This is a round-up of news and new music that I discovered in a long bout of listening and reading yesterday. It happens that all the items in this collection concern black metal, but black metal is a broad spectrum, and it happens that the music you’re about to hear is quite diverse — and all of it very good.
This first item is a piece of news, an official announcement of an album that’s been on my personal “most anticipated” list for 2015 since I heard it was being recorded last year. It’s the debut full-length by False from Minneapolis, and it will be released by Gilead Media in the May-June time frame, both as a double-LP and as a CD. The cover art (above) is killer — I’m eager to see what the LP gatefold looks like.
False have only released three songs in their meteoric career — two of them on an untitled EP in 2011 and one on a 2012 split with Barghest (reviewed here). But False are fond of long songs, and so those three add up to almost 45 minutes of music — 45 very intense minutes.
I saw False perform live at the Gilead Fest in Wisconsin last summer, and I’ll never forget it. To quote what I wrote after that performance:
“The vocalist, Rachel, seemed utterly possessed, relentlessly pacing the stage and shrieking with such complete conviction and unnerving force that I was left in a state of physical and mental shock by the time the set ended. I’m not shitting you — chills went down my spine. I’ve rarely seen someone so completely throw themselves into such a harrowing display of soul-baring. The music was decimating as well — and the drum performance in particular was flat-out jaw-dropping; it was incredibly fast and precise and relentless.”
Much of the set consisted of material that will appear on this new album — which is one reason I’ve been so eagerly awaiting it. You can be sure we’ll be following this closely as the release date approaches. If you haven’t yet discovered False, both of their previous releases are on Bandcamp:
The World Terror Committee has announced February 27 as the international release date for the fifth album by the Greek black metal band Acherontas. The title of the album is Ma-IoN (Formulas Of Reptilian Unification) and it includes 70 minutes of music spread across 11 tracks, with guest appearances by members of Abigor, Malign, Nightbringer, Black Seas of Infinity, Emme Ya, and Tatir, among others.
A few days ago, Steel For Brains premiered a lyric video for the new album’s title track, and it’s a striking combination of slow-moving, majestic melody and hyper speed drumming, with bursts of twisted guitar arpeggios interlaced with overarching passages of bleak, doomed atmospherics. Acherontas V. Priest’s gravel-throated, inflamed vocals combine with the deep tones of a choral chant to express the lyrics, which leave no doubt that this is a Luciferian devotional, a work of magic, worship, and yearning — but the instrumental music is such a mind-expanding rush that there wouldn’t be much doubt about that anyway.
The song’s finish, by the way, flowers into a wistful guitar melody that’s beautiful and memorable, and the graphics in the video are very cool, too. Amazing song.
Ma IoN (Formulas Of Reptilian Unification) will be released as a limited A5 DigiCD and a regular jewelcase CD, with vinyl and tape versions to follow at a later point.
Norway’s Dødheimsgard, have also completed work on their fifth album, entitled A Umbra Omega, and it’s set for release on March 16 by Peaceville Records. DHG trace their roots to 1994 but have evolved significantly in their music since then, morphing black metal into strange new forms. The new album reunites the band’s two founders, Vicotnik and Aldrahn, for the first time since 1999’s 666 International.
Two days ago Metal Hammer premiered the first full track from the new album, a sprawling 15-minute piece named “Aphelion Void”. It’s an exclusive stream, so I won’t try to embed it here, but you should definitely make time to explore it via the link below.
Attempting to describe it is difficult — slow, hypnotic bass-and-piano segments share the territory with wild, discordant guitar excursions; jazz-influenced acoustic instrumentals with a Spanish air lock arms with swirling, unhinged riffery; Aldrahn’s impassioned chants and yells bring the text of mystic mantras alive; the music storms like a tornado (and like a tornado, it moves in unpredictable directions) and it casts spells like the soundtrack to an arcane ceremony.
It’s an otherworldly, theatrical, avant-garde piece that’s thoroughly fascinating.
I get daily reminders that I’m not as smart as I wish I were. Yesterday’s reminder came from a recent feature by Jason Roche in LA Weekly on Eduardo Ramirez, the mastermind behind the black metal band Volahn and the operator of the Crepúsculo Negro record label, also known as Black Twilight Circle. Volahn’s newest album, Aq’ab’al, was released in January, and I’ve been meaning to check it out since before it was released. I did not, because I’m not as smart as I wish I were.
But I did listen to it yesterday, and man, what a revelation. Using Mayan heritage as inspiration, Ramirez and Volahn have created something remarkable, a ritual for themselves and a fascinating kaleidoscope of sound for us. If you don’t set aside time for the entire album, at least listen to the opening track “Najtir Ichik” and you’ll understand what I mean. To quote Jason Roche, it “comes storming out with nine minutes of discordant, black metal din, then dissolves into a four-minute outro laced with Spanish classical guitar and nature sounds.” And both parts are just as instrumentally impressive, just as creative, just as riveting.
I first wrote about Iceland’s Misþyrming last August, when two songs from their debut album Söngvar elds go óreiðu were then publicly available for listening. Those songs are scorching and eerie and thoroughly awesome. Although I meant to write more about the album before its release, I failed. On February 7, the album was released, heralded by a streaming premiere at Noisey and a worth-reading interview of the band’s founder D.G. by Kim Kelly.
All I’ll say now is that you should listen to the album (below), because it’s one of this young year’s high points.
The Chinese band Ghost Bath (a name that refers to the act of committing suicide by submerging in a body of water) has a sophomore album entitled Moonlover coming out on March 13, 2015 via Northern Silence. The first single, “Golden Number”, emerged in January and garnered attention from multiple metal sites. I missed that attention, though when I saw the cover art yesterday (“La Luna, 1989” by Luiz Gonzalez Palma), I really don’t understand how I could have missed it.
Between January and yesterday, a second song was revealed — “Death and the Maiden”. Thanks to nearly simultaneous tips from NCS supporters deckard cain and Ryan W., I listened to both songs yesterday, and then discovered that a link to the entire album had been sitting in my in-box for week. Yet another reminder that I’m not as smart as I wish I were.
Both of the songs that are now streaming are multi-faceted and captivating. “Golden Number” rages like a bestial black metal assault, then seizes attention with a beautiful, extended melodic lead guitar part and the repeating tones of massed voices, and then subsides into an entrancing piano solo for the song’s final minutes. The central, heart-swelling melody of the song is ridiculously appealing.
The back-beat rhythm of “Death and Maiden” gives it a rocking flavor before the blast-beats begin, but the song’s strength once again lies in Ghost Bath’s knack for crafting gripping melodies and using their (wordless?) voices to enhance them. The main one in this song has an even more pronounced Eastern flavor, and the word “entrancing” again comes to mind in thinking about the song’s finish.