Mini-Review Roundup: Ur Draugr/Haar, Abnabak, Ortega, and more

Oct. 7, 2016


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1 Haar / Ur Draugr Split See Details for Haar / Ur Draugr Split

Scotland's avant-garde BM band Haar and Australia's masters of extreme progressive, Ur Draugr, have banded together via ATMF to bring us a new split.  I'll be honest and say that I have never been much for Haar, but I will give them credit for one thing: when it comes to black metal's mission to leave one feeling emotionally drained these guys are pretty unmatched.  Alll it takes is a few minutes and their bleak, soul-sucking compositions always leave me in a "why bother" kind of mood.  Ur Draugr's contirubution here is a 20 minute track that continues the band's reign as one of the leading progressive black metal acts; perfectly balancing the harsh and grim with the technical and complex.  Check it out today.

2 Triumph of Death See Details for Triumph of Death

Another split, this time more your standard black metal a la Norway...except by way of Morocco in this case.  Abnabak and Mormânt de Snagov play with both classics and their own compositions on Triumph of Death, promoting (in their words), "hate" and "intolerance" with a sound that is "cold as death."  Each band gets 3 tracks and they both chose to dedicate one to a cover;  MdS went with Mayhem's "Deathcrush" while Abnabak, true to their dreary nature, go with the moodier "Empire of Suffering" by Sargeist.  This last one is one of my favorites on this split and certainly the most melodic.  This is the perfect album for you corpsepaint-wearing kvltists out there.  I am certain Dead would have listened to this.  Stream the Abnabak side below.

3 Sacred States See Details for Sacred States

Doom/sludge metal band Ortega of The Netherlands have been around since 2007, but Sacred States is their first album since 2010.  Featuring guest contributions by Gnaw Their Tongues’ Maurice de Jong and Primitive Man’s Ethan Lee McCarthy, it should come as no surprise that the results are extremely heavy.   Opening track, "Strong Eye" is a powerhouse filled with repetitious-yet-infectious guitar chords and psychodelic wah pedal reminiscent of Cult of Luna or more straightforward moments from Neurosis.  Those who heard the debut from smaller band (and one of my favorite sludge groups) Wovoka may hear parallels as well.  Catastrophic tidal waves of distortion.  "Descending Ladders" also features a more ominous sluggishness a la Indian with some off-kilter, jazzy drumming to boot.  ELM's guest vocals make this one extremely brutal.  The album is out today, so stream it below.

4 A Frozen Flame Of Ice See Details for A Frozen Flame Of Ice

Far Beyond was founded 2001 by Eugen Dodenhoeft (also of Euphoreon).  Based out of Germany, this project embodies a number of different styles and genres from epic folk and viking metal al la later Bathory to melodic death metal.  A frame of reference for the gloominess may also be Katatonia.  While this release is inconsistent to my ears, occasionally getting a little too mellow, the highlights are fantastic.  The opening suite, "Evernight - Part 1," is simply stunning.  Over the course of almost 12 minutes we are treated to several very different movements of synthy electronics, melodic hooks, and powerful vocals.  This last element generally comes in the form of soothing baritone, but at key moments will erupt into growls.  I am definitely hearing some connections to Neurotech at times.  "Last Farewell" also has some fantastic riffs and the "Fly! Fly!" parts are emotionally gripping.  Great stuff.  Looking forward to seeing how Eugen develops and tightens this project up over time.