Some things are worth waiting for. After a collection of demos, splits, and EP releases, the full-length from neofolk/death metal act Carnivorous Forest is finally here, and it does not disappoint. Frozen Rivers is a powerful, atmospheric record, varied in scope and tone, yet with a consistent character that ties everything together. Listeners who have enjoyed previous Carnivorous Forest releases will not be disappointed. Sole member Amarok is in fine form throughout, and of all the different releases he has put out over the past few years in many guises on Blackened Death Records, this is undoubtedly one of the best.
I sometimes feel that I often talk about the importance of repetition in music, and how many bands use it as a way of reaching for something hypnotic or transcendent, but without always achieving the desired results. Whilst that’s something I usually mention in a black metal context (probably due to how many bands are still in thrall to Burzum), neofolk act Elk are a great example of a band outside the metal scene using repetition to great effect. The three songs on Wōđanaz are heavy on repetition, cycling through what appear initially to be very basic structures and movements that reveal themselves, in time, to be surprisingly deep. The end result is so captivating and hypnotic, it’s hard not to be impressed. The songs are infused with a real sense of spirituality that, making this EP something that is very powerful and almost profound.
There’s no point getting hung up on genres. As useful as they can be, they’re really just arbitrary tags, with very little agreement on what actually defines a particular genre. This is especially true of the broad church that is black metal. As such, whether we class Twilight Fauna as black metal or not really shouldn’t matter. There are arguments to be made either way; the music of the one-man act is certainly heavy on haunting, lonely atmospheres which are a key part of black metal. But at the same time, the folk influence on Twilight Fauna’s music is readily apparent, and never more so than on Fire Of The Spirit. The six tracks on the album are ethereal constructs, built more on atmosphere than anything solid, and anyone who associates black metal with violence and noise may well be left disappointed. But those of us who look to the genre to provide something deeper, something that goes beyond mere music, will not be left wanting. This is an album where atmosphere is king; and what a powerful atmosphere it creates.
And so, all good things come to an end. Well, sort of. Hammer Smashed Faith IV is set to be the last in Blackened Death Records’ regular compilations of artists drawn from all corners of the metal, noise, and neofolk underground. Instead, the label is moving towards genre-specific compilations; a move that makes sense in a way, given how diverse these compilations are. Still, it will be a shame to see such eclectic releases come to an end, but Hammer Smashed Faith IV is a fine way for the series to bow out.
On first listen, Endless Forests Black really didn’t click for me. I’m not sure why – I was already familiar with Carnivorous Forest‘s mix of neofolk and death metal, and whilst it was my first time listening to them, the raw black metal style of Beyond The Dark Forest is something I’m definitely a fan of. So, that first underwhelming listen was a disappointment. Thankfully though, it was only on the first listen that I couldn’t appreciate Endless Forests Black, as subsequent listens have revealed an engaging, challenging split between two solo acts different in sound, but united in pagan spirit.
The first installment of Hammer Smashed Faith was, if not necessarily a sampler for Blackened Death Records, then it certainly served as a statement of intent. Taking in a host of underground bands of varying styles, the second compilation – released on Halloween – carries on in the same style. It’s clear that Blackened Death Records aren’t concerned with strict conventions of genre or geography. The label’s description of it showcasing “the best underground metal bands you have never heard of” is delightfully arrogant, and not too far off the mark.
I’ll admit, I don’t listen to much neofolk. It’s not really a genre that normally does a lot for me; it’s OK as background music, but little more. So, I approached Lucifer’s Light, the debut EP by Sea Wolves Of The Atlantic, without especially high expectations. It didn’t take long for me to sit up and take notice, though. The six tracks on offer here are, by turns, moving, somber, and bleak; but without exception, they are captivating, full of heart and passion, and engaging in a way that the genre often fails to be for me. That they are explicitly described as “anti-fascist neofolk” in a genre that is no stranger to fascist controversy is a plus, too.