Postcards From Natalie Zed, Part 2

Hellbound readers, remember Natalie Zed? Natalie was our big grand prize winner back in January, taking home more than 50 CDs + and shortly after she received her huge box ‘o CDs, Ms. Zed asked us over at Hellbound HQ if we’d be interested in running reviews of her winnings if she did postcard sized reviews of the albums. How could we say no?

So, without further adieu, here is Natalie’s second installment in what Hellbound likes to refer to as “Postcards From Natalie Zed”…


Skitliv – Skandinavisk Misantropi (Season of Mist 2009)

When a razor’s edge first splits skin, the shallowest cuts aren’t painful. Like slicing through elastic, each layer flexes, gives, and eases apart. First pain is a high note, a quick intake of breath. Breathe through it. Press. The deeper you go, the fatter the blood is; the sweeter the flesh. The pain deepens, grows darker, gains weight and texture. The pain growls. Here you might hesitate. SKITLIV presses still harder, past muscle and fat, seeking bone.

Light This City – Facing The Thousand (Prosthetic Records 2006)

Every single scrap of writing that exists about this album mentions the female vocalist’s hotness. And if I have to hear one more discussion about whether or not female vocalists have a place in metal, I am going to kill myself with an oyster fork.

Darkane – Demonic Art (Nuclear Blast 2009)

It’s easy to forget that the basic functions of your senses – vision, hearing – aren’t just passive abilities, but real skills that you learn and develop. The first time I saw some of my favourite horror movies, I was shocked and overcome by their “realness,” the apparent seamlessness between reality and the illusion. Gradually, with repeated re-watching, I learned to see the tiny mistakes, the tricks, and soon learned to see through the affect into the art. I had a similar experience with DARKANE. The sound on Demonic Art is so lovely and layered and complex, and clear, that it took me many listens to be able to hear it all completely. I am still learning to listen to it.

Wolf – The Black Flame (Prosthetic Records 2006)

I am convinced that there is an entire subgenre of metal that’s currently engaged in a huge collective consciousness experiment. These bands, WOLF included, think and behave as exactly as if it is 1985. There is nothing retro, or throwback, or homage about what they’re doing. They are simply willing 1985 into being. Judging by how much fun these bands are to listen to, I’d say the experiment is working. WOLF: Better Than a Time Machine.

In Flames – Whoracle (Nuclear Blast 2009) (reissue)

Since this is an established, even canonical album, I feel like I can dally here and talk about vocabulary.

I’m simultaneously at an advantage and a disadvantage in my relationship to language. I came to metal by way of literature, rather than vice versa, and so the words used to describe the music — and oh the wealth of genres and subgenres all cross-pollinating each other in a dense network of modifiers and adjectives and portmanteaus – still feel opaque and unfamiliar. I still think about them deliberately, consider their sound and texture as well as their meaning. Whoracle has been called Gothenburg – location-based descriptor, but also which sounds to me like a warrior’s reward, something to strive for.

Whoracle is something to strive for.

Death Angel – Killing Season (Nuclear Blast 2008)

For summer, when everything smells like tar and exhaust, the asphalt is melting to your shoes, the growl of metal is everywhere, and the coolest water you can find is still the temperature of blood.

Leprous – Tall Poppy Syndrome (Sensory 2009)

As a migraineur, I have a rather peculiar relationship to painkillers. Tall Poppy Syndrome is aptly named. The sound is as thick, syrupy, and luscious as any opiate. It does not negate pain so much as shift your value judgements regarding positive and negative sensation. Like any poppy derivative, this offering from LEPROUS let’s you consider your hurt from a distance rather than be endlessly re-wounded by it, to study desolation from the infinite comfort of the slightest distance.

Byzantine – And They Shall Take Up Serpents (Prosthetic Records 2005)

Snakes don’t frighten me. They’re cool and dry and muscular, with a hint of musk that reminds me of the way the smell of ash clings to your throat. Their patterns of movement are difficult to predict, shifting from languorous to lightning. BYZANTINE does not fully capture the slither they’re seeking, but there’s just enough sibilance here to make you catch your tongue between your teeth.

Through The Eyes Of The Dead – Malice (Prosthetic Records 2007)

The issue here has to do with units of measurement. The individual tracks blend into each other, resulting in an undifferentiated mass of music rather than individual songs. The album as a whole also feels watery around the edges; it starts and stops rather than beginning and ending. Malice is all middle.

Mumakil – Behold The Failure (Relapse Records 2009)


Sean is the founder/publisher of; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.