Just a few days left in this year that has been so miserable in so many ways, but so great when it comes to heavy music. Speaking of which, my plan is to finish rolling out our year-end lists by January 1st. At this point, I have five more slated to post. Soon after the beginning of the new year I’ll begin the last stage of NCS LISTMANIA, which is my list of 2020’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. I have a lot of thinking to do about that between now and then.
In the meantime I’m still trying to keep up with newly arriving metal. My fucking day job has been relatively calm over the holidays, which makes this task a bit easier, though I expect it to heat up again after New Year’s Day. Here’s some of what I discovered over the last 24 hours that lit me up.
The London-based avant-garde black metal band Void, who have been active since 1999, don’t hurry their releases. If you’ve heard either of their first two albums — 2003’s Posthuman and 2011’s Void, you’ll understand why. This isn’t the kind of music that can be thrown together quickly, but it has been so unusually good that it rewards the patience of fans. And now, a decade after their last album, Void will be releasing a new one through Duplicate Records near the end of January 2021.
As suggested by the album’s title (The Hollow Man), it was inspired by T.S. Eliot’s phenomenal poem “The Hollow Men”. As explained to us, the album tells the story of an individual who reads the poem, and then it follows him through psychotic breakdowns, nightmares, visions, and the experience of the apocalypse. “It’s a cinematic and existentialist tale of loss, grief and broken messianic hopes”. Musically, the album weaves together elements of progressive black metal with orchestral arrangements, electronica, spoken word, and much more.
The first single from the album, which is the first track after an intro piece, shares the title of Eliot’s poem. From what you’ve read above, it’s obvious that the album as a whole is a narrative, but even this individual track has a narrative quality. It seems to follow the experiences of the protagonist as he reads the poem. It begins with a somber recital backed by mournful strings, but erupts in blasting drums, searing riffage, and cacophonous cries and screams.
The violin continues to play a prominent role in the music as it weaves and dances through the track’s changing moods and momentums, and the spoken words and berserker cries are also never far away. The music softens into dolorous and mysterious tones, when the bass warmly hums and singing voices can be heard, but it also jolts and spins in a frenzy. It ends abruptly, in a way that signifies the music is about to enter the second Act — and thus creates even greater intrigue about what else the album holds for us.
The Hollow Man features memorable cover art by Metastazis. It was mixed by Camille Giraudeau (Dreams of the Drowned), and was mastered by Greg Chandler (Esoteric). It will be released in variant vinyl editions, and pre-orders are available now. Duplicate Records recommends it for fans of DHG/Dødheimsgard, Igorrr, A Forest of Stars...
Here, the world falls… is the name of a four-track demo by the Portuguese black metal band Wømb that was released in a cassette tape edition on December 25th by Purodium Rekords. I haven’t yet made my way through the entire demo, but I do want to share a stream of the third track, “Kalika“, which I have heard, and which knocked me to the ground.
This was not an unexpected consequence, because I’ve heard the music of Wømb before. On another occasion I described it thusly: “[I]t appeals to the primitive part of my brain that finds pleasure in being shaken, steamrolled, and freaked out in especially ugly ways. In other words, the ancient animal part of the brain that says, ‘Your intellect be damned, it will always be my slave!’”
Similar thoughts came to mind when I heard “Kalika“, but there are also other things going on here. It begins with frightening ambient sounds and then begins to pound and thunder, as ominous chords blare in a sign of ominous grandeur and quiver in a heated fever. The sound has an overpowering impact, comparable to the towering sounds of a symphony orchestra, as do the completely insane shrieks. The cadence changes slightly as the song unfolds, becoming more rocking and swaggering at times, and as it goes the riffing becomes increasingly memorable, as do the moods of cold eminence, wild derangement, and paralyzing anguish.
NERVOUS DECAY (France)
This next song is the kind of death metal that reminds me of Chuck Schuldiner’s Death in that legendary band’s more intricate and adventurous phases of existence. It’s unmistakably savage and capably skull-busting, but it also takes some interesting twists and turns, from the start-stop episodes at the outset to episodes of ravaging mayhem and galloping passages loaded with ebullient fretwork. The time signatures change on a dime, repeatedly, as do the drum patterns. And the bestial vocals do a good job matching up with all the crazy things happening in the instrumental music.
The song, which shares the name of this French band, is “Nervous Decay“. It was released via Bandcamp as a single on December 27th by Great Dane Records, but it is also part of a forthcoming debut album via the same label. When the song was released, it was accompanied by a crazy lyric video, which I’ve also included below.
Also on December 27th, Portland OR’s Omnikinetic released a new single named “Hemlock“. I’ve raved about this one-man band before, and am about to do so again.
“Hemlock” begins in media res, as if the song began at some point before we pressed “play”, as if we’ve suddenly been teleported into a maelstrom of hurtling drums, cascading chords of fire, and cavernous echoing howls. The moods and tempos of the song change repeatedly, growing more dismal and despondent, but also taking wing through wondrous trilling leads and shifting into a kind of brutal martial murder. The vocals, on the other hand, are persistently harrowing throughout this musical combat between forces of darkness and light.
Next up is Entranced By Decay, the debut demo of a Slovenian band named Ensanguinate. And it is absolutely delicious red meat for a death/thrashing metal fan.
“Ghoul Presence” begins in a massive, lurching stomp, oozing grisly melody and generating a feeling of suppurating decay — but then accelerates into an electrifying, neck-cracking romp packed with jittery and jolting fretwork as well as monstrous echoing growls and livid howls. At the end, we’re treated to a fret-melter of a solo. The evenness of the mix and the relative clarity of the sound are immediately evident, but that doesn’t make the music any less gruesome or galvanizing.
The other two songs, “Hunted” and “Pit of Ash”, are just as thrilling. The former goes hell-for-leather, then shifts into a big headbanging movement accented by a darting, demented, supernatural-sounding lead, then ignites in a display of savage ecstasy, thanks to another eye-popping solo. “Pit of Ash” also fires on all cylinders, mixing cruel, tremolo’d drilling with head-hooking thrashy riffs, and throwing in some palpably morbid and menacing accents as well, not least of which is the paranormal, mind-bending quality of the closing solo in this one.
Today’s collection has included more than a fair share of dark, devastating, and discombobulating sounds, and so I decided to close with something that’s just a shitload of infernal fun. It’s the title song to Ripping Metal, a debut demo by the Brazilian duo Gravedäncer (members of Flageladör and Tyranno). And yes, it rips.
The song is like a melding of NWOBHM, the speed metal that grew out of that, and black metal. It will get your adrenaline firing on all cylinders, and dig its hooks in your head damned fast. There’s also a terrific extended guitar solo in the song’s mid-section. But as glorious as the song is, the vocals are convincingly demonic in their viciousness, and they draw out the elements of sinister menace in the music, which were always there.
Ripping Metal will be released on cassette tape (limited to 80 copies) by Helldprod Records on January 29th.