Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cradle of Filth - Cruelty and the Beast

"Cradle and the Masterpiece"

Some people often try to squeeze Cradle of Filth into a genre-box, and most often it is the black metal genre, which is a genre the band never really belonged to and never will. There is so many influences in this band's music that you cannot pin-point it more than simply extreme metal, or even more simplified: Cradle of Filth. This is two labels the band and its countless members would rather have slapped unto the band, and rightfully so. Around this time the band was often compared to Dimmu Borgir and I do personally not see the link, even as a veteran listener. Two different bands with two distinctive sounds. So let's stop the comparison. 1998 is the year that Cradle of Filth's finest work saw the light of day and launched them further into stardom.

"But Elizabeth laughed, thirteen Autumns had passed, and She was a widow from god and His wrath, finally..."

As depicted in the booklet this is the fourth chapter in the Cradle of Filth anthology. "Cruelty and the Beast" is a concept album that follows the life and crimes of Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory. Compared to "Dusk... and Her Embrace" this album is not as gothic inspired, as this band never repeats itself. I would deem "Cruelty and the Beast" to be a more accessible album than its predecessor, as Dani Filth's vocals are more nurtured and he got a better grip of them this time. This means that the amount of screeching as been dialed down for a more diverse vocal, and this would also carry on to the band's next efforts. The line-up is almost identical to the previous album, the only change being Damien Gregori being replaced with Lector who only had a two-year stint with Cradle of Filth, leaving in 1999 to join Anathema. This album is sadly the last to feature Nicholas Barker, as he would later join Dimmu Borgir, but luckily they found a good replacement in Adrian Erlandsson. A common subject that often divides people when it comes to "Cruelty and the Beast" is the production. Somebody loves it, somebody hates it, and somebody is not too bothered by it. When reviewing these older titles, I try to exhume my memory and recall how I felt the first couple of times listening.

The sound of the drums definitely sounded odd to me back when I first was exposed to this record. Nowadays I do not have a single complaint with the production, but I guess that is something more than 10 years of listening will do to you. Some describe the drums as sounding like a typewriter and I can see where they're coming from, and it will come down to your first expression and/or if you can get accustomed to them. But hey, it is not like the early Bathory and Sodom records sounded great, is it? Some tracks from the album were actually re-mastered for the "Lovecraft & Witch Hearts" compilation in 2002 where they definitely adjusted the sound of the drums. As always, there is a lot happening on an album by this band and in the end, I am quite happy with the overall mix and sound of the instrumentation. Robin's bass is never left out and stands tall right next to the guitars, adding a satisfying depth to the music and helps elevating its sound. Lector brings some fantastic elements with him into Cradle and this album would not have been the same without his outstanding performance. A performance that is not out shunned in the mix, and together with the entire band it brings a dark and sinister atmosphere to the table. The guitar duo, Gian and Stuart, do not disappoint and just like on "Dusk... and Her Embrace" their work and riffs are simply incredible, and delivered with a great sense of variation. Unlike the guitar work on the previous album, you will not find as many '80s heavy metal inspired riffs, instead the band took a more extreme approach. And let us not forget the cast of three female vocalist providers who also appear on the album. Sarah Jezebel Deva with her atmospheric harmonies is an important ingredient when it comes to classic Cradle of Filth. Danielle Connington makes her last appearance on a Filth album, this time depicting a young Elizabeth Bathory. And last but definitely not least, we have the classy Ingrid Pitt lending her voice as the elder incarnation of Elizabeth.

"Elizabeth, mysterious. Cruelty brought thee orchids, from the bowels of the abyss."

Cradle of Filth shines the most when their albums follows the path of a concept album, instead of a more regular lyric driven album, and "Cruelty and the Beast" is the magnum opus of Cradle of Filth to pin-point just that. The structure of the music is once again varied and exciting, and that is a key point when making songs that reaches the length as they do on this record. Not two songs sound the same, which is a trademark of these notorious Brits. Most noticeable is the icing on the cake: the lyrics. Loaded with imagery and an outstanding structure, Dani Filth shows a remarkable talent with his poetry-inspired lyrics. Together with his distinctive vocals it is a perfect match and I cannot recommend it enough, as with many other works by Cradle, to sit down and read the lyrics while listening to the music.

