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Bölzer – Soma EP (Review)

Bölzer – Soma EP (Review)

 

Bölzer’s latest offering of unique metaphysical black/death metal is a 2-track EP titled Soma.

 

It’s almost humurous, in a sardonic way, that Soma begins out of nowhere, with vocals and then instruments immediately playing a riff, and no build-up or introduction; it’s as though Bölzer has forgotten that they unleashed the awe of Aura, and left the metal world desperately wanting more. Soma is another taste of divinity; but at under 20 minutes, it seems the world will be left wanting once again.

 

The EP begins with “Steppes” (track 1) and a fairly traditional sounding death metal part. Eventually, there’s a pause, except for a simple tremelo-picked guitar part; soon, the music moves into an almost ancient-folk-influenced blast. From this moment onwards, Soma forms into a different beast; one much less of the mortal world.

 

“Labyrinthian Graves” (track 2) suits its title, and I think it’s the better of the 2 tracks (although they’re both great). It plays through like a trip in a dark maze of the after-world, with twisted passages of unknown destination. The spoken words at around 3:20 seem to draw the listener upwards, trying to make the way clear, but we are soon re-covered by the clouds of confusion and darkness that enthrall the rest of this track. This is my favourite part on Soma, and the way it works with the following riff, and the staccato-type drumming that goes with that, is astounding. If Bölzer wanted to create a terrifying out-of-body experience, they succeeded.

 

The sound on the EP is moderately harsh, adding to the ghostly atmosphere of the music; I don’t think a warmer production would have complimented the songs. The sound, the atmosphere, the music, and the actual playing of the parts, all meld together wonderfully. The instrumentation is ideal; when something’s done well, you shouldn’t even realise it without careful inspection; Soma is an example of that platitude.

 

Soma contains as much aggressive black/death metal as it does atmosphere. As always, Bölzer have blended extreme styles seamlessly, creating something that fans of varying genres should thoroughly enjoy.

 

This short EP is bound to be amongst the best of 2014; and the only way Bölzer could have improved would have been with a full-length; please give us an album guys! The world will thank you.

 

Below is “Steppes”, track 1 from Soma:

Sacrificio – Self Titled MLP (Review)

Sacrificio – Self Titled MLP (Review)

 

I think this is one of those times when the cover art will let you know whether, or not, you’ll enjoy a band. Barbaric, chain-armoured maniacs wielding fire in the night? Yay or nay? If you responded ‘yay’, Sacrificio’s debut MLP will decay and rust your ear-holes with its grating-yet-catchy, earnestly ‘brutal’ death metal. If you said ‘nay’, just fucking listen to it anyway!

 

The EP opens with a marching call to arms; no, there is no clichéd sound-bit — they create the mood with their instruments! The squealing and simplistic guitar that helps bring the track to a halt is either genius or just absurdity; you decide for yourself, but I love it.

 

After the first track is done, this Spanish band takes up their clubs and blades to lay down fire and bloodshed for the duration of this almost 24 minute long release.

 

The vocals are choked, low screams, like those of many early death metal bands. It’s a change-up from some of the cookie-monster stuff that’s so popular these days, and feels oddly personable, despite the historical intent of the style. The riffs are direct, with the guitars doing what needs to be done to create death, and the bass guitar plodding along, intent on doom. The drums seem lo-fi, relative to the other parts; while I would have preferred the bass drums to be a little louder, the overall sound suits the music and emphasises the carnage.

 

It’s hard to accurately express why this album seems so special. I guess when a band takes all the right ingredients and makes up some good, muddy, decaying, metal-pie, true fans have no choice but to take a hearty bite and metal-the-fuck-out. I just wish this particular slab of death were larger. I think that just 1 or 2 more songs would have made this feel like a short album, instead of an EP, and give fans a more satisfactory fix. Of course, I’m sure these medieval bastards will be back for more, and hopefully with a full-length release!

 

Genre: Death Metal

Release: July 25th, 2014

Label: Iron Bonehead Productions

Links: Iron Bonehead Productions


Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner

Inconcessus Lux Lucis – Disintegration: Psalms of Veneration for the Nefarious Elite (Review)

Inconcessus Lux Lucis – Disintegration: Psalms of Veneration for the Nefarious Elite (Review)

 

Inconcessus Lux Lucis’ Disintegration: Psalms of Veneration for the Nefarious Elite (referred to as Disintegration for the rest of this review) might confound some listeners a little at first. Upon an initial play, it’s hard to know what to think about this album. For some reason, it didn’t grab me immediately. It wasn’t until I gave it further attention that I appreciated the great song writing, skilled musicianship, and strong production.

 

Like its title, this album contains many different elements. From the overtly heavy metal-influenced opening, through the melodic blasting, and the interlude-like nuances, this is an intense black metal album. It’s a molten cauldron of so many elements that you’d think there’s no way it could all hold together; but it does hold together, and this band excels where many other bands have failed.

 

One thing is certain: if you don’t like melodic black metal, this might not be your style. Inconcessus Lux Lucis can play aggressively, and they do so, but that isn’t their primary concern on this album.

 

In some ways, Disintegration feels like a raging black metal waltz, which is not a strange concept if you like the genre, but there’s a sense of being creepy-yet-melodic that so many bands try to achieve. Well, Inconcessus Lux Lucis has succeeded where others end up sounding cheesy and desperate. It’s not a new sound, but when something known to work is done well, kudos is in order.

 

“Into the Pit of Purging” (track 1) starts with wind sounds, but these soon give way to the aforementioned mellifluous, heavy metal-style opening. This could easily be the start of an old school power metal album, but that quickly gives way to the true nature of the band. However, that melody is never lost, even during the heaviest parts of the album. I particularly like the end of this song, when the spoken voice partners with the lurking guitar and continues to call out as the instruments die away.

 

“An Orgy of Purple and Scarlet” (track 2) is 39 seconds of what sounds like bath time in a demonic orphanage. It will probably add to the mood for many, but I’m not sure it was necessary; it does serve as a needed interlude between songs 1 and 3, and it’s good that they made it a separate track.   Inconcessus Lux Lucis Sigil

 

The band goes pretty old-school with “Witch of the Forge”, bringing in some almost proto-heavy metal guitar work and a straight-up rock drum beat. This is part of the mixed-bag feel that makes this band hard to define. I personally enjoy these parts. The rest of the song is one of most extreme on the album, moving closer to aggressive black metal territory that continues until the track ends.

