JORDAN [a.k.a. The Grim Princess]
Because, and only because, it might not be in the spirit of the series to put down “Visigoth: Conqueror’s Oath” for every In Rotation, I choose five other (*sneers*) records to present here.
MONGOL – “The Return” (released 20 October 2018)
My advanced studies in the Mongolian Empire have taught me that it was the largest contiguous land empire in history, eventually engulfing over 9 million square miles. None of these were square miles of Albertan territory, but nevertheless the Canadian band Mongol do a good job of firing up the old imagination with its rousing folk metal evocative of.. something that could be Mongolian Empirey.. well, who cares, it’s fantastically entertaining and if I want my history accurate I’ll consult Steve Harris. Standout tracks include ‘Takhil,’ which convinces me that Mongol could make a good go of it as a serious death metal band; and ‘Amongst the Dead,’ which vocally sounds not unlike Thrashist Regime. Verily, though they’ve tagged themselves as folk metal and melodeath, I would argue that they have a strong thrash streak, especially with all those gang [or should that be ghengis?] vocals [sorry – appalling pun]. But such is their talent that they can play pretty much everything, and indeed, on this record, they do: on a few tracks they sail straight past thrash and into pirate metal territory. It becomes outright ridiculous in only one place, ‘Dschinghis Khan.’ I say ‘one’ place, but in fact, for reasons unknown, there is a German version of the same song at the end, so you have to listen to the fucking thing twice. No matter. As long as I don’t learn that they’re deadly serious about it, the song’s fast on the way to becoming a guilty pleasure.
ACID WITCH – “Evil Sound Screamers“ (released 31 October 2017)
Released on Halloween last year, Evil Sound Screamers is a twisted carnival of trippy Hammond organs, fuzzy stoner riffs, and a splattering of horror flick samples. I was only turned onto the Detroiters a few weeks ago listening to an interview with frontman Slasher Dave on the Into the Combine podcast Halloween special. When they played ‘I Hate Halloween’ as the intro to the piece, I was blown away by its hypnotic riff and those eerie keys that reminded me of the strange electricity you feel when you’re getting a spinal injection. If you’re a horror fan, it’s comfortably retro and nostalgic, and you’ll pick up easily on the themes and references.
It’s a bit of a patchy album, for sure, with a handful of classics mixed in with a few meandering sample-based tracks that don’t seem to go anywhere, but it’s witty and lovable and I won’t be putting it down for a while yet. In his spare time, Slasher Dave works on his own eponymous horror synth project, and released his latest collection, Frights, on 26 October. You can listen to it on Bandcamp here.
ANCESTRAL – “Master of Fate” (released 20 January 2017)
A full ten years after their debut, Italian power metallers Ancestral unleashed the worth-the-wait Master of Fate at the beginning of 2017, and are largely responsible for resurrecting my interest in music after a few years of post-baby fugue. Those who like their metal dairy-free, please don’t switch off: MoF is not in the least bit cheesy (no keys, for a start), and in fact, the only thing that’s strictly power about it is the vocal performance of Jo Lombardo, whose range is insane. Fabio Lione (Angra, ex-Rhapsody of Fire) also cameos on ‘Lust for Supremacy,’ but – with all due reverence – Lombardo is close to equalling him anyway. There are plenty of gang vocals for those who might need an occasional breather from all the melody.
Musically, MoF is ultra-technical, frenetic, and drummer Massimiliano Mendolia is a fuckin’ beast. I saw one review which questioned whether the solos might go on for a little bit too long, which does not quite compute with me: they are possibly among the band’s greatest (of many) strengths. I hope we’re not left to wait another ten years for the follow-up, because I’m at risk of overdosing here.
LEVIATHAN – “Of Origins Unearthed” (released 3 October 2018)
German melodeathers Leviathan (this one, not this one) caught my attention this month with their third full-length Of Origins Unearthed. They’ve come back from a four-year hiatus following financial ruin and, intent on avoiding the repetition of history, have recorded this one themselves with mastering help from ‘Seeb’ of Orden Ogan. The reunited lineup now includes new members Jules Dahs (clean vocals) and bassist Hendrik Franke. There is absolutely no doubting the prodigious talent of this band. Each track on this album, taken individually, is full of gorgeous, tight melodies showcasing a variety of influences, yet there is something about the ordering that causes the album to teeter on the brink of momentum-loss at times. A few cuts here and there may have prevented this. However, not being at liberty to spend as much time with casual listens as I am with reviews, I could be eating my words in the coming months. Certainly, I’m going to invest more time in this hard-won victory of an album that could very well have never seen the light of day.
Dauþuz – “Des Zwerges Fluch” (released 25 August 2018)
I carry a white-hot torch for German folk/atmo-black metal. By contrast to the often good-natured gaiety of the Italians, for example, the German stuff is distinctly more spiteful and lo-fi. Italian folk metal wants to drink with you and hang about in forests and dress up as hobbits; German folk metal hates you and puts a hex upon all your kin. That’s how it sounds to me; I don’t know, they could be singing anything. But I know for sure that Dauþuz’s Des Zwerges Fluch packs some malice. I believe it translates to The Dwarf’s Curse. Thematically, it is a concept album about a gang of dwarves exacting their revenge, via the black arts, on humans who have stolen their treasure. And that’s it. I know nothing more; I can’t read the sodding lyrics. But it’s enough for me to thoroughly approve of. There’s plenty of light and shade, though perhaps that’s a fairly euphemistic description of what is basically darkness and then darker darkness. Listen and enjoy the bleak beauty of this black treasure, then go and listen to fellow countryman Horn and his recent EP Retrograd, because that’s ace too.
The Grim Princess