A track like "Thirteen Autumns and a Widow" still manages to raise the hair on my neck and arms when it slowly builds up to the last stanza, and the double pedal kicks in together with the keyboard driven music. It never fails. "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids" is a long-time favourite among fans, and for very good reason. The guitars is a big part of this, as this track is without a doubt the heaviest on the album and you'll see why just after one-and-a-half-minute into the song. Now to a track that I always used to skip back in the day, but now I find it essential to the story, and even the music of this album. The song in question is "Venus in Fear". This interlude track only features orchestration for the music part and then it features a moaning Elizabeth satisfying her lesbian fantasies and her excessive killing of young women who you can hear screaming for their lives. Speaking for myself, it was very provocative to listen to back in the day. What this brings to the album is, that after "Venus in Fear" the music becomes more extreme, as you're pummeled in the face with "Desire in Violent Overture", and lyrically Elizabeth's killings starts to mount afterwards. In short: A turning point for the album, both musically and lyrically. "Bathory Aria" is definitely a track worth mentioning as Cradle of Filth manages to pull off a track lasting for 11 minutes and not failing on delivering a marvelous and exciting composition. It is something that should simply be listened to instead of explained.

"Thirteen chimes of ancient strain, I conjure forth with dirge that fills the void with timbred pain, to fulfil my sexual urge."

I would definitely recommend that you go through this album from start until finish, just as you do not open a book and start at chapter five. This is a truly outstanding and exceptional listening experience. It's a shame that so many people hate this band on principle and almost as a trend. This album is  without a doubt Cradle of Filth's magnum opus as everything reaches a higher level. A fantastic album where every member performs exceeds their potential delivering an album that has given me chills in the past, and will continue to do so in many years to come.

"Forever severed from the thrill of coming night, where slow death alone could grant Her flight."

R.I.P. Ingrid Pitt, 1937-2010. 



Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cradle of Filth - Damnation and a Day

"...And Darkness was Upon the Face of the Deep"

Damnation and a Day marked a big change for Cradle, as they were signed by Sony for the release of this very album. A common feature for this band's music is that every single album they put out is different, and that is something I really love about this band. It also marked the departure of bassist, Robin Eaglestone, and guitarist Gian Pyres. And how exactly did Cradle of Filth manage to put up with the line-up changes?

Quite well. Many feared a mainstream change to the music, that the band would sell out, now that there would be a Sony label on the CD. But that did not happen. Instead we got one of Cradle's most adventurous releases to date with great creativity and inspiration. For this album, a big orchestra and a choir was dragged into the studio, but this does not mean a drastic shift towards a orchestra orientated album. On the contrary, those elements brings the album to life. It gives it more substance, merely supporting the band, and it worked out perfectly. On the opening track, "A Promise Fever", it is displayed quite nicely how the guitar can be in focus, complimented by the choir, and the other way around plus some well conducted orchestra interlude passages. Of course, this is not how every track on the album are composed, but just an example of the new element to the music. The very core of this album is still Cradle of Filth. No doubt about it.

The guitars sounds great on this record, as they have a really powerful sound. This crunch and power is a good combination with the riffs themselves as they come out just as the sound: Crunchy and powerful. This is Dave Pybus' first appearance on a Cradle record, and his bass lays well in the mix giving the music a solid foundation and base. Adrian Erlandsson also performs great on this album and the drums sounds exquisite. Martin Powell have not been left out of the mix, as he is a big part of keeping the album true to the core of Cradle with his keyboard. He was a major figure in this band I must say that I miss him dearly. He was a main songwriter for this album, and wrote the score which the orchestra plays on Damnation and a Day. Dani Filth's vocals are just immaculate. Ever since Cruelty and the Beast he got a better grip of his vocals and more control. The blend between his deep growls and high screeches are simply marvelous. The production and mix fits this album well. It sounds big and that is a wise choice from the knob-turners. I do not think that it is overproduced, however it has the clear, yet strong and powerful sound it should have with all the elements that's been weaved into the songs.

The lyrical theme on this record is different from the previous ones. Just as the music has another inspiration, so does the lyrics. The vampire and goth lyrics are gone. Now we're treated with somewhat of a concept album based on John Milton's poem "Paradise Lost", seeing the fall of Man through the eyes of Lucifer. The album is divided into four parts which all are introduced with choir and orchestra, perfectly blended into the song that comes afterwards. And it also features some great narration from David McEwen. I would definitely recommend that you just listen to the entire from start until finish. With its 76 minutes it could definitely be prone to being too long, but it does not feel like it. This album holds a well crafted story with just as well crafted music. Just like any other album by Cradle I recommend that you sit down and immerse yourself into the music by reading the lyrics along to the music. Among my favourite excerpts from this album you will find: "A Promise of Fever", "An Enemy Led the Tempest", "Carrion", "Presents from the Poison-Hearted" and "Thank God for the Suffering". The two last songs in particular almost always manages to give me goosebumps. Even after more than ten years as a Cradle fan.

