Archive for the finland Category

Hagalaz’ Favorite Albums of 2015

Posted in 2015, best of, black metal, doom, doom metal, drone metal, finland, funeral doom, marduk, melechesh, orthodox black metal, sweden, traditional heavy metal, war metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2016 by blackmetallurgy

The other day, I was thinking of catch-up posts I needed to do and I thought, “Oh! I’ll do a post about my favorite albums of 2015!” I didn’t plan on it needing to be ten or eleven like I normally do because… it’s almost six months late, so why do you care? But then, lo, there were that many, so the list is eleven after all.

So without further ado, in mostly random order, my favorites of 2015.

11. Ghost – Meliora

After the huge fanfare for Infestissumam (and there was a lot of it. Remember when Ghost released those sex toys?), there was practically none for its follow-up. Really. I didn’t even know this album was out until about a week after it dropped, and I worked at a metal record store. Meliora feels like a throwback in a way; it’s more stripped down in the way that Opus Eponymous was, and I dare say a little heavier than its predecessors, “Cirice” feels almost doomy.

Favorite Tracks: He Is, Absolution

[Here’s Ghost playing “He Is” with the grandpas guitars.]

 

10. Sunn O))) – Kannon

Sunn O))) near the end of the year released their first full-length album (not with Ulver) since 2009’s Monoliths and Dimensions (which is absolutely, stupidly, dumbfoundingly awesome). Clocking in at barely over a half hour, Kannon is over a whole lot faster than you would hope (if you’re me), but that’s literally my only complaint about it. Here’s to Attila doing more crazy things with his throat!

H’s Favorite Track: Kannon, Pt. 3

 

9. Baroness – Purple

I was stupidly happy to hear that Baroness would have a new album out; after their terrible bus crash in 2012, I would not have been surprised if they never put out another album. Purple is a return to a heavier sound, and it simultaneously incorporates a lot of new sounds and styles, like in “Shock Me” and “If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain).” J thinks that 2012’s Yellow & Green may prove to be a transitional album if the band continues in this vein, and it will be interesting to see where Baroness goes from here.

Favorite Tracks: Shock Me, Kerosene

 

8. Melechesh – Enki

Melechesh is one of those bands that I think is really cool and innovative and doesn’t get nearly enough attention. 2010’s The Epigenesis was when they got the production budget to really hit their peak, and I wasn’t sure that they would be able to top it, but Enki definitely does. It’s tight, fast, full of fun shifting drum patterns and Eastern-influenced riffing and instrumentation. Now if we can just get them to tour here again… or headline…

Favorite Tracks: Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged, Doorways to Irkala

[And this is just track one.]

 

8. Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields

I was also very excited to hear that Shape of Despair had a new album coming out. Angels of Distress is one of the most upsetting albums I know- it’s beautiful, but it really is distressing. Monotony Fields (there’s one that came out between them that I didn’t know about! I will have to get on that) is another treatise in funeral doom the way it should be done- it’s bleak and slow-moving with some awesome keyboard parts. It’s also got some surprising turns- “Descending Inner Light” is almost joyful. For funeral doom. Which is really kind of the opposite of joyful. Huh.

Favorite Tracks: The Distant Dreams of Life, In Longing

[Here’s another track, because there are entirely too many high points on this album]

 

6. Saturnalia Temple – To The Other

Speaking of doom- Saturnalia Temple’s To The Other really is like gazing into the Void. Creepy, heavy, and just plain downright daunting (smothering?), this album reminds me of all of the ugliness and sonic twistedness of something like Teitanblood, but slower. Much. Much. Slower. It’s sort of like being slapped with a sledgehammer. But in a good way.

Favorite Tracks: ZazelSorath, To the Other

[Enjoy your nightmares.]

 

5. Shining – IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends

Shining released their ninth full-length album last year, called Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends. This new album features an introductory track that is entirely fugue-like classical riffing, and later employs the use of a sitar. Say what you will about their stage antics and the general notoriety of vocalist Niklas Kvarforth, Shining remains, in my opinion, one of the most innovative black metal bands currently out there.

Favorite Tracks: Den påtvingade tvåsamheten, Besök från i(ho)nom

 

4. Mgła – Exercises in Futility

Mgła also returned with an offering every bit as good as everyone expected it to be. While I am still very partial to With Hearts Towards None, Exercises in Futility proves that Mgła is not slacking and is easily one of the best black metal releases of last year, even if it doesn’t really break any new ground. Blending old school style with third-wave melody, Mgła’s albums are consistently solid and enjoyable.

