This is a collection of music I discovered over the last few days, most of it recently released. Most of it also wells up from the ichor-filled aquifers of black metal, though as usual for this Shades of Black series, no two of the bands sound alike.
Most of the new music included in this collection consists of complete EPs or albums that deserve full reviews, but I’m afraid I may never find the time to write them. Rather than risk saying nothing at all, I at least want to offer some brief descriptions and strong recommendations. This debut by the one-man Chicago band Erraunt falls into that category.
I discovered The Portent thanks to a tip from Jon Rosenthal, who also wrote about the EP yesterday in his weekly column (here) at Invisible Oranges about forthcoming releases — which is full of great recommendations and well-worth following.
The first song on the EP, “Emerald Vision”, is indeed visionary. Driven by rolling drumbeats and thrumming bass notes, it builds its mesmerizing, otherworldly atmosphere through shimmering keyboard ambience, piercing guitar dissonance, and acidic vocal shrieks that echo like the howls of phantasms in a vaulted crypt.
The EP’s other three tracks are equally enthralling examples of atmospheric black metal, with ringing melodies that insinuate themselves into your memory, set against a musical backdrop that conjures images of spectral terrors. A tremendously strong, spine-tingling debut from start to finish.
The Portent is a “name your price” download at Bandcamp.
I first came upon this French band back in November 2012 when I listened to (and wrote about) their fine EP Ite Missa Est. At that time, the band were advertising for two violinists and three cellists to help in the recording of their debut album, quoting this from heroic Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton in their solicitation on Facebook, which made me like them immediately:
“Men (or women) wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”
Time passed, and in February 2014 the band uploaded to YouTube an excerpt of a “draft mix” of a song named “Pandaemonium 1.1“. I wrote this about the music at that time:
“It is a blazing explosion of symphonic exuberance, fleet as foxes with their tails on fire, but thundering like a mustang herd. The vocalist(s) shrieks like a blackened banshee and soars like an angel (a fallen one); the drummer is obviously functioning on some kind of illegal accelerant; the symphonic performers (whether human or keyboard-simulated) are refugees from The Phantom of the Opera; and whoever is inflicting the riffs and the bass line know how to straddle the line between the merciless and the exultant.
“Only one thing sucks: The YouTube clip is just an excerpt! An excerpt of a ‘draft mix’! This is NOT FAIR. I demand the ENTIRE DRAFT!”
My demand was heard and answered — though not with alacrity.
The band have recently announced their signing by Osmose Records for the release of that long-awaited debut album, which is entitled Eschatonizer. The release date is September 25, 2015, and the album will come in the form of a digipack CD and a double-gatefold LP. It will also be adorned by the cover art created by our beloved Paolo Girardi. And in recent days the band also unveiled the complete, definitive version of that song “Pandaemonium 1.1”.
Everything I wrote about the “draft” excerpt of this track still holds true — except the music is even more galvanizing, jolting, and powerful. Now I have a new demand: GIVE US ANOTHER NEW SONG SOON!
Like the EP by Erraunt described above, this next item consists of an entire release that deserves a complete review. It’s also the only item in this collection that isn’t new.
The band is named Sodoma and they hail from Brazil. Their last release was a debut album from 2011 entitled Sempiterno Aggressor. I discovered the band’s existence through a Facebook message from one of the members, who linked me to a song from Sempiterno Aggressor that blew me away.
The song is called “Svprema Ave Negra”. The scathing riff that opens the song is immediately electrifying, and the intensity of the music just builds from there. It’s a booming, blasting barrage of roaring, howling savagery that works like an injection of adrenaline straight into your neck — and you’ll get a sore neck from banging your head to the song, too. And as icing on the cake, it includes a great extended guitar solo.
All the songs on Sempiterno Aggressor are available for free download at the bands’s Soundcloud page — here. I’ve snagged all the tracks and look forward to hearing the rest.
Also, it appears that the band are at work on songs for a new release, which prompts me to say: Hurry up dammit!
Here’s yet another complete release that deserves a complete review. It’s an album named The Third Eye Gate by a Florida band named Gnosis, whose members come from other bands with disparate styles. It was discharged by Nuclear War Now! on May 20.
The label compares the music to something like an intersection of ancient Greek black metal bands such as Varathron and Göetia-era Mystifier (Brazil), while emphasizing (rightly) that the resulting combination of elements is quite distinct.
So far, I’ve only heard the first three tracks — a brief introduction plus “Primaeval Light” and “The Plague of Azotus”. The songs have a stripped-down quality with a primal, primitive appeal. But that’s not to suggest that the music is simplistic — it’s just that it succeeds so well in tapping into the reptilian part of the brain. It makes you want to move, and it’s also vibrantly venomous. Great riffs, great growls, and a heavy, badass rhythm section.
I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of this infernal beast.
Drouth come to us from Portland, Oregon. They were spawned under the name Contempt back in 2012 but changed their name to Drouth near the end of last year. The first release under their new name is an EP entitled Vast, Loathsome, which came out via Bandcamp on May 26. I learned about the EP via a strong Facebook recommendation from NY-based Broken Limbs Recordings.
Once again, this release deserves a full, detailed review, but I fear I’ll never find time to write one. So I’ll simply urge you to listen to all three tracks, with this short synopsis:
Drouth masterfully combine a variety of ingredients, including the crushing power of sludge/doom, the ripping savagery of black metal, and dark, vibrating melodies that coil around your head like thorned serpents. There are some great guitar solos lurking in these songs along with eerie acoustic/ambient passages; hard-driving punk-influenced riffs; bleak, sweepingly panoramic instrumentals tinged with psychedelia; and vocals that sound like a man being skinned alive. Vast, Loathsome is the kind of genre-bending burst of creativity that deserves to be spread like the plague.
And finally we come to Australia’s Portal, who I assume need no introduction to readers of this site. On the final day of Maryland Deathfest I witnessed their performance at the Ram’s Head venue, accompanied by a video installation by David Hall running on a large screen above and behind the band. It was a stunningly bleak, grotesque, and terrifying experience — depraved and ingenious death metal from the deepest, dankest pit of hell.
Thanks to a tip from our friend Derek Neibarger, I discovered that someone filmed the entire hour-long show from a dead-center location on the balcony of Ram’s Head. If you hang in there until the end, you’ll see that the band continued playing even after the venue attempted to end the performance by turning on the house lights and shutting down the PA system. It seems fitting that this happened — because as exhausted as all the people at MDF must have been by the time of this last gasp, I suspect no one really wanted it to end.