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Knowing full well that if their identities were to be revealed, a prison sentence at the very least, and maybe even death penalty at worst would be the end result, Al-Namrood, the three piece black metal band from Saudi Arabia, have made no concessions. A group of three non-believers in a country governed by religion; artists honing forbidden crafts; black metallers who in the public eye might as well be black sorcerers. The ultimate musical rebels. To find out more about this obscure and mystical band, who defy all social norms in their country of birth, read the short interview below, conducted via e-mail about a week ago. Starting from today, the 28th of August, Sputnik can also host the video premiere for Al-Namrood’s song “Hayat Al Khezea,” which is from their upcoming album Diaji Al Joor, that will be out on November 27th, 2015 via Canadian-based label Shaytan Productions. The music video is the first ever for Al-Namrood.

So is Al-Namrood literally the only band from Saudi Arabia releasing metal music, or are there other really underground groups as well, who are quietly doing similar things to you guys?

There is a lot of talk on this matter, but we don’t notice any real activity from musicians going on here. While it is mentioned on some website that we have over 20 bands in the country, I question how many of them are really active or still exist. This is worth pointing out…

There has been quite a pleasant number of interesting Estonian releases this year, for myself at least. White Sparks released an excellent space-themed album called Dark Matter Halo, Paean have refined their prog/death metal sound with Scorn of Eternity and are quickly reaching new heights, Okym Riim just dropped a collection of some real fine hip hop songs on us, Süngehel have finally managed to release their debut album Necromantic Blood, which is full of blasphemous black metal, Epp Kõiv has a nice, varied electronica album out in Heas Mõttes, and Avoid Dave have got the neo-soul corner on lockdown in Estonia with Insert Title. One artist who I didn’t mention in that line, but definitely belongs there as well, is Mauno Meesit, the man behind the synthpop project Sinine, who decided to close his laptop and strum on his guitar instead during the last few years. His new album, and acoustic debut by the name of Closer, is definitely one of the finest Estonian releases of 2015, and probably one of the hardest to categorize as well. By saying it’s an acoustic album, I’m actually saying very little about it. Hence why I got in touch with Mauno some time ago to let him properly introduce us to Closer, and what it’s all about. Take a look.

Hey Mauno! How is the summer so far?

Hi there! I just moved back to Estonia after living in Berlin for the last…

Tengger Cavalry. Nature Ganganbaigal. Names that are not part of everyday discussions here on Sputnik, which is exactly why I went out and shot an interview request towards Metal Hell Records some nights ago – to find out more. Only a day or so managed to pass, and already the wise Mongol chieftain in charge of Tengger Cavalry had answers for my written inquiries. Founded in 2009, Tengger Cavalry is currently the leading Mongolian folk metal band… in the world. The group has been more than active since its inception, due to the never ending creative flow of its mastermind, Nature Ganganbaigal. To date, the band has released four full-length albums in the span of six years, with their latest release – a re-recording of their debut Blood Sacrifice Shaman – dropping on May 18 of this year. Given that the latest addition to Tengger Cavalry’s discography is less a remaster and more an entirely new beast brought to life on the carcass of old ideas, it is safe to say that Tengger Cavalry is one of the busiest bands in metal today. Now that the new old album is out there for everybody to hear, Nature devoted some time to me, to answer a few questions about the band, himself, and his religion.

Good evening to you! As Tengger Cavalry is rather unknown on our site, would you be so kind as to give a short overview of what this band is all about?

Almost a solid month ago, on the 9th of April – which was a clear and delightfully quiet spring evening, for me at least – I got in touch with Joe Tiberi, the brains behind the Chicago-based symphonic-industrial-extreme metal band Mechina, who in January 2015 released their 4th full-length album, titled Acheron. What was probably the longest interview I’ve ever done, we spoke a good two hours about Mechina, about his convictions, and eventually got thoroughly off-track by exchanging what we believe is to be the next step for us as humans, why we hate movie adaptions of games, and whether we are too sober for the conversation that we suddenly found ourselves in. Since the latter part of our talk was less an interview and more a pseudo-intellectual banter, I decided to cut the ending off, but the point is: if you ever get a chance to talk to Mr. Tiberi, I would highly recommend doing so, since he’s one of the more down to earth guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing. I’m not known for my punctuality, so a good month later, here it is – a very all-encompassing view into the life of Joe Tiberi and the workings of Mechina.