Favorite Tracks: IV, VI

 

3. Marduk – Frontschwein

2015 also saw the return of Marduk, and specifically the return of Marduk playing war music. Not to say that their past several albums haven’t been absolutely fantastic in their focus on Biblical/apocalyptic imagery, but let’s face it, war is kind of what they’re known for. Frontschwein does not disappoint, bringing in some of the best reviews that Marduk has seen in years and proving that black metal’s war machine hasn’t sacrificed any of their brutality.

Favorite Tracks: Nebelwerfer, 503

[Yes. That’s a tambourine.]

 

2. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud

This is the weird one on the list. I have never listened to Amorphis before last year. At all. Basically, Shane just played it a lot at the record store and it really grew on me. While not typically the sort of thing that I listen to with any amount of frequency, Amorphis’ Under the Red Cloud is, I think, easily one of my favorite albums of 2015.

Favorite Tracks: Death of a King, Tree of Ages

[Again. There isn’t a bad song on this one either.]

 

1. Clandestine Blaze – New Golgotha Rising

My number one album of 2015 is actually a black metal album this year. If you’re not familiar with Clandestine Blaze, you should be, and if those vocals sound familiar… well, that would probably be because Deathspell Omega also channels their works through Mikko Aspa’s vocal chords. Only here he does everything. New Golgotha Rising is, on the surface, a relatively straightforward raw black metal album, but the more I listen to it, the more I find that it shifts around beneath the surface, like some kind of parasite in a sci-fi horror film. All of Clandestine Blaze’s catalog is seriously good stuff, but this new one is one of my favorites.

Favorite Tracks: (All of it, ya goofs, but if I have to pick,) Evocation Under Starlit Sky, Passage to New Creed

[I wanted to post this track because it does a good job of showing off that slippery riffage that Clandestine Blaze does so well.]

So there is a list of stuff I liked last year. Because dudes, I already had eleven. Which is why Enforcer isn’t on there along with other notable exceptions, and there’s still stuff I need to catch up on (Arcturus). The back catalog on the stuff I need to catch up on is huge. But, here is the stuff I was jamming a bunch last year for you to peruse while I try to stay on top of this year (new Rotting Christ is incredible, and Behexen and Inquisition’s new stuff is sounding really, really good).

Until next time…

-H

 

 

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More Pics from Behexen/Sargeist

Posted in battle jacket, black metal, chicago, concerts, finland, orthodox black metal, psychedelic rock, retro occult rock, satan, underground, united states, USBM, war metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2014 by blackmetallurgy

As promised, some pics from black metal weekend. It occurs to me that I must not have gotten any pics of Behexen- was too busy headbanging I guess. Enjoy!

My farewell party. He was displeased that I was gone all weekend.

My farewell party. He was displeased that I was gone all weekend.

The lovely A at the Beat Kitchen, rocking the Emperor shirt

The lovely A at the Beat Kitchen, rocking the Emperor shirt

Kommandant's vocalist. His new get-up is terrifying

Kommandant’s vocalist. His new get-up is terrifying

Kommandant

Kommandant

Just one of the many curiosities from the awesome sushi place/Japanese grocery store

Just one of the many curiosities from the awesome sushi place/Japanese grocery store

Mugging for the camera with my bow to match my battle jacket

Mugging for the camera with my bow to match my battle jacket

Kvties

Kvties

Jex Thoth

Jex Thoth

I liked her dancing

I liked her dancing

Sargeist

Sargeist

Ave.

-H

Concert: Sargeist/Acid Witch/Empyreus/Strix Nebulosa/Jex Thoth (7/6, Beat Kitchen, Chicago)

Posted in black metal, chicago, concerts, death metal, doom, finland, orthodox black metal, psychedelic rock, retro occult rock, satan, underground, united states, USBM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2014 by blackmetallurgy

***NOTE: Alas, there are no vids this time. For some reason, WordPress (or this post in particular, perhaps) is not letting me embed videos. So I don’t have those for you. I do have a few pictures from the shows, but they aren’t all uploaded on my computer so I will have to do a follow up post of those.***

Night two of my and A’s black metal weekend was a significantly longer bill, featuring a wide range of music. I was a bit in shock that I was going to get to see Sargeist- I figured that would never happen, even less of a chance than Behexen. Also, I was looking forward to seeing Acid Witch as A really loves them, as well as Jex Thoth, because I have fallen pretty hard for that weird 60s occult rock stuff. The crowd was also substantially bigger than the previous night; I think a lot of people were there for Acid Witch, as they don’t seem to play live often. Also, as I mentioned before, I think Sargeist live is an even rarer event than Behexen.

