Yesterday I bitched about the compression of my NCS time over the last week, so no more bitching today. Besides, I did have a lot of time to myself yesterday and this morning, enough to finish listening to some things I’d begun earlier, and to make some exciting new discoveries. What you’ll find below is a diverse mix of recently released albums and one new EP, along with a couple of advance tracks from forthcoming records and one twist at the end.
Not too long ago my Norwegian friend eitororm e-mailed me with some suggestions for this column, one of which was Ogjna prerok, the sophomore album by the Slovenian black metal band Srd. He wrote: “The album is all over the place, with songs and passages with varying quality. In the middle of the album there’s even an accordion tune, which really doesn’t fit. And despite all this, I find myself returning to listen to the album over again. It has certain elements that really stick to my mind. If you listen to this whole album in its entirety, a part of it may just end up on your list of infections”.
eitororm also mentioned that Google Translate “seems to suggest that ‘srd’ means ‘wrath’, and that ‘ogjna prerok’ means ‘fire prophet’, in Slovenian.”
As someone who relishes the use of unusual instruments in black metal, I of course focused initially on that track that includes the accordion — “Zlohotne zvezde plemeand”. It hooked me immediately, and not merely because of the accordion instrumentation. The vocals are absolutely astounding; the riffs and leads are menacing and magical; the work of the rhythm section is gripping (and powerfully heavy). The song swings and sways, boils and burns, bounces and thunders. The ethnic/folk influences in the music come through in ways beyond the accordion melody, but the music is also frightening and unchained.
As for the rest of the album, it is indeed a bit “all over the place”, but that’s actually one reason I’m equally taken by the album as a whole. It’s packed with interesting experiences and accents and takes many unpredictable twists and turns over the course of its hour-long length — always anchored by the riveting power and inventiveness of the rhythm section, and continuously supercharged by those electrifying vocals. Like the one song that lured me all the way in, the album as a whole is full of menace and devilish magic. And it is indeed also home to some highly infectious tracks, most of which find ways to produce sore-neck syndrome.
Here we are, with only 11 days left in this miserable year, and I’ve found one of my favorite full-lengths of 2020. I hope you’ll become enamored of it too.
I hope you already know about Basalte, because if not you’ve been missing something special, though you still have time to catch up! I was fortunate to discover them just after the release of their 2014 debut album Vestige and promptly spilled a lot of words about it here. To give you some sense of how carried away I was by its three long songs, I’ll share this:
“They are guitar manifestos, strange journeys across distortion-shrouded alien soundscapes that sometimes seem like the eruption of volcanos on a Saturnian moon and then at other times shine like the Saturnian rings themselves, shimmering with the glint of sunlight on ice crystals. The drumming is just as unpredictable and just as transfixing, like a comet with a mind of its own that moves around and through the cosmic lightshow, heedless of the pull of gravity.”
See what I mean? There was a lot more linguistic excess in that review, but I’ll leave it at that.
I got carried away all over again by Basalte’s second album, 2018’s Vertige, which I premiered atop an even larger monument of euphoric paragraphs.
And now we have a new Basalte EP, L’excroissance du vide, which was released on December 4. In their lengths, the two songs here are a departure from the band’s more typical long-form approach, but they are no less captivating for that.
After a frightening prelude, “Nous sommes lésions” bursts into a display of tragic grandeur, the feverish riffing soaring on thermals of anguish, the vocals venting torment and fury in a myriad of harrowing forms, the bass hurtling with great vibrancy, the drumming a cavalcade of thunder and tumult. As it moves through manifold changes, the music is simultaneously unnerving and mesmerizing. It reaches heights of ravishing splendor, but also convulses in spasms of intense desperation.
“Hémorragie céleste” is no less stunning, and no less multi-faceted. The screamed vocals are shattering in their throat-lacerating intensity, and the guttural roars are blood-freezing. The guitar work is a dense storm of layered sound that shines and slaughters, revealing heart-swelling but frightening glory as well as paralyzing grief, savage violence, and desolating hopelessness. And again, the work of the rhythm section is perfectly attuned to the music’s constantly changing moods and energies.
The EP, though only two songs long, is enough to leave a listener stunned and breathless.
FUNERAL WINDS (Netherlands -> Czech Republic)
The Dutch band Funeral Winds (whose creator is now based in Czechia) has been in existence since 1991, steadfastly and fervently hailing Satan from then ’til now. Their fifth album, Essence, was digitally released earlier this month, and Avantgarde Music will discharge it on January 8th in LP and CD editions.
