SHADES OF BLACK: DARK BUDDHA RISING, SPYROS APOSTOLOU, INFANTS OF THE AFTERLIFE, GORRCH, SANCTUS HEXE, LYCOPOLIS
Although this column is principally devoted to flavors of black metal, sometimes I branch out and include music that’s outside the genre. Usually that happens when it’s something I don’t want to delay recommending, but it’s also usually music that at least to my ears has a “spiritual” kinship to black metal. And by “spiritual” I don’t mean satanic, but rather a kind of pitch-black mood that makes its placement in the playlist suitable (for want of a better word). I’ve done this today with the first two items.
DARK BUDDHA RISING
To begin, I’ve chosen an astonishing video made by Dehn Sora for the song “Sunyaga” by the Finnish dark underlords of psychedelic drone, Dark Buddha Rising. The song is from the band’s forthcoming seventh album, Mathreyata.
photo by Maija Ajomo
The music of “Sunyaga” is primitive droning doom that’s cold enough to chill you down to your bones, accompanied by clean singing of the wailing variety and by screaming of the insane variety. There are very few chord progressions, but they generate enormous low-end vibrations. There’s also a persistent drum pulse that will rattle the spine, and a handful of other electronic touches that make the experience even creepier. The music eventually builds to a terrifying and apocalyptic finale.
The imagery in the video is nightmarish, otherworldly, and riveting. Don’t watch or listen to this right before bedtime because sleep won’t come easily, and you might not want to sleep under the influence of it anyway.
Mathreyata will be released by Svart Records on November 13th.
One great video deserves another. This next one, directed by Maria Karazanou, is deeply intriguing and unsettling. Its intrigue derives in part from ambiguity about what we are seeing, but the lyrics of the song suggest an interpretation. Though the words are in Greek, a translation suggests that the song recounts the uncomfortable dreams of a person whose childhood was plagued by warring parents — and in the video, the warring ends in death.
The name of the song is “Άβολα Όνειρα” (which I think translates to “Uncomfortable Dreams”). The music was created by Spyros Apostolou (Σπύρος Αποστόλου), with lyrics by Apostle Kamaka (Απόστολου Καμακά) and features the remarkable singing voice of Natalia Rasoulis (Ναταλία Ρασούλη, whose FB page is here), in addition to Apostolou‘s own singing in duet with her. At first vibrant and mesmerizing, the song takes darker turns, bringing in moods of sinister menace and frantic fear, as well as eerie dreaminess. Near the end, the music becomes harrowing and cacophonous, and then chillingly alien.
“Άβολα Όνειρα” is available as a digital downoad at Bandcamp.
INFANTS OF THE AFTERLIFE
Infants of the Afterlife (IOTA) is yet another project that includes the talents of the Portuguese vocalist and musician Marcos Martins (MM), whose resume includes current or previous participation in Palimpsest, Torpe, Devil Worshipper, Tod Huetet Uebel, and Vaee Solis. I believe IOTA is a duo, but at this moment I’m not sure who the other participant is, although I read in this interview of MM that the unnamed collaborator is also a bandmate of his in another band called Labor of the Negative, which includes members of Decoherence, Pensées Nocturnes, and Posthum.
IOTA have completed work on a debut album that will be released by Oslo-based Duplicate Records in early 2021. In yesterday’s NCS post I mentioned a new Duplicate Records label sampler entitled Liberation, which was the source of a song by the Greek band Vacantfield that I wrote about. That same sampler also includes a track from IOTA’s album, and it’s the next one I’ve decided to include in this column.
That song, “Peswar“, begins with otherworldly reverberations and then explodes in a sudden surge of lightning-fast drums, tortured vocal wails, and waves of searing chords. The violence goes out of the rhythm, and the beat pops and jumps over a thrusting bass, but the vocal snarls and screams remain a frightening and deranged experience, and the flickering and swirling melodic tones seem to straddle a line between unnerving tension and perilous splendor. The music erupts again in a dense typhoon of sound, which seems both grim and crazed in its mood, a bleak seizure that abruptly ends as if cut off by a knife.
INFANTS OF THE AFTERLIFE:
That entire Duplicate Records label sampler that I’ve now mentioned twice is very good from start to finish, and I decided to highlight one more track from it — a song from Introvertere, an EP by the Italian black metal band Gorrch that was released by Duplicate in August of this year.
I breathlessly wrote about the first advance track from that EP when it surfaced a year ago, and the track that’s included on the sampler leaves me breathless too. It’s the fourth and final song on Introvertere (none of the songs have names, just Roman numerals to identify them). I’m reminded again of the words of our old friend Gorger in his review of Gorrch’s debut album back in 2016: “Gorrch’s black metal is like a fire development in a chemical factory; a frantic, dirty, and polluting inferno which nevertheless explodes like fireworks in colourful effects. The music is intense, atonal, and furious, yet intricate and swirling like a tornado.”
The frantic snap of the snare and the pulsating quality of the feverish guitars turn out to give the song an addictive quality, although both instrumentally and vocally it’s a screaming, spasming madhouse of discordant sound. Everything is happening at the pace of a cheetah that’s swerving and darting after prey faster than the human mind can track. The effect is electrifying, but insane.
