SHADES OF BLACK: BLACK FLUX, KANNUSTAA, SVARTKONST, ULVDALIR, MIMORIUM, MALAÖUN
6-6-6. With more NCS time available to me over the last few days than usual, I’ve managed to feature the new music of six bands on each of the last three days. Surely some hellish reward will soon arrive at my door.
For this column I’m beginning and ending with complete streams of recently released debut albums. In between you’ll find advance tracks from forthcoming records, two of them from old favorites of mine and two from new discoveries. I’m very high on everything included here, and have already added tracks from all six bands to my list of candidates for 2020’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs.
The Russian band Black Flux made a wise choice in setting the third track on their debut album, Black Stream, to play first at the album’s Bandcamp page. That track, “Пепельные Кубки (Ashen Goblets)“, lofts grand waves of slow-moving melody and glimmering ethereal tonalities over hurtling drums and truly vicious vocals. In addition, the band erupt in flurries of savage, electrifying riffage, while transforming the mood of those grand, cascading symphonic melodies into an increasingly tormented sensation that seems to writhe in agony. Through it all, vibrant bass lines rise and fall. The power of the sound is tremendous, as is the music’s emotional impact, which is wrenching.
How much more of this goodness is to be found on Black Stream? Quite a lot, as it turns out. The remaining tracks are also produced in a way that delivers spine-shaking and nerve-firing power, and there is almost no relent in the penetrating emotional force either. The songs channel shattering anguish and tragic, panoramic grandeur in equal measure, and the vocals are a terrifying force of nature, all of that driven by breathtaking percussive assaults and interspersed with bursts of neck-wrecking riffs and jolting grooves.
The band do provide a few moments in which the all-enveloping force of the music recedes, switching gears into less maniacal rhythmic drives or (at the end of a couple tracks) stripping away the rhythms altogether and becoming more mystical, mysterious, and moody. And the closing minutes of “The Frozen” lock into a groove that’s one of the catchiest passages on the album — before the band send the song into a glorious, sky-bound finale. Can’t say enough good things about the scene-stealing bass-work either.
In a word, Black Stream is stupendous, from the first track right through the absolutely desolating closer, “Путь (Upwards)“, which left me wide-eyed, slack-jawed, and crushed by its terrible magnificence. The album has rapidly become one of my favorite black metal albums of this (admittedly young) new year, and I don’t expect I’ll have forgotten about it when the year ends.
Black Stream was released on January 26th by the Ukrainian label Bloodred Distribution. The cover art is by Noersyl Skept.
(Thanks to Miloš for the link to this excellent album.)
Kannustaa are an international melodic black metal band with members from Serbia and the U.S. Their self-titled debut album will be released on March 6th. The first album track they’ve revealed, “Don’t Leave Me“, sent me bolt-upright immediately, like someone had stabbed a live power-line right into my neck. There’s a wonderful yowling tone to the electrifying opening riff, and it’s so potent that it almost drowns out the rampant drumming and the throat-ripping vocal madness.
The drumming switches gears into more measured cadences, but the thermonuclear guitar work continues to dominate, rising and falling, twisting and turning, flickering in anguish and moaning in despair, slashing and scything and whirring with incredible vitality. Near the end, the bass becomes a bludgeoning presence, helping to send the song out in an explosive, vertebrae-cracking finale.
I can’t get enough of this track (which gave me flashes of the much-loved Mantar), and can’t wait to hear the rest of the album.
A. Đ. (Debasement) – Vocals, Guitars
J. – Drums
Jamie Bibbs (Jesusegg) – Bass
Devil’s Blood, released in June 2018, was the debut album of the one-man blackened death metal band Svartkonst. Swedish musician Rickard Törnqvist mixed and mastered it as well as composing and performing all the music. It hooked me immediately with the opening track “Black Light Burning“, and I stayed hooked for the next nine tracks. After listening to it, I wrote:
“The songs mix together episodes of scathing black metal barbarism and powerfully head-moving infernal rock, with livid, butcher-knife vocal ferocity. And so, within almost every song you get doses of blasting drums and flensing riffery as well as gut-punching percussive rhythms and hugely addictive hammering and jabbing chords that are made for headbanging, all of it shrouded in greater and lesser degrees of occult atmosphere.
“On top of that, Törnqvist has a knack for threading these tracks with strains of eerie yet often grand melody, and for slowing the full-throttle rushes in order to introduce passages of ominous gloom or cutting loose in eruptions of near-maniacal frenzy — and the album’s closing track is a moody but anthemic ballad that’s utterly mesmerizing (and entirely instrumental).”
Needless to say, I welcome the return of Svartkonst, with a second album named Black Waves due for release on April 3rd (CD and vinyl) by TNO Recordings. Rickard Törnqvist again does everything, with assistance from a trio of guests on different tracks.
The first glimpse of the new album is a song called “I Am the Void“, and much of what I wrote before applies here. It’s a turbocharged, powerhouse experience, propelled by compulsive, skull-cracking drumwork and deep, heaving bass undercurrents. The song alternates between a searing and soaring riff that’s powerfully memorable and bursts of pile-driving groove, and it further includes a melancholy solo that transforms into an incandescent spectacle. Törnqvist‘s bestial growls are ravaging in their barbaric intensity — a fine match for the striking intensity of the music.
