Happy Monday! I mean that sincerely, despite the usual depressive aspects of the day, because this Monday brought us three exciting new song premieres that I discovered soon after caffeinating myself strongly enough to stun a bull, plus an announcement of an exciting U.S. tour. And here’s what I found:
As our regular readers are well aware, we have become ardent followers of the Greek band Aenaon since discovering the wonders of their 2014 album Extance, which made no fewer than four different year-end lists published at our site, as well as a host of our reader’s lists. It was also the source of a song (“Grau Diva”) that I included in my list of 2014’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. You may then be able to imagine how eagerly we have been awaiting the band’s new album, Hypnosophy.
That stunning vista above these words is what greeted my eyes this morning. I’m on a short vacation in the presence of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. I’m not telling you that to be a dick, but only because I know how vitally interested you are in my every movement, except perhaps for bowel movements.
I did tear myself away from awestruck gazing at the horizon long enough to listen to four new songs, one of which comes with a video. I thought all four were good enough that they would make a nice collection for this Saturday morning, saving me the agony of trying to sift through all the other good stuff that came out since my last round-up.
The first two songs are exceptions to our oft-violated Rule, and the last two open up the extremity throttle in very different ways.
(Krieg’s Neill Jameson recently completed a very well-read three-part NCS series on obscure black metal from the ’90s (collected behind this link), and now he returns to our site with a different kind of mixtape.)
Even though we’re still in the middle of the season where your chances of getting skin cancer AND being irritated at all times is still going strong, I’m attempting to be forward-thinking. Thus to take my mind off the heat, I’ve decided to write about miserable and morose music this time around. I figure if places are trying to shove pumpkin beer up our asses in the middle of summer then I might as well shove some gloomy music up whatever orifice you prefer. I’m trying to be considerate.
As some of these artists have wildly varying styles across recordings I’m just going to hone in on one specific one per, but the majority of these fine and well-adjusted folks have a lengthy resume to choose from, so don’t just take my preference as gospel, which I’m sure no one does anyway.
Just as yesterday’s Seen and Heard round-up was much shorter than usual, so too is this Sunday’s edition of Shades of Black. I got back to Seattle last night from that four-day wedding festivity in Vegas I’ve mentioned before, but between the two premieres I’ve posted since then and a backlog of personal stuff to deal with, I haven’t had time to write about everything I wanted to include in this post. I’m hoping to supplement it during the coming week before going off to Migration Fest on Thursday, when our site’s content will probably diminish again.
With so many songs and full releases on my list of Shades to choose from, I picked the following four items to recommend, without much rhyme or reason. The bands are less obscure than usual for these posts, until you get to the end.
I suspect I will always consider Alcest to be a shade of black even if Neige and Winterhalter decide to start playing bluegrass — though that hasn’t happened yet. The fifth Alcest album is named Kodama, which we’re told is the Japanese word for “tree spirit” and also refers to the process of sounds reverberating across mountains, valleys, and forests that’s often attributed to these spirits.
(Comrade Aleks returns to NCS with this interview of Butch Balich, vocalist of the Pennsylvania heavy doom band Argus.)
Despite the Lovecraftian monstrous form of giant Argus who dwells on every artwork of this band, the Argus outfit doesn’t exactly resemble such a brutal creature. Since the year 2005 they have played a solemn and stoical blend of doom and heavy metal, bringing down on listeners stories of endurance and damnation.
The band regularly play live shows, and usually Argus do not make their listeners wait for too long before giving them some new music periodically, but three years have gone by since the release of their third full-length Beyond the Martyrs, and it’s time to ask the obvious question about new material the band has to offer. This question is well-timed, as Argus’ voice Butch Balich has some important news for you.
Those of us who hunger for darkness in music find sustenance in particular forms of extreme metal, made by people who sustain themselves by making it. But sometimes the essence of pain, frustration, anger, isolation, and the defiant desire to throw off the yokes that both engender such feelings and restrain their expression can be captured in other ways. And sometimes the summoning of that essence comes from unexpected sources.
Which brings us to Mütterlein — a band named for a song on a 1970 album by the German musician and actress Nico; a band whose principal creative force Marion Leclercq (of the cult French act Overmars) has named Nico, The Cure, and Breach as the three main pillars of her widely varying influences; a band for whom krautrock and Shannon Wright seem to be as beloved as Sabbath and Tragedy; a band who caught the ear of Phil at Debemur Morti Productions and Blut Aus Nord’s Vindsval, who together made Mütterlein’s debut album Orphans of the Black Sun the first release of their new collaborative label Sundust Records.
(Andy Synn reviews the debut EP by The Comancheros, headquartered in Columbia, Missouri.)
As my third and final entry this week on the theme of bands beginning with “The” I’m venturing a little bit outside of our usual wheelhouse with the smooth and smoky brand of musical misery served up by The Comancheros.
But Andy, how are these guys in any way relevant to the NCS audience, I hear you ask?
Well, for one thing, one of their members just so happens to be a certain R. Michael Cook of the inimitable A Hill To Die Upon (who, I have it on good authority, are back in the saddle and working on new music themselves), and for another The Comancheros list their main influences as “Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson, Judas Priest, and Dwight Yoakam”, which suggests to me that one or two of you might just find something to like on their new EP, Four Horsemen.
(Andy Synn wrote this review of the new album by Astronoid from Boston.)
Previously unknown to me (though the band have, prior to this, released a total of two EPs and one stand-alone single), I’ve been seeing the name “Astronoid” popping up on my radar quite a lot recently, as the release of their debut full-length album Air seems to have caused something of a stirring in certain circles.
And rightfully so, as it’s an incredibly captivating, instantly infectious album, practically bursting at the seams with some of the most gloriously emotive melodies and shamelessly enervating riffage I’ve heard this year.
But I wasn’t entirely certain it was NCS material.
In fact I’m still not.
But, screw it, I’m going to review it anyway.
What a long and winding road it has been. Twenty-one years after their debut album HEart of the Ages and 17 years after their last one (Strange In Stereo), the Norwegian alchemists In the Woods… are returning with a new record named Pure, to be released in September by Debemur Morti Productions. After a wait of 17 years, remaining patient until September seems like a small thing to ask. Yet three months is still three months, and so we bring you something to sate the curiosity, at least temporarily.
And yes, we do expect more than a little curiosity, given the visionary nature of this band’s first three albums and the long stretch of years that has passed since their release. For those who may be new to the band, perhaps because you weren’t yet out of diapers when HEart of Ages made its first mark, a bit of history may be worthwhile before listening to “Cult of Shining Stars“.
This is another day in which we have felt compelled to throw more new music at your head than any normal person has time to hear. Many abnormal people (other than us) won’t have time to listen to all of it either. I tell myself this is why I should continue writing some words about the streams we recommend, as a way of helping listeners choose what to play and what not to play, given their own tastes. Obviously, I’m choosing to ignore the likelihood that no normal person has time to read all the words either.
On the distant future day of September 16, 2016, Dark Descent Records will release the debut album of a Greek black metal collective known as Nox Formulae. The album’s title is The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstasy. Yesterday I received a Bandcamp e-mail alert that one song from the album had been set up for streaming, a two-part piece named “Hidden Clan NXN – Pt a. Eleven Rays of Sorat, Pt b. Black Magic Assault”, and that’s the first item in this round-up.