Well, I did manage to complete Part 2 of this column in time to get it on the site before my NCS time ran out today. However, I did have to make a few compromises because of the shortness of time. For one thing, I had planned to present four full releases, but replaced one of those with a couple of tracks from a record that isn’t yet released. For another, I wrote much less about the first release below than I had wanted to. So it’s another case where the music will mainly have to speak for itself, with my role limited to (hopefully) inducing you to listen.
SCÁTH NA DÉITHE
I reviewed this Irish band’s debut EP in 2015, acclaiming it with words such as these:
“Structured with plenty of twists and turns into new regions of a phantasmic soundscape, this EP is never dull despite the length of the two longest songs. The time passes before you know it, you blink yourself out of a doomed reverie, and you wonder where you are.”
The band’s first full-length, Pledge Nothing But Flesh, followed that EP in 2017, and I wrote this about it:
“The music surges with black fire, with deep shadows that have gleaming eyes and sharp teeth, with the pulse and pound of your own blood rushing, to escape or to run headlong into the grasp of something that pulls you in with a primal force.
“This is supremely intense music that connects on a deep level, but never feels contrived. It offers no comfort for what ails you, but it somehow expresses the intense desire for breath when everything else around you is trying to choke away the last molecules of oxygen. And it finds and expresses a grim magnificence in the clawing for survival that has carried our wretched species to this place in time.
“If you think those words are overwrought, I invite you to submerge yourself in the album and then judge whether I’ve gone overboard. By my lights, this is one of the best albums I’ve heard so far in 2017.”
Now, the duo of session drummer Tom Woodlock and Cathal Hughes (who does everything else) have released a second album via Vendetta Records, entitled The Dirge of Endless Mourning. It consists of four long tracks that fuse together black metal, death metal, and doom to create a heavy and harrowing experience, a tremendously powerful journey to the nightside.
I thought I would share a write-up from starkweather‘s Facebook page since my own words are so meager:
“The return of Scáth Na Déithe is nigh! The Dirge of Endless Mourning crafts threnodies based on Irish folklore, the historical derivations of legend and their present day reach. A black metal, death hybrid specializing in long-form arrangements loaded with charged rhythms, mid-tempo Bolt-Thrower-esque grinding riffs, abyssal drops in tempo, textural guitar work, layers of savage vocals giving way to static bathed spoken passages and guttural roars.
“Cathal Hughes‘ guitar work is the driving force in the recording; however, there are moments where he shows impressive bass runs. Session drummer Tom Woodlock accounts for himself in fine form whether a raging force of perpetual forward motion or allowing space in between the beat permitting breathing room. Excellent sophomore album.”
Indeed it is excellent, and I urge you to make time for complete immersion. Credit for the artwork goes to Luciana Nedelea.
On February 5th the Welsh label Marwolaeth Records released Eau Ardente, the debut album by Ergholae Somptator, a French duo consisting of Léo Louis-Honoré (guitars, bass, vocals) and Jérôme Bouquet (drums, keyboards, vocals). I was curious about their name, but couldn’t manage to discover its meaning or inspiration (the words look Latin-ate, but don’t show up in on-line dictionaries).
Putting to one side the mystery of the name, their music has really gotten its hooks into me damned fast. An aura of gothic horror and tension emanates from the hallucinatory opening track, “L’oubil“, but near the end you get a taste of what’s coming — and I’m talking in part about the gigantic booming drums. The impact of those heavyweight bass-drum cannonades (and the maniacally clattering snare and tom assaults) are an important fixture of all the songs, but in other respects they’re quite different.
Actually, a multitude of different things happen within each song, as the band intertwine different metal traditions and make dramatic changes in rhythm and mood. The vocals are consistently a mix of unhinged shrieking, deranged howling, ugly growls, and strangled regurgitations, but the tracks internally veer from razoring black metal rampages to freakish fretwork discord, from oppressive gloom-shrouded stomps to grand heavy metal chords, from death metal chugging to thrashy gallops and noise-rock outlandishness.
“La raideur” might be the most thoroughly insane of these wild, blood-pumping thrill-rides (though it has stiff competition), and “L’insolence des naïfs” is the most immediately addictive (but it gets plenty crazy before it’s over), while “Les gouffres de Neptune” might be the most cruel, cold, and desolate (it includes a dismal interlude of strummed guitar and moaning bass, along with a closing passage that’s sodden with misery, despite the riveting drumwork and the fiery arpeggios).
Neither “Avalanche” nor “Emporté par la fureur et la fièvre” are slouches either; they’re both also bursting at the seams with devilish creative exuberance, packed with surprises around every hair-pin curve.
If you’re looking for something way off the usual beaten paths, and wish to venture down a tangled road toward Hell’s own asylum for the insane, you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s another band with a mysterious name. Kangeheet is a solo project from Finland, with a debut EP named Omega of Microcosmos that was independently released on February 4th.
“Cosmic Black Metal” is the genre label chosen by Kangeheet, and the music is indeed often spellbinding in its otherworldly magnificence. Through rapidly whirling guitars and grand synthesizer chords, Kangiheet is capable of propelling the listener to glorious and frightening heights, but there are other dark dimensions to this atmospheric music as well — moods of tension, peril, feverish anguish, funereal gloom, haunting eeriness, and sheer, eviscerating terror. Salted throughout the songs are also some head-hooking riffs, and some very memorable melodies.
The vocals include both vicious, cracked rasps and reverent choral voices, in keeping with the changing sensations of the music. The songs are long, but dynamic, experiences that make it easy to stay in harness while Kangeheet creates these kaleidoscopic spells. A fine new discovery….
My introduction to Paganland came in 2015 when we premiered a track from their second album Fatherland, a record dedicated to Ukraine’s ongoing struggle against Russian encroachment to the east, while remaining rooted in Carpathian traditions. Since then they’ve released another album, 2016’s From Carpathian Land, along with a few shorter works, and on February 29th they’ll be releasing their fourth full-length, Galizier.
Before you get the wrong impression from the new album’s cover image, Paganland are not an NS band. That composite photo depicts members of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician), a unit made up mainly of ethnic Ukrainian soldiers recruited by the occupying German forces near the end of World War II to fight against the advancing Soviet army. Much more info about that division can be found at The Font of All Human Knowledge.
The band dedicate the new album to that military unit, as well as to current Ukrainian soldiers from the whole of Ukraine “who defend Ukrainian borders from Russian occupation forces since 2014 until now.” More of us here in the U.S. have learned about that continuing occupation thanks to the investigation, impeachment, and “trial” of you-know-who for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
As for the two songs you can hear below from the new album, “The Legionary” and “In the Heart Forever” (which was released as a single last year), they are both “epic”, to repeat an overused word. Both have great dramatic intensity, strengthened by symphonic instrumentation and the mix of heroic clean vocals and absolutely barbarous snarls. They’re also warlike, surging into savage assaults of blasting percussion and deep, seething riffage. And there’s often a feeling of tragedy in the melodies, and throat-mangling wretchedness in the vocals, as well as an aura of mythic glory.
“In the Heart Forever” is particularly compelling. Darting, head-moving riffs spike the song, and the music also ascends to sweeping, panoramic heights, indicative of its impassioned and devotional inspirations. There’s even a feeling of triumph that comes through by the song’s end.