 

“East of Eden” (track 7) is my favourite song on Disintegration. The chugging, death metal-influenced riffing is irresistible, while the winding guitars at around 1:43 balance out the rest of the track. When the music quietens and then moves into a seeping guitar repetition over-toning the pounding tom drums, it acts as a nice turning point towards the final 2 tracks that follow.

 

True to the beginning of the album, the final track (“Panic Fuel. Lo! Irk!”) ends with an 80′s heavy metal, high-energy part. It doesn’t seem tacked-on though; it feels integral to the album, like anything else wouldn’t fit. And that makes this album unique: even with so many different parts, which start, stop, wind, rise, and fall; even with a mixed-bag of different styles working under the umbrella of black metal, Inconcessus Lux Lucis has managed to create a well conceived and well executed album that still feels organic.

 

Genre: Black Metal

Release: April 18th, 2014

Label: Nomos Dei Productions

Links: 

Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem (Review)

Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem (Review)

 

Midnight’s No Mercy for Mayhem seems to be a highly anticipated album, but how does it compare to their previous effort, Satanic Royalty? Well, the band has stayed true to their style, and fans should be impressed. But this isn’t a comparison; it’s a review of the new album!

 

The short introductory track, “Penetratal Curse”, is like something from the 80′s, only now it’s covered in rust, and starting to turn into something unsanitary; it sounds like a speak-easy in hell, where everyone’s already passed out … and on fire; it’s great!

 

“Evil Like a Knife” (track 2) comes in hard and a little bluesy, with up-beat drumming; it’s a straight-forward attack that’ll please fans of the old-school, and fans of proto-black will love-the-fuck out of it, as will those who enjoy punky metal.

 

It’s not until the title track starts that the punkiness takes a back seat to a more heavy metal style. This might be a personal favourite for me. “Satan rise, bring forth your black curse!” Satanic lyrics, traditional, metal-as-hell guitars, and a thumping-solid drummer, all backing a ranting lunatic as a vocalist. I can’t find anything to dislike about this song.

 

“Woman of Flame” is like a metal love anthem, but don’t expect too much mushy sentiment here; admit it, if there was any, you’d be disappointed.

 

“Destroy Tsunami’s Power” (a CD bonus track) is a great way to finish the album, so it’s worth tracking down if you don’t get this format. It’s a fast-paced, aggressive song that pummels the other tracks into a bloody finish.

 

Punky; this album is pretty punky. The guitars are constantly raging with early thrash-style riffage. And the stops are all there at the right times, just when you need to slam your fist down. The band never overdoes it, and they keep the songs moving along smoothly.

 

While the music has a rough-and-tumble style, the production is fairly full, adding to the power. I think an overly ‘old-school’ sound would have been unnecessary; Midnight is not a simple throw-back band, after all; they just give a very heavy nod to the past.

 

No Mercy for Mayhem sounds like proto-black metal in pretty much every aspect. But since that type of metal is no longer as ‘full-on’ these days, Mayhem is free to use plenty of melody, and focus on rocking over thrashing; at least, to me it feels that way. This might be why their style seems fresh, even today.

 

It’s easy to see why Midnight has such a loyal group of fans, and those fans should immediately like No Mercy for Mayhem. In fact, the more I listen, the more I want. This is what extreme metal fans can put on when they want to rock out. It’s a furiously fun listen, wrapped in sardonic, filthy themes.

 

Genre: Black Metal/Black ‘n’ Roll

Release: August 19th, 2014

Label: Hells Headbangers Records

Links:

 

Gnosis of the Witch – Dauðr Burðr Þrysvar (Review)

Gnosis of the Witch – Dauðr Burðr Þrysvar (Review)

 

Gnosis of the Witch play their own brand of dark-magic black metal, and the music’s progressive in its ways. Dauðr Burðr Þrysvar feels unique amidst the swarm of black metal that’s been released so far this year, and there have been some strong contenders.

 

Each side of the MLP totals around 10 minutes, and contains 2 tracks. While not as satisfying as an album, there is enough solid metal here to warrant repeat listens, so it feels like excellent musical value.

 

There’s almost 4 minutes of ambience at the start of side A. It’s a vivid sort of chanting, with a repetitive tapping of a drum that steals your attention when you realise it’s there. While it does help create atmosphere, the disc only spins for around 20 minutes.

 

The clean guitar part at the start is unassuming and simplistic. It seems to wind its way into your head, driving in deeper, with the help of the 2nd guitar that soon begins. This melody’s used again later, over a much denser part, and it’s works brilliantly. When the heaviness begins, you will be whipped off into the midst of a demonic storm.

 

It’s the subtle weaving of blackness that helps make Gnosis of the Witch such an insidiously evil sounding band. The guitar parts arise and whorl in the night sky for a time, repeating their spells only enough to transfix your mind. This music is not obvious in its delivery; it doesn’t feel like the band is trying too hard to sound evil, and that’s a refreshing approach.

 

The vocals on Dauðr Burðr Þrysvar are goblin-like. They’re neither black metal screams, nor grunts, nor wails. They’re more like some hideously malformed creature or ,yes, a witch, venting frustrated evils into the darkness. They aren’t the type of sound that conjures images of a bestial brute, but something more subtle, threatening more than just violence.

 

The guitars are cutting and aggressive, but there’s warmth to them as well. Their parts are memorable, helping make this EP unique, and they create some classic black metal moments. The drums pummel out a furious cacophony and have a roughness to them, without being poorly played.

 

I like the way the recording has an openness to it; it has a sense of being in a large space. There is plenty of natural, raw sounding black metal out there, but that doesn’t mean it all has good atmosphere. This EP does, and I think an astounding job was done with the production.

 

There’s an almost psychedelic effect towards the end of the 2nd side, and it’s this moment when I think, “Fuck yes! I have to listen to this again — soon.” When the music takes a darker, doomier turn and moves towards the final minutes, there’s a nice sense of completion that creeps up until the end.

 

Gnosis of the Witch have made a timeless piece of darkly atmospheric black metal with Dauðr Burðr Þrysvar. After hearing it once, it’s difficult to resist listening again, and again, until the darkness engulfs you.

