Ereb Altor – Järtecken Review

Score8/10
GenreBlack/Viking Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime47:40
Release Date20 September 2019
Record LabelHammerheart

Ereb Altor are no stranger to viking metal. With eight albums since their 2008 debut, they’ve worked steadily to bring the best of true viking metal. Their latest album, Jartecken, is pretty much what you’d expect at this point, but that isn’t to say it isn’t something new, too; it continues down the same path as the past couple albums, delivering a dynamic mix of mournful folk melodies and vicious atmospheres.

Jartecken opens with building chants and cycles through floating clean vocal lines and ferocious growls over blast beats as it continues. While there are very intense sections even in the second track, ‘Queen of All Seas’, the album as a whole gets darker as it goes on. Needless to say, there’s a good mix of tracks, from the blackened-death metal of ‘Alliance in Blood’ to the thrashy ‘Prepare for War’ to the more epic ‘My Demon Inside’. The sense of impending darkness holds everything together, so there’s never a song or section that sounds out of place.

The guitars and synth function much the same in Jartecken, holding the foundation through ominous riffs and chords while the vocals and choirs pull the songs through the fog, so to speak. Well, that is of course with the exception of the guitar solos, which are in the foreground, as you’d expect. Behind it all are the drums, which are ever-changing with the overall mood.

My favourite aspect of Jartecken (and bands like Ereb Altor in general) is the fact that I can throw it on and get dialed into it almost instantly. There’s something about the overall dissonance of the music that just sucks me right in and flows around me like water. Sounds like pretentious bullshit, right? Well, despite being primarily a power metal guy, it’s that very aspect that has me coming back to records like this in the first place. It’s almost as if the album is just one big song, and that’s really cool.

All in all, this is a fantastic album. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it offers enough difference from other albums in the space that it’s got a leg up on the competition. If you like dark, doomy, folky darkness of folk doom, give Jartecken a spin.

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Unleash The Archers Announce New EP

Two years after the critically-acclaimed Apex, Canadian melodeathers Unleash the Archers have announced a new EP. Explorers will be released on 11 October 2019 under Napalm Records.

The EP (which is really a single) will consist of two tracks, both of which are covers of Canadian songs.

01: Northwest Passage
02: Heartless World

Here’s what the band has to say about the first track, ‘Northwest Passage’:
“This song means a lot to us as a band, we like to put it on during those long drives on tour and it always brings us right back home. We originally recorded it to be a bonus track for our last full length album Apex, but we loved the track so much we knew it needed special treatment. We held on to it for a bit and eventually decided to release it as its own 7″ vinyl EP with another Canadian cover song as the B side. The song ‘Northwest Passage’ is all about touring through Canada, which Stan Rogers did a lot, and how it equates to being an explorer looking for the passage all those years ago. It really hits home with us, we’ve toured through Canada too many times to count, so we know just how Stan was feeling. That’s where the name of the EP came from too; every time we hit the road on tour it’s like we too become Explorers, with the great big unknown stretching out before us.”

Along with the EP announcement, the band have also announced their participation in Full Metal Cruise 2020, which starts in Kiel, Germany, on 23rd September 2020, alongside Sonata Arctica and label colleagues Legion Of The Damned.

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Scimitar – Shadows Of Man Review

Score8/10
GenrePagan Metal
CountryCanada
Runtime48:57
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Canadian pagan metal warriors Scimitar have been around for just over a decade. Early on in their career, they released their debut album, Black Waters, but the band took a bit of a break soon after. Now, nine years later, the band have finally unleashed their sophomore album. Shadows of Man is gritty, furious, and packs way more variety into it than I would have ever expected. With a sound that’s in the realm of Ensiferum and Vanir (although far less refined, production-wise), Scimitar’s combination of death, black, and folk elements will be welcome with any fan of the dark side of folk metal.

Scimitar’s strength lies in their ability to craft a massive sound as a whole. The band mostly moves together in one direction at a time, which allows for a lot of power to be propelled at once. Additionally, melody is far down on the list of priorities, and what melody there is is driven only by the lead guitar, which is responsible for most of the emotion that comes out of whatever atmosphere the rest of the band is holding.

Shadows of Man begins with a dynamic instrumental (which, by the way, is an actual song, and not just minute-long bullshittery) before changing pace with ‘Knights Collapse’, which is pretty laid back. The growled vocals are almost rapped, which is cool, and the overall feel in this one is distinctly different from everything else the album offers. As the album progresses there are plenty of changes but its raw, rhythmic, aggressive energy remains fully consistent.

One thing you’ll notice about Shadows of Man is that it gets heavier as it goes on. While the earlier tracks are lighter and more melodic in comparison, the album ramps the intensity way the fuck up upon entering ‘Shadows of Man II: Cataclysm’: a melodic death metal landscape where dissonant chords and harshness take dominance.

