Solefald – In Harmonia Universali (2003)

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Solefald’s first three albums were, for better or worse, consistently informed by the sounds of black metal. On first listen, I thought that In Harmonia Universali rejected that, but a closer listen revealed that change was mostly limited to the vocals. Merely not shrieking and screaming your way through a metal album is enough to lighten and soften the end product. Regardless of how you feel about this stylistic change, you can’t deny that In Harmonia Universali is a different permutation on the stereotypical Solefald sound, with greater emphasis on complicated vocal arrangements and a further expansion of the “instrumental experimentation” angle.

Extensive listening has, as promised convinced me that the black metal edges of Solefald’s sound still (un)shine through to some extent, even if the songwriting is brighter and possibly friendlier than before. Some of the more obvious instrumental tropes – tremelo riffing and blastbeats in particular – show up on occasion. However, even when these do appear, they are in utter subservience to the rest of Solefald’s instrumentation – in particular, In Harmonia Universali showcases a lot of piano and saxophone, although often more as accentuation than actual song driving content. I’d say the real winner here is Lazare, who gets to spend the entire album singing multitracked harmonies with himself. These are almost always the high points of the songs in which they appear.

I’m not going to go as far as to say that this album can be benchmarked solely by counting Lazare’s parts, but the thought has crossed my mind at times. One of the much-explored caveats of relentlessly varying your instrumentation is that if you screw up, you can end up with ridiculous bullshit gibberish. This hasn’t really been a problem in my previous experience with Solefald, but In Harmonia Universali has a serious lack of sanity checks that could’ve prevented some of this stuff from going out without being properly baked. On the other hand, I feel like this album also has very high peaks – when everything meshes together, the results are excellent, and they make you me wish Solefald had focused their efforts in that direction. This rollercoaster ride of overall song quality makes me question the foundation of Solefald’s songwriting, especially when other genre-blenders can do everything more cohesively…

So in short, In Harmonia Universali is really good when it’s good, but “Dionysify This Night Of Spring” was a huge mistake.

Highlights: “Mont Blanc Providence Crow”, “Christiania”, “The Liberation of Destiny”

Mysticum – Planet Satan (2014)

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When we last left Mysticum, they were preparing the release of Planet Satan. In the interrim, I managed to convince myself that this album didn’t come out until 2016, and that therefore it was a reasonable but overlooked choice for my DMU tenure. Instead, it’s been available since 2014, so I’m definitely behind the times here. You can therefore consider this review something of an attempt to fix a hole in my backlog.

Planet Satan is basically what Mysticum’s previous album should’ve been – better produced and mixed. I say this with full awareness of black metal musicians’ affinity for lo-fi recordings. Sometimes, that’s a desirable trait. In Mysticum’s case, though, the “industrial” aesthetic is better served by a cleaner sound. It isn’t entirely pristine, to be fair – Planet Satan‘s production channels much of its predecessor’s trebly hiss, but on equivalent stereo equipment the end result is more balanced and louder. The vocals are the major benefactor here – the screams and thickly accented ranting here are prominent enough in the mix to drive songs, but everything else has been boosted, making for an overall better sounding recording.

To be fair, there isn’t much on this album that would sound out of place on In The Streams of Inferno if it’d been recorded on the same equipment as that effort. I want to say that the songwriting here is more coherent, but this is a very minor change at best. The songs actually feel more compact despite the album’s greater length, although I’m not sure if that’s just a result of them grabbing my attention more effectively. One thing that is for certain is that there are fewer abrupt asides, and that when new instrumentation is introduced, it’s integrated into the actual songwriting more effectively. These aren’t especially complicated songs, and one thing I’ve noticed is that the overall rhythmic simplicity makes for a strange, inexplicable effect at times (is this, perhaps, the psychedelia that people have been claiming Mysticum channels for the last few years?). On the other hand, I consider it a good thing that a so-called industrial black metal album strikes a balance between a mechanical aesthetic and the other moods I typically associate with black metal – blasphemy, hellfire, derangement, etc. That last bit is probably Mysticum’s true strength, and one that not many bands have been able to capture on their own terms.

In short, Planet Satan pretty much obsoletes everything else Mysticum has created, by virtue of being essentially the same but shinier. Some bands lose crucial elements of their sound when they try to refine it, but not this band.

Highlights: “LSD”, “Far”, “Fist of Satan”

“Critical Mass” Reaches The Masses

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So I’ve been hinting at this for a while – I released a full length album for the first time on August 1st, 2017. People release debut albums all the time, yes, but this is still a pretty major milestone on my end. In the interest of having more vaguely promotional material on the internet, Critical Mass is getting a blog post. Just to get it out of the way – your best bet for purchasing this is on Bandcamp, which has the lowest default price, but lets you pay what you want if you’re so inclined. You should be able to find it on a variety of other vendors, though.

