Years of Decay 2013

Years of Decay time, ladies and gelntleman. Wait, what?! 2013?! Is there a decay in 2013? Well, well, we are giving you some forgotten (and not so) suggestions, just to remember the good music from this particular year, and of course to make your Sunday better. In the big pile of great new music these days, it is always good to revise some stuff from the past! What did you listen mostly in 2013?…

Enjoy our 2013 selection and most of all – enjoy your Sunday!

KHORS – “Abandoned Leaves”
April 2013, Eclectic Productions

KHORS is amazing. Khors is a Slavic god of the sun and light

I follow this band almost since the beginning of their career and without ever regretting it. Yes, there are better releases than others, but damn it happens in all bands.

And because I love this band I decided to talk about this Live album. read more

Originally recorded in 2010 on Kolovorot Pagan Festival, Kharkiv, Ukraine, this live album was only mixed and mastered in 2011 and finally only released in 2013. And why this album is so special for me and why I chose it? Well… Quite simple. I love the band as I already said, I would love to see them live but I do not have money to travel to the countries that I already saw them mentioned. Almost 100% sure that they will never come to my country. So… This album can transport me to that feeling, to that vision. to that pleasure. So let us talk about a few things about this release. The concert starts with an intro and the following 4 songs are taken from the 2010 album “Return to Abandoned” (very good), after that, we can trip to the previous works listening songs from the “The Flame of Eternity’s Decline”, “Cold” or “Mysticism” I can’t say which one is the best for me. If you like Astrofaes you will also listen to one cover song here, it makes sense since two guys in KHORS are past members from Astrofaes. At least to me, it does. Listen to the album and enjoy it. Awwww… And the album ends with the very good song “Trees Are Remembers…” 

The Key Keeper

 

VOLBEAT – “Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies”
April 2013, Vertigo

This 2013 was a difficult to choice from. I personally don’t find so many great albums in this year. Few favourites and that’s it. And as before, it turns that my suggestions in Years of Decay are getting more and more “inappropriate” for an underground zine, and this Sunday doesn’t make any difference. After some hesitation (Hypocrisy, Sodom, Satyricon and even BFMV and Reckless Love! FFS.), I finally decided to go that different path, and write few words about VOLBEAT’s “Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies” – the album which I heard first before exploring everything else by the band. Besides, when shall I have another opportunity to write about VOLBEAT on Blessed Altar Zine?! read more

I remember it was mid 2013 when a guy asked me whether I had listened to the band. I was just recovering my metal obsession, after some dark years without being deep into the music. I found the present album (just released) and played it. It was something different. Yes, it was! Michael Poulsen vocals were “strange” – I loved them and hated them on first listen. Later, I just loved them! Then I watched a performance from Rock Am Ring. The more I listened, the more I fell in love with the band. Their mix of metal, Johny Cash, great compositions, memorable sing-alongs, the hidden sorrow, evoking memories from the past and endless energy – everything fitted together so well. Of course I went back to all their albums – the rawer “The Strength/The Sound/The Songs”, “Rock The Rebel/Metal The Devil”, my absolute favourite “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood” and “Beyond Heaven/Above Hell”. The band played huge role for me back then in time, helping me to get through some very difficult time in my life, and that’s why I’m so keen on them 

Of course it is a mandatory to mention all the collaborations with other musicians as guest appearances in their tracks – Barney (Napalm Death), Mille (Kreator) etc. Not to forget all the tours the band made with Metallica. (and some other very impressive US tours). 

It’s true that in comparison to the rest, “Outlaw Gentlemen” is slightly softer in its overall sounding, still including the typical mix of various styles which the band offers, but a bit…radio-oriented? We have here some great (and personal favourites) heavy riff-oriented tracks “Dead and Rising”(superb!), “Room 24” (with Kind Diamond; a track nominated for Grammy), “The Hangman’s Body Count” (personal favourite!), “Doc Holiday”, “Black Bart”. On the other hand, there are “Lonesome Rider” (with Sarah Blackwood), “Lola Montez”, “My Body”, “Cape of Our Hero”, “Pearl Hart” etc. So an awesome mix of tracks which makes this album very complete and very enjoyable. Definitely it is a grower with every listen. 

