Into The Unknown

When it comes to Metal you can be sure that we’re a passionate bunch here at Blessed Altar Zine. With members and collaborators scattered around the globe from Iceland to Australia to Bangladesh and more than a couple of decades between the veterans and the young blood there’s a lot of varied musical experiences and tastes simmering away in this pot.

Day and night we’re discussing with each other the music we love, the music we hate, sharing what we’re listening to, what records we’re buying and what bands we’re seeing live. With all of this going on, I thought it would be nice to try something a little different and get as many of us involved together as we could and so was born ‘Into The Unknown’.

The idea: each contributor picks an album they love and a member of the team who’s unfamiliar with it gives that album a single listen and writes their first impressions. We then finish off each piece by adding a few comments to our beloved nominated release.

And so here it is, as together we each take a step ‘Into The Unknown’…

Tom Boatman

SKÁLMÖLD – Börn Loka
Year: 2010
Words by Tom
Challenger: Julia

So last night around midnight, slightly delirious on lack of sleep and a little stoned, I decided it would be the right time to have a listen to my nominated album “Börn Loka” by SKÁLMOLD. I know nothing about this band, never even heard of them. read more

From the first moment, the sound is huge and operatic, but with big gravelly monster vocals, like QUEEN as ogres, playing anthems for the ogre Olympics. Over the first three tracks there’s some of that horse riding dun-dudu-dun-dudu-dun of the classic IRON MAIDEN style. The overall sound is hard for me to wrap my head around. There’s nothing I’ve ever heard like this before. Sonically, it’s very heavy, almost overwhelming, but at the same time it almost feels jolly. The melodies and scales are often bouncy and almost poppy, while always being heavy too. I’m used to listening to heavy music that’s emotionally oppressive and has some really negative energy to it. Part of my brain is saying “this isn’t the kind of music I like”, but on the other hand, the melodic lines repeatedly surprise me and it keeps me interested.

The great and unusual, melodic guitar part that seems to come out of nowhere in “Fenrisúlfur” totally changes my view of this album and everything comes together. The next few tracks don’t quite reach this peak again for me, but interesting melodic parts keep appearing. “Miðgarðsormur” has a really cool melodic amble in the middle, before the band goes really thrashy. Even in the parts I don’t enjoy so much, the musicianship is very impressive.

Some of the time I feel like I’m on a battle ship from 1000AD, listening to Viking monster sea shanties with the 1, 2, 3, – 1, 2, 3, rhythm. In “Hel” the band fuses a delicate melodic arrangement with harsh screaming vocals, which is a cool contrast. Is this a rock opera? It would help if I had any idea what the lyrics are. “Vali” is another highpoint with a great, grand riff a bit reminiscent of TOOL. Overall, the combination of really heavy and operatic sonic elements, with this really jolly, bouncy feel was very strange to my ears. From that first listen I thought two of the tracks were excellent. Definitely a new experience.

Tom

I couldn’t help but assign Tom Börn Loka by the Icelandic band Skálmöld. I always attempt to shove the Icelandic metal scene down everyone’s throat every time I get!

The second full length album from 2012 was by far my favourite and its fun to see what others think of it and even more fun that Tom would mention Miðgarðsormur, which as a track is my favourite from Skálmöld altogether.

Sadly the group has decided to take a break from metal for now, and for as long as they believe they need. On 21sth of December they will throw a farewell/10 year annual celebration of sort in the capital of Iceland along with Finntroll, and believe me when I say I am biting my nails, fingers, hands and arms for not getting a ticket because it sold out faster than air escapes your lungs.

But us loyal fans of Skálmöld will never forget the epic tale of Hilmar Baldursson on his path to slay three children of Loki.

Julia

CEMETARY – Black Vanity
Year: 1994
Words by Jammerfall
Challenger: Count Vlad

It`s a great thing when you are searching and digging new music to listen to for your own, using your favorite music stream apps, web or any other way that you daily use, finding new gems, new albums, and bands that are unknown for you.
But when a friend challenge you to listen to a new album it´s even better. read more

In this case, Vladi gave to me a band that I never heard. CEMETARY’s “Black Vanity”. In this first “Into the Unknown” challenge article, I had to listen to this amazing album. From the beginning to the end this album caught me. An avalanche of premium riffs from the first moment where each song has its rhythmic and solemn movements that are enjoyed and you can taste the exquisite production that they have achieved in this record. I’ve found passages similar to Primordial, another band that I enjoy a lot, with acoustic moments accompanied by great choirs and keyboards touches, and for a fantastic riffing flowing through the songs. This album is very good, I have only words of praise for this.

“Bitter Seed” opens the headbang, with a great rhythm section and a good guitar solo, the song gives way to another good piece a little slower but heavy and dense, doomy, “Ebony Rain”. In the middle of the album I found a jewel, the track “Scarecrow” is in my opinion the best song with the other gem “Sweet Tragedy” the shortest of the album but, a piece of art.

If need to rank the album for me is an 8.5 without a doubt.

Jammerfall

CEMETARY are among my all-time favorite bands. Everything they released is absolute GOLD for me. I got into them with “Black Vanity” when it was released in 1994. It was a band from the Swedish UG by that time and actually “Black Vanity” brought them more into the light with “Sweet Tragedy” spinning on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. 

This album represents the transition of the musical direction the band took. If “Goodless Beauty” was an absolute death-doom masterpiece, “Black Vanity” is melodic, more-into-gothic metal, masterpiece. Less harsh, but still very sensual, touching and personal. With all new line-up here (some familiar names there), led my Matias Lodmaln, the band began exploring more “autumn” territories, with fire-burning pastel colors – typical for the sadness. Every single track from “Black Vanity” is soaked with so many emotions and personal feelings easily are evoked. It is a mandatory album, among the best ever released in this field. 

Count Vlad

ODDZOO – Future Flesh
Year: 2018
Words by Perro
Challenger: the trve Medvson

What is this that sounds before me? Techno dark sound that looks at me…

The artwork wasn’t telling me much about the music at first sight. I mean, it speaks loud that this wasn’t a Death Metal or old school Black Metal one. After hearing the music though, I can say that I can relate the music with to artwork somehow. The pastel colors and the abstract style of the cover-art really suit the music. read more

I never heard this before and I don’t play this kind of music, like never! But I enjoyed the experience and as I was playing it one band came to mind. This reminds me of NINE INCH NAILS (used to play it in the mid 90’s and really got nothing else to compare it to) but with that Industrial Metal edge a little polished. This is dark for sure, as was NIN, but the vocals are more melodic and laid back. Drum machines, synths and great atmosphere took my mind to some sci-fi setting, because this sounds like a futuristic movie soundtrack to me, at least in some of the songs… and I’m a big sci-fi fan! Maybe I just searched for things to relate to this alien music and make the experience as friendly as possible. All a mind trick after all. Anyway, I enjoyed this one, as a challenge and as a new sound color. Will I revisit? Mmhh… I can’t tell right now. Maybe I should play it one more time…

 
“Little Death” is the standout song here for me. 

The “Fearless Lioness” line somehow got caught in my brain as I heard this album. Also, I think this one is good summary of the sonic journey this album offers. Electronic pulsing setting the pace, your breathing and walking matches that rhythm by instinct. Electronic possession.

Perro

I’m always glad to spread the word for great music! First of all, I’m glad you enjoyed the album, Perro, it is very strange indeed! Sorry if this might end up longer than intended, but I hold this album very close to my heart as it was my album of the year 2018! I would define the album as a tightrope between the world of Synthwave / Retro-Electro and Metal, as it sounds synthetic and light yeah… but it is also heavy musically and lyrically! It is hard to define, I mean even the bands Facebook bio says, and I quote: “POST NOISE… WAVE something from SWEDEN / FRANCE”. One thing I always enjoyed about the album is the juxtaposition of the noisy & heavy electronic music with the melodic and delicate vocals. The comparisons to NINE INCH NAILS are deserved in my opinion, even more so when taking into account the music that Trent Reznor releases under the NIN banner nowadays, experimental with lots of genre influences, just as Future Flesh.

