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Monday 22 August 2022

Reviews Heilung, Consumption, Wizard Tattoo, Kalah (Erick Willand, GC, Rich Piva & Richard Oliver)

Heilung - Drif (Season Of Mist) [Erick Willand]

The experimental folk collective known as Heilung formed in 2014 and includes members from Germany, Denmark and Norway and performs a mythical mix of music, history and ritual. Combining elaborate costumes and hand made instruments they create captivating live performances that bring ancient tales to vibrant musical life. The group themselves call this “Amplified History” and that is a very fitting term for this fourth album as they explore other ancient cultures outside of their usual northern European ground. So grab your cloak and spear traveller and let's journey back in time for some musical adventure.

Drif opens with Asja, a powerful vocal piece meant to invoke love and recovery and to help the listener through troubled times. Having listened to this song several times now myself I can say it absolutely accomplishes this feeling and then some. The deep vocal chants and drum beats resonate and vibrate your rib cage even without sufficient volume. The song warms you from within, even though you may not understand the lyrics. Which I certainly don’t. This carries over smoothly into the second piece Anoana, a piece described as a spell from the beginning of the Dark Ages including lyrics taken from bracteates, coins made of Roman gold and inscribed with runes. 

The piece is rolling, like a ship on the waves it carries the listener steadily forward humming along. Leading us to Tenet, the inspired thirteen minute and five second third piece that is absolutely hypnotic. Based on the “Sator Square” (Google it, very interesting), the earliest example of a palindrome and Tenet deals with the mystical aspects of the square as it’s travelled through time and cultures. It’s deep, layered and should be heard with headphones if possible.

Both Urbani and Keltentrauer are slightly different grounds for Heilung both musically and thematically. Urbani is the sound of a Roman Legion on the march, chanting and banging spears against their shields in a forced march speed. It’s thunderous and epic. Keltentrauer is a fairly recently written poem about Iron Age culture clashes between the Celts and the Romans. The poem is spoken in New High German over the sounds of chants and shouts of the Celts in Gaelic followed by the sounds of battle. It does not go well for the Celts.

Nesso returns us to vocal chants and natural sounds and instruments, and a powerful vocal performance apparently caught in one take. The meaning explained is that this is a healing spell specifically for pulling sickness from the leg of a horse. With it’s ghostly dreamy quality it’s pacing is slower yet there is an urgency in the vocals that is clear and insistent, augmented by the string instrument used. Buslas Bann is the following piece, going back north for a curse that becomes a blessing. Deeper vocal group chants and steady drums greet us quickly and don’t let up. #

Inspired by the “Bosa saga” from 13th century Iceland, a rune spell called Busla’s curse begins with a harsh vibe that slowly over the song becomes less guttural, less mean. The piece ends on a quieter, more peaceful tone. And then we are gifted with Nikkal, a fascinating piece of music, discovered carved into clay tablets some 3400 years ago in what is now Syria. The tablets include lyrics, notes and instrument tuning instructions. This is a song that has travelled through time. Ancient time actually, is where we end this journey with the final piece Marduk, from the ancient lands now called Iraq. Composed using singing bowls and hard whispered lyrics, the 50 names and royal titles of Marduk. It’s unexpected, sinister yet calm. And utterly fascinating.

Heilung albums are an experience, almost like a specific historical event caught in audio form, trapped time given life every time you and I listen. Like a sonic photograph from the distant past. The level of work and care that went into this project is impressive to say the least. I really hope that both physical copies and the official website included the explanations. So much information, I had to basically cut this review in half (not kidding). Also, I can not stress the use of headphones enough, however keep your finger on that volume button, some pieces have sharp peaks and valleys. 9/10

Consumption - Necrotic Lust (Hammerheart Records) [GC]

Following on from their Recursive Definitions of Suppuration debut album, Sweden’s Consumption are here to remind us that grinding 90’s-tinged death metal is not dead and want to claim the throne as their own once and for all! Straight into it here as there is no messing about on Necrotic Lust, right out of the gates we get introduced to Suffering Devine with its chainsaw sharp riffs and unrelenting drums that drop us directly into a glorious mid-section and has a beautiful solo added in before fading out with the mid-sections return and we are now straight into The Last Supper which is full of riffs so filthy I feel like I need a shower after hearing them and if that isn’t enough to peak your interest (not me showering obviously) you are then thrown directly into a frantic aural assault that is pure 90’s era death metal but, this isn’t some tribute act and Håkan Stuvema and  Jon Skär really add another highlight to an already fertile scene!