 

Genre: Black Metal

Release: August 1st, 2014

Label: Iron Bonehead Productions

Links:

  • www.facebook.com/GnosisOfTheWitch
  • www.ironbonehead.de
  • www.facebook.com/IronBoneheadProductions
Vinterbris – Solace (Review)

Vinterbris – Solace (Review)

 

Solace begins with a melodic acoustic introduction that’s soon accompanied by an electric guitar harmony. It’s simple, yet effective; that statement does, in some ways, describe this album. Vinterbris doesn’t waste time or effort with any superfluous additions to their music; instead, they let the chosen parts stand for themselves, and they stand fucking tall!

 

Venterbris participates a form of melodic/folk black metal that takes the earnest, sincere approach to the genre, helping to bury the waves of cheesy, beer-mug folk metal that have come before (not that there’s anything wrong with swilling beer). The music is direct, aggressive, and doesn’t hide its melody beneath manipulative sentimental dribble.

 

The vocals race the line that divides melodic death metal and black metal. They’re interesting to listen to because they aren’t repetitive, and they are distinctly personable.

 

The guitars generally have a thrashing quality; they cut through the speakers beautifully. The clean parts are majestic, and the distorted parts have some balls to them! They’re melodic and upbeat, but never seem in danger of turning into power metal or becoming sappy. There’s a place for those things, sure, but metal should be stoic and capable, rather than whining and regressive; and that’s why I enjoy this album so much.

 

The drums are solid-as-fuck; there’s no denying that they give the music much of its aggression. The parts are varied and powerful, but they don’t try to take over the music. This is an example of strong metal percussion, without the needless show-boating.

 

The sound is clean, right down to the drums, but the music doesn’t suffer for this decision (and this is coming from someone who gravitates more towards the ‘rustic’ sounding metal). You can clearly hear each instrument and the vocals, but the latter never overpowers the other parts. This is a tight, well executed production job, with a huge sound.

 

If you’re a fan of melodic metal with a hard edge, you should love Vinterbris’ new offering. It’s clear that Solace is a frost-giant of an album that demands to be heard, from the first track, through to the last.

 

Genre: Melodic/Folk Black Metal

Release: June 16th, 2014

Label: Nordavind Records

Links: 

 

 

Vinterbris

Mutilated Veterans – Necro Crust Warhead MLP (Review)

Mutilated Veterans – Necro Crust Warhead MLP (Review)

 

With Necro Crust Warhead, Mutilated Veterans have done a barbarous job of giving listeners precisely what the title suggests: death metal-esque, crusty, war-metal with zero fluff. Although this is a short release, being an MLP, there is enough good music here to warrant plenty of listens.

 

This is a straight forward, aggressive burst of d-beat, death-and-destruction. The songs are riff-based, and the drums are in a constant state of momentum. There is nothing subtle about this release.

 

The lyrical themes are pure death and carnage. The vocals are guttural and very much like those of death metal bands. I’m glad they are, because clearer, higher vocals might lack the same gruff, and wouldn’t suit the songs as nicely.

 

The guitars riff out punky chords that are catchy as hell. The bass has a whomping, distorted edge that bolsters the rest of the band. The music isn’t overly complex, and it is one-minded in its delivery; but that’s a good thing in this case.

 

The drums are only there to kill; they don’t compromise, with their constant pace, and they help keep heads banging from the start of the first track, to the end of the last.

 

In just under 14 minutes, the band manages to get in, crush your stereo, and get out, leaving heavy signs they were there. Fans of the aforementioned styles will want to get their hands on Mutilated Veterans’ Necro Crust Warhead and listen to it at high volume. My only issue is that I want more, so let’s hope their next release is full-length.

 

 

Genre: D-beat/Death Metal

Release: August 5th, 2014

Label: Hells Headbangers Records

Links: www.shop-hellsheadbangers.com

Krigsgrav – The Carrion Fields (Review)

Krigsgrav – The Carrion Fields (Review)

 

The theme of The Carrion Fields is the cycle of the natural seasons, and how they operate in parallel with the lives of all things on Earth. Each track represents one of these cycles, as well as the stages of human life. You only need look at the track list to see that this was the intent when the album was put together. From the relaxing, then tumultuous and yes, uplifting, beginning, listeners will feel a natural bond with the music of Krigsgrav. While the concept rests on the cycles of life, it’s also strongly focused on inevitable death.

 

“Akitu” (track 1) is short and peaceful, with clean guitar and the sounds of nature; flowing water and birds calling to one-another. The music becomes subtly more complex and builds into an abrupt ending, with a cymbal roll beckoning the next song.

 

The music maintains melody while conveying a sense of urgency, and can be at times chaotic. It’s not particularly depressive but, at times, is certainly forlorn. The emotions behind the songs are always delivered with might and purpose, complimented by the relatively clean production.

 

Apart from the short introductory track, “Akitu”, and the final track, “In the Waning Light We Bloom”, all the songs are around 9 minutes long, or more, allowing time for each of the ‘cycles’ to be fully realised.

 

“Words of Aeolus” (track 2) begins with a powerful melody; it has a rocking riff, with clean harmony over the top. This develops into a chaotic, folk-style blast, accompanied by raspy black metal vocals.

 

“Ghosts Among the Ashes” (track 4) sees the album growing darker, incorporating deeper growls along with the tortured screams. It’s a relatively slow-paced song, except for the galloping blast sections, and it has a reflective mood.

 

“Cold Wounds of Virtue” (track 5) is darker still than the previous songs, bringing a more traditional black metal feel at times, while keeping melodic. It moves towards the end with an expansive, clean tremolo over solid rhythm guitar, with thundering bass drums, and well-placed snare and cymbal hits on the upbeat.

 

“A Grand Desolation” (track 6), which is the final song before the short instrumental outro, briefly incorporates clear vocals that would seem out of place if they were used more often. Keeping with the overall concept of the album and the lyrical theme of this song, they are a fitting contrast to the harsher vocals used on the rest of The Carrion Fields.

 

Throughout the album, the dual guitar parts work together to create plenty of great harmonies, disharmonies, and counter-balance. They act as one whole, in the right ways, but can also be distinguished as separate entities. The distortion isn’t fuzzy, which doesn’t give the ‘wall-of-sound’ that is common with the style. It’s a refreshing production choice that allows the instruments to breath. It might, for some listeners, take from the overall ambience, but that would only matter if the parts were not so skillfully written and performed; however, as it is, they can stand on their own, musically.

