UADA – Djinn Review

It has been a very long time since a piece of music has left me completely speechless. On their third record, UADA return to make what is not only likely to be album of the year, but potentially one of the most important records that the genre has ever been graced.

Across six songs, at just over an hour in length, the band have evolved their formula and expanded their musical horizons to include influences from all over the metal spectrum, and Djinn is all the better for it. It’s easy to see the comparisons to bands such as Mgla and Dissection in UADA’s history, and whilst that is an unfair and not entirely accurate depiction of their influences, it is overt to see that the band have far transcended their inspirations and ascended passed their aspirations totally.

UADA – Djinn (Title Track)

Djinn is a much brighter release as opposed to the duology that preceded it. Not only in the production, in which this is hands down the most well recorded and most grandiose sounding music to date, but in the song writing across the board too. Melody is the key phrase that spills out of every pinhole on this release. So many of the guitar riffs on offer here, courtesy of virtuosos Jack Superchi and Jake Sloan, are as haunting as they are gorgeously moving, in a way rarely heard in the genre.

The percussion on display largely takes a back seat with genre-staple blast beats put on the back burner in favour of a more straightforward, and climatic, mix of rock patterns, double kicks and crash/ride sequences. In the same vein, the vocals are less prominent on the record than they were on the previous instalment, though they are no less haunting, just not the main focus to building an oppressive and aggressive nature any longer.

Passionate screaming leads take centre stage across monolithic triumphs of audio, known on the record as the 13-minute epics No Place Here and, the life-affirming closing track, Between Two Worlds. The compositions throughout this hour-long experience simply defy reality and challenge the listener in more ways than one. One minute there are beautiful chorus passages, as found in abundance on The Great Mirage (particularly towards the end), and the next, haunting and pounding fierce six-string black metal brutality as demonstrated in every second of Forestless, passed a stellar dark-ambient intro.

UADA – No Place Here (One of the singles dropped before release)

When comparing Djinn to prior efforts, Devoid of Light and Cult of a Dying Sun, the changes in musical direction are night and day, but in a positive way. If UADA’s first release represents darkness as hopelessness and fear creeps in, and their sophomore effort resembles desperation and desperately clawing into that goodnight, then Djinn embodies a shred of hopefulness and optimism that pierces through the shades of blackened veil.

In other words, instrumentally this album is ever so slightly softer and less intense when compared to what came before, but I believe that this more melodic change was ultimately for the better, as the band were able to completely outshine their contemporaries and carve out a new niche to create something far more impactful, striking and important than I ever believed could come out of black metal in the modern day.

The similarities found between light and dark. A comparison of covers from UADA’s prior two albums.

In some ways the development of UADA parallels that of other American black metal bands such as Ghost Bath. The Dakota-based blackgazers started as straight forward DSBM on Funeral and then went beyond genre conventions with their darker follow up, Moonlover, much like how Cult of a Dying Sun evolved from the grimness of Devoid of Light. Ghost Bath’s third release Starmourner progressed their sound into the ethereal and the melodic in the best move they could have made at the time. So too do UADA realise their full potential on album no. 3 and it is a complete and total masterpiece in every single way. 2020 has been redeemed with the release of Djinn and I feel so fortunate to exist in a time where I can bear witness to incredible music by such talented minds.

Cannibal Corpse Albums – Ranked! (From Worst To Best)

Cannibal Corpse are an American death metal band formed in Buffalo, New York all the way back in 1988. For over three decades, and several lineup changes, they have been the fearsome gold standard in mainstream death metal music. With no more delay, here’s our definitive ranking list of all fourteen Cannibal Corpse albums, ranked from worst to best.

#14 – Bloodthirst (1999)

The difficult thing about ranking this list for me is that Cannibal Corpse are an incredibly steady and consistent band which makes their mid era particularly challenging to rank above or below any others from the early 2000s.

Bloodthirst is a good death metal album and features a few great songs amongst a pile of listenable ones. Condemned to Agony and Pounded Into Dust remain favourites in my rotation to this day, even if listening through the whole thing start to finish can be exhausting.


