One look at the title of this post tells you it’s a mega-sized round-up. Deprived by my fucking day job of the time to do round-ups during the work-week, I’ve been left to do them on Saturdays. But I had to do non-NCS work yesterday too, so here we are, with a Sunday collection of new songs and videos.
Big as it is, this post barely dents my list. But picking the music of these nine bands made sense to me, because I was again lucky to listen to songs which seemed to line up nicely into a playlist that flows rather than jars. For those of you who come here on Sundays for SHADES OF BLACK, fear not because I still plan to write that column too (though it will be short), and you’ll find some black metal below as a head-start.
To begin, I’ve chosen a new song and video named “Leviathans” by the Swedish band Tribulation. My appreciation for their music took some time to grow after they began changing their musical course, but witnessing their amazing performance at Iceland’s Ascension Festival in 2019 made me a true believer, and this new song does nothing to shake that.
It’s a sinister, shining, and compulsively head-moving piece of music that includes lots of beautifully swirling and glittering guitars, a hallucinatory interlude, and of course Johannes Andersson‘s pleasingly bestial death growls. I’m not surprised to realize that it’s insidiously addictive too.
“Leviathans” is taken from the album Where the Gloom Becomes Sound, set for release on January 29th by Century Media.
Next up is a new lyric video released two days ago for the song “Sail Away” by Finland’s Infirmum. I thought this made a perfect follow-on to that Tribulation track. It too is an irresistible head-mover, and there’s a glorious quality to the fanfare riffing, to go along with the song’s neck-slugging heaviness. The inspiring grandeur of the music is leavened with darkness, which deepens into hopelessness when the pacing slows. And I’m a big fan of the rhyming lyrics too — delivered through vicious growls. I think you’ll find that the song is also highly infectious.
Infirmum is the solo project of Timo Solonen, and this song is off a debut album named Walls of Sorrow. The album was first released last February but will get a physical CD release by Wormholedeath/Aural Music on the 18th of December.
The next track seemed to flow well from the first two in this round-up. It blares and hammers in start=stop fashion as demon beasts snarl, and then begins to gallop and flare. Once again, we have a song with rocking grooves that gets the head moving, and it’s a sinister and scintillating experience too, one that whirls you around within phosphorescent flames and lysergic fumes. It becomes eerie and dreamlike when the drumming subsides and little pinging tones become the pulse, and doomed when long chords slowly claw, and the whole experience is addictive as well.
The song is “Blood and Skulls“, and it’s the opening track on an album named Khorne. Khorne was first released in 2016 but was re-released yesterday by NGC Prod in a jewel-case CD edition with bonus tracks, and that’s how I discovered it. I haven’t listened to the rest of the album, but the opener is an irresistible invitation to do that.
Now it’s time to really rattle your skull and ensorcel your brain. This next song is an elaborate and multi-faceted experience, with an opening that’s groaning and grim, bone-cracking and eerie. Rapidly vibrating guitars feel like desperate scorpions under the skin while the snare drum goes off like gunshots and the vocalist roars and howls. The mood of the music straddles a line between misery and madness, channeling sorrow as well as creeping derangement, and somehow the band make the experience a mesmerizing one.
The song also erupts in hammering and ripping typhoons of sound, with the vocals elevating into shrieks, and it descends into an abyss of gloom, moaning and groaning in dismal tones and wailing like sirens on the rocks in a lake of grief. Yet when the song surges again one might sense a feeling of hopefulness in the sheen of the shimmering guitars, and unbending defiance in the terrific vibrancy of the rhythms and the scalding intensity of the vocals.
From beginning to end, through all its changing shades and phases, it’s a thrilling track, and its name is “Civilized“. The song will appear on Radiant Abyss, the debut album by this superb Louisiana band (whom I’ve written about on three previous occasions). It has a release date of December 18.
The Burning Bridges is a new double-album by this Italian black metal band, which will be out on November 21 via the Cult Of Parthenope label. To spread the word about that, Taur-Im-Duinath recently released a video for one of the new songs, “Fuochi Estinti“. It appears on the first half of the album, which is more harsh and fierce than the second half, which in turn is more in the vein of melancholic neofolk.
“Fuochi Estinti” is itself melancholy in its mood and initially stately in its pacing, but there’s a feeling of desperation in the melodies and the maniacally flickering leads as well, and the throat-ripping vocals seem to embody terrifying agony. That feeling of desperation boils over through blasting drums and raking chords, and turns to oppressive gloom and feverish pain as the song continues to weave its wrenching tale of woe. Somehow, the song also manages to blend a feeling of personal dissolution with panoramic visions, and the combined effect of that is transfixing.
ZVIJER (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
The next song I chose is by the Balkan black metal band Zvijer, whose name means “beast” in English. It will appear on Zvijer’s second album Navia (Zadah Jalovog Svijeta), which translates to ‘Navia (Foul Stench of Barren World)’. The album was reportedly inspired by “Balkan folklore, funeral customs and the sacred landscapes of the region that are steeped in tradition and magic; vast ancient mountain ranges, rivers and dark forests whilst also exploring the significance of the night time as an archetype of worship and a symbol of the great unknown darkness”.
