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Thulcandra – Under a Frozen Sun (2011) - 60%

Asag_Asakku, June 5th, 2012

What if Jon Nödtveidt, famous leader of the infamous Swedish horde Dissection, had not been imprisoned for murder complicity in 1997? He could have worked on legendary album Storm of the Light's Bane (1995) successor, keeping the same sound and rhythmic approach that allowed the band to become a major pillar of the early 1990s Scandinavian metal scene. This uchrony is the starting point of Thulcandra’s career, a Bavarian band that chose to live in a parallel dimension in which they embody a version of Dissection as it could have been without its unfortunate eight years hiatus. Fallen Angel's Dominion (2010), band’s first album, was a long tribute to Nödtveidt 1990s music, an exercise in style designed to delight fans and rekindle the flame of blackened death metal. But now, these Gerrys are launching a second album, called Under a Frozen Sun (2011). Have they changed the formula?

Well no. This new album is again heavily inspired by Dissection first two records. Similarities are even sometimes disturbing. Anyone who has been listening to Dissection since the 90s (like me) can only note the obvious: Thulcandra is a pastiche – if not a plagiarizer – of its glorious predecessors. From the opener called In Blood and Fire until the record ends, every riff, every sound, every harmony, seem to draw their source from The Somberlain (1993) and Storm of the Light's Bane (1995). By compassion for you, dear readers, I will not enumerate all possible comparisons that can be made, but how is it possible not to inevitably recall Where Dead Angels Lie when listening the title track of this album? We can also perceive some other small influences here and there, especially In Flames (when they were still playing metal) on Aeons of Darkness.

I wonder why talented musicians are confining themselves in a musical straitjacket, sounding like a legendary band. Admiration? Fans attraction? Since everyone has access to the originals, why settle for a substitute? But let's be a good chap, Under a Frozen Sun (2011), despite its total lack of originality (even the cover is almost identical to the first album), still remains fun to listen and allows to experience an alternate history that so many Dissection fans, disappointed by Reinkaos (2006), would have liked to live. But every good things must end sometimes. I hope Thulcandra knows that. 6/10

Originally written for metalobscur.com

Stagnating.. but there is still a glimpse of hope - 81%

nilgoun, December 18th, 2011

The parallels between the debut of Thulcandra and the older records of Dissection were obvious and although the songs were played perfectly and good composed the similiarities were a huge flaw. The first moments of the second record Under A Frozen Sun point in the exact same direction, and it seems that Thulcandra want to continue their tribute to Dissection. Is there a unique characteristic this time?

You’ll notice the high level of technique with which Thulcandra is playing nearly as fast as the similiarities to Dissection. The songs are done in higher mid-tempo and are offering fast, of course cold riffs which are paired with aggressive drumming and furious growls/screams, as you would expect from an extreme metal band. The songs are creating a lot of atmosphere, which is mostly done through the good melodies and double-lead parts. It seems, on the first glimpse, that they have done everything right, but soon there is a slight disenchantment as the slower parts of the songs are quite akin to eachother and the melodic parts are, as mentioned, really similiar to Dissection.

This steals a bit of the long-term motivation to listen, but in exchange it stands for a high qualitative thickness, as there is no real bad song on the record, but no real highlight as well. The climaxes are scattered throughout all the songs in form of the enumerous soli. The production is a bit thin in terms of the guitars, but it’s crystall clear which supports the cold atmosphere really good.

Conclusion:

If you ask yourself if it would be worthwhile to buy Under A Frozen Sun you have to ask yourself the question what you expect. Melodic metal which reminds you of the old Dissection? Then buy it! Music with a lot of variety? Then risk an ear before buying. The record is played without a flaw and has a high qualitative thickness, but no own character and it offers some akin structures/melodies. The concept of the band was really good with their first record but it limps with the second one.