One thing that to note and something that I really find that adds a sense of fun and enjoyment to the proceedings here is the samples that are used to open most of the tracks, I always find that some cheesy horror clip before a death metal song really adds another layer of enjoyment for me. Carrying on and title track Necrotic Lust is another pure slice of 90’s death metal goodness and is as close to Carcass as you can get without listening to the real thing, A Secret Coliseum starts out with an eerie and almost melodic beauty which builds towards a crushing groove so heavy that it could smash a hole in your head and showcases more outstanding solo’s and bleeds into a cacophony of blasting drums and deranged riffs which then leads us into Ground Into Ashes which features none other than Mr Jeff Walker himself!!! 

And yes, this track could be lifted directly from a Carcass album, it leads with some impressive drum work and is built around the sort of riff that will stick you like barbed wire a great song for a great man, following that is going to be a tall order and at first choosing 7 minute long Offspring Inhuman Conceived seems to be an odd choice but it is full of the trademark brooding grooves and mixes all the styles on offer so far to great effect to construct a glorious monstrosity of a song so you are sure to not lose interest after this Twisted Shaped Reality & Circle Of Pain both pick up the pace again and re-introduce us to the furious tempo and bruising rhythms we have heard throughout Necrotic Lust and after that its on to Devices For The Sentenced to close the album with a slab of glorious and satisfying brutal death metal! 

Consumption have created an absolute barnstormer of an album here that is one for the death metal purists but would also be a great introduction album for people to explore the genre, it is grimy and dirty, but the production is top notch and makes sure that noting is lost in the mix, the varying of styles and techniques is also top quality and always means there is something on offer for all tastes on this top quality release!! 8/10

Wizard Tattoo - Wizard Tattoo (Self Released) [Rich Piva]

Well, this is fun! Wizard Tattoo is one man band lead by a gentleman named Bram the Bard who tells the story of a man who gets a wizard tattoo and is then pretty much turned into a wizard, or who is not turning into a wizard but is instead losing his shit. One or the other. Either way this is a ton of fun and in some parts, it absolutely rips with its doomy and prog DIY vibes that Bram is putting out. Please tell me what is not to like in that description.  Much of the ripping is done on the title track, which brings some groovy doom and some unique synths that makes it quite the memorable track.

Our protagonist has his tattoo, but now must figure out if he is going insane or becoming magical.  This happens during the second track, A Wizard’s Lie, which is a trippy little ditty to start with some nice acoustic guitar that leads to what sounds like a battle between good and evil, alternating between the clean acoustic and a guttural growl from the bowels of hell. Fun! Track three, Wizard Knife Fight is pretty much what the name says lyrically. It tells the (very funny) tale of our hero and said fight in a spoken word type delivery until that growl from hell explains clearly that that we are talking about a wizard knife fight. Fun! It has a killer riff and rips musically as well. The last track is a chill instrumental where I picture our wizard wandering in the forest on a journey of self-awareness. 

I feel like this story is not done; I am hoping for a part two to the saga. This is fun. Sometimes we need stories of wizards finding their way. Mr. Bard can certainly play his guitar. Occasionally you can hear a kind of built in a lab programming feel on the drums and the EP will sometimes feel a bit too DIY, but that is also some of the charm of Tattoo Wizard. This is a worthy listen, and I would be down to check out what comes next. 7/10

Kalah - Descent Into Human Weakness (Pure Steel Records) [Richard Oliver]

Descent Into Human Weakness is the debut full length album from Italian electronic metal band Kalah.  It follows two E.P.’s that were released in rapid succession in 2021 and it seems the band have wasted no time in getting their debut album out in 2022.  With such a rapid release of music the big question looming is that is this is quantity over quality? Kalah perform a mix of styles such as power metal, melodic death metal and metalcore with a heavy electronic presence with trace sounding keys and pop leaning choruses. 

It’s a combo that has been done before by other bands and to be honest done a lot better. The keyboards take prevalence and drive the songs with the melodies with the guitars really working as a background instrument chugging along with the rhythm of the drums meaning there is very little in the way of memorable riffs. There are some great solos dotted throughout such as in Pit Of Violence (P.O.V.) but the guitars seem woefully underused. The songs themselves are rather formulaic and sound very alike with many falling into many of the trappings of modern metal. Whilst there are some catchy choruses throughout the album such as on Sand on the whole this album is rather forgettable. There were also some moments which I straight up despised such as the use of autotune vocals on Red which had me grimacing. 

Descent Into Human Weakness is an album that did not do much for me at all. Many of the songs sounded too similar to each other and there are very few standout moments on the album.  Some of the guitar playing is great but there wasn’t a single memorable riff throughout the duration of the album.  Had the band played more towards their power metal and melodic death metal influences then this would be a far better album but Descent Into Human Weakness is not an album that I wish to revisit. 4/10

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