So who would I recommend this album to? Well, it is always hard to recommend Cradle of Filth albums as there is so many people out there who hates them. If you are into the early stuff this band put out, you should definitely check this album out. It is often overlooked, but in my opinion it stands tall and should not be dismissed. One of many great Cradle of Filth albums.

R.I.P. David McEwen.



Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nuclear Assault - Pounder

"A Pounding Final Assault"

I have actually never been a big fan of Nuclear Assault. Maybe because the first thing I ever heard was the track "Hang the Pope" which I still think is a horrible track, and that consequently held me from exploring the band. However after the EP was announced and I heard some music, I was intrigued to really explore the band. Nonetheless, this mini-album was a positive surprise and I even managed to catch the band on tour, performing a great concert!

This little EP is kicked off by the title-track which is a fine little nod to the old days and how it has survived through the years. Overall it is a nice opener and sets a good mood for the short amount of time this record lasts for. "Lies" is lyrically something you could've seen back in the '80s as well, as you're supposed to open your eyes and see beyond the so called lies. Musically it is the track I favour the least on this EP, as it's not as interesting or well composed as the other songs. The last two tracks are actually my favourites. "Analog Man in a Digital World" features a really catchy chorus which could work great live is the crowd is familiar with the track. The lyrics are mostly spot on for me personally with passages like "Nifty little gadget you've got running your world, tell me when's the last time that you spoke to a girl?". But contrary to another part of the lyrics, I must admit I love myself a good amount of gaming whether online or not. A bit of Duke Nukem 3D never hurt anybody. At first glance, the last track led my thoughts towards Cutting Crew's classic, but of course the two tracks are two different things. Anyway. "Died in Your Arms" definitely stands out from the rest of the EP with its more melancholic and gloomy feel, both in music and lyrics. On that track those two aspects definitely support each other greatly, and is also why I would say it is the best track off Pounder.

Production-wise it sounds like you've been invited into Nuclear Assault's rehearsal room, you've taken a seat on the couch with a cold one, and then just enjoy the show. The analog vs. digital thing definitely shines through on the production, which is not a coincidence. It doesn't sounds as good as past offerings from the band's heydays. For one, I think the snare could've been nurtured a bit more. John Connelly's vocals sounds really good and is not even close to being a point-of-complaint from me. To give you a quick overlook, Pounder is definitely better than Third World Genocide, but I wouldn't say that it is on-par with for example, The Plague. It is a solid last offering where it would've been nice with some more material, but maybe it is a case of "less is more". Hardcore fans can enjoy it and so can newer fans.



Monday, October 5, 2015

No Longer Taking Review Requests

Hello everybody!

It's been a very hard decision to make, but it has been looming for some time. We can no longer accept requests to do reviews of your bands as the messages are just piling up more and more. This is caused by the fact that we in August launched the new underground label Intoxicated Recordings.

We've been happy to support the underground with requests for the time we've done it and we will continue to support the underground - but not by review requests. Only the stuff we find ourselves. Time is simply to scarce.

Before we end this, you can check out our good buddy at Under the Coffin, who recently launched, for reviews.

Extremely rotten greetings,
The Legacy Reviews.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Slayer - Repentless

"When the Mediocrity Comes"

Does Slayer really need an introduction? All right then...  It's been six years since we had a piece of material from these old fellas which is quite a gab, and a lot of shit happened since 2009. New label, new members, new production team and the loss of Jeff.

Repentless starts off pretty strong with the title-track being introduced by the instrumental "Delusions of Saviour". While the intro track, just like 95% of other intro tracks, could've been used for a mid-section is a bit redundant, I must admit that I enjoy the title-track, "Repentless". Bostaph thrusts a lot of life into the track with his all around solid and tight performance. But after that, there's a wide gap until something worthwhile comes along.
"When the Stillness Comes" was very quickly compared to "South of Heaven" and therefore labeled as a major throwback. However this track does not make it into the highlights spot. It never really takes off properly and seems unfinished. But I will give them credit for bringing some variation into the album. Slayer already did a track reminiscent of "South of Heaven" in 1994 with "213" which I think is a better track.

