I’m writing this on Saturday, to make sure I’m able to post it on Sunday — because there’s a more than even chance that my head won’t be functioning very well on Sunday morning. I’m going to an annual party tonight (to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns), and based on past experience I’ll drink way more single malt whisky and sleep less than is conducive to the formation of sentences the next day.
For the same reason, the odds are high that I don’t get a SHADES OF BLACK column written for Sunday (I also do remember that I never finished Part 2 of last Sunday’s column). So, to partially make up for that, the songs I grouped together in this Part 17 of the list fall into the categories of black or “blackened” metal.
In the 2018 edition of this list (here) I included the title track from Sargeist’s brilliant last album, Unbound. Given that the band have established about a four-year cycle on their albums, I figured it would be 2022 before we got more new music from them. But at the beginning of the last week of 2019 they dropped a surprise EP named Death Veneration.
photo by Elena Vasilaki
It’s a four-track attack, consisting of songs that Sargeist recorded in the sessions that produced Unbound and were originally intended for splits that never materialized. It was first revealed through Bardo Methodology (here) along with an interview of Shatraug that discussed the impulsive nature of this release and how quickly it materialized. The interview also mentions that Shatraug has already written enough new material for another album, and that one of the tracks on the EP (“Lunar Curse“) was the first song Shatraug wrote for Sargeist, way back in 1998.
Every song on that EP hooked me like a wriggling carp on a gaff (as I wrote here). By the slimmest of margins I thought the title track was the most addictive, and so for the second year in a row I’m adding a Sargeist song to this list. It’s grand as well as savage, with riffs that torch the mind and vocals that are absolutely unchained in their ferocity, but it also provides opportunities to rock out as your heart leaps into your throat.
I heard “With Everburning Sulphur Unconsumed“ before anything else on Darkend’s new album Spiritual Resonance. They unveiled it through a video in advance of the album’s release, and I had a pretty strong feeling even then that it would wind up on this list, due in large part to the interaction between the bestial assaults of Animae’s harsh vocals and the riveting voice of guest performer Lindy-Fay Hella of Wardruna. In addition to that, there’s a searing yet inconsolably bleak quality to the melodies in this enormously dramatic song, as well as a beautifully moody bass solo, backed by shining keyboards.
“It is likely that ‘With Everburning Sulphur Unconsumed‘ (presented through a video you’ll find below) will turn out to be the highlight of Spiritual Resonance for many listeners. It arrives after the aforementioned assault of the album’s first two songs and features the most prominent guest spot on the album, with Wardruna’s Lindy Fay Hella providing guest vocal work for the song’s chorus, creating an absolutely stunning interplay between her own work opening each line and the multitude of roars that follow from vocalist Animae. The song builds – almost literally – off of “Scorpio Astraea High Coronation”, with a main building block of the song being a very similar martial rhythm and slithering rhythm guitar section which makes the two feel more intertwined than may have been initially intended and creates a massive block of mid-tempo stomp early on in the disc.”
The track remains just as stunning now as it was when it first appeared seven months ago. Easily deserving of a spot on this list. The video also remains a fine pairing of chilling sights with these sounds.
The last song I’m adding in this installment of the list is one I came across last March in my searching for new music to include in a SEEN AND HEARD round-up. The song is “Ceremony II: The Way of Sin,” and it was included on the second album by the Spanish trio Totengott, the title of which is The Abyss.
The song popped my eyes open the first time I heard it, and it’s one of those tracks that for me has been like a bag of candy for a sugar addict. I dig into it whenever I need the kind of fix it provides. The music is a blood-rushing surge, and a full-bore head-mover. A big bass pulse and a hard-cracking snare keep things going, and the fast-moving riffs, which skitter, hammer, bleat, and slither like some giant engorged python, are electrifying. There’s an eerie, exotic solo in the song, as well as livid, scraped-raw vocals. It’s a thoroughly venomous piece of music for sure, but such highly addictive poison.
Néstor Ávalos made the dark cover art for The Abyss, and it was released by Xtreem Music last April.