Proscription – Conduit Review

Proscription – From the band’s official Bandcamp page.

Black/Death is my favourite type of music, so when I heard there was a new release from Finnish band Proscription, I was beyond excited. I am pleased to say that every second of their full length debut not only far exceeded my expectations but completely blew away many contemporaries in the genre as well.

From the ashes of Maveth come Proscription and they have more than filled the void left by the former in almost every way. Not since bands like Veld, Negator or Deadspace have I found myself completely floored by such a masterfully executed black/death record such as this. It’s due in part to the outstanding vocal by frontman Christbutcher who is such an unstoppable and ultimate driving force on this record’s audio assault that it is simply impossible to deny.

Proscription play a blend of black/death that leans heavier on the former, with death metal style vocals taking the brunt of the low end as a result. Many of the stellar songs on this release remind me of what was found on the last few Sicarius records, a band that too plays a relentlessly oppressive and heavy form of blackened death metal in such an awe-inspired fashion.

One listen to the powerful behemoth that is To Reveal The Words Without Words will tell you everything you need to know about exactly what makes this band stand out from so many. Violent screaming lead guitars, accompanied by crushing chugging rhythm sections, and those flawless double kicks twisting and turning as the kaleidoscopic melodies warp into something diabolical is truly a feast for the ears.

Radiant Midnight starts off slow before swelling into forms from beyond the realms. The infectious riffing cascading viciously with the lead lines gets your head moving almost against your will. Voiceless Calling, the lead single released ahead of the record, is a highlight too. With an intro that comfortably thrashes around leading into the sickening, but hypnotic marching beat combined with the viral prowess of a guitar solo so mesmerising that it defies description. The dark melodies on offer that permeate many of the tracks on Conduit, remind me of black/death greats such as Zos Kia Cultus and The Last Supper in all the right ways.

Put it this way, by the time that the final few notes were played on the title track (ending the record) I was instantly overcome with the desire to start it immediately over again. Conduit has gotten inside my head and I could not be happier. If the amazing art is what drags you in, then the incredible music is what you will be staying for.

The Best Metal Albums of 2018

The previous year brought us some outstanding releases from bands old and new, especially in the field of extreme metal, which is largely what we will be focusing on tonight.

It’s taken a long time for me to compile my thoughts and reign in what I believe to be the best of the year, with that said and in no particular order; Pit of Plagues presents the best metal albums of 2018.

jord

Mol – Jord

In April, Mol finally released their debut album Jord, a crushing mix of black metal riffs and atmospheric beauty, in the vein of bands such as Deafheaven and Alcest. However, what sets them apart is the emotional range of vocalist Kim and his unique approach to extreme vocals. The swelling depth to the masterful guitar work which weaves so eloquently in with the powerful reverb-heavy double kicks and blast beats, all culminates into a truly moving and beautiful experience unlike any other. I also had the pleasure to meet the band after their set performance at Damnation Festival which is what truly sold me on their style. Do not miss out on this band, they are something special.

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Uada – Cult of a Dying Sun

Melodic black metal newcomers Uada return with an astounding second album, Cult of a Dying Sun. This release is something which genuinely caught me off-guard as before Cult, I never knew of the band and quickly fell in love. Dripping with punishing choking melodies, brutal rhythms and a horrific blackened demonic vocal performance. The album has elements of latter-era Paradise Lost with the slow-winding lead playing coupled with the edge of Dissection and technicality of Emperor. For fans of melodic metal, this is for you. For people who enjoy their metal black, this is for you. It is almost transcendental of genre due to the magnitude and scope of the release and should not be skipped over.

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Gra – Vasen

Over the last year or two Gra have genuinely become one of my favourite bands and their brand of cold old-school black metal is something that I cannot get enough of. Known as the vocalist of Dark Funeral, Heljarmadr’s guitar playing and outstanding voice lend itself beautifully to a vicious attack on the senses. It is a little more melodic, tamer and composed than Ending but the Norse blood runs cold in these veins. It will not re-invent the wheel but it just might set the world alight.

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At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself

The masters of Melodic Death Metal return. Gothenburg’s lasting legacy is safe in the hands of At The Gates and on album six they prove it with flying colours. Following up on 2014’s comeback album, At War With Reality, Drink has more of a sharp edge to it. The refined old-school riffs are reminiscent of The Red in the Sky is Ours especially but with the benefits of time and modern production. It’s fierce and does not sacrifice what made them the monumental name in death metal that they became. It’s everything you could ever want from them perfected to a tee.

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Obscura – Diluvium

The level of technicality and in-your-face guitar riffs make this album a stand out in and of itself. As far as technical death metal goes, of recent years many bands in that genre have began to sound so similar. Where the level of playing and showman performance outshines and washes out the potential for strong songwriting. Obscura have managed once again to write a catchy, heavy and impressive album that empowers the listener like few other albums I heard last year. Immense would be the best way to describe the layers and depth to what Obscura have dropped.

