September In Metal, Part II: Arkhamin Kirjasto, Grave Digger, Liv Kristine and Svölk
This is my first real dip into the Ektro pool and while I haven’t had a whole lot of exposure to this underground Finnish label’s catalog, I do know they are famous for have some really oddball freakout bands on their roster so I’m looking forward to hearing some different types of records than I’m used to.
My first record from them is a band formed by Ektro label head Jussi Lehtisalo, which probably won’t surprise fans of the label since Lehtisalo is in approximately 600 bands. And he seems to like big fat rock ‘n’ fucking roll riffs blended with other styles of metal. Arkhamin Kirjasto is just that, some pure gut busting heavy metal with glam influences, some death metal vocals and fuzz filled guitar riffs that add some psychedelic vibe to tunes. Three out of the four of them are present in “Sea of Madness” which is a trippy glam tune minus the death metal vocals. “Bitch from Hell” adds those vocals back in and mixes up the formula with a bit of a crusty vibe while “Thousand Snakes” starts off with a Swedish death sound, splicing in what sounds like a huge bell and some pure rock riffs every few bars.
But the two songs that really make the record and really tell you what you need to know about the band are, “Speed, Yog Sogoth” which starts off feeling like a punk tune and ends up feeling like the greatest acid trip in the world. The other being “Golem Made of Flesh” which is one gigantic fuzzy headbanger guaranteed to make you bust the air guitar out.
Having went back and sampled of Ektro’s material, Torches Ablaze is certainly more straight forward than a lot of the label’s releases but by no means it is mainstream. The style changes throughout the record keep you on your toes and wondering what’s next, making an entertaining album from start to finish.
I can’t believe it’s been only two years since Grave Digger’s excellent record The Clans Will Rise Again was released, as I feel like I just reviewed that last month. But that falls into pattern with the other 14 records, released only a year or two apart. Always with a prevailing theme throughout each disc, this time Clash of the Gods tells the story about the legend of the Greek gods.
I’m still very excited to report that my power metal theory holds true. Bands in the genre start creating their best music once they’ve hit album #8. Grave Digger has been around since 1980 and 32 years and 15 LPs later they feel like they are firing on all cylinders. There’s nothing you haven’t heard before from the band – riff fests, mind numbing guitar solos, epic choruses and fantastic harmonies throughout. So while a new Grave Digger record may sound well, like an old Grave Digger record, they at least sound different from the other 10,000 bands in the genre while still maintaining a general power metal template. They get adventurous on the title track adding a bit of a middle eastern feel to a lot of moments but beside that it’s pretty straightforward headbanging music.
My favorite part of Grave Digger these days is the grey hair of singer Chris Boltendahl. Looking like he just woke up on the wrong side of 1986, the scraggly greyness of his locks make a loud statement that you are never too old to rock like a motherfucker. I don’t think you can go wrong with their last record or Clash of the Gods if you are simply looking for something to throw your fists in the air to. You probably only need one but then again, if you purchase The Clans Will Rise Again for the fantastic “Highland Farewell” then you miss out on the blistering “Death Angel & the Grave Digger” off this record. So then again, buy them both and love them.
Let’s be real here. I love a hot woman as much as anyone but when it comes to my metal whether you can push your tits out plays no part in whether I listen to your band or not. Eighteen year old kids read Revolver not for the music but because every issue has a “hottest chicks in metal” feature. I’d be lying if I said I was never the typical dude and never objectified a woman but not in this case. I mean, most of these bands with hot woman fronting them wouldn’t get a second listen if it wasn’t for sex selling the band. Lacuna Coil would be nowhere without Christina Scabbia. Teenagers love In This Moment simply for Maria Brink.
Anyway, off my soapbox for a moment, it brings me to the new record by Leaves’ Eyes front woman, Liv Kristine. Liv is smokin’ hot as well but Leaves’ Eyes is a German symphonic metal band and most bands in that genre simply sound better with females up front anyway. So in this case, she actually is metal and just happens to look good. That’s okay in my book. Still, symphonic metal and female fronted metal are two things that Steed doesn’t care for but I listen to everything that comes across my desk at least once. And since I’m writing about this, that means it has to be good enough to put words to.
Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover though and in this case, the little red dress blowing in the wind while Liv Kristine holds a parasol clearly says this isn’t going to be a vicious headbanger and in fact, it probably isn’t even metal. There’s some harder moments on the disc but it comes across as more of an alt-rock project for Liv. “Vanilla Skin Delight” is a full blown rock song, while “Paris Paris” is borderline pop. Songs like “Solve Me” and “Love Crime” bring in elements from Leaves’ Eyes, strings, keys and/or keys that sound like string sections. Harder tunes like “Libertine” are made for the rock radio to spin, without a doubt. Although Libertine really isn’t my thing, the album is actually really catchy. Fans of Evanescence should love this disc. And well… fans of the hottest chicks in metal should eat it up as well.
(Check out the video when she introduces the title track. There’s dead silence. Dead. Silence. How sad.)
Napalm sent me the 2011 debut album from Svölk (Svölk Them All) and I think I was a little perplexed by it. With a name like this I was expecting folk metal and didn’t get any of that and I just think it hit me the wrong way as I’ve never went back to it. But with Nights Under the Round Table I knew what I was getting into finally. This Norwegian band plays a blend of traditional metal with a stoner vibe to it, creating a sound that would fit right in as an opening band for Iron Maiden or Orange Goblin.
Nights Under the Round Table shows a band that really improved from their first album with six and seven minute tunes that don’t feel the least bit too long, guitar work that put a modern twist on vintage riffs and catchy sing-along choruses. “Living By the Sword” is ironically reminiscent of the band The Sword while “Fallen” has a heavy bass, Clutch-like feel to it. And that’s what you get throughout the record, two different vibes that end up blending together to create a really solid headbanger of a disc.
Albums currently on the potential ten best of 2012 list:
Baroness, Yellow & Green
Christian Mistress, Possession
Denial of God, Death and the Beyond
Goatwhore, Blood for the Master
Human Toilet, Human Toilet
Jorn, Bring Heavy Rock To the Land
Mongrels Cross, The Sins of Aquarius
OSI, Fire Make Thunder
Satanic Bloodspraying, At the Mercy of Satan
Terrorizer, Hordes of Chaos
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum
Woods of Ypres, Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light