There isn’t much that I don’t like about this album, but there are a few favourites for me. The solos are great, with the solo section in ‘Imperium’ being my favourite. Also, while the whole album is very dynamic, this reaches a peak in ‘Where Ancient Spectres Lie’, where we’re bombarded with time changes and feel changes, from its immensely depressive intro to the brighter end section. My favourite aspect about Shadows of Man, however, is the bass; you can hear it well and the lines are awesome. That probably seems like a weird favourite to pick in a record like this, but, fuck it. I love it.

In a departure from their original sound, Shadows of Man elevates Scimitar to a higher, more mature level. Back with their first effort (and a solid effort it is!) in years, Scimitar have sliced their way back onto the scene.

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Steignyr – Myths Through The Shadows Of Freedom Review

Score7/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountrySpain
Runtime01:04:46
Release Date14 June 2019
Record LabelArt Gates

The Celtic folk/death outfit Steignyr are back with their fourth album to date: Myths Through the Shadows of Freedom. Like their former works, Shadows of Freedom hits hard with rough riffs, vicious vocals, and a bone-raw epic sound that’ll have you eager to ride into battle.

At times, such as in parts of ‘You’ll Never Be Forgotten’ and ‘Frost Wolf’, there seems to be too much going on, which can be detrimental in a more lo-fi album such as this. This issue usually only arises when the keys and orchestrations are too numerous, but there are times when the vocals suffer from over-saturation, too.

That being said, Shadows of Freedom‘s songs are, for the most part, really good. There’s a pleasing amount of variety due to the folk-to-death ratio constantly being played with, allowing for various degrees of heaviness and melody. The song lengths also vary quite a bit and there’s even a cool instrumental, ‘Moonlight Forest’, in the middle of the album. However, there is one song specifically that is just plain bad; ‘Black Rain’ seems to drag on for an eternity (which is weird, considering it’s one of the shortest songs on the album) and the chorus is, honestly, super painful.

Stepping back onto the positive side of things, my favourite tracks on the album, the titular track and ‘Those Who Lie’, kick all sorts of ass. The former doesn’t arrive until the album nears its end, but this dynamic eight-minuter traverses many musical landscapes and, while there are numerous clashing parts, it all comes together without sounding muddy. The latter is just plain fun and is probably the best song to kick the album off.

Although it’s far from revolutionary (as there are countless bands that are strikingly similar), Myths Through the Shadows of Freedom will be a sure hit with fans of the gritty side of folk metal. Steignyr definitely have the recipe for greatness in their grasp, but a bit of refinement is needed to take them to the next level. That being said, this is far from a bad album, and if you aren’t pumped up by it’s bold, rugged manliness, that’s on you.

Steignyr – Whisper Calling (Art Gates)

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Brymir – Wings of Fire Review

Score8.5/10
GenreSymphonic MeloDeath Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime47:22
Release Date8 Mar 2019
Record LabelRanka Kustannus

I’ve said before (as I’m sure many others have) that melodic death metal is just extreme power metal with harsh vocals. Nowhere is this more apparent in Finnish outfit Brymir, whose rough vocals are the only thing holding it back from being outright power metal. The keyboards are many, the guitars are clean, and it’s epic as all hell. Axeman Joona Björkroth once again demonstrates his fearsome shredding skill (which is fortunate, because Battle Beast’s upcoming No More Hollywood Endings all but denied him the chance to play to his capabilities).

I must say, even if I try I can’t quite compare Brymir directly to anything else because of how blatantly unique it is. The closest band that I know of would probably be Wintersun, but even they aren’t very similar. So, in that department, Brymir scores serious points. However, even though each song is very dynamic, with booming highs to placid lows and everything in between, there’s a limited amount of variety among the song selection. That isn’t really an issue, though, because the songs are so fucking good.

Wings of Fire has a lot to offer for the power metal fan and extreme metal fan alike. The guitar melodies and solos are often uplifting and immensely impressive, but there’s no shortage of doom-inducing choirs and intense blast beats, as in ‘Sphere of Halcyon’ and ‘Ride on, Spirit’. Overall, there’s a fifty-fifty split between the symphonic and metal elements, which would make the music more accurately described as soundtrack metal than melodic death metal.

On a side note, one thought that I haven’t been able to shake is the fact that, aside from the vocals, pretty much every song sounds like a boss battle theme. Seriously, just try to tell me that you don’t notice it, too; all the orchestral parts and pounding drums make me feel like I’m about to get my ass handed to me in Dark Souls or something (yes, I know that there are no “pounding drums” in Dark Souls, but I digress).

There are few highlights for me on this record because it’s very much a team effort. That being said, the opener, ‘Gloria in Regum’, is my favourite track. It hits fast and hard, with chugging riffs and epic choirs, and the rhythm section shots are excellent. It also features Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo (although you’d never notice her) and a wicked solo from Björkroth.

With three albums so far, Brymir has never failed to produce something individual and new. Wings of Fire is an exceptional piece of work, and its blend of electronics, death metal, and orchestras feels natural and allows a richly deep sound. This group has a bright future ahead and, if their next album is half as entertaining as this one, I eagerly await their next release.

Brymir – Wings of Fire (Ranka Kustannus)

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