SHADES OF BLACK: FINSTERFORST, IN THE COURT OF A BROKEN FLESH, HÖGGVA, ATANAS, SILENCE THEREAFTER, LAANG, Заводь
I feel like I should apologize. I know that I’ve chosen a mountainous amount of music to recommend this week, more than any of you are likely to make time for today. Maybe (hopefully) you will bookmark this page and return to it periodically as the week rolls on until you’ve at least sampled everything here. You might find something you’ll remember for months to come, and perhaps longer. And that, of course, is the reason why I stuffed this week’s column full to bursting, because I felt so strongly about all these releases that I couldn’t force myself to leave any of them on the cutting room floor.
I will also just get the credits out of the way in advance, because this is another collection of music I found as a result of recommendations by others. Most of those came from Rennie (starkweather), and one from Miloš; the two of them regularly complicate my choices for these columns, and other round-ups of new music as well. To justify my own existence I did find the first selection below on my own, and the last one (though I had help even there).
I would have been thrilled by the prospect of a new Finsterforst album, but am even more thrilled because of the two song excerpts that are now out in the world. They’re just excerpts, I guess because the full tracks are lengthy. “Fluch des Seins” is 11 minutes long, and “Ecce Homo” is… wait for it… 36 1/2 minutes long.
I haven’t made time to listen to the complete tracks, much less the other three (which range from 8 minutes to nearly 14), but the excerpts of these two alone are great. “”Fluch des Seins” has such great rumbling grooves, such heroic clean voices along with such a vicious harsh one, such wonderful instrumental accents — and the chorus will not easily come un-stuck from your head. “Ecce Homo” is more gloomy and grand, more surrounded by mythic atmosphere, and the multi-faceted singing in the song is again tremendous.
You get hints in each excerpt of where these songs might go in their full lengths. Even in the excerpt of “Fluch…” there are passages of soft contemplation and sweeping majesty, and the “Ecce Homo” excerpt becomes mystic, haunting, and spellbindingly beautiful.
The name of this new album is Zerfall, and it will be released on August 2nd by Napalm Records.
IN THE COURT OF A BROKEN FLESH
Now I’m going to turn to the first of four recommendations I got from Rennie, all of which are complete albums that were released in recent weeks or months. This one is a self-titled album (released in April by Vigor Deconstruct) by a Polish one-person project named In The Court Of A Broken Flesh.
“OCCVLT BLACK FUNK RITUAL” is one way the band describes the music. The funk comes from the bass performances, which are not always funk-worshiping but always play a key role. Surrounding those vivid bass lines are many things — the ominous buzz of ice-cold riffs and synths coming in waves; shattering screams of sheer tortured delirium and cries of inconsolable grief; guitar leads and solos that are themselves sometimes funky or jazzy, and just as often searingly depressive.
This blending of styles and moods is fascinating, but make no mistake, this music is intense. It drives to storming crescendos of incredible, disturbing power (the title track is a prime example — and even there, the bass is amazing), and descends into pits of catastrophic dread and misery. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call the album a tour de force.
Höggva is the new name of a French project that recorded two EPs under the name Dasap in 2011 and 2014. It is largely the creation of one person (whose work under other names extends back to 1994), though this new Höggva album includes additional vocals (perhaps the clean ones) by a second individual.
The album, You Who Enter Here, has an official CD release date of September 1st, but a full stream of all the music has been on Bandcamp and available for download since June. Rennie introduced me to it as “a French act that sort of has an approach of Ved Buens Ende on amphetamines. The melodic vocals have the VBE/Virus/Sol Invictus off-key crooning. Nice dynamic with the ultra speed and woozy/psyche elements”.
I will underscore what might already be apparent from Rennie‘s remarks, i.e., that the songs don’t follow linear paths, which is a big part of why they’re so involving. The constant twists and turns, the instability of the time signatures and moods, the blend of lashing, full-throttle insanity and bewildering instrumental intricacy, the frequent episodes of crazed discordance juxtaposed with narcotic and lysergic hallucinatory atmospherics — all these ingredients, and more, make the album stand out in a big way. I’ll wager that once you get into this, your attention will never wander.
I’ll add that the clean vocals only surface in a minority of the tracks — “The malicious star”, “Search the infinite” (which includes fascinating symphonic and piano accents), “Gods hand” (where they take a heroic turn), and “The path” (where they become solemn). But the harsh vocals are themselves as extravagant as everything else about this stunning album.
Rennie described Atanas to me as: “Slovak black metal. Brittle, icy shards of guitar with occasional acoustic work to offset the cacophony. Sturdy compositions with good sense of dynamics. There are melodic breaks in songs like “Wanderer” and “Where River Brings Redemption” that are downright epic…a mix of Hammerheart/Twilight of the Gods Bathory“.
The album, Enitharmon, is a debut full-length released on July 9th, which follows a pair of EPs released in 2015. It includes seven tracks, most of them in long-form range, and I’ll endorse Rennie‘s descriptions. I’ll add that you shouldn’t skip over the instrumental intro, which is beautifully gloomy and despairing, and creates a great contrast with the blood-pumping, hard-rocking typhoon “(Veins of the Void”) that immediately follows it — which itself becomes deeply sorrowful in its mid-section.