Whatever impression this article might’ve given you, I urge you to check out the album, the guys from ODDZOO make really good music and really deserve some more love!

the trve Medvson

BLACK VIPER – Hellions of Fire
Year: 2018
Words by Julia
Challenger: Jammerfall

As a not-huge-of-a-fan of speed metal, I wasn´t sure what to expect when my dear Jammerfal picked the album “Hellions of Fire” by the Norwegian band BLACK VIPER. My fears of losing interest in the album before I was all the way through crawled up on me as I pressed play and the intriguing intro of the opening track started. For a few moments, I thought to myself that perhaps I had psyched myself a little bit. read more

So, “Hellions of Fire” was released just last year as a debut album. The 7-track album counts for almost 50 minutes, so given the tracks are quite long. I am not a fan of long tracks unless they manage to stay interesting enough for me to continue to pay attention.

The speed metal here is obvious. It’s quite generic and what you would really expect from such genre. Nothing wrong with that. Riffs on top of riffs, slow parts in between the extremely fast parts. Vocals that sound like they belong to a time period that passed 20 years ago. The feeling I got was…raw.

One track was particularly interesting, “Quest for Power – The Fountain of Might” tricked me into thinking it was instrumental. There is a lot going on in that one, building up the speed as it goes on, finally getting pulled over for speeding and having to start all over again. Suddenly, the vocals start far into the track which counts for over 10 minutes. That’s one way to keep things interesting.

Overall this wasn´t exactly my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. The old school sound is strong, and the vocalist has some strong chords going on to reach the notes that he does. Impressive for a debut album from our friends in Norway.

Julia

Hellions of Fire was one of my favorite albums from 2018, being in a constant spinning in my day by day music listened. I enjoyed a lot this debut from these guys from the lands of the Black Metal Army. But here, we discovered that Norway, a country that I wish to visit before die, is not only BM y their catalog and they can do another top-class metal music.
Fast, very fast, Hellions of Fire is a gem for me, and I will follow closer this band hoping for another great record in the future. This is a promising band, and I have to admit that, in fact, like Julia, I´m not huge of a fan either of speed metal, but Black Viper beat and hit me directly in my face.

Jammerfal

RUNEMAGICK – Enter the Realm of Death
Year: 1999
Words by the trve Medvson
Challenger: The Key Keeper

For the first edition of “Into the Unknown” I got my album from the Key Keeper, he chose RUNEMAGICK’s album “Enter the Realm of Death”.

When I got to listen to the album and saw the cover for the first time, I couldn’t quite decisively say what genre to expect from this… A dark fantasy kind of character wielding an axe and wearing skulls around his belt, I thought of some fantasy inspired heavy or doom metal first, something like VISIGOTH. After hearing the epic build-up intro track, I almost thought some kind of power metal would commence, but I was taken off-guard when a heavy death metal riff started! read more

The title track “Enter the Realm of Death” positively surprised me, heavy and slow death riffs, great drum sound and good vocals! I am usually picky when it comes to death metal, but the epic sound of this, enhanced with some chanting backing choir and more melodic guitar parts was very much to my liking. The doom-esque riffs were even more prevalent on “Longing for Hades”, and the occasional blast beat made the track even more compelling! Track 3, “Dwellers Beyond Obscurity” featured some more groovy riffs and great use of keyboards to further enrich the epic dark fantasy-infused sound of the album. “Abyss of Desolation”, with some chugging riffs, got into territory that kind of reminded me of Amon Amarth in sound and also featured some clean chants in between the growls, much to my liking!

The next tracks further demonstrated the strengths the album previously built up, until an epic interlude titled “The Portal of Doom” created some time to breathe before the closing tetralogy of songs, one of these being my favourite after this first listening: “The Call of Tombs” (featured below)! The closing tracks stay very strong and “Dark Necroshadows” ends the album with a nice atmospheric outro.

