With three weeks having passed since the last time I was able to compile a Shades of Black post, I’ve accumulated quite a large collection of songs, EPs, and albums that I’d like to recommend. I’ve ambitiously given this post a “Part 1” moniker, signifying the goal of following this with at least one more collection during the coming week. Of course, this ignores the lesson I’ve tried repeatedly to teach myself, i.e., that part-time metal bloggers should never disclose what they think they are going to do, given the high failure rate. Hope springs eternal, I guess.
I’m starting with music from two Icelandic black metal bands. There seem to be an endless supply of them, and they seem to be never less than good, and often are great. I’m also beginning to suspect that all the line-ups are drawn from the same group of about five people.
Endalok is a new Icelandic band whose debut demo Englaryk will be released on CD by Hellthrasher Productions and on cassette and vinyl by Signal Rex. The identity of the member(s) hasn’t been disclosed, but the quality of the first preview track suggests the presence of a person or people who have some experience, as well as impressive talent.
The song “Englaryk” is an enveloping storm of unearthly sounds — deep, powerful, and unsettling, yet also possessed of an ominous grandeur. The multi-textured, mystical, esoteric nature of the music is matched by a multi-colored vocal canvass that includes both horrifying howls and ritualistic choral voices. Chilling but enthralling music, it seems to emanate from alien spheres and nightmare realms.
The Bandcamp page for Englaryk includes an October 17 release date. For more info, check out these links:
It appears that Ljáin may not be a separate band (or at least not a band with a future), but instead is the name chosen by members of Iceland’s Wormlust (and perhaps others) for a one-off project whose songs have been created for an upcoming Wormlust tour in October (the members of Wormlust are also involved in other projects such as Martröð, Sinmara, and Slidhr). That’s what is suggested by announcements posted on the Wormlust Facebook page.
Whatever Ljáin may be, two frightening releases under that name appeared via Bandcamp last month, a four-song EP named Endasálmar and a three-song EP bearing the title Klofnar tungur. Both are still available for download on Bandcamp, though I’ve learned that the music will soon be released in physical editions through by Fallen Empire and Signal Rex.
Endasálmar begins with a beautiful choral piece with an ecclesiastical style, perhaps to set a solemn tone for what is to follow — and what follows is a dense, blood-freezing storm of slashing/writhing riffs, consistently dissonant melodies, urgent bass notes, explosive drumming, and horrifyingly bestial growls mixed with ghostly wails, which together push the limits of torment and agony in their expression.
The hurricane-strength storming does subside (there’s even a gloomy string outro in the third track), but when it does there is still no escape from the music’s aura of apocalyptic doom, infernal majesty, and inhuman savagery. This is an impressive symphony of pain and desolation.
Klofnar tungur offers three more tracks of supernatural cacophony, abyssal gloom, and haunting ambience. I’m not sure why these tracks and those of the other EP were separated rather than combined into a single, album-length release, because they are very much cut from the same poison-soaked cloth (or perhaps given form from the same nightmares) — and they’re just as good.
I’ll now leave Iceland behind and turn to the music of a German black metal band named Odal. Metal Archives tells us that this band have produced 15 releases since 2001, including three albums — and a fourth one named Geistes Unruh is set for release on September 30 by the Eisenwald label. An eight-year gap has separated this new album and the last one, with guitarist/vocalist Taaken being the only consistent member over the course of the band’s life.
Despite Odal’s duration and their significant number of releases, the following advance track from Geistes Unruh is the first of their songs I’ve heard — but it definitely won’t be the last. The song is the new album’s title track.
The song’s opening section is a funereal dirge suggestive of death and grieving, but Odal soon ratchet the intensity into the red zone in a way that matches the vocalist’s serrated, acid-drenched snarls. With a highly propulsive rhythm section driving the song forward, the racing guitars spin out streamers of emotionally powerful melody that give death and bereavement a different and very memorable shape. Dramatic music, to say the least, and completely captivating.
Lux Absentia is the name of the new solo project of T. Warrior, who is also a member of New Jersey’s excellent Death Fortress (whose new album was reviewed for us in April by Andy Synn [here]). Antignosis is the name of Lux Absentia’s debut demo; it includes drum programming by J. Buczarski of Mare Cognitum. Antignosis was released on tape by Fallen Empire and it’s also available on Bandcamp as a name-your-price download.
Antignosis includes three tracks, beginning with an introductory electronic composition that bears the same name as the demo and following with “Endless, Aimless, Ruthless Power” and “Gouging the Third Eye”.
The black noise of that introductory track is enough to put your teeth on edge, and the two songs that follow it will put their teeth into your throat and shake your exsanguinating body like a rag doll. With a deep, gravel-grinding bass presence and furious drum fusillades (coupled with bounding romps) in this hellish machine’s drive train, and with vocals expressed like a lashing with razor wire, the music hits with electrifying power and often rampant ferocity.
In these two songs, Lux Absentia also incorporates grim, dismal melodies that prove to have staying power. There is no hope in these threads of melody, only the intense ache and desolation of a damaged soul, but they do get their hooks in the listener quite effectively.
To conclude this collection of music in a blackened vein, I have a song from a project I’ve written about before — but not since 2014. For newcomers, T.O.M.B. (which stands for Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy) is a long-running, Pennsylvania-based one-man blacknoise project. In exploring the music two years ago, I learned that T.O.M.B.’s creations usually begin with field recordings in such places as mental institutions and cemeteries and often involve the use of ritualistic bone implements applied to such things as headstones and cadavers. Much more information can be found in this post.
In re-reading my earlier posts about T.O.M.B., I came across this description of one T.O.M.B. track that I thought might be valuable as a further introduction for newcomers, even though my words do come across as slightly deranged:
“‘Primeval Sorcery’ will shake you down to the calluses on your feet. It’s more than 11 minutes of disorienting noise — things that sound like thunder, earthquakes, hurricanes, bandsaws cutting sheet metal, welding torches applied to human skin, lengths of rebar dropped down a stairwell, a convocation of phantasms, and the possibility of intelligence in the dark matter between galaxies. Don’t ask me to explain how or why these bewildering and disconcerting sounds prove to be so engrossing — but they are.”
With that background out of the way, let’s turn to the latest developments concerning this project. First and foremost, despite the band’s deeply underground cult status and the deeply disturbing nature of T.O.M.B.’s music, the band signed with none other than Peaceville Records earlier this month, and Peaceville will be releasing a new T.O.M.B. album named Fury Nocturnus on October 21.
In addition, T.O.M.B.’s line-up now includes not only the project’s alter ego No-One, but also B. Zimimay and Samantha Viola (the same trio are also behind a very interesting project named Dreadlords, whose debut album Death Angel is available here). It seems that Mayhem’s Hellhammer will also be making an appearance on the album.
To celebrate the announcements concerning the new album, T.O.M.B. released a video for a new song named “Abysmal Channeling”. T.O.M.B.’s ritualistic approach to their creative process, as well as elements of the recording process itself, are documented in the video, and the result is a landscape of harrowing sounds, haunted pronouncements, and abrasive shrieks, given an anchoring structure through the heartbeat pulse of a deep percussive rhythm — which becomes more frenzied as everything else about the music intensifies and threatens to spiral out of control.