With the new year rushing to an end and the holiday season rushing toward us even faster, it will become even more difficult for me to compile these collections. Among other things, our annual LISTMANIA orgy consumes a lot of my NCS time. Even though I don’t prepare my own list, I do track down album art and embed codes for album streams for the lists made by others, and conform the formats to our usual style, and do lesser or greater amounts of text editing. And speaking of year-end lists, I’m sitting on a slate of eight of them by both musician guests and NCS writers that I’m planning to begin rolling out next week, with a few more yet to come.
New music, of course, doesn’t stop appearing just because the holidays and the end of the year are almost upon us. In fact we’ve been getting recent reminders that maybe a lot of year-end lists were made too soon, as well as indications that 2020 is going to start off with a BANG!, at least in terms of forthcoming metal albums, if not in terms of North Korean missile launches, or maybe that too.
Anyway, to underscore that last observation I’ve chosen a couple of very impressive late-year releases, a few tracks from 2020 records, and one new stand-alone single — and as usual I’ve mixed things up a bit just so you don’t get too comfortable.
This new Black Aevum EP is one of two releases in today’s collection that Rennie (starkweather) messaged me about just yesterday. He wrote about a third one, too (by Reasoning Reflections), but I haven’t made it to that one yet — because I got completely drawn into the two you’ll find here. In fact, in the case of Black Aevum I only intended to quickly check out one song just to see what was going on, and the next thing I knew 23 minutes had passed and I was tempted to start again from the beginning right away.
Black Aevum hail from Decatur, Texas, the county seat of Wise County, northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. This new EP, An Elegy For the Lost, was released on Bandcamp and other streaming services on December 20th, with stunning artwork by Dawid Figielek.
The music is stunning too. This band’s brand of blackened death metal is high-decibel thunder — and I do mean thunder! The impact of the blitzing drums, trauma-inducing bass lines, and raking, roiling, darting riffs is almost overpowering. As if all that intensity weren’t enough, the band pack a tag-team, no-holds-barred vocal attack of monstrous echoing roars and scalding shrieks that send shivers down the spine.
Black Aevum also do an eye-opening job switching up their extravagant assaults, moving early on in “Untrue North” from a brutish, mid-paced, pile-driving stomp saturated in gloom into a demented frenzy, and with “The Fangs of Futility” they kick things into an even higher gear. The drummer pulls out all the stops, creating a reasonable facsimile of heavy-caliber automatic weaponry, while the guitars generate spitfire pulsations and then soar, generating a wave of seething, shining melody. But somehow, “Dreaming In the Oakwood Cemetery” pushes the intensity even higher, creating an atmosphere of searing, mind-fracturing delirium (while making room for skull-busting groove along the way).
One of the great things about this EP is how much individual character Black Aevum manage to give each song, even though each of them (except for the closing instrumental) is fundamentally obliterating. The blaring melodies in “Limbo 153” give it a tremendously bleak but magisterial cast, but the band also jackhammer the bejesus out of you in that song, while “Primitive Contradiction” is a wild amalgam of merciless pulverization, almost-Arabian melodic exoticism, and something like the feeling of a carnival on fire.
And to continue the diversification, there’s an unexpectedly light instrumental overture to “Lost Divinity” before the band bring out the heavy firepower again, while also creating sweeping melodic overlays that are grief-stricken, and capping that with a slow and sinuous guitar solo that deepens the song’s sorrowful mood, even in the midst of breathtaking rhythmic tumult.
And last, but not least, “Even Ghosts Say Goodbye” reaches a fork in the road and takes a path not traveled before. In a word, it’s spellbinding.
Here, near the dead-stop of 2019, Black Aevum have delivered a huge and very welcome surprise. I hope to hell it doesn’t get lost in the year-end flurries.
Now I’ll turn to one of those advance tracks from forthcoming 2020 releases. This one is “Satanás Governa“, which is off the debut album by the Portuguese death metal band Necrobode. Entitled Sob o Feitiço do Necrobode, it will be released by Iron Bonehead Productions on February 21st.
