I had an especially tough time deciding what to include in this collection. Yesterday I spent hours listening and re-listening to things I’d collected over the last week, and to even more music that others had recommended to me, and I still fell short of listening to everything on my list. From what I did hear, these songs seemed to go well together. By coincidence, I discovered almost all of them thanks to links from my Serbian acquaintance Miloš, who I think must listen to even more new music (and more obscure new music) than I do.
I’m dividing this post into two parts, the second of which will come later today. I’ll also mention that some noteworthy black metal splits have also come out this past week, or will come out soon. They’re not covered in this post because I hope to devote a separate column to them tomorrow.
The hooded and masked German nihilists who have taken the name Ctulu released a self-titled album last year (their fourth full-length). The album didn’t include all the tracks they recorded at that time, and the band have taken some of those previously unreleased recordings and assembled them into a new EP named Cultus In Tenebris. “At the same time,” the band have explained, “Cultus in Tenebris is a concept EP trying to catch the spirit of Necronomicon rituals”:
“It’s a gathering of exotic weirdness, of seeing in the dark, of praising the old, capricious, mad and wild gods.”
With a martial snare beat, Ctulu launch the EP and quickly proceed to craft an atmosphere of ominous paranormal militarism in the opening track, “Bis du mein lebendiger Altar bist”. But that arcane tyrannical thundering grows increasingly unchained and frenzied as the song proceeds, and they really explode in a paroxysm of fury at the outset of the follow-on track, “Ctulu Fhtagn”.
But one of the aspects of this EP that makes it so good is the band’s skill at changing courses and interweaving diverse musical styles. And so “Ctulu Fhtagn” also includes some classic metal riffing, riveting lead work, and deep, stately clean vocals that bring to mind Vikings at the prow of a longboat.
More changes lie ahead, as “Inanna (Anina Veneris)” swings into a dark, folkish dance, with clean vocals again trading places with monstrous roars. True to the band’s word, an air of exotic strangeness swirls around this track, but its jolting rhythms will get your head moving, too.
“Mare Belli” has a weird beginning, but soon surges into a blood-pumping race driven by blasting drums, a high, shimmering guitar melody, and the vocalist’s staccato barks. Anchored by big, booming drum beats, the song shifts into a more stately pace, with a melody that’s both majestic and melancholy. That feeling of grim majesty perseveres even as the band unsheathe their claws again for the finale.
Cultus In Tenebris will be released on October 6 by the U.S. label Static Tension Recordings, but it’s available digitally now on Bandcamp:
Following one German band with another, the next track comes from the sixth album by Thyrgrim, Vermächtnis, which will be released through TrollZorn Records on September 29. Google Translate renders “Die Heilung Dieser Welt” as “The Healing of This World”, but it seems to capture the wounds in the fabric of our world more effectively than a healing.
Thyrgrim would probably be the first to tell you that they’re not trying to re-define black metal, nor do they seem at all interested in pushing (or fragmenting) the boundaries of a genre that has probably never been more popular, or ever more unrecognizable in its morphing manifestations. But they’re very good at what they do.
And what they do in “Die Heilung Dieser Welt” is deliver cold, cruel, and sorrowing black metal — music that’s fierce, even delirious in its savagery, but also anguished in the feeling of its penetrating melodies.
Moving away from Germany, at least for now, I’m turning to the Spanish band Meszaroth for the next music in this collection. It’s the band’s first EP (following two demos), a four-track work entitled Nihil Manifesto that was independently released in mid-June.
I was hooked from the first few measures of the first song “Mors Genesis Collapse“. It proves immediately that Meszaroth have an impressive talent for crafting dismal but gripping melodies, with an otherworldly air of tension conjoined to the feeling of terrible despair. The first song also displays the band’s skill in dynamics; it blends a variety of vocal expressions and it mixes surging intensity with depressive solemnity and soaring, keyboard-driven grandeur, while wrapping everything in a mantle of occult mystery.
Those same talents and inclinations are reaffirmed through the remaining three tracks, all of which are emotionally powerful, drowning in misery and the fragmenting effects of harrowing anguish, yet also soaring in swells of desolate panoramic grandeur. All in all, a mesmerizing and memorable experience.
Mascharat make their home in Milan, Italy, but they prefer to keep their secrets well-hidden; I’ve found no other info about their identities or musical backgrounds. On September 15 Séance Records will release their first album, a conceptual creation that bears the band’s own name. Séance describes the album as “a brilliant work of atmospheric Renaissance Black Metal from Milan, Italy inspired by ancient tradition & Venetian carnival”.
“Iniziazione” is the first advance track from this debut. Deep, heavy waves of cold, blighted melody move like heaving ocean swells across a blast-driven rhythmic torrent as a scalding voice expels a vitriolic tirade. With a tumbling drum beat as a bridge, the song segues into a more mid-paced tempo and eventually a groaning dirge, while channeling sensations of derangement and decay.
As the music grows more fevered again, a trilling lead leaps out like a plague vector, and choral chants rise up behind that bestial lead voice. At the end, despondent keyboard notes float above the deep grinding gloom. It’s a gripping song, but there should be a sign at the entry to this carnival of terrors: “No hope or joy is to be found here”.