We can start off on a high, since you just released a statement to your fans that the first batch of your new album, Acheron, has sold out. Did you expect that to happen so quickly, being an independent

Spring is an exciting, tricky season. As the cold of winter slowly starts to fade and give way to blossoming life once more, everything changes. The sun regains its warmth, the waters start to burble again, branches develop green buds, and in the midst of nature waking, one should feel an increasing pep in their step as well. I find there’s rarely a feeling more fulfilling than the one you get when the fog of winter clears from your mind, and you start to see all sorts of colors again. The initial lure of spring can be dangerous though, and it’s not especially difficult to fall victim to a number of ailments (just as I have at the moment), like the flu, or other more minor infectious diseases. So what to do when you’re feeling too lousy to take advantage of the weather outside, but are lively enough to not sleep your days away? Listen to new, exciting music of course! This is where Galar and Dark Essence Records come along to help us out.

Today, on the 16th of March, Norway’s black/folk metallers Galar will release their long-anticipated third album De Gjenlevende through the aforementioned Dark Essence Records. Links will appear at the bottom end of this post on where you can acquire the new album, but for those who want to give it a spin before getting the real deal on their hands, Sputnik has been granted the privilege to…

A big part of why I review music here on Sputnik lies in my desire to introduce little known bands to a wider audience every now and again (and to get introduced to other lesser-known bands myself). Saudi-Arabian black/folk metallers Al-Namrood definitely fit into that “little-known” category, and from today up until Friday the 13th, Sputnikmusic has an exclusive chance to stream their upcoming EP, titled Ana Al Tughian, which will see the light of day also on the 13th via Canadian label Shaytan Productions. As can be expected already by reading where they’re from, Al-Namrood sound nothing like the Western metal we’ve become accustomed to. There’s real oriental flare, theatrics, and an alien quirkiness on this short EP that makes it seem like it’s from another world entirely to a Westerner like me. Especially helpful in making it sound so different are new frontman Humbaba’s vocals, which seem downright bizarre at first, but on repeated listenings prove an invaluable part of the Al-Namrood experience. As a whole, Ana Al Tughian sounds almost like a soundtrack to an Arabian festivity in the same way Mechina’s albums sound like soundtracks to space epics: with a lot more guitars incorporated. As a unique listening experience, Al Namrood’s newest EP is surely worth 12 minutes of your time.

The stream has ended!

Al-Namrood Facebook
Al-Namrood homepage
Shaytan Productions bandcamp

It was the 5th of December. A rather warm (for December), reticent evening was taking shape in Tallinn – uncharacteristically quiet even. It wasn’t a harbinger of things to come though, not for me at least, as in a few hours, Finnish melancholic metallers Ghost Brigade and their supporting cast would light up the stage over at rockclub Tapper, making sure some highly season-fitting dark music was heard that night. It’s not every day you get to actually meet one of your favorite bands, much less develop a conversation with them for a good thirty minutes. That’s exactly the kind of break I caught though, and what follows is what transpired during our chat. It should be noted that the interview was done at a great little Mexican bar called Ancho in Tallinn’s Old Town, and that everything but the time it took place was more or less improvised. That was the intention all along though, so instead of reading out aloud questions carefully constructed in the safety of home’s walls, what is transcribed here was originally a rather free-flowing, hey-i’d-like-to-learn-more-about-you-guys conversational interview with Wille Naukkarinen (guitars) and Veli-Matti Suihkonen (drums). Ghost Brigade’s new album IV – One With The Storm was released on the 7th of November, and was one of my highlights of the year (while also peaking as the Finnish metal album of the year in their local Inferno magazine, and ending up #4 on Finnish critics’ all-genre end of the year list). Check out the…