I must admit that I was very disappointed by their 2016 “Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie” album, being too pop for me. Yes, apparently the popularity and the well experienced recipe, played a huge (bad) role for this one. In August 2019 VOLBEAT will release their brand new album “Rewind, Rebound, Replay”. Let’s see what they will deliver. I’m sure they will play safe again, hopefully, it will be heavier. If not – well “Guitar Gangsters”, “Rock The Rebel” and “Outlaw Gentlemen” are all here forever. 

Count Vlad 

p.s. This review reflects personal taste, preferences, experinces in time, and might not refer to the overall taste, direction etc. of the underground supportive Blessed Altar Zine. It will also be found unlikely and inappropriate by many; it’s up to you all. Music is a very personal experience!

KVELERTAK – Meir
March 2013, Sony/Roadrunner/Indie

Choosing a focus album 2013 was problematic for me. Looking back, there were a load of established acts still churning out material – Death Angel, Fates Warning, Immolation, Satyricon, Monster Magnet, Black Sabbath to name a few. Whilst they were all solid releases, nothing really smacked me upside in a way that left a lasting impression. The less said about what Megadeth, Metal Church, Annihilator and Ministry were doing at the time, the better. I suppose I could have wrote about Gorguts’ Colored Sands but in the end I just don’t connect with it well enough. read more

So here’s my 2013 selection – Norwegian mad-as-fkn-axemen KVELERTAK and their sophomore effort “Meir”. I think I may have come to this about 6 months after the release date and also being totally unware of their 2010 self-titled debut. The thing that worked for me about this band was not only the sheer energy the band brought to the table, but also their ability to weave what is essentially a dirty-garage hardcore/punk-rock style with a multitude of other sub-genre and pull it off (with a couple of misfires) in such a unique and interesting way.

Despite the fact that their moniker (Norwegian for ‘Chokehold’), song titles and lyrics delivered in their native tongue are possibly elements that hold this band back – their balls and insistence in sticking to their guns with this approach is most admirable. KVELERTAK simply do not give a fuck what you think. There are no stylistic boundaries. Their sole intention is to kick your ass with high octane, Motorhead-meets Slayer, meets 70’s hard rock meet 90’s black n roll aesthetics. And that’s only scratching the surface of their melting pot of influences captured on ‘Meir’ (Norwegian for ‘More’).

Slightly more accessible that the Blackened-punk debut, for me it is the ‘hard-rock’ riff and lead components that weaves a red line thread through the 11 compositions laid down on “Meir”. Produced by Kurt Ballou (Converge), he has been able to capture the bands ultra-manic, frenetic style whilst allowing some air to punctuate their instrumental sound – in turn giving more impact to the Hellcopters/Thin Lizzy/Hanoi Rocks/Turbonegro style sing-a-long choruses that I detect here. Of course, you have no chance of actually singing along with any of this in universal English – again, perhaps that’s the downside here – but for me, I’m with the band’s zero-fucks attitude on their dialect insistence – in the end I just make my own shit up. It’s fun!

In the end, KVELERTAK’s melting-pot of Metallic sub-genres meets Hard Rock influences shouldn’t actually work and while there are a couple of moments where things don’t get fully realised, ‘Meir’ was really a magnificent slice of fresh air in a year where I found things to be rather flat across the genre. The band upped the ante even further with 2016’s “Nattesferd” album and just when the band was looking to really explode, vocalist Erlend Hjelvik quit the band in 2018 and I’m not sure if things are the same anymore…whatever the case, this band is extremely versatile and loaded with character and a distinctive style and I’m hoping we see some future material.

