I’m well aware that a lot of black metal fans out there are hard to please when it comes to new releases. Some of them, yawning or rolling their eyes, find most current black metal bands too slavishly devoted to what has been done before, re-treading riffs and blasts and particular approaches to production rather than attempting or succeeding in creating music that sounds genuinely creative. Others, gnashing their teeth or choking on their own disgust, find a lot of bands unworthy of the name “black metal”, bastardizing the music to the point of fracturing it or acting the part of charlatans without true spirit or devotion.
I, on the other hand, find it very difficult to compile these Sunday posts because every week I have more to like than I have time to write about what I’ve enjoyed. I have this same problem in other genres of metal. Maybe my tastes are too catholic (small “c”), maybe I’m not sufficiently discerning or demanding. At least I can’t legitimately be accused of dishonesty — I truly like the music I recommend to you. And I try to provide variety in these posts because I’m well aware it won’t all appeal to everyone. If you make only one new discovery that you think is worth your time, then it will have been worth my time. And if not, there’s always next week….
In April we had the good fortune to premiere the first single from In Signo Draconis, the new EP by the black metal band CON. And now, within the last 24 hours, CON has revealed a second song from the EP, the name of which is “Naamah“.
For those who missed the previous premiere, CON is a project started by Swedish musician Pontus Norman in 2009. The band’s name consists of the first three letters of the Latin word Conscindo, which means “To tear into pieces”, and we’re told that in this context it is intended as a representation of the command “To tear the earth into pieces”. A demo whose sound was consistent with that edict appeared long ago, but now, roughly a decade later, we have this new EP, which will be released by Dumah and Clandestine Faith.
Launched by ear-scouring abrasion and the sound of a bestial voice, “Namaah” rocks with extreme menace, its jolting riffs deep and dark and the vocals a ferocious and throat-cutting expulsion of cold fire. The song gets its hooks in the head damned fast — the riffs and rhythms will get your head moving hard, while the leads give off a feeling of rising infernal menace. The song’s back half reveals a beguiling change — an imaginative combination of syncopated percussion, darting notes, and a sinuous, seductive solo that together prove to be just as quickly addictive as what came before, though more sorcerous in its atmosphere.
For those who may become curious about the evolution of this project and the interests and experiences of its creator, I recommend this October 2017 interview. In that interview, Pontus Norman explains that on this new album, Jimmie Oloausson played the drums and Master of Her Temple performed the vocals. The band also now includes Steven Santos (whose activities include the Clandestine Faith record label) as lead guitarist.
For more info about In Signo Draconis as it becomes available, check these links:
“To Brave the Storm” is the next song I’ve chosen for today’s collection. It’s the first advance track from In Lands Thought Lost, the third album by Paths from Victoria, BC. On this new album, Panopticon’s Austin Lunn was the session drummer, and his performance is one of the reasons I found the song so appealing, though of course most of the credit belongs to Path’s sole songwriter, vocalist, and principal musician Michael Taylor.
There’s arresting power in the sound of the music from the very beginning, and something both mystical and soulful in the soaring melodies that sweep over the thunder and tumble of the drumming, like northern lights cascading across high crags and tall timber. There’s also an atmosphere of tension and torment in the music that periodically torques the intensity in alternation with those more gliding and gleaming melancholy movements, and searing anguish (or perhaps fury) in Taylor’s scalding vocals. And so the song succeeds in becoming beautiful as well as physically arresting, emotionally evocative as well as capable of sending your imagination off into flights of its own.
In Lands Thought Lost will be released this spring by Bindrune Recordings on vinyl (first) and CD (later) release this spring; there’s no release date or pre-order info just yet. Credit for the cover art goes to Sólfjall Design.
If you don’t know about the Pacific Northwest label Vrasubatlat, get yourself over here and learn more from our guest Kaptain Carbon’s latest post about the label’s releases. One of the members of the Vrasubatlat circle is the Portland (Oregon) band Utzalu, whose principal creator is also a member of Ash Borer, Adzalaan, and Triumvir Foul (among other groups), and Utzalu’s new release is Idiot Hell.
This second Utzalu album (as accurately described by the label) represents a return “to the much more punk-based roots of the project”, showcasing “the primal destruction in one of the more simplistic conduits of the roster”. The album was made available digitally last week, along with a tape pre-order that’s already sold out, and so rather than devote time to some kind of more thorough review I’ve simply picked one track that I hope will induce you to explore further.
“Monument” appears third in the running order. It’s night-dark and venomous, heavy and abrasive, and a huge, stripped-down head-mover, too. The vocals are absolutely livid in their ear-shredding ugliness and in their display of what sounds like unhinged disgust. I defy you to sit still while you listen to this (or just about anything else on this album).
I paired this next song and the one that follows it for reasons that should become obvious once you’ve heard them. The first of these is “Alone in the Empty Space” by the Ukrainian band Dis Orcus, off their appropriately named debut album Somnambulistic Visions.
This new song is yet another head-mover in this collection — but it’s atmosphere is so creepy, so cold, so stricken with a feeling of encroaching horror, that it shivers the skin as well as provoking head movement. There’s a spectral, supernatural quality to the high, darting and drifting tones which accompanying the caustic, serrated-edge vocals and the neck-snapping snare beats and thrumming bass. To get the full effect, play it loud, and in as dark a space as you can find.
Somnambulistic Visions will be released on July 27th by the Forever Plagued label. In addition to the stream of “Alone in the Empty Space”, I’ve included a medley of tracks across the range of the whole album.
Not long ago we reviewed and premiered a superb new sampler of tracks from releases by the Colorado label Death Portal Studio. One band on the Death Portal roster whose music was not on that sampler is Meschech, whose album Tempest was released on June 15th.
I haven’t found much info about Meshech and haven’t spent enough time with Tempest to attempt a thorough review, and because I fear I won’t find enough time to do that later, I’m again just picking out one track to feature, one that may induce you to investigate the album for yourself.
“Death Has No Shadow” is the one I’ve selected. There’s a chilling, haunted feeling to the darting notes in the song’s opening, and the feeling of dread only grows stronger as the drums kick in and the deep hum of the riffing begins to drive the music. Eventually, the melody begins to glide up and out as the song’s intensity increases, and a swirling, swarming lead magnifies both the song’s vibrancy and its feeling of unease. A primal energy flows through the track, but the music is hallucinatory and nightmarish as well — which is an intriguing combination.
And that track isn’t an outlier — the whole album is intriguing (and scary).