I’ve gone off on a tangent in this week’s column. Nothing here will strike you as conventional black metal, and in many of the songs the black metal ingredients are dwarfed by others (among other things, rock beats dominate over blast-beats). But all this music struck a chord with me (many of them, in fact), and I also thought they made a pretty good playlist all joined together like this.
OTHRS / BURDEN MAN (Australia)
I have Rennie of starkweather to thank for spending time with the songs that are now streaming from this new split named Grievance, two songs by each band.
The first two are from a band named OTHRS, which is a project of Melbourne-based M.R, known for his work in Spire. Here is he joined by vocalist V.S., also a member of Spire as well as Void Stare.
The conjunction of bass and drums in “Concrete Graveyards” is deeply satisfying, creating a heavy, head-moving pulse for that anchors the gradual layering of dark, shimmering and glittering swaths of guitar, chugging chords, dancing arpeggios, and skin-splitting screams. The song is both mystical and carnal, mesmerizing and menacing, brooding and buoyant.
The second song by OTHRS on the split is a cover of Horseback’s “Invisible Mountain“. It delivers more of that kind of multi-faceted goodness, deepening the impression of OTHRS‘ talent in creating a kind of blackened prog-rock that’s thoroughly engrossing and physically compulsive (the rhythm section shines again). The vocals are frighteningly vicious, but the music swells the heart and bedazzles the mind, like a powerful spell that’s capable of spiriting the listener away — to mountaintops that have just become visible.
Burden Man began as a solo project in Sydney, Australia, but has expanded to a trio for the two songs they’ve contributed to Grievance.
“Hours of Emptiness” begins racing right away, through piston-pumping drums, a vibrantly humming bass, and vivid, immersive riffing. It’s the kind of music that seems to straddle a line between angst and audacity. The extended guitar solo that comes to the fore when the rhythmic pattern changes is wonderful, creating a feeling of ebullience that contrasts with the shattering screams. When the pacing slows in the middle, the song also becomes unsettling, revealing feelings of brooding bleakness and incipient despair. When the rhythms vanish altogether, the slow, ringing guitar duet creates an even more sad and introspective mood and provides the backdrop to somber, heart-felt singing. The reemergence of bass and drums occurs in a beautifully subtle way, deepening the entrancing effects of the song’s latter half.
The continuing instrumental softness and doleful singing at the outset of “Desire for Silence” extends that trance, but pulls the mood into even more depressive territory. The song does get orders of magnitude more heavy and emotionally harrowing, with big riffs and feverish yet soulful soloing over rumbling bass tones and a neck-cracking snare rhythm. It’s an unmistakably dark song, but one that draws you into its clutches almost before you realize what has happened, and then crescendos in striking fashion, creating a crest of emotional intensity that’s somehow both disturbing and spellbinding. The loneliness and grief that radiate through the instrumental outro are palpable, but no less of a spell.
Grievance was digitally released by Brilliant Emperor Records on January 15th and is available on that Australian label’s Bandcamp, as well as the OTHRS and Burden Man Bandcamps.
Now I’m turning to a video for a song off the forthcoming fifth album by the Norwegian band Mork.
“Arv” rocks. If you don’t start moving pretty soon, check your pulse. And it’s likely your pulse-rate will elevate further when the double-bass kicks start, the riffing begins to roil, and the shrieking begins. A feeling of derangement builds within the flickering leads, even when the vocals shift to singing, and sensations of devilish darkness emerge as well. The rhythms seduce the listener’s reptile brain while the sinister melodies create a conjoined reaction of exhilaration mixed with the fear that the presence of a predator brings.
The new album is entitled Katedralen and it’s due for release on March 5th by Peaceville. The video was filmed in Fredriksen Fortress, which looms above the town of Halden (the hometown of Mork’s mainman Thomas Eriksen). The album includes guest appearances by Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone, Dolk of Kampfar, and Eero Pöyry of Skepticism.
BLURR THROWER (French)
If this French project’s name doesn’t make you smile, I’ll be surprised. And apart from the clever name, the music is also very appealing, though it’s far from humorous. I discovered them through their 2018 debut album Les avatars du vide (reviewed here), and now they have a new one coming our way via Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions. Two songs from that album, the name of which is Les Voûtes, are now up for streaming.
“Germes Vermeils” is another song in today’s collection with a big rocking undercurrent at the outset, but here the heft of the bass and the punch of the drums transform into blasting and rumbling tones, kicking the music’s energy upward just in time for glimmering riffs to wash over you and to soar. The reverb-ed vocals howl and cry out with riveting intensity as the drumming segues into a multitude of inventive but head-heaving patterns. A feeling of thrilling wildness surges through this atmospheric music, yet it also carries a melancholy mood — the kind of sadness that has become desperate. Eventually, the rush of all-enveloping sound transforms into a saturating mist of mystical but tension-torquing ambience and the primitive and primal thump of a distant drum.
The second song, “Fanes“, is about half as long as the first one. Introduced by its own mist-like ambient swirls, which create an effective transition from the previous song, “Fanes” builds a sensation of cosmic wonder mixed with fear. About halfway through, cymbal spasms begin leading the song in a different direction. Joined by another riveting drum performance, the sound becomes overpowering, swelling in volume and intensity. The vocals finally arrive, just in time to create a feeling of terror in the midst of this hallucinatory astral ocean.
LADLO will release Les Voûtes on February 5th.
FLOOD PEAK (U.S.)
To close, I’ve chosen two songs from a forthcoming EP by the Portland (OR) “blackened sludge/post-metal trio” Flood Peak
“Urnfield” moves with bass beats you can feel in your core and explosive snare smashes you can feel like ax chops to the back of the neck. Around those gripping sensations, Flood Peak spin out distraught melodies, whose minor-key mutations and dissonant disturbances are enough to put your teeth on edge; the throat-rending vocals only increase the disturbance of the music. The guitars scream, trading places with titanic rhythmic assaults, which seem like field recordings of an earthquake in progress.
If you think your brain is already rattled enough and your body already sufficiently bruised, “Feral Wraiths” still won’t respect your feelings. It delivers another combination of gargantuan grooves, mind-mauling guitar intensity, and cauterizing screams. The rhythm section do become more metronomic in their ministrations, but the slow notes that ring over them keep the flame lit under the pyre of fear in the music. There’s another point at which the drummer takes a complete break, but that only permits the rest of the band to slowly drag you into a pit of oppressive hopelessness. When the drummer returns and the bass becomes more prominent, their job is to methodically beat what’s left of you even deeper into that soul-sucking pit. Mission accomplished.
The name of the new EP is Fixed Ritual, and it’s set for release on January 22 on cassette and digital formats via Anima Recordings.