SHADES OF BLACK (OVERFLOWING STREAMS EDITION): COMMUNION, FEVER, HIMELVARUWE, KOMMANDANT, SANGUINARY TRANCE, SKELETAL SERPENT, THE SPIRIT OF IUVENIUM, TAUR-IM-DUINATH, TETH-NAHASH
I have a lot of black (and “blackened”) metal I’d like to recommend this Sunday. But because of a two-day picnic that Ms. Islander and I are hosting this weekend at the NCS compound for co-workers and other friends, I don’t have time to write much about each song or album that I’ve chosen. So I’m resorting to a thing I’ve done in the context of the SEEN AND HEARD posts during the work week when I’ve been in a similar metal-flooded, time-short situation, which I’ve called OVERFLOWING STREAMS, for obvious reasons.
Here’s a big torrent of music, with fewer words of review than usual, and I hope it’s not so much metal that you’re deterred from investigating for yourselves. I’ve arranged the music in alphabetical order by band name,
In December of last year I posted about a stream of a song called “Witching Thrust” by the Chilean black/death band Communion. It came from their second album, The Communion, which was then set for release by Hells Headbangers on January 26th. The whole album popped up in a Bandcamp alert I received late last week, which might mean that it only recently became available as a digital download. Or maybe it was just a reminder. Either way, I got all fired up again listening to the song “Witching Thrust”.
To repeat what I wrote before: “I’ve become thoroughly enslaved to this song, captivated by the pulsation of its braying chords, its rhythmic barrages, its rabid growls and frenzied barks, its blistering (and virally infectious) riffs, its brilliantly berserk soloing, its completely electrifying energy. In short, it’s a piece of heavy metal gold.”
And if you haven’t heard the rest of the album, it’s gold, too.
On the first day of this month, in another one of these SOB columns, I included the debut self-titled EP of a St. Louis band named Fever, which was released on June 18. I characterized it as “an orgy of violence”: “Based on the music, Fever seems too tame a name. ‘Blast Furnace’ might be closer to the mark, but would still be somewhat understated. Basically, this is like riding an electric chair while getting strafed with napalm and blasted by automatic weaponry as a pack of howling werewolves fight to see which one gets to sink its fangs in your throat first.”
Two days ago a new Fever track popped up on Bandcamp, described as follows: “Unmixed album sample/preview with Scott Brison on lead.” The track’s name is “Blaspheme“, and it’s hot as hell. Everything I wrote before applies here. This band definitely have my number. Very happy to see that Fever’s work on an album is progressing.
And for the third band in a row, I’m revisiting a band that really grabbed me earlier this year. In May I reviewed the new EP by Himelvaruwe (even though I realized today that I misspelled the band’s name in that previous post), which is a one-person project based in the Netherlands (Utrecht). That EP was named Het onkenbare, a single 20-minute piece that I found remarkable. It managed to combine a feeling of solemnity and reverence with sensations of harrowing violence. As I wrote then, it “seems to place the listener within a gothic cathedral… And then the cathedral seems to go up in flames.”
Himelvaruwe’s latest release is a six-track EP entitled Hemelpoort, which appeared via Bandcamp on July 28. I’ve barely scratched the surface on this new offering of mystical black metal due to the events described at the outset of this post, but the sense of awe I experienced in listening to this project’s last one is already beginning to build.
(Thank you Miloš for linking me to this, as you did the earlier release by this project — and since I bought the last one, Bandcamp helpfully alerted me to this new one as well.)
The Chicago band Kommandant will be returning with their fourth album, Blood Eel, on September 1st via ATMF. ATMF makes references to something like a conjoining of the ferocity of Marduk and “the purity and apparent starlit calm of the cosmos, with something breeding on the background ready to explode”.
There is indeed an ominous feeling of something nasty breeding in the void which comes through in the title track. It’s an exercise in cold cruelty and oppressiveness — the music builds an uncomfortable tension, and never provides relief.
Wine, Song and Sacrifice is the debut EP of this Austrian black metal band — consisting of one very long song and two comparatively shorter ones. It came out in mid-June and I’ve been intending to say something about it for weeks — and should be saying more than I’m able to do now.
