The Metal Reviews Archive

Russian Death Metal act, Tales Of Darknord, was started by guitarist Alex Kantemirov back in 1991 in Volgograd, a big city in the southern part of Russia. Since then the band has released 4 demos and 4 albums and played more than 70 gigs, becoming one of Russias most famous Death Metal acts. They play brutal Death Metal, just the way I like it: melodic, technical and varied, both musically and in speed. Dismissed has its fast parts, but there are also slower, almost doomy parts, forexample on "Everyday Eternity". Personally I love this! The production is more or less good, but I don't like the sound of the vocal, it's somewhat blurry and unclear. However it sounds somewhat better on the parts where the vocalist uses a bit more force. There's no synth here, just guitars, which fits perfect in this style. There's heavy rhythm guitars more or less dominating, consisting of mostly chords, but there's also a lot of more advanced and technical playing here as well as solos. Dismissed is the best brutal Death Metal album I've heard for ages! All the songs are good, though I have my favourites: "Everyday Eternity", "Nonsense" and "Nothing More Except Circulation". It's got enought variation not to make it boring or repetive, cool riffs, great guitar work, and they have their own sound. Very good, but I wish there were more tracks in the vein of my favourites.

TALES OF DARKNORD "Stalingrad: War Episodes"

When you encounter a band name that sounds more like an expansion pack to a Role Playing Game than a convincing moniker for a Metal band, theres a big chance youve dwelled into the Power Metal realm. And for some reason Russian bands are masters in inventing awkward names. Just take a look at UNSILENT PHENOMENON, BUTTERFLY TEMPLE or LITTLE DEAD BERTHA for example. Reading those names out loud just raises your hairs, doesnt it? Luckily our mothers all taught us to never judge a book by its cover, so I tried to ignore the name and went right in for the kill. To my surprise, this wasnt a SABATON-ish Power Metal ode our fallen comrades, but a war-themed Death Metal rollercoaster ride through most facets of extreme music. Hell, just call it a 50-minute bombardment packed with fresh ideas and daring song structures. Stalingrad: War Episodes was already released back in 2004. So, I dont know why it took 5 years to reach TMO, but I guess the Trans-Siberian couriers go by foot these days. And much to my pleasure, the album took a big dive in the rich history of Second World War and chose Stalingrad as its favorite playground.

The 7-minute opener Deathblow shows exactly how a war-themed Metal album should kick off. A Rob Halford(!)- sounding dive bomber quakes the ground and lets you expect the worst. As the explosions from the opening sample still ring in your ears, an eerie, mysterious riff comes creeping up on you like a thief in the night. After a hesitating transition these Russian nekrocossacks finally come all guns blazing. And oh my god, its one barrage of fresh riffs after another spiced up with lots of crazy/adventurous bass-leads and some delicious solo material. This progressive kind of Death Metal isnt particularly technical nor sounds anything like GOJIRA, OPETH or THEORY IN PRACTICE. Its a healthy mix of mostly Melodic Death with a frequent Thrash or Black Metal spasm and a good deal of Heavy Metal soloing. This fusion of extreme Metal chooses resolute for the melodic approach, thus not creating a wall of sound ? la GOJIRA, a choice which I can only applaud. And to be honest, I wouldnt know who to compare this type of Metal to. Having a quite unique sound like this surely can be considered as a big compliment. Retribution Fire continues in the same godlike fashion. Some trumpets of doom are part of another cool intro before once again the ice-cold bass sound and some truly remarkable groovy riffs dominate the scenery. On this track, its striking how deep vocalist Anton Shirls growls are. He does a pretty good job hammering all the parts with his cork dry grunts. But unfortunately, these Chris Barnes-like vocals get old pretty soon and dont always mix well with the adventurous and varied pot-pourri of Metal styles they dare to play. Not A Step Back! and U-88 (derived from the German type of WW2-submarines) are nothing short of amazing as well with alternating Hard Rock, Death and Black Metal influences. Shes Just Killing Me is a ZZ TOP-cover but could have easily been on a SIX FEET UNDER tribute album. On this track, their daring approach of first is traded in for a somewhat more straightforward chugging Death Metal barrage powered by Shirl's cork dry vocals. An enjoyable cover, but nothing more. The production is very organic, which suits the abundance of styles quite well. It incorporates the sizzling melody of Melodic Death Metal and Hard Rock with the crushing heaviness of Death Metal, making it all meld into one solid outcome.

