SHADES OF BLACK: THIS GIFT IS A CURSE, ISSFENN, TIME LURKER, SAMMATH, VERWÜSTUNG, ZATEMNO, DE DOUĂSPREZECE STATUI ALE STĂRILOR DE UMBRĂ ALE SUFLETULUI
I had decided to limit this week’s column to advance tracks from forthcoming albums, but then couldn’t resist adding a single-song EP that was released on Friday (by that band in the post title with the mile-long name). I’m hoping to do another SHADES OF BLACK round-up devoted to highlighting a few recent albums, but since it’s only an idea right now, I’m not going to call this post Part 1; Part 2 may remain only an idea, depending on how the next 24-48 hours go.
Obviously, I really like everything you’ll find in this collection. Some of the music is so scorching it might leave you with third-degree burns. Other tracks are more atmospheric. And I think you’ll be surprised by some of what you find here as well. So please do give everything a chance.
THIS GIFT IS A CURSE
On their last album, All Hail the Swinelord (2015), This Gift Is A Curse made music that ruthlessly takes you apart and sends what’s left of your mind into a very dark place. It was stupefyingly heavy, implacably savage, and frighteningly eerie. We premiered one song from the album and a video for another song, but I failed to review the whole thing. I’ll have a second chance to do right by this Stockholm band, because they now have another album on the horizon.
The new album, A Throne of Ash, will be released by Season of Mist on the distant date of June 14th, and I’m very eager to hear it — especially because the first track is so astonishingly vicious. That song, “Wolvking“, was released last week through a music video filmed by Magnus Ewald at a 200-year-old barn surrounded by Scandinavian forest. In its lyrical theme, the song (as the band explain) is “about the worship of pure hatred” and how to embrace that feeling and channel it “into a black venomous diamond of rage”:
“Erebos (Ερεβος), whom is called upon over and over again throughout the song, was said to be the very personification of ‘deep darkness’ in Greek mythology, an ancient being born from true chaos. The very same ember that sparks rage into hatred and breathes life into all destructive forces. This is what this song celebrates.”
“A black venomous diamond of rage”. Yes, it is. “Wolvking” goes at the speed of fury, has the temperature of rage, and all the tenderness of a thermonuclear blast front. Probably best to put a sheet of flame-resistant material between you and the speakers.
Montréal, Québec, is home to the duo who make up Issfenn — Xost (who also created the album’s cover art) and Vitrid. They will release their second album, Mordwand, on April 26. Not having heard any of their previous music, I had no idea what to expect from the two new album tracks that are now on Bandcamp — “White Death” and “Thorns” — and what wonderful surprises they proved to be.
Vitrid‘s rapidly clattering work on the snare drum provides lots of thrills, and Xost‘s strangled snarls and cold, cruel riffs furnish the chills. The bass hum and thrum gives the music heft and depth, and the melodies generate an atmosphere of malicious grandeur and whirling chaos (and at times, one of terrible misery).
The songs also bring plenty of twists and turns, like the anguished but alluring guitar interlude at 2:15 in “White Death” and the exotic and esoteric resonance of the opening melody in “Thorns”, which eventually transforms into a whirlwind before gleaming guitar notes create the eeriness of a shadow world. You’ll also have opportunities to bang your head, and if you’re like me, you’ll be drawn back to both tracks, because both are very addictive. It’s going to be fun to find out what these two talented devils have cooked up in the other 6 tracks.
I described the music on Time Lurker‘s 2017 self-titled debut album as a “a gripping amalgam of majesty, bestiality, chaos, and cold, alien predation”, and as a “void-faring trip” which blends together “fireball intensity with mesmerizing guitar emanations that become beautiful in their somber, spectral strangeness”.
We don’t yet have a follow-on album by this one-man project from Strasbourg, France, but in May we will have a split release named Lucide, which includes two Time Lurker tracks as well as one by another excellent French band, Cepheide (whose own debut album Saudade was also released in 2017, and was also the subject of my enthusiastic verbiage).
One of Time Lurker‘s tracks from Lucide recently surfaced on Bandcamp. In its title, it tells us “No One Is Real“, and the music makes a convincing argument for that thesis. The hypnotizing ambient prelude seems made of shimmering mist, and waves of similarly unearthly sound roll slowly through what happens after that — but it’s a ravaging storm that breaks open after the prelude.
Time Lurker guides us through changing states of sound, through moments of otherworldly majesty and stateliness, into depths of haunting melancholy, and flying toward vistas of blazing glory. Through it all, the vocals are completely unhinged, channeling and inflicting terrible pain.
Lucide will be released by Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions on May 3rd in a digipack CD edition, with a vinyl release scheduled for June 21. The artwork is by Gaetan Juif. (Thank you to Miloš for linking me to this new song.)
