I struggle with these picks every week, and resolve the struggle in different ways. Sometimes, when I’ve got the time, I double-up the column so I don’t have to leave out quite as many possibilities. I don’t have that kind of time today. And to make the task harder, a lot of the music I wanted to talk about today turns out to be extra time-consuming — full releases, really long songs, many minutes that don’t lend themselves to pithy introductions.
Days like this I’m reminded that the main value of what we do here is “curation” (to use a pretentious term), i.e., the sifting and sorting of music and the selection of what we find appealing and think might be worth the time of people like you. If the writing itself proves to be entertaining, that’s a bonus. Mainly, we just do that to entertain ourselves. Hopefully, the curation alone will carry the day today — my own words are limited to begin with and kind of tail off into tiny dribbles the further you get into this.
My friend eiterorm found Groza’s new album on Friday, said it was obviously inspired by Mgła, and expressed completely certainty that I would like it, judging from our common tastes in metal. “So make sure this one gets top priority. ;-]”, he wrote. So I did, and my friend was right — this is really good.
Unified In Void is this Bavarian black metal band’s debut album, which was released digitally on September 8th and will be issued on CD and vinyl by AOP Records on November 30th. The music often engulfs the listener in a raging bonfire of ferocious sound, or perhaps more accurately a swirling cyclone of flame that sets all nerves alight and spins you up into the sky. But that electrifying energy (which extends to the explosive force of the vocals) is only part of the music’s appeal, because these songs include great, emotionally intense melodies and the kind of dynamic rhythmic power that shakes you from head to toe.
The dramatic impact of the melodies strikes home even when the band segue from incinerating fury into slower, more desolate or wistful digressions, or into mid-paced, hard-rocking or stomping movements. Darkness shrouds all the many changing phases of these songs, even when the music burns like a brand, and Groza are strikingly adept at working in melodic variations in a way that carries you right along with them as they alter the mood and vibrancy of the music.
And “carried away” is exactly how I feel when listening to this beautifully written, passionately executed, and powerfully produced album. One of the best records I’ve heard this year.
I’m beginning to think more black metal bands are figuring out that Saturdays are pretty good days to write me about their music. The sole creator behind this black metal band from Northern Ireland did that (though it was actually an early Sunday morning hour in Belfast, and an early Saturday evening here). I saw the message after I was close to finishing today’s picks, but I decided to at least check out the first song off Dratna’s just-released second EP, Altar. Obviously, I didn’t stop there.
Ferocity is certainly one hallmark of Altar, thanks to the unhinged, slaughtering quality of the vocals and the impact of the gale-force riffing and frequent hyper-blasting percussive assaults, yet there is stateliness and majesty in the music as well. The sweeping, magisterial quality of the keyboard-enhanced melodies sometimes has a medieval resonance, and sometimes sounds as if we’re being drawn into fantastical, mythic realms where giants reign under the earth or evil spirits cavort in ecstasy, half-seen, behind forest mists.
Dratna also does a fine job embroidering these songs with frequent changes of pace and rhythmic cadence, and with sometimes sharp shifts in mood and intensity. There’s a long repeating sequence in “Silent Frost” that seems expertly geared toward locking your head into a head-nodding fugue state, juxtaposed with orgies of frenzied lunacy, while “Ghost” reveals vistas of haunting and perilous grandeur and the sulphurous, skull-cracking sounds of “Fear” inspire visions of inmates who’ve been given the keys to a lunatic asylum in Hell.
But “Immolation” is my favorite track on this distinctive EP. Start there, and see if it doesn’t hook you for the rest of this unpredictable trip, as it did me.
A FLOCK NAMED MURDER
Here’s another band who sent a timely e-mail yesterday. Once named Sovereign, this Toronto-based trio now call themselves A Flock Named Murder, and honestly, it was that name which first caused me to pay attention. Their references to an amalgam of black metal, post-metal, death metal, and doom, and a list of influences that include Agalloch, Neurosis, Cult Of Luna, Drudkh, The Ruins Of Beverast, and Immolation, further kindled my curiosity. The fact that the cover of their debut album is a painting by Adam Burke removed any lingering hesitancy.
That debut album, An Appointed Time, will be digitally released on October 31st, with physical editions forecast for early next year. The song that’s now up for streaming is “Without Passage“, and it truly is an impressive amalgamation of ingredients. Over more than 9 minutes, it transforms over and over again, interweaving moments that are heavy and haunting, mystical and ritualistic, frenetic and fierce, soaring and exultant.
