2019 is shaping up to be a banner year for medieval black metal. For those who are paying attention, it’s also proving the diversity of that particular sub-genre of music as different bands interweave strains of ancient melody from different parts of Europe into their compositions in different ways, and using different instruments, some very old and some modern.
The Spanish band Calyx will certainly be among the front rank of what 2019 has to offer to fans of medieval black metal — or fans of black metal of any stripe, for that matter — through their debut album Vientos Arcaicos, which will be released by Iron Bonehead Productions on May 17th. Their inspirations are described as “firmly entrenched in the Middle Ages, sweeping across the native legends of the Iberian Peninsula as well as castles, ruins, Aragonese Pyrenees, and decrepitude”, but they have channeled those inspirations in melodically memorable black metal of tremendous power and emotional intensity — as you shall discover through our premiere of a track from the new album called “La Sima“.
Unlike some other black metal bands who are drawn to the meters and refrains of ancient music, Calyx rely upon the typical tools of black metal to make their mark. Rather than reverting to centuries-old instruments or choral voices, they deploy waves of tremolo guitar and truly incinerating shrieks, but the venerable roots of their inspirations are still present for all to hear, even in the gnarled and barbed shapes they’ve been given by this band.
“La Sima” is indeed remarkably intense and powerful, both in the quality of the production and in the penetrating force of its emotional resonance. The power of the drumming is immediately evident, but becomes even more striking as the patterns and progressions change and become more inventive — and as they boom like cannon fire. With those potent rhythms as the drive train, augmented by a deep thrumming bass, the riffing begins as a wall of sound, gloomy and grim — and then changes.
When the drums subside for the first time, the old sounds arrive, in a lilting medieval melody that’s still dark and dolorous, even as it whirls. As the drumming becomes more strikingly animated, the riffing moves in waves of grief before the medieval melody returns. When the energy subsides again, the music takes on a feeling of shattering hopelessness and inconsolable anguish, which persists even as the drums boom and tumble again.
As striking as these movements are, the wrenching intensity of the music derives in no small part from the scorching impact of the vocals. The wild shrieking and soul-shearing yells are the sounds of terrible pain, or terrible fury, and they deepen the mark of “La Sima“, which would leave a deep impression even without them.
“La Sima” is the second track to emerge so far from Vientos Arcaicos, and we’ve already commented on the first one, “Loarre“, but will repeat it here for those who haven’t encountered it before (and we’ll include a stream of it below, in addition to today’s premiere):
The piercing, dancing melody in that song’s opening immediately sounds like a throw-back to a different age, yet there’s something sinister and unsettling about it, too. The sinister aspects of the melody become more pronounced when the full band pick it up and run with it over a pounding and bounding drum rhythm. The blazing riffs still have a vibrant, dervish-like quality, and the solo in the middle of the song is downright glorious — but the solo has a melancholy quality as well, and the mood of the riffing takes dark and vicious turns (the vocals are, of course, persistently vicious). At the end, the medieval air of the song becomes most pronounced, underscoring the ancient resonance within the music. It makes for a sublime finale to a very alluring song.
Vientos Arcaicos was recorded at Moontower Studios, and references are made in the press materials to influences that include Master’s Hammer, Bathory, Tormentor, Merciless, old Satyricon, Dissection, Desaster, and even Candlemass. I will add that a friend who has heard the album also compares it to the 1997 album by Old Man’s Child, The Pagan Prosperity.
To learn how to acquire the album, keep an eye on these locations: