It always helps when an ambitious record has a conceptual framework to draw from; it helps keep the art grounded, and ensure it stays “on track”, rather than running riot with enthusiasm and losing its sense of identity and direction. In Circles grounds itself in the concept of Inferno from Dante’s Divine Comedy, and the time that This Sun No More have spent on the album has paid dividends. The thematic framework suits their emotionally crushing blend of post-rock and post-metal well, and helps ensure that, no more how expansive and bold the music gets, it always returns to a central place.
The success of blackgaze, and post-black metal more generally, lies largely in the way it helped to expand the emotional palette of black metal. Beyond the misanthropy and nihilism so often espoused by the genre, post-black metal helped carve out a space for emotions that could be described as something other than hateful – a melancholy different to the self-hatred of DSBM, and a sense of longing that is as emotional as it is spiritual. It’s these feelings that Empyrean Fire from Chernaa so successfully communicates – there is an urgency here that goes beyond the speed of the music, but instead speaks of an almost existential anxiety. It is music that is difficult to listen to, for sure; but that also tries to communicate something vital, which can – if you let it – be remarkably cathartic.
Even by the standards of what TSNTW usually covers, this edition of short reviews covers an exceptionally heavy selection of records. Evolution by Übergang brings the thrash and groove with hardcore energy, before Steel Casket by doom merchants Primitive Man buries us all in waves of noise. In Other Climes bring us back to live with the ferocity of the well-named Ruthless, whilst Mairu explore post-metal riffs with The Sacred Dissonance; before the wonderfully named Warcrab drown us in their sludge-laden death metal. Riffs! Volume! Fuck yeah!
That the first full-length from Snøgg is being self-released is the kind of thing that can make you question just what the music industry is playing at. I can only assume that it’s a conscious decision by the band to retain control of Chhinnamasta; otherwise, a lot of people are sleeping out there. The EPs previously released by the experimental black metal duo were superb; Abeloth was a particular favourite. As such, expectations from Chhinnamasta were high; but they have been met in style, with the album being more cohesive, more ambitious, and ultimately more powerful than what the band have released before, Chhinnamasta should cement Snøgg’s place as one of the most exciting and interesting bands in the black metal underground.
Released just over a year ago, Cold Air by Drowse was a prime example of music as self-care – a combination of blissful relaxation and utter anxiety, expressed through hazy shoegaze and slowcore, mixed with an avant garde approach to electronica and atmosphere. In contrast, Light Mirror is an album that explores art not as self-care but as self-sabotage and is, appropriately, a much darker album than the previous release. Art can act as a form of catharsis, an explosive release of energy and negativity; but explosions can, in themselves, be harmful.
Times have been good for death metal recently. The old-school death metal revival is going from strength to strength, and it seems you can’t go to a gig without there being at least one band creating black/death metal that would make Teitanblood and Incantation proud. But more than that, what’s been really exciting has been the rise of sci-fi death metal. A fresh appreciation for Demilich and Timeghoul has come about, and resulted in some genuine modern classics, most notably Blood Incantation’s Starspawn. Into this fertile scene step Nucleus with latest album Entity, a relatively concise – yet still expansive – journey into the unknown.
Well, I promised myself I’d run TSNTW on my own terms, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. And if that means I want to write two lots of short reviews in a month, then I’m going to write two lots of short reviews in a month. So, for this second installment, we have a live version of a classic from Entombed; righteous crust/hardcore from rising underground stars Redbait; Under A Full Moon’s anti-capitalist funeral doom; thrashing speed metal courtesy of Aggressive Perfector, who contain members of UK black metal upstarts Wode; and stirring, string-driven modern classical from duo Kamancello. Enjoy!