I think I’ve figured out what I want to do with today’s usual SHADES OF BLACK column, but before I get to that I couldn’t resist compiling the following stupendous songs by three monstrously good death metal bands. They just seem to belong together. (And because Saturday night carousing led to a slow start to Sunday morning, it may be tomorrow before you’ll see SOB.)
In the Czech language Sněť seems to mean gangrene, and that’s the name chosen by the quintet from Prague whose debut demo I’ve chosen to begin the slaughtering. It was released as a name-your-price download in April, and I finally learned about it (recently) thanks to a recent recommendation from Rennie (starkweather), who continues to be a reliable source of great discoveries.
There’s not a lot of music on the Sněť demo, just two compact tracks, the first of which is an instrumental, but man, do they make a titanic impact.
“Intoxikace” may be an instrumental, but it isn’t a typical intro track. Abrasive and discordant, queasy and pestilential, it’s also absolutely crushing. Although the leads rarely cease putting your teeth on edge, the bass chords and battering drumwork are heavy enough to shake the foundations of your abode, and the instrumental moaning and groaning that occurs is pure misery.
“Obří kat” is a brute-force crusher, too, but the shrieking, whammy-barred lead near the outset forecasts something more deranged, and sure enough, the song soon becomes a rampaging juggernaut of obliterating bass- and drum-work, searing and sickening chainsaw-toned riffage, and absolutely horrifying vocals, which range from cavernous and grotesque to wild and savage. In addition to being tremendously destructive, at the level of a shock-and-awe assault, the song is a huge headbang-trigger, too.
I sure hope these dudes are working on a follow-up to the demo, because even just these two songs show they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Because it’s been a long seven years since the last release by Rattenfänger (the debut album Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum), I think I’ll forgive myself for repeating some of the background info I wrote at that time, seven years ago.
Although Rattenfänger was a new band then, its members had already established their cred: They were also the four members of Drudkh, Blood of Kingu, and Old Silver Key (along with Neige from Alcest). The line-up seems to have remained the same for the second album that’s now set for release on December 6th by Dark Essence Records. Its tritle is Geisslerlieder.
The band take their name from the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin (in German, Rattenfänger von Hameln). You remember that tale, don’t you? The townspeople hire the rat-catcher to rid their town of rats, but then stiff him on the bill after he succeeds, and he then uses his magical pipe to lure the town’s children away, never to be seen again.
The lyrics for Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum were in Latin, and were “written in the style of the medieval poets, the thinkers and the troubadours/minstrels of old”, and the same is true of the new album. With respect to the album’s title, I’ll insert this excerpt from an article I found at The Font of All Human Knowledge:
“In medieval music, the Geisslerlieder, or Flagellant songs, were the songs of the wandering bands of flagellants, who overspread Europe during two periods of mass hysteria: the first during the middle of the 13th century, and the second during the Black Death in 1349. The music was simple, sung in the vernacular, often call-and-response, and closely related to folk song; indeed some of the flagellant songs survived into the 17th century as folk songs in Catholic parts of central Europe. Musically the Geisslerlied were related to the Laude spirituale: they were unaccompanied song, with instrumental accompaniment specifically forbidden”.
In its sound, I can’t say that the first advance track, “Materia Prima“, has much of a connection to folk music, medieval or otherwise, though perhaps the connection to the old Geisslerlieder may be found in the lyrics. What the music does have is tremendous jolting and stomping power and nightmarish vocal roaring, which echoes as if recorded in a crypt. Vicious and wretched tremolo’d buzzing alternates with blasts of megaton pile-driving destructiveness and an assortment of other thunderous grooves.
The combination of these unsettling and skull-busting ingredients, into which the band weave a dismal and dragging diversion, proves to be highly infectious, and massively neck-wrecking. The physical compulsion of the piston-driven chugfests that really dominate the track’s closing minutes can’t be denied nor resisted, so just get ready to bang your head like a crazy person.
I first paid attention to the UK black/death metal band Vacivus when discovering their 2015 EP Rite of Ascension, much as one might pay attention to a nuclear air burst overhead, just before the shockwave hits. We delivered the premiere of Rite of Ascension in all its terrible glory, and later we also brought the premiere of another Vacivus EP, that one a two-song detonation named Nuclear Chaos. In September 2017 Profound Lore released the band’s debut album, Temple of the Abyss, which Andy Synn reviewed for us. And from that review I’ll excerpt these words:
“Steeped in Old School Death Metal dirt, but with an extra dose of murky, miasmal darkness added for good measure, tracks like the merciless “Towards Infinite Chasms” and the utterly ravenous “Oubliette” don’t so much seek to reinvent the wheel as they do simply slather it in blood and fire and load it full of grisly hooks and utterly filthy riffs until it’s positively creaking under its own weight.
“These riffs are, without a doubt, the backbone of the album. Meaty and substantial – thick enough to really sink your teeth into, but neither over (or under) cooked to the point where they lose their distinctive flavour – they come coated with a layer of sonic slime (courtesy of the album’s gritty and grime-soaked production) which makes them easy to swallow but which doesn’t strip them of their edge.”
Now comes Annihilism, the band’s third album, with the line-up that gave us the releases listed above still intact. It was recorded with Greg Chandler (Esoteric) at his Priory Recording studios, and features cover art by Khaos Diktator Design. And the first two advance tracks demonstrate that Vacivus have lost none of their monstrous power.
Of those two, “Shards” is an electrifying dose of mayhem, interweaving demented, squirming leads and full-throttle propulsion, jarring chords and gruesome, reverberating guttural roars. When the hell-for-leather rush relents a bit, and the band turn their attention to methodically stomping you into fragments, you can pay more attention to the bass, which is a vibrant presence. The song has many other wonderful moments, including an extended solo that’s hellishly good, and bursts of both fleet-fingered fretwork and irresistible groove.
The title track is equally dynamic and exciting. Though perhaps more morbidly dismal in its melodic accents, it again reveals impressive technical flair, a palpable spirit of mauling savagery, and more wonderful solos (one wails like a specter, another is a fret-melting burst of lunacy), as well as riveting performances by the rhythm section. Like the previous track, this one is also capable of busting your spine into numerous disjointed pieces.