This worked out okay. I woke up at 7:00 thinking I’d be late finishing SHADES OF BLACK again, and then realized after my first cup of coffee that I’d forgotten to set the clocks back. Suddenly, I had an extra hour. Fortunately, I also made all of today’s selections yesterday and had even added all the artwork, links, and a few notes. It just remained to create some complete sentences, not enough of them to qualify as careful reviews, but hopefully enough to tantalize you.
Tantalizing is the strategy of the day, because this week’s collection includes three complete albums and a three-track demo, in addition to two singles, and although they all merit the kind of thoughtful and thorough reviews that most other NCS writers manage, it’s beyond what I have time to do, even with an extra hour. So, please become tantalized.
I’m beginning with one of the singles, a lyric video released two days ago for the title track to The Dying All. That’s the fourth album by the Dutch band Dodenkrocht, coming out on November 27th via the Swiss label Auric Records.
The lyrics imagine the world burned to ashes in a nuclear firestorm, but expressing joy rather than terror at the vision of scorching purification, at the thought of the death of all. In the music, the sound is as immense as the scale of the depicted conflagration — all except the high, fiery flicker of the lead guitar, which vibrates through dismal groaning chords, cannon-shot drums, and slow, bestial growls.
The frenzy of the lead guitar leads the song into a savage, battering attack and lifts it up toward terrifying zeniths, but the song channels despair as well, and becomes haunting as well as overpowering. A striking and immersive amalgam of atmospheric black metal and crushing doom….
Auric Records will release The Dying All on CD, in a digipack and in limited-edition box sets, as well as digitally. Check out the options at the locations linked below. Also below, you will find additional song streams from the album — “Barbed Wire Crown” and “For His Name Was Death”. The label recommends the album for fans of Shining, Secrets of the Moon, Urfaust, Forgotten Tomb, Nortt, Stabat Mater, and Deathspell Omega.
In another one of these columns six weeks aga I celebrated the appearance of the first advance song from Shagor’s debut album Sotteklugt. Over those six weeks, that song, “Schemerzeveer“, has become one of my most-listened-to tracks. I even included it in my part of the recent Gimme Metal radio show that I and my friends Andy and DGR co-hosted as DJs. More recently the band released a second advance track, which I want to focus on next — although the entire album is now out, having been released on October 30th by Babylon Doom Cult Records.
That more recently revealed song, “Nachtdwaler“, immediately follows “Schemerzeveer” on the track list (“Schemerzeveer” opens the album). The reverent choral singing at the outset is mesmerizing; there is eminence as well as bleakness in the melody, and a compelling punch in the drum progressions and the thrusting bass lines. The intensity in the music builds as voices scream — and then about 2 1/2 minutes in, Shagor do again what they did so magnificently in “Schemerzeveer” — introduce a lead-guitar motif that dramatically seizes attention. This time it unfurls like a glorious banner made of suns.
Three more tracks follow these magnificent two, and as I mentioned you can now listen to all of them. “Respijt” is an amalgam of spectacularly glorious yet unhinged ravages and harrowing yet mysterious and spellbinding gloom, with a tandem of spectacular, sky-high singing and blistering shrieks. “Verdoolde Hemelbol” functions as a relatively brief interlude, combining acoustic strumming, solemn voices, and a bit of shimmering ambience to create an experience that’s soft, spectral, and bereft.
This in turn paves the way to the closing track “Dodendans11“, which is the album’s longest one. As it evolves it seems to create changing sensations of tension and fear, berserker violence borne of despair, and soaring symphonic grandeur. The drumming is especially spectacular, the bass-work especially vibrant, and perhaps needless to say at this point, Shagor bring in guitar leads that are riveting. Here, they drive your heart up into your throat.
I’ll just go ahead and state clearly what’s probably already obvious: This is one of my true favorites among all the black metal albums I’ve heard this year, and I don’t think my affection for it will fade, even a little, as time passes.
At our site we showered praise upon this Portuguese duo’s first two albums, The Absence of Void (2015) and Re Un (2016). For the third album, more time has passed than the interval between those first two, but not enough time to dim the good memories of what Névoa have done before. The new full-length, Towards Belief, is set for release on November 27th.
“Altering Mass“, the first song disclosed from Towards Belief, makes a powerful first impression of the album, and confirms that Névoa remain musical shape-shifters of a high order. I owe thanks to both Rennie [starkweather] and Miloš for alerting me to this song. Rennie wrote on starkweather’s excellent FB page: “The preview track off Towards Belief, “Altering Mass,” comes across almost like a cross between Italian doomsters Monumentum and Swans with its blend of ritual folk elements, ethereal strings, huge percussion, and crushing atmosphere. A short, sharp, shocking crash from the heavens into oppressive confines.”
