Review: Burial Oath – Beyond the Vale of Shadowlands Aug01

Review: Burial Oath – Beyond the Vale of Shadowlands

Do you yearn for the days when black metal was still a simple endeavor? A time when its taxonomic boundary was both well defined and clearly understood; a time when grown men could don corpse paint with pride; a time when black metal was, well, exactly that – no more, no less. Maybe I’m just a closet luddite. But the truth is more often than not, I just want to listen to Plain Old Black Metal™ without any pretentiousness or pretense that seems to be the metal du jour these days. If you know of what I speak, then say hello to my little friend, Burial Oath‘s Beyond the Vale of Shadowlands. Shadowlands triumph is in its...

Review: Æther Realm – Tarot Jun22

Review: Æther Realm – Tarot

I want you to imagine a record that has the folksy edge of Ensiferum combined with the melodic complexity of Wintersun all delivered through this very Mors Principium Est sounding package. That, in a nutshell, is Æther Realm‘s Tarot. Sounds delicious, right? But let’s step back for a moment. If you haven’t heard of Æther Realm, I’m not surprised. Their 2013 debut, One Chosen by the Gods, which though a laudable effort in its own right, was a bit too overt in its Wintersun meets Ensiferum worship, and came off as more novelty than anything of actual substance. Nevertheless, if you did happen to stumble upon it, Gods...

Review: Audioengine D3 DAC and Headphone Amp Jun09

Review: Audioengine D3 DAC and Headphone Amp

Introduction As I wrote in my review of the two AudioQuest Dragonflies back in March, the market for “dongle DACs” (USB connector on one end, headphone jack on the other) is now fiercely contested, and one player looking to make a name for themselves in this space is Audioengine. If that name rings a bell, it’s probably the company’s powered desktop speakers that you’re thinking of, which Alex has covered on a few occasions. Speakers are definitely their primary focus, but AE has also produced a few DACs and headphone amps, and currently sells the B1 Bluetooth streamer, D1 desktop DAC/headphone amp, and the subject of this review, the D3...

Review: Nokturnal Mortum – Verity May26

Review: Nokturnal Mortum – Verity

Nokturnal Mortum is one of those bands that everybody should know but very few actually do. And as I stated in my vinyl follow-up about the band’s 2009 magnum opus, The Voice of Steel, a big part of that has to do with their now former association with the NSBM movement early on in their career. But over the last decade, the band has tried to distance themselves from said movement and in the process rebrand themselves as a fairly prototypical blackened folk metal band. In fact in 2014, lead vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and the band’s spiritual leader, Varggoth, addressed some of these issues head on by stating that since the...

Review: Ungfell – Tôtbringære Apr28

Review: Ungfell – Tôtbringære

Let’s go deep underground. Ungfell is a two man Swiss outfit who first garnered some attention when they passed around an interesting little demo that contained prototypical black metal featuring an accordion (amongst other unorthodox instrumentation as well). That in itself is certainly attention grabbing to the say the very least. Yet even without all the instrument gimmickry, the demo itself was also littered with a number of intriguing riffs in its own right, and Ungfell built themselves quite a small but dedicated little following among those who heard it. Now two years later they’re back with their full-length debut...

Review: Havok – Conformicide Mar17

Review: Havok – Conformicide

Let me tell you how this review is suppose to go: First, I tell you that Havok is a Denver based collective whose main weapon of choice is the riff. I then explain how the band is one of the few that are still relevant today despite being unquestionably retro-thrash and proceed to point out that 2011’s Time Is Up is probably one of the strongest records to come out of said retro movement. I follow-up with a brief overview of their latest, entitled Conformicide, pointing out its various high points to underscore the fact that David Sanchez and Co. really do know how to throw down. Finally and disappointedly, I end with a Steely D...

Review: Audioengine HD3 Powered Speakers Mar15

Review: Audioengine HD3 Powered Speakers

Introduction One of the very first pieces of audio gear that I wanted to upgrade when I was a wee lad were my computer speakers. My first set came with a Dell desktop system my parents bought me when I was a senior in high school to prepare for college. They were small, rectangular, and sounded terrible – zero bass or treble to speak of with a really muddy midrange. And I loved them. When they finally died I decided to up my game by buying a complete 5.1 surround system made by Sound Blaster. I don’t remember the exact model but the two front satellites were actually bigger than my Dell’s, with the center channel placed on...

Review: AudioQuest Dragonfly Red and Dragonfly Black Mar09

Review: AudioQuest Dragonfly Red and Dragonfly Black

Introduction The market for tiny, USB powered “dongle DACs” with built-in headphone amplifiers currently has a lot of entrants and is hotly contested, but this wasn’t the case back in 2012, when AudioQuest introduced their first portable USB DAC and headphone amp called the Dragonfly. AudioQuest got their start building audio cables back in 1980, and that’s still what they are most known for today, but the Dragonfly is hardly their first foray into the world outside of cables. In fact, only a few short years after the company’s founding, they released their first phono cartridge, called the AQ 404. They also sold several tonearm models for...

Vinyl Follow Up: In The Woods… – Pure

While I don’t worship at the altar of Omnio, I’ve long been an In The Woods… fan, and I was very pleased to see the band finally release a successor to 1999’s excellent Strange In Stereo with last year’s Pure. In The Woods… morphed over time from a black metal band through progressive and on to a mix of avant garde and the rather nebulous “dark metal” tag used for otherwise difficult to categorize music blending elements of gothic and doom metal, without really falling into either camp. Dark metal is probably the best descriptor for Pure, which is a much more conventional album than its not so immediate predecessor. If you were expecting...