The last 4 tracks are taken from their 1995 demo Absorbing Destinies and, no surprise there, they cant live up to the high standard set in the first half an hour. I wasnt getting the idea that they were running out of inspiration, so it puzzles me why they would even put this filler material on the remainder of the disc. It renders a bit of an anticlimax and made me think of LUCIFERIONs The Apostate, which was a kick-ass album but suffered from the same odd demo closure material too. These tracks simply lack all the originality of their later material and bore you with an old school straightforward Death Metal chug fest. But the good thing about demos is that they are an effective measure to compare future material with, which shows TALES OF DARKNORD's growth in all its forms. But you should at least remaster or enhance them when putting on a new release.

In short, Stalingrad: War Episodes is a very bold and ambitious release with some minor quirks along the way. If you ignore the demo material, youre treated to an interesting 30-minute Death Metal ride through the realms of originality. I wouldnt mind seeing them on a bigger label, so the rest of the world could enjoy TALES OF DARKNORD as much as I did! Check out DeathBlow, Retribution Fire and U-88.(8,5/10)

TALES OF DARKNORD "Stalingrad: War Episodes"

Russian tech Death Metallers TALES OF DARKNORD have a long history behind them already. Formed in 1991, and having 5 studio albums already recorded, it's sort of a pity that this trio really isn't any better known outside of their own country. I mean, "Stalingrad: War Episodes" is actually a pretty badass album in sense of sheer technical virtuosity of the instruments - and how those instruments have been put to serve the band's attempts to get something worthy done song material wise. TALES OF DARKNORD do experiment a lot with their stuff, sort of pushing the envelope as hard as they possibly can in order to maintain a certain degree of musical challenge within each song on the record. The musical progressiveness is clearly something TALES OF DARKNORD want to challenge themselves for sure, counting pretty firmly on some unorthodox, jazzy tinged parts, and that obviously is a good thing for some people to hear them striving for this type of level of musical complexity - but then again, perhaps not so much for some other people, I guess. The later era Canadian OBLIVEON comes distantly to mind - and occasionally the long defunct Finnish grooving and rocking Death Metallers LUBRICANT - as well as ATHEIST even (specially those awesomely flirting Roger Patterson type of bass parts). Anton Shirl's on guitar, has the ability to shred very nicely with his 6-stringer but his vocals aren't anything that special though to be honest. Just pretty typical death grunts among thousands of other similar death grunts. But one should also know that it's very hard to try to growl as convincingly like a T-Rex in the killing spree (just try it yourself), just to make people go overly nuts by your effective vocal delivery. It needs to be mentioned that the first 4 songs have a nice and clear production while the rest of the stuff on the disc cannot really be compared to them when it strictly comes down to some production qualities. This album also has the band's 4-track 1995 demo "Absorbing Destinies" as bonus, which is a way more straightforward effort, with some progressive and jazzy oozing parts thrown in for an exciting measure. All this progressiveness that they had already incorporated into their songs back in 1995, pretty much also indicated, which musical direction they wanted to develop their style towards to, on their further releases to come. There's also a video recorded live in Taj-Mahal on this disc but I was personally unable to watch it for some strange reason. Technical, jazzy, progressive and occasionally rocking Death Metal is what TALES OF DARKNORD is all about. If that's something that meets some of your qualifications in Metal music, then this might well be something right up your alley.

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