 

The drums are cleanly recorded, without sounding artificial or overly produced. I like the timber of the cymbals, as they’re well articulated but not ‘sparkly’ or overbearing. There’s still a little rust on the sound, and that’s needed for this style.

 

Krigsgrav’s The Carrion Fields is a perfect example of nature-inspired metal that is aesthetically metallic, but still manages to suit the imagery of vast hillsides and the ancient ways of life and death. What listeners get is a prime example of excellent melodic, folky black metal that is not gimmicky or cheesy in the slightest, but inspires genuine emotions — like any good piece of art.

 

Genre: BlackMetal

Release: July 30th, 2014

Label: Naturmacht Productions

Links:

krigsgrav band logo image

Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner

 

Cross Vault – Spectres of Revocable Loss (Review)

Cross Vault – Spectres of Revocable Loss (Review)

 

Spectres of Revocable Loss is Cross Vault’s first album, but the two members behind it are far from new on the scene. What we have here are 5 mournful, heavy, rocking songs, ranging from around 6 to 8.5 minutes in length. Don’t expect anything but doom, because that is what these guys do — and very well! This is some fucking excellent trad doom.

 

The album has an odd sense of having been somewhere before. It’s like a pleasant memory from a long time ago; one that’s nice to remember, but it’s also depressing, because that time is now gone forever. And that’s the overall imagery of the music; it’s not of fearing an impending evil, but of forlornness and regret.

 

Spectres of Revocable Loss starts with the relatively lighter “Void of Old, Void to Come”, but the album doesn’t stay this way. It seems to grow darker as it nears “At Our Bleakest” (track 5), right before the final song that sets things to a finish.

 

“A Query in Chains” (track 2) is a heavy metal ballad, if there ever was one, but played with doom sensibilities. It begins calmly, with a folky, chamber music-like beginning, and then the distorted guitar sways across the sound. The melodies are pure power, and the trotting double bass drums at the end send the track home with might.

 

The last song, “Footprints” (track 6), has a colder feel, as though the composer intended to show their attempting to ‘move on’ from the expressed hopelessness of the previous tracks. This is a great ending because it gives a feeling of resolution, albeit not necessarily an upbeat one.

 

The vocals are performed with earnest emotion, capturing the best elements of the style. As a whole, the band melds well together, even with the always difficult-to-maintain tempo of the genre. The guitars interweave their parts seamlessly, like a single, four-armed god of doom is playing them. And the drums create an organic pulse, without sounding mechanical, nor sloppy — this is a worthy goal for any percussionist. Overall, the playing is brilliant, and I cannot find any faults.

 

The production is just rough enough to have an edge, but it still sounds full and pleasing. There’s a warmth to it, and a lot of lower-end; the highs are clear, but never piercing. Some might wish for a little more clarity, but (for me) that would destroy the warmth.

 

Cross Vault plays traditional doom that should bring a tear of joyful-sorrow to the eyes of long-time fans of the genre. That bands are keeping this music alive is encouraging in itself, but the fact that they’re doing so with such passion and ingenuity: it’s inspiring, and Spectres of Revocable Loss will show to be one of the top doom albums of 2014.

 

Genre: Doom

Release: June 6th, 2014

Label: Northern Silence Productions

Links:

 

 


Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner

Vardan – Enjoy of Deep Sadness (Review)

Vardan – Enjoy of Deep Sadness (Review)

 

If you enjoy basking in Vardan’s somber, trance-inducing style of DSBM, Enjoy of Deep Sadness is sure to please.

 

Vardan is a master of balancing precise amounts of sweetness and bitterness; and musicality with grim atmosphere. As the name of the album suggests, the music revolves around joy within sadness — together.

 

Compared to his last release, The Woods is My Coffin (check out the review here), the music here is slower and more apathetic. It’s more relaxing as a result, which might equate to less energy for some, but the album has a unique mood. Of course, fans of Vardan will enjoy the sparse energy.

 

Enjoy of Deep Sadness is more depressive than some earlier works. There is a darkness here; perhaps an old darkness, tired and frustrated. Something sinister winds through, threatening to reach up and strangle the signature sad-joy black metal. It’s bereft of hope and, consequently, a DSBM masterpiece.

 

The production on the album is full and pleasing, with a widely textured sound. Overall, that ever-grey, ice-cold atmosphere is there, but it seems more ‘real’, and it compliments each track ideally.

 

The vocals cry out around the instruments, rising and falling like wavering spirits that can’t escape the darkness; and they’re mixed excellently. The distorted guitar mixes with the clean guitar well. And the bass guitar — you can hear it clearly, as it sadly beats along beneath the guitars, working with the booming bass drum. The clean, crisp drums beat persistently throughout the 3 lengthy tracks, and help create a hypnotic mood, guaranteeing that the balance of enjoying deep sadness will not be broken.

 

“A Broken Existence” (track 1) is, mildly, more up-tempo than the rest of the album, and serves as a suiting introduction to the following songs.

 

The title song (track 2) drags along, shying away from even the light of the moon, realising its tortured existence for just a fleeting moment (although the song is almost 12 minutes long). This middle piece forms the center of what appears to be a gradual slowing down over the album, finalised by the next, and last, song.

 

The melodic play of the clean guitar on “An Abstract Voice” (track 3) subtly builds up the final moments. It’s not until the broken, semi-clear voice cries out that the coming end is clear. The sparse, strong progression that finalises the album ends abruptly, which was an interesting choice, and it does work.

 

Vardan’s Enjoy of Deep Sadness is like a sad dance; waltzing ghosts in the night that percieve nothing but their own hyptonic state; reenacting their movements until each dawn, dettached from the living world and forever trapped.

 

Genre: Black Metal (DSBM)

Release: August 5th, 2014

Label: Moribund Records

Links:

 


Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner

Infernal Curse – The End Upon Us (Review)

Infernal Curse – The End Upon Us (Review)

 

Infernal Curse has been busy creating some immense metal. As a followup to their Awakening of the Damned debut (2012), they have recently released this MLP through Iron Bonehead. The End Upon Us is an outstanding piece of doomy black/death, containing many of the best aspects of extreme metal, in a smaller format.

