Saturdays and Sunday mornings have become challenging times for me in the thinking I allocate to these SHADES OF BLACK posts. Having listened off and on to a lot of new black metal during the preceding week, I think I’ve figured out by mid-day Saturday what to include, and then, by coincidence or cunning, a whole bunch of new stuff lands in my lap.
Yesterday was a prime example. Having narrowed my choices, they suddenly ballooned again, thanks to late-breaking recommendations from friends and readers, and e-mails from bands and labels. The flood of communications into our chaotic command center usually dwindles dramatically on Saturdays, but those that persist tend to focus on music from the black realms, and I tend to pay attention to them more quickly because everything else has kind of cleared out.
What to do? Well, one thing I did was to expand the volume of music in today’s post. And given my renewed resolution to cut down on the number of premieres I agree to write during the week, another option will be to collect more new music in a blackened vein for a week-day edition of this series.
I do my best not to read comments about music on the internet (or comments about almost anything else) unless they were written by friends or respected musicians, or unless they appear at NCS. I can guess that if I made an exception to that resolution in the case of Wiegedood’s new song and video, the majority of them would be juvenilia about penises.
I do think the video for the new song, “De Doden Hebben Het Goed III”, was an odd choice. I guess in a way it’s groundbreaking, given that NSFW metal videos usually involve boobs and vaginas (or graphic gore, or all of the above). But I kept waiting for something new to happen, and apart from the initially interesting disconnect between the movements of the slowly spinning body and those of its fire-spawned shadows, nothing really does. Perhaps it achieves a hypnotic effect and I just didn’t notice, which I guess is the way of hypnosis.
Odd though the video may be, the song is quite good, which was to be expected. “De Doden Hebben Het Goed III” is the title track to this Belgian black metal band’s new album, which is the final one in a trilogy. It will be released on April 20.
After a haunting introductory guitar piece, which previews the melody that will trill through the coming storm in much more frenzied fashion, the song is a fierce, head-long rush. The furious drumming is attention-grabbing; the hateful vocals are caustic enough to leave eardrums bleeding; and that central melody is like the sound of a fire elemental, with very sharp hooks on its claws.
In essence, the song repeats the same basic sequence over and over again for almost 12 minutes, sort of like the video, with only one soft, slow respite, which is itself based on repetition, and a glorious finale in which new elements appear. I didn’t lose interest.
(Thanks to NCS reader HGD for alerting me to this new song and video.)
Rennie from starkweather recommended this next track to me, with the comment that although he doesn’t normally fall for conventional black metal, there are some twists in “Of Ancient Prophecies” that are intriguing (he made reference to Iron Maiden, among other things), and indeed there are. (The cover art is also quite cool.)
There are actually two new tracks from the same band that are now available for streaming — “Of Ancient Prophecies” and “Ever Falling Snow” (which was released with a lyric video) — and both appear on Apricity, which is the second album by the Tasmanian band Atra Vetosus. It will be released on February 26 by the Belgian label Immortal Frost Productions.
There are indeed aspects of conventional black metal aggression in these songs, but they do also include many interesting twists and turns — sublime interludes, considerable variety in the vocals (with livid cries, reverent clean vocal harmonies, and something close to throat singing, to go along with the piercing black shrieks), soaring panoramic melodies, swirling folk-like arpeggios, and an overarching mythic atmosphere.
I also enjoyed the vibrant bass work in this well-balanced mix… though all the performers seem to have a keen grasp on what they’re doing, and what they’re doing is inspirational.
My introduction to the U.S. label Clandestine Faith was through its release of the remarkable 2017 album by Mystagos, Ho Anthropos Tes Anomias. Clandestine Faith now has a new release on the way, a startling two-track demo named Archaic Discipline by the hooded Swedish duo Jubal.
The two tracks, captured in the YouTube stream below, are “Through Flesh And Blood” and “Under The Dragons Throne”. Both of them seethe and boil with sulfurous energy, summoning sensations of fiery chaos and blood-lusting vehemence. But big, booming grooves achieve a vivid, head-hammering impact in the midst of these conflagrations, and the mystical, melancholy melodies that glide through the gales have a sorcerous effect.
