Just Browsing: Peaceville Records By Russell Garwood In the latest instalment of our Just Browsing series of features - rapid-fire reviews for your perusal - are the recent offerings of stalwart British independents Peaceville Records. Formed in 1987, the label has the sticking power of an accident in a glue factory, moving on from early tape releases to be the home– at times – of luminaries such as My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Anathema and Opeth. A recent series of re-releases of major albums from the last two decades has cemented the label’s links to extreme metal, and provided re-mastered versions of many otherwise long-sold-out, seminal LPs. Behemoth - Thelema.6 Peaceville Records – CDVILED190 – 16 July 2007 We would like to see most of the human race killed off, because it is unworthy. It is unworthy of the gift of life. So begins Thelema.6, the fifth album from Poland’s Behemoth. They’ve always been cheerful guys, haven’t they? This re-release shows the band at the tail end of their transition from black to a (sometimes blackened) death band; there are still elements of the earlier sound, yet for the most part this is a complex, well-performed death metal release, which isn’t afraid to push a few boundaries. Aided by decent production - after the samey feel of the first few listens wears off - this turns out to be a (comparatively) varied and solid album, with enough subtleties to keep everything interesting. The re-release features four bonus tracks, including a cover of David Bowie’s ’Hello Space Boy’. While the Poles are known for their unusual and innovative covers, this one takes it all a step further, and proves a very welcome addition. If you’re after DM with impact, unrelenting pace, and complexity look no further, and if you’re wanting to fill out your Behemoth back catalogue, here’s a good place to start. Official Behemoth website Official Peaceville website Behemoth - Zos Kia Cultus Peaceville Records – CDVILED192 – 13 August 2007 ...And here is the sixth album from Nergal & Co, taking the direction shown in Thelema.6 to its logical next step. The music again is closer to DM than it is to black, cementing the trio’s new direction and identity. Sharp riffs, hyperspeed solos, precise drumming, harsh but decipherable vocals and punchy bass leaves the strongest link to Behemoth’s past the lyrics’ anti-Christian sentiment. There is a strong dose of melody in most of the songs, which – combined with well used rhythm work – can even make for (gasp) catchy moments. There’s more variety than on the band’s previous work, with changes in pace, further good use of samples, and industrial leanings. Also present are the eastern phrases which have become more prominent in the Poles’ music. As before the production is very clear indeed, helping make for a more accessible release. Yet this is still an aggressive and entertaining battering, just like a night with a spanking paddle and clown costume. Ok, I made that last bit up, never done that, but I have listened to Zos Kia Cultus, and can recommend the experience. Official Behemoth website Official Peaceville website Carpathian Forest – Black Shining Leather Peaceville Records - CDVILED192 – 16 July 2007 Next we’re over to Norway and the esteemed (and seemingly slightly disturbed) Carpathian Forest. This, the band’s debut, is far removed from their recent works, and was subject to much less criticism than their modern sound has been. The release does, however, hint at their future black ‘n roll direction, with occasional nods to both this and punk, but retains the more organic and traditional feel of their early ‘90s demos. A heavy Bathory influence is unmistakeable in the atmospheric, raw black metal, which proves similar in tone to bands such as early Burzum and Darkthrone. The production – while by no means clear - is cleaner than many of the band’s contemporaries, while keyboards are low key and kept in check throughout, behind the melodic guitars, and guttural screeches. Large sections are given over to atmospherics: usually low key ambient sounds and occasional samples. There’s nothing new on display here (other than a BM cover of ’A Forest’ by The Cure, which is a tad unusual), but this is unsurprising considering Black Shining Leather is pushing a decade in age. If you like your metal blacker than the chambers of a dead nun’s heart then look no further. Oh, and on a side note, I’m visiting my parents for the weekend, and my mother informs me that the vocalist “sounds like he’s dying an evil death”, the atmosphere is “contrived”. Next week you get to hear what the pet snake says about brutal death metal... Official Carpathian Forest website Official Peaceville website Carpathian Forest – Strange Old Brew Peaceville