The show started off with Jex Thoth, who danced up on stage wearing a Red Riding Hood-like cape (I have a similar one, actually!) and carrying burning sage. As much as I love my black metal, I’d say that she was seriously in danger of stealing the show- the crowd adored her, and she would often jump down into the crowd to give people sage to hold and to whisper in certain people’s ears. For me, the performance was really cool because it was such a huge contrast to The Devil’s Blood- Jex Thoth is constantly in movement when she’s performing in direct contrast with The Mouth of Satan- even though the music evokes the same era. It was very cool to see the Satanic 60s depicted in a different way.

Next up was Strix Nebulosa. Their approach to black metal was an interesting one considering the crowd- these guys seem to use a more pagan, nature-y commentary on the genre as opposed to a Satanic one. When the vocalist announced that “there is no God, no Satan, only Nature,” A and I exchanged looks; them’s strong words in that crowd. I missed the very first part of Strix Nebulosa’s set, but ended up catching most of it, and I have to say that I enjoyed what I saw. It’s not easy to pull off two-man black metal, and they managed to do it well.

The next band was a local Chicago band called Empyreus, whom I really enjoyed. Empyreus’ style of black metal was more bombastic than Strix Nubulosa’s, and you could tell that this group had been playing together for quite a while. I saw a number of people in the crowd sporting their shirts, so they clearly are well known locally. Their original stuff was excellent, and as an added surprise they played a very well received cover of Celtic Frost’s “Morbid Tales.”

After Empyreus, we switched gears entirely, moving on to the deathy doom of Acid Witch. As I mentioned above, I never really listened to Acid Witch, but considering that horror movies are my other big geekery, I am officially a fan now. Their use of synth is really cool, and I love the cackles that the vocalist throws in. Unfortunately, there seemed to be some miscommunication between the band and the venue in terms of how much time they had- Acid Witch had two more songs to play when they were told they had to stop. The crowd was upset, as seeing Acid Witch play is seemingly a rarer occurrence than I had realized, but in the interest of not pissing off the Finns (they don’t seem like the type you’d want to piss off), it was probably for the best. The guys from Acid Witch were also super cool and very professional about the whole thing, and I enjoyed getting to talk horror movie soundtracks briefly with them.

Finally, Sargeist took the stage, plunging us once again into Satan sans the Sam Rami-esque camp. By this point my neck was starting to get understandably sore (I haven’t done two nights in a row in quite a while), but I couldn’t help but bang my head anyway. My heart jumped up in my throat when they played songs that I knew from listening sessions with J, and it was cool to see several of the same guys in a slightly different element than the previous night. I assumed that they would just use the same members for each night, but turns out they brought the whole crew- while Shatraug (guitar), Horns (drums), and Hoath Torog (vocals) were back for round two, another guitarist and bassist joined them on stage.

Sargeist started out with “Satanic Black Devotion,” and also played “Black Fucking Murder” from the same album. After the show, a couple of friends of mine suggested that hearing “Let the Devil In” would have made the night just that much better, but damn if it wasn’t a hell of a show anyway. Sargeist played a little bit longer than Behexen did the night before, but the night was still entirely too short. On the way out, I thanked Shatraug for the wonderful weekend and wished him and the bands safe travels on their tour before heading back to the hotel for a much needed shower and to split a bottle of Surly Pentagram with A.

As I mentioned last time, Sargeist was completely out of merch, so I didn’t end up getting anything from them but the patch from the night before (which is good, honestly- it meant I had gas money to get back to the Cities). I ended up with a Jex Thoth shirt. The merch guy asked if it was ok if it had European tour dates from 2012 on the back, and I said sure, that I thought the little demon dude on the front was cute. He reminds me of Clive Barker’s artwork, or of the little wolf dude from the new Arckanum record.