A few bits of trivia you might not already know about this album, even if you’ve been good and purchased this album in order to support its creators:

  • Most of the actual composition/arrangement/recording work took place in early-mid 2016, and the decision to compile things into an album came about a year after that.
  • After doing pretty much nothing in the way of covers through the rest of my career, I started doing a chunk of those as I worked through the content for this album, and several of them lead to DAW/sonic advances that are present on Critical Mass‘s actual songs.
  • This album almost featured some more remasters and remakes from early 2015 or so, but I decided to leave them off in favor of newer tracks once I decided to seek out professional mixing/mastering services. Not to disparage myself too much, but I had good results with that route in the past (read: the Polyhedron EP), so I figured I’d give it a shot again.

With that in mind, some notes about the future:

  • I’m probably going to take another shot at finding bandmembers to expand Planepacked with sooner or later. Massachusetts is pretty damn good for metal, and I’m conveniently located to get people from all over New England by being close to its center of population.
  • Unless something changes, the next major creative project you see from me is probably going to be another book. I wrote 50,000+ words of one for NaNoWriMo 2016, and progress has continued on it since then, if admittedly kind of slowly. I’m hoping to pull off something of a sprint to fill out some of the chunks of that. I’ve already written a teaser for the content of the book, which you can read if you want an idea of the content.

Your normal review schedule will return on August 12th… unless I decide to write an Anatomy of Video Game Music post or something. You usually know what you’re going to get on Invisible Blog, but you can’t deny that there are exceptions.

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 5: The One Drop Society

The final installment of Flash Fiction Month #2 is a story idea I’ve had banging around the inside of my cranium for some time. Extracting stories from your head and putting them to paper (or pixels) is a good way to stave off madness. Read the last installment here, and read the installments from the first Flash Fiction Month here.

NOTE: This story contains sensitive content that may be offensive to various demographics. You’d think they wouldn’t be able to collaborate to deadly effect, but Destruction released a song called “United By Hatred” on their 2nd album, Eternal Devastation (which I have, in fact, reviewed). Any resemblance to actual political positions, real or imagined, historical or contemporary, left or right, purple or pink with yellow polka dots, etc. is entirely coincidental.


It’s 1842. For whatever reason, the town of Aschaffenburg in South Carolina recently passed a law stating that a person with even so much as one African ancestor would be considered black for legal purposes. One of our undercover agents blew their cover by calling the proposed bill a “one drop rule” in a fit of spluttering rage. When we were done reprimanding him, we admitted he’d given us an idea.

Read more…

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 4: Partially Hydrogenated

We are up to four episodes of Flash Fiction Month now! It all ends next week, but try not to think too hard about it. Sometimes, you just have to live in the moment. The overall plot of today’s story was inspired by a longtime reader’s suggestion. Read the last installment here, and read the installments from the first Flash Fiction Month here.


Somewhere in the unfathomable depths of rural Iowa…

Okay, let’s be honest – Bill doesn’t like carnivals all that much. Sure, he tags along if his family wants to go to one, but the peculiar mixture of low budget thrills and low budget customers doesn’t quite sit right with him. Too much of either actually tends to make him wake up in the morning with either a hangover, or a stress migraine. Still, he’s here, so he figures he ought to man up for his wife and kid and try to make the most of the day. Bill has, however, picked up a few tricks for minimizing the casualties of carnival. First, he gets all of his thrill riding out of the way in the morning, when his breakfast (bacon and eggs) has settled a bit, and isn’t quite at risk of emergency ejection. Afternoons, on the other hand, are a better time for games and shows that don’t require quite the same level of physical endurance and toughness. After all, it’s not like he’s the one getting dunked or shot at. In the middle of all of this, though…

“Get yer fried butter here! It’s deep fried, it’s buttery, and this is the only place ya’ll can git without your doctor having a heart attack for you!”

Bill has already sampled enough fried carnival food to legally change his name to “Big Bill”, but the novelty of fried butter is simply too much for him to pass up. He heads over to the stall that’s selling the product and asks for a portion.

“Fried butter! Bright as the moon and tastes better, too!”

That’s a little weird, but the carnie is still following through and prepping Bill’s “food”. He pays for the fried butter, eats a piece; I’m not entirely sure what he was expecting, but he seems to like it, at least as a work of carnie art.

“You like that, eh? Got plenty more where that came from, n’yeh,” says the carnie, finally addressing Bill, who has by now pushed down about half his portion and is beginning to reconsider his initial approval. It seems a bit too greasy, even for carnival standards.

“You know, I just go with the moon stuff because the kids seem to like it,” the carnie continues, because Bill’s suddenly glazed expression makes it obvious that he’s clearly very interested in what the carnie has to say. “Thing is, nobody’s ever been to the moon, so I don’t know if it’s true.”

“I, I, what?” Bill finally says. His mouth doesn’t feel right. There’s a congealed mass of something inside that’s interfering with his diction. It turns out to be fried butter.

“Oh, sure, they broadcasted moon landings in 1969, but everyone knows those are fake,” continues the carnie. Fried butter was an afterthought – this is his true passion in life. “Haven’t you seen them so-called photos? They’re full of flaws and glitches that a trained eye can see.”

Bill is questioning whether or not he should eat the last blob of battered butter. It looks like it’s beginning to get cold.

“And for every faked photo, there’s a photo or film that NASA claims exists, but it’s missing! Do they think we’re all rubes?”

Bill is beginning to question the entire course of his life about now.