#13 – Kill (2006)

Kill marked Rob Barrett’s return to the band after his departure following the release of The Bleeding in 1996. His presence was strongly felt on an album that otherwise would have been nothing special in the field of death metal.

That said, Kill featured the standout single Death Walking Terror with a guitar tuning all the way to G# for the first time in a way that really benefitted their brutal sound.

Like a lot of Cannibal Corpse’s post-Barnes era, Kill is another solid effort into the band’s fierce discography.


#12 – Torture (2012)

Torture posed a challenge for the band having to follow up their smash hit record Evisceration Plague, and despite all odds, Torture was a fantastic death metal album with some real highlights on display.

This album features my personal favourite Cannibal Corpse song of all time, Encased In Concrete as well as the earth shattering powerhouse Scourge of Iron. For those reasons alone, Torture ranks higher on this list than some others. It may not be as good as what came before or after, but it’s certainly not a record to overlook if you’re a fan of the genre.


#11 – The Wretched Spawn (2004)

Unlike an album like Bloodthirst or others on the list so far, The Wretched Spawn is where I can confidently say that I can spin the album start to finish and have a consistently great experience without the need to skip through and play favourites.

With production that’s razor blade sharp and a groovy flow that never lets go, this album is pulverising throughout. Highlights include; They Deserve To Die, Frantic Disembowelment and Nothing Left To Mutilate.


#10 – Gallery of Suicide (1998)

The second album featuring Corpsegrinder on vocals and one of his stronger efforts in his career with the band. It’s an album that starts incredibly powerfully with the polemic opener I Will Kill You.

Gallery of Suicide marks a turning point where the records rose above the controversy, as a band they had effectively shaken off the stigma that had stuck to them with the messy departure of Chris Barnes and demonstrated that they could make punishing death metal without their founding father guiding the ship. It may not be their most exciting but it’s a fun bloody ride.


#9 – Gore Obsessed (2002)

This is where I feel the divisive nature of my choices are going to come to a head. Many would say that albums like Gore Obsessed or Gallery of Suicide have no business being ranked above Bloodthirst and to those people, I give you my answer.

When Death Replaces Life is one of the grooviest songs I have ever heard. Opening slow with a pulsing and haunting dissonance before raging into a pounding and relentless rhythm with chugging guitar and machine gun drums as George delivers his most devastating growls to date.

There are songs of a similar vein on Gore Obsessed that have that groovy death and roll feel that embody the likes of Carcass for a unique grinding experience.


#8 – Red Before Black (2017)

Cannibal Corpse’s most recent release to date and a powerful example of exactly why they’re one of if not the most well known and revered names in death metal.

Red Before Black has some outstanding moments that’s bolstered up by the band being at the top of their game thirty years down the line. Scavengers Consuming Death, Firestorm Vengeance, Code of the Slashers and Heads Shovelled Off are just a few reasons as to why this record has been spun so actively in my library over the last few years.


#7 – Vile (1996)

Somewhat of an outlier of an album as it being Rob Barrett’s last guitar effort with the band until Kill and simultaneously Corpsegrinder’s first on vocals. On paper, it shouldn’t have worked but the execution was unexpectedly flawless.

Vile was also the last time the band worked with Scott Burns producing, marking an end to a six year streak that began with their 1990 debut album that we will talk about later on this list.

All that aside, the record is crushing and unapologetically savage. George Fisher’s powerful mid-growl permeates some of the band’s most interesting and out there guitar riffs that tried to differentiate vividly from all what came before with Barnes. In terms of where to start with Vile, you really can’t go wrong with Devoured by Vermin and Absolute Hatred, two tracks that still slay when performed live to this day.


#6 – A Skeletal Domain (2014)

Following up on Evisceration Plague and building on the groundwork laid by Kill and Torture, A Skeletal Domain is a monumental landmark in American death metal that introduces a slight lean towards more a mainstream and catchy sound without shying away from the band’s more gruesome elements.

It is a difficult challenge to pick a favourite from this extremely strong lineup of fresh and fierce songs; High Velocity Impact Splatter, Kill or Become, Icepick Lobotomy, Sadistic Embodiment. There’s definitely a case here for one of Cannibal Corpse’s most sturdy sets.


