Limited to a short run of 62 CD-R copies, Frozen Ocean presents us with their 2009 EP titled: “Steamworks: Hibernation”. With a behemoth 30+ minutes song, this release is a good stepping stone into understanding the band’s evolution and how Vaarwel’s skills have been changing over time. With a constant stream of releases Frozen Ocean is one of the most active bands we have heard of, so it is nice to hear a bit more from their musical origins.
Immediately starting with some droning percussions, the album has that unsettling vibe with a martial touch to it. The atmosphere is quite heavy and tense as it slowly builds up. The ritualistic percussions are quite interesting and give it a different vibe to what we have heard in the past from Frozen Ocean. As the song mellows out around the 20th minute, some of the tension gets released and we can finally move over from the edge of our seat.
Having released over 10 releases in the last two and a half years, the creativity keeps flowing for Russian’s one-man band Frozen Ocean. In this split with Petrychor, another excellent one-man project from the States, we get three powerful tracks of highly Atmospheric Black Metal that will surely make you want to find more material from each band and start enjoying their excellently crafted music.
Opening with Petrychor’s “Tomorrow It Will Rain Over Bouville”, Tad Piecka treats us to a 133-minute piece of brilliant crafting that is both highly emotional and very powerful. Starting with a lush and slow intro section, the song quickly builds up to very melodic and straightforward Black Metal with a very dreamy atmospheric backdrop. The sharp vocals are excellent and provide an excellent contrast to the very mellow and melancholic feeling of the music. This track is anything but predictable and some of the acoustic/post-rockish passages are perfectly blended into the harsher and more brutal sections.
Featuring two very interesting and intense one-man Atmospheric Black Metal bands, today we have the split release between Spectral Lore (Greece) and Mare Cognitum (USA) titled “Sol”. Out on I, Voidhanger Records, this powerful release features one very long track from each band, and a rather peculiar dual-composition song that mixes both of their atmospheric strengths in a very hypnotic song.
Mare Cognitum does the honor of opening with a 29-minute epic titled “Sol Ouroboros”. This track nicely flows from the atmospheric intro into some very fast-paced and intense Black Metal sections. With all instruments, vocals, etc., handled by Jacob Buczarski, this band delivers quite an intricate dosage of moody BM that weaves back and forth between blistering speeds and atmospheric magic. There are some odd drone/noise-like sections here and there, only adding to the overall listening experience of this fine piece.
Rounding up Astarium’s promo package, today we have “Wyrm of Melancholy”, the band’s 2012 full-length release originally self-released and then released by Metallic Media, which is the version we are reviewing. In this 55-minute epic, we get to hear SiN fully develop a full-length release that is quite cohesive and very effective. Having only reviewed short EP’s from the band, it is quite clear now that Astarium has more than enough depth to keep somebody engaged for almost an hour with this release.
Instead of taking the traditional instrumental intro, “Unrelieved Solitude” opens up with some very creepy whispers and screams accompanied by distorted guitars. The atmospheric synths are again overpowering and very nicely set a creepy vibe. Having more ‘time limit’ freedom, the songs in this release are slower to develop, but always having very interesting and melancholic passages, like on “Kingdom of White Madness” and the minimalistic instrumental “Voices from the Night Sky”.
The highly atmospheric Astarium strikes again with their 2011 EP titled “Ostracism of Anachoret”. In this bone chilling release this one-man band continues with their highly creepy and theatrical music and delivers 4 very solid tracks filled with eerie atmospheres and sorrowful shrieks. Having been released and re-released multiple times since 2011, we are writing this review based on the Hexenreich Records highly limited edition that we got in the mail.
Opening with the lush “Birth of the Flame”, the band sets a very creepy Dracula-esque mood with excellent orchestrations and a tense development. The guitars finally appear on “Recantation by Death”, a track that keeps the same atmosphere but delivers some very solid riffs and shrieks. The drums are clearly programmed, but they don’t sound as fake as many one-man releases, and they nicely set the pace for the track.
Arriving from Russia, today we have a very solid split release between Gmork, Astarium and In Tenebriz. All of the bands here are Russian, and they play different variations of Atmospheric Black Metal. With almost four songs each on this release, we get a very good glimpse about each band’s style and their unique features. If you are a person looking for new bands to like, this is the perfect release to get an impression of three talented groups.
Gmork opens up the release with four Russian titled tracks so we avoid the embarrassment of writing their names here, and will just refer to the by number. The first song opens with some cool spoken (in Russian) section and it slowly moves into atmospheric territory with some cool synths and very simple and effective guitars. Howling winds open the second track as it starts revealing its very regal and medieval-esque atmospheric elements. The harsh vocals make their appearance and provide a decent combination of growls and more BM-esque screams. Our favorite track from this band is their last song on the split, allowing them to show a very unified and diverse style. Combining melancholic guitars with tight drums and very enjoyable atmospheric elements, the band left a very good impression on us.
Delivering a very impressive debut self-titled album, Lychgate combines highly atmospheric music with brutal Black Metal in a very crushing and terrifying way. Featuring tracks form the band’s ‘dormant’ years, this release carves out perfectly songs that are both chilling and very harsh. With over 37 minutes of music, this release is by far one of the best we have reviewed this year when it comes to Atmospheric Black Metal.
Hailing from the UK, the band warms up with “The Inception”, an dense and creepy mood setting intro. When the first track, “Resentment” arrives, the dramatic keyboards/organs create a very bleak and commanding atmosphere, but it is ultimately the riffing that completes the band’s awesome wall of sound. Having elements of bands like Way to End and Nidingr, the band’s sound is hellish and very well constructed.
Making its way from Finland, today we have Riverland and their self-titled debut release. Featuring a very soothing and relaxing combination of Progressive / Alternative Rock with some Folk elements, this duo delivers seven excellent tracks. Heavily focusing in creating lush atmospheres, Riverland manages to craft a very unique and well balanced debut.
Immediately creating a ‘feel good’ mood with the lush opener “Hope in The Air”, we can hear the band’s pop to folk influences in the span of the first minute. Miko Heino’s vocals are quite well suited for the music’s relaxing nature. “Help!” starts more in a folk-ish fashion with some cool beats and a very atmospheric vibe. On “Sounds” we can easily hear how they can perfectly fit the scene of a coffee house on a rainy afternoon. The band’s sound is quite direct and simple, perfectly fitting atmospheric concept of the album.
Finally, after seven years of waiting, Summoning returns with their seventh full-length record “Old Mornings Dawn”. This legendary two-person operation has been a major inspiration for tons of one or two-man projects that crate Epic/Atmospheric Black Metal music. Being huge fans of the band, we had been waiting for this release for quite a while, but we are a bit disappointed since the band’s sound now feels very outdated by current musical standards.
Since the opener “Evernight”, the band delivers their signature atmospheric brilliance and trademark harsh screams. However, the music feels like it was made using a computer from 10 years ago. Today’s standards have bands using software that can produce high-quality orchestrations in a matter of a few clicks and Summoning still sounds like a MIDI band. This is quite disappointing for us since their creativity is excellent, but seems like technology has surpassed their music making skills.