Having chosen to devote so much time to posts about new death metal this weekend I haven’t been able to focus as carefully as I’d like on this week’s SHADES OF BLACK column. If the writing seems more hurried than usual, that’s why. But I didn’t make the selections hurriedly. I’m quite convinced they’re worth your time. Whether you’ll be convinced, only time will tell.
By the way, though I doubt very many people actually noticed, last week I promised a second installment of the column, in a format that I haven’t used very often — and then wasn’t able to follow through. I thought about following through today, with the same bands I’d chosen to use in the un-realized second installment of last week’s column, but haven’t done that after all. Maybe later this week. Only one of the releases I’d chosen last week has made it into this post — and it’s the first one:
Cathartic Black Rituals, released by Les Fleurs du Mal Productions on August 7th, is the debut album by a trio from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who’ve taken the name Nocturnal Departure. The album stream premiered at CVLT Nation, accompanied by a brief but enthusiastic introduction. My own introduction will also be (regrettably) brief, and enthusiastic.
The album’s ten relatively compact tracks (which include a discombobulating prelude that’s part weird electronica and part monstrous recital), have been produced to deliver hard-hitting, heavyweight rhythmic power, scorching vocal mania, and riffing that itself has heft as well as a distorted fuzziness. The relative clarity and naturalness of the production allows the vibrancy of the bass and the cymbals to surface, and brain-spearing leads to dart and slither through the mauling heaviness of the surrounding sounds.
The band have a talent for dynamic songcraft, frequently changing the tempos and drum rhythms (which aren’t dominated by blasting), as well as the moods, and they’ve cooked up a plethora of head-hooking riffs and moody melodies as well. As you move through the album you’ll encounter music that’s carnal and thrusting, ravaging and rapacious, and gloomy and oppressive. That persistent dynamism, as well as the riveting capabilities of the drummer and the viciousness of the vocals, combine to make this a thrilling trip from beginning to end.
(Thanks to DaNasher for pointing me to this album.)
Our long-lost Norwegian contributor Gorger hailed the 2016 debut album of Nifrost (entitled Motvind) in one of his much-missed Beneath the NCS Radar columns (here), branding the music as “sogna metal, heart and soul” — a kind of folkloric black metal with its roots in the western Norwegian district of Sogn, which surrounds the largest and longest fjord in Norway. Near the end of a very enthusiastic review, speckled with information not readily available to writers who live outside Norway, he wrote:
“Those who enjoy obvious reference bands like Windir, Vreid, Sigtyr, Mistyr, Feigd, Cor Scorpii, Ulcus (Molle), et al.. will surely appreciate Nifrost as well. The band is, however, as I’ve already mentioned, no carbon copy. Some of the melody lines are absolutely brilliant. The title-track, which concludes a delightful album, is a magnificent masterpiece from start to finish. These apprentices have thus earned their diplomas.”
Gorger hoped for more music from Nifrost, backed by some label who might reach out and “take this rustic band under its dirty wings”. Both hopes have now been fulfilled. On October 18th Dusktone will release Nifrost’s second album, Blykrone. Two songs from the album are up on Bandcamp now, one of which (“Varden“) was just released as a single on Friday of last week.
Both songs (the other one being “Tvihalden“) are, like the music of Nocturnal Departure above, produced with clarity and power, all instruments given a co-equal place. They combine savagery and majesty, mercurial arpeggios with anthemic chords, heavyweight rocking with racing wildfires of sound, ferocious roars and howls with stately and soaring clean harmonies. Awe-inspiring visions of grand fjords spring to mind, but the music also has an appealing earthiness that gets the heart pumping hard.
Like Nifrost, we’ve written about Ezkaton before, commenting in excited terms about two songs (here and here) released last year, one from this Ukrainian band’s debut album, Plague for the Empires: Time, and the other from a follow-on EP named Last Breath. Letting no grass grow beneath their cloven hooves, Ezkaton are already returning with a new album. Entitled Sheen and Misery, it’s set for release by Ashen Dominion on September 2nd.
Thematically, as described by the band, the new album is post-apocalyptic: “Destruction, the power of fire and radiation, drought, infection, all this gradually comes to our world and kills us.”
