Various Artists – Sounds Of Hell Volume II
Sounds Of Hell Records
Release Date: 29/12/2020
Running Time: 66:11
Review by Dark Juan
Greetings, salutations, hello, good afternoon and welcome, my dear acolytes and denizens of the world. I trust I find you all hale, hearty and eagerly grasping the somewhat limited opportunities that lockdown life offers you? Good, good… Always remember to look after yourselves and those closest to you, no matter how irritating the fuckers are being considering you have basically been under house arrest with them for nearly a year and the steak knives have been tactically removed for reasons of safety and you never signed up for this because you expected the bastards/ bitches to actually occasionally go to fucking work or something instead of eating their own body weight in Maltesers and re-watching Blade Runner for the four millionth time simply because they like Roy Batty (if they were something of a Sean Young fan, that would be an entirely different kettle of fish. Sigh…) Doubtless there are some of you who might like to kick Roy Batty’s bottle blond arse right through the Tannhauser Gate and watch attack ships on Orion glittering c-beams at his fucking peroxided square head, the pretentious twerp.
I’m sorry. I had my COVID vaccination yesterday. It’s kicked my arse to be frank. I can’t eat anything and only Yorkshire tea appears to be an acceptable beverage. Yes, there is beer in Dark Juan Terrace that lies unconsumed. This is such an unusual state of affairs I have the BBC news round at 4pm to report on it. I’ve fallen asleep 27 times just writing the above paragraph and have the same level of concentration as a 14-year-old boy doing online schoolwork who secretly has Pornhub open on another tab. Long division is much less interesting when there’s ladies having sex. I am desperately hoping that the mighty and puissant power of metal might keep me awake long enough to give you my opinions on this compilation record from Sounds Of Hell Records. As this is a compilation of the artists on the roster of this label, I’m going to dispense with my usual verbose style and tortured metaphors (370 words in and nothing about the music so far. So Much for curtailing the verbose style) and just write a short paragraph on each song… All of the bands on this compilation are either Dutch or Belgian, so it will be most interesting to see how they compare to the French, Greek and Italian metal scenes. Obviously, The Netherlands have given us the utterly wonderful The Gathering (with the glorious Anneke Van Giersbergen – I’ll be reviewing her latest soon too), the equally wonderful Within Temptation and the tour de force that is Floor Jansen. So, the Dutch have pretty much sewn up the gothic operatic metal scene, but what have the Belgians done? Well, they gave us one of the greatest industrial/ EBM bands there has ever been in Front 242 and also melodic deathsters Ancient Rites (who I actually saw live supporting Cradle Of Filth one time, and whose vocalist amused me greatly by doing his between song raps in exactly the same voice as his singing in a classic case of trying much too hard).
So, let’s crack on then… I’m going to put whether the bands are Belgian or Dutch next to the titles.
Malfested – Masked With The Skulls Of The Fallen (Belgium)
Gothic tinged death metal encompassing a sneaky black metal vibe in the middle eight with an absolute beast of a vocalist. Punchy, aggressive and fast and mightily pleasing to the ears of your favourite speaker of absolute nonsense. Worth checking out.
Cathobodua – Hydra (Belgium)
Operatically trained female singer takes on Luca Turilli influenced power metal. Think a less polished and considerably more speedy Nightwish while holding the image of Floor Jansen fronting Rhapsody in your mind. Actually, that sounds negative because this is a bloody good song of several parts and by god Sara Vanderheyden can fucking belt out a tune. They have my interest, and they should have yours…
Ashturn – Changes (Belgium)
When nu-metal meets the modern version of metal. Derivative and uninteresting unless you like Slipknot’s less manic moments. Imagine the polish of Avenged Sevenfold’s later releases with the aggressiveness of Slipknot and Unearth, complete with wholly overdone roaring and the obligatory breakdown in the middle. Sounds like every band did in 2015. I could literally predict everywhere this song was going to go. Unimpressive apart from their fucking excellent drummer who’s wasted on this band.
Los Fantasmas – El Rey (Belgium)
This is more like it. A bizarre mix of rock and psychobilly taking on a classic instrumental tune and making it their bitch. Quite, quite mad and fucking brilliant. However, there is a slight concern that Los Fantasmas may be a bit of a one trick pony as playing Mexican music when you’re from one of the Benelux Countries might be an odd choice limiting your fanbase.
Bacon Fat – 110% (Belgium)
Band wins award for best band name on this compilation. Bluesy, hard edged Southern Rock with elements of Volbeat, Kyuss and Down to their sound. As a song, it’s competent and enjoyable but it would come into its own on a hot summer night when you’re on a four hour drive to see your girl/ boy/ significant other for the weekend. A song that would exceed the sum of its parts in certain circumstances with a too long, drawn out ending that ruins the vibe of the whole thing and would have you scrabbling for the skip button at the end.
