More than a week has passed since the last time I compiled a round-up of new music for our site, the delay mainly caused by my MDF trip to Baltimore. As I look at the over-stuffed schedule of premieres lined up for the coming week, it may be another week before I can do another one.
Needless to say, I have a dramatically large list of new and newly discovered music from which to make selections. There’s not much rhyme or reason to my choices for this round-up, except of course that I like all of them — and hope you will too.
I’ve been a devoted fan of Sólstafir for many years, staying with them as their music has evolved and their fame has grown. Yet we’ve written very little about the band’s new album Berdreyminn. I suspect one reason is that when most of us here decide what to write about, we tend to favor bands who could use a little extra support rather than those who are already getting voluminous amounts of attention from sites with a far broader reach than ours. And Sólstafir are certainly in that category now.
But at least in my case the paucity of attention I’ve devoted to Sólstafir’s new album isn’t a sign of dismay over their musical direction. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Berdreyminn, and the band’s new video happens to be built around one of my favorites from the album, a song named “Silfur-Refur“, which Google Translate renders in English as “Silver-Fox”.
As has been true of virtually every video Sólstafir have released, this one (directed and produced by Nico Poalillo and Peter Beste) is a feast for the eyes; it helps that the band live in a place filled with dramatic physical beauty. As frontman Aðalbjörn Tryggvason has commented, “The video’s meaning is a puzzle, which we are leaving for you to solve as we don’t want to spoil your imagination spinning stories of its own”.
The song exhibits many of the qualities I enjoy about Sólstafir‘s late-stage music — the haunting twang of solo strings; the rhythm section’s propulsive, head-nodding drive; the tension and angst in Tryggvason’s one-of-a-kind voice; the swirl and sweep of the melodies; the blending of moodiness and fieriness; the hooks that get caught in the head….
For those who don’t think Sólstafir go hard enough, don’t worry — things are about to get a lot more savage and slaughtering for the balance of this post. And we begin with a song called “The Warrior’s Mantle” from the next album by the New Jersey black/death band Death Fortress, Triumph of the Undying, which features cover art by Raul Gonzalez and will be released later this year by Fallen Empire Records.
The band’s last album, 2016’s Deathless March of the Unyielding, garnered heaps of praise not only at NCS but from just about everyone else who paid attention to it. As my friend Andy wrote in his review, “Much like its predecessor it offers up a form of utterly ravenous, old-school-leaning Black Metal which manages to retain and revitalise the core tenets of the genre, without being retro or throwback in nature.”
“The Warrior’s Mantle” is a sign that the new album will likely be a worthy follow-up to the band’s first two powerful full-lengths. Shawn Eldridge‘s drumwork provides a battering, booming, somersaulting, pulse-pounding drive-train for a song that’s part frenzied destructiveness, part roaring horror, and part eldritch sorcery. Undeniably intense and generously caked in grit and grime, the track also courses with subtle melodic currents that are strange and seductive.
Malefic Levitation hail from Fresno, California, and beyond that I don’t know much about them. I do know that their new single “Warlord Rites“, which appears to be their first release, is very damned good. As the band themselves proclaim, “If you’re into intolerant caveman black metal, this is it.”
It begins in the red zone, though it eventually slows, becoming utterly oppressive. The song surges with heavy, low-end power, like a rolling earthquake, the drums relentlessly blasting and the cymbals shimmering, over which a mix of scalding shrieks and heartless roars can be heard. It pounds, it threshes, and it seethes with arcane energy, augmented by cascades of eerie, shimmering melody. This band won’t leave your pulse rate where they found it.
DEATH OF KINGS
Earlier this year we premiered the title track to a single (Hell Comes To Life) by Atlanta’s Death of Kings, and now their new album Kneel Before None is out and streaming. It deserves a review — because it’s one of the best thrash albums you’ll find this year — but I’ll confine myself to one song for this playlist, “Shadow of the Reaper“, and hope you’ll give the rest of the album a spin.
Though Death of Kings don’t stay in just one gear all the way through the album, “Shadow of the Reaper” is an electrifying thrash fusillade, with a raw, wild energy. The band pull together rabid-hyena vocals, lethal riffs, soloing that’s as hot as an acetylene torch,and clobbering drumwork, and the result also happens to be as catchy as chlamydia.
Like other items in this post, this next track is from an album that’s already out and streaming in full. The album is Destructive Herd Mentality, and it’s the full-length debut by a band from Bergen, Norway named Canvas Black.
The music is head-spinning melodic/progressive death metal, as you’ll discover when you listen to the song I’ve chosen for this playlist — “End of An Age”. It’s like a fireworks display going off inside your head, combining a big prominent bass, explosive drumming, and loads of writhing, spiraling, highly mercurial guitar work.
Driven at a turbocharged pace, it’s a true thrill ride, but while it’s brain-bending in its composition and eye-popping in its performance, the music is also venomous and bone-fracturingly heavy. Very, very good….
(Thanks to starkweather for turning me on to this album.)
This next song is named “AKTE V“, and it appears on the second album (titled II) by a post-metal band from Temse, Belgium, named Briqueville. The album was released in February, but I just encountered it, and it has left me floored.
“AKTE V” is a long song that begins in a relentless effort to beat the shit out of you, ripping and pounding over and over again as it attempts to reduce the listener to a viscous pool of jelly and bone fragments. At the same time as a massive bass-and-drum tandem are engaged in this brutalizing, the band tear at your sanity in a frenzy of shrieking guitars.
And then, as you lie there battered and bruised, the band move into a different place — a brief spell of peace and quiet, followed by a stretch of music that will get your head moving, but twist your thoughts into strange shapes, too. And further changes lie ahead, but I’ll leave you to experience those without advance warning. Freakish and physically potent, this is thoroughly compelling stuff.
In March of last year I premiered a track from the impressive debut album by a black metal band from northern Illinois named Vlk, which means “wolf” in Czech and Slovak. A few days ago I discovered that Vlk have recorded a new song that’s included in a compilation from Brave Mysteries Recording Co. named Communion of Saints.
The song is “Beneath The Plow (St Walstan)“. It features a mix of harsh and clean vocals, and while it’s heavy and abrasive, gloomy and grim, it moves much of the time with a mid-paced rocking rhythm and is laced with strange but seductive melodies. It’s unsettling and even disorienting, but it swings….
Ultimate Purity was released by the Chicago hardcore/sludge/noise band Rectal Hygienics back in 2015. I missed it then, and discovered it only a few days ago thanks to a post by a Facebook friend. I haven’t even listened to the entire album all the way through, but I’ve heard enough to compel me to do that.
The song below, “Addicted To Filth“, is bleak and ugly, the deliberate, beefy riffing and heavy drum thumping setting a brutal stage for the moaning excretions of the guitar and the chilling rasp of bestial whispered vocals. You can easily believe that the people who made this song are genuinely addicted to filth… and damned good filth it is.