Kval – Kval (self-titled)

Kval - Kval [album cover]

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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One Master – Lycanthropic Burrowing

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Label: Eternal Death

Were there any justice, then One Master would be recognised as one of modern black metal’s strongest bands. Now in to their fifteenth year of existence, the US band have, in the form of Reclusive Blasphemy, released one of 2015’s best records; and now follow it up with Lycanthropic Burrowing. It is another fine offering of misanthropic, forceful black metal that treads no path but its own, filled with violence and an aura of confidence that absolutely cannot be faked. This is the sound of a band at the height of their powers.

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Blackosh – Rvouci Vichry

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Label: Eternal Death

Formed by Petr Hosek, the original guitarist for Root and a current member of Master’s Hammer, Blackosh‘s take on black metal is every bit as unusual as you’d hope for. Latest EP Rvouci Vichry, despite only being two tracks long, succeeds in being more imaginative and interesting than most black metal bands manage in their entire careers. Taking the eclectic nature of the early Root records as a starting point, Rvouci Vichry follows up 2015’s Kurvy, chlast a black metal album in superb style.

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american – Violate And Control

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Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories / Fragile Branch Recordings / Shove Records

In the increasingly populated world of extreme music, it gets harder and harder to stand out. There’s only so many novel ideas out there, and there’s no guarantee that musicians have the requisite talent to properly convey what they have to express. It’s this context which helps make american seem an all the more startling prospect. Their mix of black metal, industrial, and harsh noise already sounds exciting on paper, but what Violate And Control demonstrates is that the duo have both the ideas and talent to take this combination in to strange new places. This results in an album that feels remarkably fresh, even as it indulges in some of the most horrific music committed to tape whilst still remaining listenable.

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Caïna / Cara Neir – Split

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Label: Broken Limbs Recordings

This was an unexpected surprise. I had thought that Christ Clad In White Phosphorous was to be Caïna’s final recorded output, but evidently not, as this split with blackened crust masters Cara Neir has emerged. Each band has a single track, though that’s all that both bands need to demonstrate their talent and unorthodox natures. Whilst both bands may have different sounds, it’s safe to say that their mentalities are comparable, making this split a bittersweet triumph – triumphant because of its undeniable quality, but bittersweet as this now marks the last output of Caïna to be committed to tape.

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Wiegedood -De Doden Hebben het Goed II

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Label: Consouling Sounds

It doesn’t feel like it was long since the first album from Wiegedood was released, with the Church Of Ra affiliated band unleashing a masterclass in modern black metal that rightly saw them lavished with praise. In the almost two years since the release of De Doden Hebben Het Goeg, the band have been touring and generally building upon the buzz surrounding them, meaning that expectations are high for the follow-up. Now that it’s here, does De Doden Hebben Het Goeg II meet them? The answer is: absolutely. It takes all that was good about the debut and doubles down on it, resulting in an album that is intense, captivating, and sure to be recognised as one of 2017’s finest.

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Saille – Gnosis

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Label: Code666

In the crowded world of black metal, small changes can make a big difference. Such is the case for Belgian band Saille. Compare the logo on their latest album, Gnosis, with that on previous efforts. It’s more direct, with less superfluous elements. A subtle shift, but one that speaks volumes about the music contained within. This is still epic black metal, as was present on previous albums such as Eldritch and Ritu; but it’s a much more muscular version, hitting harder than ever before. This is black metal that is not content to simply sit and ask questions; it will demand answers, by force if necessary.

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