 

Unfortunately, this is not a full-length album, but an MLP, although it’s not so fleeting as to be a tease. Infernal Curse does condense a lot of great parts into nearly 20 minutes. Metal fans should still get their money’s worth, because it’s going to be on permanent rotation in a lot of play lists.

 

The End Upon Us starts with a slowly growing death metal dirge, as the volume gets louder, until it comes to a point and breaks into no-bullshit mayhem. The band tends to mix slower, half-time rhythms, with furious blasts. This is a staple of metal, and the band does it well enough that it sounds unique. They’re excellent at moving between tempos and moods without sounding ‘choppy’. Also, the riffs they play — hard as fuck.

 

“Waters of Phlegethon” (track 3) is an outstanding song. It begins: crushing, lurching forward with extreme doom in mind, followed by a bloody pummeling. The track and the way it’s recorded creates images of the flaming river for which it’s named.

 

The production is good, and there’s plenty of bottom-end, but it’s almost muddy at times, although ‘watery’ is a better description. The way the guitars and the vocals sound creates a murky kind of haze that can make it a little hard to pick out the individual parts. Of course, this stylistic decision makes a forboding atmosphere that works in the music’s favour.

 

Infernal Curse’s The End Upon Us isn’t in-your-face, adrenaline-charged metal that people listen to while jogging — this is horrific, nightmare-inspired black/death that looms over you and crushes your mind; a brilliant release and I think it will be one of the best this year.

 

 

infernal curse band promo picture 2

 

Genre: Black/Death Metal

Release: 16th May, 2014

Label: Iron Bonehead Productions

Links:


Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner

Subterranean Disposition – S/T (Review)

Subterranean Disposition – S/T (Review)

 

When an album contains an array of different elements, it’s hard to know what to make it as a whole. For listeners that like the less-is-more approach, too many unusual elements might spoil the music. But it’s important that you experience this excellent death/doom album as a whole before making a judgement.

 

Subterranean Disposition’s self titled is, in my opinion, essentially a progressive death/doom release. It contains plenty of variety and experimentation. There isn’t much ‘brutality’, but that was clearly not the band’s intention anyway. Is it heavy? There are some massive, rocking moments that make you slowly bang your head, so yes, it is – in the way that doom should be heavy.

 

When “Between Apes and Angels” (track 1) begins with simple, clean guitar notes, it’s hard to know what to expect. And then we hear screeching primates, a crash of percussion, and distorted guitar chords – but that doesn’t yet clear things up. Listeners are not quite going to know what lies ahead until they’ve heard the whole album. Fans of doom, death/doom, and anything progressive and unique, are encouraged to keep listening and find out what Subterranean Disposition is all about. The more you listen, the more you might find to enjoy.

 

The clean, enchanting-yet-eery female vocals on “Prolong this Agony” were unexpected. However, when they meet up with the deep, rasping male vocals, and the whole song takes off into a more traditional doom style, it all makes sense. Those female vocals do come back on other tracks, adding a  texture. I think people are either going to love this, or not love it.

 

“Wailing my Keen” (track 5) begins with what seems like an effort to confound listeners, who no doubt thought they knew what to expect by this point. It’s not a particularly odd song, but it’s different enough from the rest of the album to – almost – feel out of place. But,  the final 3rd of the track turns heavier, with a big, stomping riff, you once again see how this all fits together, and it’s a superb ending.

 

With an array of different influences in one album, who will Subterranean Disposition appeal to? It’s hard to guess at that; if you like progressive music that seems to go on a journey, you’re a little open-minded with your metal, and you enjoy solid doom riffs, you might love this album. If you like more straight-forward metal, with less experimentation, listen with an adventurous ear, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the end. I personally think this is an excellent debut full-length, and can’t wait to see what they do next.

 

The digital copy of this album is available as a pay-what-you-can (even zero) download, thanks to Hypnotic Dirge’s progressive-thinking, open-source policies. Check out the stream below and press download if want the album.

 

Genre: Death/Doom
Release: 27th October, 2012
Line-up:

  • Terry Vainoras – All music, male vocals
  • Pheobe Pinnock – Guest female vocals
  • D’arcy Molan – Guest saxaphone

Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records
Links:

 

Nunslaughter – Angelic Dread (Review)

Nunslaughter – Angelic Dread (Review)

 

For more information about the release of Nunslaughter - Angelic Dread, as well as their European July Tour, visit our other post.

 

When a well-respected band brings out a new album after 7 years with no full-length release, there are some obvious questions: do they still have what it takes? Have they changed? Is the new stuff going to be watered down, rehashed, or lame?

 

I have to admit I’ve been chaffing to get my greasy hands on Angelic Dread for a review. I’m an adamant fan of Nunslaughter, so I might be biased. However, my first thoughts when I sat down, prepared myself (ok, there was some giggling), and pressed play: ‘this is fucking amazing’. There was a sense of relief that loyal fans should share.

 

The new album contains 15 fresh tracks (disc 1), and 16 re-recorded songs (disc 2) that have, until now, only been available on  7″ vinyl. There are 31 tracks here, and they all blend well together. Most of them are under 3 minutes in duration; but you still get 1.5 hours of music with Angelic Dread.

 

If you’ve been keeping up with the band since their last album, Hex (2007, HHR), you’ll know that they have been making an ass-load of short releases. So,  what they sound like now is no surprise. We all know they still make some killer tracks. It’s not like they hung up their respective instruments and did nothing for 7 years. However, putting out a full-length album is another beast, and it takes a special type of maniac to spawn a double album of extreme metal.

 

Nunslaughter is still thrashing out devil metal that’d make your grandmother cry and deafen the baby Jesus. The band evidently hasn’t tried to change with trends. Angelic Dread is death metal the way they want to play it.

 

“Angelic Dread” (track 1) opens the album strongly, centering around a catchy, thrash-like riff and that familiar, rough-as-fuck Nunslaughter blasting. There are not going to be a ton of surprises after this. If you like the first track, I think you’ll love this album. If not, why the fuck are you reading this!?

 

As a consequence of having so many brief songs, they can eventually start to feel a little ‘samey’. Many bands would have blended handfuls of the short tracks into fewer, but longer, ones. That’s never been Nunslaughter’s style though, so that’s no surprise. Still, it would be fucking hard to name just a few tracks as my ‘favourites’. The album’s like a long, gnarled, twisting pathway down into the belly of hell itself – starting from up in the clouds, flipping off god, Jesus, and all the angels on the way.