1914

1914 – Blind Leading The Blind

Horrifying. That’s the only way to accurately try to summarise my thoughts on 1914’s latest album. It’s a release that has genuinely haunted me since I first heard it months ago, and this is due largely in part to the brutal riffs, the hollow agonised screams and the expert use of sampling that features throughout. This album tells a grand story on both sides, the futility of The Great War as pictured for both the Axis and the Allies. I can’t say I enjoyed every moment of it, I think enjoyment is not the right word. It’s an experience, it’s visceral. As dark and savage in tone as subject matter, this is essential listening.

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Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest

I still cannot put into words what this album means to me. From the album title itself, the fact I have their symbols inked on my arms, and the overall message is clear to me. As Nergal said once, they couldn’t top The Satanist, at least in terms of the title and its impact, so they went a different direction. Darkest is tamer in places and features acoustic guitar parts, clean singing in choruses and less sharpness when it comes to guitar tone and production. However, all of these artistic choices culminate together for a more refined, mature and artistic album as a result. It is catchy, It is memorable and it gets their new message across. The Satanist was the band proving they were back after Nergal was diagnosed with Leukemia, that they were defiantly taking a stand. Darkest is more comfortable, Behemoth are back on top and more free with nothing to prove anymore.

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Sargeist – Unbound

The best that Finland has to offer, a band which has never done any wrong. Sargeist have never strayed far from their roots of second-wave black metal but have become masters of the craft. At the end of the night, it’s all about the riffs, blastbeats and shrieking vocals. Unbound is the latest step closer towards perfecting their sound and coming into their own. They haven’t done anything to massively shake the foundations of the genre, but they will never have to. Hail Sargeist!

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Dir En Grey – The Insulated World

Perhaps Japan’s greatest and most diverse metal band, Dir En Grey’s latest offering following up 2014’s Arche, is a triumphant return to their older style met with the grandiose scale of their last two albums. This album pulls its influences from all over the place, It’s impossible to nail down and pin point exactly what and who they are. Same time, Dir En Grey’s versatile approach to music is as fascinating now, ten albums in, as it was when they first hit the scene and all that they achieved throughout. The production is so off-kilter in an interesting way, Kyo has never sounded better, the guitar work is so varied and emotes so powerfully. It’s an album you have to hear to believe and its up there with Withering To Death, Gauze and The Marrow of Bone as their best. I had the pleasure to finally see them live back in October and they truly are one of the best bands in the world. Long may their chaos reign.

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When Plagues Collide – Tutor of the Dying

Melodic, symphonic, brutal and overall heavy as fuck. When Plagues Collide’s debut album is absolutely outstanding. It’s dark and disgustingly gritty, paired with the violent vocal performances, pounding drums and savage guitar riffs. It’s modern, if this is the new age of Deathcore then I am fully supportive of a new rising blend of darkness.

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Abandoned By Light – Our Fortress is the Rain – The Angel Experiment Part II

An outstanding masterclass in melancholic black metal from one of England’s most prolific creators of the cold and the dark. Not too much I can say on this one here as to not repeat myself but full review available on the site here: https://pitofplagues.wordpress.com/2018/11/16/abandoned-by-light-our-fortress-is-the-rain-the-angel-experiment-part-ii-album-review/

Honourable Mentions:

Ghost – Prequelle
Megaherz – Komet
Abigor – Hollenzwang
Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan is Drawn
Korpiklaani – Kulkija
Aborted – Terrorvision
Groza – Unified in Void
Watain – Wolf Trident Eclipse
Cryogenic Defilement – Worldwide Extermination

Behemoth Albums – Ranked! (From Worst to Best)

Behemoth, (consisting of drummer Inferno, bassist Orion and guitarist/vocalist Nergal) pioneers of the Polish black/death metal scene are soon to release their new album, alongside two new signature guitars and a live DVD entitled Messe Noire, after a song on The Satanist. With all said, it’s safe to say that the band are ready to deliver on a successor to their 2014 release, so let’s look back at their extensive legacy and rank albums from worst to best.

#11 – Pandemonic Incantations – (1998)

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It’s a great black metal album through and through. The aggression is there, and it is harsh as anything that had proceeded it, also featuring Nergal’s most diverse and experimental guitar work up to that point. Why so low down then? While it is great, of their entire main catalogue, I find it to be the least memorable and as a result, its lack of impression delegates it to the bottom of the list.

#10 – Thelema. 6 (2000)

Thelema6

You certainly can’t deny the sheer level of crushing brutality on display with this album. Thelema. 6 follows directly after Satanica (more on that later) and that release is both this one’s gift and curse. On one hand, Behemoth were now a fully-fledged death metal band and finally made the transition properly, and on the other, this album followed their big experimental underground hit, with less staying power.

#9 – I Loved You At Your Darkest (2018)

ilad

I have retroactively edited this article almost two years after it was originally written to include the band’s latest offering, I Loved You At Your Darkest. This record is a very important one for me and whilst holding a very special place in my heart (I went to the launch party of the record in London on 5th October 2018 and have the album’s symbol tattooed on my right wrist) it just is not as good as some of the other albums on this list.

