Utumno – The Light of Day (Cenotaph Records, 1991/1992)
Ooh, sprechen sie sexy. Utumno is best remembered for their 1993 EP “Across the Horizon,” but their 1991 EP with two of those tracks in rawer, rougher versions shows a young band full of piss and vinegar. ‘Saviour Reborn’ rips into you with a rusty guitar tone, lots of stop-and-go passages and even some dramatic keyboards towards the end of the track for an eerie finish. The second track, ‘In Misery I Dwell,’ is more aggressive, with some truly hellish vocals occasionally layered up for a demonic feel. Utumno might be generally lost beneath the shadows of early Swedish death metal titans like Entombed, Unleashed, Grave, Dismember and so forth, but Utumno hold their own with an excellent, raw EP. I lucked out and found the second pressing with much-improved artwork.
Death Mask – Split the Atom (Retrothrash Records, 1986 / 2009)
The artwork to “Split the Atom” is an excellent example of something that’ll just give you a fucking headache to look at for more than a minute. The fuck is that supposed to even be? On their 1986 debut and only album for over Death Mask give you an album of speed/thrash metal with definite appreciation for Motörhead. Distinctive for its particularly shrieky vocals peppered with falsetto, “Split the Atom” has its share of rocking cuts like ‘Hell Rider’ and ‘Lust for Fire,’ and the rawer bonus tracks of unknown origins (seriously there’s nothing in the fucking booklet) have some right rippers like ‘Living Obscenity.’ Then again, we also have some more painful numbers like the repetitive tough-guy ‘Walk Alone,’ but overall there’s enough to keep things going. While “Split the Atom” isn’t exactly brimming with creativity nor does it have a particularly good execution, it’s fun in its absurdity; just don’t expect something that ranks in the upper echelons of American thrash.
Dark Funeral – Where Shadows Forever Reign (Century Media, 2016)
Swedish black metal veterans Dark Funeral finally return with their sixth full length album, and bring with them a slight reinvention of their sound – or perhaps regression is a better term. After the red-devil trilogy sent them into a spiral of self-parody, Dark Funeral took a step back and looked to hearken back to their early days, evident in the album cover that’s a clear shout out to their debut “The Secrets of the Black Arts.” Still lyrically spouting random Satanic silliness but more musically dynamic than anything since “Diabolis Interium,” “Where Shadows Forever Reign” is sure to garner Dark Funeral a bit more interest than they’ve seen in the recent past. There are some memorable tracks here, like the great opener ‘Unchain My Soul,’ and ‘To Carve Another Wound’ is one of Dark Funeral’s best tracks in a long time – a mid-paced song with almost tribal drumming that accentuates its ritualistic nature well. Dark Funeral have righted their course to a degree and while “Where Shadows Forever Reign” doesn’t entirely shake off the shackles of the bands past limitations, it has some legitimately cool moments.
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