 

The sound production is ideal; it’s organic-sounding, almost as though the band is playing in your garage, but there’s a definite polish thrown onto that garage-ness. Creating an album that is both rough and clean is certainly an art, and this album exemplifies those skills.
The lyrics still contain a mixture of anti-christian/religious songs, as well as horror themes. It honestly would have been disappointing if the band started writing deep, reflective songs about finding oneself, and the expansiveness of the universe. Sure, those themes are a mainstay in metal, but this is Nunslaughter! It’s brilliant that these guys have kept the band doing what it should do; let’s face it, if you want your band’s sound to change completely, you might as well just start a different project!

 

The songs on Angelic Dread aren’t as ‘catchy’ as much of Hex was, but that’s mostly a good thing. I don’t listen to Nunslaughter for mellifluous melodies; I want some ol’ crusty, punk-esque, thrashy, death metal.

 

You won’t find blistering, ultra-clean dual guitar solos, blazing harmoniously. You won’t find impossibly un-human, triggered drum parts. And there is certainly no clean singing. Nunslaughter has done their faithful fans a service by catering to them first, accepting newcomers as they arrive, and without pandering to anyone.

 

The band still has that unique blend of seriousness and tongue-in-cheek humour that fans have come to adore. They don’t make a mockery of the staples of death metal, but they never take themselves too seriously. This all equals a shit-load of good times when you listen to some Nunslaughter. A prime example of this, and one that raised a hearty chuckle, was the soundbit at the end of “Sickened by the Sight of Christ” (disc 2, track 12) where the song’s title gets very literal.

 

Does the band still have what it takes to be heavy? (short answer: yes). Firstly, they never played ‘brutal’ death metal. They play straight death metal, like it was a tradition (and essentially it is these days). Are they still as heavy as they always have been? Yes! If you get a kick out of their old stuff and it makes you bang your head, Angelic Dread should as well. You’d have to be one jaded bastard to avoid rocking out to this album, but I guess that’s what we metal heads are, deep down (and there’re probably some bunnies and shit beneath that).

 

Nunslaughter’s Angelic Dread was worth the wait, and fans of the band, and old-school death metal, should give it a listen.

 

nunslaughter angelic dread band promotional image

 

Genre: Death Metal

Release: 24th June, 2014

Line-up:

  • Zack “Massacre” Rose – Guitar, Bass
  • Don of the Dead – Vocals
  • Jim “Sadist” Teufel – Drums

Label: Hells Headbangers Records

Links:

 


Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner

Ranger – Shock Skull (Review)

Ranger – Shock Skull (Review)

 

If you’re a fan of their Knights of Darkness debut from 2013, you should know what kind of music to expect from Ranger. The songs on Shock Skull are more focused and, yes, a little less raw (but have not lost that essential edge). In fact, the band seemed intent on putting as much aggression and pace into these 2 tracks as possible. 

 

This 7″ EP contains some real fucking thrash metal, the way it wants to be played! It’s so refreshing to hear this type of metal coming back, after the whole ‘nu-thrash’ phase has come and gone (is that still in style? Maybe I’m too un-hip to give a shit). And who was the victor? The answer is real thrash! And Ranger is among those bands riding the wave made by the blood of the losers.

 

In saying this is ‘old-school’ thrash, it might seem that this EP is a throw-back that mimicks the past, but that’s not true. While Ranger does stay fairly faithful to its traditional roots, the sound is fresh enough to warrant tried-and-true fans to pick up this release. That freshness might be largely due to the newer sound production, and it’s also probably because Ranger has had the advantage of being able to learn from the triumphs of earlier bands.

 

The riffage is solid on Shock Skull, with blazing and well recorded guitars. You should have these parts stuck in your head after hearing them, if you have a soul (if you don’t have a soul, you should apply for work here!).

 

The vocals can go from deep and edgy to high pitched and soaring, in an instant. I have a feeling that this will only improve with time. He has the attitude and the chops that it takes to lead this massive kind of thrash metal sound.

 

The snare drum on this EP is massive, deep, and booming. It almost shows signs of overtaking the rest of the instruments, but definitely helps propell the music. The drums remain straight and rocking, tending to follow already known-to-be-effective conventions. You’ve probably heard similar playing before, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome.

 

One of the biggest drawbacks to listening to Shock Skull is that it’s too short. We can only hope that this 2-track EP is only a taste of what’s going to come; if I don’t see a full-length album for 2014, I will be morbidly disapointed.

 

It’s still early days for Ranger, and I look forward to hearing their next release — I know it’s going to be good! However, you should check out Shock Skull before that time. It will go nicely with any metal collection, especially if you’re pining for the days before metal genres suffered the prefix of ‘nu’.

 

 

Genre: Thrash Metal

Release: May 16th, 2014

Line-up:

  • Dimi Pontiac – Vocals, Bass
  • Jaako Hietakangas – Guitars
  • Mikael – Guitars
  • Miko Turhapuro – Drums

Label: Ektro

Links:

 

ranger band image

 


Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner

 

 

Woman is the Earth – This Place that Contains my Spirit (Review)

Woman is the Earth – This Place that Contains my Spirit (Review)

 

Tormented yet peaceful, though never at once; Woman is the Earth achieves each extreme with This Place that Contains my Spirit, their second full-length album.

 

Woman is the Earth is not brutal but, rather, is some other type of extreme heaviness; an expansive form of metal that slips the earthly chains of the genre and manages to create a special experience with each listen. The wailing guitar harmonies and pounding percussion do give metal fans a heavy listen, but it’s also more.

 

This album has a distinctive sense of push-and-pull; every so often, and in no way arbitrarily, the music goes flat-out, to eventually come to a rest, before everything  plummets back into a furious momentum and weight. It makes for a varied album, and one that’s best enjoyed as a whole. You probably can’t tune in halfway through a song and just sample the music for a few minutes, or you are likely to miss out on what makes Woman is the Earth such a great metal act.

 

The vocals sound huge; not angry or depressive, but not content either. The
natural-sounding drums beat throughout, underlining the other instruments and giving out a black metal pulse. The kit is played with a good sense of attitude but it never overrides any other part. The guitars are dense and harmonious; they create a rich texture over the percussion.