I love a lot of the songs and the return to their more old school black metal sound is definitely appreciated. The few times I have seen them live performing Wolves Ov Siberia or God = Dog, I am equally as blown away as when tracks like Chant for Eschaton 2000 or Conquer All destroy the set list.

Whilst a very strong album overall with some great songs and stunning art and iconography, there is no denying that this is Behemoth’s big push into the mainstream and that this is their most accessible record to date. Behemoth are touring with Slipknot, they are up there now as one of the most well known mainstream bands. I believe the band deserves all the success and fame that they are receiving, I just wish that the entire record had the strength and power of the first few tracks consistently throughout.

It has only been through years of listening to the album at this point that I have been able to fully realise my feelings towards this record. It is very difficult for me but nonetheless. Overall, a very strong black/dark metal record with some standout songs that is occasionally weighed down by softer moments and toothless production in places.

#8 – Grom (1996)

Behemoth-Grom

It’s an old school album born from admiration to the second wave of black metal and for that it should be commended. Grom is a great listen from front to back. The reason it does not rank any higher than this, merely is because it’s just more old school black metal-era Behemoth, which was proceeded by such classics as demo tapes; Return of the Northern Moon and the Iconic … From the Pagan Vastlands. Grom lacks that genre defining dark magic.

#7 – Satanica (1999)

Satanica

The biggest leap for Behemoth since their initial debut, Satanica was the bold forward step that dragged the band out of the shadows of second wave black metal and into defining the blackened death metal approach that they would go on revolutionise. Songs such as Starspawn, Decade of Therion and Chant for Eschaton 2000 cemented their new brutally crushing identity. The riffs were heavier, Nergal’s voice was much deeper and more akin to that of Cannibal Corpse’s Chris Barnes and overall it was a game changer.

#6 – Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic) (1995)

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Behemoth’s first album may be far removed from the band they became throughout the years yet Sventevith has a timeless appeal that will continue to age gracefully. Instead of the brutal instrumentals and violent lyrics of latter records, their first album was much more atmospheric and focused lyrically on Paganism and Polish history. It’s a welcome and refreshing change and to some is regarded as the best from the band. Suffers from the same crutch as Grom still, they had better black metal releases before their albums.

#5 – Zos Kia Cultus (Here and Beyond) (2002)

Kos

This album, succeeding Thelema 6, is exactly what a follow up to Satanica should have been from the start. Zos Kia Cultus is vile, Nergal’s voice was even deeper and more guttural than had previously been heard, their guitar and bass tone was viciously bass-heavy, and the production was leagues above anything that came before. For the first time, Behemoth demonstrated a truly punishing and overbearing sound; thanks in part to some of the most aggressive drumming ever recorded. Songs like As Above So Below, No Sympathy for Fools and Horns ov Baphomet reigned in that the new death metal sound was here to stay.

#4 – Evangelion (2009)

evan

A comfortable blackened death metal release following a successful streak of solid albums, Evangelion, to some, was too safe to innovate as prior titles had. It’s true; this album does not innovate but it refines a formula to a mirror shine and is flawlessly produced. The album follows masterfully and features, up to that point, the most technical and groove-heavy guitar and bass work yet. Daimonos is a monolithic opening track that pelts listeners with Nergal’s powerful vocals and Orion’s best drumming yet, The Seed Ov I tells a story of a man becoming a God and let’s just say there’s a very good reason why Ov Fire and the Void continues to close live shows to this day, it’s just that good.

#3 – The Satanist (2014)

Satanist

Behemoth’s most recent album and a game changer not only for the depth of musical composition but for the story behind it. This was both Behemoth’s come back after an almost five-year absence, but also Nergal’s triumphant victory over his battle with Leukaemia. His battle with cancer is reflected in the vulnerability of the lyrics on display; especially noticeable in the title track and the songs In the Absence ov Light and the album closer O Father O Satan O Sun. It’s a little slower than prior albums, it’s still aggressive and powerful, but more mature and artistic overall. A beast of a different class.

#2 – The Apostasy (2007)

Apos

This album was fearsome and reflected everything that Behemoth had learned from their death metal releases (excluding one but we’ll get to that) and filed it all down to a razor sharp fine point. At the Left Hand ov God, Slaying the Prophets of Isa, Be Without Fear and Christgrinding Avenue all display Nergal otherworldly growl and the constant onslaught from Orion and Inferno as the entire trio decimate with fast, heavy death metal. It’s not their most technical, but its about the groove of the music and its entrancing level of violence is enthralling beginning to end.

#1 – Demigod (2004)

Demigod

Take the brutality of Zos Kia Cultus and The Apostasy and combine it with the craftsmanship and refinements of Evangelion and The Satanist and you get Demigod. It truly is brutality perfected and managed to balance the chaotic death metal riffing with Nergal’s inhuman demonic growl in a way that has not quite been heard before or since. This was the time where the band were experimenting with foreign instruments such as sitars and other Eastern cultural strings to craft a sound that all culminates together into an immeasurable experience of grandiose proportions where Behemoth truly lived up to their namesake.

Aleksha with Nergal