Originally written for http://threnodies.com

Thulcandra - Under a Frozen Sun - 85%

ThrashManiacAYD, November 1st, 2011

As a homage to a creator's idol I've heard few records reach a similar zenith of worship/plagiarism (delete as appropriate) as Thulcandra's "Fallen Angel's Dominion" from last year. An album I rated 7/10 at the time, not for it's technical failings or lack of interest to an extreme metal fan, but purely for it's lack of originality, it is an album I have loved this since, choosing almost to regard it as another classic Dissection release - after all they only arguably had two in their lifetime. So does "Under A Frozen Sun" also capture the frozen black/death metal heart of Jon Nödtveidt and co? Oh yes it does, albeit with a more traditional Swedish black/death style than the pure Dissection we heard last year.

The title and classic Necrolord style cover already give the game away, but the acoustic guitar intro, which soon gives way to the first of countless good riffs, in opener "In Blood and Fire" rages with the spirit of a musical genre which may never have reached any considerable success but has always appeared to be a perfection summation of musical desires to play music fast, dark and heavy yet with scorching melodies. Totally Scandinavian in sound (despite Thulcandra being German…go figure), the symphonic leanings found in the construction of the riffs themselves are the footprints of heavy, bombastic classical music's influence on metal as a whole: riffs flow effortlessly alongside lead melodies, the bass strikes dramatically and the drums run as a backbone to the power of the strings performing in front of it. More a description of this particular style, it is still however a testament to Thulcandra's performance abilities to merge the lavish quantity of riffs into cohesive wholes. The opening to 9-minuter "Gates of Eden" displays this nicely.

Between these two tracks which bookend the album (excluding the closing cover of Unanimated's "Life Demise") the five other tracks all manage to sound longer than they actually are, such in the level of activity within. "Ritual Of Sight" could be a put off from Necrophobic on the melodic end through to the tracks blistering Taake aesthetic, the punchy "Aeon Of Darkness" harks back to Dawn and the more brooding "Echoing Voices" matches Marduk for it's scathing evil intent. All in all, each one of these tracks are minor masterpieces, and whereas previously Thulcandra were a band showing great promise on "Fallen Angel's Dominion" this is now starting to become proven reality with their greater identity and honing of riffs on the fantastic "Under A Frozen Sun".

Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net - http://www.rockfreaks.net/albums/4375

Winter's sun shines black. - 88%

hells_unicorn, October 17th, 2011

Winter, the season of cold and darkness, fertile grounds for any tale of war or woe to freeze the senses of any would be audience. These tales are shared by Scandinavia’s otherwise divergent black and melodic death metal flocks, though it is arguable that they were best told by the early bands of both scenes during their emergence in the early to mid 90s, a time period where it wasn’t unheard of for the styles to overlap with each other. While still a very young band fresh from the wintry side of Bavaria, Thulcandra is arguably a premier revivalist outfit bent on bringing back this era of ambiguity between the borders of these 2 distinct musical movements, though they’ve put a different twist on it that is noticeably different from their admitted influences.

Much as was the case on their impressive debut “Fallen Angel’s Dominion”, their return to the studio “Under A Frozen Sun” is an exercise in extreme metal that is very much aware of its past, particularly the epic side of the equation. While not as indicative of the simplistic tonality and earlier heavy metal influences of recent Immortal releases, the general feel and production is permeated by a feel of grim and frostbitten tundra winds, with a guitar sound that is strong in the “Sons Of Northern Darkness” sense, while the accompanying rhythm section is as tight as a seasoned Teutonic thrash adherent. A slight evolution has occurred in the vocal presentation, which still leans towards the agonized wail of the Gothenburg scene, but with a slightly viler and goblin like edge that takes into account the blackened side of the equation.

While it is easy to hear the similar feel and formula of this album with its predecessor, Thulcandra has not put out the same thing twice. Perhaps the most telling examples are the opening and closing original songs in “In Blood And Fire” and “Gates Of Eden”, both powerful examples of the band’s multifaceted influences in epic packages, and showcasing the technical abilities of the guitars and drums. Some slight echoes of early Viking metal a la Bathory can be heard amongst the acoustic passages, but painted over with a bleaker tonality that is more in line with a bare winter landscape with echoes of the spirits of long dead warriors. Battle oriented, vindictive aggression in the mold of Marduk is still to be heard on shorter songs, most particularly “Black Flags Of Hate”, but the overall thrust of this album tends to be towards haunting memories rather than present hatreds.

It is still a bit early to declare this the ushering in of the next generation of blackened hoards, but in much the same respect that Emperor did 17 years ago; Thulcandra has broken a mold not so much by offering up a wild departure stylistically, but by reaffirming an existing spirit and strengthening it. And in similar fashion, this band has brought back an older song in Unanimated’s “Life Demise” in a new darkened light, almost in a fashion comparable to Immortal covering a Venom song in their present style. While the older version is very reminiscent of the formulaic and percussive tendencies of the mid 90s, this new version has a more refined flavor. This whole album could be interpreted as an updated musical poetry series in the same style of the mid 90s, containing clearer borders between the various shadings of misty skies and mighty mountains. It is definitely a fine album for anyone seeking to amplify the cold of the closing days of autumn before the first snowfall, let alone a contemplative experience for the dead of winter.

No sophmore jinx here - deadly black resonance! - 90%

Pratl1971, October 11th, 2011

Very rarely does a band in this era come along and batter my senses to the point of a mushy-mass impotency. For any black metal band to garner this much favor in my eyes is a rarity of high order; there simply isn’t enough originality or style today to break the confines of my little chasm of old-school blackened music. But once in a half-moon a band emerges and clears the murky waters and reclaims your faith in some things new. Thulcandra is that band, especially evident on the sophomore release, Under a Frozen Sun, which is nothing short of magical.

After the brilliance that was last year’s Fallen Angel’s Dominion it was tough to figure out where a band like Thulcandra could or would go or what else they can tap into that would remain vibrant and engaging. That befuddlement went wayside after “In Blood and Fire” kicked in and decimated the sensory aura within a 30-foot radius. Vocalist/guitarist Steffen Kummerer once more channels the ancient specters of black metal’s glory years (anno 1991-94) and offers a myriad of damp, cold chords and vocals that set apart the current black metal officers from the lowly wannabe grunts. I once though the only band to truly rival Dissection’s primitive and ghoulish sound was Vinterland, but I’m once again happily proven wrong as Thulcandra has not only bested the sophomore jinx but eaten it alive and spit out the bones. There is simply nothing wrong with this record, period.

What songs like “Ritual of Sight”, “Gates of Eden” or “Echoing Voices” provide is a tempestuousness that lay deep within the recesses of the black metal fan’s jaded psyche. At one point even the most ardent fans of the movement found nothing even remotely credible with the recent rash of bumbling buffoons belittling the once-proud genre; one listen to an album of Under a Frozen Moon’s caliber and you quickly realize there’s hope for the true fan to find something tangible in a sea of half-wits and deplorable imposters. This album is exactly what Storm of Light’s Bane, De Mysteriis dom Sathanas and Welcome My Last Chapter began so many years ago; keeping with the strong tradition Thulcandra calls upon such varied influences but refrains from outright thievery and collects your attention like souls to a cult. From the haunting ease of short acoustic passages to the empowering brilliance of freezing, atmospheric power chord undertows the record here is one of true passion, giving away nothing to trend or expectations past the band’s vision.

It’s not very often I offer such gushing praise simply because I’m hopeful enough to think that some bands with over-abundant talent should always try to stick to a winning design. That doesn’t mean the albums should run together as AC/DC has done for the last 30-years, but subtle changes and implementation of fringe influences are not a reason for total submission to a demographically-influenced change in style. That said Thulcandra takes a track like “Echoing Voices (A Cold Breeze of Death)” and manages to evenly level the line between ancient black metal and modern death metal to such an elevated point that you can’t help but believe the thinnest of margins can be achieved with some effort and incredible gifts. Steffen and company have it, and if you’re seeking a black/death metal effort that bleeds honesty and total reverence to the once-proud movement then do yourself a favor and pick this up at September’s end.

