(While our editor is on vacation this weekend, our ally HGD has generously stepped into the void and gathered the following collection of new black metal to recommend to you.)
The best part of putting together a collection like this one is being able to discover hidden diamonds in the rough, especially those that appear out of the blue with little warning. The atmospheric black metal band Bâ’a is a prime example of this.
The scant details provided to Black Metal Promotion as a part of the upload of their single “Les Terres de Terreur“, seems to indicate that they hail from France, but there is no information about their membership. The band appears disinclined towards the use of social media as well, with no presence on Facebook or Bandcamp, seemingly preferring to let their music speak for them. After listening to this track, it’s not hard to see why.
It’s clear from this single that the band has the knack for writing music that bewitches and beguiles. They choose not to waste any time, diving headfirst into hammering blasts and surging guitars that conjure effervescent melodies.
The band choose to maintain this forward momentum throughout the majority of the track’s duration: The guitars seem determined to ascend higher and higher into the heavens, never stopping for even a moment’s respite. Subtle embellishments such as the presence of a background choir and the use of simple orchestral flourishes add depth and a feeling of warmth, matched by equally impassioned roars that create an air of reverence to the proceedings. With drums that detonate at will, it all adds up to a head-spinning charge into the unknown.
Midway through the song, Bâ’a sense the listener’s struggle to keep up and decide to slow the tempo, letting notes ring out a few seconds longer and allowing the drums to take center stage. It serves as a moment of calm in the midst of what has otherwise been an extravagant reverie. But just as soon as Bâ’a seem to have settled into a groove, they erupt again into another explosion of sound. The drumming rises to a new level of violence as the riffs sharpen to a knife’s edge, propelling the band further into the stratosphere.
“Les Terres de Terreur” is the first of two tracks by Bâ’a to be released as part of a split with Verfallen and Hyrgal (NCS premiered one of the Hyrgal tracks here), which will be released by Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions on October 12th.
Cult of Eibon/Caedes Cruenta
It seems to have become somewhat clichéd these days for those in the know to comment on the lack of attention paid to the Hellenic black metal scene in comparison to its more celebrated Scandinavian counterparts. Many a writer has penned words to such effect, lamenting the relative obscurity in which even the most notable bands from Greece have toiled.
From my vantage point, this seems to have changed over the past few years. The likes of Kawir, Macabre Omen, and Varathron have offered up gems that more than hold their own against the best that Norway and Sweden have to offer, and newer acts such as Archemoron and Yovel continue to show that the fire at the heart of the Hellenic sound continues to burn as brightly as ever.
If further evidence of this is required, look no further than the recent split between Cult of Eibon and Caedes Cruenta, The Wizard of Yaddith/The Sleeper of R’lyeh, which is scheduled to be released by Blood Harvest on September 28.
“The Wizard of Yaddith”, starts off with a beautiful acoustic intro before dropping into a martial rhythm, accompanied by a short guitar solo. From there the music only increases in bombast: The band push the tempo while the guitars play off of each other, conjuring the sort of heroic melodies and guitar acrobatics that have come to define the Hellenic sound.
All of this is only enhanced by the spectral keys and throat-shredding vocals that permeate the track, as well as the bass, which is audible throughout the song but gets its moment to truly shine near the end, adding the sort of heft that helps to ground the music while also enhancing its grandeur.
Caedes Cruenta decide to spend the last few minutes of “The Wizard of Yaddith” delivering a final heroic guitar solo, juxtaposed against the sound of what I imagine to be an army trying to force open a large gate. It’s not surprising to hear them launch into one final assault shortly thereafter.
Not to be outdone, Cult of Eibon provide a masterful offering of their own with “The Sleeper of R’lyeh”. The song starts with a combination of ghostly keys, martial riffing, and pounding drums before moving into a mid-paced stomp, being accompanied by some truly hellish vocals and accentuated by bursts of rapid-fire drumming. This continues for a few minutes before the band shift into overdrive, drums blasting away as the pace becomes frenetic and the vocals even more frenzied. From there the song moves into epic territory, the ghostly keys returning to usher in an unearthly atmosphere.
Cult of Eibon cap things off with a demonic vocal call-and-response, with spoken word being answered by agonized screams that only increase in intensity as they near the end. “The Sleeper of R’lyeh” more than lives up to its namesake, conjuring a Lovecraftian aura and focusing it through the lens of Hellenic black metal.
The Wizard of Yaddith/The Sleeper of R’lyeh:
Cult of Eibon:
The Netherlands has recently become an even more fertile scene when it comes to black metal, twisting the genre into newer and more unpredictable forms. Some of the greatest contributions to this evolution have come from members of the collective known as Haeresis Noviomagi. Affiliated bands such as Turia, Solar Temple, and Lubbert Das seem to specialize in crafting a lengthy, transcendental, and hypnotic brand of atmospheric black metal that could’ve originated from nowhere else.
