SHADES OF BLACK (PART 2): SVARTKONST, CROWS OVER BRÁVELLIR, WALSUNG, BLUTFAHNE, TATANHAMMER, WITCH KING
The four bands whose music I collected in Part 1 of this post don’t really sound alike, but I found all of the music explosive and emotionally intense, and that had something to do with why I packaged their music together in that opening installment. There’s probably even less connective tissue between the songs in this second installment, and I’m not sure I’ve even succeeded in organizing them in a way that would make for any kind of appealing flow from one to the next. But I really do like everything here a lot… a WHOLE LOT.
Devil’s Blood, released on June 29th, is the debut album of the one-man blackened death metal band Svartkonst, the work of Swedish musician Rickard Törnqvist, who mixed and mastered it as well as composing and performing all the music. It hooked me immediately with the opening track “Black Light Burning“, and I stayed hooked for the next nine tracks.
The songs mix together episodes of scathing black metal barbarism and powerfully head-moving infernal rock, with livid, butcher-knife vocal ferocity. And so, within almost every song you get doses of blasting drums and flensing riffery as well as gut-punching percussive rhythms and hugely addictive hammering and jabbing chords that are made for headbanging, all of it shrouded in greater and lesser degrees of occult atmosphere.
On top of that, Törnqvist has a knack for threading these tracks with strains of eerie yet often grand melody, and for slowing the full-throttle rushes in order to introduce passages of ominous gloom or cutting loose in eruptions of near-maniacal frenzy — and the album’s closing track is a moody but anthemic ballad that’s utterly mesmerizing (and entirely instrumental).
There’s impressive song-writing and instrumental skill abundantly on display here, and a lot of vibrant power in the sound. You will also get your money’s worth, because this is one of those “all killer, no filler” albums that interweaves a lot of heavy metal musical ingredients besides black and death metal (as well as a bit of swampy Southern rock). But if you want a single track to use as a test of the album’s appeal, I’d suggest one that happens to be the longest — “Merciless Death” — and if you really want a taste of the span of Svartkonst‘s talents, follow that with the opening and closing tracks. Or just be smart and listen to the whole thing.
CROWS OVER BRÁVELLIR
Crows Over Brávellir is a Swedish project whose aim, in their words, is “to work in the realm of Doom- Black- and Heavy Metal, while also adding influences of traditional Scandinavian folk music as well as psychedelic and heavy progressive rock”. They’ve recently made a digital release of a two-track digital single, which will be released on red and black vinyl by Dawnbreed Records on August 1st.
Those two tracks, “Spells of the Dead” and “Into Kingly Death“, prove the accuracy of that description. They rock more than they race and blast, anchored by a big, gravel-throated bass that makes the music sound especially visceral and dirty, and by a deft drum performance that does a fine job connecting with your motor reflexes. The riffs and the leads in the songs are also wonderful (and wonderfully varied in their tone) — the carnal appeal of the hooks is undeniable, but the music also succeeds in creating a sinister and hallucinatory feeling. The impassioned vocals aren’t standard fare either. They usually sit somewhere between a throaty bellow and a roar, and at times they made me think of Primordial’s Nemtheanga, especially in the long second track.
Both songs are great, but “Into Kingly Death” is goddamned epic (as well as epic-length).
WALSUNG / BLUTFAHNE SPLIT
Last December the Brazilian pagan black metal band Walsung and the Ukrainian black metal band Blutfahne released (through Barbatos Productions) a 7″ vinyl split named Path of the Dead Forest that I thought was quite good, but failed to write about it. Now, the same two bands have another split named Transcendental Creation that’s being released on CD this month by Hammer of Damnation.
This new one apparently consists of nine previously unreleased songs, but I can only find two of them streaming, in a single YouTube clip. “Spectral Renovation” alternately blasts and rocks, the lycanthropic vocals coming for your throat with teeth bared, and the bleak melodies are very appealing, with a kind of moody grandeur in their feeling. The second track, “Fatherland“, meshes quite well with the first, with a mainly mid-paced, rocking gait and an equally affecting and equally bleak melody — and vocals that are throat-slashing in their intensity. A spectral gloom descends as the song nears the end….
The Art of Human Sacrifice is the debut album of the Finnish band Tatanhammer. It was digitally released on July 10th, and a cassette edition is coming on October 31st via the Finnish label Abandon Tapes.
The Bandcamp stream for the digital release is set to begin streaming with the fifth track (“The One”), and having heard the first track I can understand why, because that opener is scary as shit! Actually, most of the songs are scary as shit, though not quite as likely to fracture your sanity in the first minute or two.
It took a little time for the music to grow on me, because it’s deeply disturbing. It has a thick, corrosively abrasive, innately toxic sound, and the vocals are utterly grotesque (usually a monstrous roar, sometimes a crazed shrieking, sometimes a crocodilian croaking sound, sometimes a lunatic wail). In its slower movements, the music lurches and stalks like some giant horror inexorably coming for you through the claustrophobic passageways of a stinking catacombs. In its faster thrashing movements, the music’s blind ferocity is near-petrifying.
Ghostly warbling tones ring out over a ritual drum rhythm during “At the Alter – Morning” in a way that chills the blood; long groaning chords display a kind of gruesome eminence during “Faces”; “The One” begins with possibly the most-drawn-out gagging growl I’ve ever heard and then proceeds to drag you slowly into the depths of a mass grave, even if your head bobs as you go, especially when the band segue into a ghoulish, rocking cadence; the snapping snare patterns and lunatic soloing in “Backbone of the Veal” are both unnerving and electrifying; and I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say, there are actually plenty of jolts and surprises all the way through the record, most of them unpleasant.
This definitely won’t be for everyone, and you’ll figure out pretty quickly whether it’s your cup of poison or not. I’ve found myself becoming strangely addicted to it, and with a growing admiration for the band’s zealous dedication to their horrifying conceptions (and their skill at bringing them to life).
If you made it even part-way through that Tatanhammer album, it occurred to me that you might need to be jolted out of your nightmarish reveries. And this final song, “Savage Conquest Upon Holy Lands“, will sure as fuck do that. There’s no warning and no time for a breath — it charges ahead like a massive, merciless demolition machine right from the start, a boiling storm of vicious, heavily distorted riffs, gut-liquifying double-bass pummeling, and horrific guttural roars.
No kidding, this thing will maul you so savagely that there won’t be enough of you left to beg for mercy. On the other hand, there are some brutal grooves and head-moving chords in this storm, and you gotta love the blazing-fast snare-drum eruptions, which jump out of the general murkiness of the sound like firecrackers.
“Savage Conquest Upon Holy Lands” comes from Voice of the Ossuary, the debut album of the Rhode Island black/death band Witch King, who’ve been active for ten years (with their names on a lot of splits and shorter releases), despite this being their full-length debut. It will be released on September 14th by Blood Harvest and Helter Skelter Productions (CD, vinyl, and cassette tape).
Svartkonst is awesome, that Witch King song is really good, too. Looking forward to hearing the whole album.
Nice to see your name pop up, and glad you found some things to like from this round-up.
It’s good to be back. I kind of fell out of listening to new metal for a while, but I went through some shit last year, and one of the things I’m trying to do to recover is get back into it.
Sorry about all the shit… and welcome back!
\m/ \m/ \m/
Holy shit that Svartkonst is massive to me. Fully badass! Instant buy, thanks for the heads up.
Very happy that you’re enjoying it so much. It’s a huge and very welcome surprise.