What better way to ring in winter’s arrival than to blast this album on your way through wintry landscapes and punishing cold?

(Originally written for MetalPsalter.com)

Perfection of a genre - 100%

leatherandtrash, October 3rd, 2011

This has been a long awaited release for me-- definitely my most anticipated of this year. Thulcandra is Steffen Kummerer's (of Obscura fame) side project. They are a Dissection tribute band in a way, but instead of simply doing cover songs, they choose to continue the sound that made Dissection famous. This is true swedish black/death metal to the frozen unbeating heart.

The first album "Fallen Angel's Dominion" is a perfect copy of this sort of music, from the actual content to the album artwork, which is painted by the same artist, Kristian "Necrolord" Wahlin. The artwork itself matches Dissection's perfectly. The album even features Thulcandra's interpretation of "The Somberlain". It is as if Kummerer was so upset by the ending of his favorite band he just said "fuck it", and made more Dissection albums.

This is very nice if this sort of music is your thing, and Dissection is one of the most important black metal bands that has existed. Thulcandra do not just rip the music off; instead, they compose amazing songs that are incredibly well written and I firmly believe Jon Nödtveidt is pleased in whatever netherworld he currently resides.

Where the first album was a continuation of this sound, "Under a Frozen Sun" builds upon and progresses it to a sound that is far less dated. Some of the guitar melodies on this album are so beautiful... it really is a shame that we are so far down in the metal substructure, and most people, even metal fans, will not get to hear it. The guitar tone also sells a large portion of this album because it reflects the era from which this band draws its influence, but with a contemporary clarity.

Few albums have I heard that weave a perfect tapestry of cohesive and interesting sounds that carry one through dramatic and colorful journeys. These songs fill ancient hallways and massive dusky tombs with spiralling engravings in a foreign tongue. It is as if many aeons ago these melodies echoed through ice filled chambers, telling tales of empires fallen and risen across a barren permafrosted wasteland. Thulcandra possess a particular talent that only a few bands I have heard truly master, and that is creating riffs with personality and diversity that tell stories without vocals. Immolation's "Majesty and Decay" is another such album full of these melodious riffs.

Thulcandra manages to achieve a level of memorabillity on this album. They create songs with hooks and catchy choruses that get stuck in your head without annoying sing along side effects. The despair filled title track mourns slowly over hills and valleys of windy snow covered plains. It's a beautiful motion filled black metal slow song.

"Aeons of Darkness" is my favorite song on the whole album. It should be a timeless black metal anthem for years to come. The chorus to this track is a captivating and commanding mid-tempo sermon of screamed vocals that tell of epic warfare and destruction. This song even rivals Immortal's "Tyrants" in cold nihilistic black metal bliss. The fact that Steffen Kummerer can write music this amazing for this genre as well as for his main band Obscura blows my mind.

Following the same album arrangement as "Fallen Angel's Dominion," this album also closes with a cover song of a true swedish metal band that is a clear influence. Opting to step away from the Dissection obsession for a few minutes, the album ends with a rendition of Unanimated's "Life Demise." I actually had not heard of them prior to discovering they were being covered on this album. I listened to the original a few times as well as the rest of the album it comes from, and the cover version is true to it.

Thulcandra is very much like Bloodbath(Swe) in that they began as a tribute to a genre that influenced the practitioners; however, now that the band has explored the path of mimicry, they are now further driven to build upon this foundation. Some people may complain that this is simply "ripping off" the original artist, but this is an igonorant claim that completely misses the point.

If you are in anyway a fan of black metal of the Swedish variety, you owe it to yourself to check this out. "Under a Frozen Sun" not only emulates the spirit of Dissection, Unanimated and Sacramentum, but improves upon the legacy they have left behind, enhancing and perfecting it into the hardened obsidian blade that will cut through the underground of black metal and show both posers and elitists how black metal is done properly and without compromises.

Originally written for: http://leatherandtrash.wordpress.com/album-reviews/thulcandra-under-a-frozen-sun-2011/