I nearly called this SHADES OF BLACK-PART 1, because I have a few albums I want to recommend and briefly review, in addition to the individual tracks and EPs I’ve collected here. I’m going to try to do that, but in looking at other things that are already in the works I’m not sure I can push myself to do it quickly. So we’ll see, but in the meantime I hope you’ll enjoy what follows. I believe that each of these six bands are making their first appearance at NCS.
The Belgian duo Alasthor claim inspiration from such bands as Marduk, Arkhon infaustus, Dissection, Gorgoroth, Funeral Mist, Nargaroth, and Mgla, and for their lyrical themes they draw upon studies and practices of the Left Hand Path. Their newest release, Mahapralaya, is a four-track offering that was revealed on March 24th.
Alasthor‘s music is dense, heavy, and capable of mounting overpowering assaults of blazing riffs, jaw-dropping drum tirades, and caustic vocal barbarism. But the riffing and the drumming prove to be notably dynamic, and the band cycle through riveting changes even within the songs’ relatively compact duration. Even with all the gripping changes, the songs are breathtakingly intense and they so completely saturate the senses with extravagant, ravaging sound that it’s easy to fall prey to them and stay within their thrall from the beginning of the EP to the end.
Keyboard accents give “Riders of the dark scales” a feeling of hellish grandeur, while fret-melting frenzies generate a sense of unchained madness within the song’s cruel, grim framework. That atmosphere of terrible magnificence even hangs over the rampant conflagration of “Nahash” and its writhing leads, ebullient bass lines, hyper-speed drum explosions, and lunatic yells. All of these songs demonstrate remarkable technical skill, but “Nahash” might be the most spectacular example.
The blaring guitar pulse that repeatedly surfaces within the turbocharged closer “Neuronal Injection” creates a feeling of ecstasy, while the appearance of brutal roars in tandem with the crazed screams and the use of pile-driving grooves underscores the absolute punishing ferocity of the music.
This EP is so riotously tumultuous that it really is capable of taking your breath away, but it’s the kind of full-bore slaughtering that’s also so intricately designed and performed with such remarkable dexterity that it’s head-spinning as well as decimating. A great new find.
The following lyric video presents the first advance track from Temple of Wounds, the debut album of the Montréal-based Luciferian black metal band Blight. It will be released on June 5th (vinyl and CD) by Svart Records, though this new song is now available on iTunes and Spotify as a single.
That new song, “A Violent Light“, makes a tremendous impact. It delivers hard-slugging, heavyweight power that will give your neck a good workout, along with shivering supernatural leads that give the music a sinister, predatory cast, and extravagant vocal zealotry — a harrowing amalgam of unhinged shrieks and grim abyssal proclamations. But the song also includes gloomy clean vocals that are quite good and eerie rippling arpeggios that contrast with the bursts of feverish dementia. A dynamic, multi-faceted song with a pronounced occult atmosphere but with swaggering carnal physicality too.
The origins of Boreal are somewhat obscure. It seems that at one time it was a solo project that produced a few releases that circulated in the underground, and it further seems that Boreal‘s alter ego AEF has put the project on hold for the indefinite future. However, before that was done, an album that was originally released in 2006 on Eternal Warfare Records was re-recorded with a full line-up and, after mastering by Déhà, it will be released on May 1st by the Nebulae Artifacta label, with cover art by Inga Markstrom.
From that album, The Battle of VOSAD, the opening track was recently made available for listening on Bandcamp. “The Battle” opens with a kind of martial or ritual pounding of timpani and a cascading synth melody that shimmers in glorious, mystical fashion. That melody seems simultaneously wondrous and grief-stricken to the point of despair. Sounds resembling massed horns and strings add to the music’s aspect of celestial mystery — and then almost halfway through the music explodes with wrenching power.
Galloping drums, pulsing bass notes, torrents of dense, dark sound, and scorching screams dramatically increase the music’s intensity, and the timpani booms and rumbles like thunder. The music swells in its harrowing grandeur, creating a spectacle of impending desolation on a vast scale. If this is the sound of battle, it is a titanic conflict being fought across the heavens.
To follow Boreal I have Burial, a UK black metal band who have joined forces with Apocalyptic Witchcraft for the release of their third album Satanic Upheaval on May 8th. Fifteen years into their career, the band have clearly mastered a talent for creating satanic upheavals, as vividly demonstrated by the advance track below.
“Hellish Reaping Screams” rips and races, combining both febrile and hammering riffs, both blasting drums and head-punching rock beats. Augmented by demonic vocals, it flares into savage whirling mayhem, but it’s driven by sinister, feral energy at all times, anchored by a drum performance that’s perfectly attuned to the song’s changing sensations. An electrifying song with a powerful sound that’s also immediately addictive.
The album was recorded by Chris Taylor at Noiseboy Studios and mastered by at Foel Studios by the masterful Chris Fielding.
After the feral savagery of Burial, it was fortuitous that my alphabetical listing of the bands in today’s collection now brings us to Autumn Skies, the meticulously crafted and beautifully executed EP by the one-man German band Skognatt, which includes lyrics by John Keats in its title track. It was released on March 20.
“Shadowlands” immerses the listener in dense, saturating waves of guitar and synth, undergirded by vibrant bass and persistently galloping drums, and pierced by ethereal keyboard accents, flickering leads, and frightening growls. It includes interludes of acoustic guitar harmony that are beautiful and fluid yet haunting, and in keeping with the generally depressive and despairing atmosphere of the songs. Ranging from soft and poignant to panoramic and magisterial, it’s a gripping way to begin.
“Black Rain” includes its own mesmerizing acoustic accents, with an almost medieval feeling, and includes other ingredients introduced in the first track. It manages to intertwine moods of ebullience and misery, getting the listener’s pulse racing and drawing you into dark thoughts as well. The guitar solo in the song is also a marvel.
The title track proceeds at a measured pace and wraps us in layers of mystery and dread, but also channels frightening menace in its rocking movements. The vocals themselves, as they recite Keats‘ poetry, are frightening in their deep, thorn-covered growls and their goblin-like snarls. There’s an instrumental finale to this track, and it’s one that proves to be both entrancing, and chillingly spectral.
Come to think of it, “entrancing” and “chilling” are good adjectives for the EP as a whole. This is one of those releasess that really rewards complete devotion to the music from beginning to end, and repays continued attention in subsequent listens.
To conclude, I’ve chosen “Feeding the Urge to Destroy“, “Eradication of all Terrestrial Ulcer“, and “As Cathedrals Drowned in Flames“, three advance tracks from the debut album Purging Sacred Soils by the German/Finnish band Slagmark (whose line-up includes members of Sarkrista and Totenwache). It will be released on April 30 by Purity Through Fire.
You can probably guess a few things from the song titles, but not everything. The shrieking vocals are fueled by hate and a red-eyed hunger for violence. They’re like a merciless scourge applied to the mind. The music also has a warlike, surging energy, though the drumming also segues into bounding and skipping cadences.
But the riffing isn’t as ripping and rapacious as you might expect. Instead, they are melodious, and have a folk-like, ethnic, and almost medieval quality, almost like whirling dances, and a kind of larger-than-life splendor, as if trying to recall and resurrect ancient ages.
There’s also a feeling of melancholy and wistfulness enmeshed within the mythic aura of the songs, thanks again to those powerfully evocative riffs, which have a magical appeal and are the heart of the songs’ allure.