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Ζήτω ο θάνατος - 95%

Exetlaios666, January 11th, 2013

It had been four years since "Praetorians" and I have to admit that the first signs towards a most extreme direction had made their presence clear. Something which didn’t 't come as a surprise, since Naer Mataron have been transcending themselves in this manner throughout their whole discography, each album being one step beyond it 's predecessor, in terms of songwriting, speed, production and attitude. So I sort of expected «ΖΗΤΩ Ο ΘΑΝΑΤΟΣ» to be one step further, and the signs were already there, but they were nothing compared to what was spewed by the speakers when I first listened to this wicked piece of venomous black/death.

The album begins with an eerie intro, with haunting sounds in the background and a soft spoken, yet strict voice of a woman invoking the god of death himself, Thanatos. Just a few moments of introduction to the atrocious realm of deathlike silence, and then, the eruption begins! Suddenly, "Apocalypse of the Ancient One" charges in a full blast, announcing the chaos that is to come. Insane drumming leads the way for relentless six-string shredding and brutal vomiting of assaulting vocals, all together creating a vanquishing tornado, like nothing you have listened before from Naer Mataron.

Things do not get any calmer with the next couple of tracks, where the battering continues, while some slower, claustrophobic parts evolve amidst the abyss of twisting chords and leads and aggressive vocal lines.

The speed drops down a bit with the bitter, yet powerful and profound atmosphere of "Goat Worship", only to be followed by the frenzy of "Faceless Wrath of Oblivion", and then the hell-on-earth goes on, with the album retaining the high standards it set on itself throughout the 35 minutes of total running time. I would only like to point out that the last track "Ode to Death" is one of the most outstanding songs of this album, a soul-rapping combination of despair and intensity.

The drumming is insane, with excellent tempo changes that vary from extremely fast to slow but rhythmical parts, which give to the songs the necessary amount of variety instead of being only super-fast and nothing more. It is important to mention here that the sense of groove is retained in spite of the very high speeds. Guitars and bass sound like a living, vengeful gutter, and you’ll notice that there’s nothing plastic or polished here - you have a heavily distorted, shredding sound, yet every single stroke of the punishing riffs is audible through a perfectly balanced, professional mix. And the brutal vocals sound strict and demonic, a perfect match for this whirlwind of cacophony.

It is quite obvious to this point that this is a huge change for Naer Mataron sound wise. Most people would maybe call this album death metal but I will not totally agree, I 'd rather say it’s a form of blackened death metal, or better a hybrid perfectly balanced between the dark atmosphere, aggressiveness, feeling and skill of both genres. And it is a fact that those who are familiar with the band’s previous works will recognize memories of the past emerging from within the walls of frustrating chords and awkward melodies. Of course, those who remain loyal exclusively to the early '90s grim, frost-layered style of Norway-influenced unholy black metal will be dearly disappointed. But in the same time it is a great album for those who are willing to listen to what the band has to offer today, or those who didn’t follow the course of this old Hellenic cult in the past - who knows, maybe a triumphant new era?

Summing up, this is the most extreme release of Naer Mataron to date. A crushing combination of both black and death metal elements, the album is neither short nor long, structured in a way that allows you to keep listening to it again and again. In addition, this time the lyrics seem to be a bit more sophisticated, perhaps more personal, avoiding many of the expected clichés in the genre, and the artwork is an excellent reminder of the album’s central concept: the death’s head smiling, knowing that every man who is born into this world, has to die at some point.

Long live death, indeed - 72%

autothrall, December 14th, 2012

Long subsisting on savagery, Naer Mataron have unquestionably proven themselves to be one of the most sinister extremists among the cult of Hellenic black metal. One of the closest in that scene to adhere to the concept that this genre's roots are raucous, fast, unhealthy, unholy and uncomfortable music to damage the psyche and soul. Their records have traditionally not been the stuff of glorious gallivanting and singalong melodies, but more interested in skinning the audience and cannibalizing their organs, and their latest, sixth full-length ΖΗΤΩ Ο ΘΑΝΑΤΟΣ (i.e. 'Long Live Death') is a further affirmation of their scathing Satanic blood ablutions and the organ harvesting of an angelic chorus. Now just a three piece (they were five on 2008's Praetorians), one would think that they might pursue a more stripped-down approach to violence, but that's not really the case with this...

To my surprise, Naer Mataron have actually ramped up the death metal elements in their music to the point that this latest album is basically a death/black hybrid. Granted, the last album had a bit of this felt through the construction of the muted picking and several of the riffs, but the vocals there were more of an abrupt and uncouth snarl placing it largely in the latter niche. Here, we get denser death grunts, which combined with the hyper-accelerated riffing bring to mind veterans like Morbid Angel, or Polish acts like Behemoth or Hate. Rhythmically they continue to implement a lot of dissonant, cutting chord patterns which reflect their Norse black metal influence and the heritage of their earlier records, but this is a blasted, brutal assault which will potentially sate followers of both camps (or each, individually). Frenetic, tireless drumming lays out the groundwork, and above the clamorous configurations of chords you get zipping, unhinged leads that feel as oblique and evil as the Floridian forefathers, if perhaps not as complex or interesting as something Trey might have written in his prime. But fear not, because this isn't some monotonous blast-fest lacking in variation: they use a lot of great rhythmic tricks, stop/start patterns festooned in spikes of morbid melody (as heard in "Sleepless Beings"), and even some rabid, turbo-thrashing riffage as in "Faceless Wrath of Oblivion".

The mix of ΖΗΤΩ Ο ΘΑΝΑΤΟΣ is murky without being muddled, and you can hear each course being carved out by the frenzied guitars in a strong balance with the kick, bass, and grunts. Perhaps the least compelling components of this new focus are the guttural vocals, which simply don't offer much of a distinction among hundreds of like-minded death or death/black outfits; and the bass-lines which maintain the presence of a rumbling hell-train beneath the abyss, but primarily get lost behind the guitar flurries. But to be honest, I can forgive cases, since Kaiadas does not do a poor job with either, and never has (cut the guy some slack, he's an actual elected member of parliament in Greece for the Golden Dawn). Ultimately, Naer Mataron prove that they 100% have the chops to succeed in this field, and if songs like "Whispers of Begotten Premonition" or "Sleepless Beings" are any indicator, they've gut the raw intensity to sate fans of death/grind or brutal death without alienating their core black metal audience, and hell, the title gave us plenty of warning, right? It's not amazingly memorable, but we've got a pretty fucking explosive album here; despite its mutation away from the sound of their first few discs, it's just as good as efforts like Up from the Ashes or Discipline Manifesto.