I don’t think I can improve on that, so I won’t try. But I will preview for you that at one point this multi-faceted song will begin to pound you into the earth with titanic driving blows, while the music of the spheres rings in your mind — and that’s a damned cool experience.
Early in the fall of 2019 I raved here about Tästä Kuolevasta Maailmasta, the debut album by this Finnish trio, who hail from Lappeenranta in the southeast, on the shore of lake Saimaa. I’m about to rave again, but this time I paused to figure out what the band’s name means and how to pronounce it, since my English-speaking mind keeps trying to put the “h” before the “y”.
As best I can determine through googling, the name means “empty” and is pronounced (in my own phonetic rendering) “tish-YA”.
The occasion for revisiting Tyhjä was yesterday’s release of a three track Demo 2020, which the band recorded at their rehearsal space with engineer Esa Liukkonen. Listening to it is an incredibly intense experience, the kind that leaves a listener both astonished and completely wrung-out.
As on that previous album, the band bring to the table a breathtaking degree of unhinged wildness, from the throat-shredding screams to the jet-propelled drumwork, from the gripping, fire-breathing riffs to the jetting bass-lines. But the harrowing impact of the music derives just as much from the slower movements, which reach emotionally paralyzing levels of despondency and desperation.
The emotional power of the music is breathtaking. It’s capable of making your pulse race into the red-zone and causing your mind to shudder, through both the burning highs (“Kuudes Tuuli Pyyhki” is particularly stunning) and the anguished lows (which reach especially wrenching depths in the closing track). It’s the kind of record that makes you feel that the band held nothing back in that rehearsal room where they recorded it.
(Gratitude again to Rennie [starkweather] for alerting me to this one.)
The prolific Greek black metal band Dødsferd is almost 20 years old, and in that time has assembled an extravagant discography that includes 10 studio albums, a live album, an extensive number of splits, a pair of demos, a trio of EPs, and probably some other things I’ve overlooked.
In late September Dødsferd added to that extensive list with the release of a new compilation named Death Shall Purify the Wounds of Your Fragile Mortality. As the band’s mastermind Wrath has explained, it contains songs from different periods of his life since the birth of the band — manifesting “a world pure and ideal for the noble ones, the worthy servants of my Father,” as well as grief, hate, and disgust for the “parasitical behavior upon mother earth” practiced by most humans.
The new album is indeed a retrospective. It includes two tracks, “Staring at the Forthcoming Chaos” and “Doomed in Eternal Solitude”, that were re-recorded in 2015 as exclusive bonus tracks for the LP edition of Wastes of Life; the former was first recorded in 2002 for the Kruzifixxion of Human Disgust release, and the second one for the Desecrating the Spirit of Life EP. It also includes two tracks, “Suicide and the rest of your kind will follow” and “His Veins Colored the Room”, from the album Suicide and the rest of your kind will follow that was first released in 2009. And it includes two tracks, “Death has always been the God of Man” and “Million Deaths Inside”, that were first released in 2013, as part of a 3-way split named The Great Depression I with Happy Days and Psychonaut 4. Among all these tracks, four of them were remastered by Giannis Leledakis in 2020.
AND, the album also includes a brand new song named “Deterioration” that I wrote about at length here in mid-September when I first discovered it.
Part of what has made Dødsferd‘s music so persistently compelling over so many years is the extent of the stylistic variations that the band have brought into their musical tapestries, as well as the emotional urgency and gripping immediacy of the results. You get a quick exposure to those qualities even in the oldest track in this compilation, “Staring at the Forthcoming Chaos”, which opens the record in riveting fashion, creating sensations of both haunting beauty and shattering sadness. The riffing penetrates deeply, the vocals are wrenching in their tortured, wailing intensity, and the drumming channels primal pulses.
The depressive quality of the songs is overarching, and so potent that you can’t go through this compilation without steeling yourself for that particular kind of catharsis. But it’s well worth the trip, because the riffs are so damned captivating and the sound is so damned powerful. And as absolutely terrifying as the vocals are in their expressions of pain and disgust, they’re vital to the overall intensity of the songs.
