It’s Easter Sunday, so of course I have a Shades of Black collection to share, with new music in a mainly blackened vein from 9 bands, because we need an extra large round-up of black today. The first two selections are more in the nature of teasers, while the balance of these selections are complete songs, EPs, or albums. There are lots of contrasts in this collection, from the utterly savage to the dreamlike and spellbinding.
Last week Daemon Worship Productions launched a YouTube video which said nothing more than “Bestia Arcana. Holókauston is coming.” After doing further research I was able to find… no more details.
I presume that Holókauston is the name of the new second album by this Colorado black metal band, whose members were last reported to include Naas Alcameth of Akhlys and Nightbringer, K. (formerly of Nightbringer), and drummer Menthor (Nightbringer, Enthroned, Lvcifyre, etc.). And if those names don’t make you sit up and pay attention, then you’re in need of serious remedial posture training.
The video includes excerpts of music from multiple songs, and it sounds like the gates of Hell have been forced open, expelling great heaving waves of dark, terrifying, unearthly sound… some of it the sound of arcane ritual, some of it the sound of civilization being put to the torch. Bring it on… soon, I hope.
A couple of days ago the Swedish duo known as Mortuus posted a teaser of music on YouTube which made reference to a title — “The Downward Ladder” — and included lyrics, but provided no further information. However, I think I know what this may be.
In mid-January we were honored to host the premiere of a new song by the Greek black metal band Thy Darkened Shade, and although the name of the song and the release on which it will appear were kept mysterious, word has circulated that Thy Darkened Shade will be participating in a four-way split, and it is rumored that Mortuus will be a participant in this four-fold invocation of chaos. And so, although I can’t say for sure, we may be hearing part of Mortuus‘ contribution to this split.
I wish this excerpt were longer, though it’s long enough to put the hair up on the back of my neck. It’s a slow, stately march down into a sepulcher of death lit by the flames of passion.
LORD IMPALER – DIZZINESS – HELL POEMER
Rather than a rumored four-way split, the next item in this collection is an actual three-way split called Carved by the Winds Eternal. The three participating bands, each of whom contributed two songs, are all from Greece: Lord Impaler, Dizziness, and Hell Poemer.
I wrote about one of Lord Impaler’s tracks (“The Fire That Burns”) in a previous edition of Shades of Black, and to repeat what I said there, the song does indeed burn with fiery intensity, driven by attention-grabbing drumwork, seething riffs, and inflamed vocal tirades. Yet the song is also atmospheric and mesmerizing, with a brooding indigo melody that seeps into the skin like a narcotic poison. The second Lord Impaler song, “Call From the Grave” begins in more deliberate fashion but soon enough begins to race and rip, with an exotic melody slithering through the song like a reptile as the music moves back and forth between boiling chaos and a dark, mid-paced, rocking lurch.
Dizziness released their second album, Bound By Strength, last year, but the two tracks on this split are the first of their songs I’ve heard, and they’re both very good. “Goddess of the Moon” is dark and majestic; at first, panoramic guitar melodies flow over racing drum rhythms and the huge pulse of the bass, and then the song becomes almost ethereally beautiful as the pace slows — though the jagged, strangled vocals counterbalance the cosmic allure of the melody. The second song, “‘Άρπυιες”, is equally appealing and dynamic, a mix of high, rippling guitar melodies and heavy, jabbing, militaristic riffs and rhythms, with the big thrumming bass again playing a significant role.
Hell Poemer’s two tracks — “The Sacral Knot of Hierophant” and “My Dreams Will Stay Frozen On the Mountains” — appear to be the band’s first releases since their 2013 debut album Arcane Mysteries of Dead Ancestors., and they complement the music of the other two bands quite well. The first song is a high-intensity romp that combines dark, soaring keyboard and guitar melodies with jolting rhythms and ravaging vocals. The second song employs similar ingredients, though the bright, dreamlike keyboard melody is perhaps more prominent and the song more devoted to mid-paced melancholy.
For fans of melodic black metal that includes memorable melodies without sacrificing savagery, this split is an excellent find.
The split is available now as a digital download at Bandcamp, although it will be available on CD through War Productions, The Ritual Productions, and Satanath Records, and available on tape via Black Death Productions.
