Man, this was tough, trying to decide what to write about in this Sunday’s SOB. I mean, it’s always tough, but harder than usual this week. Maybe it was because I didn’t have time to prepare a round-up of new songs last week, which might have shaved a few black metal entries off my lists. Yesterday I narrowed it down to 18 choices (you see what I mean?).
Clearly, I needed to make this a two-parter, but still had to make hard choices. For example, I decided not to include the new album by Popiół (here), or the new Aoratos song (here), because I’ve written about both bands in other posts recently, and although I’ve been very impressed with the new releases by Aara (here), Ancient Flame (here), and Herzegovinian (here), I haven’t spent enough time with them to write even half-assed introductions.
I’m still wrestling with some other decisions I’ll need to make in order to keep Part 2 from becoming bloated. Whether I succeed or fail, you’ll see Part 2 at NCS first thing on Monday.
The following video begins with a rape, followed later by the victim’s delivery of the horrid fruits of her violation. Much other nastiness ensues, all of it filmed and edited with skilled hands (by Grupa 13 Production). It has the look and feel of a mythic saga, but I haven’t recognized which saga it might be, nor have I found any info about the origins of the story in press materials we’ve received. Whatever is going on here, the visuals are riveting (and NSFW). So is the music.
The song is “Amen Whores” by the revamped Norwegian black metal band Nordjevel. It’s the second track to be made public so far from their new album Necrogenesis, which will be released by Osmose Productions on March 29th (I gushed about the first one in January.)
“Amen Whores” is an absolute blast, a supremely savage torrent of light-speed riffing and drumming that relents only long enough to create images of looming devilish eminence. The music writhes and slashes with maniacal fury, and apart from some deep solemn pronouncements of “Amen”, the vocals are just as blistering. It’s a truly electrifying indulgence in rampant barbarism, and turns out to be a highly addictive one as well.
The California one-man black metal band Akasha has been churning out music at a rapid clip, and I hope he doesn’t slow down.
First came the Consuming the Soul EP last June (from which we premiered a song), and then a split with Unrest last September entitled Vibrations of Blood and Hate. Now Leech has completed work on a debut album named Canticles of the Sepulchral Deity, which will be released on March 15th by Grey Matter Productions (vinyl) and Les Fleurs Du Mal (cassette tape). It features the recognizable artwork of Jef Whitehead (Wrest).
As explained by Leech, his intent in creating the new album was “to conjure the spirit and characteristics of the feminine archetype” — but not any kind of nurturing archetype, rather a sepulchral feminine divinity “who is vengeful and vampyric in spirit”, “a spirit who spares no enemy, who shows no remorse for the weak-willed and mindless ones who waste what has been gifted to them, and who tramples over their bones”.
Two songs are now available on Bandcamp, “Akasha (Canticles of the Sepulchral Deity)” and “Enthroned In Catacombs“. The former is utterly insane, from the shrieking, snarling extravagance of the vocals to the brazen tumult of the drumming, made even more twisted by sinister, crawling notes and lashings of freakish dissonance. But Akasha switches things up, too, segueing into booming, punk-like rhythms and sending off swirling, exultant arpeggios, along with filaments of exotic melody and grand fanfare-like chords.
That first song is an explosive, sonically dense, multi-textured track that seems to channel both violence and ecstasy, and the enhanced clarity of the production (compared to the previous releases) brings home all the ingredients that make it so interesting, as well as viscerally powerful. That enhanced clarity shines through in the slow gleaming notes that begin the second song, but man, that song soon becomes a supercharged headbanger, no less crazed than the first one, but more centered on heavy, hook-y riffing and unusual, pounding and battering drum rhythms that impact with tremendous force.
In a word, both tracks are killer. I’ve included a lyric video for “Enthroned In Catacombs”, which premiered at Invisible Oranges, along with the two Bandcamp song streams.
I welcome the return of Murg with open arms. This Swedish band’s debut concept album Varg & Björn (“Wolf and Bear) wrapped memorable, atmospheric melodies within thorned membranes of ripping savagery (and was the source of a track I anointed as one of 2015’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. And even though only about 18 months passed until the band released Gudatall (“Godpine”), that second album might have been even better, delivering music that was both incendiary and staggeringly bleak. The melodies within Gudatall are intense and completely immersive; they penetrate like knives, and you fall before them.
A bit more time has passed in between the second album and the third one, Strävan (“striving”or “endeavor”), which will be released on April 26th by Nordvis Produktion. The first advance track, “Renhet“, is less likely to leave you gasping for air than the music from the first two bands above, but it’s no less riveting.
