Quorthon (Bathory) would’ve been 46 years old by now

I forgot to post this news yesterday because of some sudden problems I had to face. Yesterday  was an important day for every infatuated metalhead all over the globe (at least the true ones, surely not those used with commercial shit but with true metal).

The mastermind behind one of the most important metal projects ever, Bathory would’ve celebrated his 48th year since birth if he wouldn’t have died back in 2004 because of a heart failure. But who was Quorthon? A definite and justified answer has not been brought up even today. Quorthon, supposedly named Thomas Forsberg, was born on February 17, 1966 in Stockholm, Sweden.

He entered in the metal realm around the age of 16 when he composed and recorded two songs which were part of a split album between various artists and bands. He came up with two songs entitled Sacrifice and The Return Of Darkness And Evil, songs that would attract a lot of attention back in 1984 when it was released and available. Quorthon in his early years played a hybrid black metal, movement began by the British NWOBHM band Venom with their 1982 record Black Metal. However, what Quorthon did until the beginning of the 1990s was way more astonishing. If there is a personality credited for shaping the black metal we know today, discarding the speed and thrash metal elements present, then Quorthon is that person.

From 1984 until 1989 Quorthon released 4 important black metal records which will inspired countless second wave black metal bands. Bathory (1984), marked the beginning of his musical project, The Return… (1985) is even today considered the mark of true evil in the history of black metal, no other record could match the maliciousness present in this gem and finally, the most outstanding work that defined and shaped black metal, Under The Sign Of The Black Mark (1987). Blood Fire Death was later released in 1988 but this record featured hints of a style change, which will happen in 1990 with the release of Hammerheart soon followed by Twilight Of The Gods in 1991, two of the most important viking metal albums, genre that has been created by Quorthon himself. So we have the shaping of a genre and the creation of another one, but was this all that Quorthon did? Not at all, he even played thrash metal in albums such as Requiem (1994) and Octagon (1995). Then again he turned back to the viking metal roots releasing what was supposed to be the 5th Bathory record, Blood on Ice (1996). Destroyer of Worlds (2001) blended all three genres in one record while Nordland I (2002) and Nordland II (2003) were the beginning of a saga composed of 4 ports, saga that he would not live to continue.

As side projects, when he claimed that he would put Bathory to rest after Twilight Of The Gods, he founded a solo project, named after his own nickname, in which he played a combination between alternative rock/metal and early grunge. He released under that name 2 albums, Album (1994) and Purity of Essence (1997) after placing it to rest for good. He even contributed in Jennie Tebler‘s new formed band with instrumental, for the single Silverwing released only in 2005, after his death (Jennie Tebler’s band played gothic metal).

Quorthon did not only contribute with various albums which shaped and created genres, he had an important impact on Norway’s culture. With his lyrics featured in albums like Hammerheart, Twilight Of The Gods or Blood on Ice, he managed to attract attention towards the viking civilizations, action which resulted with an important interest in this respective culture. Many people were attracted by the tales foretold by Quorthon in his own albums and the rate of tourists grew in Norway in the mid to late 90s and it still grows even today. Bathory was not only an inspiration for black metal bands but also for future viking metal bands, though the genre itself has kinda disappeared with the death of its own creator.

All in all, while people mourn the oh so tragic death of Whitney Houston, which technically was a suicide, I mean, how stupid can you be to swallow pills while knowing that you drank alcohol, come on peeps, I am not at my first experience with alcohol so I know, pills won’t do any good while you can’t even speak properly because of how much alcohol you’ve consumed. This man revolutionized one of the most loved and one of the most important music genre, and he cannot even get a bit of appreciation for that? This world is pretty unfair, too bad Quorthon loved it and left to us, the ungrateful bastards, a priceless legacy.

 

Quorthon, May Valhalla open its doors and welcome you with a Pounding Hammerheart!

Illnath – Third Act In The Theatre Of Madness (2011) Album Review

It has been almost half a decade since Illnath released a new album, heck, how so much time has passed? Illnath in my youth used to be a band that I would gladly pick up their record to listen to it, and of course, enjoying it. It is not the typical black metal that you would find in Mayhem records, Gorgoroth records or Darkthrone records, but rather something that you would find in a Cradle of Filth record, Dimmu Borgir record and why not, a Naglfar record. So in other words, a more melodic approach of the black metal genre, with symphonic and gothic metal elements, and with this new record, we could even label them as death metal. Half a decade of inactivity might’ve put the band into a sensitive position. Like it or not, a period of inactivity could affect a band, and could put it out of shape for good but not all the time. For some bands, it could mark an explosion of creativity and also, it can turn out to be the key that lead them to success.

Illnath has been a band with few moments of glory. Other than this new record they delighted us with 2 more, Cast Into Fields Of Evil Pleasure released back in 2003 and Second Skin of Harlequin released in 2006. Both of them were intended to be parts of a trilogy. As a side note, they released 2 more demos (one at the beginning of their career and the other one in the middle of their inactivity period) and 2 EPs, Angelic Voices Calling released in 2001 (probably the best record they’ve ever done) and Lead The Way in 2011. So as you can see, not too much to brag about, and certainly not some records that would attract attention based on their names. Illnath is a band that has a special place though in the underground black metal scene. Think about it, they originated from Denmark which is the homeland of King Diamond and his early black metal project, Mercyful Fate (though labeling Mercyful Fate as black metal is way too much, since this band rather played a traditional style of heavy metal throughout all of their albums). But, of course, the place where the band members were born is not that important.