We're also treated with some recycling in the likes of "Atrocity Vendor". It was originally recorded during the World Painted Blood sessions and released on a single the year after. There's not much change from the original version. Still corny and forgettable. "Implode" is probably one of the worst tracks off the album and it was definitely not a wise decision for this to be the first track to be heard from the album back when it was announced. Forgettable. That's the word I have to use again and again. It's not until the second last track, "You Against You" that we get something that's worth coming back for. Just as the title-track it mixes some good riffing with skank-beats and just good songwriting. Of course, this does not rank among the band's best offerings, but it's solid, and a relief on this record. It's really hard not to shout along when Tom yells out "YOU AGAINST YOU!"

Behind the knobs is Terry Date, who has produced a lot of albums which I love, not only because the songwriting but also the production. He does a good job on this album. I am pretty sure he had some restrictions, because the albums sounds like you would expect. Just like a Slayer record in 2015. However credit is due for the heaviness on the record. The instruments sounds have a good depth and punch to them. I do however think both Christ Illusion and World Painted Blood had more character in its productions, especially when it comes to the guitars. But it wouldn't had made any sense to go down the same road once more.

To the touchy subject, the line-up. This is the first album without Jeff and once again Dave is out of the band. A lot of fans have said that it's not Slayer without Lombardo and continue to do so. And as an almost lifelong Slayer fan I would like to say that it is total fucking bullshit. Bostaph is a really good drummer and if anyone shines on Repentless, it's definitely him. People seem to forget the past he has with Forbidden, featuring on two of the best thrash albums to come out of the bay area. Whether Dave or Paul plays on this record doesn't change the fact of who's at the helm of this ship. Would the album have been better if Jeff was alive? Maybe and maybe not. God Hates Us All and Diabolus in Musica are still pretty bad, and don't take that the wrong way, I still grief Jeff's death. Would it have been better if Gary Holt contributed? Maybe and maybe not. Blood in Blood Out was definitely not the return everybody had hoped for. But I hope to see him contribute in the future, because Slayer won't stop until both King and Araya are in the nursing home.
So throw your goddamn "everything but the original line-up is not Slayer"-goggles. I witnessed this line-up perform at Wacken 2014, which is on the deluxe edition, and it is a fucking power demonstration. As Gary Holt said, he is not some new kid, or a groove metal-dude. He's a veteran. And so is Bostaph.

I only find two tracks worthy of coming back to on this record. The title-track, "Repentless" and "You Against You". Would I mind hearing these tracks live? No... Would I mind hearing something from Christ Illusion or World Painted Blood live? No... But I sure as hell would prefer a set-list only with excerpts from the first six studio releases and hear the classics. At least it has a pretty face. The cover for this album is without a doubt the best since Reign in Blood.
If I were to place it on the list, I would place it under the last two albums, but it's definitely a better record than both God Hates Us All and Diabolus in Musica. But, what you see is what you get. More of the same. For some, that is fine and is going to cut it perfectly, and I'd wish I was on the same wagon. But I'm not.

R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman, 1964-2013.



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Undergang - Døden Læger Alle Sår

"No One Hears Your Screams"

The kings of the Danish death metal scene, Undergang, has returned from the sewers with a new studio album for the first time since 2012's Til Døden Os Skiller. It marks the end to the "Døden"-trilogy, so in the future the Kill-Town threepiece will dive into other territories on future records, promising it won't get less macabre.

Undergang always managed to phase their albums really good, and this time around it is no different. You're not thrown into a random selection of tracks, but a record that's well structured which definitely is a plus and adds to the experience. It starts off with the title-track and is the shortest burst the band has recorded so far. What struck me on this particular track is the 8 seconds where you get an intro-piece. Thank fuck. There's too many bands these days who shoves an 2-3 minute long instrumental track in your face, which sounds just like hundreds of others. Instead of that you get a swift kick in the face.
The title-track, meaning Death Heals All Wounds, is about escaping life through drugs, alcohol and suicide. It's written in a special period of frontman D. Torturdøds life, where he was in a dark state of mind. This shines through in the music throughout the whole album, as this is the most sinister album the trio has put forth. And that is part of what makes this record fucking great.

"Døden Læger Alle Sår" is the best sounding Undergang record to date. The production is simply spot on and precedes previous efforts thanks to the mastering from Dan Lowndes. Gone is the unfortunate production from "Til Døden Os Skiller" where the band, after some unlucky circumstances were left with only the rough mix. This time we're presented a sound, a production that equally fits the quality of the songs. Undergang is grittier and more extremely rotten than ever, and don't worry, there's still plenty of feedback to go around. If you close your eyes, you could probably imagine being present at their rehearsal, being blown away while listening to this record. It's not overproduced, it's not sterile, it is just old school. And it is without a doubt the heaviest sounding outing so far, with all instruments and the vocals sounding just right for this kind of rotten death metal. Nothing outshines the other.

