SHADES OF BLACK (MISCELLANY EDITION): IN VACUO, MOROKH, CONSTANT NAUSEA, AKANTHA, NĀV
I mentioned in the first Part of today’s column that I overcame the usual brain-freeze brought about by the overwhelming volume of interesting new music by separating the attractions into advance tracks and complete new releases. Today’s earlier post was devoted to advance tracks, and I mentioned that I had an idea for how to handle the new complete releases.
In the early days of NCS I began a recurring series called MISCELLANY, which got up to 78 installments before it died away from neglect. The self-imposed rule for that series was that I would pick bands I’d never heard before and listen to one (or maybe two) songs from something new they’d released, record my immediate impressions, and then leave it to readers to decide whether to explore further. That strategy allowed me to sample from albums and EPs that I didn’t have time to review in full, without knowing in advance how the music would strike me (or you).
And that’s almost the same strategy I’ve used in this post — almost, because some of what you’ll find below came to me via recommendations from people I trust. So it’s not quite the shot-in-the-dark of the old MISCELLANY series.
To begin I picked “Pavlína Kováříkov“, the lead-off track from this Hungarian band’s just-released third album, Urbain Noir — and man, I love it. The guitar leads have a kind of yowling but spooky and sorcerous sound, and the way in which In Vacuo introduce and then twist the central melody is ingenious. The song as a whole proves to be a twisting (and twisted) experience – heavy and battering, deep and drilling, moody and murmuring, jolting and groaning, thrilling in its maniacally glittering tremolo’d vibrations and blood-curdling in the hostility of its varying vocals.
I’m not sure I would have thought of time travel without seeing the song’s title, but there is something about the song that does seem like the weirdness and wonder of a whirlwind trip through time. A complete thriller of a song, its wide-ranging dynamism and immediate infectiousness are very good signs for the rest of the album, which was just released by NGC Prod on September 20th.
(Rennie (starkweather) recommended I check this one out, so I really wasn’t taking much of a chance in doing so.)
In this black-metal MISCELLANY excursion I next ventured further east, into Russia, and decided to taste-test Serpent’s Nest, a new EP by the Moscow-based band Morokh.
Now you might have thought that selecting Morokh would violate my self-imposed MISCELLANY rules, because Andy Synn did review their 2019 sophomore album Клятва (“The Oath”), which he summed up as “a little bit Black Metal, a little bit Hardcore, and a little bit Post-whatever… and a lot of fun on top of all that”. But although that review made sampling the new EP a whole lot less risky than it might have been, I didn’t actually listen to that album, nor anything else the band have done. So I haven’t violated my rules after all!
The song I exposed myself to from Serpent’s Nest is the first one, “Eye For An Eye“. The opening riff is simply glorious, with a golden sheen that’s splendid every time it re-surfaces. On the other hand the bass lines are bone-deep, the drumming hits VERY damned hard, and the band balance the blazing wondrousness of the leads with moments of bruising bleakness and with untrammeled ferocity in the vocals. Figuratively speaking, it left me with glitter in my eyes and painful fractures in my spine. Eager to see where this EP goes next….
Serpent’s Nest was released on September 18th.
Onward to Poland we go, with a new EP by Constant Nausea, which is set for release on October 15th by Narcoleptica Productions but is streaming now. The EP’s name is Niech Będzie Chwała, and the song I listened to for the MISCELLANY test was again the opener, “Ostateczny Koniec Wszystkiego“.
The vocals sound like the growls of a sentient crocodile — a BIG sentient crocodile. There’s a metronomic snap to the drumbeat, and a kind of punk-leaning rhythm in the cadences. Meanwhile, the gruesomely distorted low-end is a heaving, gravel-chewing menace, while the leads wail and flicker in chilling fashion. The song has raw, primitive, brutish, and horror-influenced qualities, and the atmosphere becomes even more horrific in the song’s zenith of intensity. If you listen to this at night, you may feel like burrowing under the covers.
Nasty and nightmarish stuff, but strangely compelling.
This is another instance in which my risk-taking was reduced by virtue of the fact that the link was passed to me by my Serbian acquaintance Miloš — but still not completely without risk, because sometimes he links me to things that he himself doesn’t like, but thinks maybe I would.
The band here is Akantha from Greece, and the song I chose — “My Throne Is the Epicenter” — is off an album named Gnothi Seauton that was released in August by His Wounds. Akantha adhere to the BM conventions of blast-fueled propulsion and harsh screaming vocals, coupled with a bass fever and riffing that are just as hyper-accelerated, accented by noticeable cymbal crashes. The riffing has an exultant quality, but it seems like the exultation of lethal madness rather than joy. The melody also dips into sensations of misery and burns with despair. The cycling progression of the whirring chords through these changing sensations makes a strong impression, even though it’s an unsettling experience to be sure.
It’s worth noting that Akantha also participated in a 4-way split with Sørgelig, Nimbifer, and Hajduk that also came out in August. I’m a fan of all the other bands on that split, and like what I’ve heard of Akantha so far, so that’s a split I do plan to check out (and you can do that HERE).
Now, to conclude, we turn to Czechia and the band NĀV, whose second full-length Arcizlo was released on September 13th (and features eye-grabbing cover art by Kera Uno).
Rather than use the opening track as a sample, which is what I’ve done with all the other releases in this collection, I picked the fifth one. Why? Because the credits say there’s a French Horn (performed by Pavlína Kováříkov) in that one, which seemed unconventional. Turns out that’s not the only unconventional aspect of “Fallen“.
The vibrato riffing has a grim aura, and the low end slowly moans like a big wounded animal. The congregated vocals sound like wounded animals as well, howling their pain. The steady pulse rate of the drum rhythm gradually builds, as does the intensity of the riffing, but the music briefly ebbs into grief, and then really takes off in a flurry of jittery chords and thundering rhythms before the sky seems to burst into flames. The vocals echo like a dictatorial demonic chant and the drums boom, and the song becomes a majestic but frightening immensity.
With a few minutes to spare, I jumped up to the opening track, “March Towards the Dying Sun“, and discovered that it blazes with spectacular, nova-like intensity, but involves other twists and turns that create moods of mortification and grandeur. The song will also eventually start jackhammering your spine while one of the vocalists comes close to singing, though he also sounds like he’s being mutilated. Hell of a wild song….
As in the case of the first band in this collection, I wasn’t taking much of a risk in checking it out because Rennie recommended it.
Morokh’s last album Клятва was fantastic. Worth revisiting for those who missed it last time around. Sounds so far like they’re nailing it here too.
There was a typo in NĀVs credits, french horn is on track no. 6. Definitely worth a spin as well.
Well that explains why I couldn’t detect it on Track 5! 🙂