Overall, “Enter the Realm of Death” is a very solid death metal record and actually surprised me with the amount of variety to offer, some nice elements get sprinkled in once in a while, which keeps the song fresh and also kept me compelled throughout the runtime. Thanks to The Key Keeper for bringing this album to my attention, very good record from a band that was previously not on my radar!

the trve Medvson

 

I decided to choose this album cause is a very good album and not many persons know this band. The quality is very high in my opinion. I remember when I heard the first time. Tchhh… So good. Glad you like it mate.

The Key Keeper

BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME – Alaska
Year: 2005
Words by The Key Keeper
Challenger: Metal Yeti

Never heard anything about them till Yeti choose the album “Alaska” from 2005. To be honest when I saw the name of the band I thought “What they play? Tchhhh. This is going to be fun, Oh yes it will…”.

So the deal was to listen one time and give my impression. Well… read more

They are good. They play a lot, I mean they are very good musicians. Music style? Well… For me, they are playing progressive Metal with a mix of Technical Death Metal and some melodies or breaks that are a bit related to Metalcore.  

This album is divided in 11 songs. All they are very well structured. The rhythm changes, the tempo of the songs, even the “break” on the songs are very well done. Yes, they are. Many hours were needed to build this album.

Songs that “told” me more was “Roboturner”, “Backwards Marathon” even with the calm and melodic part in the middle of the song. “The Primer”… Very good. But the album is not only these 3 songs. You need to listen to all the album like I did. And… I loved the way that the song “Alaska” started and after that “intro” the first riff… Tchhh… Killer…

It was a surprise for me the good quality even if this “kind” of metal is not my beach or the music style I know better. But… I will advise this band to everyone I know that is inside this “kind” of metal.

The Key Keeper

Between the Buried and Me have always been an anchor in my weekly playlists, but the Alaska album can be credited for much more than replayability. Alaska opened my eyes to progressive metal and threw me down the rabbit hole to much more extreme variety of metals. I was a bit apprehensive looking for something for The Keeper Keeper to enjoy, but I knew Alaska was the right choice. Lets jump down another rabbit hole and see where we end up? /../;,,;/../

Yeti

TYPE O NEGATIVE – Slow, Deep & Hard
Year: 1991
Words by Metal Yeti
Challenger: Tom Boatman

I’ve never really had my heartbroken, so I never completely got acquainted with Type O Negative. But that’s a shitty excuse… Of course, I know the legendary frontman Peter Steele and a few songs here and there from the band, but I never full dug into these guys. Slow, Deep, and Hard is my assignment, and the tunes off this debut album are just that! Open with grinding feedback and one of the best breakup songs in history; things kick off with a bang. Aggression. Sludgy breakdowns. Wicked tempo changes and experimental elements. Blistering guitar solos. Not to mention things get downright erotic at times, there is a reason Type O Negative made such a name for themselves. 1-2-3-4, I don’t want to live no more! read more

Before today, I had only heard the opening and closing track off this album. After giving them a more thorough listen, I certainly like what I hear. The thick doom interludes and breakdowns with the juxtaposition of fast punky rhythms and incredible instrumentals are a hell of a combo. I can draw a lot of similarities to modern bands with their use of sampling and heavy irregular progressions. I am kicking myself for not giving these guys the attention they deserve! Thanks to the Boatman for the recommendation!

Metal Yeti

Type O’s cult fame really came with the next album ‘Bloody Kisses’ so I thought the first album might be a new experience for Yeti. Although I love their slicker and streamlined later albums, here on their debut they’re already putting together great, varied misanthropic punk-rock—doom-metal hybrid songs about death and despair, with a thick coating of black humour. Put on your coat and let’s party!

