Amon Amarth – Jomsviking (2016)

Amon Amarth - Jomsviking

Amon AmarthJomsviking (Metal Blade, 25 March 2016)

 

Well, it seems like this really turned into a week filled with black metal (or some form or variant of blackened-whatever), didn’t it? That wasn’t on purpose or anything, there just happened to be a few interesting things within that realm that I had wanted to share with you. But today we’ll be turning in a completely different direction: Viking metal!

(That was a little joke to piss off the Internet Metal Nerds, because the subject of whether Viking metal is really a thing, and if it is, how it should be classified, has been discussed endlessly, without ever really reaching a conclusion except for the fact that, as typified by bands like Enslaved and Bathory, it’s [somewhat] widely accepted as a subset of the black metal genre.)

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about at all — today’s topic is more along the lines of melodic/epic/anthemic metal. But I mean, look at that album cover (above)! Listen to the music (there will be previews near the end of the article)! Look at that photo of this band’s incredible stage setup from when I saw them a few years ago (below)! Despite their name (which means “Mount Doom,” a reference to the volcano from the Lord of the Rings books and movies), everything about Amon Amarth just screams “Viking metal”! What else would you call them?

In any case, this bunch of Swedes have a brand new album (their tenth) coming out tomorrow, so we’re going to take a look at that. Also, they’re coming back to the U.S. and Canada in about two weeks, marauding their way across the continent throughout April and May, so be sure to take a peek down at the comment section below where I’ll include the full list of those tour dates…

 

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Oak Pantheon – From a Whisper (2012)

Oak PantheonFrom a Whisper (Broken Limbs Recordings, 25 September 2012)

 

Winter can be pretty stressful at times: for someone who has to commute long distances on a daily basis, wondering how long traffic delays might be during inclement weather, whether the worst of a storm will come earlier than predicted before arriving safely at home, which steep hill that leads home is more likely to have been plowed or salted more recently; for someone who has to walk to and from the bus stop, afraid that hiding under that snow or on that poorly-lit section of sidewalk may be a treacherous patch of ice, that maybe it will be possible to maintain balance in the event of slipping or skidding, but if not, will the result just be a few bruises again, or something much worse this time?; and for someone who lives in an old house wherein everything seems to be falling apart all at once, where it seems that the scarcely-adequate amount of heat coughed out by the ancient furnace just goes straight through poorly insulated windows.

I imagine there are lots of folks out there who can relate to many of these concerns, or at least some variation of them. But we’re going to put all of that out of mind today, because we’re coming back from a weekend full of atypically mild weather — at least here in western Pennsylvania — and even at four o’clock this morning when I left for work it was lovely outside (relatively speaking), with a pleasant, warm-ish breeze. Anyway. Having said all of that, now perhaps we can look at some of the more positive aspects of winter. For example, if you don’t have to travel anywhere (and if you’re sufficiently bundled up), walking through the woods and seeing all the snow-covered trees can be sort of pretty. Also it’s generally an appropriate environment for listening to black metal, particularly of the atmospheric or pastoral varieties. Also… nah, that’s all I can think of, just those two things.

It just so happens there’s an excellent album full of exactly the right type of sounds for this time of year — one that came out a little over three years ago and I’ve been listening to it quite a bit (especially during the wintertime) since then, and that I’ve always meant to share with you people but somehow just never got to it yet. I suppose that, as they say, there’s no time like the present…

 

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The List of 2013 Year-End Lists

Photo Collage - 2013 Shows - by Mrs. Valley of Steel

Click for full-sized image

 

Hey folks — a very Happy (Belated) New Year to all of you! 2013 definitely turned out to be an interesting year for me, with lots of big changes, new projects, new responsibilities, etc., but an unfortunate side-effect of some of that was (as you’ve surely noticed) that the amount of time I’d been spending writing really tapered off as the year went on, to the point where I didn’t post
anything here for the last few months! Well, as you may have seen, I’ve started writing reviews of some new 2014 releases — and as time allows I promise I will also be sharing plenty of older stuff I’ve missed writing about, because believe me there has been a TON worth sharing!

