Here on the last day of May, I decided to christen the month Iceland Metal Month at NCS (see today’s first post). Since we’ve wrtten about 8 Icelandic metal bands so far, it seemed like the logical thing to do. And having gone that far, I decided we ought to go further and bring the total to an even dozen. So, here we go . . . four more bands worth getting to know from a country that’s starting to seem close to Finland in the ratio of killer metal bands per capita of population.
I found out about this Reykjavík band while doing a little research on Ophidian I, who I included in that earlier post about Icelandic metal today: It seems that guitarist Unnar Sigurðsson is a member of both bands. It further appears that drummer Ragnar Sverrisson is also a member of another awesome Icelandic band, Atrum (who we’ve written about more than once in the past).
Beneath’s line-up solidified in late 2008, and in 2009 they won the Wacken Metal Battle contest in Iceland, thereby becoming the first Icelandic band to perform at the Wacken Open Air festival in August 2009. They released a debut EP titled Hollow Empty Void on Mordbrann Musikk in 2010 (it’s available on iTunes), and they’ve finished recording a debut full-length, Enslaved By Fear. That album will be released on July 17 by the dependable Unique Leader label. The eye-catching album cover was done by Raymond Swanland.
Now, about their music . . .
The first track on the album, “As Gods Walk the Earth”, is up on YouTube. It sounds massive . . . The guitars have an old-school tone but they attack like a modern army in waves of high-megaton shelling, spiced up with bursts of tremolo firepower and gouts of napalm soloing. And speaking of artillery, the drumming is a non-stop barrage of shrapnel rain. I really like the old-school growly vocals, too.
This is hard-charging death metal that speaks well for the new album. Crank this up (and then duck and cover):
I also found this video of the band performing three songs from the new album at Neurotic Deathfest 2011 in The Netherlands — and it’s all very fuckin’ sweet. The sound quality is rough, but it sorta suits the disemboweling character of the songs:
You can find Beneath on Facebook here.
I discovered this band through a reader comment from Jon on an earlier post I wrote about Svartidauði and Vansköpun. Carpe Noctem released a demo in 2008 (Myrkraverk) and a four-track EP in 2009 that’s self-titled (the EP’s wonderful cover is above). The EP’s lyrics are in Icelandic, but are described as dealing with “Norse mythology, apocalyptic prophecies and Icelandic black magic rituals”. The EP can be streamed and downloaded at Bandcamp (with the “name your price” option), which is what I did.
In some ways, the EP’s music is a traditional variety of black metal, that is, the variety that’s relentlessly vicious, chilling, and vitriolic. Flesh-scarring vocals, dense, obsidian-edged guitars, and weaponized percussion litter the landscape with blood and tears.
But unlike some variants of second-wave black metal, the music has a titanic low end, loaded with rippling bass notes, and swirling melodies coupled with interesting tempo and mood dynamics lift the music above the plane of mere icy decimation. The aura of the music is black and bleak, but it’s tremendously galvanizing at the same time. Reminds me of what I’ve been hearing on Marduk’s new album — and that’s intended as high praise.
All the songs are very good, but if you only make time for one, check out “Metamorphoses Maleficarum”. It’s . . . epic.
Carpe Noctem appear to be at work on a debut album, which I’ll definitely want to hear. These are band links for Carpe Noctem, including the Bandcamp link for download of the EP:
This is another Reykjavík band I discovered through a reader comment (from Altargoat) on that earlier post about Svartidauði and Vansköpun, and then I saw the name again on a Facebook status by Gone Postal, who described Wormlust as “an exceptional take on ambient/psychedelic/black metal”, and a band whose music influenced Gone Postal’s album-in-the-works.
Wormlust appears to be the alter ego of one H.V Lyngdal, who was the founding member of an earlier band named Wolfheart. Wormlust recorded a single-song demo on Volkgeist Productions (Seven Paths) and a split with an Irish black metal band named Haud Mundus called Oblivio Appositus, which was released by Total Holocaust Recordings. In 2010, Wormlust released another single-song demo titled Svarthol, and then an instrumental demo in 2011 named The Opium Sleep.
Fortunately for me, Wormlust created a Bandcamp page that collects “Seven Paths”, “Svarthol”, and “The Opium Sleep” in a compilation called The Wormlust Collective. Each song is quite long, and the compilation as a whole totals more than 45 minutes of music — and it can be downloaded on Bandcamp for free (or ordered as a CD).
Because I really wanted to get this post done today, before May ends, I only listened to “Svarthol” — though it has convinced me to hear the rest of the comp asap. The song is more than 16 minutes long and it travels through a changing soundscape of persistent fascination.
The beginning casts a spell of slow, dreamlike ambience, with echoing guitars ringing over a heart-like pulse. In the song’s second segment, spacey synth/guitar effects set the stage, and the guitars then roar like a giant hornet swarm over submerged, rancid vocals and rumbling drum blasts. A slower, doomier passage then follows, the atmosphere growing more ominous and claustrophobic before a moment of silence descends — a silence that acts as a bridge to the gradually building crescendo of the song’s next phase. It rises in a cascade of storm-like fury that’s nonetheless melodic and hypnotic.
The storm finally spends its force, leaving behind an opening sky, the music painting images of a dark atmosphere slowly pierced by rays of light, or clouds scudding before the face of an illuminating moon. The song ends dramatically with one final burst of roiling intensity.
I like this very much.
This is another one-man project that I discovered through an e-mail this morning from that one man — Kristján Jóhann Júlíusson. Khamul has recently compiled an album of 12 songs recorded between 2010 and 2012 under the title Hans Gitar. Again, because I was (illogically) scurrying to get this post finished today, I only listened to the first two tracks on the album and the last two — so this is not exactly a comprehensive description of Khamul’s music.
The first two songs are instrumentals. Coincidentally, “A Tomb” is reminiscent of the beginning of Wormlust’s “Svarthol”, with dreamlike guitar melody and a shrill drone ringing over the top of a beating-heart pulse. It’s mesmerizing, but not dull. “Bodies” begins with a soft beautiful melody, but then gathers weight, the shimmering synths and arpeggios trading places with an undercurrent of hammering drums and driving riffs.
I’m glad I skipped to the last two tracks, because they’re quite different from the early ones. “Pest” is a kind of progressive death metal. It hammers hard and claws voraciously, with bestial vocals and thundering riffs, but it also includes a very cool guitar solo. The final track, “Unknown”, brings pneumatic rhythms and a variety of prog-metal guitar solos, including one that weaves a dual-tracked Eastern melody.
There’s an exploratory quality to these tracks, and it seems evident that Khamul hasn’t found his musical resting place yet, but I’ll be interested to hear what lies ahead of him. Here’s what I heard today:
HERE is the link for the site where Khamul is offering Hans Gitar for download. Kristján tells me that more music is in the works . . . .
SO, there you have it . . . “Iceland Metal Month” drawn to a close. There must be one or two metal bands in the country of Iceland I haven’t heard yet, so I have a feeling I’ll be doing something like this again down the road. Hope you’ve found some music to your liking in this excursion.