This is the second part of a post I began here on the last day of the old year, delayed by one day so that I could recover from a cataclysmic hangover produced by unforeseen New Year’s Eve revels; the old year died, and then I felt as if I had, too.
I’ve collected streams of six albums here, all of them released in December or November, accompanied by nothing that would justify the term “review”, only a few inadequate words of description and praise that I hope will induce you to explore the music. This won’t be the last of my efforts to catch up with music released last year, though inevitably we’ll start paying increasing amounts of attention to the march of metal in 2018.
Andy Synn already included this record on his listing of 2017’s “Great Albums”, and it recently appeared on Brendan Sloan’s list (here) as an Honorable Mention — but only because he thought it would be greedy to put more than one Alex Poole project in his Top 17 list (the other being Chaos Moon). Yet despite this attention, both at NCS and elsewhere, I wanted to give my own nudge to those who haven’t yet heard Without Veil, Nor Self.
And yes, this is a project that includes Alex Poole (Chaos Moon, Martröð, Skáphe) as the vocalist, along with guitarist S. Blackburn (Chaos Moon, Lithotome), drummer J. Blackburn (Chaos Moon, Inferi, Lithotome, ex-Vital Remains), and bassist B. Tiffin (Haunter). This, their debut album, was released by Fallen Empire on November 27, 2017.
Within the midst of an authentically blood-freezing, void-faring atmosphere, the band unfurl a changing array of hallucinatory riffs and vibrant drum- and bass-work. It proves to be quite an intricate and richly textured trip, a head-spinning one, but also a mesmerizing one… such stuff as dreams are made on, or to be more precise, the stuff of waking nightmares.
The album was mastered by J. Buczarski (Mare Cognitum), and the eye-catching cover art is by Karmazid.
I devoted attention at our site to the electrifying last album by this band from Vyritsa, Russia, Lights In the Howling Wilderness, but almost overlooked their new one, Incarnation of the Higher Gnosis. Like the first album in this collection, it was released by Fallen Empire on November 27th.
A note on the Bandcamp page for the album observes: “Fog and stillness; the True God resides in The Abyss, where there is no past and no future”. There is indeed an abyssal quality to the music, but it’s neither foggy nor still. It has the air of alchemy being practiced, of arcane mysteries given form, of horrid depths being plumbed, of orgiastic rituals being performed, of great beasts rising in triumph from the blackness.
Ritualistic drum booms and crazed paranormal chords are entwined with blast-front percussive assaults and waves of unearthly, panoramic melody; deep, ghastly roars lead to soaring choral voices; gales of frenzied guitar viciousness give birth to surprising pyrotechnic arpeggios. Technically impressive and ceaselessly fascinating, the album will keep you on the edge of your seat. More than once I found myself holding my breath.
I’ve been meaning to write about the debut EP of Philadelphia’s Daeva for a long time, well before its official release by 20 Buck Spin on November 17. I first became interested when I learned that their line-up includes members of Trenchrot, Crypt Sermon, and Infiltrator — but the sound of this band diverges from those antecedents.
What you get with Pulsing Dark Absorptions is a fireball of blazing black/thrash, one that burns so hot and flies so fast that it regularly seems on the brink of igniting into a thousand pieces of flesh-shredding shrapnel. But they walk the line very well, the line between highly addictive, undeniably electrifying riffing and sheer boiling mayhem. The vocals don’t walk any line at all — they’re certifiably insane.
I may have heard a more fiercely adrenaline-triggering record last year, but if so, I don’t remember what it was. (And there’s a damned cool “Deathcrush” cover waiting at the end.)
In December 2016 we had the pleasure of premiering (and reviewing) the first recording of the Polish band Ur, an EP named Hail Death, and I also included a track from the EP on our list of 2016’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. In a nutshell, I found it highly enjoyable and extremely addictive.
Thanks to a message from Conor O., I learned that Arachnophobia Records released Ur’s debut album, Black Vortex, on December 22. I haven’t spent as much time with it as I would like, but enough time to know that Ur have moved from strength to strength.
The songs are as savage as a barbarian horde bent on raping and pillaging, but Ur continue to demonstrate their skill in crossing up expectations by pulling from a variety of traditions, lacing these tracks with addictive heavy metal hooks, tribal rhythms, bursts of thrashing, considerable vocal variety (ranging from bestial snarls to gothic-doom crooning), and a whole lot more. And of course, it all sounds as gloriously evil as Lucifer run rampant.
Nightgrave is the experimental black/doom project of Sushant Rawat, aka Nium, from New Delhi, India. I had some very positive things to say here about Nightgrave’s July 2017 album, Futures, and here about the next Nightgrave recording, an album named Echo that was released last October. But this project is proving to be prolific as well as distinctive, because a third 2017 Nightgrave album appeared on December 15th. This one is called Silver Thorns Into Infinity.
Predictability isn’t something of which Nightgrave can be accused; part of the fascination is discovering what the project will do next, not just from album to album but from song to song. The drumming remains distinctive, the changing rhythmic bursts a continual surprise, and the vocals are still terrifying. But there are some new twists and turns on this album as it moves among hurricanes of squalling, violent intensity; strange, soft, hallucinatory digressions; bleak majestic marches; grim headbangers; and passages of heart-aching, heart-flaring beauty.
With a bit of effort you could map the changing musical territories through which the album crosses, black metal being only one of them (indeed, metal being only one of them), but instead you could just let these eclectic sounds wash over you and carry you away.
The last of the six releases I chose for this SHADES OF BLACK installment is Habits, the second full-length of the German one-man black metal band Infernotion (I haven’t heard the first one, 2013’s Reborn Into Death). The new one, with whom Infernotion’s creator collaborated with some talented session musicians, emerged on December 15th.
The songs maintain a persistent intensity, thanks in part to the craggy firebrand vocals, although they move dynamically — turning just as often to head-snapping rock rhythms with a strong bass pulse as they do toward head-long blasting gallops and slashing tremolo runs. The tempos turn on a dime, and the moods often do as well.
What really hooked me about the album, though, were the head-spearing melodies. There are some damned catchy (and damned grim) riffs and galvanizing propulsion in these songs, but when the lead guitar leaps out in a bright, trilling tone, it never fails to produce a big smile, even when what it’s doing is tracing the lines of sorrow.