(We failed to post a SHADES OF BLACK column in its usual place on Sunday, and occasional NCS contributor Speelie fills that void with this guest edition.)
NCS readers might be forgiven for thinking I only pay attention to the Black Metal scene in Quebec. In reality, I listen to Black Metal from around the world (Krummholz, anyone?). But Finland has long been one of my favorite countries, for all sorts of Metal.
This year has been full of new releases from the country, including some comebacks by guys who first released music many years ago. One example of this is Ceremony of Darkness, by Orfvs. It’s full of keyboards and atmosphere, but in a way that wouldn’t be out of place 20-plus years ago.
On the more Pagan side of things, Mikko Lehto finally released a new October Falls Metal album, his first in seven years (he also makes acoustic music under the project name). A Fall of an Epoch is a return to longer pieces.
Staying with the more melodic side of Black(ened) Metal, Norrhem’s recent Koitos might be the most upbeat grim and evil piece of music released this year.
Warmoon Lord has followed up his 2019 debut with a split with similar-sounding Vultyrium, titled Pure Cold Impurity. Both projects are by veterans of the Finnish music scene, trying their hand at old-school 2nd Wave Black Metal.
Keeping it aggressive, Flagg is yet another recent project by Finns with years of experience in music. Nothing But Death is their debut.
Sacrificium Carmen are also Finns who make Black Metal roughly in the style of these other projects, and now two of their members have released a side-project EP, focusing on Sami (Laplander) shamanism, under the name Nôidva. Windseller is similar to their main band, but mixes in some yoiking, to let you know this isn’t music from Quebec or Poland.
From my homeland of the USA comes a highly-melodic work, full of the sort of genuine lead guitar work often missing from extreme Metal. Sinira is the solo project of Knell, who lives in Nacogdoches, Texas. Like Robert E. Howard almost a century ago, Knell dreams of realms beyond the Lone Star State. His full-length debut is The Everlorn.
I sometimes see complaints that a lot of Icelandic Black Metal is too dissonant, too similar to Deathspell Omega. That doesn’t hold true for Äkth Gánahëth, but then again, mainman A. is actually a German who lives in Iceland. After a demo earlier this year, his short debut is Crowned in Shadows, which channels 2nd Wave Norway in a manner a bit more raw than some of the acts mentioned above.
Of course, I still keep an eye on Quebec. If you ever wondered what it might sound like if Yngwie Malmsteen tried to make a Black Metal album, it might well resemble the sound of Nuée Ardente. N.C. was wise to change the name of his project, formerly known as Fatsia Horrida. This means his EP is now self-titled.
Finally, the ever-prolific Finian Patraic has released more Ifernach music. This time he returns to his Celtic roots, for an album that mixes Ambient passages with his usual furious Black Metal, under the lengthy title The Green Enchanted Forest of the Druid Wizard.
It truly amazes me that all this great music has come out in just the first half of the year! Covid 19 may be making this the longest year some of us have ever experienced, but at least we have a soundtrack to keep us going. In fact, Black Metal (and related styles) may never have sounded better or more appropriate.