SHADES OF BLACK (PART 3): STORMBANE, VÄKI, VARATHRON, VURVARAT, WALDEINSAMKEIT, WYRMWOODS, BLACK REAPER
This is the last installment of a three-part post I began on Wednesday, focusing on new and recently discovered metal in a blackened vein. I packed a lot of music into this tripartite post — including a pair of video premieres today — in part because I failed to get a SHADES OF BLACK column finished in time to post in its usual place last Sunday, but also because I won’t get one done for this coming Sunday either. The weekend is going to be an unusually busy one for me, and if I can manage to get anything done at all for NCS, it will be a continuation of our Most Infectious Song list… because time is rapidly running out on that.
When I started this post two days ago I had a list that I alphabetized by band name before dividing it into thirds. I did say that I might discover something else to add that would screw up the alphabetic ordering, and so I have.
Stormbane (from Melbourne, Australia) have explained that they recorded their debut album Eldritch Devotion in 2014 but only released it on January 1 of this year “due to explosive bowel movements and disagreements”. It also appears to be a posthumous release — Metal Archives now classifies the band as “Split-up”. Too bad. But at least the band decided to discharge this explosive movement before they themselves exploded.
I won’t attempt a thorough review of the album because I haven’t spent enough time with it and because it’s unlikely I’ll find the time to write more. I will say that the music boils with vicious, thrashing and lashing energy. Like a whirlwind of fire, it both blazes hot and flashes in unpredictable directions. The vocals come straight for your throat, and the songs stick spikes in your brainstem, too (in other words, the riffs are damned catchy).
This really is a strikingly impressive album. I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best thrash albums, “blackened” or not, that I’ve heard over the last year (or more).
(I’m grateful to Conor O. for turning me on to this band.)
I’ve written about the Finnish band Väki before, focusing on their 2017 demo, Kirous, which I learned about after it was more recently reissued on tape by Redefining Darkness Records. The two songs on that demo are both ice-cold in their displays of grim destructiveness AND fierce and fiery. The strains of dissonance that infect the melodies often give the music an eerie, supernatural cast. The harsh vocals are harrowing in the unchained intensity of their agony and rage, although the clean vocals that appear in the soaring, majestic finale of “Kuoleman Sakeet” are just as intense in their own way.
And yes, I did say “soaring and majestic”. Both of these songs take you to many different places before they’re finished — there is bleak grandeur as well as crushing desolation and blinding ferocity in these compositions, and that’s part of what makes them so powerfully attractive. I should also mention that the intricacy and frequent changes that occur in the music are matched by the obvious technical skill of the performers.
I’ve been hungry for more from the band since discovering the demo, and today I have the pleasure of bringing you a previously unreleased track. It has appeared through video of the band performing the song live on January 19th at Bar 15 in Seinäjoki City, Finland. The name of the song is “Ikiuni“. I’ve been informed that “Iki” refers to “forever”, and “uni” is sleep, so that the title could be understood as “foreverlasting sleep”. In other words, death.
At the same time as the video for “Ikiuni” became available, so did one from the same live performance for that great song “Kuoleman Sakeet” from the demo. I’ve installed both videos below — and both the new song and the previously released one confirm that Väki are a band to keep a close watch on.
Anyone who has even a thimbleful of knowledge about Greek black metal probably has the name Varathron in that thimble. Their origins date back to 1988. Along with Rotting Christ and Necromantia, they probably have more to do with the foundation of Greek black metal traditions than any other group. And this year they will deliver their sixth studio album, Patriarch of Evil, with cover art by the wondrous Juanjo Castellano.
The band have described the album as “one of the finest pieces Varathron has ever unleashed”, “a true heavy, blasphemous and unique masterpiece with Necroabyssious delivering his best performance ever”. We have become used to such self-professed accolades by metal bands in advance of new releases, and have been taught the hard way to become skeptical of them. Time will tell, of course, but I am hopeful that every word will prove true.
For now, we have only a teaser of the new music, and the track list. I’ve included both below, and I will say that the teaser is in fact a very promising, and very sinister and sorcerous, tease.
2. Into the Absurd
3. Luciferian Mystical Awakening
4. Saturnian Sect
5. Remnants of the Dark Testament
6. Hellwitch (Witches Gathering)
7. Orgasmic Nightmares of the Arch Desecrator
8. Ouroboros Dweller (The Dweller of Barathrum)
Official Site: https://varathron.com
Vurvarat is a mysterious new French black metal band, whose debut album Theurgia Mortem will be released at some point this year by Atavism Records. My interest was peaked when I read that they have been influenced “by the melodic way of Ondskapt and the sepulchral riffs of Mortuus“, which is indeed a very seductive orientation.
Only one song (that I know of) has surfaced from the album so far, and I’ve embedded it below, along with the complete track list. “Magnificent In Decay” is indeed magnificent and decayed. A slow, haunting, and mesmerizing piece with an unsettling occult atmosphere, it also flashes with bursts of delirium.