But more on that later. As I started doing last year, I’ve once again put together a collection of various people’s “best of” lists from 2013. Admittedly I sort of got a late start on this (I didn’t even put out the open invitation until after most websites had already finished with publishing all their year-end stuff), but several people have answered the call and contributed some really interesting lists that you’ll want to check out…

 

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Happy (Belated) New Year!

Cheers!

* Happy National Day (for those who live on the island of Menorca)!

 

* Happy Feast Day of Saint Achilles the Confessor (for those who follow the Eastern Orthodox Church)!

 

* Happy Birthday to Benjamin Franklin “The Guy on the Hundred Dollar Bill,” James Earl Jones “The Voice of Darth Vader,” comedian Andy Kaufman, bassist Andy Rourke, boxer Muhammad Ali, actress Betty White, FLOTUS Michelle Obama, and singer Eartha Kitt!

 

* Let’s also commemorate the passing of music producer Don Kirshner, chess player Bobby Fisher, and former U.S. president Rutherford B. Hayes!

 
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If you can’t tell, I’m sort of reaching here, for any sort of a special occasion or commemoration to celebrate today. Since we’re now so long past the beginning of the year, I feel stupid saying “Happy New Year!” to you. But 2013 is still relatively new (and the majority of it is still yet to come), so I guess it really doesn’t hurt to still wish you a happy one.
 
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The Huge List of 2012 Year-End Lists!

Well, friends, here we find ourselves in the waning moments of 2012. It’s been an interesting, eventful year that’s had lots of high and low points — a ton of excellent new music has been released and quite a few brand-new bands have emerged that I’d fully expect to be making some serious waves in the near future.

One of the best things about 2012, for me personally, was that I found myself (and my wife) going to lots more shows than in recent years, and as a result I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of new people — as well as starting to take a way more active role in the local music scene.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I had a suggestion from one of those people I’ve gotten to know in the past year (I won’t say who — he said he preferred not to be given credit for the idea, although I will say that it’s somebody who contributed to this). The idea was to collect top-ten lists from various folks in the Pittsburgh metal community.

So I put out an open invitation for any musicians or other people who are involved in the scene in some way — I was looking for anything, whether it was the traditional “Top Ten Albums” or something totally off-the-wall like someone’s ten favorite sandwiches they ate during the year. Really, the only rules were that it had to be a list, and involve something from 2012.

 
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Borracho – Plunge/Return 10″ Single Now Available

borracho-plunge-return

 

BorrachoPlunge/Return 10″ Single (Strange Magic Records, 27 November 2012)

 
So over the course of the past year or so, you’ve been following along with everything I’ve written, including all the mentions of Washingtonian heavy fuzz-rock band Borracho, right?

Including when I named their album Splitting Sky as one of my Top 11 of 2011 over at No Clean Singing? (Which reminds me, I promised to send them another list this year, so I guess I should start thinking about that, huh?)

Presumably, on my recommendation, you went straight out and bought a copy of that album. Now, if you got the CD or the digital download (including the download that comes free with the vinyl LP), then you are lucky enough to have the full album including the massive epic final track “Plunge/Return”.

However, if you do have that vinyl edition, you probably noticed that it’s about eleven and a half minutes shorter than the digital formats — because that last song just didn’t fit. And even though you have listened to the version you downloaded, the purist in you wishes that you had all of the album’s tracks on vinyl, right?

Well finally, your prayers have been answered.

 
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Upcoming Shows: Orwell to Embark on a West Coast Tour

 
Hey readers! Here’s information about yet another tour that I’d like to share with you. Once again, this isn’t coming anywhere near my neighborhood, but the message I got from Orwell referred to visiting some foreign lands for the first time (this will be the Wisconsinians’ first trip to several of these western locales) and they politely asked for these details to be shared — which I am more than happy to do.

Any of you who live on the other side of the Mississippi, you need to check out the dates listed below. If, like me, you don’t happen to live near any of the scheduled stops for the band’s tour, you should still keep reading anyhow, because I’m also going to tell you how to grab a copy of their album A View of Heaven from a Seat in Hell totally free!

