It will come as no surprise to anyone who has visited us more than once that I enjoy doing premieres of new music. Sometimes, however, I lose my head: For example, over the last two days we did eight of them. I believe in the worth of each one of those, but they shoved everything else out of the way, including this post, which I started writing last Wednesday and couldn’t finish.
Posting this on Saturday runs it right up against the usual spot for this SHADES OF BLACK series on Sunday, but so be it. I’ll still post another one of these installments tomorrow, and then try to figure out how to catch up on Monday with everything else I’ve neglected over the last two days.
In December we premiered a song from a then-forthcoming EP named Pvrvsha by the Spanish black metal band Mystagos. That song alone (“Drowning In the Sea of Unconsciousness”) was enough to land the EP on my own “most anticipated” list for the early months of 2018. And on February 1, Pvrvsha was released by BlackSeed Productions. It’s available now through Bandcamp, and if you haven’t heard it, you really should give it your full attention.
In that earlier premiere I provided some background information about the conceptual orientation of Mystagos, which provides insights into the spiritual underpinnings of the new music. But here I’ll only add a few more comments about the music itself, beyond what I’ve already written.
In a nutshell, it’s a fascinating experience, a changing patchwork of sensations that range from the harrowing to the surreal, though there’s really almost nothing about the music that seems commonplace or grounded in what we perceive as reality.
The power levels in the music change frequently, but it remains a gripping listen throughout, whether striking like a savage black cyclone or whirling in a kind of reverent ecstasy, whether mounting gradual descents into cavernous pits of lightless cold or moving in stately, ritualistic marches, or simply rocking out in slow motion to perilous occult enchantments. The vocals are varied as well, with crocodilian growls on one end of the spectrum and near-hallucinatory clean vocals on the other.
The music’s unnerving and disorienting qualities are amplified by interludes of strange and disturbing ambient sound, accompanied by spectral wailing, deep-throated chanting, or demonic gasping. But even the songs themselves are in such a constant state of flux, and so extravagant in their eclectic twists and turns, that they don’t provide any solid ground to stand upon either.
But this avant-garde music obviously isn’t designed to make anyone comfortable. Its goal seems more to turn your mind inside out, and to make it ready for some new revelation. And perhaps it may succeed. But regardless, it’s time well-spent, in a head-space quite unlike where most of us typically dwell.
Speaking of premieres, in April of last year we premiered the first demo of the Parisian black metal band Amnutseba. Although their members are shrouded in mystery, that first demo was so strikingly impressive that I made the guess they must have had pedigrees in other bands before this.
I don’t know anything more today than I did then about who is behind the name Amnutseba. The information really isn’t essential, and might be a distraction from the music, which continues to make me gape in wonder.
Like the first one, their new recording, Demo II, was released by Caligari Records (on February 6), and it’s completely fascinating.
The first demo consisted of four tracks, identified as “I”, “II”, “IV”, and “V”. The new one fills that gap in the numbering with “III” and continues with “VI“.
The first of these two is a wide-ranging trip that seems to slash through a veil that separates our world from another that’s steeped in darkness. The sound is raw, mystical, and ominous, the pacing both dirgelike and hurtling, the deep growl cold and cruel, the high yells and livid shrieks boiling with unhinged emotion, the flickering guitar leads crazed and despondent. The song is chaotic and rhythmically compelling, violent and ensorceling, discordant and delirious, pensive and petrifying, brawling and beautiful.
“VI” is unearthly and apocalyptic, a soundtrack to the coming of Hell to Earth. It’s also intricate and ever-changing, a savage barrage of attacking drums and roiling, toxic riffs. Dissonant frenzied guitars generate an atmosphere of madness and fear; the deep bass lines and ponderous drum beats herald the approach of some terrible calamity. A feeling of plague infests the slower passages; the faster ones spawn images of corpses burning on a pyre at night.
(I’ve figured out that there is a direct correlation between the intensity of my feeling for music and the number of adjectives and metaphors I spit out. It’s obvious that I think this new demo kills.)
The Portuguese band Scarificare are three albums deep into their career (a career marked by extensive line-up changes), but it’s only this third one that has caught my attention. Coming roughly five years after the second one, the new full-length is named Tilasm, and it’s set for an April 20 release by Helldprod Records.
The advance track I’ve chosen for this post is “Crystal Skull“, a multi-faceted song — and perhaps surprisingly so, given the way it begins. And the way it begins is in full stride — a racing, ripping, head-bashing blast of black thrash, with riffs that alternately jolt and slash, drumming that alternately pounds and batters, and the kind of vivid, ravaging vocals that remind me of Goatwhore’s Ben Falgoust.
All that alone would be enough to make the music stick out from the pack, but a melodic chorus surfaces at about 1:50 that gives the song a completely different dimension, the difference revealed even more dramatically by the heroic clean vocals and the more sedate and sublime instrumental section that follows that. The power surges again, but what sounds like a bright, lilting organ melody is what closes the track.
The Norwegian horde Natas released a first demo roughly four years ago, and they have since been embraced by the Italian label Dusktone, who will release the band’s first album later this year. Its name is På veg… til helvette.
The album’s first single, “Daudens Kall“, is grim and icy, but the mid-paced rhythm is highly headbangable. A very enticing, head-moving bass solo provides the bridge to an invigorating gallop and a change in mood to something more wild and free, but still with an uneasy edge of bloodlust in the sound. There is no mistaking the bloodlust in the vocals — a convocation of putrid growls, vicious snarls, and wretched wails. And all of that happens in the song’s first half.
In the middle comes a slow, somber, reverberating guitar melody and rising clean vocals, thick with grief. A riveting drum progression and the ripple and whir of the guitars provide a further bridge to a racing finale that sounds like a mixture of perseverance and despair.