Unlike most of the music I chose for Part 1 of today’s collection, black metal isn’t the dominant ingredient in everything I’ve included in this second Part, though it always plays a role. I’ve segmented these five choices by design, with some connections I hear between the first two, and some different connections between the last two, and some HelCarpathian Black Metal in the middle.
Ulthar‘s 2016 debut demo made quite a vivid impression on me, which I likened to “the musical equivalent of rabid wolves in a feeding frenzy”. Of that demo I further wrote: “The focal core of Ulthar’s music is corrosive, distorted, head-ramming, d-beat crust, but they spread out from there, incorporating bestial death bellows and deranged shrieking along with massive, spine-shattering chugs, violent blackened riff swarms, and melodically dismal and alien slower passages”.
Now this experienced Oakland trio — Shelby Lermo (Vastum, Extremity), Justin Ennis (Void Omnia, Ruine, ex-Mutilation Rites, ex-Tombs), and Steve Peacock (Mastery, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis) — have recorded a debut album named Cosmovore, which includes eye-catching cover art by famed UK illustrator Ian Miller.
The album’s newly revealed title track displays many of the same ingredients I attempted to describe in the review of their demo, a mix of searing shrieks and deathly roars, a combination of blasting and d-beat (and skull-snapping drum gallops), vicious tremolo flurries, murderous fanfare chords, and dissonant, boiling leads. It also includes a gruesome slower segment that slithers and lurches, and an eerie finale.
There are apparently even more twists and turns lurking elsewhere in the album, witness this excerpt from the PR material: “The album’s middle section, a blinding storm of ghastly black dread, leads into the thirteen-plus-minute closing epic “Dunwich Whore” where the ULTHAR universe becomes all-consuming with proggy synth bookends, vertiginous tempo variation, grinding technical violence, and thrashed madness”.
Cosmovore will be released by 20 Buck Spin on November 9th. The label recommends it for fans of Absu, Immortal, early Atrocity, early Pestilence, Demilich, Morbid Angel, Gorguts, and labelmates Tomb Mold.
Ancst will be a familiar name to our regular readers, since we’ve been paying close attention to this Berlin-based collective for quite some time. Most recently, we published Andy Synn‘s review of their second album, Ghosts of the Timeless Void, released this past spring, in which he praised their delivery of a “fiercely aggressive, socio-political message through an unbounded medium of chugging riffs, rampaging tremolo runs, and tumultuous percussion which draws from multiple sources and sub-genres without being overly beholden to any one particular style”.
The band’s molten amalgam of punk and hardcore, black metal and crust, is on display again through a new four-song EP named Abolitionist, which will be released on November 16th, just in time for a tour with Dawn Ray’d. The first track released from the EP is a cycle of viciousness named “vicious cycle“.
The song barely tops three minutes, but it’s three minutes of battering, seething savagery, complete with wild-eyed vocal fury. The intensity is incendiary, broken only by a brief slow-down in which the rage in the music turns to bone-breaking gloom.
Abolitionist will be released in different vinyl editions and on CD, with the CD edition including three additional songs taken from the band’s splits with Depravation and King Apathy as a bonus.
Now we come to the HelCarpathian Black Metal I promised, in the form of a new video by the Ukrainian band Kroda.
Kroda‘s most recent studio album is Selbstwelt, released this past spring and reviewed here, but it appears that the band intend to celebrate the dark half of the year with a second release, timed to coincide with the September 23 autumnal equinox. This will be a live video named (of course) HelCarpathian Black Metal.
What you can see and hear below is a video (released on September 12) of the band’s December 2016 performance of “Funeral of the Sun” at Asgardsrei Fest V in Kyiv, Ukraine. It takes no time at all for the flute melody in the song to spear itself in your head, and that beguiling melody is picked up in riveting fashion by the full band. As the band move through their many changing paces in this saga of a song, mounting warlike charges and slowing into episodes of soulful moodiness and wintry reverence, the melody evolves as well but never loses its allure.
As always, the vocals are explosive, and the video, interweaving multiple camera angles, really makes you feel a part of the experience of the performance.
From Kroda, who’ve been a personal favorite for many years, I turn now to a new discovery, a band from Brno in the Czech Republic named Depths Above. I was tempted to listen to the song you can hear below from the band’s debut release, Ex nihilo, based on the amazing cover art, which was created by band member Vama Marga., and I’m damned glad I made that choice.
The thunderous drum-and-bass performance at the outset of “The Descent” dramatically seizes attention immediately, and the rhythm work throughout the song — which is ever-changing — is one of the song’s true strengths. The uber-grim riffs, both drilling and booming, really do make the music feel like a descent into hell, an experience made even more hellish by the demonic sound of the vocals and the poisonous and paranormal tone of the leads, which at times radiate a kind of fanatical ecstasy.
Dissonant chiming notes and haunting, solemn vocals intensify the music’s unearthly atmosphere, and give this oppressive and hopeless descent a mystical edge. “The Descent” is a nightmare transmuted into sorcerous sound, and an absolutely transfixing introduction to the music of Depths Above.
To conclude this super-sized two-part Shades of Black collection I’ve chosen another new entity, a Polish band who call themselves the Polish word for bitterness — Gorycz. The band includes former members of Poland’s Aeon (guitarist Przemek Grabowski and vocalist Tomek Kukliński) and Non Opus Dei (drummer Wojtek Błaszkowski and bassist Krysiek Górski). Their debut album, Piach (which means “sand” and relates to the Polish idiom iść w piach which translates to “bite the dust” in English), will be released on November 2nd by Pagan Records.
The first song revealed from the album in recent days is also named “Gorycz”. Its Polish lyrics speak of barren futures and words turned to ash on dead lips, of unheard prayers and inevitable suffering. The music, presented through a video with utterly desolate imagery that nevertheless proves to be hypnotic, is also desolate and hypnotic. It has a compulsive, though unusual rhythmic propulsion, and although the dissonant chiming notes and deep bass thrums are relatively simple and spare, they very effectively create a chilling, hopeless mood, while the vocals pour out the music’s dismal words with unmistakable (and maniacal) conviction.
I should mention that about two-thirds of the way through the song, the band punch the gas pedal — and punch it to the floor. The mood is no less grim, but it gets the adrenaline pumping in a torrent. And the ending is downright creepy.