As usual, I had a rough time trying to decide which songs to pick for today’s SHADES OF BLACK column; as usual, there was a lot to choose from. If I’d known when I made the selection that (as announced here) this would be the last NCS post after 8 1/2 years of effort, it would have been a whole lot rougher.
I thought the self-titled debut release by the Portuguese black metal band Gaerea was one of 2016’s best EPs.. We featured music from it repeatedly at our site, both before and after its release (including a post in which we named “Void of Numbness” to our list of the year’s “Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs“, and our premiere of a bonus track that appeared on the vinyl edition).
Not surprisingly in light of all that, I have very high hopes for Gaerea’s follow-on release, a debut full-length named Unsettling Whispers. Based on the first single from the album, it seems likely those hopes will be fulfilled.
“Whispers” is a riveting and multi-faceted experience, pitch-black in the atmosphere of peril and desolation that it creates, savage in its explosiveness, and crushing in its slower movements. The music and the vocals are emotionally raw, both of them powerfully translating moods of wrenching agony, back-breaking grief, and lunatic rage through its changing tempos and melodies.
The song has the impact of spiked claws tearing into those fragile places in your mind where memories of fear and loss, hopelessness and anxiety, simmer in the darkness, and forcibly pulling them forward to burn again. But there are gleaming shards of beauty in the music as well; and these melodies are not easily forgotten.
Unsettling Whispers features cover art by Khaos Diktator Design. It will be released by Transcending Obscurity on June 22.
The Polish band Kły have a mysterious history. We’re told the band was established in 1997, but didn’t release their first demo (Taran-Gai) until last year. One wonders what they did during that two-decade interval and what prompted them to finally make a recording. Whatever may have spurred them to return, the inspiration didn’t expire after that demo — they’ve also recorded a debut album named Szczerzenie, which will be released by Pagan Records on April 20.
Whatever else the unidentified members of Kły did over those 20 years, it’s pretty evident that they listened to a lot of music. The first advance track from the album, “Wypełni“, has a through-line of melancholic black metal (the band themselves compare what they’ve done to the music of Hypothermia, Lifelover, Austere, Grey Waters, or even the early works of Ulver, Unholy, Katatonia, or Anathema) but they’ve braided other influences into this multi-textured skein.
The song has a lot of heavy, rumbling and stomping, rhythmic power thanks to a prominent and potent bass presence and hard-hitting drum work, and the layered guitar melodies are powerfully beguiling even when they’re dismal. The song rocks as well as races, becomes soaring and grand as well as haunting, vibrant as well as depressive. The vocals are another remarkable strength of the music — cold-blooded and bestial in some aspects, wretched and soul-bearing in others.
A great song, and a promising harbinger of the album.
Szczerzenie will be released on April 20 in digital and digipack CD formats.
In another one of these columns more than a year ago, I wrote that the debut album of the Greek one-man band Apognosis “displays a masterful ability to create changing moods with a constant ebb and flow of energy and pacing, and to maintain a firm grip on the listener’s attention by integrating progressive-minded flourishes along with loads of killer riffs and flesh-rending vocal savagery. (Very cool bass work, too.)” My first impression was that Phase 6 was brilliant; more time with the album didn’t dim that impression.
I’m also damned impressed with the new Apognosis EP, Cult Of Human Sacrifices, which was released on March 22 as a small taste of what’s coming soon in a second album. It consists of two tracks, “Νεκρογένεσις” (Necrogenesis) and “Κατάλυσις” (Katalysis).
On the one hand, they are unmistakably infernal in their atmosphere — cold and heartless, yet magisterial and even reverential, whether the music is creating panoramas of bleak grandeur or rushing forward like a prince of hell on the back of a galloping wolfhound.
On the other hand, while the music and the demonic, bestial vocals create a strong sense of atmosphere, the riffs are beautifully crafted and ever-changing. Whether seething or frenzied, moody or mad, raking or rocking, they seize and hold the listener’s attention.
Even with just two songs, Apognosis has created a remarkably dynamic journey, and a thoroughly riveting one. That word is again on the tip of my tongue: brilliant.
“The DEATH METAL album IMMORTAL will never record! The BLACK METAL album that INCANTATION should have recorded!” I mean, come on, how could you not smile at that come-on? And how could you resist the desire to find out what the music sounds like? Well, I couldn’t.
That clever quote appears on Moribund Records‘ Bandcamp page for Enigmata, which is the third album by the Pennsylvania band Pact (and the fourth if you count an earlier album recorded under the name Aiwass). It includes the performances of a new vocalist (Thoth Atlantean) in addition to guitarist Wretch and drummer TJ Prazer.
The two songs you can check out from Enigmata so far are “Dark Templar” and “Eternal Keepers of the Black Flame“. Both are downright explosive, combining elements of roaring, hammering death metal; howling, cyclonic black metal; and infernal rock ‘n’ roll, in powerfully effective ways.
There are lethally infectious riffs and bone-smashing rhythms in these songs, but also grand, soaring melodies. The livid vocals cross the line, back and forth, between cold-blooded murder and raving derangement, and they’re utterly convincing in both aspects. This is the kind of ferocious music that’s so well-written and so passionately executed that it hits like one big jolt of electricity after another, straight into the spine.
Enigmata will be released by Moribund Records (based in Port Orchard, Washington) on April 27.
Goat Disciple are a quintet from Salt Lake City, Utah. Their 24-minute debut EP Wolfcult Domination will be jointly released in June by Blood Harvest Records and Helter Skelter Productions. As I write this, two of the four tracks are up on Bandcamp for streaming. Both of them are insanely exhilarating.
You will read that the band’s music is war metal, and it is indeed a rapacious hybrid of black and death metal worthy of a name like Goat Disciple — but it’s so much more multifaceted, and executed with so much more technical acumen and creative exuberance, than most offerings in that bloody field that the “war metal” label seems inadequate. At a minimum, if these two songs are a reliable indicator of the EP as a whole, it should vault them into the upper echelons of the field. And I don’t say that lightly.
In broad strokes, Goat Disciple deploy breathtaking frenzies of flesh-shredding riffage, jet-fueled drum fusillades, and a grotesque array of cavernous growls, tyrannical roars, and shrieks of murderous lunacy. The music strikes with delirious viciousness and breathtaking explosiveness.
But in finer strokes, the thrashing riffs are unusually hook-y, so much so that they get stuck firmly in the head (and they pack a lot of different riffs into each of these tracks); the bass work is nimble and vibrant; the drumming is inventive, in addition to being blazing fast, with percussive patterns that are in constant flux; the band regularly execute razor-sharp rhythmic changes; and the solos are electrifying — a freakishly eerie one in “Oreb Zaraq” and a fluid, melodically exotic one in “Mammon“. So. Damned. Good!
In describing the music, Blood Harvest and Helter Skelter make reference to such bands as Diocletian, Angelcorpse, and classic Katharsis. They will release Wolfcult Domination in CD and tape editions on June 15th, with a vinyl edition to follow on July 14th.
That Gaerea looks exactly like me when I discovered the hem was coming undone on my most comfortable band shirt, and pulled on it.