SHADES OF BLACK (PART 2): NEAR, SAURON, JUGURTHA, URFAUST, IMPERIUM INFERNALIS, DEN OF APPARITION
This is the delayed second part of a two-part collection of blackened metal that I began (here) on Sunday. The sharp-eyed among you will notice that I now have music from six bands instead of the four that I said would be included in this second installment. I actually wanted to add many more than two, but that would have caused the same problem that led me to split up Sunday’s post, so I’ll save them for another day.
This collection includes four full albums or EPs for which I haven’t written the kind of complete reviews that they deserve or that you might prefer. As usual, I’m squeezed for time. But please don’t mistake my meager write-ups for lack of enthusiasm — I’m very high on everything included here and hope you’ll explore all of them.
Once again I must thank my overseas comrade Miloš for sending me links to the first two releases in this collection. The first of them is an album named Own Sun by the Italian band Near, which was released last week by De Tenebrarum Principio, a faction of ATMF. This is Near’s second album, following 2010’s The Opening of the Primordial Whirl. (The cover art bears the title “Our Sun”, but the ATMF Bandcamp page identifies Own Sun as the title.)
With the pulse of the bass and the metronomic thump of the drums acting like a fast-beating heart, Near send waves of high, distorted guitar melody cascading over the listener, enhanced by astral keyboard shimmer and pierced by the vocalist’s caustic goblin snarl. The looping melodies are bleak but hypnotic, wrenching yet majestic.
There’s an entrancing and almost dreamlike quality to the songs, despite their emotional intensity and abrasive edge, but the repeating motifs don’t become monotonous. The blazing blast-beats are broken by somersaulting fills, bouncing rhythms, and stately processionals; the bounding bass notes lend a feeling of warmth; and though often on the brink of despair, Own Sun is achingly beautiful.
Metal Archives lists three Polish bands named Suaron, two of whom had their first demo releases in the mid-’90s. The next music in this collection comes from one of those two, a black metal band from Radom who have released three full-lengths since 2007 and now have a new release named Wara! coming out in September via Witching Hour Productions. The new release includes five original songs plus a cover of Bathory’s “Enter the Eternal Fire”.
Last week Witching Hour disclosed Wara!’s opening track, “Pergrubia 997 (chwała obrońcom prawiary)”. It’s a hard-rocking song with more backbeats than blasts but still thoroughly pernicious and predatory. The bleak melody that winds through the song is seductive, the vocals are pleasingly gritty and gruff, and the instrumental turn that the song takes in the second half (which includes a cool solo) is an added highlight. Excellent.
Wara! features eye-catching cover art by Robert A. von Ritter and will be available in vinyl, digipack, and cassette formats. Here’s the track list:
1. Pergrubia 997(chwała obrońcom prawiary)
2. Czarcie Bagna
3. Powrót na Czarcie Bagna
4. Bałtycka Mgła
5. Goreją Wici
6. Enter the Eternal Fire (Bathory cover)
Like Minerva, Jugurtha seems to have sprung fully formed from the brow of Jove, warlike but disciplined and brilliant — and their debut release Empyre is a huge, mind-bending surprise, though not one preceded by an enormous Jovian headache (as far as I know).
Jugurtha are based in Toronto, Canada, with a line-up that includes Joel and Andrew Beauchamp (guitar and vocals, respectively), Spencer Arnott (drums), and Bryan W. Bray (bass and “textures”). Empyre appeared on July 10, and it feels like I haven’t yet fully closed my jaw after it dropped open during my first listening session on that day.
I may be stretching the boundaries of this Shades of Black series by including Empyre since it’s as much in the veins of death and progressive metal as black, but what the hell. The music is remarkably intricate and brazenly adventurous, and the technical skill of the performances is often dazzling. When operating at full speed, Jugurtha generate a kaleidoscope of electrifying sound. When they slow the pace in “Anno”, they reach cataclysmic levels of heaviness.
Regardless of the pacing, Jugurtha don’t lose sight of the importance of melody; it flows through these complex songs and binds them together, and the inflamed howls of the vocalist are pleasingly bestial.