KMaN

 

DARKTHRONE – “The Underground Resistance”
February 2013, Peaceville

So DARKTHRONE eh? Absolute legends of Black Metal. One of the definitive bands of the genre and respected by everyone as far as I can tell. I became fascinated years ago with the whole subculture and events of the first wave of BM, read a couple of books, watched a few documentaries, and I bought a few albums, but here’s the thing… I just never took to the sound. I’ve enjoyed some BM from time to time, but I’ve never loved any of it. So if I try and remember why I bought this album in the first week or two of its release, I guess it was in part because I’d become aware that DARKTHRONE circa 2013 had travelled quite far from what the average listener would expect of BM. “The Underground Resistance” sounds like Heavy Metal. Good old, rockin’, dirty, stinky, overdriven, beer swilling Heavy Metal. And something else too… it’s fun. Now I haven’t listened to “A Blaze In The Northern Sky” very often (ok I think I listened to it once), but I’m pretty sure there’s not much fun in there. read more

Every track gallops along at good horse-riding pace. I’ve seen it written that the band is drawing on NWOBHM influences here. I guess that sounds fair, but outside Iron Maiden and Judas Priest I’m no great authority on that scene. I definitely hear Motorhead in here and for sure the album rocks from start to finish. At this stage the band was (and still is I think) made up of Fenriz on drums and Nocturno on Guitar, with either of them laying bass on the tracks, but although I reference Motorhead, it’s really all about the guitar and drums… and the vocals, oh the vocals. Fenriz and Nocturno split vocal duties between them, with Nocturno taking tracks 1,3 and 5 and Fenriz 2,4 and 6. Nocturno’s guttural vocal style give “his” tracks like “Come Warfare”, “The Entire Doom” a brooding, menacing tone, alongside the battering drums and chugging riffs. And these three tracks are extremely satisfying, thunderous slabs of heavy metal, particularly album opener Dead Early” with it’s thrashy riffing.

This is all well and good and replicated on the other three tracks would probably produce a very satisfying set of songs. The injection of fun however is purely via Fenriz and his… singing. I genuinely don’t know if he is intentionally parodying the overblown ridiculousness of Dio style Dungeons and Dragons metal, but what the hell, it works. His warbling on Valkyrie” might as well be a drunk standing on a table imagining he’s leading a Viking ship into battle, but funnily enough it doesn’t detract from the music. It works. Maybe it’s because the drumming and guitar playing is just so on the mark. From start to finish Fenriz and Nocturno just rip it up. The music is so propulsive, great fills, interesting riffs and then there’s the wonderful 13:49 of album closer Leave No Cross Unturned”. AAAAHHHHHHHAAAAHHHH! Oh the vocals are so funny, but it’s great. At the end of the day there’s something inherently camp and ridiculous about most metal, so it’s cool that DARKTHRONE can keep things a little tongue in cheek, while still delivering an album full of great metal music. Black Metal? Heavy Metal? Whatever, it’s just metal. Damn fine metal.

Tom

CARCASS – Surgical Steel
September 2013, Nuclear Blast

[Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece from one of our writers, that does not necessarily reflect the overall opinion and outlook of Blessed Altar Zine as a collective whole, and may be considered to be subjective reading]

So, 2013 eh? A bit of a rubbish year to be honest for myself (a year that I was made redundant, but I won’t be a “Davey Downer” about that) and also the year that Cathedral decided to call it a day with the release of ‘The Last Spire’ album. However, a certain band came from out of the blue to release an album after 17 long years. To be honest, the extreme metal community as a whole were absolutely beyond the moon in 2007 when they reformed and I remember the night I almost died of excitement, yabbering down the phone incoherently to my fiancee to discover they were about to perform an exclusive show at Damnation Fest in 2008. read more

The band in question – is the mighty CARCASS, and their “Surgical Steel” album!

