“Halloween” is a contraction (first used in the 16th century by the Scots) of “All Hallow’s Evening”. It’s the night before a Christian feast day (Nov 1) known as All Hallows or All Saints. How a Christian tradition got wrapped up in ghouls and goblins and spirits of the dead is a long story. But at least a big part of the story is that, like many Christian holidays, this one was intertwined with (and piggy-backed on) a far older pagan celebration known as Samhain (pronounced sah-win or sow-in).
“Samhain” comes from the Old Irish word for “summer’s end”, and in the medieval Gaelic calendar it marked the end of the harvest season and the coming of winter. According to The Font of All Human Knowledge, “In much of the Gaelic world, bonfires were lit and there were rituals involving them. Some of these rituals hint that they may once have involved human sacrifice.” It was “seen as a time when the ‘door’ to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings such as fairies, to come into our world.”
There’s a metric fuckton of metal that would be appropriate to play in commemoration of Samhain tonight, but I thought I’d go with some quite diverse black metal that I heard for the first time over the last 24 hours. The bands are Satanic BloodSpraying (Bolivia), Vomitchapel (U.S.), and Profound Lore’s latest signing, A.M.S.G. (Canada), and this post includes two EP reviews, so settle in.
I’ve not been able to find much information about this Bolivian band beyond the fact that Hells Headbangers released their debut album At the Mercy of Satan in July of this year. It’s an 8-song, 24-minute barrage of vicious, swarming riffs, relentless drumbeats, and vocal blood spray. The music is mangling but also imminently headbang-worthy.
To be clear, this isn’t your atmospheric black metal or your avant-garde black metal or your post-black-metal black metal. This is your thrashing, infernal, rock-the-fuck-out black metal. Okay, maybe there is a bit of imperial grandiosity in the mid-paced stomp of both “March the Dead” and the even more surprising “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, with its piano intro (both of which are great songs), but for the most part this is unrestrained slashing and burning — butchery with flair.
Though the music has much more in common with punk- and thrash-influenced first-wave black metal than any of the more recent offshoots in the genre, the production quality is top-notch, with the pounding drums high in the mix and the scalding vocals right in your face. This really is an excellent release that I hope will be spread around far and wide.
At the Mercy of Satan can be streamed, downloaded, and ordered on CD or LP at the Hells Headbangers Bandcamp page — here. Check it out:
[bandcamp album=3703236667 bgcol=000000 linkcol=4285BB size=grande3]
Vomitchapel is the one-man project of Ghoat (Justin Blake Stubbs), who is a central figure in both Encoffination and Father Befouled. After creating a couple of demos and a 2011 compilation, Vomitchapel is now poised for release of its debut album, The House of the Lord Despoiled. Osmose Productions will be handling the release in both CD and LP formats, and November 10 is the due date.
Earlier this month Vomitchapel released a brand new track from the album for streaming — “Immaculate Defilement”. By contrast to that Satanic BloodSpraying album, the production on this song drenches it in something thick and viscous. The music is glacial, stripped down, droning. Rather than distinguishable riffs, the music employs a dull background roar and depends on changing percussion and horrendous distorted vocals to grab hold of the listener’s interest. Which in my case, it did.
[bandcamp track=2939409427 bgcol=000000 linkcol=4285BB size=venti]
A.M.S.G. (based in Edmonton, Alberta) is an acronym for Ad Majorem Satanae Gloriam (“for the greater glory of Satan”). The mastermind behind A.S.M.G. is Angelfukk Witchhammer, a member of Gloria Diaboli as well as the now-defunct Rites Of Thy Degringolade and Ouroboros, and the band also includes members of Antediluvian and Begrime Exemious.
Two days ago Profound Lore announced the signing of A.M.S.G., describing the band’s music as “threatening uncompromising black metal in the ancient vein that conjures the glorious vibe portrayed by the classic old school cult days of such luminaries as Necromantia, Mortuary Drape, Rotting Christ, Samael, and Varathron, while portraying a vibe reminiscent of the more singular present-day black metal cult bands such as Negative Plane, Avichi, and Weapon.”
That’s a lot of name-dropping, and in my case it certainly worked: I got very interested, very fast.
The band haven’t yet recorded their debut album for PL — they’ll be entering the studio early next year to do that, with a projected spring 2013 release target. Its name will be Anti-Cosmic Tyranny.
Lacking any new music from this album-to-be, I tracked down the band’s only other release, a 2010 EP entitled The Principle Of Evil Becomes The Ideal Of The Promethean. It was originally released on tape by Supremacy Through Intolerance, and a vinyl version is due at some point this year from Antitheist Disseminations. The EP consists of three very different tracks, and all three are streaming on YouTube . . . so of course I listened.
After a stately horn+wailing overture, “Invocation of the Nameless One” gets down to the business of strangling the listener in a vice of hateful tremolo chords and cracked, croaking vokills (plus satanic distorted muttering). A writhing melodic lead winds its way through the song, snakelike, as the tempo shifts up and down from head-whipping fury to black dirge.
“Goddess of the Hidden Moon of Blood” begins with a sample of the “Kali Ma” invocation from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and then starts thrashing and whirling like a dervish, with a snare-heavy drum attack, flensing riffs, and a melody that seems to link up with the Hindu overtones of the beginning.
The long, avant-garde final track, “Black Tongues of the Goat”, is the EP’s highlight. In the beginning, it’s a heavy, sludgy, groaning, down-tempo lurch, a steeped-in-blackness offering that mixes some death/doom with depressive black metal. But then it changes. After an interesting bridge, it accelerates, becomes more intricate and melodic, brings in almost progressive-style guitar and drum work, and really starts to jam — before things get very weird in the final minute and a half, with a layering of samples and synthesizer.
I really liked all three of the songs on this EP, but they’re so different from each other that it’s very difficult to predict what the debut album will be like — except it will probably be very . . . interesting.
Here’s the entire EP, though for some reason the order of the second and third tracks is reversed in this stream.