Fans of Gorguts and Krallice should fall head over heels for Empyre. I sure have.
Like many of the other releases collected in this post, Empyre is adorned with eye-catching cover art. The credit here goes to Jamie Lawson for the painting and Stephen Wilson for the logo, both of which are wonderful. Empyre is a name-your-price download on Bandcamp
Six years have passed since this Dutch band’s last album (Der freiwillige Bettler), but they have scattered an array of singles, splits, and one EP since then. This year brings at least two more short releases, a single named Voodoo Dust and the track you’re about to hear, which is included on a forthcoming split with Norway’s Ghoul Cult — who are resurfacing after a dozen years of apparent dormancy following their self-titled debut album in 2004.
Urfaust’s track is by turns bludgeoning, eviscerating, pyrotechnical, and hallucinatory, with an enormous, groaning, earthshaking low-end sound and a high end populated by deranged guitar and keyboard notes and the mind-shredding shrieks of a man being consumed by flame. After a massively headbangable mid-section, the song veers off into a landscape of ambient electronic sound that’s the stuff of nightmares.
The “Ghoulfaust” split will be released on September 15 by Terratur Possessions.
The next item in this collection is Imago Dei, the second album by the Greek band Imperium Infernalis, which I just came across, though it was released in April.
It is in some ways reminiscent of the Jugurtha album featured above. Though unmistakably more in the vein of black metal, it’s intricate, progressive-minded, and impressive in the technical skill of the performers.
The rhythm section is machine-tight, but adventurously acrobatic. The tempos are in constant flux, the often dissonant guitar arpeggios writhe and spiral in a way that generates a feeling of chaos without actually becoming chaotic; there’s a jolting, start-stop quality in some of the songs that keeps the listener off-balance — the songs ratchet the tension, but they also open into bursts of cathartic abandon and glide like ominous passing clouds or carry you away in passages of mystical spell-casting (as in the back half of “The Obsidian Kosmos”).
The raw, raking passion of the vocals is yet another strength of this dramatic, multifaceted, tremendously impressive album.
The fine cover art for Imago Dei was created by Vision Black.
DEN OF APPARITION
Den of Apparition is the new solo project of Garett Bussanick from Northampton, Massachusetts, who was at one time a member of both Flourishing and Tombs. On June 29, Den of Apparition released its first demo, a four-track, 22-minute offering that has had me in its grip through multiple listens.
I don’t know with absolute certainty whether the drums on the demo are programmed or battered by a living human (I’m guessing the latter), but even when I’m not listening to the songs, they are clubbing my skull and slugging me in the gut. It may be as close as I’ll ever get to PTSD. I mention the drumming first because the rhythms are so compelling and the tones are so explosive and… unforgettable.
Against those reverberating, often-industrialized beats, which act like scaffolding in motion, Den of Apparition erects an eerie, psycho-traumatic, constantly morphing edifice of alien electronic noise, deranged guitar disturbances, earthquaking bass riffs, and distorted, echoing, barely human voices that range from ghastly gasps, growls, and howls to demented wailing and demonic shrieks.
There’s not a lot of melody to add emotional texture to the songs, but the atmosphere is nonetheless unmistakably, cataclysmically, horrifyingly, doomed. And those drums…. holy shit.
Urfaust is always welcome, but this time Imperium Infernalis is the most exciting piece in my ears. Delightful!
It really is a great discovery.
<3 Near + Den Of Apparition <3
btw: the new “Imperceptum – Entering the Domains of Complete Nonexistence” is out.
And it obviously deserves a link.
Thank you both for this alert, which managed to elude my obviously defective all-seeing radar.
forgive me if you do this already but i urge you to keep alarmed against any malignant thought that may try to intrude into your cerebral theatre and give you the idea of ever slowing down on those Shades of Black posts which have been coming fantastically brilliant and satisfyingly dense over the last few months. thank you
I really appreciate the encouragement! This is one of the things for the blog that I’ve come to enjoy the most, so much so that it has squeezed out the “That’s Metal!” posts that I used to do for Sundays. Every week is another adventure, searching for new things for this series.