Most of the music in this Shades of Black series comes from the realms of black metal, but not all of it. Music can be black for other reasons as well, as demonstrated by the first of the four bands featured here.
This is a collection of songs that have been keeping me company in recent dark days. Until I decided to add the fourth band, I was going to call this Shades of Black — Long-Form Edition, because the songs by the first three bands are indeed much longer than average. They convincingly earn the extra minutes, and I hope you’ll carve out some space for them.
SEA OF BONES
As far as these selfish ears are concerned, far too much time has passed since New Haven’s Sea of Bones released their last album, The Earth Wants Us Dead. At last, we have something new.
By way of explaining why my own output at the site has been sparse over the last week, I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I have a close friend in the ICU at a Seattle hospital whom I’ve been visiting for hours each day. One week ago she was driving to work in downtown Seattle and was hit in an intersection by a big city aid truck responding to an emergency call. She’s still in a coma, with a brain injury, though there are signs that she is approaching wakefulness.
Yesterday being a Saturday, I spent a few hours at home listening to music before returning to the hospital. I listened to some new metal that suited my mood, which I plan to compile in a Shades of Black post later this morning. But in a sequence of unpredictable but serendipitous events I also happened upon all the music collected in this post. There’s a bit of metal in the first and last items, but mostly this music is way off our usual beaten paths, yet these songs also suited my mood. I hope you’ll appreciate them, too.
A Russian friend in Novosibirsk (and a member of Station Dysthymia) recommended this first band, calling the music “hauntingly beautiful” — and so it is. The band’s name is Offret, from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. I’m not sure if this is a one-man project or a group. What I heard was a self-titled EP released on April 25, 2016, via Bandcamp.
Sweden’s Blood Mortized have been relatively quiet since the release of their last album, The Demon, The Angel, The Disease, in the fall of 2013. But they have come back to unholy life with a new song and video, and we have it for you right here, right now. The song is called “Salvation“, and you can download it for free.
The punchline of my review of that last album was this: “You can look far and wide and you won’t find a better offering of old school Swedish death metal this year than The Demon, The Angel, The Disease.” We also named a song from the album (“I Leave With Hate”) to our list of 2013’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. So you can imagine how eager I was to see and hear this new video.
(TheMadIsraeli returns to NCS with a review of the new album by Textures.)
So what’s the result when a long-running, respected force in metal makes an album after the man who was thought to be their mastermind leaves?
Phenotype is Textures best record since Silhouettes without a doubt in my mind. If I have any complaint, it’s that the band didn’t use this rush of inspiration to write even more material, the album having only having nine tracks on it of varying lengths. Those nine songs however, are dynamic, diverse, and intense in a way the music definitely was not on their previous record Dualism, which, despite my enjoying it, was definitely stagnating a bit.
The third and final part of Triangle is bound to be the most divisive and most hotly debated segment of the album, showing a very different third face of the band which (almost) entirely eschews the metallic menace of Part I and instead finds the band taking the esoteric progressivity of Part II to its logical conclusion, delving deep into a metaphysical void of moody, ambient minimalism, one which is punctuated here and there by exotic instrumental passages and hypnotic drumming rhythms.
It’s the sort of album designed to either be loved or hated – there’s no middle ground here – and it’s also the sort of album that will potentially take more than a few listens to fully appreciate and come to terms with as well.
We’ve been closely following all the releases of Minnesota’s Amiensus ever since Andy Synn reviewed their debut album Restoration for us back in January 2013. Their latest album, Ascension, appeared last year (and we reviewed it here). The band wrote a song named “Reflections” that was originally intended for that album, and although they eventually decided not to include it there, they have now recorded it as a stand-alone single that’s being released today — and we have the premiere of “Reflections” for you right here.
The song digs its hooks in almost immediately with an opening riff that pulsates over thundering drums, and the band drive the hooks in even harder with a clean vocal chorus, balanced against the harsh abrasion in the verses. But perhaps the most gripping part of the song is still yet to come at the 3:00 mark, when the lyrical sequence “I am devoid of…” begins.
Last Saturday I explained that because of a serious brain injury to a close friend and colleague, I wouldn’t be able to write much for the site this week other than introductions of premieres I had agreed to host, and that has proven true. When not working at my fucking day job, I’ve been with her and her family in the ICU. That’s not likely to change in the coming days. My friend is showing signs of progress, and it seems likely that she will wake up soon, perhaps today or tomorrow. And then we will begin to find out how the injury has affected her mental and physical functioning. I’m optimistic, and terrified.
Though my routine this week hasn’t been anything close to normal, I have discovered a few excellent new songs and videos, thanks to recommendations from friends, and I thought I would collect them here. I’m grateful for the supportive comments I’ve received from readers, and for all the posts I’ve received from our regular writers and guests this week to keep this train rolling on down the line.
Visions of Exalted Lucifer is the name of the new album by the Dutch black metal band Cirith Gorgor, who began worshipping the Devil through their music back in the mid-’90s. This is the band’s sixth studio album and their first since 2011 (in the intervening years, the band’s line-up has changed). It was released by Hammerheart Records in February. Not long ago Hammerheart and the band released a lyric video for the song “A Vision of Exalted Lucifer”.
They are only two studio albums into their career, but Crescent Lament have already carved out a strong aural identity for themselves in their chosen sub-genre. The indie Taiwanese metal band started out playing traditional symphonic gothic metal (Behind the Lethal Deceit, 2011), before switching to oriental gothic metal on their most recent album, Elegy for the Blossoms (2015).
Making the stylistic switch was an excellent move on their part — their current sound not only suits the geisha concept of Elegy for the Blossoms to a tee, but is also an exemplar of East Asian, erhu-infused metal. This is not to suggest that the band’s non-aural features are not noteworthy, though. One need only peruse the lyric booklets of Elegy for the Blossoms to see that Crescent Lament take their poetry and history seriously. In this interview, founding member and drummer Komet Chou details the historical basis of the lyrics of Elegy for the Blossoms, and his translation of the lyrics from Taiwanese to English.
Everything on that nocturnal album cover up there is either spiky, smoldering, burning, or crackling with electricity. And it well suits the music on the new album by Demonic Obedience, Nocturnal Hymns To the Fallen, which is set for release on May 18 via Satanath Records and Sevared Records. Today we bring you the stream of a song from the album named “Forced Obscenity“.
Though originally created in 2013 as a two-man group based in Thessaloníki, Greece, Demonic Obedience now continues to move forward as the solo project of George Ntavelas, who moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2014. This new album follows the debut full-length Morbid Supremacy of Evil, which was released by the Mexican record label Azermedoth Records in 2014.
Spheron – A Clockwork Universe
I’m actually surprised that the new Spheron record, A Clockwork Universe, hasn’t been covered here yet since their last one got covered quite a bit at NCS. At any rate, Spheron’s latest is a fantastic record that deserves to be heard by more people! For those unfamiliar, Spheron play a particularly proggy and dense sort of tech-death with a stronger emphasis on complex rhythm riffing over flashy lead playing.