What does Illnath want to show us through this new record after 5 years of complete silence? Let me tell you, a different approach of black metal, this time, with a different playing style, featuring Peter Falk distancing himself from his old playing style. In their early records, the band made use of harsh male vocals but now, we can see that they try a different approach by incorporating a rather interesting singer Mona Beck. Peter Falk is the only original member remaining, the rest of the band was completely replaced. Heck, the drummer and the vocalist were even hired in the same year this record was released. I said that Mona Beck is a rather interesting choice, but why is that? Surely, seeing a woman as vocalist for a rather extreme metal band is a rarity. Of course, we have good old Sabina Classen (from Germany’s pioneer thrash metal band Holy Moses) or Angela Gossow (everybody should know her as Arch Enemy‘s frontwoman) and why not Alissa White-Gluz (from the melodic death metal band The Agonist). The first one is a legendary name, the other two are some rising prodigies, but Mona Beck? Rather a new comer in the metal realm. Or maybe not, but of course, I kept searching for information about her and I could not find a record history about her previous activity before joining Illnath so I suppose that either this is her first encounter with the metal realm or her most important project.

Like I said, their style now became hard to define. In the early days the black metal characteristics were evident, even now they can be recognized, but they somehow blended with other influences such as a traditional approach towards heavy metal, death metal defined especially by the way the vocalist sings, not entirely specific for a black metal band and some gothic metal elements as well. The symphonic metal elements are still there even from the beginning of this album in the first songThird Act.Peter Falk’s guitar playing became a little bit self-indulgent, presenting mostly classical shred in every track on this album.

The lyrical themes in this album, in my opinion, feature a lack of creativity. Like the previous albums, this one was intended to be a part of a trilogy (supposedly the end of the trilogy), however, certain lyrics such as “Lean back, enjoy the third act of Illnath!” kinda makes you think if the band took the job seriously or they were just messing around with the whole concept situation in this album. To be honest, I would’ve preferred it either way, be it a concept album (a very hard thing to do for every band) or a random one (the classical choice, the easiest one as well) but whatever choice they would’ve made, a sense of responsibility and seriousness should accompany that decision as well. From time to time, Peter fills our ears with pleasure giving us some pretty nice and well thought guitar solos, enough to make you forget the whole issue with the lyrics.

Mona Beck’s voice is not entirely out of common, even though we speak about a woman doing vocals for a supposed black metal band. Her style of singing is very similar with Angela Gossow’s or Alissa White Gluz style of singing, but with little differences as well. Mona Beck’s voice is much more clearer, a commendable thing in a way, but in another way, the album turns a little bit monotonous after several tracks, mainly because of her constant and never-changing vocal performance. If I am not mistaken she even does some clean vocals but they are rare and rather discarded, in other words unmemorable.

Talking about every track, one by one will be a pain in the ass, since the performance in this album is similar in every track, with very few changes that are worth mentioning. A good thing would’ve been to shorten the length of this album. For almost 50 minutes, this album is way too boring and forgettable. The focus in this album are the down picked guitars, groove elements and some melodic death metal performances that from time to time might seem a pleasure to the ears but the same formula is being used in almost every track. In tracks such as the 4th one Snake Of Eden even gets you tired. If I were to recommend some songs from this new Illanth’s Third Act In The Theatre Of Madness, I’d go with the introductory one, Third Act, Lead The Way, Tree Of Life And Death and lastly Vampiria.

Don’t think that I did this review out of hatred towards this new record or towards Illnath. As an overall, I do like Third Act In The Theatre Of Madness, but I could not discard the holes which are evident in this record. Illnath might’ve chose to approach this record differently and I believe that in one way they succeeded and on the other way, they failed. I hope that next time I won’t have to wait for another half a decade in order to listen such a half disappointing record. One might think that 5 years were more than enough to record a new album, and that album should be something out of ordinary, but in Illnath’s case, it really isn’t, it’s like time has stopped for them. I can’t help but miss Peter Falk’s old guitar work but I believe in Mona Beck’s potential as a vocalist, she has the skills necessary to pull out a good performance, maybe a little more attention to the lyrical content and everything would be just fine. There might be some problems with some shitty fan made comparisons between Mona Beck and the old Illnath vocalist Narrenschiff, if you’re curious about my opinion regarding this opinion conflict and why I gave such a high rating for this album (considered by other totally inferior) let me tell you this, Narrenschiff has left the band, his vocal performace might’ve been good, but we speak about two different vocalists here, two different people who weren’t born from the some mother unfortunately, either you stomach it or just stop listening to this band, because technically speaking, Mona Beck is not inferior, she just has her own original vocals, is it such a band thing to live in a world of diversity you fucking communists? I do like Narrenschiff for his former vocal works, but they guy stepped out of the band, so he is history, take it or leave it. Time won’t stop for this band because of fans that can’t think out of their own box for once, which brings shame to a band like Illnath that does not produce bad records.

