(Straight outta Norway, our friend Gorger is back with a new edition of his series recommending releases that we’ve managed to overlook. And be sure to check out Gorger’s Metal.)
“Hot on the heels” after part 8, here’s part 9 of stuff that Islander and other contributors have overlooked in the abundance of releases. Well, that’s what I wrote almost two weeks ago before slipping into a new hiatus anyway.
Today I bring you black metal and atmospheric/symphonic derivatives thereof, thrash, tech-death, blackened death, and a blackened thrash gem from down under that you could sort of sort under Islander’s Tourism posts. Not in that order, though.
Also, I originally increased this post from the usual four to five, as I recently came across an elder piece that I’ve fallen in love with. But than, when assembling the collage above, I realized that five just wasn’t doing, and thus it grew to six.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
VOODUS – NIGHTQUEEN
We start with the “bonus” feature, as it was released first (and because this NightQueen has seduced me. And given me herpes). Last year the Swedish quartet changed their name from Jormungand to the more modern and international, but less distinctive, Voodus. I recently learned that this was due to stagnation. They’ve given up a great name, from a Norse stance, but except for one short song, I personally think the new moniker fits their current expression better.
The band, which has been active with an apparently stable line-up for 12 years, has in any case altered their expression slightly by weeding out most of the death from their previous black/death metal.
NightQueen was originally released on cassette via Jawbreaker Records on October 31st yesteryear, but was released anew in January by Heathen Tribes, a rather new label whose Greek founders reside in Germany.
The Swedes offer three long and elaborate songs, as well as two shorter tracks.
The longest songs ranges from 8 to 11 minutes. These have plenty of variety within each song, and a hellish expression, more on the mental plane than on the musical. The music is airy and not very extreme or intense, but the moods are evil and ominous, while retaining a protoScandinavian proud and erect attitude that shines through.
The music is partly melodic, but in an eerie and sinister form. This tastes of both Dissection and Norwegian moods, while a hint of French/Icelandic maelstrom is colouring the sound. The latter albeit limited to parts of their sound.
And the vocals? You could fillet fucking flatfish with it, for it’s as sharp as a razor. Ciller as a cruel and coarse clown with a chainsaw on a carnage! Oh wait, Killer is written with a K, damn it.
Then there’s the shorter segments. The Burning Light Of Daath is a cool little bully in well under 5 minutes, but it doesn’t quite fit in. It differs too much audio-wise, and it lies much closer to death metal than the other material. This wasn’t a part of the original cassette release either.
Three minutes long, Metamorfos puts up the Viking sail and ploughs the waves with salty foam around the dragon head on the prow. A short but nifty thing.
The Swedes show their muscles, albeit with a somewhat unfinished demo mark over their works. Nevertheless, the song material is overall pretty damn slaying and well-executed. Despite some debris, one helluva tough EP that testifies to a damn promising future under a new moniker. I hope Voodus gets tons of attention and positive feedback on their negativity. I’ve received the good news that they’re already at work with material for a full-length.
On Bandcamp you can also check out Jormundgand’s one full-length album.
NightQueen was released by Heathen Tribes on January 23rd.
VANAD VARJUD – DISMAL GRANDEUR IN NOCTURNAL AURA
Vanad Varjud is a black metal trio from Estonia. The idea behind the band, to explore the human mind and different philosophies, and to wander the dark and twisted paths, despite easier options, has remained latent in guitarist and bassist Sorts Apostate since the millennium shift. He’s joined by Thon on drums and Ott on vocals.
Vanad Varjud ultimately became a reality in 2009, and the album Apooriad was released a few years later.
The band play doomy black metal without restrictions on their assorted influences from ambience, drone, funeral, etc. Fortunately, without all kinds of eccentric whims dominating. The result of the trio’s second release is four tracks that in total clocks in at nearly 50 minutes. The sombre music is seeking, as if exploring the dark corners of haunted mansions, enchanted forests, troubled minds, and the netherworld. It is hard and raw, but not without touches of sadness and atmosphere.
The music’s got a somewhat ambient frame of samples. It’s primarily here we find the experimental influences. These actually work quite appropriately as evocative remedies. The music is gloomy, obscure, and sorrowful. The expression is primitive in a natural way, without any feigned necrotics. Gradual, almost subtle variation, creates flowing progression. The execution is simple but effective, and it has a very appealing effect on me.
Dismal Grandeur in Nocturnal Aura was released by Symbol of Domination on January 30th.
DIVINE REALM – TECTUM ARGENTI
Hyper-technical instrumental music with industrial whims is not what I personally listen to most frequently, but the genre can be reasonably impressive when a band know their stuff, and Divine Realm sure do. And then some. Also, I reserve my right to be nazi about stuff on my own site, but here I pretend to be social, and I take the masses into account, and in the masses, there sure are many that loves their tech death. I hope you all will find a gem here.
Canadian Leo Diensthuber started this band for himself in 2010 and released his first EP Mor[t]ality in 2013. Later that year, Divine Realm expanded to a full band, before the EP Abyssal Light was released in 2014.
Tectum Argenti is the band’s first studio album, consisting of seven tracks and just over half an hour with staggering vital technical prog. It’s an imaginative roller-coaster of fiery guitar and intricate rhythms that meets the listener. The playful progressive feel is everywhere, and frequent costume changes take but milliseconds. Transitions follow continuously, bound together by whatever the band have at their fingertips, be it glue, tape, screws, or cable ties. It can be the rhythm that creates continuity, or maybe the untiring finger-picking melodic doodling on the guitars. Hell, at times it’s even eclectic sounds of abstract machines running on soap bubbles, dandelions, and loving maintenance that tie things together.
All in all, it’s impressive instrumentation, as well as structures that one might wonder if they are compositionally or impulsively generated, that make up Tectum Argenti. The sound has the perfectionistic crystal-clear character you know from the genre. Fans of guitar-virtuous instrumental prog can most likely order this blindly. The music contains so much liveliness and momentum that even sceptics should take a listen.
Tectum Argenti was released independently on February 23rd.
NOCTURNAL GRAVES – LEAD US TO THE ENDLESS FIRE/SHARPEN THE KNIVES (EP)
Remember how I talked about Tourism at the top? Well, in about two months this band will visit the US of A, and you’d better try to make it. Sad news is that they’re only got four dates and ditto venues, and The United States is fairly huge. I didn’t even make it to the Inferno Festival, and that’s like the distance between Seattle and Salem, south of Portland.
Australian Nocturnal Graves, with over ten years of experience, is a coal-black thrash band that oozes of death. The only remaining original member, Nuclear Exterminator, is an active man, that has amongst others been involved in topical Deströyer 666.
Not long ago, the band, along with Hells Headbangers, announced a short mini-tour of the US. The band will visit Los Angeles and Philadelphia (one hell of a geographic leap right there) and then New York City, before rounding off with an appearance at Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore. This 7″ EP will be sold exclusively at these concerts in prints limited to 200 copies.
Fortunately, the two new songs are already available digitally, for this is ripping stuff. While Hells Headbangers deals with the physical format, Nocturnal Graves distribute the digital version.
Perhaps the definition of a single is that it has to contain a single track from an album. Maybe I am conservative when I consider two-song releases as singles, while an EP preferably should have about five songs and clock in at approximately 20-25 minutes? An insignificant digression, of course. Feel free to argue and call me names in the commentaries.
Despite some years in their existence, I have no real relationship with the Australians. I should really do something about that. These two songs bring fierce, angry hellfire. Striking aggression with infernal atmosphere, hefty instrumentation, sharp rasping vocals, and fitting euphony.
I heard the two songs on Bandcamp after reading the tour-related newsletter, without expectations of any kind. And I was blown away by one hell of a display of a self-confident profane foray via a mutation of black/death/thrash. The only negative aspect I have to address is the duration, of just 10:40.
Here are the dates for the mini-tour. Catch them if you can!
