I have a large collection of recent releases or advance tracks to recommend, all of them within the ever-widening spectrum of black metal or reflecting to varying degrees the influence of black metal. I’ve divided the collection into two parts. I haven’t written the second one yet, so I’m not sure if I’ll be posting it today or on Monday.
Formed in Reykjavík back in 2013, Misþyrming (Icelandic for “abuse” or “mistreatment“) was originally the solo project of multi-instrumentalist D.G., but eventually expanded into a full band as a result of D.G.’s desire to perform Misþyrming’s music in a live setting. The band shares members with Naðra and Carpe Noctem, and D.G. is also a member of Martröð and Skáphe.
Drawing influence from bands such as Deathspell Omega, Funeral Mist, Iron Maiden, Svartidauði, Arizmenda, Blut aus Nord, and even Rammstein, Misþyrming have amassed a large and devoted following in a relatively brief time. Their 2015 debut album Söngvar elds og óreiðu was superb, and now they have surfaced again with a new release.
This new one, which appeared last week, is a split with the Icelandic band Sinmara. It’s available digitally now and will be released on vinyl by Terratur Possessions, and the cover art was created by Joseph Deegan (with sigil artwork by Skaðvaldur). The split includes one song from each band, and Sinmara’s track is the next one in this collection.
Misþyrming’s offering is called “Hof”. It’s a wild storm of chaos, dissonant and menacing, with flashes of guitar lightning, a gloom sinuous melody, an especially striking drum performance, and explosive vocals. Hugely impressive.
Like the previous Icelandic band in this collection, Sinmara has achieved a meteoric rise among fans of black metal, on the strength of their 2014 debut album Aphotic Womb. And like Misþyrming, Sinmara shares members with other groups such as Svartidauði, Slidhr, Wormlust, and Almyrkvi.
Sinmara’s contribution to the split with Misþyrming is a track named “Ivory Stone”. It makes a fitting companion to “Hof”. It’s a vivid expression of delirium and destruction, driven by the avalanche boom and jolting thunder of the drums and bass and laced by spectral tendrils of eerie melody. The gales of abrasive riffing is matched by the unhinged howls of the vocals, working together to create a sense of havoc and bedlam. Electrifying stuff.
While I’m on the subject of Icelandic black metal, I want to highlight the release of Oration MMXVI for those who haven’t discovered it yet. This is a compilation of live recordings from the Oration MMXVI festival (sponsored by Oration Records and Studio Emissary) that took place in Reykjavík in February 2016. It includes performances by many Icelandic bands — including Misþyrming and Sinmara — but they’re not exclusively from Iceland. Here’s a list of the line-up for this compilation:
Shrine of Insanabilis
In lieu of a review, I’ll just say you really should listen to this. It’s available digitally on Bandcamp and on tape.
P.S. Oration MMXVII is coming up next month. It’s bigger and features an international line-up that’s even more ridiculously good. Go HERE to see what I’m talking about.
WELL OF NIGHT
Well of Night are based in Dayton, Ohio, and last November released their debut EP The Crimson Hexagon. I’ve forgotten how I learned about it, but it’s been sitting on a list of music I’ve been intending to check out, and I finally did a few days ago.
The EP is a fine example of incendiary and often dissonant black metal ferocity, with a clarity of production that allows the bubbling lava of the bass line and the sharp crack of the snare to contrast with the high frenzy of the guitars and the corrosive acid spew of the vocals. The instrumental agility of the performers is impressive, as is the intricacy of the compositions.
The band also leaven their torrents of head-spinning pandemonium with troughs of despair and gloom, slow-moving crawls of wretchedness that act as atmospheric interludes in between the fireworks displays, and there’s a hell of an acoustic introduction to the last track. As icing on the cake, the songs also include melodic themes that have a way of insinuating themselves into your head even when the band is whipsawing your mind with progressively inclined pyrotechnics.
Did I already say this was impressive? It damned well is.
I have Jon Rosenthal and Invisible Oranges to thank for this next discovery. They premiered a stream of the album in December with an introduction that included these words: “The mid-paced, melodic majesty of A Spineless Descent is as massive as it is frigid, the lo-fi buzz of E.’s simple, potent string and drum work buried under layers of shifting, crystalline keyboards.”
The album is the debut full-length by Grok, a Colorado one-man band, released digitally and on CD by EEE Recordings and on cassette by Cloister Recordings US. Jon Rosenthal’s summing up of the album is an effective one, and the combined effect of those ingredients is music that’s mesmerizing as well as chilling.
Some of the chill comes from the high, distant horrors of the caustic vocals, but the principal sources of the shivers are the repeating waves of ghostly keyboard ambience and the wraithlike emanations of the guitar. That these effects are paired with such a potent drum performance makes the music even more interesting… it pounds the pulse as well as hypnotizes the mind. Listening to the album really is like visiting another world.
To conclude the first part of this big collection I have a song called “O Death” performed by the remarkable Greek vocalist and musician Diamanda Galás. It will appear on an album named All the Way scheduled for release by her label Intravenal Sound Operations on March 24. It’s actually one of two albums she’ll be releasing the same day, the other being At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harlem, which was recorded at the church of that name in New York at last year’s Red Bull Music Academy.
All the Way consists of re-worked versions of these jazz, blues, and folk standards:
01 All The Way
02 You Don’t Know What Love Is
03 The Thrill Is Gone
04 Round Midnight
05 O Death
06 Pardon Me I’ve Got Someone To Kill
Ms. Galás’ performance of “O Death”, an American folk song that dates back to the 1920s, was recorded at the 2005 All Tomorrow’s Parties festival curated by the Mars Volta. In an interview at Rolling Stone, she made these comments about her interpretation of the song:
“Did you know that the Greeks’ biggest fear is the fear of death of a mother? That’s ingrained in us since we’re very young. Mάνα [“mana”] which means mother. A-“mana“-s is actually the beginning of my interpretation of “O Death.” I do a long, long amanes. It’s an improvisation that comes from the Middle East. … A lot of the people that were put on those forced deportations [from 1915 to 1923], which were basically genocides, would sing amanes. Their whole culture would sing amanes. The whole culture around this understanding that, at any moment, we can be moved. At any moment we can be annihilated.
“… In that track, you will hear jazz, bebop, the blues, the New Orleans influences – you will hear practically all of my musical influences in one track.
“… When I finished that performance, there was blood all over the keyboard. I couldn’t imagine why. What I had done is I had broken my nails, all of them, when I was playing. And I never enjoyed a performance so much in my life.”
I don’t know of anyone who sounds like Diamanda Galás, who can do what she does with her voice. And when you hear this harrowing performance, I think you’ll understand why I included it in a collection of black metal.