You’ll discover that three of the songs here are vast in their length. You’ll also discover that as the band’s career has lengthened, they’ve grown even more adventurous and masterful in creating devastating spells and interweaving strands from other genres, including (but not limited to) depressive post-punk, shoegaze, hallucinatory psychedelia, haunting ambience, and harsh noise, while also lacing the music with swaggering grooves and hammering gallops as well as dirge-like marches and off-kilter lurches.
Of their most recent creation on the compilation, I’ll leave you with what I’ve already written about it: “Deterioration” is a truly chilling spell, a hallucinatory formulation of madness. Spectral exhalations, whistling screams, and glinting notes echo above moody bass tones and reverberating drum and cymbal blows. The vocals are a recital, uttered in a voice that often disintegrates into distraught cries and wailing screams of agony. It seems as if the entire song often wails and screams, yet celestial ambience and gleaming strings also enfold the listener in an aching embrace.
Death Shall Purify the Wounds of Your Fragile Mortality has been released through Wrath’s own label Fucking Your Creation Records in a limited Digi CD Box Set of 500 hand-numbered copies, a Tape format limited to 100 hand-numbered copies, with embroidered patches and a limited quantity of T-Shirts.
In the “last but certainly not least” category, I’m closing today’s collection with an album that for me is like a fantasy that’s become reality — except it’s a dream I never had because it was beyond the reach of even my own over-active imagination. To explain this requires me to share a back-story, which has absolutely nothing to do with why you should listen to this album, but I want to tell it anyway as an indulgence.
For the last ten years, right up until this plague year, my wife and I took only one or two vacations a year together, other than a long weekend here and there, and we spent all of those vacations in the Society Islands of French Polynesia (we had visited more sporadically even before then). We made visits to the Windward Island of Tahiti and many more to the Leeward Islands of Taha’a and Bora Bora — especially Bora Bora. We were consumed by the beauty of those places and by the beauty of the people and their culture, and once we were exposed to all of that we had little interest in going anywhere else. We made a lot of friends, and it has been painful not to renew those friendships this year.
As one sign of how much these experiences have meant to me, roughly 50% of my skin is covered in Polynesian tattoos, in the old Marquesan designs and some that have been updated but retain that connection to tradition. Except for one small one that began the odyssey (the first tattoo I ever got), I trusted the free-hand tattooist who made them (his name is Marama) to do what he wanted. Adding something new became part of the ritual of each trip to Bora Bora. I didn’t know what he was doing until he was finished. I never asked what he had in mind. I just considered myself a canvas for his art, and everything he has done has been beautiful, not least because they all remind me of these places and people that I love.
And so, I was stunned to the point of giddiness to discover E Tika Mateu, an album released on October 25th by the Te Ruki, a Polynesian black metal band based in Tahiti, whose name means “The Night” in the language of the Tuamotu islands. Who would have thought that a black metal band would be birthed in French Polynesia, the sunniest of places and home to people of such (usually) sunny dispositions? Not I. In this year when I can’t return there, the album has been a balm.
The connections to French Polynesia in the music include the use of traditional Polynesian drums and lyrics in Tahitian (though perhaps including other dialects as well). In the 19th century and beyond, Christian missionaries did their best to eradicate the “idolatry” of Polynesian culture, including the tradition of tattoos, but I’ve seen with my own eyes the fierce resurgence of that culture among younger people in the last 15 years (though it began long before then), and it’s evident in the music of Te Ruki, who proclaim that their Mana “comes from lands, seas, winds, the moon and the pride of its people armed in the name of their gods: Oro, Ruahatu, Tohitika…”
Having said all of that, you don’t have to be a student or lover of Polynesian culture or music to appreciate this spectacular album. The songs do introduce riveting episodes of traditional drumming, and the language gives the ravishing vocals even more visceral power, but they will also immediately appeal to any fan of sweeping, emotionally explosive atmospheric black metal. Though you may not be familiar with what inspired these spectacular creations, you don’t have to be in order to become carried away to blazing heights by the magnificent riffs, the soaring synths, the glistening leads, and the thundering rhythms, or to have the adrenaline flood your bloodstream as the music engages in grim, ravishing onslaughts (you’ll also get a strong dose of haunting, ethereal sorrow in “Te Nohi”).
But man, those traditional drums are fantastic to hear, intertwined in these exhilarating displays of ferocity, grandeur, and grief. (The metal drumming is damned good too.)
I’m obviously not Tahitian, but I am so proud of Te Ruki.
(I heard about this album from several people who know about my connection to Polynesia, but thanks go to Miloš for telling me about it first.)