Let’s get something straight here, about CARCASS. Back in 1996, a fair chunk of the extreme metal community spat their beers out in absolute disgust at two albums that were released back then. One of them being Metallica’s “Load”, causing fights in your local metal pub when anybody dared to discuss it – and secondly, CARCASS’s “Swansong” [sic].  Both albums were musical aberrations that should never have seen a recording studio, never mind committed to shiny silver or black discs. Nevertheless, just like the way Paradise Lost grew a pair and realised this Depeche Mode-ian lark they churned out in the late 1990s was a clattering pile of bollocks – CARCASS also stunned the world by releasing ‘Surgical Steel’. An album, one could rightfully argue is something that Carcass should’ve released in the first place – or was released and created in a parallel universe where the band didn’t split up in the mid 1990s.

Pretty much picking up where “Heartwork” left off in 1993, the album starts off with an almost Brian May-esque guitar solo in the form of the intro track ‘1985’ and HOLY SHIT, SON – kicks off with ‘Thrasher’s Abattoir’ that’s quite honestly fucking brilliant, leaving me with a Cheshire Cat grin the length of the Leeds to Liverpool canal. Needless to say, the rest of the album doesn’t disappoint either, every track is filled with massive win that will have you performing a one man circle pit in your garden – bared chested, scaring the shit out of your neighbours.

So good, I bought it TWICE (White vinyl, and CD).

Goth Mark

CATHEDRAL – The Last Spire
April 2013, Rise Above Records 

So lot’s to choose from as always when looking deep into the Years-Of-Decay! Usually I am looking for an underground classic or an album that I had some sort of emotional experience with. But for 2013 the first thought that popped into my mind was Cathedral’s “The Last Spire” and its journey back to the beginning! The end of the line for what was such an impressive catalogue to say the least. The legendary UK Doom Metallers ending where it all began; with thick, powerful, odd timed and colossal riffs. Gaz Jennings as always anchoring things with his distorted and unique rambling riffs and a bit of return to form with his discordant sound. As always if you are a fan of Lee Dorrian’s than all is right in the universe, if not than nothing had changed to sway your opinion, as his delivery perfectly melds with what Cathedral has been doing since 1992. read more

Once the needle drops you just knew this is going to be a weighty slab of doom, with the strange intro track and its repetitive chants of “Bring Out Your Dead” laid over the macabre and ambient sounds placing you into the grave…literally at the Entrance to Hell. Things immediately launch into the mammoth eleven minute Pallbearer with its odd tempo changes, killer acoustic middle section, the addition of intriguing female voices and really its those slow moving signature kaleidoscope of magical doom riffs, that turns Pallbearer into one of my favorite tracks of the entire catalogue.

Side two is where the groove of Cathedral kicks in with Cathedral of the Damned which adds a Chris Reifert(Autopsy) cameo, another highlight of the album. On the outstanding lead track Tower of Silence with the push and pull of the chugging and hissing riffage its effortless to play this one over and over and easily one of the albums outstanding moments. One of the albums most interesting songs is the mournful An Observation with its creepy tempo changes and unique passages leading to an all out assault of the senses. This Body, Thy Tomb preceded by The Last Laugh which is literally a last laugh; explodes into a fury of odd flutes and organs, fuzzed up and massive riffs where we find rippling water and an assortment of psychedelic mixtures coming to an orgasmic finish…providing Lee Dorrian and Cathedral with an exclamation point on one epic doom career.

For a band who’s contribution to the doom metal scene is both seismic and essential, The Last Spire didn’t let us down one ounce. Even if the listener is just hearing the band for the very first time, The Last Spire could easily be ones starting point versus it’s ending. I for one have worshiped at the altar of Cathedral since the early 90’s and who’s nave has certainly helped me navigate through the storms of life. May we all be doomed for perpetuity.

NJoy this one I sure did…Mö!

