I have more than enough new songs and videos to recommend to your eyes and ears to justify two installments of this Thursday round-up, and (barely) enough time to introduce them. So let’s get right to it:
It’s been a long four years since the arrival of Profan, long enough for the Norwegian black metal band Kampfar to be almost out of sight and out of mind, but not buried so deep in the memory that a new song wouldn’t provoke a sharp burst in the pulse at the mere mention of their name. After all, they’ve been plying their trade for almost a quarter-century so far, and filling that time with seven albums of substantial worth. And now an eighth one has been announced.
The new one is Ofidians manifest, set for release by Indie Recordings on May 3rd. We’ve learned through the press sheets that those four years were far from easy for the band’s members. Life’s travails spare no one, and Kampfar weren’t spared, but maybe the troubles breathed into the music in a way that made it more intense. You could certainly come to that conclusion from listening to “Ophidian” and watching the jaw-dropping video made by Dariusz Szermanowicz of Grupa 13.
According to drummer/vocalist Ask Ty, when asked about the song they chose for this first public excerpt from the album:
“It tells you everything you need to know about Kampfar today, distilled down to four and a half minutes of intense breaks and turns, it is the beginning and the end and the new beginnings after that, and it is the sound of a band that is alive and well.”
The song is indeed an intense, twisting and turning experience, creating frequent changes in pace and mood. It channels racing, uncontainable chaos but is also sinister and serpentine. Rage boils to a fury, but one also feels the looming eminence of dark, unearthly powers — the stuff of nightmares. The vocals alone are remarkable, especially near the end, when the savage snarls become wild cries and extravagant wails.
Those of you familiar with Grupa 13‘s stunning video for Behemoth‘s “Bartzabel” will detect a similar style (and similar high quality) in the one for “Ophidian” — and I assume that somewhere there is or will be an uncensored version of it.
Not four years since the last appearance of these Polish black wizards, only two, and that’s something to be grateful for, because they trade in intrigue. They’re the kind of band that kindles curiosity, an abundance of musings about what they might do next, because they definitely don’t hammer their edifices off of some stilted old blueprint. It seems like they’re constantly erasing the blueprints, or burning them, and scrawling some fantastical new lines in blood on parchments you can’t buy in a store.
Take this new song, “Exiles“, for example. I definitely wasn’t expecting the way the song begins, but it’s great — one minute twenty seconds of moaning, groaning, undulating, bass-heavy synth and the sheen of cymbals, backed by changing drum patterns. It creates an ominous and otherworldly atmosphere, which persists even when the drums begin blasting and the vocalist begins venting the lyrics with scalding vehemence. There is an eerie sheen to the riffing and leads, which create a sense of being enveloped in a dense writhing mist, inhaling its strange glowing vapors.
There’s a great section in the middle when the bassist and drummer take center stage to really get your head moving, while your mind is still being fogged by strange gliding ambient tones. And they do something like this again later, combining a rapid jabbing pulse with eerie, dissonant, pealing tones. The song closes with a long, warbling and flickering solo that’s as mysterious and seductive as so many other aspects of this fantastic track.
Mord’A’Stigmata named the album Dreams of Quiet Places, the one that’s home to this new song. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album, though the dreams I get from this first song aren’t of quiet places.
(You haven’t been here very often if you haven’t seen me thanking Rennie from starkweather before, and here I’m doing it again. He heard this before I did, and graciously made sure I would hear it too.)
If you talk or write about more than one subject, you have to move from one to the next in some kind of order, or it becomes a cacophonous jumble. That’s the only reason the next song is third, because it could have been first or second, and I don’t have any justifiable reason for making it third, other than I heard it last. I definitely don’t mean to suggest it’s the least of these three new tracks, because I fuckin’ love it.
“A Mutilator At Large” really is a very good song from the beginning, but starting about one minute, forty-five seconds in, the song becomes fantastic. Before then, it ravages and thunders with highly infectious energy and rampaging ferocity, with a fast, pulsating riff in the center of the music that’s very infectious by itself. And then the music begins to change, becoming more anguished and bereaved.
There’s an amazing guitar solo in the midst of that change, and I’d have been happy if that had gone on for a few more minutes, perhaps even making that sequence the song’s finale. But all of the twists and turns in the song that are still to come afterward are also part of what makes the track as a whole so great.
You’ll find the song on Inverted Realm, the new album by a black/death metal quartet from Richmond, Virginia, named Appalling. I had a very enthusiastic reaction to their first album, Secrets of the Adept, back in 2017. I’m obviously already feeling very enthusiastic about the new one. It will be released on March 22nd.