Starting from today (November 30), in conjunction with Clawhammer PR, Sputnikmusic has the exclusive chance to host a stream of Vancouver-based Astrakhan’s new EP A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin, set for a 12” vinyl release on December 12 via War on Music Records. It is the band’s third EP, featuring two new tracks and two (“The Pillarist” and “Rest In Depths”) that you can also find on the band’s digitally released 2013 EP The Pillarist. Astrakhan play a hybrid form of sludge/stoner metal with a garage vibe and a progressive edge. You can hear a bit of Baroness in there, a bit of The Sword, and a bit of Kylesa, but you’ll also hear a lot of what makes Astrakhan a force of their own. For a band “born out of years of failure, frustration and stifled creativity,” the band members have sure found their feet in Astrakhan. The way the band melds sludge, garage rock, and spacey stoner vibes together is enviable: Astrakhan have a clear vision of the kind of music they want to create, but unlike a lot of young bands, they also have the chops to make that vision come to life. A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin is a true teaser in that sense: being a mere 20 minutes long, it generates appetite, it commands attention, but before you know it, the album has come to an end. There’s so much promise here, a full-length by these guys could really kick ass and…

Let’s start the new week with an exclusive stream, shall we. English black metallers Fen have been quite the busy bees since bursting onto the scene with their 2007 EP Ancient Sorrow. Since then, counting Carrion Skies, they’ve proceeded to write four fell-length albums in the span of five years. Dustwalker, their 2013 studio offering, finally showed what the band were really capable of and what their EP hinted at – the album presented a thoroughly satisfying mix of black metal, folk and post-rock that didn’t sound derivative in the least. Fen had really come into their own as a group. Luckily they haven’t stopped there and in 2014, with Carrion Skies, they look to carry the momentum further, with the new album featuring towering highs and zero lows. It is just that good, and one of the more unique black metal albums of 2014 to boot. Fen have definitely found a sound in the folk/black metal spectrum that has only one name written on it – their own. Carrion Skies will be released on November 22 in Europe, and on December 2 in North America, but starting from today, Sputnikmusic has a chance to stream Fen’s new opus ahead of its official release.

If you find that the aural description “twilight descending upon empty heathland and the cries of the crows that wheel in the bunching stormclouds” reads like it could translate into some excellent music, then look no further and doubt no longer, since Fen are…

Exclusivity vol. 2. In addition to being able to stream the sophomore effort from Swedish doomsters Anguish this week, Sputnikmusic also has a chance to host an exclusive pre-listening of the new album from Australian prog rockers Opus of a Machine. Another new band on the rise, Opus of a Machine was formed in 2012, and Simulacra is their debut album, slated for release on November 16. Soaring verses, delicate instrumental breaks, catchy choruses and heartfelt ambition is what would best describe the first offering from these guys. An airy, shimmering affair, it’s a debut worth notice – which is also why I strived to bring it to Sputnik’s attention – possessing traits to accumulate some hype on the modern prog scene, with the right amount of promotion. Simulacra will be streaming on Sputnikmusic until the midnight of the 16th. Come on, stop by, give this album a good listen and discover some great new music!

NB! Here’s a good, recent interview with the band’s guitarist Zachary Greensill, which further introduces Opus of a Machine and their approach regarding the creation of music: http://progarchy.com/2014/11/11/opus-of-a-machine-following-progressive-ideologies/

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Opus of a Machine facebook

Gather ’round, gather ’round Sputnik friends and family, for today we assemble to witness Swedish doomsters Anguish climb their mountain. A relatively young band on the scene, Anguish was formed in the autumn of 2007, and Mountain is their second full-length offering, with their debut album Through the Archdemon’s Head gathering plenty of favorable feedback upon its release in 2012. Drawing plenty of parallels with the hallowed Candlemass, Anguish present the listener doom metal in its original, most basic form. If the comparisons to Candlemass still aren’t enough to pull you in, know that the album was produced by Johan Ericson, one of the founders of Draconian and the man behind the Doom: VS moniker, whose 2014 album Earhless is one of the best metal records to come out this year. For him to be interested enough to produce the whole album is a huge compliment to Anguish.

In conjunction with Dark Descent Records, Clawhammer PR and the band itself, Sputnikmusic now has the exclusive chance to stream Mountain in full, ahead of its November 12 release date. Full of monolithic sounds, veteran-level songwriting and just pure ass kicking, slow-burning metal, this is one release you don’t want flying under your radar. Come, climb the mountain along with the band and reap the rewards at the top.

The stream has ended!