The album develops with great variation just like on the first album, but there's been added more delicious stuff to the recipe this time around. Doom elements find their way more often into this album, just take a short sniff to "Lemlæstelsens Kunst" and try not moving your head. And then you got a track like "Gravrust" that incorporates slow guitar work with some offbeat drumming which gets me every single time. As mentioned, the production and the songwriting simply make each other shine as they're pulled through the roof. The album knows when to pull you around the room and beat you up, when to let you catch your breath and then continue pulverizing you.
This album marks the very first time you'll hear a guitar solo on a Undergang record. Instead of filling each track to the brim with solos you'll forget anyway, beforehand you would be run over by the riff train. On the closing track, "Det Gør Kun Ondt Til Du Dør", that changes. The man himself, Eric Cutler from the legendary Autopsy puts this record to rest with a well played, and well produced solo, making it the best album closer Undergang has used so far. The intro guitar from the opening track is weaved well into this track as well, as it is used to built up tension.

You won't experience any modern death metal, when listening to any Undergang album and you never will. Depending on your current mood for music, the record might need a spin or two to get a grip on you, but once it does. It will not let go. Overall not all songs are not quite on-par with the ones from "Indhentet af Døden" which outweighs this album in the song department, but the production, there's no contest on that one.
I hope they will try to incorporate new influences in the future and not end up outing the exact same material, album after album. More doom perhaps? Maybe a Left Hand Path approach with haunting synthesizers? More guest solos wouldn't be a bad idea either, because they nailed it perfectly this time. "Døden Læger Alle Sår" definitely surpasses the previous album "Til Døden Os Skiller". I'm quite confident saying that this album is one of the best death metal albums you will hear this year. Despite being the longest album by the band so far, it does not outstay its welcome in any way. If you're new to this trio, you can't go wrong with this record and if you already know them, then I can't see why you should not pick this up.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Paimonia - Disease Named Humanity

"Black, Bleak & Blistering"

I like my black metal the way I like my coffee: unblended, dense, and preferably with no sugary additives.

And dark as pitch, of course. Pitch-fucking-dark.

“Disease Named Humanity” is the debut full-length release of the Serbian duo Paimonia, who have since issued a split vinyl and a live recording on VHS, effectively staying busy and active. In a time and day when black metal is a teeming, worldwide phenomenon (and where having suckled mountain trolls at the icy-cold bottom of a faraway fjord someplace where Norway becomes Niflheim is no longer a mandatory credential for delivering properly grim and frostbitten svartmetal), it takes much more than just a few croaks atop the regular potpourri of buzz ‘n’ fuzz guitars, zero bass, and minimalist tick-tock drumming to raise eyebrows.

Paimonia deliver a lot more than that, fortunately.

Although slightly unremarkable and forgettable in places, “Disease Named Humanity” is a vigorous, ably executed slab of dynamic modern-day black metal – and, considering it’s a debut full-length release, very promising indeed. Intelligent, stimulating riffwork is prevalent throughout all 41 minutes of album length, and the duo of Bojan (vocals, guitars, bass) and Nikola (drums) keep things interesting with a few tricks & turns in the songwriting formula, notably by contrasting animated blastbeat-driven passages with slower, occasionally acoustic, interludes. What they basically lack in outstanding character, Paimonia make up for with quality riffs, topnotch musicianship, clever variation and sheer intensity.

“Disease Named Humanity” consists of just seven tracks, fittingly ending on a high note with the standout atmosphere-laden dirge “Funeral of Decaying World” and its instrumental addendum “Opus VII”, together spanning almost 13 minutes. Other highlights include album opener “As Plague Scourge This World Apart” (please don’t mind the English!) with its zany, dissonant riffing – not unlike a cleaner, less grimy version of Watain – as well as the epic, rather polymorphous “Depth Within Nothingness Called Life”, which features Gothenburg-esque melodic riffing and an eerie, haunting midsection that would make for a killer recurring theme in a classic horror movie.

All in all, Paimonia is an outfit worth a mental bookmark for black metal fans with a particularly tender spot for the atmospheric and melodic, yet still hard-hitting and savage. First-tier bands like the aforementioned Watain and 1349 are not many hyperborean leagues away from the core of “Disease Named Humanity”, but there is plenty of individuality on display here to make for a praiseworthy stand-alone offering, as well as one which sets the tone for a decidedly gobsmacking follow-up.