I’ll further add that this is another album, like one covered above, where the bass plays a prominent role, and deserves the attention it gets here — and, like another album above, the dynamics of the songs (both inside them and between them) make this an album it’s very easy to stay with from beginning to end (the instrumental digression of “From the gray abhorrence” proves to be especially surprising and wonderful).
This is the last of Rennie’s recommendations I’ve chosen for today’s column. Somehow, he found the three tracks on this EP on Soundcloud. When I first began searching for more info about the EP and the band (whose name wasn’t even clear), after listening to those streams, I found nothing anywhere. Within about an hour after that, yesterday, things began surfacing — a Bandcamp page, a Metal-Archives entry, a Facebook page. So it’s fair to say this is “hot off the presses”.
I’m now able to report that Silence Thereafter are a trio from Mantova, Italy, who describe their music with the “Atmospheric Post Black Metal” label. The name of the EP is Hollow.
The intense keyboard reverberations of the intro track (backed by the sounds of thunder and the swelling of magisterial ambient sounds) provide an immediate seduction; I’ve found myself going back to it by itself. “Wings of Misery” thankfully doesn’t provide an immediate jarring contrast, but itself begins in slow reverberating tones and builds gradually, drawing us in seamlessly until the more intense power of the song is revealed. It becomes a glorious, panoramic, inspirational experience, though shaded in melancholy and with vocals that transmit burning pain. But that’s just the beginning, because “Wings…” is a 13-minute track, and much else happens within it as it ebbs and flows.
“This World of Lies” is also 13 minutes long. The band again weave a changing musical tapestry, using essentially the same ingredients as in the preceding track, ranging from soft, beautiful passages that channel feelings of introspection and wistfulness, to racing flights that carry us high overhead to witness spectacular vistas of sound and imagination. It’s all… breathtaking.
(I’m not sure how the logo relates to the band’s name, but studying it is interesting — it was created by Fabio Fontana.)
Credit for this next selection goes to Miloš, who left me a link to this album by a one-person band named Laang 冷 from Keelung City, Taiwan. It was released in December 2018, and the Bandcamp page reveals a frightening source for its inspiration:
“…born from horrifying experiences of what lies beyond life by the band’s sole member 冷 after being shot in the head during a car-jacking gone wrong nearly a year ago. During the following weeks after being shot, 冷 experienced what he can best describe as ‘a place beyond Hell’ while in a coma in the hospital. This world beyond death that he experienced was one of incomprehensible terror and desolation beyond explanation. The band’s debut album Hǎiyáng 海洋 encapsulates this horrifying otherworld of emptiness, inhuman madness, misery, and crushing terror”.
I’m sorry to say that my writing time is about to run out for today, and so I’m forced to brutally truncate what I’d like to say about this album, and just give you a high-level summing up:
This is explosive and symphonic, and it sounds very much like what you might expect from the quoted description (especially the vocals), though it’s also majestic in a way that befits the portrayal of such an incredibly dramatic and harrowing experience. On the other hand, the intensity is leavened with ambient and electronic passages, albeit constructed in ways that are sometimes themselves scary or mystifying, and the music actually becomes bright, hopeful, and beautiful in “Yān 淹” (though the vocals remain terribly anguished).
As the other bookend for today’s column, I have an album that I (sort of) found on my own. I only “sort of” found it on my own, because I noticed it on the Facebook page of a musician friend accompanied by an exclamation of surprise. Beyond that, I didn’t know what I’d be getting myself into — and I doubt I can even do a halfway-decent job of telling you what you’ll be getting yourself into even though I’ve listened to it.
The band is Ukrainian, and their name seems to mean “backwater”, if Google Translate is to be trusted. Again trusting in Google Translate, the title of the album, Уже заря зажглась, means “dawn is already lit”. The participants in the recording are identified on the album’s Bandcamp page, and it’s a big list, organized in a way which suggests that there are three core members of the band, joined by many guests. All told, there seem to be four vocalists, plus performers of synths, dulcimer, hurdy gurdy, sax, tuba, and electro organ, in addition to the usual heavy metal instruments (and noise production).
As mentioned above, I’m running out of time, and as also mentioned above, I’m not confident I could do a decent job describing the music even if I had more time. “Death cabaret” is one description offered on the band’s FB page, but black metal plays a clear role or you wouldn’t find it in this collection. So do ’80s-style new-wave synths (there were times I thought of Drab Majesty if filtered through a strange blackened prism). And there are other ingredients. But I’ll have to stop there and urge you to listen for yourselves, and hope you will enjoy it.
Pretty amped for anything new from Finsterforst (goes without saying).
Not heard of Atanas before but really enjoying it so far; great find! Much thanks.
Höggva was unknown to me before the review. I have been playing the album at least three times today!! Ved Buens Ende worship but not only!!