In the Mediterranean straits between Sicily and Tunisia lies the ancient volcanic island of Pantelleria, originally named Kossyra (or Cossyra) by Greek cartographers. The original Arab name for the island was Bint al-Riyāh (بنت الرياح), meaning “Daughter of the Winds” after the strong gales that constantly buffet the island coming off the north coast of Africa.
Pantelleria, which is now part of Italy, has a long and storied history, and perhaps surprisingly given its small population it also has a black metal scene. Cossyra Tapes, as you might expect from the name, was founded as a sub-label of Xenoglossy Productions to release music from that scene, and our focus today is on a forthcoming debut album named The Sword of Gelfiser by the Pantellerian band Gelkhammar.
The title of this new release refers to an archeological find discovered inside the cave of Gelfiser (from the Arabic word “Jebel Fizàr, meaning “cracked mountain”), near the island’s peak, Montagna Grande. We’re told that the artifact dates back to 1270 and that it allegedly belonged to a French knight who arrived in Pantelleria during the Seventh Crusade.
Many of the song titles on the album are also rooted in the physical features and history of the island. “Marsa” is the name of a coastal road; “Gibbuna’s Graves” is about a Byzantine gravesite dating back to the 6th century; “Sibà” refers to Pantelleria’s mountain village; and as mentioned above, “Daughters of the Wind” takes its meaning from the Arabic name for the island. It’s that latter song that we’re introducing today.
The song makes a gripping impression immediately. Over the drive of steadily pounding drums, the riffing ripples in a penetrating fever and the vocals scorch the ears in shrieks of acidic intensity. When the drums shift into a stately pace, the tremolo’d chords progressions generate a mood that’s dismal and oppressive. The contrast between such a beleaguered melody and the hypnotic fieriness that precedes it is a stark one.
Gelkhammar cycles through that movement of enthralling brightness again, but then pulls the music into a grim, lumbering march, even more grievous and desolate than before, and that sensation becomes even more devastating as the guitars attack like a harsh and heartless gale and the drums pummel once more.
The Sword of Gelfiser follows Gelkhammar‘s 2018 EP Cossyra, which was the first release by Cossyra Tapes. As the label explains, the album “is more intelligible compared to the raw sound of the first EP, riffs are clearer, and there’s a balance between the hypnotic repetition, melodic passages, and pummeling blastbeats. There are also improvised sections, enhancing the feeling of exploring and getting lost inside Pantelleria’s mysterious landscapes.”
The Sword of Gelfiser will be out on November 6th in a limited run of tapes, and digitally. It’s available for pre-order now: