Last week wore me out, for a lot of reasons. After sleeping for an alcohol-assisted 11 hours Friday night I decided to take a vacation from NCS yesterday, and a vacation from listening to music of any kind. But I got back into the swing of things this morning, beginning before the sun rose. And from that listening session I picked what you’ll find here. I’m beginning with two bands whose past music I’ve enjoyed and then moving off into previously uncharted waters.
We kind of went overboard in our coverage of this Greek black metal band’s 2015 debut album Sacrilegious Testament and their follow-on 2017 EP Daemonic Offering: I count 9 posts we made about those releases, including an interview and a track premiere. If you’d like to get caught up, you’ll find all those articles here.
The band drew all that attention, not just here but elsewhere, in part because of the line-up, which included members of Aenaon, Varathron, Hail Spirit Noir, Agnes Vein, and Melan Selas. The line-up remains mostly intact on the band’s second album, Magnus Venator, which will be released on September 4th via Floga Records.
The first advance track, “Chthonic Oracle“, which premiered on July 3rd, uses a cascading symphonic layer to create a fiery, “epic” feeling to the song, and the blazing intensity of the music is further fueled by relentlessly hammering drums, hurtling bass lines, whirling riffs, and the demonic, spine-tingling vocals of Necroabyssious. The song also includes a burst of jolting chords that provides a riveting contrast to the music’s sweeping infernal grandeur.
This is a hell of a great teaser for an album I’m now even more feverishly eager to dive into.
LAETITIA IN HOLOCAUST
In March of 2019 we had the pleasure of premiering this Italian band’s new album, Fauci Tra Fauci, which was later released by Third I Rex. I had no idea what to expect when I began listening to that album, having not heard either of the band’s two preceding full-lengths, and it came as an ENORMOUS surprise. I spilled a lot of words about it, but will excerpt only these:
“The music is itself extremely adventurous, and black metal is only one of its ingredients. It will become evident very quickly as you begin listening that the performances are technically very impressive — the drumming is extravagant; the multiply layered guitar exploits are frequently jaw-dropping; and the songs are accented by the distinctive burble and thrust of a fretless bass, mewling and moaning and punching hard. And all that virtuosity is dedicated to making each track a theatrical show-piece of constantly changing tempos, moods, and visions.
“The music displays the variability and inventiveness of the avant-garde, but this duo incorporate melodic hooks and other instrumental motifs that make the music coherent and memorable despite all the eccentric twists and turns. And that makes the album the best of both worlds — it’s unpredictable and head-spinning, intricate and unrestrained, but not inaccessible to a mind that prefers a bit of order. There’s very little that’s simple about the music. They’ll lock into patterns just long enough to hook you with it, and then move on to something else. Yet the effect is not disjointed or confused. Everything is according to plan… even if those plans are more than a bit mad.”
Of course, given those reactions, I’m quite excited about the prospect of listening to Laetitia In Holocaust‘s new album Heritage (set for a July 10 release by Nifihel Records), especially because of how good the first two singles are.
“Dissolution in Black Pastures” is a wild trip, amalgamating thrilling, crazed arpeggios, bursts of rapidly jackhammering industrialized groove, and furiously blasting drumwork. With growled vocals that are utterly ferocious and generous doses of flickering and soaring fretwork, as well as electrifying drum-tumbling, the song is a blood-rushing extravaganza. But in the passage near the end, when the drums steal the spotlight and the bass murmurs and moans, shimmering ethereal tones add an element of mystery.
“Of Courage and Deity” again features fascinating bass-and-drum interplay — the slow, eerie moaning of the bass creates a fascinating contrast with the unchained exuberance of the drumming and the feverish racing of the guitars. Segmented by jolting, start-stop riffing, the song rockets off into effusions of mercurial, head-spinning fretwork and seethes with viciousness as the drummer again proves his tremendous worth.
Yevabog (the solo project of Joel Hackett) is based in Seattle, i.e., my neck of the woods, but it’s a name I was unfamiliar with until listening to Yevabog’s debut EP, King of the Worms. But what a welcome discovery it is.
Ad displayed on the first two tracks, Yevabog‘s interesting formulation of blackened death metal is ominous and explosive, menacing and magisterial, bone-breaking and eviscerating. Keyboard layers enhance the music’s almost theatrical air of drama, and the combination of sweeping melodicism, frantic fretwork, and obliterating drums proves to be very alluring, creating a sensation of chaos and glory. Meanwhile, the vocals themselves create contrasts, ranging from savage growls to strangled snarls, gritty, soaring song, and deep, reverent chants.
In some ways, “Vivat Vermis Inventus” stands apart from the rest of the tracks. More stately in its pacing and more melancholy in its mood, it includes impassioned singing as well as heart-breaking melody. The energy of the song does eventually flare, and includes a spectacular guitar solo, and it becomes cinematic in its scope. “Crumbling Ossuary” also has its own personality — it seems steeped in wretchedness and grief, and is home to both the most neck-stomping rhythms and the most full-forward singing. Bleak and bruising music, to be sure, but saved from utter despair by the electrifying drumwork.