#5 – Eaten Back To Life (1990)

In many ways Cannibal Corpse’s debut is a pioneering achievement in not only thrash/death metal but music overall. Clearly taking cues from the likes of Possessed’s 1985 debut Seven Churches and perhaps more prominently taking elements from Death’s 1987 record Scream Bloody Gore, the boys from Buffalo dialled everything up to 11 and shook the landscape of extreme music forever.

Chris Barnes’ disgusting growl was something deeper than what had been heard in the late 80s and the way the band played in E Flat on guitar, refusing to compromise, made Eaten Back To Life something leaner and meaner than its contemporaries. One of their best in their discography for sure.


#4 – Evisceration Plague (2009)

This album has a special place in my heart for being my introduction to the band alongside the live album Global Evisceration that dropped afterwards in 2011. As a result, there may be a degree of bias in my decision to rank this one so highly but I cannot deny the sheer power and brutality that pours out of every second of this modern death metal masterpiece.

This album is without question the one from Cannibal Corpse’s back catalogue that I have listened to the most over the years and the one that I have a great amount of respect for. Not only did Evisceration Plague wet my appetite for extreme metal in general but it also was what made me want to pick up a guitar endulge in some bloodshed of my own.

Hyperbole aside, the band’s 2009 album is incredible cover to cover and never lets up across its forty minute runtime. This is the album I introduce people to death metal to for a reason, one of the latest and greatest.


#3 – Butchered At Birth (1991)

Now this is what I call classic fucking death metal! Dirty and deranged right through the core, nothing to lose but everything to prove with a stellar follow up to their debut only one year later.

The band’s sophomore release is every bit more evil and refined then what came before on Eaten Back To Life. It was less thrash metal orientated and was more comfortable laying it’s own foundation than building on the blueprint of what came in the late 1980s.

When people think of death metal, chances are some of the first images that come into their minds are that of the album cover here alongside visualising images found in the lyrics for iconic tracks like; Meat Hook Sodomy, Vomit The Soul and Under The Rotted Flesh.

Butchered At Birth is a triumph in extreme music and has stood the test of time now for almost thirty years for a reason. It’s near impossible to beat it, as far as old school American death metal is concerned.


#2 – The Bleeding (1994)

Without a doubt, The Bleeding is one of the most vulgar and filthy records in old school death metal that is expertly complemented by technical buzzsaw guitars and Chris Barnes’ most revolting vocal delivery of his career thus far.

As Chris Barnes’ swansong and as this era and four year reign came to a close, it is astounding to see the culmination of so many creative and innovative ideas here that refused to play it safe.

Just one listen to the mammoth that is Staring Through The Eyes of the Dead or Fucked With a Knife will get you addicted in a way that you never felt could be possible with death metal of this calibre. It’s a tough call at the top of this list but there’s no debate that The Bleeding deserves its celebration and acclaim.


#1 – Tomb of the Mutilated (1992)

It’s always hard playing favourites but for me, there is simply nothing better done by the band than their 1992 Opus entitled Tomb of the Mutilated.

If Evisceration Plague was where I discovered the band and my developed my love and interest in death metal then Tomb was the moment that the genre became not only an obsession, but in many ways, a way of life.

How do you possibly top records like Eaten Back To Life and Butchered At Birth? Well for Cannibal Corpse, that answer seemed to be staring them in the face, you make an effort to make everything darker and dirtier than ever.

Tomb provided the band to this very day with a long list of their most well known songs for a reason, and that reason is the majority of what you will find on this album is the monolith of the death metal, an unequivocal gold standard that has yet to be beaten by the band.

I Cum Blood, Addicted To Vaginal Skin, Beyond the Cemetery and Hammer Smashed Face are only a few songs on this record that have shaken the world on its axis. I know it may be a generic choice, and perhaps a little cliché, but there is no denying the impact and the influence that Tomb of the Mutilated had and continues to have on not only death metal but on pop culture and music itself. Tomb is responsible for so much and without it, it’s very likely that very few of us would be where we are today.

The Best Metal Albums of 2019

Rounding out the end of the 2010s in style, 2019 was a monumental year for metal music of all genres and persusations. As such, here at Pit of Plagues, we’ve found that limiting ourselves to ten mere records this year was just too difficult. Without further delay, here’s our extended list totally our picks for the top fifteen metal albums of the year, list is ranked in no particular order. 