Records - CDVILED191 – 13 August 2007 Strange old brew is the band’s second release, and with track titles such as House Of The Whipcord[sic] and a their very own version of the theme from Nektromantik, it’s become increasingly clear that Carpathian Forest like their exploitation classics. A sign of good character if ever I saw one, and entirely fitting with their lyrics. Add to this the saxophone on the former cut and you’ve got yourself one seedy motherfucker of a track. Further, this addition reflects some of the unusual elements which have crept their way into the otherwise traditionally orientated black metal that the Norwegian quartet spews forth. Despite such tentative steps into experimentation, the thrust (haha, I said thrust. What? It’s late… of the album comes from the black metal on display – raw, nasty and generally malodorous concoction focussing on the filthy and grimy side of life. It proves thrashier than their debut, but still has a hint of rock on occasion. For listeners that prefer an experimental edge, if you’re going to like any CP, this (or the next) is the release to try. Fans of traditional black metal will leave a listening session satiated (haha, I said Session. I mean. Oh crap), but are likely to find more rewarding pickings elsewhere if they are new to the band. Surprisingly interesting stuff. Official Carpathian Forest website Official Peaceville website Carpathian Forest – Morbid Fascination Of Death Peaceville Records - CDVILED194 – 17 September 2007 And on we move to the re-release of CF’s third outing, the subtly titled Morbid Fascination Of Death. This was met with a luke-warm reaction upon its release six years back, perhaps because people were dubious about the increasingly experimental nature of the music. The black metal is still very present in most tracks, but an increasing proportion of the songs are atmospheric outings with piano, seedy saxophone, and a dark atmosphere. Occasional growls over this more low-key backing keep everything extreme and make for an unusual combination. Such interludes aside, the BM is more of the same from the bands’ previous works, but with a greater variation in pace, and there is still a dingy, dank feel permeating the proceedings. MFOD documents Carpathian Forest at an interesting time in their development - perhaps it is not the best start for fans of traditional black metal, but those who are interested by nasty experimentation will probably enjoy it. Official Carpathian Forest website Official Peaceville website Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Peaceville Records – CDVILED201X – 29 October 2007 Any self-respecting doom fan – wait scratch that – any self-respecting metal fan should own this one already. The seminal Epicus Doomicus Metallicus originally surfaced in 1986, and set both the template and the bar for many releases to come. Superb, monolithic riffing, soaring clean vocals, and a tight rhythm section combine to create well-crafted song after well crafted song. What are you waiting for? Go get it! So if you got this far, I’m hoping you already have the album. But why should you buy this reissue, I hear you say, if you have the original. Well, that’s your call – also included is a bonus live CD (the same as the 2002 Powerline reissue), which documents the band at a 1988 Birmingham show. The sound is good, and the performances solid, worth checking out for the low price of this CD if you’re a fan of the band. EDM has aged very well indeed, and with any luck this re-release will introduce it to a new generation of fans. Official Candlemass Forest website Official Peaceville website Candlemass - Nightfall Peaceville Records – CDVILED202X – 29 October 2007 Nightfall, the sophomore album from Candlemass, is exactly what you would expect based on the band’s debut. Another collection of very strong doom songs grace this disc, epic in both scope and delivery - all are slow, but make excellent use of tempo change, while numerous quieter interludes which keep everything varied. The measured advance of each song is driven by huge guitar leads and unremarkable but solid singing from Messiah Marcolin. These are underpinned by strong bass, and forceful drums, every element perfectly in place to create memorable pieces, with a theatrical bombast to each. As with the band’s debut, if you’re a doom fan this is essential, but many metalheads are likely to find something they will like in Nightfall. The second disc on the release is again the same as the Powerline reissue, with demo and live tracks, studio outtakes, an interview and a video, making this the perfect time to buy the album if you don’t already own it. Classic stuff. Official Candlemass Forest website Official Peaceville website Dark Sanctuary – De Lumière