes more awesome material to speak about. Thank you! Believe in no coming shore, the 3rd full-length from mighty Falls of Rauros (Into the archaic being considered a demo) is set for release on November 1st and one track has already been released. It's called 'Ancestors of smoke', clocks for more than 10 minutes and is available for streaming right here.

After shifting to a much more professional and mature sound on their 3rd album, The light that dwells in rotten wood, Falls of Rauros released a split with Panopticon in which they kept the essence of the aforementioned release. No surprise if I tell you that Believe in no coming shore keeps exactly the same elements and production quality than those previous releases, and obviously, this is good news, as they both bright with awesomeness. It's actually impressive how the guys successfully kept the same setup in that new album. Rhythm guitars still have their somehow vintage almost rockish sound (I mean, like in 'Banished' intro on the previous album) while vocals uses exactly the same effects than they did before. Again, it's all good to know that Falls of Rauros didn't drop a bit of what made them awesome. Yet, once you dig the new album, there are a couple differences to mention. First, they moved away from some Agalloch-esque elements, such as the typical percussions on 'Silence' intro from The light that dwells in rotten wood. Comparisons are bad since Falls of Rauros really have they own identity and grew better than many of their masters, but that new album reminds me more of October falls' A collapse of faith mainly because of the riffing elements but also the nice bass mixing which makes it clear and loud at the same time. This is funny because this album is one of my favorite ever, why I think it's an honorable mention for Believe in no coming shore. 'Spectral eyes' is a good example of how riffs have been integrated, mostly towards the track's end, but the album as a whole is built around much more riffing than previous ones. Strangely enough, the only flaw I'd find in this album is the second track : 'Ancestors of shadow', which is not bad at all but a little too flat for my taste. Maybe because it's the shortest track apart from intro and outro, but I feel it takes little time to build up and play with magnificent interludes, whereas both the longest tracks, 'Ancestors of smoke' and 'Waxen voices' are incredibly rich pieces, showing once more how clever Falls of Rauros are when it comes to songwriting. They include nicely many kinds of moods on the melancholic range through different parts moving from fast paced black metal to long acoustic breaks. Also, both the instrumental tracks, 'Blue misshapen dusk' and self-titled one 'Believe in no coming shore' use catchy melodies and are great additions to the album. The second one reminds of previous full-length's outro in composition, being instrumental yet not fully acoustic either.

This album is a real success, because it's typically what everybody expected from the band after their last efforts. After some demos and a first album which didn't convince me, Falls of Rauros are now building a coherent and strong discography. Be it their musicianship, the feelings their songs carry or the maturity of their whole work, they're surely one of the best american black metal acts we've got today. Let's just hope they'll keep making such material in the future, I'm pretty sure they can't really disappoint by now.

Personal highlights : Ancestors of smoke, Waxen voices.
Links : FacebookBandcampBigcartel.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Vaiya - Remnant light

Genre : Atmospheric black metal
Release : August 8th 2014 on Natural World Records.

Hi there, it's been a while! Well, June was much work and July was much relaxing and holidays. Now I'm back in business, let me introduce you Vaiya, a side-project from Encircling sea's mastermind Rob Allen. It's not Vaiya's first release, but first ones were much more on a ritualistic mood and definitely not easy listens, although surely interesting ones. Rob hasn't created a copy of Encircling sea's recent works either, but Remnant light is surely closer to his main band in terms of musical genre, which is for that case strongly atmospheric and melancholic sludge-driven black metal.

Yet, this album doesn't rely much on folk or acoustic elements to setup its mood. It tends more towards huge sludgy walls of sound and maybe some hints of doom. Although I don't like comparing bands to each other, quite a part of Remnant light actually reminds me of The great old ones new album, be it for the mood, the guitar sound or the vocals. I think this is a positive comparison though, as Tekeli-li is a brillant record. But it's just similarities, as Vaiya depicts more melancholy and despair than nightmarish scenes. As seen above, this new release is split equally in three 13 minutes tracks. On its first half, 'Confrontation' is straightforward and bleak, and that's probably what led me to the previous comparison. Then it calms down, including a slow riff and a monotonic acoustic part while vocals switch to an half-clean whispered kind. Every track is built a similar way, but Rob successfully created its transitions in order to avoid any feeling of boredom throughout the whole listen. Also, those walls of sound are both catchy with their melodic side and stunning with the strength of the guitar effects. And considering how omnipresent they are on Remnant light, those clever rhythm guitars really make this album a success, alongside with vocals switching different singing genres but always carrying emotions as intended, somewhere between despair, rage and meditation. 'Banishment' uses more or less the same setup than 'Confrontation', with a straightforward first half and a more melancholic, calming interlude in its second half. 'Transformation', again, is a big blast on the first 8 minutes and ends in some soothing tunes, reminding more of Encircling sea's softer parts. This whole track is probably the closest one to Rob's main project, actually.