King of the Worms was released on July 1st. I’m grateful to Rennie (starkweather) for turning me onto it.
It’s probably obvious to regular visitors by now, but I have a weakness for metal that teaches me something I didn’t know before, including metal that takes bits of history for its subject matter. Den Rædsomste Nat, the debut album by this Danish duo, is definitely in that category.
The album’s title is the same as that of the painting used on the cover, which translates to “The Most Terrible Night”. Painted by C.A. Lorentzen from 1807-1808, it depicts the bombardment of Kongens Nytorv in Copenhagen by the British navy during the Napoleonic Wars. The bombardment lasted for three nights and was an an effort to seize or destroy the Dano-Norwegian Fleet, in order to avoid its seizure by Napoleon’s forces. There is an extensive description of this event and its consequences at the Bandcamp page for the album. That page also states: “All lyrics of this album is written in the old Danish tongue, as it was written in the 19th Century. Both our own and the ones included from famous Danish Poets and Authors”.
So far, there’s one song from the album available for listening — “I Korpsets Rækker“. It’s off to the races from the start, thanks to piston-pounding drumwork, but the slow, heaving waves of melody create an atmosphere of sorrow, and the vicious, tortured quality of the harsh vocals adds to the feeling of anguish. When the drumming slows and the bass rises, the music’s mood of despondency and despair intensifies.
The song’s dynamism is mainly a function of the rhythm section, who frequently change the tempo and the patterns. There are also subtle variations in the mood and intensity of the melody, but the through-line is unmistakably and immersively sad.
(I’m grateful to Miloš for linking me to this album.)
GREAT COLD EMPTINESS
Death Gifted a Bouquet is the second LP by Great Cold Emptiness, who describe their music as “Atmospheric Black/Epic Funeral Doom Metal”. Nathan Guerrette of Saint Agatha, Maine, performs all the instruments, and Michigan’s Meghan Wood (Crown of Astoria) is the vocalist. Inspired by Guerrette’s break-up of a romantic relationship, the album follows “the story of a grieving mother living in solitude in the middle of a large autumn forest and the straining relationship she has with her daughter”.
The song you can hear now is “The Erotic Waltz“, the album’s 15-minute opening track. In their wrenching, throat-tearing intensity, the vocals stand out from the beginning, almost frightening in how emotionally overpowering they are. The music portrays a different scale and scope of heartbreak. The shining, panoramic quality of the enveloping melody is wondrous, but doesn’t disguise the feeling of loss.
When the music’s volume diminishes and the thunderous drumming falls silent, the wistful sounds of a violin and the pinging of piano keys carry the melody, eventually backed by the reappearance of ethereaal synths which sound like choral voices, and that section of the song is mesmerizing. The sound swells again and soars, swallowing up the listener; the vocals resume their work of emotionally tearing you into tatters; and great crashing and grinding tones undergird the experience like the seizures of tectonic plates. As the rhythms subside again, the bass pulsing like a beating heart and then vanishing, the panoramic sweep of the music doesn’t diminish, but seems gloriously celestial (and that gorgeous, broken-hearted violin returns at the end).
It’s definitely the kind of song that wears its heart on its sleeve, an emotional exorcism and catharsis, and one that becomes heart-swelling and awe-inspiring as well as devastating.
The fascinating cover art on Death Gifted a Bouquet is a painting by Joseph Wright of Derby. The album will be released on August 15th.
WRAITH / BASTARDIZER
After that block of atmospheric black metal I thought I’d pump up your pulse rate and hormone levels by concluding with Speed Armageddon, a split release by Indiana-based Wraith and the Australian band Bastardizer. It will be released by Redefining Darkness Records on August 10th, and it seems that it was also released in late June by Bonepick Records. Each band’s side is streaming on separate Bandcamp players, which you’ll find below.
Wraith’s three tracks live up to the band’s moniker of “No Bullshit Speed & Thrash Metal”, and man, are they good! Wraith bring to bear a heavy-weight rhythm section with a propensity for punk beats and scorching vocal savagery (whose demonic growls are a big reason I think the music fits just fine in this kind of column), but of course this kind of music stands or falls on the quality of the riffs — and here, they’re solid gold (and highly infectious).
But the jet-fueled thrash riffage isn’t the only strength of the music. In the very first track you’ll discover that Wraith are just as adept at giving a listener sore-neck syndrome and pitching in a guitar solo that changes the music’s mood (there are solos in the other songs, which include a GBH cover, that are just as attention-grabbing in other, more fret-melting, ways).
Bastardizer describe their music as “Black Thrash & Roll”, and there’s definitely a more blackened flavor to their attack, thanks to doses of heavy-caliber, bullet-spitting drums, injections of feeding-frenzy riffage, and maniacal, serial-killer vocals. Bastardizer switch things up in their songs, bringing in thrash riffs and punk rhythms along with bursts of double-bass thunder, sinister yet glorious fanfares, and infernal gang yells. The songs are absolutely electrifying, and meaner than a pack of rabid wolves.
No weak links in this split — it’s stupendous. The awesome cover art was rendered by Ezra Syahdian.