As I forecast in Part 1 of this column yesterday, Part 2 focuses on three splits, two of them released within the last week and one of them whose arrival is imminent. And to close this Part, like the first one, I picked an enticing advance track from a forthcoming debut album.
ABDUCTION / NOCTURNAL PRAYER
The first split, Intercontinental Death Conspiracy, pairs the UK band Abduction (from Derby) and the Canadian band Nocturnal Prayer (from the wilds of Newfoundland and Labrador). It was released on September 7th by Inferna Profundus Records in variant LP vinyl editions, and digitally.
I’ve paid significant attention to Abduction over the years, most recently reviewing the band’s latest album, 2019’s tremendous All Pain Is Penance. The mastermind behind Abduction continues to pull no punches during his four songs on this split, launching one furious, hate-filled assault after another. The riffing is grime-encrusted and generally cuts like a gale-force blizzard, while the drumming usually moves like the pistons of a Formula One car at full speed, and the vocals are utterly rabid (except when they sound like solemn chants). But that doesn’t mean these songs all sound like the same thing — they definitely do not.
There’s often a feeling of ecstatic violence in the music, a drawing of grisly yet glorious pleasure from the scything of death. Yet Abduction, as usual, insinuates other moods, whether it be the morbid gloom of mass plague burials, the booming splendor of otherworldly horrors marching across blasted ground, the abject misery of enforced starvation, or the nightmarishness of a gaping void. (To be clear, those are my own interpretations/metaphors).
I’m sure you get the picture that uplift is not the point of this music, but the songs get their clawed hands around your throat damned fast, never let go, and will shake you like a rag doll. One of the most potent halves of a black metal split you’re likely to encounter this year….
I’m less familiar with Nocturnal Prayer than with Abduction, but have been quickly impressed by their work in these three tracks. Their music melds brain-spearing, rehearsal-room clarity and authenticity in the drum strikes and cymbal crashes with a tempting murkiness in the riffing and sepulchral reverb in the ear-shredding vampiric screams. Unlike Abduction, they don’t race hell-for-leather most of the time, though there are plenty of deranged drumming outbursts. And the melodies in the music have a very ancient feeling.
That feeling of very old things being unearthed takes different forms. Sometimes, there’s a medieval cast to the music, and at other times it raises chilling visions of undead creatures presiding in Transylvanian crags. You get both of those feelings in “Leading the Tumbrels of Affliction”. But the band prove in “Drink the Kindled Flask of Longevity” that they can rock and thrash too, and break out some alcohol-fueled singing (with a bit of folk influence), and in “Solar Sanctums Raped by Calamity” they let it rip in electrifying fashion, whirling like mad dervishes in a trance (and that trance is communicable to the listener), but also descending into a mood of queasiness and horror (when that happens, the vocals become literally insane).
It’s thus an interesting and especially attractive split, displaying the (admittedly very harsh) talents of two bands with significantly different approaches to black metal. And that’s part of what makes it such a rich find — not something that will wear you out but instead keep you right on the edge of your seat.
ABYSS / BESNA
This next split treats us to the songcraft of two relatively new bands, the Bavarian collective who call themselves Abyss and the Slovakian band Besna ( Metal-Archives indicates that the band had a brief previous incarnation as Rotting Gutless Corpse). As in the case of the last split, this one embraces the strategy of combining disparate but complementary styles rather than running you through the same gauntlet twice, though here there’s a heart-on-your-sleeve emotion in the music that unites the two bands. And the split alternates the two tracks by each band rather than combining them in pairs, and that works very well.
The two songs by Abyss — “Odi Profanum Vulgus Et Arceo” and “Din Of Celestial Birds” — present a bracing formulation of melodic black and death metal with a powerhouse production and a modern sensibility. The bass hums in your bones, the constantly variable drumming threatens vertebral displacement, and the chords blaze and become beleaguered, while the incredibly impassioned vocals range from belly-deep roars to mind-melting screams of torment.
The first of the Abyss songs also segues rapidly from fire-bright anguish into a kind of yearning but disturbed dreaminess — and what sounds like defiance and soaring joy. The combination of melodies has tremendous (and highly communicable) emotional power.
That penetrating emotional strength is equally present in the second song, which is unmistakably forlorn but transmits gloominess and despair in ways that keep turning the dial of your pulse-rate ever-higher, and reach soaring heights that have a feverishly beseeching quality. The vocals are again riveting, and the music again combines the wrenching intensity of distraught emotional breakdown with grand-mal physical seizures. Somehow the turmoil and torture in the music — which is intense — become a manifestation of tragic grandeur, and it swirls with light and fight too, conveying a feeling that no matter how beaten you may feel, you’re never really down and out unless you choose to give up.
I’m hesitant to drop the names of other bands in the same sphere Abyss are exploring through these songs, because I don’t want to detract from the ravishing power of what they’ve done. Just listen to it!