Tom Boatman

WRECK AND REFERENCE – Indifferent Rivers Romance
Year: 2016
Words by Count Vlad
Challenger: Metal Gentleman

I’m always very excited when I’m given new music to explore. I was even more intrigued when Metal Gentleman challenged me with Wreck and Reference‘s “Indifferent Rivers Romance”, and he advised me to sit down for this one and not listening to it while running or traveling. This what I did. read more

Released in 2016, the album is an interesting combination of noise, dark electronic, ambient, drone. This is very emotional record with dissonant twists and turns. The changing of the vocals’ styles from maniacally calm into painfull psychedelic screams adds so much bitterness into all the experience. This easily can be felt from the very first second of the opener “Powders”, and “Indifferent Rivers Romance” rips through from this perspective. I liked “Flight but not metaphor”, “Liver”, “Modern Asylum” and “Unwant”.

Sometimes I honestly felt listening to an offspring of NINE INCH NAILS and LINKING PARK with vocals of PSYCHONAUT 4 for example. Of course, this comparison is not fair enough, because here the pain soaks every tune here until desperate depression which easily can lead to suicide. What I didn’t like were the too many electronic beats and the recitatives in the singing. In general, this is NOT my style and band.

Most definitely Wreck and Reference‘s “Indifferent Rivers Romance” is not for everybody and every occasion.

Count Vlad

“Indifferent Rivers Romance” is an album dear to my heart. Because it knows what strings to pluck to make me feel miserable and fill me with a rarely encountered dread. But as always, music is subjective so someone else might feel entirely different about it, so let’s see what Count Vlad thought of it.

Metal Gentleman

DYNFARI – The Four Doors of the Mind
Year: 2017
Words by Goth Mark
Challenger: Apollo

Despite being into metal for the past 26 years, one would assume at that point a person who have definitive knowledge about all bands past and present and have a borderline encyclopedic knowledge. However, such things are an impossible feat for most mere mortals and then you come across a band such as DYNFARI. Active since 2010 and from the mystical shores of Iceland, they’re an atmospheric black metal band whose album ‘The Four Doors of the Mind’ is somewhat deep and brooding; imagine if PINK FLOYD came from a parallel universe where black metal is king and you’d become pretty close. The album is akin to ‘The Final Cut’ and ‘Animals’ where the underlying concept of life’s struggles and depression are eerily similar in content. If you’re the sort of person who has become disenfranchised with latter day ENSLAVED post ‘Below The Lights’, then you’ll find much comfort in checking these guys out. read more

However, the subject matter contained within is rather deep and overwhelming for those who are suffering from depression as the themes are somewhat, shall we say, “close to the bone”; notably the first time I listened to it I was having a particularly bad day and it’s not something you should if you’re in an unstable frame of mind. Because if kept unchecked it would certainly burrow into your head and have you wondering “Oh, what’s the fucking point in anything anymore?”, whilst raiding the cupboards for vodka and valium. The whole album is a heart wrenching journey, like the aural equivalent of watching a film that makes you sad – such is the emotive writing in the lyrics and the atmosphere that it conveys to the listener. It’s a brilliant album and I’m glad I know of the band now, but if you’re mentally “not in a good place” for whatever reason I’d advise treading carefully.

Goth Mark

Combining the theory of fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss on the mind’s ability to cope with pain and existentialist poetry of Jóhan Sigurjónsson and expressing it in the form of Icelandic Post Black Metal awesomeness, this is depressingly beautiful.

Apollo

RENDEZ VOUS – The Four Doors of the Mind
Year: 2018
Words by Metal Gentleman
Challenger: Goth Mark

So I was tasked with listening to the latest album by the French post-punk band RENDEZ VOUS. I never explored this genre and I had absolutely no idea what to expect from it. Was I disappointed? Errr, it depends. read more

I couldn’t help but think of “Superior State” as being too simplistic for my taste. Repetitive guitar lines that go on and on interminably and which don’t feel so different from the next song or the one after that. I have to admit that songs like “Last Stop”, “Lakes” and “Order of Baël” did have a somewhat different approach, but not too contrasting.

Despite that, I listened to this album while doing some chores around the house and I found myself tapping my foot and moving around to the rhythm. Despite the adversities I faced at first, I got myself caught in those distorted guitars and prominent bass. However, I don’t think I would ever sit down to listen to this album. I do see myself revisiting it while in transit or going for a run.

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