SHADES OF BLACK: MOTHER AUGUSTA, DECIMA, LVME, SVARTGREN, ANTRE, DE DOUĂSPREZECE STATUI ALE STĂRILOR DE UMBRĂ ALE SUFLETULUI
I think I made a mistake. Between Friday and Saturday I spent 6+ hours just listening to new music, at least half of which I devoted to individual tracks publicly released from forthcoming albums. That’s a LOT of individual tracks. Along with discarding things that didn’t grab me, I started excitedly assembling ideas for round-up posts organized around varying themes, and of course added to an already long existing list of ideas for the column you’re reading now.
Why was that a mistake? Because now I’m mentally suffering from the knowledge that there’s no way I’ll have the time to follow through on all the writing schemes I imagined, no way to feature everything I’d like to recommend. Even if I could, it would be too much music and too many words for any normal person to consume over the space of a few days, on top of other music you would be exploring from other sources.
Well, as they say, I made my bed and now I have to lie on it. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here’s what I chose for today — which is a lot of music, but not nearly enough.
If you haven’t done whatever you need to do to follow the Chinese label Pest Productions on Bandcamp, you ought to fix that post haste. The releases are stylistically more unpredictable than many labels with a black metal pedigree, and over a lot of years I’ve encountered very few that didn’t do something good for me. A Bandcamp e-mail alert just days ago is how I discovered that Pest had released Fragile, which is the name of the debut album of Mother Augusta.
Mother Augusta began as the solo project of Matteo Cordani from Parma, Italy, but now includes not only him (as vocalist/guitarist) but also guitarist Matteo Carretta, bassist Alexandros Karabelas, and drummer Tomaso Fontanini.
You can guess from the cover art of Fragile that it’s not going to be conventional black metal (even though these days it’s increasingly difficult to define what that might be). The vocals (which are more often livid howls than ear-shredding shrieks) are strikingly savage and tormented, and there’s a decent dose of abrasion layered into the guitars (other than the leads, which are almost crystalline clean), but the heavyweight rhythm section delivers mid-paced rocking beats much more often than blasting fusillades or thunderous double-bass assaults, and the moody melodies of the songs have more hooks than a commercial fisherman’s on-board chests. You’ll also encounter glorious, highly headbangable riffs that are more in line with classic heavy metal and hard rock than the more typical black metal slash-and-burn.
In fact, if you stripped away the harshness of the vocals and cut back on the distortion a bit more, these songs are so well-written and so memorable that they could easily become radio hits across a multitude of channels. But they ought to become hits among metal extremists too, in much the same way as the music of a band like Tribulation has. Along with plenty of heft and punch in the low end, the songs have a lot of open-hearted emotional power, of changing shades (most of them dark). Much of the music is downright anthemic, some of it more introspective, some of it depressive and shaded with gothic post-punk gloom, some of it beautifully haunting (especially the instrumental “Just Around the Corner”, with its acoustic strumming and soulful violins), some of it exultant. The soloing, which is fantastic, sends the music into the stratosphere, and also pulls it into glistening pools of grief.
If forced to choose, I would probably name “Addicted”, “Walking In My Shoes”, and “Fragile” as my favorite tracks, probably because they’re so damned pulse-pounding and addictive. But all the tracks are great.
Thanks again go to Rennie (starkweather) for turning me on to the debut EP of Decima. Not sure how he finds bands like this one, who haven’t yet appeared on Metal-Archives, and who haven’t yet made the EP available for purchase or download anywhere that I can find. According to their Facebook page they hail from the Rhône-Alpes region of France, and describe their music in this way (according to the translation I obtained via Google):
“Decima is a musical project founded in 2018. Operating in a style between Post Black and Death Black, the Project explores the psychology and philosophy of human decay from the point of view of a man of antiquity.”
This debut EP, La Grande Oeuvre Humaine, was released via YouTube on November 29th, and its 22 1/2 minutes are divided into three Parts, though the EP really plays like a single uninterrupted piece, which is exactly how you should hear it.
You’ll get an immediate idea of Decima‘s talents within the opening few minutes, in which the band begin with a plaintive solo guitar melody and then gradually begin to layer in the shimmering intensity of a second guitar and hard percussive body blows. Those opening minutes are mesmerizing but despairing in the atmosphere Decima are methodically building. And the band’s skill in creating powerful, indigo-dark atmospheric qualities persists, even after they introduce rampant drum battering, changing vocals (which range from gloomy chants to extravagant growls and terrifying screams), and roiling riff frenzies.
Make no mistake, the emotional atmosphere of the music is indeed despairing and often oppressive, but also reaches heights of pitch-black grandeur, and near the end all hell breaks loose. But it’s relentlessly gripping at all times, even when the band soften the power with spectral piano keys and doom-y, isolated guitar reverberations.
I’ll be waiting eagerly for a way to acquired this EP for my very own rather than being tethered to YouTube. Keep an eye on Decima‘s FB page for some sign of when and how that will be possible. (Credit for the wonderful cover art goes to Quentin Deï).
For the second time in today’s column (and about the 1000th time overall), I’m indebted to Rennie for recommending this next record. Entitled The Blazing Iniquity, and released on October 1st, it’s the debut album of an international band named LVME, whose members are anonymous.
It’s a substantial work — almost 45 minutes divided into four long tracks — and the best single word I can think of for it is “shattering”. It shatters the senses in a multitude of ways. At full speed and red-zone power it’s absolutely obliterating, combining the catastrophic impact of a storming rhythm section, the unsettling effects of shrill, eerie, often-dissonant leads, and the incendiary madness of truly scorching vocals (both harsh and near-clean). In fact the music is so skull-plundering, so intensely unhinged, and so unearthly in the sound of those feverish gleaming leads, that it pops the eyes open, drops the jaw, and sends chills down the spine.
It’s shattering in other ways as well. In its less explosive moments, which are used sparingly, the music is debilitating in the depths of its grief-stricken and hopeless moods. Though used judiciously, those comparatively softer moments complement the hurricane-strength deliriums that surround them. Together they paint a vivid portrait of apocalypse, not unlike a Bosch painting in musical form, and the power of the music (which unfolds on a mythic scale) is such that you feel immersed in the hellscape, a figure within it rather than an observer safely gazing from a distance.
The Blazing Iniquity is available on vinyl and CD through From Below Productions, and digitally through LVME’s Bandcamp page.
BUY / DOWNLOAD:
Svartgren are a black metal band from Belgrade, Serbia, and they will be releasing their second album Divlja Vatra on December 22 through Werewolf Promotions. Once I saw the wonderful painted cover art for the record by Khaos Diktator Design I knew I would need to hear the opening track from the album, “Lapot“. That turned out to be a very good decision.
Driven hard and fast by brutally pummeling drums, vibrantly pulsating bass, and grim heavy riffs that burrow into the skull like industrial-strength drill bits, the song is savage and bleak — and thrilling. The savagery is amplified by the vocals, and when the tone of the riffing climbs the scale the music seems reaching for a measure of vicious grandeur. Another dimension of the music comes to the fore when the drummer begins rocking and strummed chords seize the attention — certainly not a movement toward happiness, but perhaps a final relishing of carnal impulses on the way to the executioner’s block.
Divlja Vatra will be released on CD by Werewolf Promotions, and it can be pre-ordered digitally through Svartgren’s Bandcamp.
We finally come to a band who have previously appeared at NCS. Back in February of this year Andy Synn reviewed this Nottingham band’s debut album Void, and included these words: “At its best, the music on Void displays an instinctive grasp of both atmosphere and aggression which, while not dissimilar to the malevolent heaviness of Infestus or the seething menace of American antagonists The Funeral Pyre, seems to come from a much more organic and natural place than some of the band’s peers.” Andy also praised the band’s “surprisingly elegant and dynamic balance between blistering intensity and brooding introspection that you’d expect from a much bigger and more well-established band.”
Andy also found a few flaws (as he is want to do), which he hoped would be eradicated on whatever the band might do next. What they’ve done next is a new single named “Wrecan“, which is apparently an Old English word that loosely translates to “vengeance”.
The saying goes that revenge is a dish best served cold, but the vengeance translated through “Wrecan” is a conflagration, a howling, battering, ripping, and ravaging assault. The vocals are terrifyingly wild, and everything else is too. Sometimes there’s a pulsing quality to the riffing, and a searing, soaring quality in the leads, and the drummer does shift gears at opportune times, but in the main “Wrecan” is a blast-furnace of explosive abandon — until near the end, when you’ll get a fine chance to bang your head like a piston.
DE DOUĂSPREZECE STATUI ALE STĂRILOR DE UMBRĂ ALE SUFLETULUI
To close, I’ve chosen the latest release by De Douăsprezece Statui ale Stărilor de Umbră ale Sufletului (henceforth “ddsasduas“), the prolific Spanish one-person project with a Romanian band name drawn from a surrealistic novel named Solenoid by Mircea Cărtărescu (which seems to mean “The Twelve Statues of the Soul Shadows”).
So far, ddsasduas has released one EP for every month of this year, and the November arrival is named Jalea. Like all the others, this new one is a long single track (17 1/2 minutes in this case). Like the novel that inspired the band’s name, it’s a surreal experience. You’ll be glad for the metronomic, pulse-pushing power of the drum rhythms, which are both galloping and more stately, because so much of what happens around it is hallucinatory.
The music is raw and dense, but it has a heaving, groaning, earth-trembling power and a deeply sinister, preternatural atmosphere. There are bursts of freakish, crashing sound within this lumbering leviathan, blast-beats go crazy in the mid-section, and in a few instances the drumming switches to a punk-ish rhythm. There might be scalding shrieks as well as inhuman roars in the track, but it’s difficult to separate what’s human from what’s inhuman in this cycling of calamitous motifs.
Could Jalea have been just as effective at half the length? Yes, I think so, but I’m not 100% positive, because part of what’s going on here might be the creation of a trance state. I know I kind of got lost in the experience, as I have in the other ddsasduas EPs I’ve heard. Decide for yourselves.
Svartgren was good, don’t think I’ve ever heard a Serbian band before. And that cover!
If you’re new to Serbian black metal, definitely check out The Stone. They’ve been around since 1996, with 8 albums on the discography, and they’re excellent.
Wasnt there a Serbian band that deal w sewer related lyrics only? Plimi Simenau(??)—canmot find them anymore, certainly not by writing phonetically..
The Stone although nothing special is preferable to Svartgren who are rather bog standard.
Is Svartgren even Serbian? I feel the idea of having a Scandinavian (Svartgren seems to mean black branch) bandname for a non-Scandinavian band has blown over from the US, perhaps? Does it imply some quality stamp for the music or a lack of ideas?
It does indeed mean black branch in Swedish. The use of scandinavian band names from people clearly not from scandinavia is kind of a weird, but amusing trend.
Band name you are trying to write is STINY PLAMENU and they are from Czech republic.
Dang! Youre right! My memory confounded me. Thanks for correcting my mistake.