If you scroll down the posts at our site that have appeared since Friday morning, it will be obvious that I’ve lost what was left of my mind. No sane person would test the patience of even the most devoted listener by throwing so many musical recommendations into the void in such a short space of days. I suppose I ought to give you at least a short break for recovery, and so instead of packing this Sunday’s edition of SHADES OF BLACK with everything I intended to recommend, I’m saving half of it for Monday.
The music in this post consists entirely of music that appeared over the last week, beginning with a new album that deserves a full review — which you’ll have to find elsewhere. What you’ll find here is a stream of the album and some pathetically brief but heartfelt praise. It comes from…
With their first album, Havulinnaan, Havukruunu proved very quickly that they were something special. Two years later, they have produced Kelle surut soi, which was released by Naturmacht Productions on April 29th (yesterday). Anyone who might have worried about a sophomore slump can perish those thoughts — they’ve managed to surmount a debut that was itself spectacular.
A chill wind blows from the beginning, and the album’s opening acoustic guitar instrumental begins the process of seduction into the album’s dark and powerful embrace. The music is multi-textured and dynamic, a collage of changing moods and oscillating energies — majestic, mythic, warlike, gripped by grief, blinded by glory, wistful and wondering.
The album’s opening track “Jo Näkyvi Pohjan Portit” summons many of these sensations in the space of a single song, but it’s the second song, “Vainovalkeat”, that really reached in and pulled the heart from my chest, so grand and glorious, and so immediately captivating in its epic central melody. It feels like you’ve been thrown into a chariot of fire and taken straight into the heavens with Valkyries as your vanguard.
The rampant passion in “Vainovalkeat” surges throughout much of the album, with fire and fury dominant at times, an air of bombastic grandeur at others, and crushing sorrow at still others. The riffs are to die for, the soloing riveting, the folk-influenced melodies vibrantly evocative, the vocals utterly incinerating (except when the choirs of heroes and Valkyries lift their voices to the skies).
Every song is epic, every one of them beguiling, and the mounting of each one on top of the others leaves some kind of Viking monument at the end, one that has never been eroded by time. The crowning stone, the title track that concludes the album, is, like the opening track, a summoning of the album’s many moods, and one that pushes it to perhaps its greatest heights of emotional power and mythic grandeur.
Yes, the album is “over the top”, and it wears its heart on its sleeve while it tugs at your own heart. But it doesn’t feel contrived or manipulative. And although the ingredients may be familiar, Havukruunu display such mastery over them that if you’re like me, you’ll be left amazed.
NEIGE ET NOIRCEUR
“Grueling, rude, and as inhuman as pressure washing of the testicles or sandblasting of the eyeballs, Neige et Noirceur is still wonderfully hypnotic in all its hideous glory.” And that’s just one of the distinctive sentences in our friend Gorger’s review at our site of this Canadian band’s last album, 2016’s Les Ténèbres Modernes. Barely one year later, and the band’s sole creator Zifond has returned with another album, this one named Verglapolis. It will be released by Dusktone on May 20.
One of the tracks (“L’hiver de force“) was included earlier in the year on a Dusktone label compilation (available here), and now another one has been launched on Bandcamp. This newer one is “Pluie verglacante et brouillard de glace“, and it’s pretty stunning.
The wrenching intensity of the vocals has much to do with the song’s appeal, and the atmosphere of the music, which combines a sense of horrendous tragedy and craggy grandeur, is overpowering. It’s a soul-shredder, but for all its plummeting bleakness, it possesses a terrible beauty.
At last I have a song from the new Dødsengel album, Interequinox, that I can share with you — one ironically named “Gloria In Excelsis Deo“. The album will be released by Debemur Morti Productions on May 19.
The music is dreamlike and disconcerting, beginning at a solemn pace, haunted by phantasms, and then becoming both more frenzied and more rapturous in its melody. Without losing its sense of parting interdimensional membranes, it picks you up and carries you away… and then abandons you to drift through an alien void.
I’m not sure I’m capable of heaping more effusive praise on this Swedish band than I’ve already done — first, when I wrote about their 2016 promo release, and again when I included a song named “Liberator of Eden” from their debut album, Upon My Creation Pyre, in a previous edition of SHADES OF BLACK. Both of the 2016 demo tracks — “Chants for the Black One” and “A Sculptor of the Future” — are included on the new album. Last week DECIBEL “premiered” the first of those as an advance for the album, which gives me another excuse to repeat what I wrote about it last year.
“Chants For the Black One” is an increasingly energetic amalgam of sulfurous vocals and doomy chords with absolutely magnetic reverberating lead guitar melodies. It’s like an inventive union of black metal, occult doom, and progressive rock from an earlier day, imaginatively conceived and beautifully performed. Listen to it below, along with “Liberator of Eden” in case you missed it on the first go-’round.
Norway’s Limbonic Art began releasing demos in the mid-’90s, and seven full albums appeared from 1996 through Phantasmagoria in 2010. Now, roughly six years later, Limbonic Art returns with Spectre Abysm, a new full-length that will be released through Candlelight Records on July 7.
I’ve seen no formal announcements about the album (even after Google-searching), and only discovered the song below thanks to an e-mail from a Dutch reader of our site. I got the release date and the label info from the YouTube stream — which I hope isn’t a leak (and if it is, I apologize for publicizing it).
The song is “Ethereal Traveller” — although its title perhaps disguises the soaring, sweeping majesty of the song as well as its savage delirium, its chilling terrors, and the demonic derangement of the harsh vocals. Nevertheless, the song does take you traveling far beyond mundane familiarity, whirling perilously in a maelstrom of unearthly sensations, in the grip of dark and malign powers.