SHADES OF BLACK (PART 1): GRAFVITNIR, IMHA TARIKAT, EORONT, REIGN OF EREBUS
Many of us have learned the hard way that it’s prudent to keep both eyes on the horizon, looking ahead in case something’s coming that will tear our heads off. Might give us enough time to dodge and only lose an arm. Good peripheral vision is also a plus. Not every peril is straight ahead. These days especially, self-preservation seems like a full-time job. Hard to know what’s coming next, but whatever it is, it probably won’t be good.
I tend to keep my eyes on the horizon when it comes to music too, albeit for different reasons. Something might be coming that will try to tear my head off, but I usually welcome that with open arms. For reasons I’ve never been able to adequately explain, I also welcome music of hopelessness and pain, of poison and the preternatural.
I wasn’t able to write this column the last two Sundays. In the meantime, the music has piled up like drifts of black snow at my back. I’ve missed recommending a lot, but decided the easiest way forward was to look at what’s coming over the horizon, eyes ahead as usual. That made the selection process a little easier, but to make up for lost time I decided to make this post a two-parter.
Speaking of things to look forward to:
Hel calls out for her faithful spawn and beckons us all into her depths of whirling shadows.
Descend and walk among the enriching mysteries of the Beyond.
Tread into the sacred dark and drink the eitr of the Black Serpent.
As the Moon of Harvest glows we shall all harvest the fruits of damnation.
Harvesting the fruits of damnation might not seem like a good thing to many people, but we know better, don’t we? Especially when the harvest will be conducted to the strains of Grafvitnir (whose words I’ve quoted above).
The first song I’ve chosen, “Helvetesnatt“, comes from their seventh album, Death’s Wings Widespread, which will be released by Carnal Records on October 30th. The imagery of a cyclone or of a glorying dragon suit the music well, but so would photos of flames engulfing California forests. The song is a furious firestorm, but also a glorious one. The blazing riffs and scorching vocals channel vicious ecstasy, whipped to cyclonic speed by drum blasts of jaw-dropping speed and thunderous detonations. Completely breathtaking….
IMHA TARIKAT (Germany)
Good things have come to Imha Tarikat since the August 2020 digital release of their second album, Sternenberster. Since then the band have signed with Prophecy Productions, which will lavishly re-issue the album on December 11th in a variety of physical formats. On the same date Prophecy will also make a vinyl and CD release of a record named Kara Ihlas/Kenoboros — Initiation of Passion Bursting that compiles the band’s debut EP and their first album.
To help spread the word about this good news, Prophecy recently disseminated a stream of “Brand Am Firmament“, a track from Sternenberster. It’s such a terrifically good song that I decided to include it in this column even though it’s been available since August (Andy Synn also reviewed the album for us back then).
Andy called this song a “whirling dervish”, and it is. Like the Grafvitnir song above, it blazes like a racing bonfire, and the drumming is off-the-hook. As if the intensity weren’t sufficiently white-hot already, the vocals are amazingly impassioned, and the fantastical flickering leads propel the song to even greater heights of wild exultation. There does come a point near the end when the song radically transforms, giving way to vibrant, folk-inflected acoustic strumming, which seems to signify that Ruhsuz Cellât still holds dear his Turkish homeland.
I discovered this band from Siberian Russia through their second album, Another Realm (2017) — briefly but enthusiastically reviewed here. Good memories of that one led to high expectations for their forthcoming third album, Gods Have No Home, and the two songs released so far suggest that it will be deserving of even more vigorous applause.
The first single from the new album, “Wormwood“, sets the hook early with a swaying, panoramic melody over vivid bass pulsations and a neck-snapping snare beat. The music’s sweeping, soaring quality is grand, and the pop of the snare becomes just as riveting (the sheer savagery in the vocals is riveting as well). After a scratchy guitar bridge, the drums tumble and boom, and the song is led forward by a wonderful flute solo performed by Elena Korenevskaya. There’s still an aspect of grandeur in what follows, though the music becomes more grim and melancholy. Yet the finale of the track is simply magnificent, a crescendo of heart-swelling power and passion, accented by beautifully bright acoustic tones.
Vibrant acoustic strumming launches the title track (the segue between the two tracks is wonderful, even though they don’t appear back-to-back on the album). and then it storms. The riffing and the swelling keyboards create an epic atmosphere, albeit a tragic one. Slow, moody piano-like arpeggios create a contrast with the rapid-fire drumming, the hurtling bass notes, and the searing angst in the gale-driven melody. Harmonized solemn singing creates yet another contrast, while adding a different dimension of darkness.
The music explosively flares — and then dramatically softens and slows, though a feverish, channel-shifting guitar lead soon fuels the music’s intensity again. The atmosphere of tragedy in the music becomes even deeper, at the same time as its feeling of majesty and stateliness elevates. And Eoront once again demonstrate a flare for how to close a song in dramatic fashion, melding a beautiful guitar solo (by guest performer Alexey Makryshev) that pushes the song high, and then drawing the curtain like a heavy blanket of gloom.
Gods Have No Home will be released on November 6th. All the lyrics were taken from the works of Ukrainian-born Russian poet Max Voloshin (1877-1932) except the words for the title track, which were written by the band’s main man Foltath.
REIGN OF EREBUS (UK)
Reign of Erebus released their first demo in 1998 but dropped off the map after their second album in 2004. Sixteen years later, they’re back with a revised line-up and a new full-length named De Morta Aeterna. The album was released two days ago, and this is another instance when I haven’t listened to all of a new album yet but still want to hurry and tease it for you, for fear of not getting to it (at least with words) in its entirety.
The tease is “Nightmares of Being“, the sixth track on this album but the one that’s picked to play first at Bandcamp. Like the other songs in today’s collection, it’s a thriller — and a chiller. The song melds heavyweight depth in the low end and punishing drumwork to an array of mercurial and menacing riffs. The song blares and pounds, jolts and darts, and diabolically twists and turns in a semblance of sinister abandon. It even seems to take flight on dragon wings. Meanwhile, the vocals twist and turn as well, veering from paint-melting shrieks to horrid roars.
By all means, don’t stop with this one song. Based on the others I’ve heard so far, there are lots of other thrills and chills to be found within this album.
Although the other bands do what they do quite well, Eoront has taken the cake, in this SoB round-up. Eoront tap from that rich source that is Astrofaes, Khors, kuchkuchKrodaahumm, which is never a bad thing!
I don’t mean to be contrarian or to cause any problems, so please forgive me for bringing attention to this: I just wanted to note that one member of Grafvitnir played for a while in the NSBM/RAC band Fyrdung. According to the encylopedia metallum page for the band his involvement was unclear, so this might be a non-issue. I just think it is worth pointing this out so that people can make an informed decision about whether or not to support this band! Again, I don’t mean to be a downer or anything. I really like the track and I think that, for my own part, I’m happy to still listen to them given the unclear involvement of one of their members in Fyrdung.