Now we move to two tracks that have surfaced so far from the new album, Cold Redrafted, by the Russian band Negative Voice, which is due for release on April 11 by Hypnotic Dirge. Negative Voice is not a black metal band but they do include vibrating tremolo chords and acidic vocals in their approach to melodic doom — and besides, I didn’t want to wait any longer to feature these two songs from the new album: “Limitation” and “Karmic Pattern”.
The songs are bleak, heavy, and dramatic, with utterly wrenching vocal extremity and subdued clean vocals matching the chillingly beautiful melodies in their emotional impact. The interplay of ghostly guitar arpeggios and a prominent bass, which surfaces in both songs, is a highlight, but there are lots of other things to like in this music (including the wonderful soloing in “Limitation”).
The album can be pre-ordered now at Bandcamp.
WOMAN IS THE EARTH
Woman Is the Earth are located in Black Hills, South Dakota. They’ve released three albums to date and their fourth one, Torch of Our Final Night, is planned for release by Init Records on April 15. So far, I’ve heard two gorgeous songs from the album. One of them is the title track (on YouTube); the other is called “Broken Hands” and it premiered at CVLT Nation not long ago.
The drums and bass thunder like the stampede of a mustang herd in the title track, to the accompaniment of scalding howls, but the sweeping, panoramic melodies are as ephemeral and mesmerizing as the rhythms are physically jolting. This song has really gotten stuck in my head. As for “Broken Hands”, CVLT Nation described the song with words such as “beautiful”, “moving”, “passionate”, “melodic”, “honest”, “soulful”, “fragile”, and “introspective”. Those adjectives all ring true, and I would add “grief-stricken” and “memorable” to the list.
For the penultimate item in this Shades of Black collection I’m including an album I’ve been meaning to write about for many weeks, and it makes for a fitting companion to the preceding two songs in this collection. The album is Night Sky and it was recorded by a one-man Italian band named Chiral. The album was originally released last fall by Black Plague Records, but it was re-released earlier this month by Pest Productions in a digipak CD edition with revised artwork and is now available on Bandcamp.
I confess that one of these songs has hooked me harder than the others: I’ve returned time and again to the opening track, “My Temple of Isolation”. The lilting acoustic guitar melody is a real grabber, and it sinks its way into the mind even more firmly as the song unfolds, when it’s joined in harmony by the electric guitar and Chiral begins to execute variations on the theme with multiple instruments (including what sounds like a harmonica). The drumming in the song is equally riveting, and the harsh vocals display throat-scarring passion.
The album includes three more long songs (in the 12 – 19-minute range) and a relatively short instrumental guitar-and-harmonica interlude. “Nightside I – Everblack Fields” is as somber and sorrowful as “My Temple” is bright and beautiful, but it’s an entrancing piece of dreaminess. “Nightside II – Sky Wonder” picks up where Part I left off, continuing the hypnotic voyage among the stars with a layering of repeating keyboard motifs and soulful guitar arpeggios (and a few bursts of black metal shrieking and blasting).
Following that meditative instrumental interlude, the album ends with “Beneath the Snow and The Fallen Leaves”, which combines more of those sweeping, atmospheric synth arias with pulsating drum lines, introspective keyboard notes, whirring guitars, and the gritty backdrop of distorted riffs and distant screams. It’s a wintry mantle of sorrow that settles slowly like a cascade of snow from a night sky. Spellbindingly beautiful.
P.S. There is an even more recent Chiral release than Night Sky — an EP named Snow/Heritage that appeared last week. I haven’t heard it yet, but it’s on Chiral’s Bandcamp page at this location, and I’m including the stream below.
This last release was a last-minute addition to this post. I came across it via a link from a Facebook friend yesterday, and it tore my empty head off so quickly and with such venomosity that I felt compelled to add it.
The title of the EP in question is Order of the Morningstars and it’s by a Tennessee band named Ululatum Tollunt. This sounded like Latin, and so I resorted to some Google searching, and the words seem to signify something like a barbaric war cry, though I’m not positive about that.
What I am positive about is that part about the music’s capacity to tear your head off. The grinding riffs are heavily distorted, the vocals are the terrifying shrieks of someone being disemboweled, the bass sounds like a cement mixer, the drums are blazing-fast gut-punchers (except for the snare hits, which pop like gunfire). The songs all run together in one non-stop orgy of black/death warfare. It’s ugly, violent, crushing music… but it has gotten its hooks in me.