It moves with a simple, mid-paced rhythm (segmented by a few bursts of blasting), but the vocals are scalding in their intensity, and the waves of riffing have a way of seeping under your skin as they rise and fall. There’s an air of alluring gloom about the music that becomes more desolate around the mid-point, and then more agonized. Like what we’ve heard before from Murg, it’s easy to become immersed, pulled down by the undertow.
This makes the fourth band in today’s collection whose previous work I’ve enjoyed. In this case the band is a two-man operation from Greece — composer/instrumentalist N.D. (who is also a member of Isolert and Sørgelig) and vocalist Sacrilegious (who is also a member of the excellent Insanity Cult) — named Sores. In attempting to capture the sound of their excellent 2017 demo I wrote here: “Gloom and emotional fracturing pervade these songs; they’re raw wounds that sound like they’ll never heal. But they’re hard to forget.”
Now, Sores are returning with a self-titled debut album, released digitally and on CD just yesterday (Fólkvangr Records will release a cassette edition around April). N.D. and Sacrilegious are again in control of nearly everything, with Ayloss (Spectral Lore) on bass.
Sores set the stage in fantastic fashion, with the dervish-like sound of “Eyes Turned Black“, whose ravishing whirl immediately pulls the listener off the ground, spinning in a pillar of flame, ears assaulted by terrifying shrieks and body shaking from the compulsion of the rhythms. The riffs have a wild, magnificent, and yet also devastated quality — and man, they are all damned infectious.
“Eyes Turned Black” manages to be both unhinged and dreamlike, manic and moody, and over the rest of the EP the band continue demonstrating the ability to meld such differing moods so naturally, while deftly changing the tempo and rhythmic patterns. The music also has an attractive, natural production quality (I’d say it’s like the recording of a garage band, but I don’t want to imply anything negative by that). In fact, it sounds like it was tracked live (though based on the Bandcamp info that doesn’t appear to be the case) — it has the vibrant energy and immediacy of a live performance.
The last track, “Lost In the Void of My Creation“, is a long one, almost 12 1/2 minutes. It reaches crushing depths of sorrow and bleakness unequaled by the preceding tracks, and there is a soulfulness to the song that makes the connection to the listener’s own griefs even stronger. About halfway through, the drive of the song becomes more intense (and body-moving), and the trilling lead riff magnifies the feeling of shattering heart-ache. Make no mistake, it’s a powerfully depressive experience, but an enthralling one.
(Thanks to Miloš for telling me about this new Sores record on the day it was released.)
At last I come to a band who are brand new to me — and their music is going to flip this column on its head.
This trio from Los Teques, Venezuela, have named themselves Neo Noir and they characterize their music as “nostalgic black metal”. Their self-titled debut album appeared in 2015, and their second one, Forbidden Chants of Spiritual Famine, was just released on February 28th. The cover art is an engraving made by a little-known French artist, Marcel Roux (1878-1922), entitled “L’Avare (Ceux qu’elle vole)”.
It’s not just this column that Neo Noir will flip on its head; you might be turned upside-down yourself. Just listen to the album’s opening track, “The Sacraments of Self-Destruction“, and the surprising and mesmerizing woodwind solo that begins it. From that dreamy, jazzy opening the song makes a pretty seamless transition into the flicker of a tremolo’d riff, and as the bass pulses more ardently and the drums become more animated, the vocalist’s bestial growl enters the frame.
The brass instrument reappears, along with the soft, slow notes of some stringed instrument, which functions as a bridge to a more rumbling gait and jagged riffing. It’s a moody, even gloomy song, but one with an hallucinatory quality and shorn of the levels of distortion that often accompany black metal. By the end, the music is dancing and darting to the tune of strings in the sound of a mad carnival dance.
I’m not going to plod through a similar review of each succeeding track (though that’s damned tempting because each one is so fascinating), but will attempt only a summing-up: Neo Noir have created an unusual and ever-changing amalgam of sounds that’s sinister, haunting, wretched, yearning, and quite bewitching. At times it sounds like ’70s psychedelic rock processed through a filter of depressive black metal; at other times there’s an old folk-like quality to the music (most pronounced in the closing track). It’s too nihilistic to be romantic, too spooky to be comforting, yet it has an undeniable and irresistible allure, like the exotic perfume of a preternatural black rose that will poison you if you inhale too deeply.
This truly is a sorcerous album, and certainly one of the biggest and best surprises I’ve discovered so far this year. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything quite like it.
P.S. If you liked the sounds in the opening track (which I think is a saxophone), you’ll hear the tones of a different wind instrument (trumpets?) in the fifth and seventh tracks, along with strings. But Neo Noir are judicious about introducing such instrumental accents, though they make use of many others across the span of the album.
(Thanks again to Miloš for sending me the link to this album.)