SHADES OF BLACK (PART 1): ALTAR OF PERVERSION, NIGREDO, HÄXENZIJRKELL, MORTUUS UMBRA
One benefit of Andy Synn’s new Waxing Lyrical series as a regular Saturday post at NCS is that it has freed me to do other things, since I no longer feel compelled to concoct something of my own on Saturdays. Most “normal” people might take advantage of the opportunity to indulge in slothfulness. It seems that my own “abnormality” instead leads to two-part SHADES OF BLACK posts on Sunday.
ALTAR OF PERVERSION
The most recent interview posted at the on-line edition of Bardo Methodology was an especially thought-provoking one, a discussion by proprietor Niklas Göransson with Calus, one of the two men behind the Italian black metal band Altar of Perversion. The on-line version of the interview is only an excerpt from a much longer and even more in-depth conversation in the print edition of Bardo Methodology #3, which I will be anxious to read when my copy arrives in the mail.
What I read on-line revived some of my own lines of thought about the intellectual and emotional inspirations and underpinnings of black metal, which I might finally decide to write about in the near future. But it also contains a fascinating segment on the audio frequency of 432 Hertz (referred to as “Pythagorean tuning” when applied to the tuning of musical instruments) and its connections to nature, as well as its numerical synchronicities with a host of ancient writings and esoteric teachings.
I recommend you read the interview HERE, but at this point I’m going to turn to the song from Altar of Perversion’s new album Intra Naos (which was recorded attuned to 432 Hertz) that Bardo Methodology revealed along with the interview.
As the interview explains, the album was 13 years in the making and is almost two hours long, consisting of six tracks ranging from fifteen to twenty-four minutes each, and “She Weaves Abyssal Riddles and Eorthean Gates” is one of those. In 15 1/2 minutes, Altar of Perversion swirl the listener through dimensions that are mystical, magisterial, and menacing. Great storms of ravaging sound rise up; flickering bass notes, spiraling guitar frenzies, and rapidly changing drum rhythms ensorcel the mind; livid, abrasive vocals inflict merciless punishment; gleaming, gliding melodies seem to channel ancient and august powers of no human origin.
It’s an intricately plotted but persistently captivating piece of music, one with so many layers that they can’t be peeled back with a single listen. The 432 Hz tuning may lend additional magic to the music; I don’t know. I also don’t know if this will be the best black metal album of the year, but if the rest of this massive undertaking is on par with “She Weaves Abyssal Riddles…”, it will be a strong candidate.
Intra Naos will be released on April 15th by Ajna. The cover art was created by Denis Forkas.
Adgnosco Veteris Vestigia Flammae
She Weaves Abyssal Riddles and Eorthean Gates
Behind Stellar Angels
Cosmic Thule, Inner Temple
Through Flickering Stars, They Seep
In alchemical practices nigredo, or blackness, was the process of putrefaction or decomposition, a method of cleansing alchemical ingredients by cooking them to a uniform black matter. Nigredo, as the process of death, putrefaction, or blackening, also has symbolic or metaphorical usages in psychology and in certain spiritual studies as a necessary step in a new beginning.
Nigredo is also the name chosen by an Athenian black metal duo — vocalist, guitarist, and bassist A. (Ravencult) and drummer Maelstrom (Dephsophorus, Embrace of Thorns, ex-Ravencult) — whose debut album Flesh Torn – Spirit Pierced will be released on April 15 by Transcending Obscurity (with a cover painting created by Jean Francois Bouron).
Four tracks from the album are now streaming on Bandcamp, and the music is enormously impressive — a devilishly ingenious and powerfully executed blend of strange, dissonant melodies, ripping riffs, eye-popping rhythmic changes, and boiling vocal madness. One moment Nigredo indulge a taste for murderous rampaging; the next they’re filling your head with hallucinatory fog; the next they’re rocking out so hard that your head can’t help but move like a pumping piston.
