Bandcamp is honestly one of the best inventions that the internet has created for musicians, and it has spawned an entire wealth of pages from bands offering their music for varying prices right the way down to zilch. I intend to explore two of these such bands, which I feel are under appreciated and have sunk under the deluge of new acts that have emerged – either because of misfortune in timing or location. They both fall under the broad umbrella term of ‘melodic extreme metal’, although each provide their own take which I feel is worth exploring.
First off, my most recent discovery, and hailing from the distant shores of New Zealand, is in the form of folk-melodeath two-man band Euphoreon. Those who have worn out the grooves of their Wintersun, Ensiferum and older Children Of Bodom albums will find much to gain in this band, masterminded by Matt Sommerville and Eugen Doedenhoft. While many bands see fit to stick to one incredibly formulaic approach, Eupohoreon straddle multiple genres with ease: folk, melodeath, black, and even power metal on occasion, all blended together in their début self-titled release.
Euphoreon fulfills the requisite checklist for both a folk metal and melodic death metal release: atmospherics, harsh rasping vocals and sing-along cleans, as well as competent and engaging guitar leads/solos and a tight rhythm section to back it all up. The music also suits the name well; whilst not reaching Devin Townsend‘s Epicloud-levels of saccharine ecstasy, it has its fair share of euphoric fist-in-the-air gallantry – all the more impressive when considering that two people did 90% of the legwork. Every track has its uplifting and gentle moments, such as ‘Eleventh Heaven‘ with its more restrained opening and pseudo-black metal blast, to the grand pomp of ‘Where Dead Skies Dwell‘, and the piano work of guest musician Patrick Stäudle on, for instance, ‘From The Netherworld‘, is nothing short of excellent. All of this is wrapped in near-flawless production for this style, where every instrument has its own spotlight without drowning the others out.
If, for whatever reason, you find the new Wintersun release lacking, (or perhaps the reverse and you crave more in this vein), then Euphoreon‘s Euphoreon will fill that gap in your diet. While the band are hardly earth-shattering in originality, neither can they be dismissed as a mere copycat of their heroes. Personally, I feel they could easily join the upper echelons of their niche, and given this is their début album, then consider this a band to earmark for future strong releases.
Euphoreon was released in 2011 and is available for streaming on Bandcamp.
Staying on that same distant island, but moving to more extreme climes, I must introduce one of my most treasured discoveries this year, a small two-man project from Auckland by the name of Svartalvheim. The band’s style lies somewhere between symphonic death metal and electro-death metal, akin to Septicflesh and The Monolith Deathcult jamming together. However, their début full-length Cosmic Sorrows encompasses a lot more than this, also blending the band’s love of romantic classical music and minute trance influences in a magnificent cacophony.
Every single track has its place in the album, and Svartalvheim‘s in-depth understanding of dynamics result in avoiding pummelling the listener into submission as some bands are wont to do. The songs fade in and out of the blasting sections, also showcasing cinematic elements (see ‘Fettered To The Unreasonable‘), the aforementioned trance elements (‘This Temple Will Not Hold‘) and even a stunning acoustic integration (‘Beyond The Veil‘). The album works as a complete entity, in both its musical and lyrical (anti-religious and astronomical) concepts, although picking and choosing tracks does little to harm it either.
In my review, I compared it to Lykathea Aflame‘s Elvenefris, an album I also hold in high regard, and the two are not dissimilar in the overall effect they leave on the listener. To paraphrase from the review, “Cosmic Sorrows is a frankly stunning début from a band who deserve much more exposure, [with] their blend of orchestration and unrelenting heaviness”. I have been coming back to this album a lot since I received it in July, and I am wholeheartedly convinced that it and Svartalvheim will stay with me for a long time yet.
Cosmic Sorrows was released in July 2012 and is available for streaming on Bandcamp.