Moving out of its ritualistic roots and placing itself into a more usual sludge and black metal mixture, Vaiya created a more easy-listening album (for black metal listeners, at least). Such a genre change was unexpected and may be surprising if at least you heard the previous works, but that will surely lead the project to a wider audience. Even if not revolutionary in terms of song structure, Remnant light is a cleverly built album and deserves immediate attention inside the atmospheric black metal scene. What I mean is that this album might be quite basic in terms of songwriting, but Rob's experience in musical creation makes every single element shine and as such, the whole thing is an highly enjoyable release which definitely deserves consideration.

Personal highlight : Banishment.
Link : Bandcamp.

Friday, June 6, 2014

October falls - Kaarna

Genre : Instrumental neofolk
Release : June 20th 2014 on Debemur Morti Productions.

You probably read about October falls on my blog already, and if you did, you might have come across straight neofolk releases such as Sarastus, between a couple folk black metal ones such as A collapse of faith or The womb of primordial nature. I got the honor to review October falls' new release before June 20th, with a pretty physical digipack coming along. Speaking about it, the artwork is much prettier than seen here, since there's an embossed neofolk-only (square one) band logo on its cover, which can't be seen on the scan. For those who got the digipack from A collapse of faith already, it's the same idea here. That whole black & white box is pretty beautiful by the way, even though there's not a single lyric in its booklet of course : just cover arts of the old releases. Yeah, some may be sad to learn this, but there aren't any new tracks in there : Kaarna gathers every acoustic track Mikko Lehto has ever recorded, and that's it. Nothing worthless though : those works are coherent and fit together amazingly well, and giving them a whole new life into a single physical release make them shine much more than they ever did.

Compilation? Yeah, every neofolk track October falls ever did is inside the box, which makes it quite a long journey over two CDs. If you're wondering about the tracklist, you've got it just up there (except that 'Marrasmaa' is in the middle of 'Marras' track). You can also stream it as a whole right here, of course. But as you may be more familiar with the black metal releases Mikko Lehto did, here's what you can expect here : straight minimalistic neofolk mostly consisting in acoustic guitars, some pianos, a couple quiet flutes in the background, almost no drums (a couple on 'Marras' and that's it) nor vocals (quick vocalized interludes between ex-Marras tracks), but lots of ambient noises. Ambient noises which are definitely the usual neofolk ones : wind and water flowing, birds singing... and so on. If that's pretty much it technically, Kaarna is all about atmosphere, and clocking for more than 90 minutes, it's long enough to place it easily and perfectly. Of course, you may think it's too long, but that's not something you carefully listen to in my opinion, it's more about placing yourself in a precise mood for an evening. It should flow like water does all along 'Sarastus' and that's probably how it's meant to exist. Also, this release is quite different from other long straight neofolk releases (Fearthainne comes to mind), probably because it's strictly European neofolk, more melodic and less ritualistic than those inspired from the cascadian movement. October falls' has a different atmosphere, still melancholic, but somehow warmer. Well, for those who know its folk black metal side, Kaarna surely reminds of the acoustic parts heard in A collapse of faith or The womb of primordial nature. Except that no raging blastbeats or huge riff will come. Don't be sad : the journey is still worth it, but just meant for a different mood.

With its three very short tracks and its three long ones (made from albums mixed into single tracks), Kaarna has quite an unusual structure. But in the end, it would make the same sense if it was a single huge track. While giving it such a physical release, Mikko surely gave it much more sense than separate digital tracks grabbed here and there on Bandcamp and played separately. As such, Kaarna is something you should own if you're into raw neofolk, or just if you want your October falls' discography to be complete. That would be more than a good idea, because this one definitely makes sense between the folk black metal albums the band is most known for.

Personal highlights : Viima, Sarastus.
Links : Facebook, Bandcamp (neofolk only).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Clouds - Doliu

Genre : Funeral doom metal
Release : May 27th 2014 on Domestic Genocide Records.

