I’m three days late with this week’s edition of SHADES OF BLACK, and still woefully behind in sharing new music in a blackened vein that I’ve discovered over the last month. I’m bound and determined to do at least one more of these features before 2017 is interred in a moldy grave, as long as I’m sufficiently unbound by other distractions.
This particular collection includes one complete new album, advance tracks from two more, some new live videos, and a new single.
To begin this selection of music, I want to strongly recommend Quod Erat Faciendum, the debut album of the Swiss band Euclidean, which was released on December 21 and came strongly recommended to me by starkweather and by Miloš.
Before discovering the wonders of this album (which I bought after a single listen) I was familiar with the Latin abbreviation Q.E.D. (“quod erat demonstrandum”), which is an emphatic way of concluding a mathematical proof or philosophical argument, sort of like saying, “There you go, I said I would prove it and so I have!” Now I also know that “quod erat faciendum” (Q.E.F.) is a somewhat similar concluding phrase used by the famed father of geometry, Euclid.
According to The Font of All Human Knowledge, Euclid used the phrase (albeit in Greek) “to close propositions that were not proofs of theorems, but constructions”: “For example, Euclid’s first proposition showing how to construct an equilateral triangle, given one side, is concluded this way”.
It is perhaps an understatement to say that conceptual connections between blackened metal and Euclidean geometry are rare. But so is this album. It’s a highly accomplished amalgamation of progressive, post-, and black metal that manages to create mystifying, mesmerizing, indigo-shaded atmospherics while also spinning the mind through a wondrous labyrinth of instrumental twists and turns and varying vocal textures.
At times gleaming and spectral, and at others shudderingly heavy or frighteningly ferocious, the album pulls the listener in like a seductive spell that becomes increasingly more intense and involving. It’s the kind of dramatic, powerful album that causes you to lose your bearings, shoving other thoughts and distractions out of the way, becoming the dark master of your focus until the bitter end.
When starkweather recommended the album to me, he imagined a collaboration between Zatokrev and Schammasch, “a majestic grandeur colliding with ritualistic tribalism”, which is all I needed to hear… and is a fitting description of what the album accomplishes. He also used the album as an example of why he waits until the final moment to do a year-end list, and indeed I would expect that if Q.E.F. had emerged earlier in 2017 it would have up-ended many lists that were finalized before it saw the light of day. It’s a stunner.
I’ve written previously about a few of the other projects in which the members of Balmog have been involved (e.g., the superb Marthyrium), but it seems I’ve neglected the works of this Galician band, who have released two albums and numerous demos, splits, and EPs since 2006. They have a forthcoming split release with Sartegos that I will have something to say about fairly soon, and their third album, Vacuum, will be released by War Anthem Records (CD) and Black Seed Productions (vinyl, with different cover art) next March.
The following song in this collection, “Hodegetria“, is a track from that new album. I thought it would make a fine follow-on to that Euclidean album, because it too combines a feeling of ominous mystical wonder with the impact of bone-breaking heaviness. It creates sensations of forbidding grandeur, frightening eeriness, and full-throttle rampaging.
I have only one complaint about this dramatic, intense song: I wish it were longer.
1. Qui immolatus iam non moritur…
2. Eating the descendant
4. Vigil of the blinds
5. Inde Deus Abest
6. Come to the Pulpit
8. …sed semper vivit occisus
Black Seed Bandcamp:
Solarmegin, the new double-album by the Swedish band Bhleg, is described as a celebration of the Sun. Ninety-eight minutes in length, it follows the band’s 2014 debut album Draumr Àst (which was quite good) and will be released by Nordvis Produktion on February 23.
From that behemoth of a new album Nordvis revealed the song “Sunnanljus” a few days before Christmas. It builds gradually from the sound of birds and agreeable acoustic picking, adding layers of percussion to get the head nodding harder, and then punching the gas pedal, moving into a rushing surge of galloping drums and waves of buzzing, brooding melody.
Accented by swirling leads and scarring howls, the song blazes… like the sun… but also creates sensations of magnificence through soaring choral voices and sweeping riffs. And the song dances, too, bringing the band’s folk influences to the fore at the end.
Bhleg on Facebook:
The next item in this collection includes a lot of firsts.
Beginning with Strijd (1999) and continuing through Godless Arrogance (2014), the Dutch black metal band Sammath have released five albums so far in a career that reaches back into the mid-’90s. But the two videos below mark the first occasion when the band’s songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Jan Kruitwagen has performed vocals in a live setting. The occasion was the Into Darkness festival last month, which was also Sammath’s first live performance in the Netherlands in a decade.
The first of the songs below, “Drakenbloed“, appeared on Strijd, but Sammath’s Facebook page says that this was the first time that Sammath has performed the song live. The second video captures the live performance of “Thrive In Arrogance” off the band’s latest album.
Both songs rip and ravage, but as savage and warlike as they are, they get their meat-hooks in the head, too. “Drakenbloed” includes episodes of brooding bleakness in the midst of its feral assaults; “Thrive In Arrogance” thunders and slashes in displays of bone-breaking, flesh-lacerating violence, yet there is a kind of fierce joy in its maniacal frenzies.
Thanks to a Bandcamp alert, I learned of the new single “Spell Caster” by the band Black Knife from Lexington, Kentucky, which was released on Christmas Day. Almost exactly one year ago they released an impressive debut EP, which I described as follows:
“On this EP Black Knife tear through ten tracks in less than 20 minutes, and it’s a thrilling hellride all the way through. In varying degrees depending on the song, the band mix an utterly vicious but tasty brew of black metal, hardcore punk, d-beat crust — and Motörhead. The music sounds just rough and raw enough to suit the primal, garage-rock energy of the songs and the scalding, sulfurous fury of the vocals.”
I also mentioned that the riffs scattered across that EP were all made of gold, and the same can be said of “Spell Caster“. It has a raw, roughhousing energy, incorporating the same poisonous stew of ingredients as the band’s EP in a way that’s highly infectious; and it lights a fuse to the part of your brain that’s yearning to bounce off the walls and put full-body slams on strangers.
For the hell of it, I’m also including below a promo YouTube clip for Black Knife’s vinyl split with the Japanese band Abigail, which was released a few months ago by Husk Records.