This is the delayed completion of a three-part post I began early last week, collecting and reviewing mostly new songs, EPs, and albums in the orbit of black metal. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.
One benefit of the delay is that I happened across a very recent song that’s the fourth item in this final installment, which includes music from six bands that I’ve been enjoying. Most of what I’ve collected here falls on the “atmospheric” side of the black metal spectrum.
In a previous edition of Shades of Black that appeared the day after Christmas 2015, I wrote about a striking video for a live performance by a band named Nabaath (who are Russian but now based in Ukraine), accompanied by dancer Mariya KarMa. The name of the song was “Iron In Your Throat”, and it’s one of nine on Nabaath’s third album, Common Graves, which was released last fall and is now available in full on Bandcamp.
The one word that has come to my mind most often in listening to Common Graves is “majestic”. The music is intensely dramatic and powerful, without becoming pretentious or self-indulgent. The compositions are intricate and dynamic, but whether raging in a cyclone of fury or moving in immense, sweeping waves — like the passing of huge thunderheads or the roll of ocean swells — the melodies are gripping and memorable.
The music is also invariably dark, threaded with tendrils of doom even in the most sublime moments. You either feel enveloped by catastrophe or get the sense of standing on a precipice, watching it inexorably encroach or rush up at you — or grieve in its aftermath. Yet there are indeed plenty of sublime moments scattered like gems throughout the album, passages of striking beauty that make the heart swell to hear them — just as there are passages of creeping dread and ravaging malignancy.
With a clear production quality, the album makes it easy to appreciate the high level of instrumental proficiency that the band members bring to this work, as well as the multitude of small touches that make the songs so engrossing. And the highly varied vocals are as bursting with fire and fervor as the instrumental music.
This really is a tremendously impressive album — richly textured, beautifully performed, and consistently powerful from start to finish. I’m dismayed that I haven’t seen more attention showered upon it; maybe that will begin to change.
In addition to the Bandcamp stream of Common Graves, I’m also including that video for “Iron In Your Throat” in case you missed it.
Near the end of February, the one-man Colorado project Deafest released a fourth full-length album and the first one since 2010, following a long series of splits and EPs. This new one, Glen and Precipice, is an instrumental composition broken into two sides, inspired by the Colorado Rockies and conceptually organized according to the two natural settings suggested by the album’s title, with each side written in three movements.
I’m a relative newcomer to the music of Deafest and therefore can’t compare this new album to those which preceded it, but I found it captivating. Even if you didn’t already know that the music was inspired by the dramatic valleys and peaks of the Rocky Mountains, I think the music would fill your mind’s eye with such panoramic vistas, or similar ones. The sweeping, layered guitar compositions are alternately sunlit and beclouded, soaring and storming. At times rapturous and at others wistful and somber, the songs are always alive with passion, and they have the capacity to pull the listener headlong into their creator’s vision and become spellbound.
Deafest also makes astute choices in the drum patterns and progressions throughout the album, using them to add energy and variety and to amplify the music’s course changes. In the album’s second half, Deafest also adds brief, simple piano melodies to the songs. And all the songs have a noticeable thematic connection; despite the changes in the riffs, they are joined together as versions of the main theme and with variations on the ending of the previous song. Consequently, although you can get a lot out of each song standing alone, this is a unified work, almost like one very long piece, and listening to the album straight through is a wonderful experience,
Inspiring music for the first day of spring… and if you want to just test the waters before diving all the way in, my favorite track is the last and longest one, the majestic “Precipice [Catamount]”.
Glen and Precipice is a name-your-price download at Bandcamp, with a tape release coming from Sylvan Scream Analog.
Last April, KevinP and I did a tag-team feature about the self-titled debut album from the French band Autokrator, with Kevin providing an interview and me providing a review. Needless to say, we were both pretty high on the album. Autokrator has now completed work on a second full-length, this one entitled The Obedience To Authority, which includes cover art by Néstor Avalos and is scheduled for release on April 22.