Et D'obscurité Peaceville Records – CDVILED196 – 15 October 2007 Dark Sanctuary hail from France, and – in contradistinction to the bands reviewed thus far – have a low profile in the metal scene. This is due in no small part to the fact that they play atmospheric neoclassical. Their 2000 album De Lumière Et D'obscurité showcases this very well indeed, providing thirteen tracks of minimalistic ambience. The relaxed atmospheres are built through slowly developing songs, comprising ethereal female vocals (courtesy of Marquise Ermia, who left the band shortly after this release), violin, keys, and other orchestrations, while bass, guitar and percussion also make occasional appearances. Strong composition and a range of influences from Classical and Baroque to modern acts such as Dead Can Dance (the last track is a cover of ‘Summoning Of The Muse’) keep everything interesting, but to me the most enjoyable aspect of this release is the tranquil atmosphere. It is worth mentioning as a negative, however, that someone seems to have totally checked out when it comes to the artwork, with the digipak inlays being just duplications of the last two booklet pages. Official Dark Sanctuary website Official Peaceville website Diabolical Masquerade – Ravendusk In My Heart Peaceville Records – CDVILED159 – 24 September 2007 Having been fond of the exploits of Blakkheim (Anders Nyström of Katatonia fame) in Diabolical Masquerade for quite a while, it’s great to see his albums get the Peaceville low-price reissue treatment. All four albums – of which this is the first – are to be remastered and released as digipak editions, some with new additions. Ravendusk In My Heart has no such bonuses, but sounds great, the clear production letting the boundary-pushing, experimental and atmospheric black metal shine from beneath. Lots of changes in pace and dynamics, quiet refrains and influences from a variety of genres, as well as moments of blasting metal goodness make for an enthralling listen. The multifaceted sound is, however, united by a dark atmosphere which is found throughout the ever changing songs. Despite such diversity this is the most straight-out black metal release from Anders’ singular project, so is the best bet for fans who like their BM traditional. It will also be welcomed, however, by those who like it as experimental as a night with a cucumber, a mouse, a copy of the 1975 Ford Elite Repair and Servicing Book and a tub of jam, as hints of the project’s later experimentation are definitely present. Official Diabolical Masquerade website Official Peaceville website Diabolical Masquerade – The Phantom Lodge Peaceville Records – CDVILED160 – 29 October 2007 Sophomore outing for Blakkheim continues in a similar vein to his debut, but adds a slightly more melodic and symphonic edge. Again it presents less experimentation than later works, being for the most part relatively normal atmospheric BM, but this is densely layered and has a lot going on, while the melodious nature of many of the songs make it fairly accessible early on, allowing the subtleties to reveal themselves later. Quieter refrains include medieval passages, and a shedload of spooky atmospherics, contrasting the music’s heavier moments with style. There is a lot of variation in pace as well as dynamics, and everything here creates an interesting mix, which – like its predecessor – is likely to have enough to please traditional black metal, but is ultimately best suited to those who like their boundaries and perceptions pushed, albeit in a raw and less polished manner than later releases. Official Diabolical Masquerade website Official Peaceville website Diabolical Masquerade – Nightwork Peaceville Records – CDVILED161 – 29 January 2007 Nightwork is the third, and penultimate DM album, upon which Mr Nyström really started to explore the limitations of a metal sound, with influences from not only a number of metal genres, but also many other styles, spanning classical to folk, and to more contemporary sounds. Each track – despite sounding like something a kid with ADD on acid might have come up with – remains cohesive, and well-written. As with previous releases the atmosphere is eerie, and production crystal clear, highlighting tight performances all round, and coping with the multiple and frequent dynamic contrasts. Complex song structures, ever-changing time sigs and tempos, and a superfluity of memorable tunes create an absorbing and rewarding album, which stands up to many listens. Highly recommended to any fans of the more unusual/avant-garde side of extreme music. Official Diabolical Masquerade website Official Peaceville website Next installment – more Diabolical Masquerade, Katatonia’s early releases, Keep Of Kalessin, Mayhem, and October Tide.