The Dutch black metal band Sammath will be celebrating 25 years of sonic barbarity with a new album (their sixth), slated for release sometime this coming summer by Hammerheart Records. The title is Across the Rhine Is Only Death. In recent live performances Sammath‘s set list has included a track from the new album named “Totenhügel“. Last week they posted a video of one of those performances, from a February 2019 show in Belgrade, Serbia, and that’s the next item in today’s collection.
On the one hand, and most immediately obvious, the song is a war storm of pummeling percussion, rapidly writhing and cutting riffs, and scalding vocal insanity, channeling the unbridled chaos of savagery and slaughter. But on the other hand, as the furious intensity of the song abates, a gloomy and grievous melody surfaces, and continues to make its presence known even as the head-whipping barrage resumes. The integration of those grim and dramatic currents of melody within such a ravaging assault makes the song stand out, channeling extreme intensity in different dimensions.
Credit to Vlad for filming and editing the video, which includes some video shots by Wulfa and Alex. Follow Sammath on Facebook for further news about this next album.
Having heard that Sammath track, you’ll soon understand why I followed it with this next item, a song named “Dissolution” off the second album by the Belarusian band Verwüstung. Entitled Gospel ov Fury, the album will be released by Handful of Hate on May 3rd.
As displayed on “Dissolution”, Verwüstung‘s music is an electrifying surge of black thrashing malevolence. A heavyweight rhythmic drive that you can feel inside your skull (and your guts) gets the blood pumping, and the riffing is equally thrilling, moving between wild racing savagery and feral rocking out. True to the album’s name, and to song titles such as “Madness Closing In” and “Impulse To Kill”, the vocals are maniacally murderous.
At the outset of this column I forecast that you would encounter some surprises, and this next song is one of them — not merely because the band is one you’ve probably never heard of, but also because the song is so completely unpredictable. It pulls together sounds and styles and moods in a way that makes you wonder, “how did they think of that?”, and then marvel at how well it works.
The band is an exuberantly creative Russian entity named Zatemno (Затемно), and the song is the title track to their first album, В петле (In the Noose), which lyrically focuses on “the despair and alienation of the human mind”, suicide, and “mental conflict and addiction”.
The song swings and rocks at first, moving on the back of an inventive drum rhythm, with a vibrant, soaring clarity in the guitar leads that contrasts with the mild abrasion of the backing riff and the scorching intensity of the howling vocals. The song does explode in paroxysms of blasting percussion and anguished delirium, alternating with sequences that are more reminiscent of the opening, as the vocals range from excruciating yells to skin-stripping shrieks.
Near the middle, it seems as if the song has ended — but it is only about to change, becoming a slow, soft, and wistful reverie, matching beautiful guitar reverberations with deep, croaking vocals and a compulsive bass-and-drum line. And then it changes again and again, transforming into a flickering, whirling romp, just before a powerfully head-moving, jabbing riff and a hard-rocking beat seize control. And then…
Oh hell, I’ll just shut up and let you listen.
В петле will be released in April on cassette tape by the Spanish label Bile Noire and on CD by the UK label Aesthetic Death. For details on how to acquire it as they become available, check these locations:
DE DOUĂSPREZECE STATUI ALE STĂRILOR DE UMBRĂ ALE SUFLETULUI
Now we come to that EP-length song I decided to tack on to the end of this collection of advance tracks from forthcoming releases. Hopefully, you’ll understand why I couldn’t resist including it.
The name of this release, which appeared on March 29th, is Groaza. It’s the third EP released so far this year (the others are also very long single-track recordings) by the Spanish one-man project De Douăsprezece Statui ale Stărilor de Umbră ale Sufletului.
Metal-Archives says that the band’s name was drawn from a surrealistic novel named Solenoid by the Romanian author Mircea Cărtărescu. When I processed the name through Google Translate, it was rendered in English as “The Twelve Statues of the Soul Shadows”.
Groaza is nearly 18 minutes long. It includes several extended repeating sequences, anchored by an earthquaking bass presence and neck-cracking, head-moving snare beats. There’s a raw tone to the deep, malicious riffing in the first sequence, and a penetrating yet vertigo-inducing quality to those nightmarish oscillations, while the larynx-destroying vocals are shrieking nightmares all by themselves. In the next sequence, the drumming becomes a funeral march and the heavy chords slowly groan in abject misery, periodically becoming more animated (but no less bereft).
The drummer then methodically hammers and clatters as the riffing transforms into a miasma-like squall of dismal delirium. It’s enough to make your stomach queasy and leave your mind deeply disturbed. When those groaning, soulfully doomed chords return, it’s almost a relief, and a further relief when the musician brings back the more animated, more head-rocking sequence. By this point DDSASDUAS is cycling through the previous sequences more rapidly, but chooses to end the track with no drums at all, just the hopelessness of the guitar and the haunting winds of lives flying away.
(I again have Miloš to thank for steering me to Groaza.)
Gospel ov Fury may be the trvest title ever.
Damn, that Wolvking is an epitome of fury. Great song indeed!
New material by Time Lurker is also really interesting.