There’s a reason why I chose SHADES OF BLACK as the title of this series many years ago, instead of something like BLACK METAL. It avoids debates about whether the music I choose to highlight is or isn’t that thing, and allows me to roam a bit more widely than I would even if I were just applying my own definition of what belongs in the genre, which in itself would still take us well beyond whirring guitars, blasting drums, and scalding shrieks. It allows me to choose the following collection of excellent new music without thinking too hard about it.
In 2013 the vaunted Australian band Temple Nightside released their debut album, Condemnation. They’ve released one other album since then (along with a couple of splits), in the shape of 2016’s The Hecatomb. Now, rather than releasing a full-length of entirely new material, they’ve re-recorded their debut album — although “re-imagined” is a better word for what they seem to have done. It makes sense that they would also commission new cover art, and they enlisted the abundant talents of Elijah Tamu for that.
The first reveal from Recondemnation is the new recording of “Exhumation; Miseries Upon Imprecation“. If you’d like to scare the shit out of yourself by first listening to the original of the song, go here to do that.
The new version, slightly longer, is also a frightening experience. The vocals in particular are no less blood-freezing, though more sepulchral and cavernous in their tone, and the music still channels the sensation of descending into a gaping, lightless maw of death with no end. But the new version is infiltrated with the febrile and spectral emanations of a lead guitar that add further dimensions to the horror, and there are some variations in the drumming as well.
Not a radical change from the original in the case of this song, but still an early sign that the new album will be worth having, even for those of us who own Condemnation.
Recondemnation will be released by Iron Bonehead Productions on November 1st (CD and vinyl). The timing coincides with the Never Surrender Festival set to take place in Berlin on November 1-3, at which Temple Nightside will be giving an exclusive performance.
Roughly five years have passed since this long-running and musically evolving Norwegian group released their last album, and 2018 marks their 25th anniversary as a band. One might expect a new record to celebrate the occasion, and that’s what we will have. Their new one, the eighth full-length, is named Heathen and will be released on October 12 by Dark Essence Records. It was produced by Herbrand Larsen (ex-Enslaved).
Aeternus crossed over the boundaries of black and death metal a long time ago, now branded with the purposefully amorphous term “dark metal” rather than some long genre-descrptor loaded with hyphens. We’re also at the point (well past it, actually) when we can no longer predict what an entire Aeternus album will sound like based on a single song, but a single song is what we have now, as of late last week.
Ares and his bandmates, Phobos (Gravdal, Gorgoroth live) on drums and Eld (Krakow) on bass, have crafted a seven-track work, and the one you can here now is “The Sword of Retribution“, which comes second in Heathen’s running order. The music twists and turns, stops and starts, and the drum rhythms move from stately rocking to animated rushes and back again. While Ares expels the lyrics in a cruel, throaty growl, and the bass bubbles like a sorcerer’s cauldron, the haunting riffs themselves create a sensation of bleak, dreamlike sorcery.
Forgive me for doing what I sometimes do when I’m too hurried — picking one song to highlight from an entire album that deserves a more thorough review. In this case, the album is the powerful Manes Impetus by the Berlin band Essenz, and it was released by Amor Fati Productions just two days ago, a long six years after the band’s last album. However, because I’m not attempting a complete review, I think I’ll make an exception to my rule against just copy/pasting press material, particularly because this evocative excerpt from the label’s press release for Manes Impetus seems spot-on to me:
“ESSENZ is a purposeful sonic ether, a decomposition of the physical that transcends the mind through floating acoustic elements. With contrasting, decelerated phrases, bursts of transformation are drowned in ecstatic adrenalin. ESSENZ is the invocation of a metamorphosis, a stimulation of remote realms of the psyche that dwells on the borders of musical extremes and opens the gate to a deeper level. ESSENZ play Extreme Metal with hints of Black, Death and Doom Metal infused with Ambient and Noise phrases.”
The song I’ve chosen as a way of tempting you to listen to the album as a whole is “Peeled & Released“. All of the tracks are substantial in length, but this is one of two that tops 11 minutes, and it happens to be the opening track. Essenz make excellent use of the time. They get the listener’s blood pumping hard, while simultaneously chilling the mind through the introduction of terrifyingly malignant vocals and vicious, unearthly riffs. When the frantic drum propulsion slows, the music becomes ominous and magisterial, deepening the song’s feeling of dread (and getting your head moving in a slow lurch, too). Lost spirits seem to swirl about during this grim interlude.
When the song surges again, rocking riffs and flurries of attention-grabbing drumwork spike the listener’s pulse-rate once more. The song drives to a boil, the vocals morphing into other forms of frightfulness, but the music becomes powerfully electrifying without sacrificing the atmosphere of otherworldly hostility and perilous gloom.
By no means stop here — the whole album is an impressive and dynamic accomplishment that should not be missed.
Tehoa is a black metal band based in Västerås, Sweden. Beyond the point that one or more of its members are women, who seem to have been involved in other projects before this one, I don’t yet know anything about them. Their first album, T.E.H.O.A., will be released at some so-far-unidentified future date, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for it based on the first advance track that appeared earlier this month, “The Eleventh Head of Awakening“.
The song takes off immediately, combining light-speed drumming, gargantuan, inhuman vocals, and searing, luminous riffs that soar in flights of infernal magnificence. Flickering guitar leads add a feeling of lunatic zealotry to this vaulting assault on the senses. The music burns relentlessly, and carries you high into the night sky like sparks from a bonfire, even as the vocals go lower in a kind of occult chanting.
A magnificently magnetic track that ends too soon even at more than six minutes… I would have been happy to continue flying for minutes more.
1. Glory of the Left Hand
2. Submerged in Unconscious Desire
3. The Eleventh Head of Awakening
4. The Yawning Void
5. Utmost Devotion
6. Utmost Devotion PT II
Tehoa on Facebook:
To close today’s collection I’ve chosen two singles by a New Jersey duo who call themselves Bleeder. Both were released this summer (“Self Immolation” in July, and “Tormentum” on August 3rd), and they seem to be the total recorded output of the group so far. As in the case of Tehoa, I don’t know much about Bleeder, in fact nothing more than what I’ve just written — other than this music, which is a very welcome surprise.
“Depressive black metal” might be the simplest way to describe the music, but that would be too simple, since it includes ingredients of crust and post-rock as well.
The riffs have a rough, raw tone; the shrieking vocals are torturous enough to lacerate the flesh; and the music convincingly conveys feelings of hopelessness and pain. Shrouded in gloom but also hallucinatory in its atmosphere, “Tormentum” builds in agony, the tension tightening to the point that you feel the sense of a mind coming apart. “Self Immolation“, on the other hand, is full of frenzied, hammering, heart-wrecking agony from the start, but becomes beautifully somber as the guitar soars and a slow, beguiling piano melody enters the song, backed by a sound that seems a cross between strings and a horn. The slow, organ-like vibrations of a keyboard at the end again pull the music away from black metal, resurrecting a haunted feeling of grief.
These two tracks make for a very promising start for Bleeder, both of them managing to create penetrating moods in very short order, and both of them pleasingly dynamic in the way they’ve been written.