THE OCEAN – “Pelagial”
April 2013, Metal Blade

Not many bands make music like THE OCEAN COLLECTIVE. Dabbling in the world of progressive metal and the avant-garde, their dedication to the craft shines though in every aspect of what they do. “Pelagial” is the 6th album from these german metalheads, released April 2013 on Metal Blade Records. Like most material from THE OCEAN, “Pelagial” is a concept album. This time lead guitarist and main songwriter Robin Staps and the gang explore the bands very namesake, delving deep into the depths of our planet’s oceans; descending through the Epipelagic, Mesopelagic, Bathyalpelagic, Abyssopelagic, Hadopelagic, Demersal and Benthic layers as we listen. read more

THE OCEAN weaves riffs that evolve and emerge again throughout the rest album as if crawling out of the dark depths themselves. “Pelagial” is progressive metal in one of it’s finest forms, combining thick chunky doom riffs with fast heavy technical pieces and more complex and heavy atmospheric sections as we sink. The tempo and song structure are just as diverse as the instrumental design, exploring a number of styles and sounds on the album. The beautiful piano and violin sections, the bizarre keyboard undertones, the deep ominous rhythms, and mixture of guitar tones are all perfectly suited to the situation creating many deep and powerful moments.

There are two ways to listen to this album, one purely instrumental version and another with full vocal track. Both are fantastic with the vocals and lyrics adding some great layers to an already impressive creation. The vocal style explores both clean and deep growling vocals, which shouldn’t be a surprise with the wide range of emotions explored throughout “Pelagial”. By the time we hit the Abyssopelagic layer we are 4000m meters below the surface, and god damn it feels that way with the somber tones and crushing rhythms taking point to the effect of floating in the pitch black void.

While it’s near impossible to pick one favourite track off an album that runs so seamlessly, a lot of my favourite moments come from “Bathyalpelagic”. Throughout the three sections of this track, we are shown the full arsenal of THE OCEAN; switching from modern calculated post-metal riffage to compelling instrumental builds and fast technical shredding. This includes one of my favourite riffs of the album at 9:09, and also ending with some of the most aggressive moments on the entire album (perhaps we’ve encountered a giant killer squid?). I recommend listening to this album with headphones or at decent volume to catch all of its intricacies and layers. “Pelagial” is a powerful and emotional progressive metal masterpiece that I will no doubt be returning to for the rest of my life. It’s time to drop the your submarine into the ocean and take a deep dive into “Pelagial’ to explore the great abyss!

Metal Yeti

CALADAN BROOD – “Echoes of Battle”
February 2013, Northern Silence Productions

2013 was a great year for Black Metal just like each other year in this decade. There were some amazing releases in all sub-genres of Black Metal. Darkthrone, Inquisition, Watain, Cult of Fire, Deafheaven, Summoning, Rotting Christ, Altar of Plagues all released albums this year along with countless many other bands from the Underground. But I am going with “Echoes of Battle” by CALADAN BROOD here. CALADAN BROOD is an epic-atmospheric Black Metal duo from Utah consisting of Shield Anvil and Mortal Sword. Though the band has been compared with specially Summoning (They even appeared in the “In Mordor Where The Shadows Are – Homage to Summoning” released in 2016) since they emerged in the Black Metal scene, I think their music is more than just dreamy, melodious Epic Black Metal. Why? Mainly because guitars are not neglected here in favour of synth and atmosphere like most Epic Black Metal releases. Let me go through this masterpiece and try to explain. read more

