Gaerea – photo by Catarina Rocha
Maybe you know about the “Overflowing Streams” format that we use for especially large collections of new music we want to recommend? The idea is to (regretfully) cut back on words and save the time needed to find, download, and upload cover art, and let the music streams mainly speak for themselves. And that’s the format I’ve resorted to for this week’s Shades of Black column, which is mostly a collection of recently released individual songs from forthcoming records.
The meteoric rise of Gaerea continues. In both its sights and its sounds the new video that begins this collection is extremely powerful. The inner pain they express is mutilating. The music is both crushing and explosive, delirious and despairing, sweeping and scathing. For such intense music, it’s also thoroughly immersive… or perhaps it’s better said that this is an emotional vortex that’s hard to escape.
There is a point at which the music becomes soft and sublime in its glimmering radiations. The effect of that instrumental interlude is mesmerizing – a bit of rest in this searing journey.
“To Ain” is the second single from the album Limbo, set for release on July 24 by Season of Mist. The video, directed by the uber-talented Guilherme Henriques, was filmed in a single shot, in a performance which the band say embraces “what really makes us human: our Agony towards our very last breath”.
What comes next was the first step of this solo project, whose subsequent steps have led to stunning results. But even as an unearthed early recording (which is without vocals) this one is a gripping and multi-faceted experience — vibrant, otherworldly, menacing, chaotic, dreamlike, and wondrous. The inventiveness that later flowered in even more spectacular fashion is already on display here.
“Hallowed But Hollow” is the first demo track ever recorded by the band (in August 2004), and it is instrumental-only. It was just recently made available on Bandcamp.
One more song from a fascinating album premiered last week at this location, along with an interview that’s well worth reading. This latest advance track, “Pangaea”, is a bludgeoning excavating machine operating with your skull as its quarry. Along the way it lubricates the invasion with strange melodic accents that seem like the stuff of sorcery.
From the album Supercontinent, set for release on June 26th by I, Voidhanger Records and Repose Records. Go here to listen to the song. And be smart — go to Bandcamp to listen to the first two advance tracks (one of which we premiered, with a lot more info about the album).
The next song interweaves elements of dungeon synth within a framework of heavy, dolorous black metal, with wondrous and transportive effects. But in addition to creating a mythic and mesmerizing atmosphere, the band also go to war — though even their pulse-pounding war charges sound like the assaults of a mythic age. Be forewarned: the song is also highly infectious; getting away from it and moving deeper into today’s collection may be a challenge.
From the debut album …gedenken wir der Finsternis, set for release by Purity Through Fire on July 15.
Two tracks come next, one longer and one shorter, both of them propelled by heavyweight rhythms and fueled by powerfully expressed emotional intensity. The longer one is beguiling and beautiful, with a yearning and wistful quality in the trilling leads and plaintive vocals, but it’s counterbalanced by gloom-cloaked riffing and tormented shrieks with a gravity that pulls you down into oppressive hopelessness. The song soars and is capable of putting your heart in your throat, but thunders and rages in torment too.
The riffing in the shorter track is immediately more anguished in its resonance, channeling a kind of feverish despair. But as depressive as the song sounds, the ringing harmonies are still somehow glorious and heartfelt, as if the soul that lives in the music hasn’t yet surrendered.
This is a new two-song EP named Penance that was digitally released on June 12th by this Indian black metal band that I’ve been following for years, with increasingly enthusiastic reactions.
SOMNIATE (Czech Republic)
The bruising and brazen chords and wildly flickering leads in the next song seize attention immediately, as do the rampant power of the dynamic rhythm section and the variations between high-flying cries and savage roars. The music is absolutely exhilarating (and brilliantly head-spinning) across its entire length, including within the progressive-minded but dissonant, deranged , and ultimately magnificent instrumental performance that occupies the song’s second half. Take deep breaths, because you may need them….
From the album The Meyrinkian Slumber, set for release on June 30th by Lavadome Productions.
OBSCURE RELIC (Brazil)
The next song hurtles relentlessly on the back of hyper-blasting and head-hammering drums, and the riffing comes in grand waves, with a resonant guitar tone that’s gripping (it sounds as if it were recorded inside a long steel tube). As the music builds in fiery intensity, and the guitars begin to spiral and swirl, it becomes jaw-dropping. Despite the unchained drum performance and the possessed nature of the vocals, the guitar work is absolutely enthralling and all-consuming from start to finish.
From the EP First Black Communion, set for release on August 10 by Hellprod Records.
The engrossing cover art slowly turns, and the gripping riffs in the next song wash over the listener in grand waves of disturbing yet also mystifying and entrancing sound. By contrast, the drums hammer you senseless and the bass work is a darting, vibrant sensation, while the vocals are crazed in their intensity. Against a backdrop of measured martial beats, the song becomes a blaze of chaos and violent ecstasy, yet the sweeping power of those waves of sound and the chiming tones that rise up through this spectacular storm create a feeling of awe.
From the album Stare Into the Abyss, set for release on June 30th by Odium Records.
The next song is a slow burn, a departure from the usual thread of these columns, but it so strongly seized me that I felt compelled to include it. Among other things, it involves passionate singing of considerable power and fluid guitar melodies whose sorrowful tones are poignant. But it’s also tremendously heavy — it will jolt your spine — and the vocals turn to wrenching screams of even greater emotional intensity as the song builds in power. The drumming is beautifully nuanced, but at the right time becomes a pummeling piston within the enveloping storm of calamitous sound. Tremendously magnificent and memorable song too.
From the band’s forthcoming third full-length Nerimo Dienos (Days of Disquiet). I haven’t found a release date.
Jet-speed blast-beats and a raw, searing guitar sound mark the opening of this next song, along with equally raw and cauterizing shrieks. But the drumming moves into head-hooking beats, the riffing becomes almost joyously and defiantly ebullient, the rapid-fire bass seizes attention as well, and the vocals also include tyrannical growls. It’s a ferocious onslaught, but one that includes seductive, pinging arpeggios, and the varying riffs are all tremendously charismatic. The celestial voices and ringing acoustic strings at the end make for a fine contrasting finale to a song that’s capable of spiriting you away with its irresistible spirit and energy.
From a self-titled debut EP, set for release on June 26 by Spread Evil, with distribution by Militant Underground.
TERROR MACHINE (Norway)
To conclude, I’ve picked a song that has terrific primal power. Jagged, jolting chords and swarming and scything riffs present equally cruel and terrorizing aspects, and the acidic goblin snarls sound rabid. On the low end, the drumming and the bass sound like sledgehammers at work on granite. And all of that is well and good, but as icing on the cake, the rapidly rippling melodic leads quickly get their hooks in your head, even though they sound almost hysterically despairing. And the track is capped by an explosive, blood-rushing finish — which makes a nice finish to this entire mega-sized collection.
From the EP Ingen retrett (no retreat), whose lyrics were inspired by World War I, set for release on July 3rd by Stench From Below Records.