A picture with the band members, from left to right Peter Falk (guitar, keyboards), Mona Beck (vocals) and Kenneth Frandsen (bass)

Overall Impression: 70/100

Trail Of Tears – Bloodstained Endurance (2009) Album Review

When I think about Trail Of Tears in their early days, an album name comes to my mind, an album that shocked me with how much potential this band had back then, the name of that album A New Dimension Of Might, an album that managed to break into mainstream and to lead the band towards a successful career. Things went well, until an unfortunate event happened. A failed world tour, huge debts an album that could not convince the masses and thus failed at selling and the worst of all things Ronny Thorsen, one of the original members was abandoned by his mates. At that time, after hearing this unfortunate string of events, I said to myself that Trail Of Tears would need a miracle in order to reclaim their already lost glory. Much to my surprise was that, Ronny Thorsen was not willing to give up, thus hiring new musicians and not any kind, diverse musicians that activated in bands with different playing style than the one Trail Of Tears has been playing. Cato Jansen and Endre Moe activated and still activates in a death metal band called Cutthroat and an industrial metal project named Dimension F3H (Cato Jansen also is part of several black/death/thrash bands).

I think the best achievement of this band is the recruitment of a new female singer, Cathrine Paulsen (she is the one that did the vocal part in A New Dimension of Might), and what a hell of a singer. Her soprano vocals which could be witnessed on the 2007 record Existentia are upgraded in Bloodstained Endurance. Who would’ve thought that a classical music singer would venture into the realm of metal. Her voice is an enchanting one, she can adjust it in order to fit the mood of every kind of songs, be it aggressive ones, emotional ones or a combination between both.

At the beginning of the new Trail Of Tears era, I was having doubts about their future performances and records. For every band, an event such as a conflict with the record house, or a change of record houses and not to mention, a complete change of members are stuff that could cause unrepairable traumas for any band but it could be the beginning of an even better band. In Trail Of Tears case, the second thing happened, the new line-up did not brought more conflicts but rather a sense of security and stability. After the line-up was formed and a bit of time passed so that the band members could come to know each other, they started to write new songs for their upcoming albums. Existentia was more on the symphonic metal side, featuring a good deal of neoclassical influences, violin layers and the usage of orchestras. Bloodstained Endurance, although it did not completely abandoned the classical influences, switched to a much more extreme side of metal, exploring a combination between symphonic gothic metal and the harshness of black metal. While listening this record you could feel mightiness, power and a much more consistent record than its predecessor.

The songs are rather short, none of them going over the 5 minutes length, maintaining a time length between 3 minutes and 4 mintues. The album begins with a song that depicts a march of determination The Feverish Alliance and descends into one of the hardest pieces of this album and also one of the most melodic songs, featuring in the beginning an impressive guitar solo, Once Kissed By A Serpent (Twice Bitten By Truth). This song mostly features harsh focals from Ronny Thorsen while Cathrine’s performance is reduced to a minimum. Wise choice, considering that the fast tempo and the harshness present in this song mostly fits Thorsen’s way of singing. Bloodstained Endurance the self-titled track of this album is the only one that feature violin layers and probably one of the best duet performances between the two singers.

In The Valley Of Ashes is probably the hardest track on this record featuring both power elements and melodic influences as well. A Storm At Will is the expression of sadness and emotion in this album, a very slow-paced song at the beginning which towards the end picks it’s pace featuring Cathrine giving her best performance in this album. I have to admit that her voice fits perfectly with songs that are a bit slower. A thing that I like about her is that her vocal performance is hard to compare with another gothic or symphonic metal performer. Her voice is not so high pitched like Tarja’s and also not that sweet and mellow like Sharon den Adel’s. Take Aim. Reclaim. Prevail reminds me of the old Tristania days when Morten Veland was still in the band.

Before finishing this review I cannot mention the best song of this album, The Desperation Corridors. This song features once again a duet between Thorsen and Cathrine but what attracts the attention is Cathrine’s performance which shines in this song more than in the other ones, it is probably the only harsh song where I could appreciate her voice the most. The album ends with Faith Comes Knocking, a rather interesting choice for a closure song, centered around one groovy riff from which the song develops, it features doom metal influences and another splendid combination between Cathrine’s clean vocals and Thorsen’s harsh performance.

The question that may haunt every Trail of Tears fan is if this album could be considered better than it’s predecessors? Good question. While this album might be much more dynamic and consistent than Existentia, I think that it is a sort of equal with A New Dimension of Might. Rather than completely changing style alongside with the new line-up, I believe that the effort deployed in order to produce this new record was well thought since a change in style might’ve been way too risky, considering the fact that the band went through some hardships few years ago because of some mild experiments. This, as years pass might become a classic of its genre, and why not, probably the most critically acclaimed Trail Of Tears album, but for now, I think it fights on par with A New Dimension of Might.

Overall Impression: 94/100