Review

Music Review: Tarja – From Spirits and Ghosts (Score for a Dark Christmas)

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Tarja - From Spirits and Ghosts (Score for a Dark Christmas)

Genre: Adult Contemporary, Coldwave, Goth
Label: earMUSIC

My first thought on seeing this promo in my inbox was to delete it. But, my curiosity got the better of me, unfortunately, and so I opened the email. What can I say? I’m a sucker for Christmas albums, with Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Frank Sinatra getting a lot of spins every December.

But man, this is fucking garbage. Yes, Tarja is incredibly talented. And yes, she is singing some of these songs in a style I particularly enjoy. Some of these songs remind me of stuff that would have come off of the Projekt Records label, and Projekt is one of the best labels ever for coldwave and goth. But there has always been something about Tarja I’ve never really liked; even her Nightwish albums are mostly garbage. Once Annette got into the band they really took off, as if Tarja was an elastic band holding the band back from flying at full speed. Once she left, the elastic snapped, and the biplane Nightwish were went into full jet mode.

There’s some high points, such as interesting production choices on these classics of the Christmas season, but ultimately it’s just a Christmas album for Hot Topic goths who can’t stop watching Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s slower moving, which does add an interesting atmosphere to the songs, especially the ones that are traditionally faster, such as “Deck the Halls” and “Feliz Navidad”. But ultimately, this is a complete waste of studio recording hours. The new song, “Together” is completely immemorable, and was one of the main reasons I wanted to check this album out. It’s something that you’d hear on an easy rock station, geared towards suburban soccer moms with black nail polish.

As a less important aside, I am also very disappointed in the cover art for this album. Yes, Christmas is cold. A lot of the music on this album is coldly produced and cold sounding. Tarja, however, is a gorgeous woman on top of her talent, and having this much Photoshop work to her face is just brutal. Whoever did the art is a jackass and should go back to horribly disfiguring women for fashion magazines and leave the airbrushing of musicians to qualified people.

In all, don’t bother wasting your time with this, unless you’re streaming it for free on YouTube or Bandcamp. And definitely don’t play this at a Christmas party, unless your guests are all fourteen years old and have a crush on Jack Skellington.

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Music Review: Trasig – Sør​-​Afrikasessions

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Trasig - Sør​-​Afrikasessions

Genre: Minimalist Black Metal
Label: Independent

Starting with a thunderous drum under pretty keys and chanting, Trasig‘s newest album Sør​-​Afrikasessions brings to mind a lot of influences. Among these is the obvious, black metal from Norway, as well as atmospheric music, ambient soundtracks, and the exotic world that is South Africa.

“Wait, what?” you might be thinking. “South Africa?” Yes, it’s true. Anfinn Halland, the sole member of Trasig, is currently based in South Africa, despite being from Trondheim originally. The change of location is clearly an influence, infusing the cold music with a warmth and richness that can’t be explained any other way.

Sør​-​Afrikasessions continues where the last album left off, an atmospheric and minimalist black metal, but it still has it’s own identity. Barely a year has gone past since the release of Jammer og nød, but clearly in that year Anfinn has become a better composer, writing music that is even more engaging and catchy. The album has a lot of instrumental parts, using the vocals as highlighter rather than a pen.

I would definitely recommend fans of minimalist black metal to check out Trasig’s newest album, which at the time I write this, is only a day old.

Video: Music Review 003 – Arx Atrata – Spiritus in Terra

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Here is a new video review for the excellent album Spiritus in Terra by England’s Arx Atrata. Let me know what you think in the comments below, or on YouTube.

Live Music Review: Amorphis with Swallow the Sun and Viathyn

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Amorphis with Swallow the Sun and Viathyn

When: March 31, 2017
Where: Starlite Room

For the first time in Edmonton’s metal history, Amorphis and Swallow the Sun have graced one of our stages, and for the not-enough time Viathyn have done so as well. For those that do not know the bands, Amorphis and Swallow the Sun are both Finnish bands while Viathyn come from Calgary. Amorphis are a melodic death/hard rock amalgamation that was born in the death and doom scene. Swallow the Sun are a doom band with melodic tendencies. Viathyn are a progressive power metal band that have essentially come out of retirement for only two shows, which were the Edmonton and Calgary dates for this Amorphis tour.

The night got a bit of an early start and I think I missed the first song and some of the second, or just part of the first song from Viathyn. It was great to finally see this band live, as they are a band I’ve known and enjoyed since their first album The Peregrine Way. It’s been a very long time since the release of that album (2010), and it’s follow-up Cynosure (2014), so I honestly could not tell you what songs they played because it’s been so long since I’ve listened to those albums; probably 2015 was the last time I listened to them.

The energy this quartet brings to a stage is palpable, which is why it’s sad that they are still essentially on hiatus. The quality of the songs themselves is incredible, with tons of shredding solos and amazing vocals. They are definitely for fans of Opeth, Leprous, newer Arcturus, and, well, Amorphis.

