We’re at the end of months 2 of lockdown (here in the UK, at least), and it’s getting no easier. When it comes to music though, it’s worth noting that Bandcamp are trying to help by waiving fees on the first Friday of each month for the next few months, to help artists survive. So, here’s a few reviews that might give you new ideas of what to check out, including my current AOTY for Forlesen; melancholic black metal by Graveir; an EP of laid-back synthwave from Jaime Irles; Karnstein offering raw black/death/gothic metal; Koniec Pola taking us on an avant-garde adventure; and Resent bringing some nasty, filthy sludge. Enjoy!
It’s always nice when an intro leaves you guessing what the album proper will sound like. ‘The Debt’, which opens up the debut album of the same name from WitchUrn, does exactly that, with its four minutes of acoustic guitar being the kind of opener that could give way to prog, or death, or thrash, or just about any other metal style you can name. It’s when ‘Deserts Beyond the Tomb’ begins that it is clear what The Debt truly offers – face-ripping blackened thrash laced with death metal, that’s delightfully vicious and – whisper it – a little bit progressive.
It’s interesting how DSBM has become two different genres within itself: the raw, murky style exemplified by the likes of Xasthur; and the brighter, melody-led style that Ghost Bath are a prime example of. Led by Delusions, the new solo project of Immørdæk following the end of former band Uncanny Reality, is not without its own sense of melody, but in terms of intent and atmosphere, debut album Natural Decay is all about misanthropy and misery. Revelling in the darkness it creates, Natural Decay is an album infused with a sense of nihilism, every note steeped in existential sadness and despair.
From the ashes of Nihill comes Ulveblod. The solo project of Vitriol from said band, Ulveblod takes the beligerent aspects of Nihill and ups them beyond recognition, layering their black metal assault with waves of harsh noise and discordance until the end result can barely be called music. Which, of course, is the intention. Omnia Mors Aequat takes the aural violence of bands like Gnaw Their Tongues and the industrial/black metal combination of Blut Aus Nord as a starting point, as well as the harsh bleakness of Nihill, and dispenses with any kind of melody or conventional structure, with results that are undeniably extreme and chaotic; but also thoroughly, unintentionally unenjoyable.
Label: Tartarus Records
A night of heavy drinking can lead to a lot of things, most of which will be things to be regretted and forgotten as soon as possible. Yet, when members of Dutch underground heavyweights Herder, Verwoed and Blood Diamond formed The Flesh after having several too many to drink, the results were anything but regrettable. New EP Vehicle of Ruin is a blast of devastation that lives up to its name, offering 20 minutes of relentless blackened hardcore, as if Cursed or Trap Them had tried their hand at writing black metal.
Getting to hear a new project from members (past and present) of bands you respect is always exciting, especially if it’s something different from their current/previous bands. Such is the case with Wretched Empires, which is formed of Allfather vocalist Tom B. and former Redbait members Will J. (guitar) and Cody A. (drums). Yet whereas those bands strode the lines between hardcore and metal, Bloom is firmly rooted in black metal, particularly the Scandinavian second wave and more modern American incarnations, with all the grim majesty that implies. It’s an exciting, empowering listen, that achieves a lot in its short duration.
What a month. What a fucking month. I don’t know what to say that you probably already haven’t heard before. Wash your hands. Keep your distance from others. Stay the fuck inside as much as you can. Look after those less fortunate than yourself. These are such trying times, and they are bringing out the best and worst in us all. I just hope we all get through this, and that what improvements may come, from those in power realising how vulnerable so many citizens in genuinely important jobs are, don’t turn out to be short-term ones.
In the meantime, here are some reviews to help distract you from, well, everything else. There’s lovely guitar-based glitch/drone from Animal Hospital; The Ditch and The Delta delivering colossal riffs from deep within our shared DNA; Feminazgul with an album of the year contender; Hyperion delivering high-energy heavy metal straight from the 80’s; Live Burial bringing death metal that could have come from the Peaceville vaults; and Mystic Priestess‘ punk-infused deathrock. Enjoy!
Label: Repose Records
Black metal’s place as outsider music should be well-established by now; even accounting for the (relative) mainstream success of bands like Cradle of Filth, Emperor, and Satyricon, the genre is better characterised by its sense of belligerence and hostility towards pretty much everything. Often, this takes a very direct, overt form; but sometimes, bands tap into an approach that is far more haunting and, ultimately, effective. Such is the case for Death.Void.Terror on their second album, To The Great Monolith II. It is the kind of album that presents black metal not just as outsider music, but as something almost religious and spiritual.
There’s a lot of fear out in the world right now, with Covid-19 (aka Coronovirus) causing all sorts of problems, to put it lightly. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get much worse. To try and help us all get through such troublesome times, here’s six records which range from the heavy to the, well, ridiculously heavy. Crowhurst and Bandit destroy speakers with Bulldozer; Dead Man’s Chest bring the beatdown on Dear God; the self-titled record from 黒い樹海 (KUROI JUKAI) is, simply, brain-melting; God of Dead Roots by Sicarius offers up some vicious black metal; Video Nasties offer some sort of relatively respite with Dominion but it’s still heavy as fuck; and finally, Viscera‘s Obsidian combines deathcore with tech-death with punishing results. Enjoy, and try not to worry!
Label: Akashic Envoy Records
Black metal ist krieg – a statement we’ve all heard countless times before, normally from those who couldn’t tell you what they’re declaring war on beyond some vague sentiments towards religion and society. But sometimes, a band and record will come along that gives the statement a sense of relevancy once more, tapping into the spirit of rebellion that fuelled the first-wave. Seas of Winter are one such band, with their blend of DSBM and second-wave worship on Forest Aflame being a statement of intent. This is a band with something to say, and their message is waging war against apathy and introlerance.