Fluisteraars – Gegrepen door de Geest der Zielsontluiking (Eisenwald)
Just last year, Fluisteraars unveiled Bloem. With their third album, the black metal duo from the Netherlands completely excelled with their atmospheric and melodic take. It’s always wary following up an album like Bloem, especially if you are doing so just one year later. Questions begin to pop: Did they have enough time? Are we just going to get the leftovers from the Bloem session? All valid, but thankfully, in this case, all these questions are nulled. Fluisteraars return rejuvenated, fervent as ever with Gegrepen door de Geest der Zielsontluiking. And in the process, they even surpass themselves.
It is all about the flow with Fluisteraars’ fourth full-length. They recorded each track within a day, and this provided a very natural and organic progression. Not only on a song level but on a record level. The narrative is intriguing, grabs you immediately from the forceful and imminent start of “Het overvleugelen der meute”. There is a fierce dedication, blazing red hot with a punk-like fervor, but of course, this is just one side of Fluisteraars. The pace drops, grand elements gather, and the folk-induced Agalloch-ian spirit rises through the fumes. Melody is only a step away, and this is the true brilliance of Fluisteraars. They are direct, and they do not shy away from their melodic inclinations. And as a result, everything sticks with you, be it the riffs, the lead, the drum fills, or the spitting vocal delivery. Moments like the start of “Brand woedt in mijn graf” speak to this effect, with Fluisteraars enhancing the melodic black metalcore with epic underpinnings, crafting a monumental progression.
Yet, that is not all. The pull of the ambient is too strong, and in the past, Fluisteraars have traversed into these ethereal dimensions. They perform similar investigations in Gegrepen door de Geest der Zielsontluiking, at times through a ritualistic pace and then through a meditative state. The closing part of “Het overvleugelen der meute” sees them take on this lucid form, leaving behind the earthly plane. Similarly, the final moments of “Brand woedt in mijn graf” fulfill this exploration through amplifier feedback, leaving behind the melancholy and heading for the abstract.
Then there is the closer, the 20-minute long opus “Verscheuring In De Schemering”. The track pretty much defines everything about Fluisteraars today. The brute black metal explosions, the melodic inclinations, the epic and the ambient, the fierce and the abstract all meet. It sees Fluisteraars cover so much ground, going from structured songwriting to semi-improvised moments, adding clean guitars to craft otherworldly dimensions. The perfect way to close a near-perfect record. – Spyros Stasis
Gnosis – Omens From the Dead Realm (Nuclear War Now!)
It is always a three-year cycle for Florida black/death act Gnosis. The successor to 2018’s The Offering of Seven arrives right on time. Omens From the Dead Realm does not notably change the band’s recipe. Their black/death is rooted in the old school, taking influence from the early days of extreme metal. Yet, while the methods and philosophy have not changed for Gnosis, their new record sees them at their peak. Slightly stretching the duration of their tracks and meticulously planning the flow of their new album makes Omens From the Dead Realm their most complete work to date.
On the one hand, this is a direct and to-the-point assault. Gnosis get straight down to business as the mid-tempo onslaught of “Conjuration of the Nemesis” arrives. This is where the prime, first wave black metal influence is exposed, as the Celtic Frost groove and demeanor rise from the shadows. This slow, guttural presence shines in “Apzu, Sea of Death”, unfolding in a slithering progression. The descent to the abyss reaches its nasty peak with “Awakening the Third Eye”, obscuring the brutality in layers of heavyweight riffs.
Gnosis don’t stop there, enhancing these early invocations with their most potent weapon, the early Greek black metal scene influence. Omens From the Dead Realm oozes with the brutal melodicism of Rotting Christ and Varathron, shining through the passageways of “Excite the Tempest” and the vocal delivery of “The Eleventh Step, The Gate Unknown”. The electrifying guitar presence then takes on further chaotic interpretations. And equally notable is the Thou Art Lord frenetic hand in “Typhlotic Vision”, granting a dissonant element to the proceedings.
The cherry on top is the mystical flavor that Gnosis spread throughout the record. The use of synthesizers helps significantly here, boosting this theatricality. “Typhlotic Visions” and “Awakening the Third Eye” both are elevated with additional percussive sounds. A grand aspect is met in equal power with the background chants in “Typhlotic Visions”. From there on, the synths cast their sonic experiments in the form of pads, moving beneath the black/death assault. And this is also where moments of pure ritualism arise, as with “Transcendence Pt. II”. The interlude crafting this strange Mesopotamian-inspired ritual, and it would be nice to see Gnosis in the future further incorporate these in their main song structures. For now, these Floridians have outdone themselves and delivered a scorcher with Omens From the Dead Realm. – Spyros Stasis
Grandeur – Aurea Aetas (Personal Records/Halo of Flies)
Grandeur is the newest project from the prolific extreme metal artist Erech Leleth. Through the years, Leleth has traversed various subgenres of extreme metal. With Ancient Mastery, Leleth explored the epic black metal landscapes, while with Narzissus, he reveled in the genre’s lo-fi atmospherics and monolithic progression. And just for a twist, Golden Blood found Leleth in a hybrid state, caught between black metal and thrash/punk inclinations. The common denominator is the ‘90s black metal spirit, and his new project is not far off that mark. But, Grandeur steps into the aggressive and melodic intersection, unleashing a hellish EP with a pedal to the metal attitude.
The Swedish scene heritage is smeared across Aurea Aetas. Opener “I: Acatalepsia” balances between an all-out attack while seamlessly unfolding the distinct melody that defined that scene. The pace is relentless, but the hooks run deep as the lead work beautifully weaves this story. The bitter essence of the genre is still dominant in the perilous vocal delivery and moments guided by a particular eeriness, as with “III: Ultimum”. But, for the most part, the record gravitates towards its melodic inclination. This is also where Leleth brings in another Swedish tradition to accommodate the black metal spirit. That is a punk-ish quality that enhances the unyielding progression of Grandeur.
Taking on elements of melodic crust, Leleth performs a head-on assault with the opening of “II: Exordium”, at times flirting with a Tragedy-like influence. And then, of course, adding more depth to this endeavor, the atmospheric drops. Both “II: Exordium” and “IV: Aurea Aetas” see Grandeur retreat to a minimal state, clean guitars crafting the space. It is impressive scenery, especially on the closing track. The interlude is used as a launching pad for a grand melodic black metal assault of epic proportions, completing a solid first work from Grandeur. – Spyros Stasis
Hour of 13 – Black Magick Rites (Shadow Kingdom)
It was the late 2000s, and two distinct forces were reviving the doom of the ‘70s. On the one hand, there is the occult rock scene, combining a mixture of progressive and psychedelic elements with a doom core. On the other side stand the traditionalists: Acts bound to the Sabbath-ian ways and the hellish invocations of Pentagram. It is within that second group that Hour of 13 belong, becoming one of the pivotal forces of the movement. While their presence was tumultuous, the band centered around Chad Davis changed names, members and ceased to exist on multiple occasions, nevertheless left behind an excellent series of records. Now, nine years have passed since Hour of 13’s last full-length, 333, and finally, the return is upon us with Black Magick Rites.
Given the pedigree and lineage they represent, Black Magick Rites does not offer many surprises. What it does offer is well-crafted, old-school doom metal. The early Pentagram swag comes rushing in from the very first notes of “His Majesty of the Wood”. The Sabbath-ian spirit is close behind, shoveling dirt through the distorted guitars in “Return From the Grave”. It is an invocation that can arrive in its own right, shining in closer “The Mystical Hall of Dreams”, or with an injection of NWOBHM. “Return From the Grave” does feature a hint of Witchfinder General glory in its tracks alongside a subtle psychedelic quality from the guitar strums. Davis traverses further in this instance towards a deathrock ideal, adding the Magick-al element to this work. An early Christian Death fury meets the doom riffs heads on through the title track, adding a vague sense that elevates the rocky and melodic inclination of the song.
In many ways, Hour of 13 appear to be at a peak with Black Magick Rites. The flow of the record feels natural, the doom weight, catchy riffs, and direct messages shining through. It is something that results in exquisite moments, like the nine-minute opus “Within the Pentagram”. However, one noticeable difference is Phil Swanson’s absence behind the vocal mic. Swanson had provided vocals for all of the band’s previous full-length releases, and his commanding performance perfectly complemented Davis’ work. In this case, Davis himself takes on the vocal duties, something he has done in all of the Hour of 13 releases since 2016. However, while he can provide good performance, he does not fill the void that Swanson left. And as good as Black Magick Rites is, it is difficult not to wonder how it would sound with Swanson behind the mic. – Spyros Stasis