Three weeks have passed since the last of these columns, mainly because of my vacation to Iceland, so I decided to double up today. I’m also still experiencing postpartum depression from the severance of myself from Iceland. To treat the condition, I chose to include some new music from Icelandic black metal bands, one in this Part of the column and another in Part 2. Other parts of the world are also included, before the flood of Icelandic black metal covers them like the deluge of Genesis and reduces the globe to a state of watery chaos.
Mystískaos is a record label (or perhaps more accurately, a creative collective) formed through the collaboration of American musician Alex Poole (Skáphe, Chaos Moon, Entheogen) and Icelandic musician H.V Lyngdal (Wormlust, Ljáin, Martröð). Its list of releases principally consists of the projects of those two creators, but includes participation by other people within their circles, and now also includes a partnership with Fallen Empire.
There are some interesting new releases associated with the Mystískaos name that are headed our way this year, and one of those is an album entitled Vængför that is itself a joint endeavor by Poole and Lyngdal under the name Guðveiki.
Others are also involved. For the recording of Vængför, the line-up is listed as:
H.V Lyngdal – Vocals
AP – Guitars
SB – Guitars
JB – Drums
Þórður Indriði – Additional Guitars/Atmosphere
“Fóstureyðing Stjarna” is the first song from Vængför that has surfaced. Human beings made this music, but most traces of conventional humanity have been violently purged from the sounds. Lyngdal’s vicious, skin-stripping vocals are convincingly alien, as are the brain-scouring riffs and the swirls of eerie, ominous melody that waft above the music’s changing propulsive drives.
Speaking of propulsive drives, the drumming on the song is worth focusing on carefully for at least one run through the track, after you’ve allowed yourself to be overwhelmed by the full panoply of malign forces at work in this cataclysmic and hallucinatory experience.
Earthcult is the third full-length by Trna from Saint Petersburg, Russia, whose members are guitarist Andrey Novozhilov, bassist Anton Gataullin, and drummer Timur Yusupov (who has joined the band since the release of the second album). Earthcult was released on March 5.
Consisting of four immense tracks, ranging in length from 15 minutes to 18, the full album places a significant demand on the listener’s attention, particularly because it’s a purely instrumental exercise. The talent revealed here is so impressive that the album could have succeeded with songs of shorter length, but I came away from it thinking that it was enthralling rather than excessive.
Trna interweave black metal and post metal in ways that provide big injections of adrenaline but also create strong and changing emotional responses. The music often has a panoramic and majestic quality, though the sensations of soaring grandeur are often filigreed with traceries of haunting grief.
Through somber but gleaming guitar reverberations and cascading waves of shimmering sound, the songs reach for heights of mystical beauty, while blasting drums and the deep hum of the bass quicken the pulse. Lighter and softer passages of strummed chords and head-bobbing rhythms invoke the wistfulness of happier memories. Joy and hopefulness seem to persist in the vibrancy that blazes within the album’s core, never overwhelmed by the mantle of sorrow that periodically descends as you make your way through Earthcult.
Portland’s Uada have recorded a second album, Cult of a Dying Sun, which will be released by Eisenwald on May 25th, with cover art by Kris Verwimp (at least I’m guessing that’s Kris Verwimp’s handiwork up there). For the new album, there’s a new drummer — Denver-based Brent Boutte (Helleborus) — along with vocalist/guitarist Jake Superchi, guitarist James Sloan, and bassist Edward Halpin.
It will take some doing for Uada to match or exceed the quality of their debut, Devoid of Light (2016). It’s too soon to tell whether they have, but the first single from the new album offers hope. A damned dark and alluring riff launches the track and moves sinuously through it, evolving as it goes. The song also includes a wide array of intense vocal expressions, an equally wide array of tempos and drum patterns, and a beautiful solo.
By the end, the song had swept me away the first time I heard it. And I found myself even more enamored of it the more I listened to it
I’ve written more than once in these columns about the music of Nightgrave, the experimental black/doom project of Sushant Rawat (aka Nium) from New Delhi, India. Nightgrave has a new album out now (about which I’ll have a few things to say in another post), but Sushant Rawat has another project named Raat that’s the subject of this final item in Part 1 of today’s SHADES OF BLACK.
The debut, three-track EP of Raat is Selfless, released on February 25. Having already been convinced of this creator’s talent through his work in Nightgrave, I wasn’t surprised at the power or the professionalism of Selfless.
As is true of Nightgrave’s recordings, this richly textured EP pulls from a wide spectrum of musical influences and interweaves them in coherent and emotionally involving ways. There’s compelling power and heaviness in the rhythm work, bestiality and somber sorrow in the vocals, and a knack for crafting memorable melodies, both dark and bright, on display as well.
Speaking of textures, the pulsating, reverberating tones that leap forward in the relatively short second track, “Leaves”, really grabbed me. That track is also a marvel of changing intensity and morphing musical hues. And while the long opening track includes the brightest and lightest of the EP’s musical moments, the closer, “Mortality”, includes perhaps the most atmospherically grim and unnerving minutes — though it eventually becomes a spell of melancholy that lingers.
(The album is available digitally now; a vinyl edition will be released by Elusive Sound.)