Hey hey, something really new, not only because it's been out precisely today, but also because it's the first doom metal review on Ethereal Soundscapes. Doom metal has been a part of my musical horizon for far longer than black metal actually, and I kind of dropped it when I realized that digging funeral doom always meant landing on the same tunes, the same tempos, and allow me, the same boredom. I didn't have much faith into looking for new funeral doom bands anymore. And today, my bandcamp newsletter told me Clouds released their new album, Doliu. Clouds? I remembered giving this a listen a while ago, and although I couldn't recall how it did sound, I was pretty sure it sounded good. As I recently started to look for new good doom metal again, I decided to hit the play button on Bandcamp. Wow. I found it, my new good doom metal.

But why was Doliu incredibly enjoyable compared to many others which got me bored in seconds? I think that the clean vocals of the very first track were something I didn't expect, and which got me hooked quickly. Incredibly good vocals if you ask me : if there's something I lost faith into with years, it's indeed good, deep, sorrowful male clean vocals. Middle part of 'If these walls could speak' will probably show you what I mean. That precise part also demonstrates other elements : deep harsh vocals, typical of the doom genre, mixed into the clean ones. Blasting. What, a long and mature guitar solo? Yeah, nothing to do with a power metal solo, this one really makes sense and carries real emotions. But what's most present in Clouds' first album is the piano, building layers of melancholy through high reverb and slow tempo. The songwriting here is stunning, because pianos successfully stay minimalistic while really emotional. A good example of it would be the first five minutes of 'A glimpse of sorrow', even though the reverb here is not as high as in 'If these walls could speak'. Another uncommon thing would be the post-rockish tunes at the beginnings of both 'The deep, vast emptiness' and 'Even if I fall'. Well, you got it, all those elements are what makes Clouds a very promising funeral doom band. Because if their bare doom parts are quite common in their composition, they're nonetheless really well integrated and short enough to keep making sense. Also, even if their raw doom parts are quite common in essence, they're especially well mixed and the slow guitar cries behind them, as seen around the end of 'A glimpse of sorrow' again, make them just... captivating. What I mean is, yeah, slow tempos, heavy tuned down guitars and low-pitched harsh vocals are surely the basics of funeral doom, but by no means it should take the whole 15 minutes of a single song with the same repeated patterns, and this all over the 5 songs of an album. Doliu is nothing like that. Doliu is rich, intense and deep. Doliu is an album you really listen to, moving from part to part with associated emotions.

Clouds didn't change the bones of funeral doom, they just added flesh on top of them. And such delicate one..! While adding more elements like melancholic pianos, intense clean vocals or excellent guitar riffs & solos, they successfully broadened their musical horizon and avoid themselves falling into the usual funeral boredom. Also, they do not limit themselves in terms of genre and surely open their following discography to many other great tracks. Doliu sounds so mature it's hard to believe it's only their debut album... even though some members are known for playing in other bands, such as Jarno in Shape of despair. Let's just hope they'll keep sticking together and going in that direction to build themselves a name amongst the references in the genre. They surely deserve it.

Personal highlights : If these walls could speak, A glimpse of sorrow.
Links : Facebook, Bandcamp.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Encircling sea - Écru

Genre : Post-black metal / Sludge
Release : June 26th 2010 on An Out Recordings.

You probably understood I'm especially loving Encircling sea from my review of A forgotten land, their last album, released late 2012. Well, let's go back in time once more to dig this 1-track album, Écru. Before anything else, quick reminder : you can play the track right here and even download it for free, like any other Encircling sea's album. Good guys you say? Awesome ones I say. Now back to my review. Usually, I'm quite reluctant to check out 1-track albums, you know. I'm often thinking they're slow to start, that they have mostly boring unending intros... Not that I dislike ambient music, or this blog wouldn't exist anyway, it's just that most of those long tracks are artificially built up with many wasted minutes just to make them long. Well, it depends on the state of mind you're on, I guess : full atmospheric tracks can also hit a certain spot if you're in the right mood.

