Shining: X - Varg Utan Flock (Season Of Mist)
Sweden’s masters of depressive black metal Shining bring forth another dose of misery with tenth album X: Varg Utan Flock. This is definitely one of more intense albums Shining have released in recent years. Helped by a brilliant production job this album has riffs which reach out of the speakers and grab you by the throat. A lot of the songs contain a real driving nastiness which has been lacking in the last few Shining releases. The folk and progressive influences which have been evident are still prevalent and mix nicely with the vicious black metal.
The vocals by Niklas Kvarforth are more on the tortured side this time round with both his pained black metal shrieks and his depressive cleans sounding like a man at the end of his rope. As with previous album IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends the song titles and lyrics are all in Swedish so I cannot tell you the lyrical content of this album but it’s guaranteed to be dark and depressive. X: Varg Utan Flock is a definite return to form for Shining after a few disappointing releases and for me their best record since VII: Född Fölorare. 8/10
Summoning: With Doom We Come (Napalm Records)
Austrian atmospheric black metallers Summoning are back with their eighth full length album With Doom We Come. I have only been listening to Summoning for the past year and so am not very familiar with their back catalogue so can only judge this album off its own merits and not from what has preceded it. On With Doom We Come, Summoning have crafted an album which is equally dark and atmospheric and majestic and grandiose. The two members who make up Summoning – Protector and Silenius – are both massive Tolkien fans and this is very evident with a sound that evokes forests, mountains and an epic journey.
It’s music that definitely makes you feel like going for a long walk. The music on With Doom We Come is slow lo-fi black metal with layers of keyboards producing sounds such as horns and strings but with a very medieval sound about them. The vocals are a mix of harsh black metal croaks, some enjoyable clean vocals and some damn epic choral sections. The production on the album is nicely raw but not to the point where any of the instruments get lost in the mix. Summoning have produced an enjoyable album of atmospheric yet epic black metal although at times it does feel like a few of the songs could do with a trim due to most songs having the same pace to them. I will definitely continue to check out more Summoning from their extensive back catalogue. 7/10
Asenblut: Legenden (AFM Records)
Asenblut are a band that have seemingly slipped under my radar. They have three albums out and play a style of metal which is a mix of black metal and death metal but with plenty of melody and themes of paganism and Vikings. Their new release Legenden is an EP featuring four tracks taken from their debut album Aufbruch and re-recorded plus a cover of Manowar. I haven’t heard the original versions of the songs on this EP so cannot compare them. There are comparisons with fellow Viking metal act Amon Amarth in the use of rousing melodies in the music but Asenblut have a more intense rhythm section to them and a use of far more groove laden riffs. The vocals by frontman Tetzel are more on the guttural scale but are damn effective. It’s hard to say what the point of this EP is having not heard the original material it is sourced from but it’s an enjoyable release if you like your metal on the Viking side of things. 7/10
Mystic Prophecy: Monuments Uncovered (Massacre Records)
When it comes to power metal bands doing a covers album you are almost guaranteed to be able to guess the bands that will be covered. Generally with these covers albums you will get a collection of hard rock and classic metal songs covered from the 70’s and 80’s with songs by bands such as Rainbow, Black Sabbath and UFO pretty much guaranteed so it was very refreshing to see that Mystic Prophecy have gone down a different route with the song choices for their covers album Monuments Uncovered. There’s a few classic rock choices such as T. Rex and Creedence Clearwater Revival but on the whole Mystic Prophecy have thrown a curveball and covered artists as varied as Donna Summer, Lenny Kravitz, Kim Wilde, Patti Smith and Monster Magnet.
All the songs have been given a heavy metal makeover and on the whole sound pretty damn good. Frontman Roberto Dimitri Liapakis sounds a bit strained on one or two songs but on the whole puts in a suitably impressive performance. As with all covers albums Monuments Uncovered is generally a bit pointless and you wish the band had released an album of new material instead but it’s a fun release and it’s enjoyable to hear these classic songs given a heavy metal makeover and props to Mystic Prophecy for trying something a bit different with a covers album instead of covering the tried and tested artists. 7/10
Strikeback: The Plague (Self Released)
Spanish thrashers Strikeback literally strike back with their second album The Plague. This was my first exposure to the band and it was a very fine first impression as Strikeback have put out one fine thrash metal album. The sound is very much rooted in old school thrash but the band have crafted the perfect balance between aggression, melody and catchiness which is definitely a winning formula when it comes to thrash metal. Frontman Liber has a vocal style that reminds me of an angrier and slightly gruffer Mark Osegueda from Death Angel whilst guitarists Rafa and Flo strum out chunky riffs and tasteful leads.
Bassist Mella and drummer Sebas provide a solid rhythm section. There’s barely a soft moment throughout the album with songs such as Wall Of Silence, B.H.S. and Anxiety Within are guaranteed to please any self respecting thrasher. Strikeback have released an album which is lacking in individuality and originality but makes up for it in sheer arse kickery. These guys know how to thrash and that’s all that matters in the end. 8/10