Like Svartkonst, the Russian band Ulvdalir are also about to make a welcome return. What I’ve had to say about previous releases can be found behind this link. Their next one, Hunger for the Cursed Knowledge, is an EP consisting of four songs and 32 minutes of total music. It will be released by Inferna Profundus Records on March 20th, and is described as a record “for those who breath by icy air of Darkthrone (old), Dodheimsgard (old), Judas Iscariot, Arckanum.”
“Road of Knowledge“, the first advance track, proves that Uldvalir have lost none of their fiery spirit or songwriting prowess. The riffing rips and ravages in a grim fury, but also grows more beleaguered and bereft, over a sequence of carefully calculated drum-beats and inflamed roaring vocals that send shivers up and down the spine. Like the Black Flux album discussed above, the song is evenly mixed and produced in a way that delivers tremendous power and relative clarity, and the changing riffs — all of them — are immensely charismatic.
Inferna Profundus will release the EP on CD and limited black vinyl. It features the chilling artwork of Chadwick St. John.
Interestingly, I’ve learned that Ulvdalir is a member of the “True Ingrian Black Metal Death” circle — which includes the afore-mentioned Black Flux (along with Khasm, Likferd, and Atanor).
Now I’m turning to another new discovery after re-visiting a couple of proven favorites. However, Mimorium are a new discovery for me only because I overlooked their 2018 debut album, Incipit Chaos. Their new second album, Blood of Qayin, is described by the publicist for the releasing label (Spread Evil Productions) as one that explores “the mysteries of the Blood of Qayin to possess the minds of murderers viewed through the teachings of anti-cosmic Satanism” and provides “echoes of old Dissection, Mörk Gryning, and Dark Funeral“.
So far, three tracks have been made public — “I Am What We Are“, “Left Hand of North“, and “Hunter“. All three make a startlingly strong impression. Mimorium display a talent for crafting intensely dramatic melodies that create an atmosphere of mythic grandeur, while also proving the ability to attack with breathtaking savagery. The sheer ferocity of the music is due in no small part to the infernal intensity of vocalist Vox Malum‘s flesh-stripping shrieks and inhuman bellows and roars, but also to the venomous intensity of the riffs and the incendiary ecstasy and esoteric magic channeled by the leads.
All these stand-out qualities combine to give the music an atmosphere of pageantry playing out on a larger-than-life stage, though it also has plenty of carnal, blood-pumping appeal as well. There’s also a formidable rhythm section at work here, whose constantly changing performances significantly contribute to the songs’ attention-grabbing dynamism.
Damned electrifying music, and damned memorable too.
As mentioned at the outset, I’m concluding today’s column with another complete album stream. This record, The Darkest Shrines, is the first — and possibly the last — output of Malaöun from Baling, Malaysia. It’s the solo work of ML, who is also the person behind Voidnaga, Devourer of Light, Impious Blood, and Thorns of Hate. It may be the last such effort under the Malaöun name because ML describes it as a “one shot project”. If so, it’s a damned good shot.
Only four tracks here, but they’re all long ones, all inspired by the glories of ’90s Scandinavian black metal. The first of those includes an ominous and awe-inspiring introduction composed of cosmic ambient sounds, but then gives you a good taste of what’s to come when the searing, rapidly vibrating, harmonized riffing of “Ominous Womb of Crimson Death” pierces the mind. Combined with ML‘s serrated-edge roars and the blasting drum fusillades, the song creates sensations of wild, vicious exultation and scarifying despair. There are some rocking grooves in the song as well, and whirling leads and scintillating keyboards that create a feeling of exotic (and dangerous) seductiveness.
In the potent, penetrating excitement of its riffing, “Ominous Womb…” is not alone. All four tracks are equally thrilling — and often genuinely frightening in their intensity. “Herald of a Thousand Horrors” is particularly plague-stricken and hopeless in its moods, a feeling amplified by the desolate torment expressed through ML‘s harrowing howls and the forlorn anguish manifested in the leads. A soul-splintering song that one — near apocalyptic in its expression of calamity and dejection.
On the other hand, the fire-bright riffing in “From The Ashes Of The Dying Sun” has a glorious skirling sound, and the drumming is thunderous in its extravagance. To be sure, as the riffing changes, the music also transmits peril and pain as well as courage and defiance. It’s as if we’re witnessing an epic tale in which valiant warriors are charging to a doom they know they can’t avoid but don’t shy from.
Speaking of war and death, “Towards Perdition And Blazing Flames” launches with a martial snare rhythm and a deeply melancholy melody that becomes increasingly affecting as it unfurls and is joined by glimmering keyboard chords. The music becomes more ominous and oppressive, more haunted by spectral horror (thanks to those ghostly keyboard emanations). Tension builds as the riffing and drumwork become more feverish and the melody more despairing — and then the music seems to flare into a blaze of exultation and intense yearning.
The Darkest Shrines was released through Bandcamp on February 2nd. Abundant thanks are owed to Rennie (starkweather) for making me aware of it.
I don’t know if you are familiar with The Beverly Hillbillies TV show, but one of Jethro Bodine’s names when he was a Hollywood actor was “Bolt Upright.” Another was “Crunch Hardtack.” He finally settled on “Beef Jerky.” CLASSIC ISLANDER!
Oh yes, I’m familiar with that show but not sure Ii ever knew that history of Jethro Bodine. However, I have now learned that Max Baer is the only surviving regular cast member of The Beverly Hillbillies.
A god damned black metal song entitled “Don’t Leave Me” !
“Don’t Leave Me” already in the running for one of the songs of the year !