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EMBODYMENT "The Narrow Scope of Things" (Solid State)

After a couple of listens to this CD and in comparison to their previous album I must say I don't like what I hear. EMBODYMENT have had a complete style change, from their death sound to what is on this disc. The songs are a cross between bands like TOOL and PANTERA, though it is painful to listen to too much of this so maybe I am wrong. I think you get the picture. The heavier bits are quite predictable and I find them boring, with not enough movement. Maybe I'm not in the right frame of mind. The slower and normally sung sections remind me of heavy indie bands. There are some nice hooks on here and I could imagine liking this if I were in slow mood but at the moment I'm not. The packaging makes an attempt to be different with blotting type paper instead of glossy stuff, the pictures and layout very American and domestic. It seems like these guys have also 'sold out' lyrically, they thank God in the credits but it is hard to see their beliefs in what they are singing. Maybe they don't want to preach but if you love Christ what can be more important than Him? This might grow on you if you listen enough, it's not bad, but I for one won't be giving it any more time in my CD player.

Drink the blood of the Lamb

EXTOL "Undeceived" (Endtime Productions)

Next up is the second full length from EXTOL, 'Undeceived'. These Norwegians have finally come of musical age, playing a mixture of fast, brutal death and hyper black with mid paced softer parts and slower and quieter moments thrown in to break up the attack. They coat this all with a thick layer of melody and warm melancholy. The album takes a while to get your head around as the songs are long and there is so much going on. Slower sections are similar to the controlled 'groove' moments of MORBID ANGEL, while faster sections will batter your brain to a vegetative pulp. The pace changes are as usual breathtaking, the playing impeccable, as well as the production. These guys must ache for days after a gig, the drummer especially. Strings and clean singing are also used sparingly to enhance the mood. The screamed vocals are pretty intense, reminding me of John Tardy / OBITUARY in terms of the vomiting feel they have, though they change in pitch more. Lyrically EXTOL are not at all ashamed of their beliefs, spelling them out clearly and maturely, something I respect a lot. If you already know EXTOL you should not really need to be told to get this album, it is EXTOL at their best so far. For those of you who don't yet know EXTOL then this is your chance to see what you're missing out on.

Life through His blood

LENGSEL "Solace" (Endtime Productions)

Mix the arrangement style of ARCTURUS, the keyboard melodies of GEHENNA, the clean vocals of ULVER, the chaotic nature of ABIGOR and the cutting Viking riffs of ENSLAVED and you get a rough idea of what LENGSEL sound like. This is pure and unforgiving fast black metal from Norway. If you want your spirit lifted don't bother listening to this, it will not make you warm or cheerful... LENGSEL means 'to yearn or hope for' and it seems as though they have found little Solace. This is their first full length and from the pics they still look pretty young. Don't be deceived though, musically they are easily as capable as any of the aforementioned acts, being mature beyond their age The songs are pretty complicated and have lots of different elements and parts to keep the attention there. My favourite bit is in the fourth track 'Hours' where it descends into a chaos section of screams, sound effects and cries. After my fourth or fifth listen I am just starting to recognise some of the parts suggesting that this will take a while to get my head around, meaning it will have a long life. The lyrics are pretty obscure and introspective with it being hard to figure out what their beliefs are, a fact the band recognise themselves. I'm pretty sure they are followers of Christ though so whether this is a good or bad thing is up to you! Whatever, get this album for some top class music, you'll have to wait a while before I even think about lending you my copy!

Drink and be filled

CRIMSON THORN "Dissection" (Little Rose Productions)

CRIMSON THORN play heavy and brutal death / grind akin to a slower Deicide and "Scrolls..." Mortification. The majority of the vocals are a deep guttural growl, with a splattering of the higher pitched stuff every now and then. The pace changes enough to keep your interest, from blast beats to slow grind parts, with everything in between. The production is good studio quality, with enough bass end to blow any feeble speakers. Melody is forsaken for brutality, something refreshing in this day and age. The CD conjures memories of the mid nineties, where it may well be from as it is a re-release by Little Rose. Lyrics are as uncompromising as the rest of the approach, very biblically based. Don't know if these guys are still going, but apparently they have another mini CD which is better than this one. Something else for my shopping list...

Purify your conscience

VIRGIN BLACK "Sombre Romantic" (self release)

This is the third release from this classy and unusual band from down under, as well as an appearance on a compilation a few years ago. This is their first full length and the band seem to incorporate more and more different elements into their sound with each release. Imagine a mummified Phantom of the Opera being given a lesson in the art of heavy music and then left to think over his sad life in a locked and deserted dusty theatre. We follow him through different emotions and are carried along with his feelings of regret and pain. This is melancholy and spooky goth / doom with a classical, brooding atmosphere. The title, Sombre Romantic gives a good indication of what these people powerfully portray. The first track is an intro with choirs, operatic vocals, string instruments and a soundtrack feel, the first few chants reminding me of Cold Meat Industry’s Raison D’Ítre’s insane monks. By track two the guitars and drums kick in, giving a forlorn backdrop to the ‘Omen’ type music they are blended with. The rest of the album continues to combine these classical and dark heavy elements, mixing choirs and operatic vocals with whispers and screams to leave the listener feeling contemplative, serious and sad. Yet amongst all the gloom and reality of our failure and pain in this world their is a ray of hope shining through some of the lyrics. “As tears again bedew my cheek, to your knees I cling, Oh merciful one show me your glory.” This is deep and soothing mourning music, exploring sadness that leads to release and peace in Christ. The packaging and layout matches the mood of the music though I’m not too sure about the photo’s! Available from the band themselves for $15 US p&p included. http://listen.to/virginblack

Only the purest blood

SLECHTVALK "Falconry" (Fear Dark)

This is a one man project from Holland giving us 45 minutes of mostly fast and melodic black metal, incorporating keyboards and talking to help fill out the sound. The vocals remind me vaguely of Immortal with the spoken sections being reminiscent of Bal Saggoth. On the first few listens this is certainly good in terms of song structure and production but musically nothing too adventurous. I’m guessing that a drum machine is used which may be giving me negative vibes but it’s very hard to tell, (apologies if I’m wrong!) It doesn’t really make any difference anyway, there are plenty of blast beats and double bass work to keep us happy. The familiar fuzzy Nordic guitar sound is present and some of the riffs are beginning to stick in my head already - I think this could grow on me! The lyrics are straightforward – proclaiming the truth of God and lies of satan. It also seems like the guys come from a pretty heavy background and is dealing with some of his past through his music, which is cool, it shows God’s power in action. I don’t really know what else to say. I think you should know what to expect: a good solid black metal slab with no hidden surprises that will grow on you in time. This is the guys first release (that I know of anyway), so keeping that in mind it is excellent. A few more ideas and darker passages on the next CD and I will be smiling until the return of Christ! http://fear-dark.com