“Echoes of Battle” starts with one of my most favourite Black Metal tracks of all time. “City of azure fire” unfolds with some hypnotic, captivating atmosphere but when the verse kicks off, the distorted, belligerent guitar takes centre stage with the wretched, mournful shrieking cries. The transition between this verse and the chants is some of my most favourite musical journey ever. The little chime, little dejected synth, those haunting guitar sounds in the background…Black Metal is quite beautiful, no? The title track is another mesmerizing track where we will see some more interweaving of dreamy atmosphere filled with choirs, chants, flutes, synth with some icy cold guitar riffing. “Wild autumn wind” contains one of the most alluring guitar solos I have ever heard in Black Metal. The fact that there is a long, repetitive atmospheric section in the middle before the solo takes place makes it even more surprisingly beautiful. Don’t forget the main melodic riff which starts the song with some piano behind …the artistry of Cascadian Black Metal meets the cold atmosphere of Russian Black Metal. “To walk the ashes of dead empire” is a more homage to the traditional Epic Black Metal where it’s all about atmosphere and nature. But still here, you can see some amazing palm-muted devilish riffing between the first 2 verses which will be repeated later too. The little outro with some acoustic strumming and the flute is quite beautiful too. Some words about the drumming (even though it’s programmed) throughout the album. The bass kick and specially the snare has a feeling of ancient battle cries. It’s so deep, it’s so ponderous, it’s so gloomy. Affix it with the occasional use of tombs and the implementation of little odd time-signature notes in high-hat, the drumming is really another bewitching part of this journey. “A voice born of ashes” is atmosphere-heavy too but contains another beautiful little solo out of nowhere again. “Book of the fallen” is the Swansong and the title actually refers to the series of epic fantasy novels “Malazan book of the fallen” by Steven Erikson. The lyrical themes throughout the album are actually inspired from that fantasy series too and the name “CALADAN BROOD” refers to an eponymous warlord in the novels.

So “Echoes of Battle” is a great adventure through dream, sadness, fantasy and melancholy. Though sometimes the tracks may feel a bit repetitive and too long, it’s all worth it because of all the great beauties that lie within. I can’t wait for this unbelievably talented duo to return with another album as soon as possible. It’s been really too long.

 …….The echoes of battle ring cold through ages…

        The moon shines on old dunes, awakening ancient hatreds……..

Apollo

DEAFHEAVEN – Sunbather
June 2013, Deathwish Inc.

When I first discovered black metal, I was hooked on bands like Watain, Dark Funeral or Grorgoroth and considering the fact that I was rather young and impressionable when I did, you can imagine what impact they had on me. I became a rather edgy kid, trying to be kvlt by scribbling pentagrams pretty much everywhere, acting weird in class and so on. Since then, I was on a constant hunt for black metal albums, but I had no other metalhead friends and no record stores I could visit, so I had to find different ways to discover what I was looking for. During that time I did not know about the existence of Bandcamp, so I had to settle with the android Play Store and iTunes. The great thing about iTunes back then it was that the metal section also had sub-genres, so usually I just went in the black metal tab and started listening. One day, in the best selling charts I saw this peculiar thing that sparked nothing but outrage in me: between depictions of Satan and Death, there was this bright pink cover. read more

My first thought was “What the fuck is this shit doing here? It belongs in a garbage not along this releases that understand the meaning of metal.” But I was also intrigued by it and in the end I pirated the album and pressed play on the first song, “Dream House”. I expected to hate it, because I thought it was a spit in the face of the trve mvsic, however, I did not. I loved it. I was greeted by this warm feeling that I never experienced in metal before. I literally felt like I was sunbathing. Heavily distorted, yet melodic and pleasant guitars flooded my headphones and the shrieks that should have been menacing, felt somewhat welcoming. The clear passages were nothing short of pure euphoria for my young mind. During that hour of playtime, my whole world was turned upside down.

“Sunbather” shattered all my preconceptions and showed me that things can be different. Instead of a forest trapped in eternal winter, I saw a city during a mild, pleasant summer. I know that Deafheaven is not the first group to implement shoegaze elements in metal, Alcest being a notable example of a well known band that did this before, but Deafheaven, as I mentioned, have a more urban take on metal, sparking images of tall concrete blocks, covered in mellow sunlight, instead of forests or other natural settings. When the album was released, it was really polarising, and this made me love it even more, because, in the end, metal is about being controversial. One of the main complaints I noticed, besides the butt-hurt elitists, was the heavy use of calm, clear moments between the heavier ones, yet this offers the music its beauty. Plus, the same transitions are overused in atmospheric black metal and I saw no one complaining about it.

After almost six years, “Sunbather” still remains a vexed album, and probably it will always be this way, but for those who accept that metal should be constantly moving forward, this release is a testament to their belief and a great display of how diverse our beloved genre can be.

Metal Gentleman

Truly Yours,
Blessed Altar Zine Team

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