The music is so vibrant, so supercharged with infectious energy, so uncaged in its riveting twists and turns that it feels like Nigredo have swooped us up and carried us away into the midst of the Wild Hunt. The mission may be to putrefy and cook us down to some core of death-like blackness, but these raging tides of sound strike me as explosively alive.
There’s so much new metal coming out every day that I miss out on new releases even by bands whose past releases have struck a ringing chord in my head. The German duo Häxenzijrkell’s first EP, Des Lasters der Zauberey (2016), definitely made a powerful impression (at one point in my too-brief review I referred to the music as “pestilential, desolate, doomed, and haunted music from the land of the dead”), and yet I managed to miss their latest EP, released on February 15th by Amor Fati Productions. But now I’ve found it.
The new EP, which like the first one contains two long songs, is named …von Glut und Wirbelrauch, and it was released on February 15th. In trying to determine what the title might mean, I found a passage from Goethe’s Faust in which Mephistopheles bemoans the dim moonlight in his climb into the Harz mountains with Faust on Walpurgis Night, causing him to stumble and trip. He wishes Faust to stop and enjoy certain entertainments along the way, which prompts Faust to exclaim:
I’d rather be up over there!
I spy a glow and fumes awhirl [Glut und Wirbelrauch}
There flocks the crowd to Evil-kind;
There many a riddle should unfurl.
I don’t know if Häxenzijrkell had this passage in mind when they chose the EP’s title (I’m afraid I don’t understand the German words exclaimed in the changing vocal samples during these songs), but the mind-bending music suggests they might have. The atmosphere is unearthly and disorienting — pestilential, full of menace, shorn of sympathy and warmth, glowing with a sickly infernal light, awhirl with sensations of chaos that are a danger to your physical and mental health.
Ominous, stalking cadences and slow-rocking beats are far more prevalent than head-long gallops; gloomy, oppressive, distorted riffs, spectral moaning, wretched howls, and fleeting shards of weird melody carry the listener away to a place where black magic opens graves, and horrors emerge; hook-laden chord progressions call forth visions of demons cackling in glee at human misery, or witches levitating in a dance above the ground, high up on a mountain of midnight madness. There, many a riddle should unfurl.
Last month I reviewed and premiered an EP named Visitation by the Israeli band HAR, one that I thought did “indeed conjure the atmosphere of a terrifying intrusion into our own world by hungering forces from shadow realms where death reigns supreme.” If Metal-Archives is to be believed, two members of HAR are also in another band called Mortuus Umbra.
Like the preceding band in this collection, I was impressed with Mortuus Umbra’s debut EP — in this case, 2015’s Catechism — but overlooked their new one, Omnipraesent, which was released on January 11. Thanks to a tip last week from my NCS comrade TheMadIsraeli, I found it.
The EP consists of two “Voids”, and I thought they would make a fine follow-on to those two Häxenzijrkell tracks. These are also strange and unsettling, to the point of becoming intensely creepy and sinister. Frightening vocals, both roaring and crying out in ecstasy or pain, are accompanied by music both dissonant and dismal, occasionally speared by feverish, lunatic arpeggios. The drumming, which is in a state of constant flux, is especially interesting to follow.
The music creates changing visions of horrible majesty, arcane mystery, and torturous suffering. It manages to be nightmarish and entrancing at the same time.
Omnipraesent was mixed by Daniel Brecher and was mastered by Stephen Lockhart at Studio Emissary in Iceland. It features cover art by by David Glomba. It’s available digitally now, but it’s also being released in physical formats by Goathorned Production (CD), No Return (cassette tape), and Oration (vinyl).
cant wait to buy that Alter of Perversion in what I assume will be like a triple LP! This might be BM record of the year for me.
As a steadfast skeptic, and a proud one as such, I had to search for this “432 Hz Tuning” thing. Lots of superstition, pseudoscience and parascience to be found out there. According to the following article, it seems to be a myth. Not surprisingly, I might add.
The music of Altar of Perversion sounds rad, though, and Mortuus Umbra really slays.
Wow tons of good shit here. Especially Nigredo.