There’s a lot of new music in this week’s SHADES OF BLACK, which I suppose isn’t all that unusual. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of time for me to write about it, in part because of time spent on a rare Sunday premiere (which also comes from black subterranean realms) and in part because I have other plans for today that will separate me from the computer; I hope I don’t experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
I’ll begin with streams of two fantastic new albums and follow those with four individual songs from forthcoming releases, one of which is paired with an outstanding video.
Maybe it’s not too soon to proclaim the emergence of a trend. Like an unusually high number of other occurrences this year, the august Dutch band Urfaust launched their new (fifth) album with no warning, no advance promotion, no opportunities for scurrilous scribblers to review it before release. This happened on Friday, and although I’ve only managed to listen to The Constellatory Practice once since then, my impulse is to proclaim it a triumph.
The album is the final chapter of a trilogy that began with the Apparitions EP in 2015 and 2016’s Empty Space Meditation. As Ván Records describes it: “The trademark ritual ambient mixed with epic doom black metal has never sounded so claustrophobic…. The key to the gates has been found, turned, and broken in the lock. Delve into the universe of Urfaust and LEVITATE….”
“Levitation” is an excellent word for the effect of the music on the mind. It has trance-like properties that seem to part veils between the mundane world and haunted shadow places where magic reigns, where our feet won’t ever touch the ground, where we might swim in glorious astral seas. There are also terrors to be found there, which might make you wish desperately to get back where you came from, but the door has closed.
The second album in today’s collection comes from a name far more obscure than Urfaust. Anthologie Der Abkehr is the debut album of this German band, whose members are anonymous but are either terrifically precocious or have honed their crafts in other projects. In other words, the album reflects a high level of confidence, maturity, song-writing and performance skill, and careful attention to production of the sound in a way that suits the music’s inherent atmosphere.
The lyrics (in German) assault the emptiness, vanity, greed, and impermanence of human endeavors (including those made manifest in religious institutions), and exalt the enlightenment made possible through misanthropy and the freedom offered by the wildness of nature.
The powerfully immersive music and throat-gripping vocals match the lyrics in their dramatic intensity and conviction. There is disgust and rage here, gloom and incandescence, and an air of tragedy, a tragedy of a Shakesperean kind — the kind described in these words that came to mind from an excellent essay I read here recently:
“[A]lthough these particular characters end up defeated by the intolerable predicament in which they are trapped, the predicament itself is shown by them to be the product of a society whose authority can be resisted and contested. The way things had to be for them, as they prove at the cost of their lives, is not the way they should be, and not the way they have to go on being.
“…Shakespeare’s tragic protagonists, the fictional universes they inhabit, and the tragic fates that await them are amazingly diverse. But every one of his tragic protagonists is doomed by having been cast in the wrong role in the wrong place in the wrong time. Every one of them becomes a stranger in a world where they had once felt at home, and a stranger to the person that they used to be or thought they were. And in the process, every one of them reveals the potential they possess to be another kind of person in another kind of world, which they will tragically never live to see.”
If you’re like me, you’ll be gripped immediately by the opening track, and it will carry you away into the rest of the album’s wonders. For me, coming across this unheralded album by an unknown band was like discovering a 10-carat sapphire in the jumble of my sock drawer.
(Effusive thanks to HGD and Conchobar for telling me about this album.)
For reasons that will become obvious when you watch and listen to this next video, I’ll quote from the PR portrayal of the concepts behind the new album by Imperial Triumphant:
“New York’s nebulous avant-garde metal outfit Imperial Triumphant redefine sonic darkness on their ambitious new album, Vile Luxury. A turbulent, frenetic take on experimental noise and progressive black metal, Imperial Triumphant embody the most austere side of the New York underground. Chaos, menagerie, and the perils of the city clash with its reputation for majesty and extravagance. The band aim to portray the juxtaposition between high society and urban decay.”
“Swarming Opulence” is a fascinating piece of music, very much like a musical menagerie of sordid and unearthly delights. The horn section’s prelude is Gershwin-like (circa “Rhapsody In Blue”), and after that, the music becomes a wild trip that combines dissonant, freakish arpeggios, clanging, angular chords, blazing-fast drum escapades, an array of bestial and demonic vocal expressions, and well-timed reappearance of the horn section. The whole brilliant affair is an enormous and unsettling thrill.
The video is just as gripping as the song, and beautifully meshes with the music’s manifold movements.
Vile Luxury will be jointly released by Gilead Media and Throatruiner Records on July 13th. It includes guest vocal appearances by Will Smith, Yoshiko Ohara, Andromeda Anarchia, and Sarai Chrzanowski, as well as guest performers on the trombone, trumpet, and tuba. It was engineered, mixed, and mastered by Colin Marston, with art and design by Andrey Tremblay.
Last August a band from Troy, New York, who call themselves Diplegia released a single named “Follow”, which was the first excerpt from a forthcoming album (entitled Abject Failure) and came on the heels of their 2017 EP Squander. I praised it in another one of these SHADES OF BLACK features after discovering it a few months later. On Friday, Diplegia released a second single from that album which is in the works.
“Bitter” is indeed a portrayal of bitterness and gloom. Moving at the pace of funeral doom, it oozes long wretched chords and slow moaning melodies, topped by the incinerating intensity of the vocalists’ throat-ripping agonies. The song itself grows more intense in its atmosphere of desolation as it approaches the end, and it also becomes even more spellbinding as the guitarist’s bleak but soulful lead seeps ever further under the skin.
Diplegia are projecting the release of Abject Failure for the autumn of this year; the singles are available for download now.
Vocals that would raise the hackles on the most fearsome mastiff; vibrant (and gloomy) riffing; a galloping drum propulsion; a vibrantly bubbling bass performance. All the fundamentals to elevate your pulse are firmly in place on this next song — but it’s the penetrating lead guitar melodies and soloing that leap out from the rush, soaring or slithering like serpents, that popped my eyes wide open.
The name of this grim and glorious song is “Abandoned Forgotten“, and it comes from Epic Sagas, the new album by the L.A.-based black metal band Ritual. This band released their debut album The Summoning way back in 1995, split up in the late ’90s, re-formed in 2011 to record and release their second album, The Resurrection, and after seven years are now readying the release of this third one.
The album is available for pre-order now and is set for release on July 7, although that date is subject to change.
(Thanks to Miloš for linking me to this track.)
To conclude, I’m bringing you the purity of evil, the paradise of pain, a “Blood Offering” by the terrifying Temple Desecration.
The song is tremendously explosive, stunningly savage, and tyrannically imperious. When the drums boom, it sounds like megaton bombs going off. The riffing is a racing blur of blood-lusting, eviscerating viciousness and arrogant, neck-chopping ax-blows. The vocals are utterly unhinged.
What a crushing and chaotic maelstrom this is, but one that also has the aroma of occult ritual wafting around its slaughtering assaults.
“Blood Offering” comes from this Polish band’s debut album, aptly named Whirlwinds of Fathomless Chaos, which will be released on CD and LP by Iron Bonehead Productions on July 13th. There will be no pre-orders, so circle the date on your calendars.