2000, Self-Released (Dark Salvation Productions)
One of the best things about being open to the underground and the thousands of obscure artists and musicians toiling within, intent on bringing their own visions to life, is the chance that you will come across something like this: an original album, filled with talent, without compromises, existing out there in the darkness waiting for people to discover it. There was a time when almost all of the demo tapes you would get from underground bands were something worth listening to - I'm going back to the late '80s in my mind here, but that glorious hour in metal history has passed, and these days it is so inexpensive and easy to press or manufacture your band's own products that the scene is absolutely drowning under a flood of mediocre albums, demos, tapes, and self-produced CDs. As a magazine writer I am just one of the people out there who have one finger (guess which one) stuffed into the dike, trying to hold back the deluge. Occasionally, though, something slips through...
The first thing that you'll notice about this album is the really good production (surprisingly effective and suitable for this band), courtesy of someone called Stew Kirkwood. It captures all of the instruments (including that ever-elusive bass guitar) adequately, and there are many 'pro' releases out there that have worse productions, so this band can not be faulted there.
Nor can the band be faulted when it comes to the most important part: the music. Founding and sole member George Velaetis has written some absolutely stunning material here, excellent in all important aspects, and I was quite surprised the first time I listened to this. I am not exactly sure if this album is a demo, a promotional tool, a full release (thumbing its nose at established labels), or something in between all of these - but this band is much better than at least 70% of the death metal underground, and this album should have been put out by one of the larger death metal houses: Repulse, for example, should have jumped on this.
Taking some initial cues from Incantation (but going way beyond that), George weaves together ten tracks (fifty minutes) of abyssic, purely dark, bitter, misanthropic, and crushingly heavy death metal here. The guitar work is very skilled - I especially like the reverb/chorus lines placed over the heavier rhythm tracks, that is an interesting idea. Also present are many echoing, cavernous clean guitar sections leading into the heavier riffing: these are simple but very well-designed and expertly placed. Velaetis plays with a great deal of style, panache, and substance, creating new worlds and blasted musical landscapes all on his own. Almost all of the rhythm guitar work here is original, powerful, and very moving - absolutely suffocating in its infernal atmosphere. The melodies are expressive, eloquent, and genuinely full of dark feeling; the arrangements are interesting and original, never really sticking to the 'standard' structures of common death metal songs (this characteristic is also a privilege of the truly underground bands) - and in case you were wondering: yes, death metal is old enough now to have its conservative proponents, cheers to those who transcend the barriers to creativity; the drumming is solid; the bass playing shines through on some of the breaks or in adding depth to the guitar lines; and the roaring, echoing vocals are very persuasive - I admire the layering in place with them and their deep, monstrous power. As to the lyrics: to quote Fenriz, this album is 'a fist in the face of God.' Enough said. This band mixes together many different styles on this album: for the most part we have a crushing, bottom-heavy death aesthetic, but on some songs there are elements of black metal (esp. in the third, 'Mass Suicide') and suicidal doom, in the open, expansive slow sections of these songs (my favorite part). There really is no use trying to list 'highlights' of this album: the entire thing is very good and worth listening to - it is also complex enough to reward multiple stabs at exploring its intricacies.
Most important of all: this band has their own style, which is always a rarity in the death metal scene. You owe it to yourself to check this out. Buy it already and support this man and his music.