20140717_164651

A little blurry. But you get the picture (no pun intended)

Europe dates I didn't go to

Europe dates I didn’t go to

Overall, it was a killer weekend, and I’m very happy that I finally mustered up the courage to get down to Chicago to see someone. The trip down, I learned, is actually not all that bad, although the construction outside of Chicago (which I’m told has been there for a couple of years) was a real pain. I’ve never been to a city the size of Chicago, and I still haven’t really considering that A and I acted like stereotypical black metal fans and didn’t really leave our hotel, but considering the shootings that went on that weekend that’s probably for the best. Despite that, I know now that it’s not the worst drive to get down there, especially if we leave early, and that Chicago is a perfectly reasonable destination to travel to for concerts.

Also, I saw two bands that I never thought I’d get to see live, and they were incredible. This weekend helped remind me of why I love black metal so much, and I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to see Sargeist and Behexen.

Infernal hails!

-Hagalaz

 

 

Concert: Behexen/Kommandant/Akashah (7/5, Beat Kitchen, Chicago)

Posted in black metal, black metal ist krieg, chicago, concerts, finland, orthodox black metal, underground, united states, USBM, war metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2014 by blackmetallurgy

When I heard Behexen and Sargeist were playing back to back shows in Chicago, I knew that I had to go regardless of how many hippies I had to fight or goats I had to sacrifice to get there. I’ve loved Behexen ever since I went on a quest a couple of years ago to find out just who these dudes were that I kept seeing everywhere, and J’s love of Sargeist is quite infectious. The fact that the shows coincided perfectly with A’s birthday just added to the multitudinous list of reasons that we absolutely had to go.

The first night was Behexen, and the first opener was a band called Akashah from Illinois. Their name made me think of Queen of the Damned, which I think was one of Anne Rice’s better works, so that made me happy from a nerdy perspective. I enjoyed their set- although it appears on Encyclopedia Metallum that Akashah is a one man project, the live set of course featured a full band. Formerly a member of the N.S.B.M. group the Pagan Front, there was no hint of Akashah’s political leanings anywhere in their set. While I really loved the drums, my only complaint was that the guitars were often not in tune with each other. As a musician, I know that this could be accounted for by any number of variables (the weather, for example, which alternated all weekend between eerily pleasant for July and torrential downpour), but it was simply a minor hiccup in an otherwise excellent performance.

Next up was Kommandant, who I have been anxiously awaiting seeing live again since I saw them play a set plagued by technical difficulties at Maryland Death Fest last year. Just as last time, the music was fantastic; I love the sheer amount of percussion Kommandant uses, and the snare drums are a nice touch to the military-esque presentation. Props to the snare drummer stage left who lost a drumstick in the last song and still managed to make it work without drawing unwanted attention to himself. Also, Kommandant’s vocalist has added a new piece to his stage costume- a crown of thorns that sits right at his eye level. Let me tell you, I have seen many, many black metal shows at this point in my life, and his stage get-up was the creepiest thing I have ever seen. Someone has been watching Hellraiser…

Last but certainly not least was Behexen. I was thrilled to death to note that the young lady who sold me my shirt at the merch table was playing with the band- she absolutely killed on the bass, and finger- picked everything. I ended up right in front of Hoath Torog during this set, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t blink the entire time. It was an intense performance, and I’m really grateful that I got to see it.

Behexen played a number of songs from throughout their career, with a little added focus on the new album, Nightside Emanations, as will happen with tours in support of new albums. Some of the setlist included “Death’s Black Light” and “In the Temple of the Silent Curses,” from the new album, as well as older favorites like “By the Blessing of Satan” and “My Soul for His Glory.” An enthusiastic fan in the crowd demanded to no avail to hear “Circle Me,” a song that I think a lot of us were hoping for as I think it’d be super cool live. I’m not complaining, however; I saw Behexen, and I never thought that would happen. The set clocked in at about 45 minutes of raging hell.

[Some helpful person uploaded the whole set from Martyrdoom to YouTube. Enjoy!]

In terms of souvenirs from the show, I got to take away a t-shirt from the merch table (the last one! In a girlie large, nonetheless) and some more autographs. As I mentioned earlier, the band’s touring bassist was working merch, and she was kind enough to let me try on the shirt over my clothes to make sure it fit before I bought it (never can tell with those girlie sizes). Naturally, then, when it came time for me to try to get my record signed, I went to her to ask if they would sign it.

