Violet Cold – Anomie

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Label: Tridroid Records / Folkvangr 

“That’s not black metal!” is a response that is often mocked, associated as it is with the kind of fan who desperately clings to the past, unwilling to accept innovation or change. Most of the time, it is a useless sentiment, saying more about the speaker than the music they’re leveling the accusation at. Yet whilst listening to Anomie, the latest album from Azerbijani band Violet Cold, I find myself understanding and sympathising with the sentiment. The one-man act have a considerable discography that touches upon a multitude of genres, yet Anomie is being presented by much of the media and labels involved as an atmospheric black metal album; and whilst that’s one aspect of Anomie, it is far from the whole story. To approach the album as you would any other black metal album, with all the weight of expectation that brings, would be to do yourself, and it, a disservice. And just because it isn’t necessarily black metal, doesn’t mean that it isn’t any good.

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Mad Spanner – Wrong Shade Of Orange

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Label: Self-released

As I’ve noted elsewhere recently, the problem with most so-called comedy bands is that they aren’t actually all that funny, and rely on offensive or shocking “jokes” to mask a lack of decent songs. Wrong Shade Of Orange by solo act Mad Spanner makes no attempt to hide its absurd sense of humour – I mean, just look at that cover – but the thrashy punk/grind on the album is strong enough to stand on its own. However, the humour is of the kind that won’t be to everyone’s taste, and can be – to me – rather hit-and-miss. That said, there’s still more than enough here to have kept me entertained.

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Kval – Kval (self-titled)

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Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records

If any style can be said to capture the zeitgeist of black metal over the past few years – in the way that the Scandinavian second wave did in the mid-90’s, or symphonic did a few years after that – it would be atmospheric black metal. And as with any (relatively) popular style of music, there are a lot of dull, uninspired records being made that aim to be atmospheric and hypnotic, but simply end up feeling dull and boring. So, it makes the discovery of a record like the self-titled album from Kval all the more special. It may be easily recognisable as the nature-inspired atmospheric black metal we all know and (possibly) love, but Kval has a sense of character, strength, and aura that is all too rare.

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Forlatt – fantom

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Label: Self-released

Fantom is an album that is far from easily accessible. The fourth release by solo artist Forlattfantom is an 86 minute journey of solitude and misery, with the music wrapping the listener up in layers of melancholia. It is hardly an album that can be listened to casually, containing as it does some incredibly long songs (three run to over fifteen minutes each) that unfurl over time, gradually revealing their secrets and depths. Yet it is hard to resist its charms, as the moods contained here – as sorrowful as they are – are filled with a kind of beauty, that is balanced with enough moments of post-black metal aggression to ensure that fantom never risks feeling stagnant.

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Ulnar – Dreaming Of Sailing Further West

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Label: Colectivo Casa Amarela

Given that Ulnar comprises of Rui P. Andrade and  Vitor Bruno Pereira (of Aires, Verãopop, Shikabala), my expectations were quite high going in to Dreaming Of Sailing Further West. The duo had previously worked together on Pânico-Ambiente, a record of harsh noise, but this new release leans more towards the ambient side of the noise spectrum. There are harsher elements than a typical ambient album would contain, but Dreaming Of… casts a deeply meditative, captivating spell over the listener for its half hour duration, conjuring up atmospheres of desolation, loss, and yet also something close to redemption.

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Moral Straightjacket – I’ll Be Your Rainbow

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Label: Ruined Smile

Moral Straightjacket‘s brand of emo is heavy. Not so much in the musical sense – anyone who has spent time with their previous releases will attest to that – but emotionally. Their songs carry the weight of the world in their riffs and drum patterns, with the vocals and lyrics conveying a sense of profound weariness and loss that belies the youth of the members. Comparisons to Self-Defence Family are obvious and apt, but latest EP, I’ll Be Your Rainbow, sees the band move in different directions, with dark post-punk and country coming to the fore as often as emo or post-hardcore does. It’s a bold move, and it works extremely well.

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Khazaddum – Plagues Upon Arda

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Label: Self-released

I’m sure that there will be those who balk at Plagues Upon Arda, simply because of its lyrical content. Khazaddum are hardly the first band to take inspiration from The Lord Of The Rings, but most bands who do so handle the matter in ways that is, frankly, cheesy and immature. This album avoids any such pitfalls though, comprised as it is of relentless, pummeling death metal that takes inspiration from the likes of Behemoth and Nile. Far from being a novelty record, Plagues Upon Arda is an album of real strength and talent that would surely stand out even without its atypical lyrical themes.

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