May 24th – Los Angeles, CA @ The Five Star Bar (+3 more bands TBA)
May 25th – Philadelphia, PA @ Millcreek Tavern (along with Mitochondrian, Phobocosm, Auroch) May 26th – New York City, NY @ The Acheron Bar (with Oligarch and more bands TBA)
May 29th – Baltimore, MD @ Maryland Deathfest
Lead Us To The Endless Fire/Sharpen The Knives was released by Nocturnal Graves on February 2nd, and physically by Hells Headbangers at said shows.
FROZEN OCEAN – THE PROWESS OF DORMITION (EP)
Before I start: I was going to write about Maze of Terror here, ’cause even if I was absolutely positively sure I had read about their new album here, I just couldn’t find it. But now I did. So if anything else in this wrap-up is a false beneath-the-radar alarm, shit happens, bro.
Russian Vaarwel is the absolute ruler of the land of Frozen Ocean, and he is an active fellow. In 2011 he released five full-length albums. He has calmed down the frenzied release-rate somewhat, and the last two years has “only” seen two new albums a year.
The man apparently don’t care much for genre boundaries and limitations, but on this 25-minute EP, at least it’s roughly some kind of symphonic black metal he’s dealing with.
Most of the Russian’s antics have English titles but a few of the releases have names in some strange, unrecognisable language, such as Likegyldig Raseri (2011) and Natt Over Meg (2013). On The Prowess of Dormition we also find a song titled Det Siste Snøfallet.
I must be allowed to state that it doesn’t kick off particularly good. The first song, of a total of four, opens with flimsy synth. When the guitar cuts through after thirty seconds, it’s an excessively dominant wall of synth that cling on for another half a minute. After this, however, the synthetic elements find their natural place in the back of the sound.
The music borrows from melodic black metal, but generally has little in common with ordinary black metal. The atmosphere is more soaring than earthy. The music rises above trivial human emotions like anger or cheerfulness, and worldly everyday factors such as joy or hate. When synthetic elements raise their voice in the middle of the song, it’s with techno style, and it actually works very well.
The music has an atmospheric approach, hints of symphonic orientation, and some pagan leanings. The melodies are at the centre, and they are both good and varied. I was initially skeptical of The Prowess of Dormition, but besides the very first minute of the EP, there’s a full wall of instrumentation, not exactly a stereotypically one-man band, that greets the listener.
Frozen Ocean is probably not a band I would recommend to the hardest, most steadfast core of black metal mongers, but those who have a slightly wider area of interest may very well check out the Russian’s new EP.
The Prowess of Dormition was released by Apocalyptic Witchcraft on February 26th.
MIGHTIEST – SINISTERRA
German Mightiest has a long, but not particularly productive history. The band was born out of the second black wave in 1994. The following year they released their first demo.
After just over 20 years, time is probably (over)ripe for SinisTerra, the Germans’ (for some) long-awaited debut. For most of us, though, Mightiest is likely still a new acquaintance.
The band mixes familiar elements, but it nevertheless sounds quite fresh and slightly unique compared to the majority of what we’re used to. It took me some time to arrive at some sort of conclusion on exactly what the band does differently, but I think it’s got something to do with the mixing ratio.
The band has indeed preserved some deranged brutality from their black past, but now emerges more like a cross between orchestral black/death and a somewhat peculiar extreme doom expression. The band has on the one side this majestic and orchestral expression, where some subtle parallels can be drawn to Behemoth and Sear Bliss. Meanwhile, they offer some offensive frontal attacks, so brutal and violent that the musical compass needle spins uncontrollably.
Especially the opening track rideth forth like a runaway semitrailer loaded with 2650 cubic feet of explosives.
When the band calms down in the title track, and later in Oceanic Empires, I also get a sense of some folk-tinged doom. Not just doom as in a “sluggish, doomy extreme metal” sense, but as in doom metal, with soaring moods, dragons in distress, and raging virgin maidens on the horizon. Or vice versa.
