SHADES OF BLACK: MELAN SELAS, IMPERIUM DEKADENZ, BELENOS, NORDKVÄDE, MAZE OF TERROR
Yesterday some of you saw a skeletal version of this post because I hit “Publish” instead of “Save” and didn’t realize what I’d done until Andy Synn pointed it out hours later. By the time of my bone-headed goof I had picked the songs I wanted to write about and had uploaded artwork, added the usual links, put in the html codes for the music streams, and copy-pasted info about the releases from press releases, Bandcamp pages, or YouTube streams — but hadn’t actually written anything of my own about the music.
That’s the same process I follow every time I prepare one of these collections. Usually I don’t stop there, but I’m still on vacation and had some carousing to do, so I deferred the writing. Actually, I had already begun the carousing, which is most likely why I hit “Publish” instead of “Save”.
Anyway, hope you like the music I picked for today’s SOB. I’ve made selections for a second installment of the column, but don’t know if I’ll get that finished before the carousing begins again.
I got so immediately and volcanically excited about this new song by Melan Selas that I had to lead off this post with it. “ΦΑΟΣ Ε (Βάθος)” will appear on the band’s new album ΦΑΟΣ, which will be released by the Brazilian label Hammer of Damnation near the end of September. It’s the second album by this Greek duo, following their debut full-length Ῥέοn, which was released last year by Iron Bonehead.
The opening riff is so fucking wild! And when joined with the hyper-blasting drum work and the absolutely scorching vocals, the song goes like a rocket whose guidance system has suffered a meltdown. The fretwork is super-heated almost from beginning to end, but hooks into a supremely headbangable new riff about two minutes in before resuming the rocket ride. The vocals vary a bit, rising in crazed yells in addition to venting pure ferocity, but in their derangement they remain a perfect match throughout for this explosive thrashing mayhem.
Below, I’ve also included another song from the album (“ΦΑΟΣ Α (Λύχνος)“) that was presented earlier this year through a lyric video, which begins in very different fashion from the song discussed above, with female vocals (which surface again later) and a mysterious and seductive melody. The riffs are still golden, though the pacing is less rampant and the atmosphere more ominous and occult. The hefty bass lines are more noticeable this time. The classic heavy metal elements and mythic aura of the song bring it more in line with the old traditions of Hellenic black metal, and the finale is simply glorious.
I haven’t seen a precise release date for ΦΑΟΣ or found a pre-order link, but if you keep an eye on the locations linked below I presume you’ll see that info soon.
HAMMER OF DAMNATION:
When We Are Forgotten is the title of the sixth album by the German atmospheric black metal duo Imperium Dekadenz. The August 30 release date is coming up quickly (via Napalm Records), and I should have devoted attention to it before now, not only because the band’s previous work has been so good but also because this new one is so emotionally powerful.
I’ll confine myself to the two songs you can hear now, “Absenz Elysium” and “Frozen In Time“, both of which are wholly immersive experiences.
The former is a powerful storm that’s both tumultuous and radiant. The rhythmic drive is spine-shaking, and the sweeping and soaring melodies are, at the same time, majestic and heartbreaking. When the powerhouse rhythmic propulsion slows and morose clean vocals come in, the sorrow in the song becomes wrenching. When the drummer begins to pound relentlessly near the end, it signals one hell of a finale.
The deep, heavy, slow riff at the beginning of “Frozen In Time” is immediately charismatic and powerfully head-moving. Again, the music soars, but that riff returns, and just grows more addictive as it recurs. The song is suffused with melancholy, and becomes tragically beautiful in its softer and less physically compulsive passages, particularly when gleaming guitar reverberations create a wistful, ethereal harmony. In its most intense movements, the feeling of agony becomes soul-splintering.
Both songs are richly dynamic, both of them expertly executed, both of them capable of swallowing the listener whole in the emotional atmospheres they create.
Belenos is a Celtic/pagan black metal band from Tréguier in Bretagne (Brittany), that fascinating region in the western-most reaches of France. It was begun by Loïc Cellier in 1995, and the discography now includes eight albums, the most recent of which, Argoat, will be jointly released on September 20 by Les Acteurs De L’Ombre and Northern Silence Productions.
I’ve managed to overlook this band until now, but the two new songs available for listening suggest that was a grievous oversight. Those two songs, “Nozweler” and “Argoat“, are embedded below.
The opening of the former proves the ability of Belenos to create mysterious musical spells. What happens after that proves the band’s ability to get your pulse racing with flickering and writhing riffs and potent rhythmic propulsion. As the tempo changes, a mood of agony and instability comes through in the disturbing, discordant arpeggios, and there’s an unhinged quality to the shrieking vocals. Even when the drummer hits a rocking beat, the music’s mounting sense of splintering despair persists — and crests in zeniths of frightening intensity.
The title track displays the same knack for tempo dynamics and progressive instrumental flare, but unlike “Nozweler“, it begins in a crazed surge of rapidly changing fretwork and drum progressions. Clean vocals eventually made their presence known in the earlier track, but here those heroic sounds trade off with the harsh snarls in this one early-on. There’s remarkable variety in the riffs and leads, which include acoustic accents, making this song a wide-ranging experience both musically and in its moods (which are all changing shades of darkness).
We’ll move from Brittany to Sweden now, with a track from Visdom & Makt, the debut album of a Swedish duo who’ve taken the name Nordkväde, and who’ve drawn inspirations from Norse mythology.
From the title of “Allfader“, it’s not difficult to guess the subject of the song. There’s a gloomy undercurrent to the music, notwithstanding the perilous effervescence of the riffing, the vivid mutations of the drum-and-bass performances, and the maniacal quality of the vocalist’s howls. The song builds in its intensity as it proceeds — it really gets the heart racing — but that feeling of hopelessness never dissipates.
Photo by Diego A. Zavaleta Barrera
MAZE OF TERROR
Today’s globe-hopping tour now departs Europe for Lima, Peru, which is the location of a band I’ve written about on six previous occasions, which is a sign of how much I dig their music. And now this makes a lucky seventh post about Maze of Terror.
The song below, “Incubus“, comes from a four-song demo named Death Worshipers that the band have chosen to release while continuing to work on a new album. Maze of Terror have always been totally invested in evil thrash, and they do eventually go crazy in this song, but it begins with merciless pounding and screams of sheer terror and torture. When the band do cut loose, the sound of the riffing is cruel and cold, like the thrashing of a serial killer — or, as the title suggests, of a demonic presence. The vocals are authentically demonic by themselves, and the soloing is blazing lunacy.
The band do switch things up as they go, affording you time for headbanging, and clubbing your skull as well, but the through-line of the song is just downright vicious.
I’m not sure when or how Death Worshipers will be released. Follow Maze of Terror on Facebook to find out.