27 November 2006

Come wintry night the fearsome...

Black Elk - s/t
Crucial Blast
7 November 2006
5 Stars

So a new "genre" has been developing over the past few years, a mature riff-rock with its foundation in hardcore and punk. In contrast to a metalcore who got way too big for its britches and became a mainstream darling, more discerning heads have been countering this awful trend with musicianship and thoughtfully heavy songwriting.

Portland, Oregon's Black Elk have crafted an album that displays their range as musicians with delightfully varied influences. Inventive (and un-ordinary!) lead lines counter sludgy march-like rhythms that could pass for either a zombie parade or a trudge through a peat bog. There are also faster passages that reveal a distinct Botch sensibility. I mean, these guys are from the Pacific Northwest, so why not pay a little homage to one of the best bands from the region (and probably one of the best bands ever, but I digress...).

Overall this album is a straight-through kickass listen. I couldn't pick out any weak points, and there was consistent energy from start to finish. Well-written, worldly lyrics and great album art round this package out. I hope this debut album only hints at where these guys can go. Well done, gentlemen. Definitely pick this up.

10 November 2006

Long, long overdue

Alright, I'm back with more musical goodies. A little while back I mentioned some pagan/folk/black metal and now I've finally done a full write up. The new place is coming along and I no longer have to steal a spotty internet connection. I guess that means I don't have much excuse for not post more often. I've got a whole box of cds I've gotta go through, though, so have a bit of patience.

Skyforger - Kauja Pie Saules
Paragon Records
4 stars

Okay, I should have written about Skyforger months ago, but I just couldn't find a way to describe it that did any justice. I still can't really, but too much time has gone by without enough folks knowing about this band. A few questions, then:
1) Can you speak Latvian?
2) How extensive is your knowledge of pre-Christian Latvian history?
3) Do you like pagan folk metal?

You have no idea where I'm going with this, right? Okay. Kauja Pie Saules is the first full length from Latvian folk metal maestros Skyforger. This album is actually from 1998, but due to longstanding label issues, it has been unavailable for years. Thanks to Paragon Records, you can now find it again and make up for your inadequate knowledge of the oft-overlooked Baltic nation.
These guys don't fuck around. They possess extensive knowledge of their native folk traditions and incorporate them into their aesthetic. While the lyrics are all in Latvian, translations are provided and there is a short primer on the inspiration behind the album: namely, the battles waged by the early pagan Latvian tribes to resist the spread of Christianity in their lands. So while the folk influence is strong (there are two straight up folk tracks!), no doubt will be left that Skyforger know how to bring the black metal. The power displayed within is comparable to Destroyer 666 and would have made a fitting warmup for battle against Teutonic Knights. Search this album out to get some quality skull-crushing metal and a history lesson that you sorely need.