The band explain that this song, “Moje prokletije“, “is about living in isolation upon the heights of Mount Prokletije… a beautiful yet treacherous landscape that has lured many people to their deaths over their centuries by way of blinding fog, violent storms or by simply enveloping a soul who is never to be seen again”.
The darting keyboard notes, simmering guitars, and haunted voices at the song’s beginning succeed in creating a feeling of mystery and tension, and there’s a building air of gothic menace in the paranormal and psychedelic ingredients of the music. When the music breaks open in pummeling drums, horrifying snarls, flickering leads, and scissoring riffs, it still sounds like ceremonies of witchery high up on that mountain — fascinating but supernatural.
The music dances and darts, skitters and flails, becomes sinuous and seductive, and constantly veers among those sensations and others, all instruments engaged in building a mind-boggling labyrinth of sound. Intricate and richly filigreed, and performed with impressive technical aplomb, this merits the term avant-garde.
Navia (Zadah Jalovog Svijeta) is set for release on December 4th by Seance Records.
(Thanks to Miloš for pointing me to this amazing song.)
Daybreak’s Advent is a new EP from Maestus, a doom band who hail from Portland, Oregon. The EP, which was just released on Friday by Glossolalia Records, includes a long original song named “Adamancy Feigned” and a cover of “My Hope, the Destroyer” by My Dying Bride.
The original song passes through many transitions and moods over its nearly-14-minute duration. Initially beautiful in its crystalline expression of sorrow, it becomes monumentally heavier but no less saturated with sadness. The reverberation of cavernous roars shivers the spine, and glistening piano arpeggios and shimmering synths cast spells. The sound of orchestral strings (or something that sounds like them) and twinkling guitars swell the magnificence of the sound, and soft acoustic guitars draw the mood inward.
The yearning of a gorgeously soulful solo fills a heart hollowed out by hurt, but it’s no life-raft here, because the song transforms into a methodical pounding within a rain of ash. The band turn the pile-driving into jackhammering, pushing the music to a crescendo of intensity, and then let their sounds of grief soar to grand heights. The sweeping scale and heart-breaking atmosphere are enough to put your heart into your throat. Solemn choral vocals and a stately cadence entwine with ethereal sounds, creating a celestial vision in advance of the slow piano piece that gives the song a haunting conclusion.
The band’s cover of “My Hope, the Destroyer” makes a fine companion to that remarkably good opening song. It’s a largely faithful cover, both neck-wrecking and magisterial, grief-stricken and glorious, albeit with blackened snarls in the mix on the vocal front (along with monstrous growls and somber singing). Really a great cover in all respects.
This was a last-minute addition to today’s collection, which came by way of a message from erstwhile NCS contributor KevinP. These two songs are the first ones revealed from an album named The Strangest of Beasts by Many Suffer, which is the project of former My Dying Bride guitarist Calvin Robertshaw. He sums up the music as “Doom with a heart of black”.
The two songs are “Bring Forth Death” and “The Trees Die Standing“. Both are fantastic. The first of those gets the blood rushing immediately in a hurricane of blasting drums, cyclonic riffing, and caustic screams. The frantic, blazing intensity of the music is breathtaking, and the feeling of feverish anguish in the sound is searing. When the pace slows, the bass groans, and the guitar wails, that sense of anguish transforms into one of abandonment and desolation. Robertshaw cries out in wrenching tones, and then his goblin howls and extravagant cries lead the music back into the firestorm of pain again.
There’s something about the intensity of that song which spawns visions of a man tearing himself open with his own hands, pulling out all the traumas and disappointments within, and brandishing that wreckage, exclaiming “See what has made me who I am!” If you’re anticipating some lessening of intensity after that, “The Trees Die Standing” won’t give it to you. It’s also a searing (but electrifying) expression of shattering moods, a blackened formulation of doom that channels despair and dejection. More than the first song, however, its pacing becomes more funereal and its doleful, penetrating melodies may remind you more of Robertshaw‘s former band. As it repeats those stricken refrains, they sink deeper and deeper into the head, and at times it seems as if a host of poltergeists is wailing around them.
Shattering and gripping stuff, these two songs, and they should quickly heighten anticipation for the rest of the record.
The Strangest of Beasts will be released on December 11.
This next song is likely to give you a case of whiplash, because it veers so dramatically away from the sounds of everything else in this collection, but I’ve fallen for it hard and can’t resist including it here, in part because of the whiplash effect I’m imagining.
“Chant d’été” (summer song) is a dark country song by a French band. Unless my ears are deceiving me, it includes the use of fiddle and an accordion along with the clanging bass and lonesome guitar (and in part because of the accordion it reminds me of Cajun folk music from my ancestral home in Louisiana). It makes sense that in the video we’re motoring down a sun-lit highway through the countryside, because the song drives, and despite its dark moods it also shines, growing increasingly fiery. The gritty vocals, which also become more fierce and howling, are just right for the music. (I don’t read French, and thus can’t decipher the lyrics, and Google’s translation is less than clear.)
The song is off an EP named Summer Songs released by Krasseville this past July 20th. The whole EP, which I would say owes a debt to Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash, is also worth hearing, and I’ve included a stream of it along with the new video.
(I again owe thanks to Miloš for linking me to this video for “Chant d’été”).