There is foreboding, catastrophe, and grandeur in the sensations of these savage, dramatic songs, along with a panoply of killer riffs and the kind of vocals that summon visions of demons coming for your throat.
Archaic Discipline was recorded at Locust Studios and it was mastered by Necromorbus Studio. The cover illustration and design are by Insular Graphic. For updates about the progress of this tape release, watch these spaces:
In another one of these columns last month I showered praise on the first song I heard from the debut album Realm of The Fallen by the Welsh black metal army Agrona. Thanks to another comment by NCS reader HGD, I discovered yesterday that another new track has been revealed.
“Storm’s End“, the new one, crackles with thunder in its brooding introductory moments, and then an ominous magisterial passage comes to life with choral vocal harmony. After that, hold on to your seats, because the song really takes off in electrifying fashion. Sweeping, exotic melodies cascade across the tumult; jackhammering rhythms segment the flow; clean vocals soar and harsh ones gnash at your flesh. It’s a heavy, murderous beast, but it takes flight like eagles bound for the clouds.
Realm of the Fallen brandishes cover art by Misanthropic-Art, and it will be released by UKEM Records at some point later this year.
I thought now would be a good time for a change of pace and mood, and the change comes from “The First Snow“, a new digital single released on February 16th by the mesmerizing Swedish project Lustre. It includes artwork by Joan Llopis Doménech.
There’s never any serious mistaking what you’re going to get with Lustre. The music is like a promise that will always be kept — a promise of sublime, mystical beauty, of tranquillity and joy, of innocence and wonder. And so here, the experience of the first snow isn’t the kind of wintry, death-advancing gloom and blood-freezing blizzards that inspire a lot of black metal, but instead that bright feeling of innocence and wonder we might have enjoyed as children… and, if we’re lucky, can still feel.
P.S. Nordvis is also selling a t-shirt made for this single — here.
My first encounter with the Finnish duo Kalmankantaja came as a result of the very first BENEATH THE NCS RADAR feature written by our Norwegian ally Gorger, although he hadn’t yet cooked up that title for the series when that first post appeared in 2014. He preceded a discussion of Kalmankantaja’s Ikuinen Taival album with a short history of depressive suicidal black metal and complaints about the shortage of good recent DSBM releases. And then he said of Kalmankantaja’s album: “It is good to hear a band who put mental suffering in the driver’s seat once again… Enjoy the natural comatose feeling of mesmerizing hypnotic gloomy dreariness, anguish, grievance, and malevolence”.
Having been properly introduced, I became hooked, and later shared a few words of my own about the band’s ninth album, 2016’s Tyhjyys. Two more albums followed that one (they are nothing if not prolific), and now there’s a new EP, released on February 15.
Tuulikannel consists of two long songs, which follow the alchemical formulas that Kalmankantaja have practiced before. They are solemn and sorrowful creations, with a gravitas that befits experiences of traumatic loss, and an edge of agony at the tipping points in the music where grief stares into the chasm of despair. The haunting melodies seem ancient and timeless, like the feelings they encompass. The vocals, both clean and harsh, are gripping. And the music, as before, is still mesmerizing.
To end this big collection I’ve chosen a track from Mysteries of Earth, the third album and fifth release overall by the British black metal band Blutvial, whose line-up consists of two members of < code > and Binah (Andras and Aort), a former member of Reign of Erebus and Acolyte’s Ruin (Ewchymlaen), and Israthoum drummer Tiúval. Although I wasn’t familiar with the band’s music before listening to this next track, I had high hopes based on such an experienced line-up from such impressive bands… and I was not disappointed.
“Existential Rite” is the name of this track. The high lead-guitar melody that jumps out in the opening seconds is the kind that immediately spears itself in your brain, and as it continues to surface and undergo variations throughout the song, it becomes harder and harder to forget. The song has many other things going for it besides a lot of magnetic guitar work — the drumming is off the hook, the vocals are ugly as sin and wilder than a pack of hyenas, and the song as a whole explodes with infectious energy. It’s a vicious, vibrant joy to behold.
Mysteries of Earth will be released by Heidens Hart Records on March 20th.