I have a real knack for grabbing "the last one"

I have a real knack for grabbing “the last one.” Please ignore the cat hair

Hoath Torog signed my record and was really nice- it was a bit awkward that I didn’t have a pen. In the craziness that surrounded the morning that A and I left the Cities, I forgot to grab one of my silver Sharpies. Fortunately, the bartender had a pen I could borrow. Wraath also signed my record, although he seemed much less thrilled about it (two years in Minnesota, and I still haven’t figured out how to read Scandinavians).

Hoath Torog's autograph. Photo taken with help from The Cat

Hoath Torog’s autograph. Photo taken with help from The Cat

Wraath's autograph

Wraath’s autograph

A and I also grabbed some Kommandant merch. A ended up snagging a different shirt than mine (the new one, I believe, with the guns on the back), and even though that had an awesome red shirt, I opted for the old school one. I just love the gas masks. I was a rivet head back in highschool, and old habits die hard.

For the record, gas masks are uncomfortably tight. But I suppose you'd want them to be

For the record, gas masks are uncomfortably tight. But I suppose you’d want them to be

The bullets sold me

The bullets sold me (well. That’s not blurry at all.)

We also picked up Kommandant patches, and I grabbed a Sargeist patch as well. I’m really glad I did, too, as Sargeist didn’t have any merch available the next night.

More patches!

More patches!

It was an incredible evening full of a wide variety of terror. I got to see Kommandant, a Midwestern black metal band that I love, learned of Akashah’s work, and watched Behexen belch forth some brimstone. We retired to the hotel exhausted, and then I promptly started to not sleep well at all. Even more was in store, however, for the next night!

Ave,
Hagalaz

**I plan on making a post with some pics from the shows, but I need to edit them some. I left my flash off so as to not be That Guy, and they’re a little dark.

Fun Facts to Know and Share (Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult Edition)

Posted in black metal, black metal history, books, czech republic, finland, mayhem, norway, underground, united states with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2014 by blackmetallurgy

So I have been reading Dayal Patterson’s Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult when I have downtime, which unfortunately is not often enough. It’s a fantastic book for a number of reasons, which I will go into when I do a review of it, which will happen when I’ve finished it. One of it’s greatest features, however, is how many bands it covers that don’t get talked about in these huge black metal compendiums (Gehenna, Lifelover, Graveland, and Von, to name a few). While I’m only about a quarter of the way through the book, I have already learned several things that I did not know before about bands that I either have come to realize I know very little about, or that I thought I knew everything about. For instance:

1) When Tom G. Warrior of Celtic Frost was growing up, his mother was a diamond smuggler and would leave him for weeks at a time when he was a small child. She later had a complete breakdown, and little Tom had to live in filth and destitution in a house with over 90 cats. There was no other family around for him to go to, and everyone in the town knew about his circumstances and did nothing. This living hell created the anger that fueled Hellhammer, and is a big part of why Tom G. Warrior doesn’t like to talk about his early band (36-37).

2) Von was sort of more of a legend than a real band, as they were originally only around for about five years. They never had any real output during that time; their demo stuff was later leaked, and they had no idea they were huge celebrities in the underground. They have like three albums called Satanic Blood (113-115).

3) Beherit is from Lapland. They win the award for trvest place to live (117). Also, Nuklear Holocausto, Beherit’s vocalist, is really into Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies (121).

4) Master’s Hammer inverted an entire church on the front of their Finished demo (101)! Also, the title of their latest album, Vracejte konve na misto, was taken from a sign in a Czech graveyard and means “put watering cans back in their place.” Which means that J’s jokes about the album being about gardening are not entirely off the mark (106).

5) And last, but certainly not least, the thing that I, the fangirl who believed that she knew just about everything there is to know about Mayhem, learned is: Necrobutcher was responsible for the vocals on Pure Fucking Armageddon, not Euronymous (132). (Blown. Away. Bigger geeks than me have always thought it was Euronymous.)

***

That’s what I have for now. I’m incredibly excited to keep reading this book, and I will write a full review once I’ve done with it. In the meantime, I think it’s time to change up my blog tagline.

Ave.