Hath – Of Rot and Ruin

An open that will no doubt be heavily featured in many other end of year lists, Of Rot and Ruin is a landmark victory in death metal music and the album stands head and shoulders above a lot of its competition for countless reasons. Taking the lyrics of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls and running with it in the darkest and most sincere fashion possible, Hath combined their love of the series with their unrivalled technical ability and truly a second is not wasted here on a fantastic atmospheric record that will stand the test of time for years to come. 

rot

Gaahl’s Wyrd – Gastir – Ghosts Invited 

Gaahl is a man that certainly needs no introduction if you’re at all familiar with the black metal scene in recent years. Gaahl’s Wyrd sees the ex-Gorgoroth singer and former Trelldom spearhead use his unique vocal range and creativity to utilise a more matured and slower dark metal album than what he has been traditionally known for in the past. The result is a very cold, moody and artistic expression of possession that gets in your head and refuses to let go. Getting to see many of the songs present on the album, including standout for me, ‘Carving the Voices’ was one of the most intense live performances I have ever seen, and a true testament to the band’s commitment to their pioneering craft.  

ghosts

Darkthrone – Old Star

Good old Darkthrone. Heavy, old school and unrelenting in their approach against modern conventions. The duo’s latest effort is a slightly faster and punchier 80s inspired effort consisting of six songs and heavily inspired by the likes of Motorhead, Venom and the like. It may be short but Old Star is certainly sweet, tracks like ‘I Muffle Your Inner Choir’ and ‘The Key is Inside the Wall’ will make any self respecting metalhead want to shred away on their axe to the catchy riffs, and bang their heads until they develop brain damage. In short, It’s Darkthrone. You know exactly what to expect from these guys, they don’t disappoint. 

darkthrone

Green Lung – Woodland Rites

One of the freshest things to happen to the metal genre in a very long time, Green Lung’s debut record Woodland Rites set the world alight with their ritualistic 70s acid rock/doom metal hybrid that’s as infectiously catchy and addictive as the substances available at Woodstock in 1969. Out of everything on this list, Woodland Rites is one of the most listened to albums here. I personally just couldn’t get enough out of tracks like ‘Let the Devil In’ or ‘Templar Dawn’. It’s clear that these guys are inspired by all manor of acid rock and stoner music and the Londoners take full advantage of modern production with that proto metal flair to create something very special here. 

greens

Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave

Insomnium have been one of my favourite bands of all time for well over five years now. Heart Like a Grave is another solid jewel in the crown of melodic death metal and continues that steady stream of atmospheric, folkish and melancholic melodic death metal that the Finnish rockers are well established for. Heart Like a Grave borrows and adapts from the band’s lengthy back catalogue in the best ways, it’s easy to hear something on this album and get that nostalgic feeling from The Day it All Came Down or One For Sorrow. That’s not to say that plenty of new and exciting things aren’t brought to the table here, because they are. Namely, the addition of Jani Liimatainen (Cain’s Offering) who brings an aura of bright and youthful energy to the guitar work which really works in the band’s favour, most notable on songs such as ‘Valediction’ as well as ‘And Bells They Toll’. Without question, Heart Like a Grave is not only one of Insomnium’s best albums, but also one of melodic death metal’s finest hours also. 

heart like a

Mgla – Age of Excuse

The ultimate criticism of humanity, a depraved and misanthropic account that humanity is a plague that needs to be rid from the earth. True nihilism, true darkness. Age of Excuse is a black hole, a vortex that sinks forever never letting the listener catch a breath or see sunlight again. Powerful atmosphere and technical pounding drums permiate every facet of this modern black metal masterpiece from start to finish. Mgla very much are leading the charge in showcasing the best of atmospheric black metal with their own identity and polish to boot and Age of Excuse may be their best album of their career yet. 

mgla

1349 – The Infernal Pathway

1349 are a band that I feel have never really got their day in the sun alongside their genre contempories. All that has changed with the release of the bleak and blackened The Infernal Pathway with strips back black metal to its raw essentials, relying only on old school blackened shredding and thrash technique and catchiness to spread their message. This record doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but what it does it take you back to the times of the first wave (Bathory especially) and remind us all why we fell in love with black metal in the first place. 