The songs on the album, which is conceptually based on “considerations regarding human inclinations towards obedience to authority”, are all named with chapter numbers. The first song, “Chapter I”, appeared recently. The song is marked by one of Autokrator‘s hallmarks: it’s a brutal, howling hurricane of sound. The drumming is off-the-hook, a maniacal percussive assault that contrasts with the massive, heaving, grim melody generated by the storming riffs. The roaring vocals are as inhuman as the atmosphere of the music.
I first came across this Chicago band via their last EP, En To Pan, which I (partially) reviewed back in July 2014. They have a second album coming later this year called Divination, and on Friday they debuted one of the new songs, “Sovereignty Through Extreme Tyranny”.
When I discovered the band back in 2014, it was through a Facebook recommendation by Austin Lunn (Panopticon), and I thought of Panopticon‘s music as I listened to “Sovereignty…”. It’s a heavy song, driven hard by potent drumwork that blasts at first and rocks and booms later, with vocals that are utterly savage — but the song’s sweeping/trilling/chiming melodies are full of life and sylvan beauty. An entrancing blend of atmospheric black metal and post-metal… sounds like Divination is going to be something special.
This Philadelphia-based band with a Finnish name (and founded by a man of Finnish heritage) is another group I’ve written about before in this Shades of Black series, briefly reviewing their 2015 album The Child Must Die last July. Now the band have released a new single on tape (via the Ukrainian label Depressive Illusions Records) named “Immaculate Deconception”. The song includes a guest vocal appearance by Gary Hadden (Lesch-Nyhan) and artwork by Nino R. Mejia.
Like the Vukari song above, this new single is a juxtaposition of beauty and the beast. The vocals are ferocious and feral, ranging from cavernous roars to grating shrieks. But the mix of keyboard and guitar melodies are engrossing and memorable, ranging from the intense and urgent to the panoramic.
The “Immaculate Deconception” cassette single is available now to purchase on the Depressive Illusions Records web shop and you can stream it below.
I’ve also learned that on May 16, Symbol of Domination Productions (a sub-label of Satanath Records) will release a new five-track CD by Nihilistinen Barbaarisus named Madness Incarnate, which includes an alternate version of “Immaculate Deconception”. It also includes guest appearances by Gary Hadden, James Dorton (Black Crown Initiate, Nightfire, Aborted Existence, Antikythera), and Joel Robert Thompson (ex-Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus, Omelas). The cover art for the EP (below) was created by the wonderfully talented Luciana Nedelea:
Enjoy “Immaculate Deconception” below:
We get a lot of e-mails every day directly from bands, in addition to the usual flood of press releases by PR agents and labels. I try to read all of them, but rarely have time to listen to all the music we’re encouraged to check out. In the case of a one-man band from Portugal named Nebulus, I did pause long enough to listen to the first song on the band’s debut EP on Soundcloud, and found it intriguing — and later went back and listened to everything else.
The six-song EP is entitled 2666: Return To Planet Hell and represents an attempt, through the prism of black metal, “to reflect the vastness and darkness of space”.
That first two-part song, “As Journey Begins (Part 1)” sets the stage with a shimmering cosmic ambience and a lilting guitar melody behind a sample that sounds like a countdown from mission control. When the vocals do appear over that looping refrain and the thumping drum track, they’re as vile and ugly as the music is mesmerizing.
The balance of the EP follows a similar pattern. In one sense the music is simple and primitive, combining spectral keyboards and repeating drum and guitar loops over the crack and croak of the vocal cacophony. But I found myself comfortably enfolded by its haunting, mystical embrace and impressed by the effort to capture both the daunting beauty and the perilous hostility of the cosmos (and the vocals aren’t always ugly, as you’ll find within the fourth and sixth tracks).
Nebulus is in search of a label, and I hope the search will be successful.