However, Écru starts especially quickly for such a kind of track. The first 3 minutes are enough for you to get a full palette of the sounds it features : cold ambient guitars, post-rocking tremolos, sludgy atmospheres, raging black metal... Obviously, the track quickly grasps the listener, and it doesn't let go. Still, by that time, black metal was not a major part of Encircling sea's performance, and after a 3 minutes more blast, Écru returns with its main atmosphere : heavily delayed, sludgy, almost droning guitars, with slow, crushing drumming. Yeah, if you're here hoping for 37 minutes of straight black metal, you can already stop your listen and go back to something else or you'll quickly get disappointed. Less black metal than on A forgotten land for sure, and no acoustic folk parts either, but the ethereal female vocals by Ramanee, Rob's wife, are already striking with their beauty and perfectly fit the track. Not for long though, and the track gets more and more instrumental as time flies, the last third having no vocals at all. Few black metal, not a hint of folk and no vocals? Yes, but Écru is nonetheless a masterpiece when it comes to atmosphere. Instead of nature and wild, wide open spaces, there's a more claustrophobic tune in this track, something I'd call far darker and gloomier. Those vibrating guitars, echoing in the night, from around 12 minutes or 24 minutes,  are your atmospheric parts here. Such ones, although really minimalistic, are perfectly integrated and help making a 37 minutes long track a success if you ask me. Écru is wavering all the time, not only in its playing style with its strong guitars' delays, but also in its songwriting, with its perfect balance between aggressivity, darkness, melancholy and contemplation. Of course, you don't have to be in a hurry to get the whole thing and appreciate it, it's still one huge track with long parts close-minded people will call "boring".

I can easily see Écru split into three tracks at time marks 11:38 and 24:40. First one would be your most traditional part, with a good punch of black metal to knock you down. Second one would be your coma and the embracing darkness. As for the third, it'd be the slow return to consciousness. Maybe it would make Écru an easier listen, but seeing how Rob Allen tends to work, I'm not sure it was intended to be one, nor it will ever be. And that's probably even better this way, as Encircling sea's music is more about conceptual songwriting and thinkful atmospheres. As for Écru, it's still my favorite listen at sunset. Listening to it without switching any lights on and slowly going towards darkness is truly a moving experience. But anycase, listening to it as it is already is a moving experience.

Links : Facebook, BandcampBigcartel.

Other reviews from Encircling sea:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fauna - Avifauna

Genre : Folk black metal
Release : December 21st 2012.

If you're like me, always digging more underground folk black metal bands, you probably already know about Fauna. Hopefully you don't yet, that would help Ethereal Soundscapes making more sense! Fauna is one of those american folk black metal acts which you can call "cascadian" if you feel like it, although this tag is less and less constructive as many bands outside from the Cascade Range are playing the same kind of sound, nowadays.

But enough said about tags, what's interesting here is music. If the elements used in Avifauna are nothing unusual, they're at least perfectly blended together. Songs are especially long and every part inside them is, too. Black metal parts are typically atmospheric, with guitars, drums and bass lines melting into each other to create a huge, unbreakable wall of sound. Add well-placed vocals into this and that's a successful craft of bleak, deep, somehow depressive black metal. Yet, Fauna is not a depressive black act, as their also long acoustic interludes wouldn't fit that genre. Bearing a strong american folk essence, they're mostly composed of clean guitars, cellos, and various kinds of percussions. What's striking me the most in those parts are actually the well-maintained level of gloominess and melancholy. It's definitely folk for the rainy days, minimalistic yet beautiful sounds. Minimalistic doesn't mean poor, however : with few elements, Fauna creates a rich, catchy and deep sound in any of those parts, be they short or long. Well, short isn't often the case here, but again, Avifauna isn't something you listen to in a hurry. For example, 'Soaring into Earth' start with such dark folk for 8 minutes, which is more than most songs in the genre. Yet there's nothing in this intro which makes you want to skip to the next part. It's well done as it is. I mean, technically, there's nothing to worry about : be it black metal or folk, both the guys behind these tunes know what they do, and they do it well. Not only black metal or folk, by the way, as some parts such as the end of 'The harpy' can't be categorized such quickly. Add a precise, clean enough production, and everything shines at its best.

Somehow, as it gets longer and longer in every song, this album is not your intense, straitforward, easy-listening black metal. Avifauna is all about despair and melancholy with a strong folk influence and nature-bound presence. However, the more you dig it, the more you realize it's a beautifully crafted piece, with no monotony else than wanted by the artists themselves. Also, if you're already into Fauna's side acts, such as Echtra or Fearthainne, this album will surely make sense, as it gathers many elements of them both while sublimating them with a coherent and clever songwriting.

Personal highlights : Soaring into Earth, The harpy.
Links : Bandcamp, Webshop.