SHADES OF BLACK: ISRATHOUM, KAATAYRA, TO CONCEAL THE HORNS, THERMOHALINE, MOONREICH, UMBRA CONSCIENTIA
I did warn you this might be late.
I had a hellish time deciding what to include in this week’s column. Usually I manage to squeeze a few black metal selections into SEEN AND HEARD round-ups during the week, which makes the Sunday winnowing a little bit easier (but only a little), and I did some of that in yesterday’s first post.
But lacking the time to prepare any round-ups last week, the options over which I pondered for this column were enormous in number. I did the best I could, though still downcast by my inability to do more — a feeling counter-balanced by how excited I am over what I did choose.
The Portuguese band Israthoum, who have been based in the Netherlands for roughly 20 years, have produced a distinctive and compelling discography that, for myself and many others, makes their every release a “must listen!” event.
Their newest work, an album named Arrows from Below, is enriched by the amazing artwork of Ubertragic Art that you see above. It will be released on Friday the 13th of December by New Era Productions, and last week DECIBEL premiered the first excerpt, a song called “Laetetur Cor”.
With lyrics in Portuguese for the first time, this new Israthoum song seems to borrow its title from a Gregorian chant whose first Latin verse translates to “Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice” — though Israthoum’s variation puts a different and blasphemous spin on the words.
I will have a great deal more to say about this album very soon, so I think for now I’ll just save my impressions and encourage you to listen to the song. The track stream is still exclusive to DECIBEL, so for the time being you’ll have to go HERE to listen.
Kaatayra is a one-man black metal band from Brasilia, Brazil, whose music (he says) is motivated by overcoming the shame of being human by communing with the green of the land and the life of rivers, and by dreaming — “sonha-se as vidas de ascendentes”. His debut album, No Ruidar da Mata que Mirra, was released on March 11th of this year. As I wrote then, I was thoroughly captivated by it.
As is often the case with one-person projects, who are unencumbered by the tasks of coordinating schedules and sometimes divergent creative impulses among numerous members, Kaatayra has already released a new album, Nascido Sob o Signo Incivilizatório, which came out on November 17th. If you’re skeptical about the quality of a new, nearly hour-long, album following so quickly on the heels of the first, perish that thought. Overall, this new one is stunning.
Kaatayra’s mainman Caio Lemos did have a bit of assistance on the new record, with Raíssa Geovanna Matos performing additional vocals on the fourth track, and Alessandro Moska performing a variety of traditional instruments on the third track, but once again he deserves credit for everything else, and perhaps most especially for so brilliantly integrating soaring and shamanistic melodies, and the old musical traditions of his homeland, as well as a vast rain-forest atmosphere, into the more familiar tropes of Scandinavian black metal.
(I’m indebted to Rennie (starkweather), who introduced me to Kaatayra’s first album, for making me aware of this one, and to Miloš as well, who also linked me to it.)
TO CONCEAL THE HORNS
In January of this year I was floored (and said so) by the debut EP of yet another one-person project. In this case, the EP (Kun Luovun) was the work of Agitathur Vexd from Jyväskylä, Finland, operating under the name To Conceal the Horns. Thankfully, To Conceal the Horns will be following up that ravishing EP with a full-length entitled Purist. A release date hasn’t been announced, but a single from the album was digitally released on November 23rd.
“The Rite of Purification” concerns “detachment from the fellowship of man through a rite of purification”, and in addressing that experience the music provides so many riches in which to revel. The opening motifs alternate between poisonous seething tones and blasts of bombast, and then Vexd introduces a vibrant skirling melody that immediately makes the heart swell. While the song is mainly a turbocharged, head-battering rush (interrupted by an eerie and unnerving interlude), it’s that central melody, and the many mood-changing variations that Vexd subsequently introduces (along with dramatically varying vocals), which make the song such an emotionally powerful experience.
Purist can’t come soon enough.
(Many thanks to our ally Speelie for e-mailing me about the release of this new song.)
I don’t know much about Thermohaline. The YouTube streams I’ve included below identify the band as a “new Atmospheric Avantgarde Black Metal Project” that consists of a Belgium/Portuguese collaboration — the Portuguese member is Nuno Lourenço of Salqiu, and the Belgian seems to be Lennart Janssen. The band further describe the record on which the songs will appear as “the 3 layer concept”, with the second of the tracks representing “the more atmospheric and melodic oriented layer”.
