HardReviews 5
by Martin Popoff

The Obsessed - Incarnate
(Southern Lord)

Incarnate marks something of a first - a reissue of a rarities package with bonus tracks, basically, er, more rarities. Incarnate first came out in '99, with this '04 version adding five bonus tracks plus the video for Streetside. The cool thing is that the band is new enough (essentially a '90s band) that nothing sounds out of character, the doom-watcher able to listen to hear a unified collection of warm, sluggish, rudimentary but moderately catchy stoner rock rarities that together sound like songs written in logical proximity to each other. Man, I hate when CDs don't have the tracks numbered, this one being even more confusing given the jumbling of the tracks away from their intended clumping, which is albeit, addressed adequately in the liner notes. Another not so great thing is the more than occasional bad production, worse case being the distorted run through Skynyrd's On The Hunt, featuring Dale Crover from Melvins on drums (yawn), other bad bits coming with River Of Soul live and various muffled over-stoned treatments. The best stuff comes first, from '92 and '94 sessions, with Eric Burdon's Inside Looking Out sounding killer, Wino in rare bluesy psych mood. And yes, it's a joy to hear Wino's otherworldly croon, something that always distinguished the big man's many bands from the glutted stoner fray The Obsessed and Saint Vitus helped cause. So yeah, what you get is 70 minutes, 18 tracks of warm, spontaneous, undergrounded and honest smoky rock, and much of it good enough to be on an Obsessed album proper.
Rating 6.5

Finntroll - Nattfodd
(Century Media)

Faster and blacker than previous, Finntroll have a lot to be irascible over, including the mysterious demise of Somnium (suicide, drugs, drink and accident doing a dance of death) and the necessity of a switch in the vocal department due to Katla losing his voice from a throat tumor, resulting in the acquisition of new troll Wilska, who is a long-time friend of the band and notable metal behind-the-scenester. The result is an album that is short, to the point, cohesive in its brisk beer-with-shot-chaser attitude. Singing in Swedish (second language for Finns), the band achieve a cold but celebratory, sort of power metal quality, due to infusions of the "humppa"/polka style of Scandinavian folk music. Traditional-sounding keyboard sounds complete the circuit, Nattfold sounding like a menacing party that cuts out many of the eccentricities of old for a rousing dogsled romp to the icy finish line. Personally, I would prefer to hear lush, layered and dynamic exploration of the band's unique soundscape, but Nattfold still achieves the end result - golden hall madness promulgated by troll tricks and blood-based booze, sleight of hand and hallucination, times to remember, blackouts and frozen death.
Rating 7.5