Iskandr is the brainchild of O, a member of all of the aforementioned groups. Iskandr’s second album, Euprosopon, will be released on September 28 through Eisenwald (for the LP and CD) and Haeresis Noviomagi (on tape). This week saw the premiere of the first track, “Regnum“, which takes the blueprint laid out by O’s other projects and refashions it into a new shape.
The first half of the song could best be described as a musical fever dream. The warped, demented riffs that manifest themselves at the beginning are both unsettling and bewitching, accompanied by lunatic howls that chill to the bone. The guitars careen from one end of the spectrum to the other, threatening to fly off the rails entirely. It’s only the rhythm section, composed of hefty bass work and drumming that are both unrelenting and trance-inducing, that hold them in check.
This lasts until the introduction of deep, resonant clean vocals that mark a definite shift in the track’s nature. The guitars and drums begin a march in unison as the howls from the beginning meld together with solemn cleans. The song takes on a triumphant character from here, resembling an extended fanfare rather than the chaotic maelstrom it started as. It continues in this direction until a final tortured howl signals another shift, this time into a subdued, melancholic section driven by acoustic guitars that guide it to its conclusion.
NCS first wrote about this Finnish band back in July, focusing on the first track, “High on Hades”, from their upcoming album Rodentlord, which is set for release through Saturnal Records on October 12. Islander referred to that track as being “filthy, wild, and murderously delicious”. It’s clear from a first listen of this new Rodent Epoch track, “Red Heavens”, which premiered through Black Metal Promotion, that the same could be said of the rest of the album.
In addition, “Red Heavens” shows that Rodent Epoch have more than one weapon in their arsenal and are not afraid to bring them all to bear in order to craft a truly memorable experience. In addition to the black/thrash assault previously showcased, they also seem to have a solid grasp of subtlety, atmosphere, and a penchant for psychedelia that only serves to make their music more unsettling.
“Red Heavens” opens with a short drum solo that fades into a silence marred only by the howling of the wind. This almost-silence feels longer than it actually is, as if the band is sitting there watching you squirm uncomfortably, eyes wandering warily while bracing yourself for whatever lurks in the darkness. It doesn’t take long for them to make their move, and when they do it’s in the form of jagged, serpentine riff that’s accompanied by equally deranged vocals.
Rodent Epoch aren’t the sort of band to sit still for long: Just when you start getting used to what you’re hearing they shift into a much more frenetic gear. It’s at this point that their penchant for atmosphere shows itself, with the introduction of some melodic accents that, when combined with the ever-shifting, skittish drumming, make your skin crawl.
The remainder of the song provides no respite. There is a constant unease that makes it impossible to let your guard down for even a second. The last few minutes of the track are perhaps the most frightening, with the band picking up the pace both instrumentally and vocally while not relinquishing a single bit of the unsettling atmosphere they’ve maintained for so long. Ultimately the song ends as it began, with the howling of wind giving way to another drum section, making you wonder how much time you have until that feeling of unease returns.
Sorcier Des Glaces
The last time we heard from Sorcier des Glaces was back in 2016 when their album North was reviewed by NCS contributor Gorger. Since then the duo of Luc Gaulin and Sébastien Robitaille released a split with Ende but otherwise stayed silent. That silence ended a few weeks ago when they announced that a new album, the self-titled Sorcier des Glaces, would be released on September 15. What’s more, the new album was to consist of a single 50-minute-long track, also self-titled.
It was SdG’s potent blend of primitive black metal and icy atmosphere that drew me in many moons ago, and with the single-track format offering a greater possibility of taking their sound to new heights, I was intrigued to see what they had in store. After a weekend spent experiencing it through multiple listens, I can assert that it was well worth the wait.
Winter as a season is Janus-faced, as deadly as it is beautiful. Sorcier des Glaces have always striven to embody this duality, and the freedom of working within the skeleton of a 50-minute track has allowed them to accentuate both aspects. The first few minutes of the album showcase the beauty of winter, opening with the sound of wind billowing through the trees, accompanied by the strumming of a lone guitar and what sounds like a phantom piano. The instruments are soon joined by choral vocals that conjure up a vision of a long forgotten ice age.
It’s apparent, however, that this calm can’t last forever, and soon we get our first real taste of winter’s fury, with an acoustic bridge leading into a sequence of blood-curdling rasps, razor-sharp guitars, and bone shattering drumming. As if to nod to the unpredictable and ever-changing nature of winter, this assault only lasts a couple of minutes before subsiding into yet another acoustic section paired with the wind’s howls and low, breathy whispers. Just as you start to feel as if the storm has blown over, it returns with even greater force than before.
What I’ve just described happens during just the first ten minutes of the song, and by no means encapsulates the full extent of what Sorcier des Glaces has to offer. You can expect raging blizzards of blackened thrash, frigid, mournful dirges, and fevered auditory hallucinations drawn from the depths of hypothermia. All of this is balanced against moments of beauty that allow for solemn contemplation, and it is this encapsulation of both the wondrous and the terrible that makes the album a truly breathtaking experience.