My whirlwind trip to New Mexico is about to end, with a pair of long flights that will get me back to Seattle looming ahead today. I found a little time last night and this morning to sample some of the new black and blackened metal that has surfaced in recent days, and picked three new tracks to recommend. All of them are from forthcoming albums I’ve been eagerly awaiting. And at the last minute, I added an EP originally released in May, but more recently made available on Bandcamp.
Vanitas Vanitatvm is the name of the new album by the German band Helrunar. September 28th is the date selected by Prophecy Productions for its release, roughly three and a half years following the excellent Niederkunfft.
Stylistically, frontman M.D. places it between Niederkunfft and that album’s predecessor, the massive Sól. He says: “The songs are more compact and mature, also mostly faster, and again, more black metal. Apart from that, there have been influences you might call nostalgic.”
He further explains the conceptual focus of the album, as suggested by its title:
“We address different forms of vanity and narcissism, which are rampant in our age, to reveal their psychological and societal origins and consequences. Both traits are contrasted by death and corruption to show their inanity.”
I’ve barely begun making my way through this new work, though what I’ve heard so far is damned exciting. That’s certainly true of the first advance track, “In Eis und Nacht“, which is both heavy as hell and a roiling fireball of chaos.
It thunders and burns, stomps and stalks, jerks and jolts, and is pervaded by a deeply sinister atmosphere. The emotional moods of the melodic currents range from delirious to desolate to sweepingly anguished, and the vocals are fearsomely bestial and barbaric.
A FOREST OF STARS
This idiosyncratic collective from Leeds, who seem to have one foot in Victorian England and one foot in an ever-changing hallucination, are returning with their fifth album, Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes, on September 28th via Prophecy Productions. The artwork for the album consists of photographs of miniature physical models whose construction the band commissioned, built over a period of two years.
This band’s quirky and mercurial musical compositions have always been difficult to characterize in conventional genre terms, and the directions they’ve taken from album to album have been equally difficult to predict. I haven’t yet listened to all of the new one, though the press materials describe it as “a more atmospheric album than its predecessor, 2015’s Beware The Sword You Cannot See” and as one that revisits stylistic features from earlier albums.
The track below, “Precipice Pirouette“, is gloriously extravagant. Over the course of its 10 1/2 minutes it becomes a gripping pageant, narrated by a remarkable voice that seems perpetually perched on the precipice of madness — or pitched all the way over the brink.
The music builds tension to the breaking point, soars to storm-blasted heights of perilous grandeur, segues into a spell-casting acoustic passage (accented by folk fiddling) that’s the stuff of dreams, and rushes the ominous heights again with such passion and power that it threatens to rip the heart from your chest. Prepare to be carried away like a leaf in a gale.
Our Norwegian contributor Gorger (whose absence from our site is starting to worry me) included this Dutch band’s second EP (Brimstone Altar) in one of his Beneath the Radar columns back in the middle of 2016. His typically evocative prose induced me to check to the EP, and it proved to be a worthwhile discovery.
Now the band have a debut album, cleverly entitled Al-Khem-Me, set for release on October 5th by Invictus Productions and featuring serpentine cover art by Adrian Baxter. The first advance track, “Succubus Of The 12th Aether“, was revealed less than a week ago.
As compared to what I recall of Lucifericon’s last work, this new song is a much more “blackened” form of death metal… and it’s absolutely explosive. The intensity of the music is unrelenting, though it changes dramatically, moving between shockingly powerful assaults of unchained violence, all hammering drums and scathing, torrential riffing, and magisterial passages that convey tremendous malignancy and near-apocalyptic levels of oppressive threat. The vocals are equally intense, and brought to mind Sakis from Rotting Christ.
This is both pulse-pounding and mind-warping stuff, and to these ears a big step ahead for this band. Very eager to hear what else they’ve accomplished on this new record.
And now we come to that last-minute addition I mentioned at the outset. I learned of it through an e-mail this morning from our Norwegian ally eiterorm, and found just enough time before leaving for the airport to listen to it once. It comes from the blasphemous German black metal band Sarkrista, whose last album (2017’s Summoners of the Serpents Wrath) I praised here.
The new EP, Under Sentence of Death, was first released in May on 7″ vinyl through Purity Through Fire (still available here), and has now become available on Bandcamp. It consists of the title track and a second song named “As Mountains Disappeared In Fog“.
The title track rocks and rips, its changing rhythms and moods (both frenzied and gloomy) and its fierce vocal assaults augmented by dark, swirling melodies that are emotionally evocative and that get their penetrating hooks lodged in the head very fast.
The second track is also a high-energy piece with changing rhythms, perhaps even more hard-rocking than the first one (my ears detect a bit of post-punk influence too) and perhaps even more bleak in the cast of its deeper moods, but no less magnetic in the appeal of its desolating melodies. There’s also a brighter, chiming guitar lead in this one which emerges in some of the rocking segments that’s highly infectious.
One listen, and I’m buying this without delay.