Below I’ve again left a link to the sampler (which is a name-your-own-price download), and also a link to the Bandcamp page for Introvertere.
Now I’m going to do something I’ve done before — pick out one song from a recently released album rather than try to review the album as a whole. I’m always reluctant to do this, because the albums I treat this way are always deserving of a lot more carefully considered attention. But I do it because I’m afraid I’ll never find the time to write more.
Here, the album is Unholy Cult by the Polish band Sanctus Hexe. It’s the band’s second full-length and was just released on October 15th. In a short review of the first album (here), I summed up the music of Sanctus Hexe as “dynamic, elaborately textured, emotionally powerful, intensely atmospheric, physically jolting, and quite memorable” — and that’s a pretty apt summing up of Unholy Cult too.
The song I’ve decided to highlight, in the hope that it will draw you into the album as a whole, is “Empty Past“. You get a few mournful tolls of a bell and then the song becomes an overpowering experience. Propelled by a very heavy bass and neck-snapping drum-pistons, the music is scathing and sweeping. Something bell-like solemnly rings out from within the maelstrom, and the song as a whole eventually shifts into a more stately cadence — but the intensity of the music doesn’t diminish, though the atmosphere changes to one of towering, terrifying majesty. As the vocalist shrieks like a panther, the drums boom and the music rises, swaying like a giant cobra.
There’s a brief, spellbinding keyboard interlude in the song, hardly enough to let you catch your breath before the next enormous wave of sound comes crashing down and sweeps you away, with reverent singing joining in with the throat-slashing screams. Those solemn, ringing keyboard tones reappear, providing a glimpse of ethereal wonder in the midst of devastation on a grand scale.
In another one of these Sunday columns six weeks ago (here) I offered some favorable words for Opener of the Ways, the June 2020 debut EP of an Egyptian black metal band named Lycopolis. In that same review I also mentioned that on the Bandcamp Friday just two days before, Lycopolis had released a new single named “Guardian“, but that the band had taken it down the day after its release. I noted that it appeared to be a preview of a new sound that Lycopolis were developing, one that blends raw black metal with traditional Egyptian and Arabic scales. I also noted that it was unclear whether “Guardian” would be released again. Well, it has.
This morning I happened to be browsing a compilation album named Kovid 666, which was digitally released by the UK-based K.V.N.T. Kolektiv on October 1st, and there I saw “Guardian“, which is the fifth track on the comp. So now I get the chance to include the stream of the song and to repeat what I wrote about it six weeks ago when the music was no longer available:
“I do hope the song will reappear at some point because it does generate an atmosphere of exotic magnificence — but of a kind that seems demonic — and in doing that it beautifully brings into play those Middle Eastern melodies in a way that makes the song magikal. On the other hand, it’s definitely as raw as a sandstorm and the vocals remain unhinged (the drumming is an extravagant performance too). I’d definitely like to hear more of this new direction.”
I’ve only listened to a half-dozen of the other tracks on the K.V.N.T. comp, and it’s quite varied. Some of the tracks appeal to me and some don’t, but I do think it’s worth further investigation.
Surprised there hasn’t been anything regarding the two new Akhlys tracks. Both are pretty stellar.
Another really diverse shades of black – one of the things that makes NCS unique is how many bands you feature and look out for that aren’t from the usual countries that come to mind when one thinks about underground metal. NCS introduces so many bands that no other site covers, it’s so fab, to give them some profile.
The Spyros Apostolou video is heart-wrenching, though it’s not a case of warring parents, it’s clear domestic violence. The mother appears to use one act of force but it looks like an act of self-defence or to resist his violence and control. He’s 100% responsible for his actions – conflict or relationship problems don’t cause him to be violent. His actions are his choices. Don’t mean to come on all serious about this, but women and others who experience domestic violence bear no responsibility for what they and their children suffer – 100% responsibility needs to lay with the person using violence and power/control.
To return to shades of black, what an amazing year of black metal. Recent releases by Throane, Yovel, Ultha, Sunken, Odoacer, Häxenzijrkell and so many more… it’s been amazing. Just what we (or at least I) needed.
Thank you man, and I agree with your interpretation of the video. I didn’t mean to suggest it was a situation of equal blame. The terrorizing and ultimately lethal actions of the man should be the focus. The word “warring” occurred to me from reading this Google translation of the Greek lyrics (which undoubtedly loses something in the translation):
I hung from the thick branches
of my uncomfortable dreams.
That we grew up together, without saying a word.
But their heavy shadow strangled my being
one threw me at the bottom or threw a noose at me.
Scary darkness indefinitely
That their raging cries ate my guts.
I was missing the white pieces from the chessboard of my life
in the backyard of my mind, they were buried as useless.
Forgotten and blurred voice
of my thought the hoarseness.
Like a wolf that lost its flock in the snow.
Uncomfortable dreams a consistent dizziness.
Uncomfortable dreams a deep wound.
Wow, these are really intense, brave and impacting lyrics. I’ve recently been reading some of Ultha’s lyrics, which are similarly poetic, beautiful, dark and reflective of personal anguish. But even they aren’t as poignant in the same way as the combination of these lyrics and the video. Again, thank you, I would never have come across this on any other site. A very difficult and dark topic, but also inspirational that children’s voices and experiences are given this focus in such a sensitive way.