In today’s Shades of Black installment I’ve collected reviews and streams of three EPs, a new album, a new song, and a new video that I’ve been enjoying lately. As usual, all of the music is in a blackened vein, though all of the bands are distinctively different from each other in their musical approach. I hope you’ll find that one or more of them suits your tastes.
Astrophobos is a Swedish black metal trio from Stockholm who released a debut EP in 2010 named Arcane Secrets and a debut album in 2014 bearing the title Remnants of Forgotten Horrors. I really enjoyed that debut full-length, although I only managed to write about a video for one of the songs. Now they have a new EP (Enthroned in Flesh) due for release in August, and this past week DECIBEL premiered an excellent new song from it called “Blood Libation”, which is now up on Bandcamp.
DECIBEL included this comment from bassist/vocalist Micke Broman:
“For our new release, we wanted to add some faster and more brutal elements, and once again enlisted Fredrik Widigs (Marduk) to play the drums. The lyrics of ‘Blood Libation’ are intended to match the brutality of the music and relate the events of a ritual, described from the perspective of a willing human sacrifice as he is being gorged upon by the worshiped deity. Enthroned in Flesh consists of four songs and will be released on vinyl and digitally on August 26th on Triumvirate Records.”
The song is indeed brutal and fast, a seething torrent of threshing riffs, predictably eye-popping drumwork, and wild, ravenous vocal ferocity, leavened by brooding, malignant, slower parts and laced with poisonous lead guitar vibrations and a scintillating solo. While the band’s previous album drew comparisons to the likes of Dissection and Naglfar, this song vents a more warlike ferocity — though without abandoning strains of melody that give it character.
(Thanks to “M” for linking me to this song.)
Andy Synn briefly but enthusiastically reviewed this Turkish/Norwegian band’s 2014 album Nightmare Years for us, calling it “undoubtedly one of the most spectacular debuts I’ve heard in a long time” and “easily one of the most underrated and underappreciated albums of 2014”. Recently the band released a video (produced by vocalist Levent Ultanur – www.silenzia.com) for the album’s title track, and that’s the next item in this collection.
The video reminds me that despite Andy’s high praise, I never devoted time to the album as a whole. It also reminds me how stupid that oversight was, because the song is strikingly good — a multifaceted piece that combines harrowing barbarity with sweeping, soaring, majestic melody. Beautiful guitar and keyboard work here, in addition to head-hammering rhythms and vibrant vocal savagery.
According to the band’s Facebook page, they are now recording their second album, which is welcome news.
Majestic Decay come to our ears from Bydgoszcz, Poland. Their debut EP Doomsday Protocol was released via Bandcamp on April 1, 2016. It consists of five tracks, two of which (including the opener) are different from the other three. The first one, “Civil Defence”, is an affecting orchestral piece that, true to the band’s name, is both majestic and emblematic of decay and doom. The other (“Fading Light”) is an ambient synthesizer interlude that conveys both post-apocalyptic bleakness and spectral beauty.
The other three songs combine elements of melodic death metal and black metal. They’re powerfully jolting, with huge, hammering grooves given even more bone-breaking force by the vivid production. In addition to the fun of being jackhammered into fragments, you also get some hellishly good riffs as well as soloing that’s alternately sinuous, shredtastic, and soulful — plus wild, berserker vocals that are capable of producing an adrenaline surge all by themselves.
The music also includes a satisfying degree of instrumental intricacy and melodies that generate a haunting and sinister atmosphere to complement the high-caliber physical impact.
(Thanks again to “M” for recommending this EP.)
Like Majestic Decay, Verdorven is a new band whose debut EP was recently released for download via Bandcamp (and will soon become available on tape). They’re based in The Netherlands, and their EP is named De Tijd Van Weleer.
The murderous intent of that snarling wolf on the EP’s cover is, if anything, an understatement of the sentiments that lie within the EP. This is terrifying, utterly malign music that is nonetheless transfixing. Deep, buzzing, hornet-swarm riffs keep your teeth on edge while gun-shot drum strikes (often unpredictable in their eruptions and patterns), unnerving vocal samples, fleeting bits of alien electronica, occasional industrial rhythms, weird bursts of guitar dementia, and distorted keyboard measures make you feel as if you’ve been pulled into a nightmarish hallucination.
The vocals only enhance that harrowing, disorienting feeling. They veer from acid-spewing shrieks and voracious growls to deep, electronically altered roars that signify the presence of an immense evil.
Is it too much to say that this debut demo is brilliant as well as cancerous? I don’t think so. The members of the band are undisclosed, but something tells me this isn’t their first rodeo.
(For the third time today, I thank “M” for sending me the link to this EP.)
To conclude this collection, I’m turning to something that isn’t really black metal, but certainly has a spiritual and aesthetic connection that I think justifies my including it here.
This is an album entitled Skarby Zmiainaha Karala (Treasures of the Serpent King) by a Belarusian one-man project named Pragnavit. Although it appears that Pragnavit will be celebrating 20 years of existence in 2017, this is my first encounter with the project.
The album deserves a more elaborate review than I have time to provide, but I’m not sure mere words could capture the experience anyway, and fortunately, you can immerse yourself in its magnificent, spellbinding mysteries through the album stream below. A full immersion is well worth the time that it will take.
The songs combine dark ambient and folk music, integrating synthesizer creations, audio samples, an array of traditional instruments, and an equally broad array of vocal styles. It sparks the imagination, bringing to mind unfolding vistas of cosmic grandeur, journeys into paranormal dimensions inhabited by spirits, and flights back in time to a mythic primordial past.
Sometimes, confronting an album of this length can deter people from diving in. So I’ll suggest one track (the fourth one) as a basis for testing these deep and mystical waters: “Visažar zornyh nietraŭ”. In addition, I’m including below a beautiful official video for the album’s closing track, “Ahvjarnaja kroŭ Stodu Viecznaści” (Blood Sacrifice to an Idol of Eternity).
Skarby Zmiainaha Karala was released by Crivia Records and Possession Productions on May 1, 2016, and can be downloaded or ordered in a variety of physical formats here: