SHADES OF BLACK (PART 2): ACHERONTAS, NARGAROTH, MALLEVS MALEFICARVM, CATHEDRAL OF LIGHT, OBSCURE DEVOTION, ENDLESS DISEASE, AKVAN
This is the second part of a large post I began yesterday (here). It reflects why I chose SHADES OF BLACK as the name for this series many years ago, in that all of the music has connections to the traditions of black metal, but those connections vary, sometimes significantly.
Two of the songs in this post come from forthcoming albums, and one is a stand-alone single, but I picked all the rest from recent albums or EPs. Lacking the time to review most of those full releases, I thought it better (with one exception) to confine myself to specific songs rather than neglect the releases altogether. But they’re all good, and you’ll be able to stream them in their entirety if you like what you hear.
The sixth album by the formidable Greek black metal coven Acherontas is named Amarta अमर्त (Formulas of Reptilian Unification Part II), and thereby draws a connection to the band’s last album, 2015’s Ma-IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification). It includes participation by Naas Alcameth (Nightbringer, Akhlys, Bestia Arcana) (synths) and Indra (Naer Mataron) (additional guitars). The cover art was created by Karl NE/Nachzehrer (Ex-Nastrond/Shibalba), and W.T.C. Productions plans to release it on Walpurgis Night (May 31st).
Below you’ll find a new lyric video made by Pablo Rodriguez (and a parallel Bandcamp stream) for a new album track called “I AM-Ness the Tradition Of EYE“. It’s a heavy, rumbling and lumbering beast at first, the music laced with a high, exotic guitar melody. But the song also catches fire, becoming increasingly barbarous and reptilian, without abandoning its atmosphere of hermetic mystery, and it also provides glimpses in the mind’s eye of a great and terrible majesty.
As usual, the varying voice of Acherontas V. Priest itself burns with passion, adding to the appeal of this mystical and marauding song.
Acherontas on Facebook:
The long-running one-man German band Nargaroth has created a new album that will be released on May 16th under the title Era of Threnody. It’s the first Nargaroth album in roughly eight years and consists of 10 tracks collectively lasting more than an hour.
The lyric video below is for the second of those tracks, “Whither Goest Thou?” It includes spoken-word passages that I found were excerpted from the narration that accompanies scenes of Moses wandering in the desert during Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 movie The Ten Commandments.
The somber and sorrowful, rising and falling, central melodic riff in this song has been stuck in my head since I first heard it, and it keeps calling me back. That melody is expressed in different ways as the song unfolds, including through a duet of clean and harsh vocals, and as it’s repeated it varies in its intensity and also casts differing shades of mood, from gloomy to majestic to meditative.
On April 21 the German band Mallevs Maleficarvm released their debut album Homo Homini Lupus. All of the songs were written and recorded from 2012-2016 by multi-instrumentalist Marius Berendsen, with vocals contributed by Robert “Robse” Martin Dahn (Equilibrium), Alexander Schmied (Mor Dagor, Sektemtum, ex-Bethlehem), Dirk Weiß (Exhate), Vesa Salovaara (Vorna), and Kai “Kain” Jungemann (Thyrgrim).
As explained at the outset of this post, I’ve chosen only one song to write about, and hope that you will enjoy it enough to explore the rest of the album — which is well worth exploring. The song happens to be the one that’s set to play first at Bandcamp, though it comes third in the album’s running order.
“Under the Red Skies” changes as it moves, at first slow, sinister, and perilous, and later assaulting and ravaging, with an urgent, head-moving rhythm that becomes a furious torrent. Following an interlude composed of strings and deep spoken words, it hits a rapidly jabbing guitar groove that’s irresistibly compulsive — but, interestingly, that grooving riff is paired with a slow, haunting melody and a solemn drum-and-bass rhythm. And there’s some flashy soloing and frenetic fretwork ahead of that in the song’s blood-rushing conclusion.
(Thanks to Miloš for linking me to this release.)
