What, did you think we would forget about black metal? No way. How could we put together a tribute to extreme metal from Finland and not (fearfully) bow our horned heads in obeisance to the music of the beast? We just needed a little time to summon up the courage before wading out into that smoking, seething, sulfurous pool that is Finnish black metal.
As regular readers know, we wouldn’t call ourselves black-metal experts. As fans of the genre, we’re relative latecomers, and we’re still discovering bands — not only new ones but also historical icons. But from what we’ve learned in our ongoing education, Finland has definitely made its mark. You know the mark we’re talking about (it begins with a 6 and ends in a 6 and, uh, it has a 6 in the middle).
Today, we’re featuring three long-running bands who seem to be among the best known within kvlt circles (Horna, Beherit, and Impaled Nazarene :)) — even we had heard of them before and even knew some of their music — plus another (Sargeist) who may not be quite so well-known but are very capable of impaling your head on a musical spike. And in a last-minute update, we’ve just got to say something about Behexen.
Once again, we’re indebted to our commenters for their suggestions, and particularly to Johan Huldtgren (Obitus) for bringing Sargeist (and Behexen) to our attention. We know Johan is really waiting for the humppa music, but he’s gonna have to wait a bit longer. Patience, bro. For now, dear unclean readers, inscribe a pentagram on your forehead with fetus blood and listen to what we’ve dug out of the maggot-ridden crypt — it’s quite a varied spectrum of what Finnish black metal has to offer, and the music is awesome. (after the jump . . .)
Horna (the Finnish name for “abyss” or “hell”) is a long-running band that came together in 1993 and have since produced over 30 releases, including demos, EPs, splits, and nine studio albums. The band’s mainstay, and only remaining original member, is the guitarist Shatraug. The most recent line-up change occurred earlier this year when Corvus, the band’s vocalist since 2002, departed. No way to know how his departure will affect the sound on future releases.
Horna’s most recent album is 2009’s Musta Kaipuu — but only the release date is recent, since the album is a compilation of previously unreleased tracks, and it seems most of those were recorded in the vicinity of 2005. Putting that one aside, the most recent release of new music was 2008’s Sanojesi Aärelle, a 2-disk concoction of raw, feral music that can be both murderously vicious and atmospheric, in a hopeless kind of atmospheric way.
For your listening pleasure, here’s a song from Musta Kaipuu: It may not be representative of the band’s current direction, since it was created during the recording sessions for the band’s 2005 album, Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne. But I do dig this song. The production is old-school muddiness, and it’s got a cool black ‘n roll rhythm with some damned infectious riffs.
“Beherit” is the word for Satan in Syriac, a dialect of the ancient Aramaic language. It’s also the name of an influential black-metal band formed in 1989 by Nuclear Holocausto (Marko Laiho), Black Jesus (Arjo Wennström), and Sodomatic Slaughter (Jari Pirinen). After releasing two albums, the second of which (Drawing Down the Moon) appeared in 1993 and became a BM classic, the band broke up.
Beherit then rose from the ashes in 2008, with original members Nuclear Holocausto (having returned to Finland from Thailand) and Sodomatic Slaughter joining newcomers Ancient Corpse Desekrator and Abyss. After 14 years of silence, the band released their third album, Engram, in 2009.
The songs on Engram include some evil trance-like droning and experimental guitar noise (and a 15-minute closing track) along with filthy, pared-to-the-bone, fuzzed-out, scorchers. There are also some clean vocals (in the form of low-register chanting paired with keyboards), and even touches of folk/pagan metal on a couple of the songs. Compared to that Horna track we featured above, the production is more modern, with greater clarity, and the vocals are a baritone rasp instead of the more archetypal Nordic shrieking.
Given the variety present on the album, there’s no such thing as a representative song. This one is simple, massive, droning . . . and hellish. I like it.
You can find Behereit’s web site via this link.
Impaled Nazarene is yet another long-running band, with 11 studio albums dating back to 1993. The last of these, Road To the Octagon, was just released on November 20 of this year.
Impaled Nazarene’s music has tended to be all over the place stylistically, but certainly has been more heavily influenced by punk, speed metal, and grindcore than more traditional black-metal outfits. One review we read described the band as having a “nuclear party attitude”, and that seems pretty apt based on the sporadic listening we’ve done over the last few years.
There’s certainly a greater sense of (brutal) humor evident on Impaled Nazarene’s output than is typical for the genre, as manifested in song titles such as “The Horny and The Horned”, “Sixth Degree Mindfuck”, “Let’s Fucking Die”, “One Dead Nation Under Dead God”, and “Steelvagina”. Impaled Nazarene makes for a sharp contrast with Beherit, and we thought this track off Road To the Octagon would make the point nicely. It’s a blowtorch blast of blackened grindcore. It’s called “Convulsing Uncontrollably”, which is what I do when I listen to the song.
Seems like this would be a good time for a video, too. This song is from the band’s 2003 album, All That You Fear: I love this fucking song. I also like the use of cheerleaders with automatic weapons in the video. More black-metal bands should use cheerleaders with automatic weapons in their videos.
Impaled Nazarene’s official site is here.
According to The Font Of All Human Knowledge, this band’s name combines the two German words “sarg” (coffin) and “geist” (spirit or ghost) and derives from the song “The Old Coffin Spirit” by Rotting Christ. According to that same source, Sargeist began as a solo project of Horna’s Shatraug and ultimately came to include two members (Hoath Torog and Horns) of another Finnish black-metal band, Behexen (and Shatraug has also been a live session musician for that same band).
After a handful of demo’s and a split with Merrimack, Sargeist released their debut album in 2003, Satanic Black Devotion. Many more splits have followed, along with two more albums — Disciple of the Heinous Path in 2005 and this year’s release, Let the Devil In. In an earlier comment, Johan Huldtgren exalted Let the Devil In, and included one of the album’s tracks on his suggestions for our forthcoming list of this year’s most infectious extreme metal songs.
Let the Devil In is rooted in old-school, second-wave black metal, but with modern production values. While it’s intensely vicious and stripped down in many respects, it’s also melodic, with a dark, brooding atmosphere, and it includes some punkish and rockish rhythms. And Hoath Torog’s vocals are stunningly powerful. I’m really diggin’ this album, from start to finn-ish.
Here’s the song Johan recommended for our most infectious list. It’s constructed mainly with the usual tropes — cascading waves of tremolo picking and fused blast-beats — but with a dense melodic core and yes, it’s really infectious:
This is a late addition/update to the post. This is another band Johan Huldtgren strongly recommended, and as you saw above, there’s a significant membership overlap with Sargeist. I didn’t have time to give them a listen before I had to get this post done for today, but I did just check out the song Johan linked in his comment below (“Let the Horror and Chaos Come”) — and shit, is it good. There’s a two-minute instrumental intro that’s slow and atmospheric, and then the song just erupts into a head-jarring romp loaded with chainsaw death-metal style riffs.
I have to include this song because it shows yet another dimension within the sphere of Finnish black-metal — and because it’s such a fucking good song. It’s from the album My Soul For His Glory, which is the band’s third full-length, released in 2008.
There you have it — our round-up of Finnish black metal for this series. There are many other Finnish BM bands we’ve neglected — and I suspect we’ll hear about others in the comments — which we welcome.
For tomorrow, get ready to humppa your asses off.