 

Every sound spawns inside the listener’s mind, as though it were never heard, but somehow came to be through another sense.  The way that Woman is the Earth has made this album so ‘authentic’ is impressive. It doesn’t merely sound rough or lo-fi, but natural and intrinsic to the genre.

 

If you do want to sample a single track, “This Place that Contains my Spirit” (track 1) is, appropriately, an indication of what you can expect from the album in its entirety. But don’t leave it there — get this album and listen to it repeatedly until your brain is able to catch up to the rest of your body.

 

“Sage Moon” (track 3) comes to a finish via a heightened sort of intense ambience, and this juxtaposes nicely with the cool, serene beginning of the next and last song, “Glow Beyond the Ridgeline”.

 

After the final song’s delicately balanced beginning, when the almost phychadelic guitar sound has played, the band hammers out their telltail form of black metal, raising the intensity once again for the end of This Place that Contains my Spirit. Halfway through the final track, the music is drawn down to purely atmospheric sounds, allowing listeners to sit and reflect on what they have heard. Ambient outros aren’t new, and can be tedious, but this is done tastefully, so that it’s easy to forget there was ever anything but the echoe of your thoughts and the nameless, faceless abyss of whatever those thoughts are.

 

To call Woman is the Earth’s This Place that Contains my Spirit ‘ambient black metal’ might do the band a disservice. Sure, that’s the best way to categorize them, but there’s a milieu of brilliant metal here with atmosphere and texture that make the album unique.

 

 

Genre: Black Metal

Release:

- Europe: April 21st, 2014
- North America: May 6th, 2014

Line-up:

- Jon Marin – Drums, Vocal Chants
- Andy Marin – Guitars, Bass, Floor Effects
- Jarrod Hattervig – Guitars, Vocals

Label: Eisenwald

Links:

www.womanistheearth.com
www.records.eisenton.de/album/this-place-that-contains-my-spirit

 

woman is the earth band image

 


Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner

 

Saor – Aura (Review)

Saor – Aura (Review)

 For more details about the Aura release, and news about the Roots re-release, visit our earlier post.

 

Saor means “free” in Scottish and Irish Gaelic.

 

“Free” is the one word that best describes Aura, the atmospheric, celtic/folk, black metal album from this one-man-band. While the album certainly is folky, it’s metal first, with folk styling blended into, rather than being tacked onto, the metal. Yes, it’s hard to pigeon-hole this band; however, it really isn’t that esoteric.

 

The spirit of the Scottish highlands seams to have been infused with Aura. I attribute much of that to the sparing use of tin whistle throughout the album. The traditional little instrument has a perfect timbre that makes you think of rolling green hills, caressed by dew from the chill of a night now day.

 

Aura posesses a natural, powerful, and symbolic feeling without ever straying away from metal aesthetics, or giving into gimicktry. The music isn’t angry, but there is certainly aggression behind it; a stoic kind of force that goes well with the imagery of its country of origin. Appropriately, some of the lyrics are derived from respected Scottish poems, while others are influenced by the culture and history of Scotland.

 

 

The traditional instruments are used effectively, but they don’t dominate the other instruments. Acoustic guitar sound is used sparingly throughout the album but always in conjunction with the heavier sounds, rather than steeling the spotlight or resorting to awkward ‘interludes’. Other traditional instruments used on the album include bagpipes, and bodhrán. It’s difficult to single them out from the rest of the music, but I think that’s why they work so well. There is nothing that jumps out in front of you to break the feel of the songs, and everything easily melds together.

 

The tin whistle plays the parts that would often be filled in by keyboards. As for the keys, which are fairly ubiquitous, they are ever in the background, adding depth, texture, and harmonies — like an enigmatic choir. They’re almost felt, rather than consciously heard, and you really have to stop and focus to notice them.

 

The harsh vocals are not traditionally black metal at all, opting for a gruff and deeper kind of yelling style; it works well on this album. They are blended into the mix beautifully.

 

“Children of the Mist” (track 1) starts with sounds of the wind and nature, with a low keyboard hum. After a short spoken part from a female voice, the music goes straight into the melodic metal that listeners can expect throughout the album. This is also where the flute begins the motif that is built upon throughout Aura, interacting with piano, as well as strings. Aura flows around this musical motif, conjured up throughout the tracks. It’s an uplifting and substantial, ballad-like, part that seems to embody the spirit of the music itself.

 

“The Awakening” (track 3) is cinematic, with flowing choir-like vocals. And it really does have the effect of a powerful, heartfelt scene in a movie. Now, what I’m describing has been done before, and often in a very ‘cheesy’ way. However, Saor has done something different, with earnest authenticity. I think metal fans looking for something containing sincere sentiment, which is not manipulative or trite, would enjoy this album.

 

I would not call this a concept album, and I could be wrong; but it is an album – as a whole — rather than a disparate collection of individual songs. And I love when artists respect the album as an entity: a whole piece of music that individual songs form, rather than a collection of short-focused, one-hit tracks. It gives the listener a sizable experience that they can delve into and savour, instead of something fleeting. And that’s exactly what Soar’s Aura is: a vivid expanse of melodic, celtic/folk metal.

 

 

Genre: Celtic/Folk Metal

Release: 6th June, 2014

Line-up: Andy Marshall – Everything but guest parts

Guest Musicians:

  • Austin Lunn Drums & Bodhrán
  • Johan Becker Strings
  • Nevena Krasteva Viola on “Fairwell”
  • Beth Frieden Gaelic female voice

Label: Northern Silence Productions

Links:

 

Inquisition – Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm (Review)

Inquisition – Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm (Review)

Inquisition has released another album since Ominious Doctrines of the Perpetual Mysitcal Macrocosm, titled Obscure Verses for the Multiverse (2013). However,Ominious Doctrines … just made such a lasting impression on me, so I decided to review it now; it’s better later than never (if you don’t like it, feel free to self-defenestrate).

 

The band plays occult-influenced black metal that easily fills a niche for people looking for something a little different; heavy but not pushing the fact too hard in an effort to sound evil.

 

Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm starts strongly, with no superfluous intro’s or buildups; it blasts you right into a head-banging state, using a momentous riff and blast and a more melodic answering phrase.

 

The songs have a great push-and-pull flow, going from speedy parts where the band just rocks out, to more weighted and spaced out parts (see track 3, “Desolate Funeral March” for an example of how to be heavy as hell in a minimalist way!) It doesn’t matter which part of which track you might skip to: the music will be suitable for head-banging.

