Sloppy Seconds Vol 9: Winning in Winnipeg

When you’re sent on a business trip to Winnipeg, let me tell you there isn’t a hell of a lot to do there after the work day (good call, Price is Right dude). Other than, of course, browse some record shops, and I will say this about Winnipeg: I was legitimately surprised at the good, diverse selection they had for all things metal. So let’s go, starting with…

Adhuk – Rituals of Personal Universe (CD, 2013, Black Plague Records / Metallic Media)
The seeds of this Polish band apparent date back to the late nineties, when the two core members played under the name Algor, but it seems “Rituals of Personal Universe” is the first recorded material to surface. I actually skipped over this one when I first saw it, but after checking it out overnight, I decided to go back to pick it up. A nice, thick guitar tone sets the stage for black metal with hints of cosmic imagery, and this solid sound is one of the album’s finest assets. You’re not going to find anything groundbreaking here, but it’s a solid listen.

Blood Storm – Pestilence from the Dragonstar (CD, 1999, Soul Sold Music)
You like black metal? Of course you do. You like thrash? You damn well better. Mixing the two can result in some intense output, and to that point we have Blood Storm’s sophomore release “Pestilence from the Dragonstar.” This relentless kick to the nuts will tickle anyone that worships wild-ass, unhinged shit like early Deströyer 666, but also loves homage to the extreme metal forebears with a strong Bathory feel and cuts like the celtically frosted ‘Successor to the Plague Gods.’ I kinda wish the vocals were a bit lower in the mix to give the instruments a bit more room, but with riffs for days and an assortment of occult and mythological references, what more could you want in an album? Get this and try not to sustain a neck injury.

Celebratum – Mirrored Revelation (CD, 2001, Arctic Music Group)
Celebratum’s “Mirrored Revelation” suffers from having an incredibly generic cover and logo to the point that it practically looks like it was made especially for the bargain bin, even though it features the badass statue “The Angel of Death Victorious” from Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery, morosely holding its torch upside-down to signify the extinction of life. Fortunately, the musical contents are better. Formed in Norway the late nineties, Celebratum’s 2001 debut “Mirrored Revelation” doesn’t stray far from the established core of Scandinavian black metal. There’s no shortage of blasting here, and it could at times be reminiscent of Dark Funeral’s first album, but there’s a bit more variety in the tempo (as if that’s hard). Vocals are fairly standard fare for the style, a good if somewhat unremarkable performance. So while this isn’t going to blast apart anyone’s preconceived notions of black metal, it’s a decent album that delivers exactly what you came to it for.

Christ Agony – Elysium (CD, 1999, Metal Mind Productions)
I read some pretty poor reviews for this album, especially when compared to their earlier albums of pure black metal like “Unholyunion” and “Daemoonseth – Act II,” one reviewer even going as far as calling “Elysium” as Christ Agony’s “Octagon.” Ouch. Now admittedly, this might not be Christ Agony’s most inspired material, but I wouldn’t go quite as far as comparing it to one of the most notoriously reviled albums in extreme metal. The musicianship in “Elysium” is top notch, and it’s got some catchy tunes that are more traditionally inspired with some gothic overtones, perhaps aligning it closer to Rotting Christ’s direction on “A Dead Poem” through “Khronos.” The weak point is undoubtedly the vocals, which often eschew the traditional black metal shriek in favour of a hoarse shout. It’s not a terribly flattering style, and on a couple of songs it falls completely flat. There’s no question in my mind that I’d reach for any of Christ Agony’s first three or four before this one, but there’s enough substance in “Elysium” to make it worth a listen.

Clair Cassis – Luxury Absolute (CD, 2011, Khrysanthoney)
A fairly limited release of only 150 copies on the now-defunct label Khrysanthoney, Velvet Cacoon’s follow up project was free of the deception and misdirection that was Velvet Cacoon’s hallmark, allowing it to stand on its own merits. The Clair Cassis debut featured black metal that was blended with shoegaze, and while this EP follows in that style, the short songs don’t give them enough time to develop. Despite that, they sound good, and I really like the unique Victorian luxury aesthetic they’ve taken with this band. I’m not sure I’d go all Mufasa into a herd of wildebeests to get a copy, but it’s a decent enough outing that’s worth picking up if it’s right there in front of you.

Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages (CD, 2015, Profound Lore Records)
A monster death metal album that delivered on the promises that the EPs that preceded it made, “Charnel Passages” is a force to be reckoned with. Hell I’m not really sure what else to say about this other than it goddamn rules and that you should just go listen to this right now. Wait, no. Finish reading this, then go listen to it.

Cruz – Culto Abismal (CD, 2016, Selfmadegod)
A Spanish band that unanimously decided they need to rip everyone a new one, holy shit did they ever deliver a right barnburner. Savagely thrashing death metal that occasionally reminds me of the legendary Grotesque minus any black metal infusion they had, “Culto Abismal” is hard-hitting from start to finish and doesn’t let up. Fellow writer Cult had considered this one of his top albums for 2016, and after hearing it, it’s not hard to understand why. This should be getting more attention.

Gevurah – Hallelujah! (CD, 2016, Profound Lore Records)
A murky venture mocking the dogma of religion, this densely packed album is an aural treatise in blasphemy. Yet another fine release from Profound Lore Records, be sure to check out the equally intense 2018 EP from Gevurah titled “Sulphur Soul.” The intensity of religious fervor made music, this is black metal you shouldn’t miss.

Velvet Cacoon – Atropine (CD, 2009, Full Moon Productions)
Basically an hour of low humming sounds spread over two discs, this is actually a lot better than it sounds. “Atropine” is full of soothing, dark and nautical ambient that lulls and dulls the senses to a sleepy precipice, only to lurch over and float into the dark expanse of a boundless void without a care in the world. Beautiful stuff.

Needless to say, my luggage was heavier coming back than it was heading out. Altogether a pretty awesome haul if I do say so myself, and it certainly kept me busy during those boring hotel nights when Netflix had run its course (that happens?). Well, that’s more typing than I’m used to, I’m tired now. Where’d that Velvet Cacoon album go?

– Voidhanger

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