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Out Last Month: Ne Obliviscaris – Portal of I

 

Ne ObliviscarisPortal of I (11 June 2012, Code666 Records)

 
How’s it going, Dear Readers? I’ve got another amazing album I would like to share with you. I’ve been so fortunate with how much good stuff I’ve been coming across lately, I only wish that I had more time to write about it all so that you could have the chance to read about it and listen to it sooner! I guess what I’m saying is, it makes me feel guilty that my brain and fingers don’t work quite as fast as my ears sometimes…

Anyway, here we have Portal of I, the (relatively) new album by the Melburnian sextet Ne Obliviscaris. I usually have a pretty good memory when it comes to my history with specific bands, but to be honest I have no idea where or when I discovered these guys. Chances are, I probably read something about them over at No Clean Singing, or possibly at The Number of the Blog, since I’ve made an awful lot of discoveries through both of those places.

Oh and by the way, for all you former TNOTB readers who have been grieving since that website was lost in cyberspace, I hope you’ve started reading Oculus Infernus, the new home of head editor and writer Grover XIII. In case you haven’t seen it yet, the new blog can be found here. (And while we’re at it, No Clean Singing is over here.)

As I was saying, sometime, somehow I came across this group of Aussies, and I found them intriguing enough to “like” them on Facebook. Fast-forward to this May, when the band invited all their fans to “International Ne Obliviscaris Sharing Day” — when they planned to reveal an advance single from their then-forthcoming new album. I wrote about that impromptu holiday, and then shared the song (“Xenoflux”). Based on previous experience I had expected it would be good, but as it turns out, it was amazing!

To make a long story short, soon after that, the album was released in Australia and New Zealand on Welkin Records, a small, independent label run by one of the band members; right around the same time it was announced that Ne Obliviscaris had signed on with Italy’s Code666 Records for the rest of the world. This made perfect sense to me, since I’ve always found that Code666 tends to work with very good — and very unique — bands. So then the album was available all over the world, and about a month later, it’s finally time for me to share this masterpiece with you.

 

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Free Music Alert: Azoic – Gateways

 

AzoicGateways (Self-released, 20 June 2012)

 
Hello readers! Since it’s been 90-whatever degrees here in Pittsburgh lately, and I’ve been sweating my ass off, sometimes it’s nice to think about people who live in other parts of the world, where it isn’t so infernally hot and humid this time of year. Now I’ll admit, I don’t really know that much about the climate in Iceland, but c’mon! They’ve got “ice” in their name! Even just thinking about that makes me feel better.

I don’t know what the weather is like wherever you are right now, Dear Reader, but in any case, wouldn’t your week start out a lot better if you had some new, FREE music to listen to?

Yeah, I thought so. I can help you out with that.

 
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A short while ago, I was contacted by a nice Icelandic gentleman, who kindly pointed me in the direction of the band Azoic. Right around the same time, our friend Ben who maintains the Church of the Riff blog also contacted me, mentioning that I should check out this great band. If that wasn’t already enough, right after that I discovered that Phro, who writes short fiction on his own blog PhroMetal, had written about this same band in a guest post over on No Clean Singing!

Well with that many endorsements, I became really curious and had to check these guys out for myself. I’m glad I did, and I think you will be too. Late last month they announced that they were releasing the album to be freely downloadable, so keep on reading and I’ll tell you where to get it.

 
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Get ’em While They’re Hot: Free Downloads from Klonosphere and A389 Records!

Free music! Always a good thing, right?
 

The French label/promoter Klonosphere recently announced an 18-track sampler of their associated bands that you can download for free!

The bands include: Trepalium, Hypno5e, Memories of a Dead Man, Jenx, Pictured, Hyperdump, The Mistaken Sons of Alabama, Jumping Jack, Wild, Weaksaw, Nojia, Step in Fluid, Nephalokia, Dwail, Klone, Nami, Noein, and The Brutal Deceiver.

The comp is available right here (a direct link to the RAR file), but before you jump right in, click here for a much better write-up that the good folks at No Clean Singing have put together — including sound samples, links to reviews or profiles of some of the bands, as well as links to websites or Facebook pages of ALL the bands! (Because they apparently have more free time than I do, or something.)

Klonosphere: website, Facebook

 
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And what’s better than free music? MORE free music!!
 

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