The two songs by Besna — “Cesta Krvi” and “Jazero” — are just as striking, albeit in different ways. The glistening melody that introduces the first of those is a quick seduction, and then that soft kiss becomes a riot of hammering drums, scorching screams, and berserker riffing. The song gives you a healthy share of thrusting, pulsating energy and intense yet beguiling singing which befits the song’s feeling of burning and dangerous desire. I confess that the song draws me to sexual innuendo, because it has a strong carnal component, as well as a blazing, nova-like intensity, and a sense of head-spinning wonder. It’s the kind of explosive yet human music that makes me think a person would have to be dead inside not to have their heart in their throat by the end of it.
I wondered what Besna could do with “Jazero” to maintain the high bar of “Cesta Krvi”, but they did it. Don’t let the celestial glistening tones of this song’s intro fool you, though it is spellbinding, because the band burn away the spell with a larynx-rupturing howl, bleak, fevered riffing, and pummeling drums. There’s an unmistakably depressive tone to the melodies, but the band pull at your heartstrings with such unerring accuracy and verve that resistance is futile. Again, the vocals vent pain and turmoil with no holds barred, and the song becomes a finely fired crucible of tragic beauty, with soft, dreamy filigrees and a soulful, glistening solo that creates a wonderful contrast with the crashing chords, the swirling hopeful brilliance, and the heart-pounding power that follows it.
At the risk of repeating myself (when have I ever done that?), the music of these two bands together creates an intense, open-hearted emotional experience that doesn’t stint on physical punch either.
This split was released on September 12th — just two days ago! — by Wolfmond Production.
ALGHOL / PANZERWAR
The next split bears the title From the Caverns... Echos of the Undead Call and joins together the music of two one-man projects, Alghol from Portland, Maine, and Panzerwar, originally from Sarpsborg, Norway and currently located in Calgary, Canada. For Alghol, the split is its second release and comes on the heels of a debut EP released in April of this year. For Panzerwar, it adds to a discography that in a relatively short time has amassed a pair of albums, a pair of EPs, and three other splits.
You’ll find four tracks here from each band, though at this point only one track from each is currently streaming in advance of the record’s September 26 release date.
Arghol‘s streaming track, “Blood Brew”, rushes forward with a snare beat that will pop your neck and then clobber your head, and the riffing races too, in electrifying fashion. The whirring intensity of the riffs transmits angst and sorrow, but morphs into a stalking, brutish, and ominous presence that’s given a ghostly aura by a backdrop of flaring, mist-like sheen. When the drums surge, and the riffing becomes a frantic menace, that gleaming backdrop sounds like poltergeists screaming. The wild, super-heated finish to the song is so exultant in its mind-melting mania that it becomes a thoroughly spine-tingling experience. And the vocals are like a hybrid of leonine roars and panther-like screams, completely spine-tingling unto themselves.
Panzerwar‘s streaming track, “Echoes of the Undead Call”, is the soundtrack to a horror cult at a sacrificial rite. With high, screaming vocals that are like gouging icepicks in the ear, and propelled by drumming that switches patterns with abandon, the song seethes, sways, swarms, and spasms with such unchained fanaticism and such arcane and sulfurous atmosphere that it becomes transfixing as well as frightening. An amalgam of cold creepiness and vicious bloodlust, it makes for a spine-tingling sensation of a different kind from what Arghol creates, but the two songs complement each other well.
As for what else the two bands do on this split, I’m sad to say that I haven’t yet made my way through the rest of it — but these two tracks are damned good enticements all by themselves.
ALGHOL – FACEBOOK:
PANZERWAR – FACEBOOK:
And finally we come to the end of this week’s column. To close I’ve chosen a track named “Schemerzeveer” from Sotteklugt, the debut album of the Dutch atmospheric black metal band Shagor. I have learned to take “for fans of” name-dropping by labels with a grain of salt, but in this case the references to Woods Of Desolation, Aversio Humanitatis, Bergtatt-era Ulver, and (old) Laster still pulled me in. And I don’t feel betrayed at all.
At nearly eight minutes in length, the song creates a variety of experiences. At first it’s dolorous yet panoramic in its sweep, fueled by the intensity of hammering drums and the kind of scalpeled-larynx screaming that will be familiar to fans of DSBM. Without diminishing the sorrow in the music, the band segue into head-moving back-beats and an infectious bass-throb but then take flight again, the music wailing as well as gliding and spiraling up on rising thermals.
At about three minutes in, when the drumming becomes more measured again, a fascinating guitar lead emerges which brought to mind at least a hint of Ennio Morricone, a kind of lonesome, wistful, sun-drenched melody that at least in my mind draws a magical ley-line between the American West and the Spanish and Italian Mediterranean coasts. That wonderful melody returns later, but in the meantime the music continues to be a magnificently harrowing flight way up in the clouds, amidst tumultuous winds and blazing rays. The ringing and rippling lead that comes in somewhere near the stratosphere is especially spectacular. And what a wonderful choice the band make to end the song as surprisingly as they do, in hallowed and haunting fashion.
Sotteklugt will be released on October 30 by the Belgian label Babylon Doom Cult Records.