1349

Embrional – Evil Dead

Evil Dead wears its black and dried up heart on its sleeve and is unashamedly primal in execution. It’s a record that isn’t afraid to slow down and let a knuckle-dragging caveman riff or tremolo bridge ride on for a few minutes and let the listener soak in the heavy and overbearing punishing nature of the music before unleashing on songs such as ‘Day of Damnation’. In a year with so many phenomenal death metal records, Evil Dead is one that fans of the genre should not pass up on. 

evil dead

Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation

Pissgrave are a band that don’t give a fuck about anything! If that isn’t already self-evident by the album cover or the raw and eerie approach to their simplisitic song writing prowess then I’m not sure honestly how else to convince you. On Posthumous Humiliation, the band boil down death metal to the bone and deliver a wretched abortion of grinding guitars, putrid drums and demented vocals in such a fashion that only they themselves could pull off without it all going to shit. A lesser band with the same parameters would crumble under the circumstances but Pissgrave rise above their unique soundscape and put out one of 2019’s most punishing records without breaking a sweat. 

poss

Absentation – The Intellectual Darkness

One of the most surprising albums of the year for me, Syria’s very own Absentation floored me with their catchy, punchy songwriting and melodic guitar playing. What was especially impressive, I found, was that Absentation is the work of one man, and you would be damned if you knew that from your first few listens. Without a doubt, The Intellectual Darkness has been one of my most spun death metal albums of the year and it’s mostly because I just can’t get enough of the thrashy and in-your-face attitude or catchy death metal riffs that can be found on tracks like ‘Thoughtless Thoughts’ and ‘Endless Insanity’. The man behind the band has promised that 2020 will yield an even bigger and more technically impressive album in the near future so stay tuned to the page people, you never know, this might not be the last time we see Absentation on an end of year list. 

absen

Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race

I’ve used the term old school a lot in this list so far and no more is it fitting than when describing Blood Incantation’s latest effort, History of the Human Race. Bands like Immolation come to mind in the latter portions of the record and it’s inspiring to see a death metal band in the late 2010s have the guts to throw a near-20 minute epic of a song as a finale to an album. There’s little more that I can add that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll keep it brief. Fearlessly blending psychotic death metal with trippy space-like atmospherics, Hidden History of the Human Race sounds and feels like an album that could have been released thirty years ago, giving it a a timeless feature in the halls of metal history. It’s something brave and exciting that definitely should not be glossed over. 

hidden

Negator – Vnitas Pvritas Existentia

Without question Negator have pumped what is the standout black metal record of the year. Combining the likes of modern Dark Funeral with the straight up and uncomprimising approach of bands like early Behemoth, Negator’s newest album is as fast and as dark as the best that Norway has to offer whilst grinding away at fearsome speeds at times. It might not be the most wholely original effort on the list but Vnitas Pvritas Existentia takes the best of black metal’s recent years and polishes it to a mirror shine.

negat

Deadspace – The Grand Disillusionment 

Is it any surprise to anyone that this record would show up here? I’ll keep this review short as I’ve already written a lengthy review on this very site, link below. However, The Grand Disillusionment is a groundbreaking, bold and modern depressive black metal album that encapsulates the human condition, self-loathing and hatred for all of mankind in a way never done before. Its brazen and unforgiving approach is uncomprimising and the way the album never really slows down in its intensity makes it especially scarring. 

deads

Батюшка – Панихида (Batushka – Panihida) 

Forget the controversies, forget the in-fighting and the meme of a million bands all using the Batushka name and let’s focus on the original and the best for a moment. Derph’s true follow-up to 2015’s Litourgia hits every note that the debut did and more with an album that is darker, edgier and more chaotic in every way. Panihida stands head and shoulders above anything done by Bart’s poor imitation, (If you can call the trainwreck that is Hospodi an imitation and not a complete fucking failure to music) and shows all unequvically that the true king is here to reign forever more. Everything is more developed and more concentrated here than on the debut, such as the chanting and clean vocal passages and the thick blackened tremolo audio assaults. It’s more of something you love.