But before we get to that one, the first of the songs you’ll find below, “Thy Skull Shall Be Mine“, is presented through a fascinating but chilling video that includes imagery of life forms in the deep sea, in keeping with the band’s name, which refers to the circulation of large-scale ocean currents. As for the absolutely fascinating music, I’ll quote the commentary of Rennie (starkweather) who introduced me to it:
“The project is very much in Nuno’s wheelhouse of multi-genre compositions although this feels distinctly heavier in terms of guitar tone and layering. Veering from death metal, astral black atmospherics, ambient industrial washes, symphonic flourishes and benthic regions of crushing doom. Probably the strongest material Nuno has featured to date.”
That second song, “The Calling“, is even longer than the first (13 1/2 minutes), and is also presented through a fascinating video that pairs beautifully with the music, whose sensations are mystical and mesmerizing, ominous and oppressive, ghostly and gargantuan. It is indeed the more atmospheric and immersive of the two tracks, and as a consequence it’s probably the more frightening of the two, because the rich layering of sounds creates a decidedly otherworldly, blood-chilling aura. You will eventually come to a body-pulsing electronic beat and an effusion of blasting drums and bleak, vibrating riffage — though the music remains scary, and increasingly dismal, right through to the cold, shimmering beauty of the finale.
At this point I don’t know the name of the release that includes these two songs, or a release date, and I haven’t found any on-line presence for the band.
Now I’m turning again to a band who have previously won my heart, as others in today’s compilation have. This one is the French band Moonreich, who have chosen to follow their fourth album, 2018’s Fugue, with an EP, the name of which is Wormgod. It was released on November 22nd by Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions.
I would have listened to it regardless, but I might have dived in more quickly when I saw that the closing track was a cover of Depeche Mode‘s “Broken“. That’s right, a Depeche Mode cover…
… but I can’t say I was shocked, because Moonreich’s previous music has also defied black metal genre conventions despite the fact that they are unmistakably a black metal band, and a ferocious one at that.
I happen to like “Broken” a lot, and the vocals on Moonreich’s cover really are very close to those of Dave Gahan, which is high praise, and in other ways it’s a wonderful adaptation. But before you get to that song, Moonreich will run you through a gauntlet of electrifying sound. The songs are of varying tempos but always driven by enormously compelling rhythms (many of which will jackhammer your neck with no mercy), and the titanic riffing has a near-overpowering impact, while the vocals are blistering in their viciousness. The band also lace the songs with an array of dark and dire melodies, some heaving and some frenzied, that collectively cloak the EP in a shroud of unearthly peril.
In early August Terratur Possessions launched a Soundcloud stream of a nameless song by an undisclosed band, accompanied only by this statement: “Brand new project to be announced, debut LP/CD coming early 2020”.
I was quite skinned alive and exploded by that song (as described here), and then in September Terratur Possessions continued playing the teasing game by posting another nameless song by (presumably) the same anonymous band, and I raved here about it too.
Now, the mystery has been resolved — at least partially. Last week Terratur Possessions revealed that the name of the band is Umbra Conscientia, and that the album which includes those two songs will be released on November 30th. The album artwork, by Misanthropic Art, has also been disclosed, as has the album title — Yellowing of The Lunar Consciousness. But as for who is in this band, or where they are located, I still don’t know.
The first song revealed in August now has a name — “Citrinitas” — and so does the second one — “Umbra Conscientia“. I won’t repeat what I’ve already written about them, but will just install those now-identified tracks below for your pleasure.
UPDATE: Thanks to the Comment below from wolfy (thank you brother), I’ve learned that the album is now available for pre-order as a digital release on Bandcamp, and I’ve now included the song streams from that platform in addition to the Soundcloud tracks. That Bandcamp page also identifies the band’s location as Costa Rica, and the release date as November 30th.
Is the link to Laetetur Cor on DECIBEL not working for anyone else? I can’t find anywhere to preview the song.
Try this (not sure why you’re not able to get to it from the link in the post above):
Shucks! Another Shades of Black out of the ball park: great collection. Kaatarya and Umbra Conscientia especially, along w Thermohaline
Aw shucks, thank you!
And heres a sirect link for Umbra Conscientia –
Thank you! I’ve updated what I wrote to include this info.
Israthoum is a new one for me. Intriguing black metal. I see they’ve been around a while.
To Conceal the Horns is awesome.