I would guess that there are more one-person bands in black and blackened death metal than in any other genres of extreme metal. I’m not sure why that is, though I guess it’s in keeping with the lone-wolf, outsider status that second-wave black metal can trace back to its roots.
Of course, there are a lot of mediocre or downright awful one-person projects out there, but some very good ones, too, and you’ll find four of them in today’s collection, along with music from a few more-filled-out groups, who are also very good.
The first of the one-person projects whose new music I’d like to recommend today is Merda Mundi (“shit of the world” — or maybe “shitty world”), the raw black metal vehicle of the prolific Belgian musician Déhà, whose resume at Metal-Archives includes participation in 19 active bands and previous roles in 17 others, spread across numerous genres, as well as guest/session work on two dozen other releases. The latest output of Merda Mundi is an album aptly named Hatred.
Released on October 18th through Malpermisita Records, Hatred includes five tracks, the last of which is an edited version of the penultimate track (“Fucking Hate Them”), which is 12 1/2 minutes long. That track, in turn, is preceded by “Condemn Them”, “Castigate Them”, and “Annihilate Them”. Are you detecting some thematic through-lines here?
True to the album’s name and the song titles, the music is absolutely scorching, and its viciousness is also unrelenting. Every track is a maelstrom of sound, a conjunction of military-grade percussive munitions blazing away and detonating, torrential riffing, tunnel-boring bass, and frighteningly unhinged vocals. But you’ll also encounter soaring and blaring bombastic chords that give the songs an air of crazed, terrifying grandeur, a sprinkling of passages that are dismal and oppressive rather than maniacally infuriated, and doses of rampant jackhammering groove.
The madness in the music (both the lunacy and the imperious rage) gives no quarter. The album breathlessly howls at you, non-stop, for 36 minutes and change. It’s not that Déhà couldn’t think of ways to break up the onslaught (his talents are richly multi-faceted), he just didn’t want to. It’s pure undiluted catharsis. That might wear you out before you reach the end, or you might just get deliriously captivated by it from beginning to end (as I did). Only one way to find out….
(Many thanks to Miloš for linking me to Hatred, which was my first exposure to Merda Mundi, but definitely won’t be my last.)
The next album I’ve chosen for today’s column, like Hatred, is a five-track record released on October 18th by a one-man project (and the similarities don’t end there). In this case the project is Blattaria, which is the work of Oklahoma City musician Manuel Garcia. The new album is named Life Is A Disease, which is your first clue to the nature of the music.
This isn’t the first appearance of Blattaria at NCS. Almost exactly two years ago (here) I raved about Blattaria’s self-titled debut album, and I’m about to do some more raving.
As in the case of Merda Mundi, the vocals here are completely insane, though more varied, and when Blattaria is going flat out, the music itself is also terrifically crazed and violent. But these songs are much more dynamic and multi-faceted than what you’ll find on Hatred. The changes are always unexpected, because the segments that are being juxtaposed are usually so different from each other — except that sanity has been banished from all of them.
Dissonance, discordance, and chilling eeriness are also mainstays in the music. The technical proficiency of the execution is really impressive (the drumming alone is so dextrous and inventive that it nearly steals the show), and the additions of symphonic sound are ingenious. Moreover, despite how adventurous and surprising the music’s unnerving permutations are, and how intricate its movements, the songs hold together.
In short, the album is a genuine extravaganza — even if it’s one whose creepy marvels will leave most listeners deeply unsettled.
Forging ahead with recommended music by one-person projects, the next item is a track from a forthcoming four-track EP named Altered State by the California-based black/death project Xantam.
The advance press for the record characterizes the music as “a swirling, spiraling vortex of scabrous-yet-shimmering decibels, rabidly raw yet lucidly played. piling high haunting riff embellishments and ethereal synth motifs, all the while guiding the listener along down an otherworldly path that’s epic in scope and engaging in execution”. This particular song, “Pseudogods“, is in keeping with those descriptions.
The track also makes a fitting follow-on from that Blattaria album. It too is an unnerving experience, with a queasy, gibbering quality in the dissonant melodies and feverish leads, and an ominous, imperial fearsomeness in the keyboard layers. The vocals have a monstrous, heartless, roaring quality that heightens the blood-freezing, unearthly atmosphere of the music, which never vanishes, even when the pacing slows into a plague-stricken lurching gait.
Damned frightening stuff, and damned impressive, too.
Altered State will be released on December 13th by Blood Harvest Records, on CD, 12″ vinyl, and cassette tape, as well as digitally.
At this point I’m turning away from the one-man projects (though I’m returning to another one at the end of this column), and moving to a band that consists of two people — the Swiss black metal group known as Ateiggär, who are members of the Swiss black metal collective called the Helvetic Underground Committee.
The band’s debut release, Us d‘r Höll chunnt nume Zyt, includes five tracks, and one of those, “En Blinde namens Duracotus“, premiered at DECIBEL about a week ago. As in the case of preceding selections in today’s column, the song’s keyboard enhancements give it an aspect of chilling grandeur, which here is in keeping with the mystical, occult aura of the music overall. The song, however, also whirls, blares, and waltzes in infernal, orgiastic frenzies of sound, with insane vocals that are equally demonic (and bestially ugly). Really nice bass work, too.
Deus Nihil is the third album by the Minneapolis band Witchden, whose genre classification at Metal-Archives is “Sludge”, but who have clearly branched into other territories in this new album, at least judging from the single they released on October 26th.
Sludge is still an ingredient in the musical brew served up on “Abhorrent Rite“, but even more pronounced are the elements of black and death metal. Accented by a vocalist blessed with extravagant roars and howls, the music is night-dark and heavy as hell. The song is a crushing bone-breaker, but also suffocatingly oppressive and mercilessly doomed in its emotional resonance. It will also give your neck a good workout while it pulls you into a charnel pit of cruelty and despair.
And lest you think you’ll drown in its morbid qualities, the band do kick the energy up several notches in the song’s back half, galloping and thundering and segueing into more frenzied (but no less dismal) riffing.
Deus Nihil will be released through Bandcamp on Halloween, and physical copies will follow via Twin Town Tyrant Records.
CRUSTY OLD TOAD
To conclude today’s column I’m going back to a one-man project, and this is one I’ve written about before, reviewing Crusty Old Toad‘s 2017 debut album, Nefarious Occurrence. What I wrote then bears repeating — don’t be fooled by this Portland (Oregon) band’s name or by the often juvenile humor in the lyrics:
“All of the songs include potent melodic hooks and fantastic solos, whether the songs are hurtling along or moving at a more leisurely or more rocking pace…. Nefarious Occurrence is ridiculously infectious and beautifully performed, and deserves to be spread around and taken seriously. Hey, if a band like Slugdge can succeed despite being tongue-in-cheek mollusk worshipers, maybe there’s a path forward for a crusty old toad, too.”
With that reminder/preamble, I’ll turn to a Halloween-themed single released on October 25th — “Scared By A Werewolf“, which will be included on a new album (whose release date hasn’t yet been announced). The snarling vocals here are indeed lycanthropic, and there is an air of sorcery about the music, but it’s also contagiously vibrant, and the soloing (as usual) is scintillating.
Along with “Scared By A Werewolf“, I’m also including a stream of the first single released from the new album back in June. “In Dungeons Dark Displayed” is moodier music, even depressive in its cast, especially at the outset, but the soloing is again glorious, and the song as a whole gets easily stuck in the head.