SHADES OF BLACK: ETERNAL KHAN, REALM OF WOLVES, PSICOSFERA, THIRD STORM
This is a long-delayed episode of our usual Sunday column, one that I originally intended to finish writing and post two-and-a-half weeks ago. I won’t bore you with a re-hash of the reasons for the delay. Suffice to say that because it’s late, we’re now dealing with a couple of releases that have been been out for a little while rather than hot off the presses, and a couple more that are on the eve of release. No matter, they’re all still worth your time.
Eternal Khan came to life in Providence, Rhode Island, about eight years ago. By 2012 they had released a two-song demo and then followed that in 2013 with an EP entitled A Primitive History, which appeared on several year-end lists posted on our site, including this one from our friend SurgicalBrute (another one of our contributors, KevinP, wrote about it for Metal Bandcamp here).
The next year they released a debut album, A Poisoned Psalm, from which we premiered a great song “Raging Host”, and on October 16th they brought us a new three-song EP — Isolate, Dishearten, and Kill — referencing “both the annals of a war-weary past and the tumult of the present to deliver tales of war, brutality, occult power, and human tragedy.”
These are serious, dramatic subjects, and the music is equally dramatic and intense. There’s passion in the inflamed, roaring vocals and riveting intensity in the cascading waves of dark, boiling riffs, which have an atmospheric quality that ranges from murderous fury to wrenching pain and the gloom of hopelessness and despair. The songs capture chaos, bloodshed, and the tidal waves of grief caused by human egoism and emptiness. In the most solemn and deeply melancholy moments of the EP (to be found in “Rune and Cross”), the band turn to deep, somber, clean vocals to underscore the magnitude of self-inflicted calamity.
The emotional strength of the music, which is considerable, derives mainly from the quality of the vocals and the penetrating melodies, but the drummer is owed a tip of the hat for a nuanced performance, one that’s carefully and dynamically crafted to match the moods and changing vitality of the music rather than just blasting away non-stop.
The word that keeps coming to mind as I revisit this EP is overworked as hell, but nonetheless on-point: For a compact, three-song release, Isolate, Dishearten, and Kill is epic.
REALM OF WOLVES
The Hungarian trio Realm of Wolves (who are also members of wilderness and Silent Island) made their advent with an EP back in May and then quickly followed that with a debut album named Oblivion which was jointly released by Casus Belli Musica and Beverina on October 19th. It’s a seven-track, 40-minute presentation that includes one song (“Into The Woods Of Oblivion”) whose lyrics were drawn from a poem (“Talán eltűnök hirtelen (Abruptly I May Pass Away)”) written by Attila József in 1937, the year he committed suicide at age 33 (the lyrics also include a part of his 1924 work “Nem én kiáltok (It’s Not Me Who’s Screaming)”.
The album reflects serious ambition — you can feel the band reaching as far as they can to channel ideas and aspirations far beyond the mundane trappings of daily existence — and also skill in execution. It includes beautiful panoramic soundscapes that swell the heart with sonic visions of awe-inspiring, mystical grandeur; equally sweeping musical pageants that sound like grand tragedies, freighted with anguish and regret; moments of soft, somber beauty; and passages that sparkle with the gleam of new-found wonders or un-vanquished hopes.
The music manifests a sublime kind of spirituality. Everything reverberates, like the harmony of the spheres, or the vibrations of human yearning. The album, as they say, unabashedly wears its heart on its sleeve, and only a stone-cold heart would fail to be moved by it.
November 10th is the release date for the inedpenedently produced second album by the Argentinian quartet Psicosfera, although the whole thing is now streaming on Bandcamp. The first album was named Alpha; the new one is Beta. I was induced to listen to it after seeing the cover art painted by the immensely talented Santiago Caruso.
There’s no one shrieking or screaming at you across the 45 minutes of Beta. Psicosfera rely instead solely on their instruments to execute their creative strategies, which incorporate elements of atmospheric black metal, post-metal, and progressive metal. So, how well does 45 minutes of instrumental extremity sans vocals wear on the senses? The answer is, pretty damned well.
Perhaps to be expected, there’s considerable dynamism in these compositions, which employ a rich palate of emotional colors and audio textures. There’s plenty of heft in the sounds, thanks to a sludgy, lead-weighted low end and recurring resort to bleak and brooding tonalities. But you’re just as likely to encounter ethereal, otherworldly passages that are mesmerizing, bursts of freakish, unnerving dissonance, or eruptions of harrowing violence that border on derangement.
At points, it feels like you’ve become an unwilling participant in someone else’s nightmare or a witness to the dissolution of their sanity. At others, it’s easy to become spellbound and haunted, as if witnessing the practice of some arcane sorcery or invited into a circle of plaintive phantasms. Either way (and at many points in between), nothing here really sounds completely like the world we know, but more like a visitation to dark dimensions lurking in our peripheral vision.
Beta by Psicosfera” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>https://www.facebook.com/psicosfera.arg/
I intended to include this Swedish band in one of these columns not once but twice before today, each occasion prompted by the release of an advance track from their debut album The Grand Manifestation. I fucked up and didn’t follow through, and now the entire album is only one day away from release by Dark Descent Records. At this point three advance tracks are out in the wild rather than two, so I’ll focus on them. We can all listen to the complete record tomorrow.
In these three songs, Third Storm do a fine job alloying atmospheric melody with an often grand, majestic eminence and surging, thrusting physicality. There are some powerfully head-moving riffs and battering drum assaults to be found, along with bestial vocal tirades, but also currents of arcing melody that reach for mythic heights.
At the beginning of “Forgotten Deity” you’ll even find a beautiful, lilting, acoustic-guitar piece — which serves as a prelude to what becomes an unexpected blend of punk-like chords and scampering rhythms, sweeping melodic vistas, doom-drenched staggering, and blast-fueled racing; and the track is further embellished by an arena-ready, rock-god solo. It’s quite a pastiche of styles and moods, but it works very well.
The third of these three tracks (“In Wrath Enshrouded”) is probably the most electrifying, persistently full-throttle rush of the three, a dervish-like whirl of ecstatic sound, and just one more sign of how many ideas Third Storm has packed into their music — and that’s not even mentioning the other five tracks… which certainly seem well worth exploring based on this trio.
The cover art was created by Raul Gonzalez.
P.S. Shortly before posting this column, I discovered that the entire album is streaming at Invisible Oranges, so you can explore it now if you’d rather not wait until tomorrow’s release date.