Last night as I was making my way through my ever-changing list of new music to check out, I had the good fortune of finding many of the songs you’re about to hear. They were scattered among a larger collection of things I listened to, some of which will come in Part 2 of this post, but it dawned on me that these in particular would make for good companions on an interesting (and sorrowful) musical trip, especially if combined with a few others I had heard recently. I’ve arranged them in a way I think makes some sense, with a flow in the changing sounds and moods that I found appealing.
One other thing about this playlist I found appealing is that it represents (mostly) a course change in the music on the site. In recent days we’ve been heavy into various shades of black and death metal. Most of these songs represent a departure from that — and a fairly dramatic one in the case of the first three tracks below. (Thanks to my friend Miloš for sending me the links through which I found two-thirds of these tracks.)
I should mention that most of the songs in this post are drawn from complete albums or EPs that have recently been released. I wish I had time to write about them more thoroughly, but I’m only going to comment about specific songs and let those guide your decisions about whether to explore the albums in greater depth. The first song comes from Firebird, the new album by the Ukrainian band Helengard, which was released on April 14th.
The song below is “Vernal Drawn”. The echoing flute melody and strummed acoustic guitar tell you quickly that it’s folk metal, and the huge, groaning guitar that comes in tells you that doom will also play a role, in addition to giving the song impressive gravity.
Alina Belova has a beautiful voice, and the cavernous and bestial growls of her male counterpart make an effective counterpoint (there are clean male vocals in the song, too). And speaking of beautiful (and sorrowful), don’t miss the guitar and flute solos in the song’s second half, reprising the opening melody. The hammering, surging finish gets the blood rushing, too.
During the listening session that produced this playlist, I happened to listen to this next song right after the preceding track by Helengard. I think you’ll see how serendipitous that random chance proved to be).
This next song is “Rutonkantaja” and it’s the opening track on Ruoto, the debut album by a Finnish band named Noituma, which was released on April 13.
The dancing folk melody that launches this song gets its hooks in immediately, and it just becomes more and more compulsive as it moves forward, with a vibrant fiddle playing the role usually assumed by a lead guitar. As in the first song in this collection, the vocals are a tag-tem match, with expressive clean vocals alternating and eventually joining with some vicious snarls and growls. And somehow, as lively as it is, the music also has a somber and sorrowing undercurrent. If it doesn’t get stuck in your head, I’ll be surprised.
The third song in this list, even more so than the first two, has a strong folk component. The track is a demo of a song named “Morgindöggvar” by a large Norwegian collective who call themselves Solmund. It represents a teaser of music from a longer work that Solmund plan to release next year.
Solmund use a broad array of ancient Norse instruments in their compositions, but the first thing you hear is a long, droning kind of throat-singing against a backdrop of rolling thunder and shimmering, mystical tones of a flute (or possibly some other instrument I can’t positively identify). The rhythmic, ritualistic thump of a drum enters the picture, along with a pulsing fiddle. It feels like being transported back in time, or maybe out of time and into a mythic plane where time stopped long ago.
When the vocals finally appear again, they’re deep and jagged, but clean vocals also appear, almost like a chant. And as the flute and fiddle enter the frame again, the spell only deepens….
The next song is a change from the last three in this collection, but it seemed to fit well with the flow of the music nevertheless.
This one is “The untouchable words between“, the opening track on the latest release by the prolific one-man depressive black metal band Sadness from Oak Park, Illinois. The album’s name is Leave and it was released on March 21st.
The Solmund track casts a spell, and so does this Sadness song. The slow, shimmering ambience and glimmering keyboard melody that begin the song and carry it for the first five minutes are ethereal, bereaved, and as mesmerizing as they are haunting. After that, the music becomes significantly heavier and more anguished, though no less slow and stately, and no less hypnotic. It’s a beautiful, and heart-breaking, experience.
Unlike the first three bands in this post, Nachtzeit is one I’ve written about before, though not for a while. Nachtzeit shares the name of its sole creator, who is also the man behind Lustre. I thought of this song, which I had heard before, as a result of listening to that new Sadness track — though not because the songs sound alike.
Nachtzeit‘s most recent release (appearing last December on CD via Nordvis) is a four-track EP entitled Sagor I Natten, and the song below is the opener, “Ett Fjärran Minne“.
The song is more abrasive than the Sadness song it follows in this playlist, with vocals manifesting as a scarring and tortured shriek, and with the riffs coated in thorns. It’s primitive, stripped-down music (reminiscent of Burzum), relying on repetition of its simple chords and the submerged drum pattern, but there’s wistfulness and pain in the emotional texture of the music, and it also casts a spell in its own way.
To bring this playlist to an end, I’m making another stylistic shift. This is a song off a debut EP released in late March that I’ve bean meaning to say something about for weeks, and I reached out for the track because (again) it’s one that seemed to fit in an interesting way.
The band here is a group from Oslo, Norway, named Chêne, and the album’s name is written this way: /ʃɛn/ It was recorded at an old artillery factory outside Oslo by Runar Magnussen and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audioseige.
The opening song, “Nyx“, is the heaviest of the pieces on this playlist, but it’s in keeping with the often bleak and bereft mood of what has come before it. The vocals are wrenching in their intense wretchedness and fury, and the music behind them also becomes searingly intense as the drums begin blasting and a febrile, forlorn guitar lead rises above the grinding, abrasive destructiveness in the low end.
An emotionally and physically heavy blending of post-metal and black-metal, the music builds toward an apotheosis of desolation and despair and then transforms into a slow descent into a tomb — but that feverish lead guitar melody persists, maintaining the tension even as it tightens its grip on your attention. And the song ends in a perfect way, with a chilling (and grief-stricken) piano instrumental.