The music builds an increasingly ominous and unnerving mood and then boils over in an effusion of battering drumwork, febrile bass notes, and writhing riffery, only then to segue into vibrant strummed guitar, a gloriously spiraling solo, and a dose of big, head-moving rhythms and anthemic chords. Tumbling drums and desolate guitar reverberations draw the trip to a downcast close.
After three bands I knew nothing about until the last day or two, I’m turning to an old favorite, and at the same time making a musical course change.
Introvert is the third album by this Norwegian band. Two advance tracks have been released so far, “Undergangens Tankesmed” and “Blodets Varme Gjennom Meg“. Some people have a seemingly instinctive gift for writing riffs, and Slegest’s Ese (ex-Vreid), who I think does everything on this record although Slegest is a full band for live performances, is one of those people.
These songs, like Slegest‘s previous output, are granite-heavy, hard-rocking numbers laced with immediately addictive leads. They’re unmistakably dark and dangerous, and they’ll make your heart swell and your pulse pound like a big piston.
You could probably pair the music with a wide range of good, hard-rock vocalists and they’d still work very well, but I probably wouldn’t listen to them — in part because I’m so tunnel-visioned in my listening habits and in part because Ese‘s harsh vocals — which are damned vicious and ugly — are integral to what make Slegest‘s hybrid of heavy rock and black metal work so well.
Introvert will be released by Dark Essence Records on November 16th.
After those hard-rocking, head-moving, hip-shaking Slegest tracks, I thought I’d make another musical course change — a fairly radical one.
As the latest press release concerning this Seattle trio’s debut album (Permanent Destitution) accurately represents: “HISSING engages in dark, dissonant, cacophonous, inverted death metal drenched in noise” and the music on the album creates “a nihilistic vision of deranged otherworldly auditory pandemonium”.
As proof of that accuracy, listen to the two advance tracks available below — “Eulogy In Squalor” and “It Without More“. Hissing have no interest in taking any prisoners; and they can kill you in different ways — by brutally cleaving your skull into shards and by scaring the hell out of you with the intensity of the labyrinthine, nightmare soundscapes they create.
Permanent Destitution will be released by Profound Lore on October 26th.
Now we’ll turn to another band I knew very little about before hearing this Dutch band’s just-released debut album, Fertile Descent. It consists of two very long tracks, “Those Who Dwell In the Spiral Dark” and “White Jaw“, and I’ve only listened to them once. Based on that one pass, I think it’s worth passing along the words about the album from the releasing label. They refer to the music’s “direct yet swirling black metal impression and unique approach”.
“Like something sinuous at the edge of your vision but not quite perceivable, the two tracks of this album twist and bend with a dizzying ferocity. Pummeling sounds entwined with a distant echo that also feels warm and inviting…. Subtly giving the nod to a wide variety of bands ranging from contemporary dutch black metal to Swans, it weaves a veiled path for the listener”.
These compositions obviously demand a lot of your time, but I think it will be time well spent. Lacking the time to make even a feeble effort to chart their courses, I’ll just say I found myself completely mesmerized.
Fertile Descent is available digitally, and on CD and vinyl, via Haeresis Noviomagi.
FLUISTERAARS / TURIA
To close, I’m following that last Dutch band with two more, both of whom are on my mental list of bands whose every release demands attention, because they always seem to go well beyond what sounds familiar. I’ve written about both before, and now Fluisteraars and Turia have joined forces on a new collaborative split named De Oord, with each band contributing one long track. I’ll share these words from the releasing labels:
“Both hailing from Gelderland, a more densely forested area of the Netherlands, the bands take inspiration from the regions’ history and their natural surroundings. Conceptually, the album deals with the two primary rivers, the Waal and the Rhine, that mark the area around Arnhem and Nijmegen, their respective hometowns. Highlighting the bonds forged between both bands, the record is called De Oord, an old Dutch word designating the area where two rivers meet.
“In keeping with the theme of the two rivers symbolically meeting, the bands recorded and produced their respective sides together simultaneously at Klaverland Studio: a recording studio in a nature reserve, where the Rhine enters the Netherlands, and splits into the Nederrijn and the Waal.
“Both bands display a development of the experimental, psychedelic side of their music. This element has always been present; however, this release provided the opportunity to let it shine brighter than ever. Where Fluisteraars‘ side, entitled ‘Oeverloos‘, offers a majestic dirgelike epos ending in a monumental crescendo, Turia’s track ‘Aan den Golven der Aarde Geofferd‘ takes the listener on a harrowing voyage into the depths beneath.”
Now, as forecast at the outset, I’m sadly out of time and can do more than strongly recommend you experience these two tracks.
De Oord has just been released by Eisenwald on CD and vinyl, and on limited cassette by Haeresis Noviomagi. It’s also available digitally on Bandcamp.