pani

Inferi – The End of an Era | Rebirth 

It’s hard to exactly pinpoint just what makes Inferi so special on a record such as The End of an Era but any speculation going into the album are quickly washed away by some of the most captivating and spellbounding technical guitar playing to ever grace modern melodic death metal, or modern metal generally speaking. A very tightly focused and incredibly sharply executed release, End of an Era encapsulates the many amazing developments in the way we perceive metal music and how the genre can transcend the boundaries of our known understanding and evolve into something greater of almost indescribable energy and passion. It’s a true marvel to relish in and yet another example of just how talented this band are and how earned their rise through the ranks in recent years has been. 

inferi

Honourable Mentions:

‘I, The Mask’ – In Flames
‘The Heretics’ – Rotting Christ
‘Vale’ – Burden of Sight
‘Entity’ – Nucleas
‘I: Voice’ – Warforged
‘Sulphur English’ – Inter Arma
‘Violently Expunged’ – Disgruntled Anthropophagi
‘Steeping Corporeal Mess’ – Fetid

 

Deadspace – The Grand Disillusionment Review

One of Austrilia’s most prolific depressive black metal bands delivers their darkest hour.

Right away I want to clarify that Deadspace’s latest record has the potential to be album of the year material. Without hyberbole, their new album is easily in my opinion one of the most exciting black metal records, not only of the year but also of the last few.

In only a handful of years, with the band merely forming in 2014, Deadspace have managed to put out a steady amount of stellar records from their seminal debut, The Promise of Oblivion up until the almighty Dirge record, released earlier this very year. It’s hard to say exactly what sets the band’s newest audio assault head and shoulders above not only their back catalog but the extensive competiton also, but in my opinion, it all comes down to the simple fact that Deadspace with The Grand Disillusionment just do atmospheric and depressive black metal so much better than their contempories.

Image may contain: 1 person

It’s hard not to be instantly floored by the ever incredible vocal performances of Chris Gebauer from the beginning as opening track ‘Inhale the Slime’ wastes little time in getting right to the razer’s edge as the aura of agony prevails. This is hardly Chris’ first time behind the mic, and his experience in other depressive black metal ventures such as Cancer and Veils of Fog have really worked well to hone his unique and distinctive voice as well as provide the confidence to use his extensive vocal range of high shrieks, wailing screams and even low growls to perfection.

The guitars are incredibly slick and ice cold from start to finish. Thomas Major turns in perhaps his most inspired riffs and melodies on the record and the atmospheric elements work and somber tone are very effective in getting the misanthrophic misery across in a way that amply compliments the pained vocals, occassional piano sections and reverb heavy drums beautifully.

In typical DSBM fashion, the album does not rely too heavily on blast beats and blistering speeds and the pacing of the record tends to favour submerging the listener in a thick layer of suffocating atmosphere that refuses to let go. It’s in everything from the songwriting to the production heard overall. This means that whilst you aren’t going to hear the most technical and exciting percussion on display here, what you will hear is a very smartly utilised drum kit from Herb Bennetts, proving in this case that simple and effective drum beats that work as a song writing tool first and foremost was definitely the way forward in writing this record.

Image may contain: one or more people and people playing musical instruments

The Grand Disillusionment clearly has a lot to say and its the band’s most fierce record for exactly how far the lyrical representation goes. Nothing is written as high art, It’s a far cry from the poetry employed by certain bands in the genre, but much like the cover art, the not-so subtle and in your face approach works to cut through the bullshit and get straight to the point, in this case being that when they are going down, they are sure as fuck taking us all with them.

For an album so recently released, It’s stayed with me in a way that many metal records in recent years from much more well known and established bands have struggled to do so. It’s haunting and thought provoking in its premise and execution. In summary, The Grand Disillusionment does everything so well and is such a satisying listen in a genre that is, admittedly, flooded by a lot of poorer efforts. If Deadspace aren’t on your radar now then they certainly should be. If you’re a fan of Leviathan, Thy Light or even just extreme music in general, then this album truly will rock your world.