Anguish Facebook
Clawhammer PR Facebook
Dark Descent Records
Dark Descent Records Facebook

September 6, 2014: “Never” is my favorite track of the year. If anything comes along and dethrones it, I will be more than positively surprised. In a paradoxical manner, I often can’t pinpoint why a certain song or an album resonates with me the way it does. That’s because as a person, I’m more adept at feeling and experiencing than sharing my exact thoughts in a coherent piece of writing. I know what I like, but can’t necessarily explain why every time. In conversing, I’m more often than not a stream of consciousness type of talker – something that I find hard to translate over into writing. I know exactly why I like “Never” though: it speaks to me about as much as it speaks of me, and that is a lot.

“Never” is barefaced as much as it is multifaceted. Structurally, both instrumentally and rapping-wise, it is a relatively straightforward track. Inversely, its message can be interpreted in many ways. To take it in the context of the full album it originates from, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, it’s part of a narrative, part of a story. I like to be self-centered with the track though – I like taking it out of context, pulling it apart from the rest of the record, because while I enjoy &TYSYC very much as a full-length offering, no other song on the album digs as deep as “Never” does when I forget what The Roots might have wanted…

Yesterday (06.07.2014) was the day of the 26th Estonian Song Festival – the biggest national party that’s held here every five years. A little backstory: the tradition of countrywide song festivals in Estonia began in 1869, when 46 male choirs and five orchestras gathered together in the city of Tartu (the first song festival featured only men, mixed choirs featured first in 1891, and all-female choirs in 1896, regularly from 1933). 878 people performed. It laid the foundation for a national awakening and National Song Festivals have been an inseparable part of Estonian culture ever since. They are our main tool for defining ourselves and have always been events entwined with our yearning for independence, while simultaneously emphasizeing our oneness. During Soviet occupation, these song festivals were the most prolific regular patriotic events inside the Soviet Union – happenings that even the governing force majeure couldn’t impale nor stifle by forcing propagandistic themes into the programme. Thus, Estonia’s struggle for freedom under Soviet rule is known under the name “The Singing Revolution”.

Nowadays about 30 000 singers perform to a crowd over three times that size (which is a lot considering Estonia’s whole population is 1.3 million), all united in a positive, patriotic, uplifting circle of celebration. I didn’t go this year (as a spectator of course, thy higher powers have not blessed me with a particularly impressive set of pipes), which I’m more than a little ashamed over. It’s not that I couldn’t go, but…

Roots was one of my top 5 records last year, which made me super excited for Aura ever since the album was announced. Now, thanks to the man behind Saor, Andy Marshall, Sputnikmusic has the chance to host the stream for what is bound to be one of the finest black metal albums of the year, from one of the finest newcomers to the genre. Filled to the brim with authentic Celtic melodies and wonderfully lush primeval soundscapes, Aura is a real treat for those who like their metal atmospheric and epic. You can pre-order Aura from Saor’s bandcamp. The album will officially be released on June 6th, 2014 via Northern Silence Productions.

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Even though I have 100+ reviews on Sputnik, I’m actually a man of few words, at least when it comes to writing. Verbally I can talk on for days and about pretty much anything if in the right setting, but you’ll rarely see me posting a review that’s over 1000 words. Why so, I really don’t know. I guess opening myself up to a screen just isn’t the same. In any case, enough rambling, here’s what you need to know about MiXE1 and their debut album Starlit Skin:

1. MiXE1 was formed in 2010 and they play electronic rock music with a poppy vibe.
2. The band’s name is pronounced Mikes one, and all the songs are “set” in a futuristic city of the same name.
3. As of now, the band is independent, after the closure of their previous label Static Distortion Records in 2013
4. Starlit Skin is a solid debut that will surely see the band craft out a nice little niche for themselves.
5. I’ve learned from Jom that lists of five are always the coolest.

In co-operation with MiXE1’s frontman Mike Evans (super nice bloke by the way), Sputnikmusic now has an exclusive chance to stream the band’s debut album, starting from today (31.05.14) up until the midnight of next Friday (06.06.14). So don’t be shy, give Starlit Skin a whirl, and if you enjoy it, do go and support the artist by purchasing the album (bandcamp link…

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