At the first listen, this epic, atmospheric “interference”, with clean vocals just to top it off, just feels out of place after the barbaric opening. After several spins however, even this quite pagan approach comes more into its right.
I never get entirely wise when it comes to SinisTerra, even after quite a lot of spins. (Could “rounds” or “laps” implicate the same meaning in English by the way?) Maybe I’m a bit astray in my description as well. Yet I must admit that exactly that pleases me a bit. Music that stands slightly apart from other art, and that ain’t too easy wrapping your head around when you’re used to fairly uncomplicated pigeonholing (putting the square blocks in the square holes, and ditto circular, triangular, etc.), generally has a higher level of excitement and a longer life span.
“Better turn up your stereo…”, the press release solicits, but that’s definitely not necessary, for the volume is already preset at eleven. The production itself is lovely massive, but the dynamics are ridiculously low, with only DR4 to show for. (Yes, I’ve been brainwashed by Angry Metal Guy.) We’ll hold Iguana-Studios responsible. I agree that high volume suits SinisTerra, but I have my own volume knob, thank you very much. The almost shrill sound surely helps provide the album with a somewhat special touch, for better or worse.
Despite the sound going through the roof, I thrive very well with SinisTerra. I could have been even more enthusiastic due to musical ingenuity, but I’m holding back somewhat due to compression. Still, I enjoy this album, and that is precisely why I present it here, because I know that if I think it’s pretty damned good, there have to be others who feel the same way, and both you and the band deserve to get to know each other.
Cyclone Empire released the band’s entire (until then) collected works, approximately 2×50 minutes of music, under the fanciful title Bloodyssey in 2008.
Underneath, you’ll find shortened versions of Devour The Sun and Soular Eclipse, as well as The Purifire in its entirety.
SinisTerra was released by Cyclone Empire on February 26th.
Agree? Disagree? I rarely get any feedback save for untrustworthy adulation, so bring it on in the commentary field below, motherfuckers.
Islander wants positivity. I honestly don’t give a fornication as long as you keep your comments fairly mannerly 😉
Nocturnal Graves should be on everyones radar, if you like blackened thrash…that band fucking slays
I have completely failed to notice this band before, but I’ll definitely attempt to keep my eyes open in the future.
This release fucking floored me!
All their stuff is great, but Id definitely recommend both full lengths as well as “The Grave Spirits” split
I usually sell merch for them when they’re in town,great guys especially Jaro.
Frozen Ocean’s great. I remember seeing them come up on an Apocalyptic Witchcraft newsletter as a pre-order and meant to check them out later… so thanks for the reminder, it fell under my radar too 😉
All traditional radars are becoming outdated fast these days, with close to 20 albums and twice as many other releases each day. I hear NASA is developing a new radar for NCS, but keep it low, it’s all a bit hush-hush at the moment.
Nocturnal Graves sound super tight. As it happens I’m at MDF the night they play the Acheron and back in Brooklyn by the time they hit Maryland. I hope they’ll have a few 7″s left over after that weekend.
Nocturnal Graves sounds killer 😀
Holy f**k balls! Nocturnal Graves rips! I’m a slut for “limited to x number of copies” not that I need any excuse to schlep out to The Acheron, but I’ll definitely be there for their Brooklyn show. And I really dig the Mightiest. It brushes up against orchestral and goth without getting too cheesy, ala Nightwish. There are parts that sound very Type O too me, and in the 90s I was nigh obsessed with them. These were great! Awesome finds! \m/
Yes, there’s sure more than meets the ear on SinisTerra.
The first half of the Type O discography is a mesmerizing bit of idiosyncratic art.
I love how their unique signature even rubbed of on every cover they ever did.
Damn, these are all really solid.
Yes that Nocturnal Graves is killer. It also made me go back and listen to their earlier album. But the big find for me here is Voodus! This is where I say Holy f**k balls. This is black metal that really shines. I never heard of the band in their previous name but will check that out too. Thanks for this one. I couldn’t listen to that Divine Realm for too long however–too many computer noises spoils it for me.