This is a rare mid-week edition of a column that usually appears on Sunday. This didn’t happen by design. I was trying to select some new songs for a SEEN AND HEARD post, and by chance it happened that three of them — these three — were shades of black metal. So I decided to collect them today, and try again tomorrow for a cross-genre round-up under the SEEN AND HEARD banner.
A Sanity Deranged is the third album by Portland’s Nightfell, a duo (Tim Call and Todd Burdette) whose music I’ve enjoyed from the beginning. It will be released on Friday the Thirteenth of September by 20 Buck Spin (who are having another great year of releases), and the first song in today’s selection is from that new album.
20 Buck Spin recommends A Sanity Deranged for fans of Bolt Thrower, Misþyrming, Mayhem, Amebix, Tragedy, Primordial, and Neurosis — which should tell you something about the multi-faceted nature of Nightfell’s music if you haven’t encountered it before, and as “The Swallowing Of Flies” slowly spins, it reveals many of those facets.
At the onset, a heavy, heaving bass accompanies a slow, methodical drum beat and a miserable wailing lead, accompanied by livid echoing roars. As the pace gradually accelerates, the riffing begins to vibrate viciously, and that dismal melody begins to morph into something wretchedly majestic. An immense bass line, which brings to mind barren mountain crags, drags the momentum back — before the melody gleams again with preternatural light and the drum ominously booms. The notes chime as the song shifts to a rocking back-beat but become vicious again; there are grim vocal duets; and the more this dire song goes on, the more it burrows under the skin.
P.S. Listening to Nightfell again reminds me that Tim Call and live Nightfell guitarist Vince B. are also members of Aldebaran (or they were the last I knew), and I’d like to make a wish (and blow out a candle) for a new Aldebaran album too (I can be greedy if I want).
Unmensch is a new one-person band from Belgium, whose debut full-length Scorn will be released by Immortal Frost Productions on August 30. “Wolf” is the first track launched for streaming on Immortal Frost‘s Bandcamp page for the album, and it’s very impressive.
Coincidentally, the slow and gloomy way “Wolf” begins makes a natural segue from the Nightfell track, but it doesn’t take long for the drums to begin blasting, the vocals to rake the flesh with their raging shrieks, and that grim, oppressive melody to begin burning. The song heaves with symphonic power, accented by flickering organ-like keys, and then darts, dances, and swirls like demons in the throes of a frightening ecstasy.
There’s a devilish, otherworldly atmosphere to the vibrancy of the song, and a wild fieriness in the flickering guitar that pierces through the storming resurgence of the track. Even the brief interludes of piano and strings that segment and conclude the final tumult sound like sorcery.
My last pick today is new music, with video accompaniment, by the Danish progressive black metal band Orm (“serpent”), whose second album Ir (“verdigris”) will be released on August 30th through Indisciplinarian. The new album consists of two massive compositions, “Klippens Lyse Hal” (“The Bright Hall Of The Cliff”) and “Bær Solen Ud” (‘Carry Out The Sun”), which clock in at 23 and 24 minutes respectively. And so the music presented through the new video is just a five-minute excerpt from that first long track.
Unlike some live videos in which the studio recording is matched to live film footage, this video is a recent live session in the Copenhagen based studio Black Tornado, produced by the band itself and filmed by Bjørn Patterson and Anders Dahl, and the sound is taken directly from that performance.
In a word, this excerpt is electrifying. The sight of the racing frethands and the drummer’s eye-popping speed add to the thrill of the sounds, which are the equivalent of wildfire in the skies. The dual vocals are mid-ranged, cutting-edge snarls, and just as barbaric as the head-long rush of the music, which manages to be fierce, exultant, and bleak all at once. There’s a bit of light acoustic strumming and ambient shimmer at the end of this blood-rushing excerpt, which I assume comes from elsewhere in this long track — and it’s good to know that there will be changes and breathers along the way, because 23 minutes of what happens in the video would put you in need of an oxygen tank.
Orm’s first album was easily one of my favorite black metal releases of 2017. Lots of great riffs paired with gnarly vocals and of course Paolo Girardi’s artwork. So I have pretty high expectations of this one and based on the live preview I’m cautiously optimistic that they will be met. Given the favorable exchange rate, the price for vinyl and shipping from Europe is also pretty reasonable so this is an instant buy for me.
We did a premiere for that first album, which I also greatly enjoyed, and it was such a pleasure to put that piece of artwork at the top of our page:
I haven’t heard the rest of this new one, but like you, I have high expectations.