Childhood memories tend to be fuzzy, at least around the edges. I have some vivid ones, but can’t always place them in chronological order. For example, I have some very clear memories of opening Christmas presents with my brother, and the rest of my family happily watching our glee. Some of those happened on Christmas Eve, and some upon waking on Christmas Day. Having been infected by the Santa Claus myth, I assume the memories from the daybreak celebrations were the earlier ones, and the nighttime ones happened after our family figured out (rightly or wrongly) that we had wised up about the myth, but I can’t be sure.
What I do know is that the nighttime gift-openings were more magical, even if they didn’t square with the notion of deliveries by Santa and the reindeer while my brother and I were off in the Land of Nod. Maybe it’s because the lights and ornaments on the Yule trees shown more brightly (our family wisely turned off all other lights in the room). Maybe there are other reasons why those memories are more scintillating, but if so, those reasons are… fuzzy… kind of like the gauzy light that shrouds these recollections in my mind.
Anyway, I thought I would provide you some Christmas Eve gifts yesterday — a large mountain of them — in the form of some recent songs and videos that proved scintillating to me. But we experienced some technical difficulties that shut down my ability to post this yesterday. Fortunately, our brilliant IT consultant spent part of his Christmas Eve fixing the problem (what a dude!) and so now I get to commemorate those childhood daybreak unwrappings instead of the night-time ones. Thus, this will also allow you to continue believing in Santa.
Speaking of beliefs, I think it’s fair to say that most of us around this site don’t find any spiritual significance in Christmas, and tend to abhor the commercialism that surrounds it, but neither can we deny that if we’re lucky the day does bring some special pleasures every year, even if those pleasures may often be rooted more in nostalgia than in current-day realities, which continue to be abominable in many ways (the premature burial of 2020 isn’t a gift Santa was capable of bringing).
And, we are not so churlish as to pour cold water on those of you who will spend part of the day celebrating, regardless of the reasons. Instead, we wish all of you a Merry Christmas and hope that the following music will make it merrier (which is to say, more vicious, enraged, miserable, and ugly). As you see, this is only the first Part of a two-part collection. Part 2 will arrive tomorrow.
To begin, I chose a video for a song called “Mirage“, which I’m grateful to TheMadIsraeli for recommending. Beautifully filmed in beautiful settings in Luxembourg and France by Kim Conrardy (U-matic productions), it starts in black and white and then, like The Wizard of Oz, switches to color — just as the music transforms into something that’s absolutely mesmerizing.
But long before that moment — in fact, within the opening seconds — I got well and truly hooked by a fast flickering guitar motif that darts in and out over a rumbling and battering rhythm. The song is a turbocharged thriller accented by jolting bursts and raw, howling vocals, right up until that change mentioned above, when a moody but magical melody swims above neck-cracking snare beats and heavy tremolo’d vibrations. It’s hard not to fall under the spell, or to feel your heart rise into your throat as the voices return.
In addition to “Mirage” you can check out two more songs from Scarred on Bandcamp. They’re all on the band’s self-titled album, which will be released on January 22nd.
“Bread and Circuses” is a new single by the vastly underrated VEGAS., whom I’ve found can be counted on to create powerfully cathartic discharges of sound. Featuring furious howling vocals that are as raw and traumatic as a sucking chest wound (as well as strange, distorted, conversational tones), the song combines dismal dragging chords and furious bullet-spitting drumwork, rapid jolts and brutish, bone-smashing pile-drivers, and the kind of pitch-black intensity that this band always seems to deliver in ravaging fashion.
This single, by the way, should serve as a reminder to check out the other VEGAS. releases this year, of which there have been many, if you haven’t already. Like this new single, they’re all waiting for you at Bandcamp:
The video for “Before the Battle” doesn’t last long, but both the animation and the song make an attention-grabbing impact. In the music, this Belgian black metal band take off into a glorious, blazing spectacle — and one whose riffs and skull-rattling rhythms will get your head going. But between the savage vocals, the unexpected detonations and whooshing sounds, and the cruelty that hovers around the edges of the music, it creates a feeling of peril at the same time as it gets your blood pumping.
The music is taken from Sercati’s last studio effort, 2018’s Devoted, Demons and Mavericks, which was released by Wormholedeath. Credit for the animation goes to the artist Pyel, who collaborated with Sercati on the concept. It depicts long-time Sercati protagonist The Nightstalker in a fight against the Anesthetist.
BIPOLAR ARCHITECTURE (Germany/Turkey)
I came upon this next song and video because YouTube served it up right after that Sercati video. It comes from the predominantly Turkish band Bipolar Architecture, whose vocalist/guitarist Sarp lives in Berlin. The group is the successor to a death metal group called Heretic Soul. Their first EP, The Tragic Protagonist, was released this past May, but this new song will appear on an album slated for release by Wormholedeath in the May/June timeframe next year,
This new song, “Dystopia is the Reality”, is hard to pin down in genre terms (the band themselves refer to post-metal, blackgaze, prog, and djent). It combines mysteriously seductive arpeggios and chest-thumping beats, soaring incendiary chords and scorching harsh vocals that seem to channel pain and fury, syncopated drum rhythms and vibrant pulsating bass lines, and a bit of jarring start-stop heaviness in the song’s back half that will get your head nodding beneath shimmering musical lights.
YOTH IRIA (Greece)
Two songs are now up for streaming from a new album by the Greek band Yoth Iria, a duo consisting of Rotting Christ co-founder Jim Mutilator and Necromantia co-founder The Magus. The new album, entitled As The Flame Withers, is set for release on January 25th by Pagan Records and features cover art by Harshanand Singh.
“Yoth Iria” (the song presented below through a lyric video) begins with a beautifully exotic, lilting melody and then begins to jab and jolt, while simultaneously introducing a grand fanfare of heavy metal riffing. These ingredients return in gripping fashion as The Magus snarls and screams in demonic tones and the melody gloriously burns. Things get even more occult near the end, with the return of mysterious pinging tones over a center-stage bass performance. It strikes me as a great representation of the classic Greek black metal sound.
The other song, “The Red Crown Turns Black“, is a more immediately savage and hard-driving track, but makes twists and turns, rocking hard and becoming incandescent while also introducing mysterious keyboard elements, episodes of sweeping grandeur, and moments of heartbreaking sorrow. It’s such an electrifying, head-spinning song that you’d best take some deep breathes before diving in.
(Thanks to eiterorm for tipping me to these brilliant new Yoth Iria tracks.)
HESPER PAYNE (UK)
After those Yoth Iria tracks, the next song in this collection creates a sharp contrast. “The Cruel Teeth of Winter” is a single released a few days ago by this “Doomed Heavy Metal” band from the northeast of England.
The eloquent lyrics, which portray the awful effects of a bitter season on desperate people caught “here at the end of all warmth”, are worth reading if you can’t hear all of them. They’re at Bandcamp, where the song is a name-your-price download. But you could probably get a sense of the music’s theme even without tracing all the words.
The music crawls and huddles beneath a plague of bone-chilling cold and marches under heavy grey skies, while the vocalist intones the words in clean, dismal tones and haunting wails. The riffing builds to a pestilential boil, ethereal shimmering tones rise up over clobbering rhythms like a supernatural mist, and the vocals become more gritty and harrowing. In the song’s ghostly mid-section, the music becomes even more chilling as voices whisper through those ethereal mists. In the aftermath of that, the cruel teeth come out as the guitars slither and whine in a semblance of madness and the song simultaneously begins to hammer and chug. What’s left is a reprise of the song’s opening movements, which somehow seem both more disturbing and more engrossing the second time through.