Sorrow and hopelessness suffuse the soft, spellbinding opening of “Altars of the Flame“, which becomes the background for adamant spoken words. When the wrenching, suicidal shrieks come in, the music gradually builds in intensity, becoming panoramic but also receding, and the ebb and flow blend evanescent beauty with an atmosphere of crushing desolation on a grand scale.
As in the first song, ringing guitars and sweeping keyboards play significant roles in “Weave Your World“, along with mystical flute-like tones and cascades of mysterious astral ambience. It has a depressive quality, pushed to despairing levels by those tortured vocals, but also rises to panoramic heights, again without losing the feeling of anguish and loss. The pairing of the flute and crystalline, lilting guitar tones also make the song a spellbinding experience, as well as an experience of suffering.
Last year I wrote briefly about the 2017 debut album (Through Infinity of Darkness) by this Brazilian black metal band, at a time when I’d only encountered one of its tracks. The rest of them proved to be excellent as well. Instinct, therefore, took over when I saw that a new track from The Kryptik had debuted last Friday through Black Metal Promotion (though I later discovered that it had surfaced through another channel in late July).
The new song, “Damned“, comes from an upcoming album named When the Shadows Rise, which will be released by Purity Through Fire (CD/LP) this autumn. It takes about 10 seconds for the opening riff to plant the hook in your head. As it re-surfaces through the song, it just digs in deeper and deeper. There’s something glorious but devilish about that refrain. Around and in between the appearances of that motif, the band send the music soaring on keyboard wings, hammer away in percussive pulsations, indulge in feverish eruptions of guitar frenzy, and create soulful expressions of anguish through some beautiful soloing and an array of other melodic accents. Meanwhile, the vocals sound like rage vented through a strangled throat. It’s very damned easy to get carried away by “Damned”.
On November 8th Primitive Reaction will release the debut album of Finland’s Black Beast — which arrives a long 13 years after their last release (a split with Bloodhammer), so long ago that I wasn’t aware of their existence. Thankfully, I nevertheless paid attention to the first single from the album, “Your Cold Grave“, which surfaced late last week.
From this song you could probably guess that Black Beast are from Finland. The song is such a nasty, swaggering, hard-rocking piece of demonic work, with absolutely animalistic vocals. Interestingly, however, the band also send bleak yet grand melodies sweeping across riotous blasting, giving the song a feeling of poisonous eminence to go along with the lewd and lascivious thrusting. The whole thing proves to be quickly addictive, too.
“Your Cold Grave” is one of nine tracks on Nocturnal Bloodlust, which is available for pre-order now.
I nearly didn’t finish listening to the last song I’ve chosen for today’s collection, which is the first single from a one-woman solo project named Draagyn. You might also wonder what it’s doing here based on the opening movement, but hang in there.
This song, “Majesty“, premiered at DECIBEL in late July, but I only discovered it on Friday, thanks to a persevering PR agent who intuited that I’d overlooked it.
The acoustic picking and the pensive yet mesmerizing singing at the outset, accented by strings and pinging tones, is all very beautiful. It sounds like a lonely walk through springtime woods. But lest you think that’s all the song has to offer, Draagyn delivers a shock about two minutes in, armed with massively heavy bass and detonating drum munitions. Piano keys are in the mix, along with pained guitar emanations. That sudden surge of intensity becomes even more intense when the drums go crazy and the vocals become searingly harsh.
Blasts of brazen chords erupt and hammer across the tumult, and further changes occur as the clean vocals reappear. The song becomes a tension-torquing affair, bleak and feverish, discordant and delirious, and mentally and emotionally destabilizing. Crazed bursts of near-symphonic excess play a role, as well as spooky, soaring clean vocals of a different kind than those at the beginning, and jaw-dropping drum fills. The simple piano melody turns out to be a unifying force in this bewilderingly extravagant and highly unpredictable pageant.
For a song that interweaves and juxtaposes so many different musical genres, both metal and non-metal in origin (including black metal, which is why I’ve included it in this column), it’s remarkably successful. Though it demands more than one pass through its 8 tightly packed minutes to fully appreciate the cleverness of the arrangements and the progression through them, I was left both discombobulated and enthralled from the very first listen.
It’s unclear when Draagyn will release something further. “Majesty” is on Spotify, here. Draagyn is on Instagram, and from a perusal of some of the photos it seems she lives in Southern California and is an actress (and a very pretty one), among other endeavors.