Welcome to our usual Sunday feature on metal in a blackened vein. I had already pulled together most of these songs last Sunday, hoping to prepare a Part 2 of the Shades of Black installment that I posted then. But I got carried away by the usual flurry of activity that begins on Mondays, and failed. Since then, of course, I’ve come across more black metal that I’d like to recommend. The result is this gargantuan collection. I hope you can find time to at least sample everything.
The songs I originally chose for this post a week ago were mostly on the melancholy, depressive end of the black spectrum, sometimes with a folk influence. I’ve now interspersed some different moods and energies in the collection. (I want to thank my friend Miloš for originally recommending a number of the releases that I chose for this collection.)
VOID MEDITATION CULT
To begin this playlist I have a song from the debut album of the hooded Ohio band Void Meditation Cult — Utter the Tongues of the Dead — which will be released on October 31 by Hells Headbangers. It follows a 2011 demo named Sulfurous Prayers (and those songs were also included in a 2013 split with Sperm of Antichrist, which seems to have been another project of the main man behind Void Meditation Cult, who goes under the name of Desolate Defiler).
This first advance track from the album is “Mould and Blood”. I love the fuzzed tone of the production, as well as the mix of brute hammering, rumbling thunder, and spectral lead-guitar melody. The vocal mix is evil as sin, too — moving from ghastly screams to ghastly growls. You can get a good headbang going with this track.
The album can be pre-ordered here:
Holyarrow is the project of a solo artist named Shi Kequan from Amoy (aka Xiamen) on the southeast coast of The People’s Republic of China. His excellent debut album Oath of Allegiance was released this past January, and I wrote a too-short review of it here. I also thoroughly enjoyed Holyarrow’s cover of the song “Blood of Christians On My Sword” off the 1995 album Thousand Swords by the infamous Polish band Graveland, which appeared in March.
In recent days Holyarrow has released a new two-song EP, the English name of which is The Burning of the Three Weeds. The songs are richly textured, moving from sweeping atmospheric melody accompanied by lofting clean vocals to warlike galloping led by acidic snarls, from soft, somber guitar instrumentals to frenzied swarming. Like Holyarrow’s previous output, there’s a panoramic air of drama and even majesty to the songs. I’m very glad to see this project continuing.
The EP is now available as a Bandcamp download, though it appears it will also be released as a digipack CD with a bonus track that’s a cover song — and I hope it’s that Graveland cover.
Амезарак (Amezarak) is a Russian one-man band whose sixth album since 2012, NonLucidum Tristitia, will be released on October 14 by Symbol of Domination (along with Darzamadicus Records (Macedonia) and Morbid Skull Records (El Salvador)). I don’t believe I’ve heard any of this man’s music before, despite such a prolific output.
The one song from the new album that’s now available (for free download) on Bandcamp is “Надежда”. Proceeding mostly at a stately pace, the song is bleak and sorrowful — and memorable — with the ache in the music intensified by the strangled, nails-on-the-chalkboard vocals. The slow, wretchedly soulful guitar soloing in the song’s back half is a highlight, as is the scintillating display of musical fireworks that follows it.
I discovered this next release thanks to the eye-catching cover art by the very talented Morkh at Nether Temple Design. The album is Where the Light Dies by the Belarusian band Pestilentia, which is their second full-length. A vinyl version of the album was released in June by Final Agony Records in the U.S., and the album is now being released on CD by a Russian label collective consisting of Thou Shalt Kill!, Orthodox, and FFFeast. There doesn’t seem to be a digital version available yet, but the album is now streaming on Bandcamp.
It’s hard to give the album a brief summing up, because it has more facets than a sentence or two can capture, but in the main it’s a seething serpent’s nest, with grim but magnetic riffs at the heart of its gloomy attractiveness. It includes dismal, dirge-like passages (see “The Flaming Psalm”) that heighten the album’s intense overarching aura of anguish and torment, as well as blazing black thrashers (e.g., “Witch Spell”), sometimes mixing those two divergent strands together (“Apocalyptic Rebirth”).