“And NASA is still faking science in an attempt to drain money from the military! We have to do something about, I-”

“I gotta get to the bathroom, man. I’m gonna hurl-” Bill can’t even finish his sentence before the fried butter and other carnival delicacies (partially reconstituted by now) force their way up his digestive tract and end up spattered on the dirt below him.

“You okay, man? I was sure I washed my hands before I served you?” says the carnie, who clearly doesn’t have the temerity to preach to the sick. Let’s hope his boss didn’t hear him.

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 3: Emergency Preparedness Edition

Another episode of the second season of Flash Fiction Month! How many of these are there going to be? (Hint: Probably five). Today’s installment is inspired by actual events… which I altered just enough for this story that I won’t have to pay anybody. Read the last installment here, and read the installments from the first Flash Fiction Month here.


“Aw, crud baskets! The power just went out!”

Joan didn’t really need to tell me. The sudden darkness and awkward silence that descended on the house were evidence enough. The lights flickered on briefly for a few seconds about a minute later, but then they were gone yet again.

“Guess we’d better call the electric company,” said Joan from downstairs. “What was their number again?”

“I think I wrote it down on a magnet on the fridge,” I responded. “Use your phone as a flashlight.”

“I can’t! I left it charging in the living room, and I can’t see anything! Can you help me out here?”

Luckily for Joan, mine was literally at my desk. I navigated down the stairs with some trepidation, but eventually I managed to make my way to the living room without breaking any important limbs. To my consternation, Joan’s phone was, for all purposes, a torch cutting through the total darkness of the living room, and I was wondering why she couldn’t use its reflection or other forms of luminescence to make her way towards it. I valued my life too much to actually express these thoughts to her face, so I just grudgingly unplugged the the phone and brought it to her.

“Excellent! I’m getting that number and making a call. Just sit tight and we’ll have power in no time!”

Five minutes passed. The bastards at the electric company had apparently put Joan on hold. I made my way over to the window – it looked like all the rest of the houses on the block were electricity-free for the moment. Nobody outside, either – I guess they were just sitting tight and waiting for the power to come back on. But I’m better than that sort of passive behavior, so I had to find something to do.

It occurred to me all of a sudden that I had a mostly charged smartphone in the palm of my hands. When did that happen? No matter. I logged onto Facebook – my circle of friends was up to their usual shenanigans – pontificating, photobombing, pigging out, and so forth. Nobody else seemed to be complaining about a lack of power, which was further evidence for this being an entirely local problem. I started composing a status message.

“The power just cut out here. That’s super lame, and it’d better come on soon!” I ended up writing; now to wait and see what happens. Several minutes passed without the electricity being restored, but then…

Samantha just liked my post! Life is sweet. I mean, not the outage, but the rest of my life is still pretty good.

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 2: Mission Impossible

Another episode of the second season of Flash Fiction Month. Read the last installment here, and read the installments from the first Flash Fiction Month here.


Resolved: We should increase marshmallow consumption by at least thirteen percent. Anything more than twenty percent may result in a potentially undesirable chemical cascade.

Also resolved: The price of peanuts, and their corresponding paste and butter products is too damn high. We do not have other options, and the vendors understand this on the most intimate of levels. Regardless, we must increase peanut product consumption as well, although it may take several months to form a reasonable estimate.

There is one major logistical facility approximately 2 kilometers to the east that contains supplies of our required sustenance. It is heavily fortified – the entire facility is, in fact, encased in a foundation of reinforced bricks and concrete. Furthermore, it is surrounded by dangerous, rugged terrain full of rapidly moving obstacles, and also static barricades that can tear through even the thickest armor if we are not careful. The only factor in our favor is that this fortress is understaffed. While the building is heavily trafficked, the majority of its visitors are travelers from distant lands who seek to use its services, as opposed to defensive personnel. If we make our move at a time when the place is undermanned, then our chances of success are substantially increased.

To this end, we have requisitioned a special combat package from home base that will assuredly increase our combat effectiveness on this mission. Since heavy armor is most likely to be unnecessarily cumbersome and would provide insufficient protection against enemy fire or environmental hazards, the equipment included focuses on boosting mobility, firepower, and to a lesser extent, stealth capabilities. This is ideally going to be a quick smash and grab mission – get in quickly, disable all opposition, acquire the victuals, and get out, ideally before the place goes on full alarm. Of particular note is an experimental nerve gas dispenser that can incapacitate organic life forms in a fifty foot radius, although so far we have only managed to scrounge up a few canisters of ammunition.

We have forty hours to prepare. Best of luck, and pray to your various gods that you’ll survive.

8:26 PM, Shopping Pun Mart Superstore:

“One loaf of bread, one package of Jif peanut butter, one package of marshmallow fluff, a half gallon of milk, two pounds of bananas, and a package of breath mints. That will be $11.38.”

“I’ll pay with cash,” I responded, handing the cashier a twenty dollar bill, and getting my change, receipt, and a bag of groceries in return. I left the store without incident.

“Fucking price gouging stores. Do they think I’m made out of money?” I muttered under my breath. “Next time, I’m going to Market Basket.”