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.
Sometimes, the most disturbing aspects in art are the most human. Whilst extra-dimensional Lovecraftian creatures and blasphemous demons may have their own type of power and horror, they can be as nothing when compared with a well-placed spoken word sample. SWVMPS by rabitrup is proof of that were any ever needed. The music itself is powerful enough, mixing industrial, harsh noise, and even dubstep elements in to a challenging listen. But what really makes this three-track EP horrifying are the spoken word samples, which give the music extra context and power. If you’re feeling emotionally fragile or downcast, this is a record to avoid; but, if you want an experience of staring in to the void that is humanity, press ahead.
Following on from Part I, which can be read here, here is the second installment of my favourite releases from this year; still in alphabetical order, and still full of awesome, wonderfully diverse music. The top five will follow soon, along with a few other reflections on the past year. But in the meantime, enjoy!
There’s something that’s quite disarmingly charming about the self-titled EP from London indie/emo band Arkless. The clean, angular melodies and restless nature of the songs gives them an instant appeal, topped off with sung-spoken vocals that are all the more powerful for how understated they are. There’s nothing here that attempts to overwhelm the listener; it’s very much a record to get swept up in, carried along by the melodies and energy that Arkless put across in an almost effortless manner.
2016 is almost over, thank fuck. What a shithole of a year. But hey, not everything is awful – there’s always good, inspiring music out there to be found. Which brings us to this month’s short reviews, which takes in death metal from Encrypted on Drifting To The Impaled; absolutely not-kvlt metal on Biophobiaby Bearstorm;ambitious noise rock by Phase Order; melancholic death-doom by Marianas Rest on the sorrowfulHorror Vacui; bombastic, powerful symphonic black/death from Seven Sins with their album Due Diaboli Et Apocalypse; and feminist hardcore/powerviolence from the superbly named Cliterati. Enjoy!
The problem with genre tags arises when a band is good, but doesn’t fit nearly in to one. That’s a situation that Abysseral Throne find themselves in with Storming The Black Gate. To describe them as heavy, or thrash, or simply as “extreme” paints an inaccurate picture; as does combining all their constituent parts in to one meaningless mess of “heavy-thrash-extreme-death-black” metal. So, instead, let’s put it this way: Storming The Black Gate is built upon that point where thrash and heavy metal meet, topped off with aspects of black and death metal, and it all combines in to one really impressive whole. When the music’s this good, genres just get in the way.
For all its nihilism and intended obscurity, it’s interesting to note how black metal has gone from being a fringe movement within metal to one of the most widely listened to sub-genres. Its satanic, blasphemous influence can be found in all sorts of places these days, adding further edge and intensity to musical styles that were often already defined by those aspects. Blackened hardcore is one such style, and Rest follow in the footsteps of bands such as All Pigs Must Die and The Secret, with their self-titled debut EP being a fifteen minute blast of hardcore violence and black metal frostiness. It might not do anything too new with the style for the most part, but its passion and intensity are more than enough to make this record more than worth your time.