Deadspace on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deadspaceaus

Nokturnal Ritual – A Review Retrospective of Underground UK Black Metal

Surging through Sheffield’s industrial hellscape Nokturnal Ritual come out from the old Earth.

Formed in 2014, Nokturnal Ritual was spawned by Karhmul, most popularly known for his melancholic black metal solo project Abandoned By Light, and Kadavr, guitarist for blackened thrash quartet Arendia.

NRs
From Left to Right: Kadavr and Karhmul ( circa 2015)

In a similar vein to how Kriegmaschine deviated from the somber depressive approach of Mgla, utilising the same two members to focus on writing crushing metal material, Nokturnal Ritual came about to pay tribute to, in their own words, the forefathers of the second wave of black metal. What happens when a depressive metal mastermind and a thrash guitarist truly join forces in the pursuit of face-melting blistering black metal? The result came in the form of the band’s debut album, Ushering a New Era of Agony.

Usher
Nokturnal Ritual – Ushering a New Era of Agony (Released in 2014 independently)

Straight from the off set it is easy to hear the old school influence in everything from Karhmul’s vocal performance to the ice cold yet razer sharp guitar tone which slashes throughout the album’s 44 minute runtime.

A slower and more deliberate approach to song writing is in full force on the record and this can be heard especially on tracks such as ‘My Succubus’ where the pulse pounding and relentless riffage and drumming slows down to deliver a song with vibes of mid-era Marduk before the record returns to its aggressive blasting with the catchy and thrashy as Hell ‘Plaguewielder’ with a sound not too far away from the likes of Witchery or Darkthrone’s latter output, letting some of Kadavr’s fast fretting shine through.

The use of bass guitar on the record is prominent and features many sections of specifically crafted independent bass lines riding over guitar riffs and cascading with their own twisted melodies and these parts work well in the slower songs, as they get their time to bleed into the mix without drowning out the guitars or disrupting the flow and rhythm.

‘With Hate I Despise’ is what I believe to be the standout track from the entire record. Straight away we hear Karhmul’s powerful blackened growl tear its way through some headbanging old school black metal guitar riffs as the double kicks blast away in full force before the dark tremolo melodies take centre stage, even showcasing a haunting yet brief acoustic arpeggio section which feels just as welcome.

Production wise it definitely has the feel of the old school early second wave ‘Necro’ sound, following in the wake of the aforementioned Darkthrone and the likes of Xasthur, Burzum and Mutiilation, though this album pre-dates any of the Abandoned By Light full length records and released at a time when Karhmul’s main output was the DSBM demo tapes, so such production style is expected, and the pair make the best use out of the sound to create a unique and catchy album in a heavily oversaturated genre that shows simply why they should be revered as one of the United Kingdom’s most prolific black metal acts of recent years.

Entity of the Unholy
Nokturnal Ritual – Entity of the Unholy (2015) – (Released Independently)

Clocking in at just over half as long as their debut record, on Entity of the Unholy, Karhmul and Kadavr find their voice and refine their unique strengths alongside their ambition to innovate on the genre and the results are ultimately leaps and bounds ahead of what came before.

For a start, everything sounds much crisper and the two at this point had found what worked for them in a way where the synergy between the two musicians really showed in their musicianship. This can be heard in the title track that opens the album, as Kadavr’s flute melodies start and finish a song as well as coast blissfully accenting the faster guitar riffs and more aggressive drums on display.

Karhmul’s vocals on the album sound much more confident and he lets his full range show with full effect through the record’s short but sweet runtime of 26 minutes. His voice on this release is familiar to the likes of Pest (Gorgoroth) as his high screams and low growls and grunts (in a similar fashion to Atilla of Mayhem) intervene with the cold and unforgiving wall of sound presented by the rhythm guitars and ride over the lead and percussion masterfully.

The general speed of the album is a noticable upgrade from their debut also. The tempo of the guitars and the drum work blast a little faster than what was heard on Ushering a New Era of Agony, however it is safe to say that the flute and additional elements replaced the slower parts as heard on their debut which is a welcome change in my opinion.