I hear strains of medieval music in the solemn but seething grandeur of the title track, which grows both increasingly mystical and increasingly savage as it unfolds, and the multi-faceted vocals are harrowing enough to raise goosebumps on the skin. The atmosphere of ancient music also ranges through the two shorter tracks (as I here them). “Carvings” is more delirious and deranged, though it soars. “The Dionysius Whip” proves to be crazed as well, though more surprising — an orgiastic, dissonant, and hauntingly eerie kind of riveting musical bacchanal (definitely do not stop before you hear it).
“Death doom from London” is the notation for the new self-titled EP by Skeletal Serpent that you’ll find on the Bandcamp page for the EP, and the song below is indeed more in the vein of death metal than black metal, but I think it fits the aesthetic of these SHADES OF BLACK columns anyway. The EP will be released by the UK label Blackened Death Records on August 6th.
“Skeletal Remains” (the only one of the EP’s three tracks now streaming) is a gruesome, poisonous beast, a bleak and heavy piece of ugliness that includes a boiling toxicity in its sound. The “clicky” nature of the programmed drums (whose changing rhythms are well-constructed) clashes a bit with the rest of the sound, but that’s a modest criticism about a track that’s otherwise convincingly grim, nasty, and dynamic.
THE SPIRIT OF IUVENIUM
I found the next two advance tracks, both of which will appear on the new album by The Spirit of Iluvenium, to be chilling and hypnotic. I don’t think I’ll soon forget the cover photograph either — it’s as haunting and dolorous as the music. The releasing label refers to the music as “darkwave”, a combination of sounds and sensations “that occupies a space somewhere between dungeon synth and gothic dark ambient.” The abrasive vocals, on the other hand, are pure bestial demonism.
Bequeath Thy Grievous Loss will be released by the California label Pacific Threnodies on August 31st. The band appears to be the solo project of Illinois musician Lord Conifer (Acheulean Forests, Goatswarth, Trollkjerring).
“Così Parlò il Tuono” is the first single from the upcoming album Del Flusso Eterno by the Italian one-person atmospheric black metal band Taur-Im-Duinath. The band’s Facebook page explains: “‘Taur-Im-Duinath‘ (Forest between Rivers in Sindarin), is a great, old, unexplored forest in Tolkien’s imaginary. The intent of this project is to reflect, symbolically, the feelings and images of a journey in wooden realms, both inwardly and outwardly.” As for the song, the band explains:
“Così Parlò il Tuono (Thus Spake the Thunder) represents the broken circle, the stasis, a void of life as well as a journey through a desertic land no more kissed by rain. The voice of Thunder is the promise of the waters return, and the life it generates. It is the voice of the creator God, warning the wanderer: Give, compassion, control.”
Those with a taste for fierce, forest-born atmospheric black metal with fiery currents of anguished melody and wrenchingly anguished vocals will warm quickly to this emotionally powerful track. The guitar solo in the middle and the rising tide of sonorous grief that follows it are especially transfixing.
Del Flusso Eterno will be released at some point this fall by the Dusktone label.
To conclude, I’ve chosen an EP with the title Ι. Α. Ω that was released in May of 2017. It was created by Tahazu (guitarist, from Wisconsin) and Tzel (vocals/lyrics,drums, from Missouri) under the name Teth-Nahash. They describe what they’ve done in these vivid words: “A collaboration of unsound sonance, juxtaposing — and conjoining — music and non-music, cultivating a harsh and unforgiving atmosphere meant for the schizophrenic, the mad, and the depraved.”
I learned about the EP from Rennie (starkweather), who exclaimed in his message: “holy fucking hell. completely abrasive, zero bottom end… think Jute Gyte gone war metal. Microtonal madness, whacked out drum patterns, bestial vocals.” And the EP is indeed a mind-bending, brain-flaying experience, an experimental high-wire act without a net that manages that rare feat of becoming both hypnotic and mercilessly unnerving.
Going through these is how I spent most of my afternoon off work. Many thanks. Fever, Sanguinary Trance, and Teth-Nahash were particularly good.
Bravo for devoting so much time to this mountain of music.