CATHEDRAL OF LIGHT
The next song I’ve selected also comes from a debut album, Slaughter the Heretics, by the Australian one-man band Cathedral of Light. And again, I’ve chosen the song that’s set to play first at Bandcamp though it comes third in the running order.
“Fathers” is ice-cold, mid-paced black metal, with wild, bestial vocals and bleak, poisonous riffs, the music periodically punctuated by big booming drum beats and eventually becoming a dismal gallop and then an off-kilter canter in its pacing. The changing drum rhythms and varying riffs make this a dynamic and magnetic track, even though its predatory enough to chill the blood.
(Thanks once again to Miloš for this recommendation.)
This Italian band blends together a variety of musical elements, including death metal and post-metal, as well as black metal of course. Their name is Obscure Devotion, and their third album Ubi Certa Pax Est was released by Third I Rex (UK) and Dark Horizon Records (U.S.) on March 26th (apparently, it was self-released digitally by the band at an earlier date).
Obscure Devotion began in the mid-’90s, though there was a seven-year gap between their first and second albums, and ten years separating their second one from this new release.
The new album as a whole is very good (and very interesting), and like the other full releases from which I’ve extracted songs for this post, it’s well worth a full listen. The song I chose to include here is one I picked in part because of its title (“On Butterfly Wings“), which is not what you would expect from a black metal band, and in part because it’s a good example of Obscure Devotion’s approach to dynamically melding different styles and sounds.
It begins with a crystalline, reverberating guitar melody and then becomes a jabbing, jolting forward charge, with a rapidly darting riff seizing attention. The song continues to change as its intensity increases, battering and swarming the listener’s head as the vocalist snarls and growls like a famished and furious wolf.
And then about five-and-a-half minutes in, the song makes another dramatic and unexpected change, becoming slow and entrancing, with an extended saxophone-and-bass duet leading to the song’s conclusion.
Digipack edition (if any are left):
Obscure Devotion on Facebook:
Now I’ll take another sharp stylistic turn, though without leaving the realms of black metal behind altogether. This is Supreme Misanthropic Darkness, an EP released on April 26th by the Texas band Endless Disease. Endless Disease is a two-man group, with Randall providing vocals, and with all instruments performed by Ryan (one is also the multi-instrumentalist member of Intestinal Disgorge). The EP consists of four tracks, but they will collectively rampage through your head in not much more than eight minutes.
The songs combine black metal and crust, with eruptions of blasting, ripping, and stomping sharing time with punk gallops, and with feral, blood-thirsty vocals giving the already dark and destructive music an added edge of violence. The guitar and bass tone is massively heavy and yet almost warm, while the contrasting, rippling leads leap out of the music and spear the head like bolts of lightning.
The whole EP is one big highly infectious, highly destructive adrenaline trigger — and I highly recommend it!
In early January I included an EP by Akvan in another one of these SHADES OF BLACK posts. For those who missed it or don’t remember, the lone man behind the band Akvan calls himself Vizaresa, named for a Zoroastrian demon. He was born in the US to immigrants from Iran, and the music on that previous EP was described by Vizaresa as “black metal influenced by the art, literature, history, mythology, and music of Iran”. It included the use of distorted microtonal Iranian scales as well as traditional Iranian instruments, such as the ancient tar (which resembles a guitar).
Akvan has now released a new single named قلمروآتش, which apparently will be included on a forthcoming EP. It displays the same exotic ingredients as the EP — and it’s similarly fascinating, with the tar melody at the outset continuing to flow through the track even after the song becomes considerably heavier, more bleak, and more vicious.
(Thanks to Utmu for alerting me to this release.)
Endless Disease was awesome.
This Acheronthas album is serious, and the Iranian track is beautiful
Endless Disease goes hard as fuck
MALLEVS MALEFICARVM has some tasty tasty vocals! creamy goodness.
Kinda reminds me of At The Gates, only deeper. Makes me wanna run to the rehearsal room and try to figure out how he does it
I’ve really enjoyed Acherontas, Nargaroth and Obscure Devotion so far, gonna check the others…