 

The album, as a whole, seems to have a uniform feel. The songs don’t all sound the same, but in a (good) way, they do. They all clearly belong together and there is no one part that seems like it was tacked on to the release. If you don’t know what I am talking about (which is common) — go and listen to this brilliant piece of metal!

 

The outro in track 10, “Across The Abyss Ancient Horns Bray,” finishes off the album excellently. The change of vocal style to a more gutteral growl accentuates what I feel is a good summary line for the entire release. This part also works as a sister section to the melodic bridge from track 1, “Astral Path to Supreme Majesties”. The sudden stop of the final track, seemingly in mid-riff, pulls you out of the music in the same way that the opening cast you into it. There is no romancing here or long-winded atmospheric pieces. But this is black metal, after all!

 

The vocals are unique. They are not the usual screams, grunts, growls, or what-have-you. The best way to describe them: traditional black metal mixed with traditional throat-singing. It might throw first-time listeners, and those who are used to more mainstream vocals. However, they match the music and the lyrical themes so well that you will soon not want them any other way!

 

One of the things I love about this album is that Inquisition are not trying to prove how ‘true’ or ‘kvlt’ they are. They are not afraid to move away from the stereotypical tremelos and blasts from time-to-time, and just let the music breath. Of course, there are plenty of good, faster parts, but it doesn’t seem like they’re insecure about whether or not they’re metal enough. They just fucking are!

 

Genre: Black Metal

Release: 2011

Line-up:

  • Dagon – Vocals, Guitars, Lyrics
  • Incubus – Drums

Label: Hells Headbangers Records (official worldwide release)

Links:

 


Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner

Cultes Des Ghoules – Henbane (Review)

Cultes Des Ghoules – Henbane (Review)

 

If you want some raw black metal that isn’t generic — Henbane might be what you need.

 

The title, Henbane, refers to a plant that was popular in medieval times. It is known for its anesthetic properties, as well as its psychoactive … abilities. This made it popular in ‘magical potions’. I cannot think of a more fitting title. The music both numbs with its raw, ‘lo-fi’ sound and chant-like auditory sensations, and also warps the listener’s mind into another realm, plus it fucking rocks.

 

There are only 5 tracks here but you’re getting almost an hour of music. The first track, “Idylls of the Chosen Damned” starts with a storm, with witch-like laughter and the eerie sound of some dark portal and mammoth stones moving; then you are taken into a sole guitar, riffing unassumingly. When the rest of the band comes in, pounding ‘hits’ to the first guitar part: you are hooked.

 

“Vintage Black Magic” (track 3) has quickly become a daily listen for myself. It’s like I found a battered old vinyl in some forgotten cave in some abandoned countryside, and this song was on it: a mysterious spell used to summon the ancient ones. The use of organ is sparing and accentuates the other instruments. This is one of the tracks that takes a more artistic direction and rightfully distinguishes the band from other black metal acts.

 

The instruments are played with confidence but there is no show-boating. If you are looking for impossible guitar solos and inhuman drumming, you might be disappointed. If you want some fucking great music that is recorded without bullshit studio trickery — you should be more than satisfied.

 

The tracks are well recorded for an ‘authentic’ sound. But it never feels like you are listening to something that was recorded on a tape-player in someone’s garage. The music still seems raw, old — ancient. You can hear every instrument properly and they are well balanced. I think there is a fine but bold line between sounding raw and just sounding bad, but Henbane is one release that was laid down with a solid understanding of this platitude.

 

The vocals on Henbane are varied — very varied — and they range from more traditional black metal style, to spoken-word, to malevolent rasps, to growling, to demented cackling, and so on. It adds something new to the different parts, instead of making you feel like you’re listening to the same vocals over and over again. Sometimes it sounds like a cast-out preacher who is addressing his congregation of beasts and cultists.

 

I believe Cultes Des Ghouls’ Henbane one of the best black metal releases of 2013.

 

Genre: Black Metal

Release: 2013

Label: Hells Headbangers Records

Line-up:

- W. Earl – Drums
- Urian – Vocals
- Machine – Guitar
- Minski – Bass

Links:

www.facebook.com/CultesDesGhoules
www.hellsheadbangers.bandcamp.com/album/henbane
www.shop-hellsheadbangers.com


Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner

 

Teitanblood – Death (Review)

Teitanblood – Death (Review)

 

Death opens the way that the rest of album is carried out: with mayhemic death metal! There is no respite for the 5 minute duration of the opening track, “Anteinfierno”. It’s not until “Sleeping Throats of the Antichrist” (track 2) starts that the music slows for a while. However, this is fleeting and by the time this almost 13 minute giant of a song finishes, your brain should be thoroughly beaten into paste.

 

While some bands are trying their hardest to be brutal with convoluted break downs, blasts, and cleaner-than-thou production tricks, Teitanblood has gone to their instruments and figured out the best way to kill you; no trickery here.  There should really be a warning label on the album: ‘this will fuck you up’.

 

Continuously building to a point of release that’s never realised, this album mocks your sense of melody, leaving nothing but the decay of death metal in its purest form. I honestly think this is one of the most brutal albums I have heard for some time. It does not give in and there is no time for remorse.

 

The production is raw and massive in its execution. It creates a whirling blast of disaster. If your speakers are capable of withstanding, I suggest you turn the volume up and strap yourself down for a thrill ride.

 

The guitars mold together into a moving beast of metal, with excellent riffs bending beneath winding solo parts and no-fuss percussion assaults. The parts are ever-changing; the music does not settle, like flotsam in a dark ocean that is never allowed to rest. And if the parts of the music are this debris at sea, the water is the wall-like production that holds it all together and makes this entire album seem like one massive strike.

 

There is a display of skill here in making something complex seem simple. That’s why I think this great piece of death metal might pass over some listener’s heads, especially those used to overproduced stuff. Whoever decided death metal should be clean and tidy? I don’t know. For the fans of the chaotic and primal, and those already fans of Teitanblood – Death will blow your nose through the back of your skull and create a charming pattern on your chair.

 

Genre: Death metalteitanblood - band

Release: 13th May, 2014

Label: The Ajna Offensive

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teitanblood/188408344545369
http://www.theajnaoffensive.com/

 

 

 

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