It raised goosebumps on my arms, got my head nodding, and made me think of nightmares and the exhalations of lost souls in an endless void.
01. The Ghastly Demise
02. Transfigured and Reborn in Fire
03. Wait of the Foul Mind
04. Magnificent in Decay
05. Incantations for the Deformed
07. A Pale Horse Descends
In the second installment of this three-part post I included a riveting late-2017 debut release by Niphredil from Quito, Ecuador. As it turns out, Niphredil share a member with another band named Waldeinsamkeit (a name that seems to refer to the feeling of being alone in the woods). At the same time as I investigated the music of Niphredil, I also explored Waldeinsamkeit’s self-titled EP, which was released on December 30, 2017.
The two men behind Waldeinsamkeit have acquitted themselves impressively well on this record. Like that Niphredil EP, it includes two main songs book-ended by an intro and outro. Unlike the Niphredil release, the music here has a significant ambient music component. The songs have a predominantly stately pace (broken by fractures of frenzy) and a deeply depressive cast. The EP as a whole is thoroughly entrancing in its manifestations of beautiful bereavement and aching agony, but at well-timed moments it gets the blood rushing, too.
I was first intrigued by Wyrmwoods (from Oulu, Finland) based on what I saw, rather than heard, on the Bandcamp page for their album Earth Made Flesh, which was released on the last day of last year. For one thing, the page includes a quote by the reclusive American horror writer Thomas Ligotti:
“The pact of bones and blackness, the voice declaimed to him. The collection of shadows… shadows binding bones… skeletons becoming shadows. And he came to understand other things: the land stripped of flesh… the reeking earth ripped clean and rising into the great blackness. This reverberant discourse had made him its student, imparting theories and practice: bones pummeled into purity… parts turned into brilliant particles… the shadows seeded with the voice of skulls… the many voices within eternal blackness… the tenebrous harmony.”
And for another thing, I read that the instruments used on the album include alto saxophone, alto recorder, and melodica — and that all these instruments, along with guitars and vocals, were performed by a single person (and he programmed the bass and drums).
And for a third thing, the cover art is an excerpt from a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
In other words, lots of reasons to be intrigued. And I’ve become even more deeply intrigued after listening to the opening track, “Break the Seal”. It’s remarkably diverse, ranging from explosively thunderous assaults to more mysterious and moody (and highly seductive) digressions. And the song also includes a jazzy middle section that made me think of the collaborations of Chick Korea and Gary Burton.
Sadly, I’m not able to say much more about the album as a whole, since I’ve only just discovered it. But anyone capable of writing and performing a song like “Break the Seal” deserves our serious attention. And I’ve heard enough of the remaining tracks to know that it isn’t an outlier — Earth Made Flesh is an amazingly creative and marvelously multifaceted album, ever-changing and consistently fascinating, with no regard at all for genre boundaries.
To conclude this very substantial collection of music I’m focusing on a very recent discovery, recommended to me by Conor O. and DaNasher. You can tell it’s very recent because it comes at the end, and it disrupts the alphabetical ordering of the bands in this three-part post.
This is an album called Celestial Descension by a two-person project from China named Black Reaper. It features fantastic cover art by Marcela Bolívar, and wonderful session cello performances by Kakophonix. It was released just yesterday by Pest Productions, who described the music as “influenced by old school Swedish melodic black/death metal bands like Dissection, Unanimated and Naglfar“. It follows the band’s 2014 debut EP, Flames of Sitra Ahra.
I’ll comment on only two songs (the first two singles), because time is short — “Under the Light of Hubur” and “Acosmic Illumination”. Both display gravitas and grandeur, their beautiful keyboard layers soaring over galvanizing surges of warlike power and eruptions of truly scalding vocal ferocity. Of these two, “Under the Light of Hubur” is more subdued in its pacing at first, and more mystical and moody in its atmosphere. But both songs are equally gripping, both include killer riffs and ravishing drumwork, and both warrant the term “epic”.
However, don’t stop with those two songs. Though I’ve only spun the album once, I can tell you it is rock-solid all the way through, beautifully written and beautifully performed, and richly deserving of more serious attention.
Very intrigued by Stormbane and Black Reaper. (Unlimited Self is one beautiful instrumental song, by the way.)
And on another sidenote; on Pest Productions’ Bandcamp, I found a 10 years edition of Thy Light’s classic Suici.De.pression, that sounds by far better than my old copy. Lovely
Well hell, I need to spend more time looking through the Pest Bandcamp myself.
Wow, that Wyrmwoods album is really unafraid to move from dirges to jazz fusion noodles to blasting without feeling disjointed. This thing deserves some serious time in the earholes.
Someone who is able not just to conceive of such dramatic twists and turns but also to execute them so well is a rarity. Definitely deserves serious earhole time. 🙂