Swallow the Sun were my personal favourite for the night, before the show, and stayed that way after. What can I say, they are a doom band after all! The dynamics of this band are unreal, taking you from the deepest darkness to the brightest lights, and back down again, filling you with so many emotions. Musically, vocally, everything about this band is emotive and perfectly doom. If you’re a fan of Novembers Doom, Novembre, My Dying Bride, or October Tide, and you haven’t checked out Swallow the Sun, you should do so as soon as you can.

Amorphis, oh Amorphis. This was a band not born from the death/doom scene from the 90’s, but one of the bands that gave birth to it! And they were going to be playing, for the first time, in Edmonton. I was really excited. But I was also worried. They have, after all, gone less of a doom direction on their newest albums, going for a more straight forward melodic death sound like Dark Tranquillity or mid-era In Flames. How would this iconic Finnish band play in a city they’ve never been in before? They did indeed play songs from their newer melodic death focused albums, and played them fucking amazingly; “Sacrifice” being one such example. The thing that kind of jarred me was that they seem to have rearranged their old and classic material, which was played sparingly, into sounding more like their modern releases. This is exactly what I was worried would happen, and quite frankly, I’m disappointed. I was hoping Amorphis would play a mixture of their catalogue, but without having to homogenize their old material to fit with their new material. I will say that this is the only sour note in my opinion. The performance that Amorphis gave was beyond excellent, and the Starlite Room carried their sound perfectly. I stood in several locations during the set to take photos, and everywhere I moved the band was perfectly balanced, from front to back, and the band themselves were playing their asses off to make sure that this was a night to remember for everyone involved. Now if only my photos had turned out.

In all, March 31, 2017 was an excellent night, the first night of an excellent weekend for me.

Swallow the Sun

Posted by Crown of Viserys on Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Video: Music Review 002 – Casket Huffer – Gospels of Scum

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Here is a new video review for the upcoming vinyl re-release of Gospels of Scum by Casket Huffer. Let me know what you think in the comments below, or on YouTube.

Music Review: Norselaw – Serpent in the Circling Sea

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Norselaw - Serpent in the Circling Sea

Genre: Heavy Metal, Speed Metal, Fucking Metal
Label: Independent

Man, who would have thought that buying an album based entirely on pity would yield such positive results? Allow me to explain:

Norselaw himself apparently had a dispute with his then employer that ended with his (in my opinion, wrongful) termination. Having only recently lost my job due to similar but completely different circumstances, I decide to toss my fellow warrior a bone and bought one of his albums. He suggested Serpent in the Circling Sea as it would play to my tastes… how this metal marauder knew such a thing is still a mystery to me, but goddamn, was he ever right!

Serpent in the Circling Sea features a plethora of headbanging highlights from beginning to end. Norselaw’s mastery of the art of the shred, for one. Where on Earth did this guy learn to wield a guitar in such a manner? My guess is he transferred whatever skills he learned as an axe swinging viking from hundreds of years ago to his new modern day “axe”. Or at the very least, he’s The Doof Warrior from Mad Max… hmmm…

Up next on the docket, we have the vocals. Let’s get the clean vocals out of the way; they’re rough. Not bad by a long shot, but they could definitely use some refining. As for his bellowing, fuck man, if he shouted at me to, “Get out of the way,” in that tone, I’d be in the next state over before he could finish his command. Motherfucker is scary.

Have I mention lyrical content yet? Norselaw pulls his imagery from everyday political strife (“fat blue line guarded by swiiiiine!”), to Conan The Barbarian to H.P. fucking Lovecraft. And speaking of Lovecraft, “Fungi From Yuggoth” is one of the best tracks on the album, not only due to the ever-presence of the Old Ones, but because of Jamie Lannister’s energetic drumming. Guy lets his fucking hair down and says, “fuck your ability to ever hear anything ever again!” and proceeds to rupture the eardrums of anyone within range in a berserk barrage of percussive power!

If you walk away from this review and can only manage to remember one thing, make it this: Norselaw is law. These guys fucking rule!

Music Review: Netra – Ingrats

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Netra - Ingrats

Genre: Experimental Progressive Black Metal
Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records

It’s been four and a half, five years since Netra released Sørbyen, seven years since Mélancolie Urbaine, and in some ways nothing has changed. Netra is still one man, playing a strange mixture of black metal, trip-hop, ambient, and a few other things. In some ways everything has changed.

Nothing ever felt forced with the first two albums, but on Ingrats everything feels like it belongs together even more. The songwriting has improved, and not even drastically. It’s been given just enough of a boost that all aspects that make Netra such a unique band are given their times to shine. For example, the pure DSBM moments of “Everything’s Fine”; the 80’s goth and 90’s EDM of “Live With It”; the saxophone on “Don’t Keep Me Waiting”; the beautiful ambient keyboards layered over fast double-kicks on “Paris or Me”; the list goes on.

Therein lies the beauty of what Netra is for me. It’s the controlled chaos of depressive black metal reined in with the steadiness of trip-hop and EBM. It’s slow and dark, truly melancholic and morose. It’s like slashing your wrists in a 4/4 beat. And it leaves such beautiful wounds upon your heart. Ingrats is a real masterpiece of black metal, for fans of the genre that like to watch it progress and further itself while still being true to what makes it black metal.