If you’re new to our site, “Shades of Black” is the name I put on round-ups of recommended new music when everything I’ve found coincidentally happens to have some connection to black metal. As you’re about to find out, my definition of “connection” covers a big swath of territory.
Some of the songs featured in this post come from albums that are already available for streaming in their entirety. I’m mentioning them now because I’m afraid if I defer writing anything until I can listen to the whole album and prepare a review, there’s a chance I won’t write anything at all.
The fact that my tastes in metal are so wide-ranging has good and bad consequences. I think it’s good for the site, because without trying very hard I can contribute variety to the music we feature simply by writing about what I like. It’s bad because I don’t have the kind of depth of knowledge that comes from really immersing myself in just one or two sub-genres.
Case in point: I don’t think I had ever listened to the music of SWARÞ until yesterday, though in my defense they are highly secretive, concealing both their identities and their location. Still, between 2012 and 2013 they released two demos and an EP through Exitium, which were collected in a 2014 vinyl compilation named Omines Pestilentiae, and I didn’t hear any of it despite the fact that it’s stunningly good.
And now I finally know this because Daemon Worship is releasing Omines Pestilentiae on CD, and DECIBEL started streaming the whole thing yesterday.
So far, I’ve listened to the first three tracks on the compilation. They combine truly bestial, guttural vocals (along with awful moans and ghostly chants) with truly dark but very inventive, dissonant riffs that spiral, slither, and slash. The music crawls, it rocks really hard, it thrashes, it blasts — it feeds tendrils into your head that inject poison, plus something other highly addictive psychoactive substance. So damned cool….
I’m going to finish listening to this as soon as I can — and I’ve discovered something else that SWARÞ have recorded more recently than the songs on this comp — which gives me an excuse to write about them again soon. Go here to listen to Omines Pestilentiae:
I’m cheating here, because this next song isn’t actually new. It was released as a single by Sweden’s Lustre a year ago, under the title “Neath Rock and Stone”, and I already wrote about it back then. But yesterday I discovered (late) that the album from which it comes (Blossom) now has a release date: April 24.
Curiously, there is still only this one song (the third of four tracks) available for streaming. But it’s still a mesmerizing piece of music, a union of the mystical and the corrosive that spirits you away, and I want to include it again here for those who may be discovering it (or Lustre) for the first time.
Blossom is available for pre-order in various formats from Nordvis here:
Mur is a one-man project created by Minnesota’s Cameron Sather in the spring of 2013, and just days ago he released Mur’s debut album Athabasca. As he wrote to us in an e-mail, “The goal of the music was to create a dichotomy between the airy, open heaviness of Avant-drone experimentalism and the feral explosions of atmospheric black metal.”
He also explained that “Athabasca is a conceptual album about the complex ecological relationship between the Northern grey wolf (Canis lupis) and the American bison (Bison bison).”
All of that intrigued me to the point that I spent some time listening (and re-listening) to one of the tracks that Mur recommended as a sample. It turns out to be the third of the album’s three long songs, and I found it fascinating.
For much of its considerable length, “Athabasca (A Calf Is Culled)” has a spacious feel. As it begins with droning ambient sounds, it’s not hard to imagine soaring on thermals like a hawk over high plains filled with vast wooly herds. The sensation of drifting back in time is reinforced by the picking and strumming of acoustic guitar, the solitary melody conjuring a western folk vibe. But things don’t stay in that vein.
The music is eventually filled with a storm of abrasive sound, with the swelling of distorted riffs, the rhythmic rumble of percussion, and the scarring howl and roar of predatory vocals — as if to convey that the wolf has arrived, and with it, death. Yet even then, and particularly at the end, there’s a melodic hook in the harrowing sound that you want to hold onto.
I’m still intrigued, and the next time I listen to this song, it will come in order, after hearing the first two tracks on the album — which is a “name your price” download on Bandcamp. I suspect it will appeal to fans of Panopticon; to me, there seems to be a kindred spirit animating the music.
After Lustre and Mur, I decided that we needed some slashing and burning for our next piece of music.
I discovered Murg thanks to a link on Facebook posted by Raven S. (thank you!). They’re a Swedish band, and their debut album, released on March 30, is entitled Varg & Björn.
I’ve listened to only one song, a track named “Nejderna brinner”, which is the first one you hear upon landing at the album’s Bandcamp page. It does something very well that may be the defining musical hallmark of much of the expanding black metal genre as a whole: it wraps a memorable, atmospheric melody within a thorned membrane of savagery. The song drives super-hard right from the start, like a gale-force wind, but eventually a shivering, serpentine melody surfaces that really sinks its fangs into your veins. The music slows and becomes morose and sombre at the finish, and that works, too.
Murg’s album was released by Nordvis and is available for order on Bandcamp:
I’ll finish this round-up with a band I’m very high on. This new song comes from Manipura Imperial Deathevokovil (Scriptures of Reversed Puraana Dharmurder), the new album by Sri Lanka’s Genocide Shrines.
Last November we had the pleasure of premiering a song from the album, and I’ve written about it again since then. And now Toronto’s Vault of Dried Bones, which is releasing it, has made another song available on Soundcloud. It’s an oozing tarpit of doom, scented with incense, that eventually begins rushing like an unstoppable magma flow or an avalanche of boulders. Its name is “Burning Spears To Exhume The Raavanic Throne Of Sivvhela Retaliation“. I’m including the stream below, along with three other tracks that have been launched on the album’s Bandcamp page.
I’ll tell you again, for those with a taste for black/death terrorism — or for those who simply want their minds transported into a dangerous and exotic world — this is very, very good.