Record reviews: Krisiun, Blackmore’s Night

Krisiun, “Southern Storm” (Century Media)

I know I’m listening to a great album when it shows up on my face. Like here: A mirror would show my mug in a grimace of pain, anger and disgust that won’t go away, because those feelings are what I’m hearing, and Krisiun know I’ve got reasons to feel the same, and the three brothers have the tools to help me grind through.

I’ve liked these Brazilian deathmen for a long time, always thinking that one day they’d take a leap beyond their million-beat rhythmic mastery into wider spheres of structure and axmanship. Well, after some 18 years together they’ve done it with “Southern Storm.”

Much of the credit goes to guitarist Moyses Kolesne, whose playing has exploded. He does something different on each song, but for example consider the braying chords and skyrocket lead on “Combustion Inferno,” the melodic/schematic improvisation on “Massacre Under the Sun,” the steamship-whistle effect on “Origin of Terror,” the spiraling Arabisms on “Contradictions of Decay,” and (take this, suckahs!) 48 seconds of gorgeous acoustic Spanish thrumming on the solo spot “Black Wind.”

Drummer Max Kolesne surely does his part. Always a supreme batterer with indigenous roots in the rainforest, he helps make the songs more intelligible by breaking up the onslaught with military stomp (“Sentenced Morning”), executing furious orchestrated tom rolls (“Minotaur”) and stabbing/receding with a vicious bayonet attack (“Massacre Under the Sun”).

Voxman-bassist Alex Camargo is reaching out from the front. If a Brazilian can also be a Viking, you hear it in the nearly melodic coxswain bellow of “Sons of Pest.” And by way of historic acknowledgment, his exhortation on the Sepultura cover “Refuse/Resist” (whose fist-pumping twist of Cain blasts into thrill-jockey hyperspeed) is a sound to be feared.

When the production’s this deep and strong, the techman deserves a nod as well: Andy Classen at Stage One Studio in Borgentreich, Germany, take a bow.

Some death metal leaves me sagging; “Southern Lord” got me slugging. Pain, anger and disgust are the motivators, but this is no encounter group -- what we’re looking for is transcendence and triumph, and Krisiun delivers. When the album ended, I had just one word on my lips: mo-ther-f*ck.

Blackmore’s Night, “Secret Voyage” (SPV)

A horrible fascination attends each new Blackmore’s Night release; it’s like being under a CURSE, or perhaps an ENCHANTMENT wrought by some GYPSY under the FULL MOON. Torn we are, like condemned miscreants ripped asunder by mad steeds. On one hand we're drawn to the genius of former Deep Purple/Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, god of proto-metal. On the other claw we shrink from the fatal allure of singer Candice Night, whose nearly two-decade partnership with Blackmore has entangled the man in a web of acoustic guitar strings and Renaissance Faire ribbons. Merlin has resigned his fate to Morgan le Fay’s spell, and if you’ve seen the sorceress, you can’t blame him. Of course, Blackmore thinks it’s all been his idea.

“Secret Voyage” retains all the heraldic hallmarks of Blackmore’s Night: the rumbling, galloping, cantering equestrian rhythms; the English folke formes; the themes of myth & magic; the epic excursion; the off-the-wall cover version. And it has veritably ripped the bodice from the New Age charts.

Let down your guard and you may be sucked in, especially by the sound. Producer Pat Regan (along with “executive producers” Romper and Hopper -- Night’s cats) has crafted an instrumental environment as physically impactful as a summer roll in the hay. The insistent two-beat of “The Circle” delivers a low-end thud reminiscent of a ruff-collared Waylon Jennings. Against Blackmore’s tangibly articulated acoustic twangle and a balalaika-like strum, the bass drum (must be four feet across) on “Peasants Promise” whomps like the fall of a rotted oak. Ghostly vocal choruses seep into the mix of “Far Far Away,” notable for its uncommonly developed, almost pop melody and its upshifting key change. Fiddles, flutes and lutes, of course, abound.

The banquet boasts two choices to which you’re most likely to skulk back. “Locked Within the Crystal Ball” is the de rigueur epic, riding Night’s pure minor-key croon and Blackmore’s searing electricity to surge through an effortlessly powerful eight minutes. And spare not the volume knob when you arrive at “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” wherein Blackmore gives rein to his Elvis obsession by transforming the dreamy waltz into a thundering 4/4 tambourine-banger with perfectionist electric solo and obbligato; when it climbs that vertiginous bridge, hold on to your hair.

“Secret Voyage” is sheer sensuality you can chew on. Enjoy it in strictest privacy.