Bullet N’ Arrow – Heaven And Hell (Belgium)
I’ve always fucking hated that “n’” thing that bands do. Just fucking say “and,” you shitbags!!! Bullet N’ Arrow are interesting as the music is modern (even though they say they are 80’s influenced) but the powerful female vocal appears to have emanated from the general area of 1987-1993, being very kind of Robin Beck, Lita Ford and Doro Pesch-esque. A curious song that attempts to weld two distinct styles and times of rock and metal with a limited degree of success. Even the solo is an anachronism. I love Astrid Laekeman’s voice though. I could listen to her all day. The song is two minutes too long.
Demenzia Mortis – Antikult (Belgium)
Dialling up the heaviness again, Demenzia Mortis appear to have taken early 2000’s Rotting Christ as their blueprint for the start of this song before kicking up into high gear with some extremely primal black metal, and we are off into high-speed savagery, although the production does eschew the usual black metal wasp in a jam jar in a soundproofed room four miles away from the 70p microphone sound we normally enjoy from BM bands. Very Emperor and early Dimmu Borgir in sound and execution. Rather good.
Ars Veneficium – Devour The Light (Belgium)
More super primal black metal but of an order of magnitude heavier than Demenzia Mortis. This is fucking superb black metal very reminiscent of Anaal Nathrakh’s sound on “When Fire Rains Down From The Sky Mankind Shall Reap What It Has Sown”. I like this song. A LOT. Utterly murderous and uncompromising.
Instriumae – Ab Initio (Belgium)
Oooh. Instrumental metal with violins. Even though I am sure that Instriumae are capable of arranging a song better than this because the arrangement of the music is frankly all over the fucking place it’s still jolly good fun and goosebump inducing. Metal needs more fucking violin solos!
Fat Bastard – Blood, Sweat And Beer (Belgium)
Bacon Fat don’t have the best name, as it turns out. In other news, hello Belgian Motorhead. I need say no more. Damn good rock and roll bringing back the memory of the Lord Our God Lemmy. Raise your Jack and Coke high.
Ossebolle O – Den Ouwe (Netherlands)
Dutch old school punk rock reminiscent of 70’s Britain, but sung in their own language. Clash-esque and of marginal interest to a metal fan unless you like repetitive shouting in the background of your music. Strictly average and about as frightening as a teddy bear.
Odd Obsessions – Mistify (Netherlands)
There appears to be a kind of obsession with 80’s power metal in the Benelux region. This song could have been written by Helloween as long as they had Adrian Vandenberg and Rudolf Schenker on guitar. Gang vocals, extended lead lines and a desire to “fuck you up” (try it you long haired jessies, I’ll smear your pansy arses all over the wall.) Epic, in a super 80’s way. Old men in denim cutoffs wearing original Accept t-shirts will adore it.
Valkyre featuring Liv Kristine – Buried Alive (Belgium)
As soon as you look at the band name and who’s guesting on this record, you know what it’s going to sound like. Did you guess Nightwish mixed with Epica and Leaves Eyes? Well done, have a fucking cookie because I can’t eat them right now. Good, because I like symphonic gothic metal with operatic female vocals but absolutely unoriginal. However, the band has a drummer whose mind appears to have cracked, judging by the amount of time he spends either double bass drumming or skipping merrily along at the gait of a galloping horse.
Carrion – Supreme (Belgium)
Let’s play guess the genre again with this band. Did you guess old school death metal? WRONG! Give me back my fucking cookies. Instead, Carrion play technical melodic death metal and appear to worship at the shrine of shiny Scandinavian melodic death, and especially at the chapel of At The Gates. Good, solid tune but another style of music that dearly needs some innovation injecting into it. It sounds like every other melodic tech death record done in the past ten years. Uninspiring.
Exoto – Absolution In Death (Belgium)
Another band whose drummer appears to fucking adore cardio day at the gym. Exoto offer us an unusual fusion of blackened death, thrash and the odd proggy element which is very good indeed. A good, fun, fast slab of solid metal and a fine closer to the album.
So, there we have it. The best of two thirds of the Benelux in one compact package for your perusal. Standouts for me on this record were Cathobodua, Ars Veneficium and Instriumae with an honourable mention for Bullet N’ Arrow, strictly because I like Astrid Laekeman’s voice so much as it transports me back to when I was a mere teenage neophyte and had a VHS videotape, “Kerrang! Ladykillers”, which had Vixen (Jan Kuehnemund was a young Dark Juan’s crush), Romeo’s Daughter (so was Leigh Matty), Femme Fatale, Saraya, Robin Beck and Lisa Dominique among others on it.
Belgium and The Netherlands appear to have a rich and varied metal scene encompassing many different styles, then, and aren’t just the homes of electronic industrial and gothic symphonic metal. This is a worthy and well-priced compilation CD at a paltry 7.50EUR and is obtainable through the label or featured bands’ sites, and it is well worth your time and effort to acquire.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Het gepatenteerde Dark Juan-classificatiesysteem voor bloedspatten OR le système breveté d’évaluation des éclaboussures de sang Dark Juan – I’m sorry, I don’t know Flemish and neither does Google Translate. I checked) awards this Sounds Of Hell compilation 7/10. When it’s good it’s very very good but when it’s bad it’s rubbish! Fare thee well. May ye gang faur and fare waur. I’m returning to my bed of pain and suffering.
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