Where the Light Dies is a stirring listen all the way through, but if you want to just sample the music, I’d recommend the closing track, “Sacreligious Omnicide”, which both burns like a sulfurous wildfire and possesses the somber and occult stateliness of a black mass.
The next song is by yet another one-man band, this one from Sardinia. Soltvdo’s second album is named Hierárkhes, and it was released on September 10 by Naturmacht Productions. I strongly recommend the entire album, but will focus here on the long title track (which is one of four on the album that fall into the nine-to-twelve-minute range).
There’s grand, panoramic power in “Hierákhes”, beginning with a sweeping symphonic introduction that carries over majestically into the body of the song, where a pulse-pounding (and rhythmically dynamic) drum performance and impassioned, scarring vocals get the blood racing. I’ve found the song spellbinding… so much so that I’ve revisited it repeatedly since first hearing it. It’s atmospherically melancholy, yet to me it’s also uplifting and even triumphant.
The next song comes from the French pagan/black-metal band Vindland and their debut album Hanter savet. Metal-Archives tells us that the album was independently released in March of this year, though it has recently been re-released on CD by Black Lion Productions — and that’s how I discovered the album, through a Soundcloud stream by Black Lion of the track “Orin kozh”.
The central riff in the song is gripping right from the start. It has a warlike and heroic feel, but as vibrant as it is, it’s not the only gem in the song. There’s another equally attention-grabbing but very different, jabbing riff to be found, as well as sublime acoustic passages. The over-used word “epic” comes to mind in listening to “Orin kozh”.
The entire album can be heard and acquired via the links below. I look forward to listening to the rest of it (I’ve included the full Bandcamp stream below).
The Portuguese black metal band Inthyflesh have released four albums since 2004, along with many smaller releases. The most recent full-length is The Flaming Death, which came out on September 15th through BlackSeed Productions. I’ve only heard one song from it so far, “Blood Howling Eternity”, which you can also hear below. (Just before posting this article, I discovered that three more songs are also streaming at the band’s Bandcamp page, though I haven’t yet heard them.)
“Blood Howling Eternity” makes for a fitting companion to the last track in this collection. It’s equally intense, warlike, and gripping, with passages that alternate between waves of racing tremolo melody with a woeful air and bounding back-beats. The vocals are highly caustic, but I found them a fitting complement to the agonized intensity of the music.
Time to wrap up this very long round-up… and we’ll go out in a blaze of hellfire with a stream of the new album, Western Decadence, by the delicately named Anal Blasphemy. The album was released by Iron Bonehead in mid-July, and I’ve been meaning to say something about it ever since then.
Anal Blasphemy is yet another one-man band, this time from Finland, though the music sounds like it was made by a battalion-strength horde of demons. This is Anal Blasphemy’s fourth album overall, and we’re told that it’s the first one fully recorded in a professional studio. Sad to say, I’m not very familiar with the band’s previous releases, but this one is a huge and welcome surprise.
From what I’ve read, the band’s past output has been branded “Bestial Black Metal Filth” (which is also the name of the debut album), and that would seem consistent with the band’s name. But while Western Decadence will indeed strip the flesh from your bones and consume it raw, there’s much more going on here than blind carnivorous murder. The title track, for example, is made of one solid-gold riff after another and is also a good example of the album’s dynamism — it hammers, rocks, and crushes just as effectively as it goes berserk.
“Western Decadence” is also far from the only highlight on the album, and there’s even more diversity ahead of it. In fact, though I do have my favorites (the first two songs in particular), I don’t find any weak links in the chain — this is a hell of a brilliant, twisting and turning thrill ride all the way through, with no two songs that are exactly alike (there are some ominous, occult, doomy numbers in here, for example, that may catch you off-guard). I even thought the spooky closing instrumental track was a nice way to finish the album.
I’m afraid that the band’s name may deter some people from exploring the album, but trust me please — this is well worth your time.