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Sunday, 27 April 2014

Reviews: Triptykon, Conan, Katatonia (Review By Paul)

Triptykon – Melana Chasmata (Century Media)

The follow-up to 2010’s Eparistera Daimones from Thomas Gabriel Warrior’s Swiss extreme metal outfit is an absolutely stunning piece of work and already in the running for album of the year in my book which is high praise indeed when you consider that both Anathema and Opeth have released scheduled shortly.
Opening track Tree of Suffering Souls begins at a blistering pace with huge drums and ferociously driven guitars, accompanied Warrior’s trademark gruff vocals. The intense opening lasts a full four minutes before the tempo slows slightly albeit with a continuing power that few bands can achieve. The track is inspired by French artist Jacques Callot series Les Miseres et Les Malheurs de la Guerre (The Miseries and Misfortunes of War ). It is instantly recognisable as a work of the former Celtic Frost and HellHammer man, with the subject matter in Callot’s work depicting the destruction unleashed on civilians during the Thirty Years' War; with the tuned down guitars and changing time signatures combined with Warrior’s haunting lyrics screaming “I am your lie” through the track. Clocking in at close to eight minutes, Tree of Suffering Souls provides you with all the clues you need for the rest of this album. If you like your music to talk about sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll then walk on by. This isn’t for you.
Boleskine House, track number two is a song that Warrior notes in his sleeve notes that he has carried with him since his Celtic Frost days. Both brutal and beautiful, this is possibly the track of the album. Boleskine House was of course the residence of Aleister Crowley, located on the shores of Loch Ness. The track has some stunning musicianship on it, driving rhythm from bassist Vanja Slajh, and some very eerie guitar work from Warrior and V. Santura. However, the haunting vocals of Simone Vollenweider combined with Warrior’s delivery and Santura’s backing vocals converge to provide the most melancholic track on the album. Altar of Deceit follows, and whilst it is flippant to refer to any of Triptykon’s work as straightforward this one is about as trademark as they come. Huge slabs of riffage, baleful vocals and some intricate guitar work combine to provide a slower but still epically heavy track. Next up is Breathing, which was the track premiered prior to Melana Chasmata’s release and this is a monster of track. Opening with some quite massive doomful riffs the track then hits you with freight train speed before continuing to vary in both pace and delivery with some huge hooks which will incite the pit at Solus in December. The famous “ooh” delivery from Warrior returns here before an all-out rampage in true death metal style towards the end of the track. An absolute favourite with blistering drumming from Norman Lonhard.
Aurorae is probably the most melodic track on Melana Chasmata, with massive gothic atmospherics throughout. It builds steadily, with a wall of guitar and melancholic vocals. Another track that Warrior revealed has been in embryonic state since the Monotheist days of Celtic Frost. Demon Pact follows with a slightly slower tempo but remaining crushingly heavy. In The Sleep of Death is pure Celtic Frost with Warrior’s drawn out vocals and some ominous guitar work. Once again a track that builds throughout with mighty drumming before returning to an eerie crescendo. Ironically, given the extreme metal badge that Triptykon are labelled with, this track is a homage to Emily Bronte and the title refers to the last line of her poem Sleep Brings No Joy To Me. The music in this track is wholly Santura’s and damn fine it is. Penultimate track Black Snow is an epic 13 minute piece initially penned by Warrior in, as you would expect, a snow covered clearing in a forest in Norway in December 2008. Another majestic track, with swirling guitars and pounding rhythms, Black Snow snakes its way around you, demonic lyrics creating an image of impending doom. Album closer Waiting is the second track on the album to feature the delicate voice of Simone Vollenweider. Another track with a hugely gothic feel, it features enormous riffs followed by intricate and elegant passages with Vollenweider’s delivery almost bewitching. A superb closing track to one of the most extraordinary albums ever written. As always, the art work in the album is by H. R. Giger, who Warrior has been associated with for over 30 years. The package is superb. This is absolutely stunning in every aspect. 10/10

Conan – Blood Eagle (Naplam)

Liverpool doom outfit’s latest release Blood Eagle came out a couple of months ago so apologies for the tardiness of the review. The Liverpool three piece are about as heavy as you can get, huge slabs of slow riffs and chanting vocals which oozes Sabbath and Electric Wizard throughout. Listening to this album is like repeatedly hitting your head on a brick wall, but in a good way. Opener Crown of Talons is ten minutes of hammering doom; enough to split your skull. You may not want to listen to this in a confined space as there is a strong chance that your cranium might fracture. Jon Davis on guitar and vocals, Phil Coumbe on bass and vocals and Paul O’Neil on drums combine to provide an immense sound, crushing all who dare to get in their way. There is no subtlety to this release. Total Conquest continues where Crown of Talons finishes, with more grindingly heavy guitar and bass with smashing drums and the same soaring voices. Synchronised changes are evident throughout, as Conan plough on like an out of control steam roller. Whatever you do, don't listen to this bad boy with a hangover. If you need any further description of what Conan sound like then merge High of Fire with The Sword and then get your best mate to hit you over the head with a sledgehammer. Yeah, that'll do it. Foehammer actually ramps up the pace for a bit but doesn't drop the pounding at all and continues to provide an absolute aural assault. And it doesn't stop for another 22 minutes as the remainder of the album continues in a similar vein. If you want your metal as heavy as a battleship then this is for you. Once again, if you want Steel Panther, you'd better keep on walking. In my view it blows every cobweb away, and whilst it can be a little repetitive, there can be no doubting that this is one of the heaviest releases of the year. 7/10

Katatonia – Kocytean (Peaceville Records)

A limited edition release for Record Store Day this is a six track EP from the Swedish band Katatonia. As melancholic a band as there can be, Katatonia’s sound has evolved substantially from their early death metal days into one that is much more intricate and delicate, whilst still retaining a sadness which continues to provide the themes that run through their music. This release groups together some rare b-sides and opens with Unfurl, a delicious piece which was originally released as a b-side to July and Soil’s Song in 2006 that allows Jonas Renkse centre stage. Sold Heart, a b-side to the Longest Year from 2009’s Night is the New Day features some intricate guitar work from Anders Nystrom and the usual time changes that one has come to expect from Katatonia. Ashen is a slightly more up-tempo track and is again from the Night is the New Day era, as you can tell from first listen. The EP also contains two tracks from the extended versions of their last album, Dead End Kings, Second and The Act of Darkening, both delivered in similar vein with a number of time changes, Renkse’s voice dominant without being overpowering and the musicianship elegant and fragile at times. Code Against the Code from 2006’s Deliberation EP is a beautiful track, and again highlights Nystrom and then guitarist Fredrick Norrman’s excellent fretwork. Whilst there is nothing new here for dedicated fans of the band, it is a tidy addition to an impressive catalogue of work. It will be interesting to see how the band’s direction continues to develop with the recent loss of guitarist Per Eriksson and drummer Daniel Liljekvist. 7/10

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