In this second Part of this Sunday’s SHADES OF BLACK column I’ve changed course away from the predominantly atmospheric and sometimes folk-inflected music that dominated Part 1 in moody, mystical, and magnificent strains of sound. The selections in this Part are less easily categorized with broad brush strokes, but I guess I’d venture to say they are mainly more “muscular” and savage than what you’ll find in Part 1.
I’ve been deplorably late in catching up to the third album by this one-man band based in the black metal hot-bed of Bergen, Norway, but under persistent prodding by my Norwegian friend eiterorm, I finally have. That third album, Mot Ein Evig Ruin, will be released on February 16th by the Dutch label Soulseller Records, and now there are two tracks out in the world — “Dra Te’ Helvete“, which surfaced in October, and more recently “Det Gjekk Ein Faen“.
The former is a high-powered, thrashing and ripping romp, flying fast and furiously and generating enough voltage to keep your lights on even when winter gales knock out the power. The scalding shrieks of Invisus come for your throat like a rabid dog, the rocking and romping break about two-thirds into the track will give your neck muscles a good workout, and the soaring lead near the end adds a trail of glory to the barbarism.
The more recently revealed track is perhaps a more grim and menacing attack, but still very much an attack, one that brandishes spears of eerie, dissonant, blaring melody, along with lightning-fast drumwork and a full dose of scything/jabbing riffs.
If you happen to be feeling sluggish, both songs will wake you the fuck up.
Our erstwhile Norwegian contributor Gorger summed up his evocative NSC review of this Belgian band’s debut album, Forgotten Rites (2017), in these words:
“Saqra’s Cult offers magic mysticism for 40 minutes, and I’ve long since lost count of the number of spins I’ve enjoyed. With wonderful instrumentation, deranged vocals, good material, quaint sound, diversity, dynamics, and idiosyncratic originality, this is a crystal clear top-ranking in my non-humble opinion. Killer album!”
It was Gorger’s review that led me into that debut album, and I shared his enthusiasm for it. The second album has now been released (on January 11th) by Amor Fati Productions, under the name The 9th King. Sadly, I don’t have a review from Gorger to present this time, and not even my own comparatively less entertaining words amount to a complete review — merely a few reasons why you ought to give this new record a spin.
Mysticism and the summoning of ancient deities aren’t new tropes in black metal, but the embrace of legacies from the civilizations of pre-Columbian America is relatively rare, and not something one might expect from a Belgian band. So inspired, Saqra’s Cult create music of brain-scrambling intricacy and extravagant fervor (the vocals are stunningly unchained, even when they seem to chant). There’s an unusual kind of ritualistic occult aroma to the songs, matched with frightening savagery and impressive technical skill.
The songs are constantly changing, richly embroidered, delivered with powerhouse exuberance, and yet, as frequently unhinged as they sound, the compositions are cohesive. The riffs, deployed in vast quantities, are electrifying; the drumming rattles and booms against the skull like hammer blows; and even in those rare moments when the rampant pace slows (as it does, for example, at the gloom-drenched outset of “Legends of Pururaucas”), the band’s power to put the fear of blood sacrifice into your bones is undiminished.
One of the most intense and mind-bending albums I’ve heard so far in 2019.
Last July I premiered a ravishing track called “Akan Sir” from the debut album, Kara Ihlas, by Imha Tarikat. At that time the band were searching for a label, and therefore no release date had been set. Eventually, the band formed an agreement with Vendetta Records, and now the album’s release is imminent — with a street date of January 18th.
For those who still might not be familiar with this Germany-based band, they released an exceptional debut EP (via Terratur Possessions) in 2017 named Kenoboros (reviewed here). At that time, the music was the sole creation of Ruhsuz Cellât (a native of Turkey), but for this album he was joined on drums by a second member who goes by the name Prowler.
In premiering a second track from the album on January 8th, DECIBEL disclosed that the songs were “inspired by the Quran and a prayer for mercy for the dead, with the band explaining that the album’s goal is to inspire self-reflection and maturity in the listener”. The name of that second track is ““III-III: Imha Tarikatı (Sect of Destruction)“. The nomenclature is a reflection of the fact that Imha Tarikat have divided Kara Ihlas into four chapters, three of which are further divided into two or three parts.
This song pairs up well with the album that precedes it in this second Part of today’s column. Most obviously, Cellât‘s ferocious growls and searing cries are stunningly wild, and the song’s hard-charging energy is electrifying. Pain and loss rush through the surging riffs and piercing leads like poisoned blood in the veins, and Prowler‘s drumwork (entwined with pulsing bass-lines) amplify the undeniable emotional power of the music.
Vendetta Records will release the album on vinyl, CD, and tape, and it’s also available digitally.
The Greek label Ars Marginalia, which came to my attention through their 2016 release of a killer debut album by Apognosis, recently alerted us to the January 10 digital release of a debut demo by a band named Pethamos. Metal-Archives says the band’s line-up is international. Though I assume it includes someone from Greece, I’ve found no other information of any kind about the band, and at this point I don’t know whether there will be a physical release of the demo.
The demo consists of two parts seamlessly combined into a single stream — “Ίαμβος Ι & ΙΙ” (according to Google translate, that’s the Greek word for “lamb” — though I’m told by a knowledgable source that iamvos was “an ancient Greek measure of the proclaimed and indomitable poetry” — just as the band’s name is the Greek word [πεθαμός] for “dying”).
The somber reverberating notes that begin the demo are gloomy yet mystical, and the strange stateliness of the music is underscored by the moody hum of the bass and the methodical drum rhythm (speckled though it is with bursts of animation). Eventually, the drumming propels the song into a gallop, and savage, serrated, almost gasping snarls add elements of chilling hostility, yet the vibrating chords and rippling leads continue to channel a mixture of deep despondency and melancholy beauty that shines with unearthly light.
The depressive qualities of the music become most pronounced in the hypnotic instrumental sequence that leads to the mid-point, where acoustic strumming and picking provides an interlude that is itself melancholy (and entrancing). When the full band return, the pacing is again stately at first, with dissonant, disorienting notes spearing out over spoken words, but the gallop resumes beneath cascading waves of forlorn melody, which still gleam in a way that lends them an air of mythic drama.
To conclude this very long two-part SHADES OF BLACK I’m recommending a debut EP named Erste Beschwörung, digitally released on January 1st by the German band Hexenbrett. The band’s name apparently translates to “witches’ board”, which refers to a ouija board. As in the case of Pethamos, I’ve been unable to find any other information about the band. If Google Translate is to be believed, the EP’s title means something like “first summoning”.
Produced with a strategem that gives the music a raw, unburnished, garage-band tone, the songs prove to be an unusual amalgam of black metal and old-school heavy metal, with a pronounced witchiness in the aura (thanks in part to ghostly, horror-influenced keyboard layers – or maybe those are the sounds of a choir of humans channeling wraiths?). The snarling and shrieking vocals are as vicious as you’d expect from the imperious commander of hell’s demon vanguard, and there’s an eerie, occult flavor to many of the leads. The riffs and soloing, on the other hand, are pure heavy metal gold.
The band also do an effective job slowing and speeding up the pace, alternately stalking, rocking, and ripping, which is just one more plus-factor in a combination of ingredients (which include some punk chords here and there) that make this EP soooooo damned infernally delicious (and so damned).
(Thanks to Miloš for pointing me to this EP.)