-Hagalaz

Concert: Paganfest IV, US/Canada Leg (Ensiferum/Tyr/Heidevolk/Trollfest/Helsott, 4/12, St. Paul, MN, Station 4)

Posted in concerts, finland, folk metal, norway, the netherlands, united states, viking metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

Friday night I headed out to Paganfest IV, where I FINALLY got to see Ensiferum, something I have been looking forward to for a long time. Once again, the crowd was a mixed one replete with costumes; a group of guys came in with fur costumes on, which must have sucked for them because it was really hot in there. It was also a huge crowd, probably the second biggest one I’ve seen at Station 4 after the Decibel Tour last year. There was moshing, and presumably a figure-8 pit at one point, although it was hard for me to see from the rail where I was standing.

Jamie and I got drinks up in the bar area for the first part of the opening band’s set. Helsott is from California, which is sweet, because the U.S. doesn’t have a lot of pagan metal bands. They were so excellent, in fact, that we finished our beers quickly so we could get in there and watch the rest of their set. The crowd showed up for Helsott too, which was awesome, since usually the early openers don’t draw much of one. A couple of the guys from Trollfest came out during their last song with a bottle of champagne and sang and danced onstage with them. A really fun set, and a great way to start the night.

[America, you have a pagan metal band!]

Next up was Trollfest, whom I have heard of, but hadn’t ever listened to. Jamie remarked that they looked like they had just woken up on the floor of Ensiferum’s tour bus, which is pretty accurate, as they looked a little unkempt. The set was fantastic, however- it was during Trollfest’s performance that the pit was talked into trying a figure-8, and they also got a wall of death going. In like fashion, during Trollfest’s last song, members of the other bands came out onstage and drank and sang along. They also have a saxophone player, which is awesome! Also, bees. I can honestly say that I am a Trollfest fan now, and not just because they kept making funny faces at me (which they did. It was both bizarre and hilarious.) They are A LOT of fun, and put on a funny (and yet, musically, very tight) set.

[I’m still not quite sure what the deal is with the bee thing. It sure is fun, though]

After Trollfest was Heidevolk. I was unfamiliar with Heidevolk as well, thus reminding myself of the fact that I don’t listen to folk metal all that much (except Ensiferum and Finntroll, which I listen to a lot, and when I do listen to it, I binge on it). The band hails from the Netherlands, and plays songs about Viking history and Germanic lore. I thought the long-haired vocalist in particular had a really good voice, and my friend and I agreed that they were also a very aesthetically pleasing bunch of guys. They played a great set, and were a great transition between Trollfest and Tyr.

Tyr took the stage next, and unlike last time, I was up by the stage and actually got to see them. They played a solid set as they usually do, and the crowd went crazy- I had forgotten just how much St. Paul LOVES Tyr. I’m less of a fan than most, although I do enjoy watching them live. Their guitarist also had his hair cut all Robin Finck-style, which I appreciated. They played several songs that I recognized, so several of their hits, as I don’t know them all that well. A very solid performance; those wanting to see Tyr on this tour shall not be disappointed.

[This song. This song is the most ear-wormy thing ever. The clip is from 70,000 Tons of Metal earlier this year]

Last, but certainly not least, was Ensiferum, who is pretty much my all-time favorite cheesy pagan folkish metal band. Ensiferum’s set was everything I ever hoped it would be; they played songs from a range of albums, including Burning Leaves and In My Sword I Trust from the new one. They also played Guardians of Fate, which pretty much made my night. While watching their set, I also learned that apparently Petri doesn’t do any of the clean vocals, something I did not know previously. I also thought there were members than there are; their sound is incredibly full live. For me, the only thing that would have made the night even more perfect would be if they had played Token of Time, but I am completely satisfied with the set I saw. Ensiferum was a perfect end to a fantastically successful Paganfest IV.

[Such a fun, silly song]

[Oh. Yes.]

I ended up buying the Ensiferum edition of the Paganfest shirt, which I thought was really cool looking. I like the knotted background- reminds me of a Celtic knot. I also bought Unsung Heroes finally; I had been wanting it for a while and just hadn’t gotten around to buying it yet. Both were pretty steep at $25 and $20 respectively (the CD I bought does come with a DVD), however, I know that the money is going right back to the band so it’s worth it. Also, some of my friends got Tyr shirts- their designs this time around look pretty awesome as well.

As usual, ignore the cat hair.

As usual, ignore the cat hair.

Dates. 4/12- that's me!

Dates. 4/12- that’s me!

I've been after this one for a while now. A really solid album.

I’ve been after this one for a while now. A really solid album.