Necrobode do a lot of things very well on this electrifying song. They deliver blood-pounding drumwork and bass lines that sound like an excavation machine at work. The vocals sound authentically demonic. They batter and pound with a savage will. But best of all, they’ve packed the song with memorable riffs which switch between a kind of crazed sorcerous pulsation and a hammering cadence that would split concrete, interspersed with eldritch arpeggios. And yes, as crushing as the song is, it really does get stuck in the head very easily.
This is the second release in today’s playlist that Rennie told me about, and this one was also released on December 20th. He characterized Trenchlung’s music this way: “Very Gorguts grind. Gorguts/Obscura meets Human Remains. A little bit of Ulcerate given some of the chord phrasings and dextrous drumming.” On starkweather’s Facebook page he also added references to Plebeian Grandstand and Car Bomb, with this summing up of the sound: “Dissonant, mathy, grinding aggrotech”.
I’m not sure whether you could call Hiraeth an album or an EP. It includes five main tracks and three bonus tracks, adding up to more than 28 minutes. But whatever you call it, these three dudes (who are scattered among Windsor and Toronto in Canada, and Melbourne in Australia) make a ravishing first impression.
Rennie‘s allusions do an excellent job forecasting for you what the music sounds like. I’ll just add that it’s a non-stop thrill-ride, loaded with tempo changes, mood alterations, extravagant technical acrobatics, completely unhinged vocals (except for sober spoken words), and enticing melodic and anti-melodic accents. The instrumental juxtapositions are ingenious, the performances razor-sharp, the entire experience wildly kaleidoscopic. The music is capable of beating you senseless, sucking the air from your lungs, and contorting your cranial neurons into new and unrecognizable shapes.
In two words, fucking brilliant.
I watched and listened to this next video from Toundra, and then just listened to it a second time while intentionally averting my gaze. The first time through, it was impossible to divorce the music from the scenes playing out from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I’ve never seen that 1920 German silent horror film, though I’ve read plenty about it. I think, having seen the video from this Madrid-based band, it’s high time that I did. If you also haven’t seen it, I’ll add these words from The Font of All Human Knowledge as preparation for the video:
“Considered the quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema, it tells the story of an insane hypnotist (Werner Krauss) who uses a somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) to commit murders. The film features a dark and twisted visual style, with sharp-pointed forms, oblique and curving lines, structures and landscapes that lean and twist in unusual angles, and shadows and streaks of light painted directly onto the sets.”
Toundra’s video includes portrayals of the words that provide a great match for the imagery from the movie, and as I’ve already suggested, the music makes a great match as well, almost as if they set out to create a soundtrack to it. And guess what? That’s exactly what they did! In fact, in late February they will be embarking on a tour in which they will perform their soundtrack along with the movie.
That soundtrack, entitled Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari, will be released on February 28th, the day the tour begins. The video below is from a portion of the album called “I. Akt“, which I assume means Act I. The music is essentially instrumental post-rock, and it is beautiful, mysterious (even mesmerizing), tension-inducing, ominous, and guaranteed to get your head moving. It ebbs and flows, creating a fascinating musical interpretation of the events on the screen, but I want to underscore that reference I made to “tension-inducing”. There are times when the music begins building… and I wanted it to crest in an eruption… which never really comes….
I suspect it would be fantastic to hear the rest of the soundtrack while watching the entire movie. Some of you will be able to do that — check the links below for those tour dates I mentioned.
Given the tastes of most people who visit our site, I thought I ought to end this collection with something a little heavier and harsher than the Toundra track, and to do that I’ve chosen the debut single by a Finnish melodic death metal band named Dead Serenity. The name of the song is “Darkness Within“.
As the band themselves would admit, it’s not difficult to identify their influences (speaking for myself, I was reminded of some of Tuomas Saukkonen‘s projects, including Before the Dawn and Wolfheart, as well as Insomnium and Dark Tranquillity), but that doesn’t make the song any less compelling. And I for one have fallen for it hard, because I’m a big fan of all those bands I just referenced, and now for Dead Serenity too.
The song combines sparkling vitality and a feeling of cold northern gloom, adrenaline-pushing rhythms and soaring melody, serrated-edge growls and howls, and heart-felt clean vocals. And it takes a detour into softer terrains, becoming moody, melancholy, and wistful, before a fluid guitar solo leads the music into an emotionally-charged gallop again. It tugs at the heart-strings, and maybe the more hard-hearted among you will be immune to its allure, but not me.