Songs such as ‘Into the Void’ have a stunning array of dark melodies cast throughout as the two guitarists blend their signature styles seemlessly creating a very special blend of what could almost be classed as melodic death mixed with their old school black metal approach. A catchy chorus on this song accents and builds upon the groundwork laid by their first album too.

Any problems had with the production on the prior album have been completely rectified by this point. Everything stands out a little more than before and there is a full dynamic range used to great effect throughout in a way that allows the listener to appreciate the subtle nuaence more as a result.

Whereas the band’s first album felt like they had something to prove, releasing the record as a proof of execution and masterfully so, It’s safe to say that the two really came into their own with their second record, and whilst it may not be as long as what released before, Entity of the Unholy takes a lot more risks and reaps all the reward with a catchy, melodic but uncomprimisingly heavy second wave black metal album.

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Nokturnal Ritual – Out From The Old Earth (2018) – (Released Independently)

So after two successful albums in a short time span and their popularity steadily increasing, it would have made sense for the pair to be immediately getting to work on their latest and greatest album yet right? Well, that’s not exactly what happened. For whatever reason behind the scenes, there was around a three year gap seperating the band’s work on Entity of the Unholy and their (at time of writing) most recent record Out From The Old Earth. Yet, all that time away from the project did little to dull the blade that is Nokturnal Ritual and the band returned for what is unequivocally their finest hour.

The years away from the band saw Karhmul find infamy with his Abandoned By Light project as a total of six studio albums were recorded and released in Ritual’s absence between the years of 2015 until April 2018. It is apparent to the listener that every element of Out From The Old Earth is a result, a culmination of everything Karhmul had learned playing and production wise, and as such joining forces once again with Kadavr, the two demonstrate the best of their ability from start to finish.

Out From The Old Earth pleasantly sees the return of the flute heard in their second album whilst also bringing back the slower sections from their debut as well. That is not to say that the band’s third full length outing lacks any new ideas of its own, Old Earth confidently showcases a stronger emphasis on dark atmospheres and folk inspiration than what was heard in previous works.

As stated previously, the boys are at the top of their game on this one. The production is exactly what anyone would want out of a black metal release; guitars have that satisfying crunch to the tone without being too noisy or distorted and still manage to keep enough mid and high end to rupture their way through the drumming. The percussion overall sees its most significant upgrade in the band’s arsenal as everything from the snare hits and ride crashes on the blast beats to the rapid machine gun fire of the double kicks is utilised in a compelling way.

Karhmul’s vocal performance here is arguably the best it has ever sounded throughout his lengthy back catalogue of releases and its no sin to say that he has developed one of the best voices in the entirety of UK black metal. The anguished screams of early Abandoned By Light are complemented excellently but latter-era Varg Vikernes sounding whispers and a much more fierce deeper growl than what was heard previously. This increased attention on his vocal work on a much more tight and cultivated collection of songs is a testament to the commitment of the two to push the boundries of not only themselves as musicians but the genre as a whole.

The atmospheric guitar sections that makes up many of the rhythm guitar riffs throughout the album, and are put to great use on certain songs like ‘Rising from the Deep’ and album closer ‘Born Enemy’ exhibit omens that would not be out of place in a the Swedish black metal scene, specifically the likes of Dark Funeral and even Dissection.

Out From The Old Earth is an album made with a lot of care and love for the genre that shows clear as night that the band’s ambition and scope only grew with their experience and their longing to leave their black mark on black metal. It features the best parts of all that came before it on previous releases and builds to improve upon them in every single facet, it is the culimation of years of experience and the duo’s need to return to prove why they made significant waves in the underground in the first place.

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Karhmul – Vocals, Guitar

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Kadavr – Guitar, Bass, Flute

As of writing, this is everything that the band have done together in their five years since formation. Time will tell if and when there is more to come and what direction the two black metallers decide to go in towards the future. If you are interested in what the best of UK black metal has to offer or want to know where to start with the underground scene, then you could do so much worse than to listen to Nokturnal Ritual. Long may they reign.

Nokturnal Ritual on Bandcamp: https://nokturnalritual.bandcamp.com/

Nokturnal Ritual on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nokturnalritual/

Nokturnal Ritual on Metal Archives: https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Nokturnal_Ritual/3540382953