Overall, Paganfest IV was fantastic. All the bands were at the top of their game, and they all seemed to get along well too (as demonstrated by the stage sharing and festivities), which is always good. Although Heidevolk and Tyr are not quite my cup of tea, I really enjoyed their sets as well as everyone else’s. If you should attend the US/Canada leg of Paganfest, you should make sure you aren’t on a smoke or bathroom break when Trollfest is on- you do not want to miss them, trust me. Also, American fans, take pride in the fact that Helsott is a freaking fantastic pagan metal band from the States. And, for me, Ensiferum was pretty much everything I wanted. Apparently they tour here pretty frequently, but this was my first time actually seeing them live, and it was well worth the wait. A really fun night, and a highly recommended tour.

-Hagalaz

Band Spotlight: Shape of Despair [Funeral Doom] (Finland)

Posted in band spotlight, doom, featured artist, finland, genre troubles, underground with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

So I know I just did a doom metal one of these, but I’ve been intending to write up a special on Shape of Despair for a while now. I first learned of Shape of Despair last year, when Jamie picked up their album Angels of Distress at the Underground Rock Shop in Newton, IA (which I am told recently moved to Des Moines).

Quite simply, Shape of Despair writes the most heart-achingly depressing stuff I have ever heard. (And I listen to DSBM regularly).

[Complete with an image of a young woman crying on a rock]

Ahem. Anyway, Shape of Despair started off as Raven in 1995, founded by guitarist and keyboardist Jarno Salomaa and bassist/guitarist Tomi Ullgrén; they changed their name to their current moniker in 1998. Salomaa is the mastermind behind the band in terms of musical direction- a direction of which no one seems to be much sure. There is much debate as to what kind of music Shape of Despair is; it’s clearly metal, it’s clearly depressing, but it’s clearly not DSBM. It waffles, I think, around on the edges of gothic and funeral doom, although it does some strange things sometimes that don’t seem to fit in either category. For the sake of clarity, I’ll refer to it as funeral doom; it has that stately feel I associate with the genre.

[Shape of Despair’s early work under the moniker Raven has been released on a CD called “The Eerie Sampler.” This is not that; it’s the first track from their first album, which is pretty much the earliest thing I could find on YouTube]

Shape of Despair seems to have two vocalists at any one time. Vocalist Natalie Koskinen joined the band in 1998, just as they were becoming Shape of Despair, and has been a steady member of the band since. The male vocalists, however, have been less steady, changing  up every album or so. Despite this fact and some rotation in the drummer’s seat, Shape of Despair has had a remarkably steady line up for an extreme metal band.

[You can hear both vocalists here. N. Koskinen’s vocals are incredibly haunting]

Encyclopedia Metallum describes Shape of Despair’s lyrical content as concerning “misery, pain, and loneliness,” which I would say is a pretty accurate description. As I mentioned earlier, this is some of the most depressing music I have ever heard. It’s lovely in its dreariness, but it isn’t something I would recommend if you’re struggling with depression perhaps. Lovely, though, for some late afternoon Void-gazing.

[My god that is wretched]

Unlike a lot of bands, Shape of Despair did not release any demos or EPs before their first album, Shades Of… This is probably because the band operated under the name Raven for the first couple of years, and there was a couple of Raven demos that later became the CD referenced above (as well as an unofficial demo). Instead, the band’s compilation came out in 2005. After that they laid low for quite a while, releasing the Written In My Scars EP in 2010 and a 2011 split with Before the Rain, a Portuguese doom band. They don’t seem to have done much recording since, although they are playing Huntfest in Tallinn soon (with Metsatoll and Finntroll, haha, what a contrast!) and have recently re-released their first two albums on vinyl.

[See what I mean? You think you’ve got these guys figured out, and then they do something different. That beat in the beginning is faster than normal]

[Here’s another one off Illusion’s Play. I love the beginning, and once again the tempo has picked up a bit. This is positively joyful for them]

Although the theme is often the same- slow to mid-tempo, stately, eerie, somber doom- you can hear the variation in the band’s approach in the samples I’ve posted here. It’s good to know that they are still together, and hopefully we will get some new music from them soon. As always, if you like what you’ve heard here, support the band. Shape of Despair is the perfect soundtrack for post-Valentine’s Day (ha) and bleak winters.

[Shape of Despair’s cover of Lycia’s “Estrella,” from their 2011 split with Before the Rain]

[I can’t even imagine what it would be like to actually see them live. This is crazy]

-Hagalaz