Thematically, the album is devoted to the all-devouring rise of Satan, his hoped-for destruction of the “the reign of the false god”, and the emergence of a “New Satanic Age”. Musically, the songs have one clawed foot in the first wave of black metal from the ’80s and another in the second wave that emerged in the ’90s. That intersection is perhaps most pronounced in the title track, which recalls a time when punk and thrash were in the music’s early roots, and when whatever “atmosphere” that might come from the music was mainly the stink of sulphur, sweat, and hot blood.
That title track is a hellish firestorm of breathtaking intensity, the drums going at top speed, the vocals completely consumed by throat-stripping madness, the riffing a manifestation of frightening ecstasy and incendiary defiance. Many of the other songs (and perhaps most especially “The Worm God”) share that feeling of paroxysm, channeling sounds of derangement and possession through wicked writhing and flickering riffs, blazing and blaring chords, unhinged percussive assaults, and vehement, ugly snarls from a throat constricted by barbed wire (though they are quite intelligible).
On the other hand, the natural-sounding drumwork is often off-kilter and unpredictable, and the songs move in less terrorizing directions too. “The Heart of Darkness” is primitive and priapic, swaggering and feral, punk-like but also chaotic, while “The Liberating Rays Of Death” segues into moods that are cruel, vicious, and bleak, and “The Bowls Of Wrath And Ancient Hate” creates a pronounced supernatural aura through its trilling leads and ominous chords, generating sensations of cold poison and seething malice.
Meanwhile, “Rise Of The Dark Imperium” delivers typhoon-strength riffing that’s often hook-laden and head-moving but always feels like it’s just a hair’s breadth away from a line of sheer mayhem (and sometimes completely crosses the line), and “Aeon of Darkness” is highly likely to ignite a mosh-pit if it’s ever played live.
Funeral Winds isn’t interested in change or progression, so don’t go looking for that here. But thirty years on from the band’s inception, the devotional fires in the music still burn damned hot, and the energy they generate is contagious.
Now I’m turning from that opening trio of complete releases to advance tracks from forthcoming albums, beginning with “Rosary of Midnights“, the first single from a new album by the Finnish band Aethyrick.
The song’s opening cadence is mid-paced and rocking, accented by an inviting, humming bass, while the riffing is bright and buoyant. The music gradually swells in intensity as the bass throbs, the drums accelerate into a gallop, the riffing begins to boil, and the vocalist lacerates his throats with spine-tingling shrieks. The mood becomes more distraught and disturbing, yet still it soars, and when it does its splendor is enough to put your heart in your throat. It sounds like the voice of a broken spirit that nevertheless won’t surrender, and fights on.
What a completely thrilling and immersive song this is, one that captivated and carried me away.
The new album, Apotheosis, is set for release on January 22nd by The Sinister Flame. (Thanks to Miloš for leading me to this song.)
The next advance track — a wonderfully multi-faceted one — comes from the third album by the French black metal band Seide. Entitled Auakistla, the album is set for release on January 8th by Throats Productions and Ascension Records.
Be forewarned: “Les Repus d’Avant l’Apocalypse” takes its time at the outset to methodically pound listeners into the ground with immense, heavyweight power. But then it ignites, rushing ahead through hard-driving drums, hard-punching bass, feverish riffing, and crazed vocals. But the song continues to shift gears, slowing to make room for an exotic, Eastern-inflected guitar melody (though the vocals remain as intensely ravaging as before).
That’s a mysterious, seductive interlude, though you can still feel the bass in your guts and the crack of the drums against your vertebrae. When the band step on the gas again, chaos reigns, though a different form of harrowing vocals make an appearance in the midst of the gale-driven cataclysm.
And now for the twist I promised. I thought it might do you some good to experience a spell after all the savagery, and this final video is indeed spellbinding, both visually and in its sounds.
The instrumental music is “Karün (Mapuche Malla Malla)“, a new song by Antuco, which is the work of a French musician (Franck) who now lives in Chile. It is a tribute to the indigenous Mapuche people. Through shamanic drumming, beautiful guitar melodies, and backing shimmering mists, the music is both moody and bright, meditative and vibrant, mysterious and beguiling — and altogether gorgeous.
The song is available on Bandcamp, where you can also explore other music by Antuco on the EP named Kimün.