SHADES OF BLACK: SARKRISTA, FUATH, FORHIST, KANKAR, MNHG, FERRITERIUM, ELLENDE, HOLDLAJTORJA
I may have bitten off more than you can chew in this collection of recommended black metal. It’s certainly more than I can masticate with adequate words. I’ve started with a collection of individual songs from forthcoming albums by five bands, and then followed that with a complete album and two full EPs. To make this manageable for me, if not for you, for the full releases I’ve only hinted at what you’ll find within them and then left you to browse for yourselves.
The first song in today’s collection, “The Beast Reborn“, is a teaser for the third album to be released by these Finnish Satanists (who dwell in Germany). It rips and ravages, batters and scampers, but soars in a way that’s both glorious and desperately beleaguered, and the trilling leads channel a heart-felt yearning that might seem at odds with the completely unhinged, flamethrowing vocals.
I’d go so far as to say, without intending any insult, that there’s a romantic and tragic quality to these emotionally evocative melodies, and to me that’s what makes the song so memorable.
The forthcoming album is named Sworn to Profound Heresy and features wonderful cover art by Misanthropic-Art. It will be released by Purity Through Fire (CD, LP) on March 21st. Worship Tapes will release a cassette version. I’ve only made one foray through the album so far, but it is damned impressive.
The Scottish band Fuath, whose name is a Scots Gaelic word meaning “hatred”, is returning with a second album five years after the wintry first one (which was beautifully reviewed here for us by Jay Lawrence). If you don’t know, it’s the solo project of Andy Marshall, who also makes more folk-oriented black metal under the name Saor.
The first advance track from the new Fuath album, “Prophecies“, is both searing and vast, bleak and panoramic, a fashioning of dread, dolor, and derangement. But the flickering dance of the lead that emerges over a rapidly jackhammering pulse gives it an effervescent (and mysterious) dimension, and the long mystic waves of solemn and shining melody that flow forth in the song’s second half over mountainous drum blows are spellbinding, and the music remains entrancing even as it softens.
Marshall’s occasional vocals are terrorizing, but the intense vibrancy and striking dynamism of the music pulled me in head over heels, and caused me to lose my head.
The new album, entitled II, will be released via Season of Mist Underground Activists on March 19th. The memorable artwork was created by Luciana Nedelea.
The fourth track on Blut aus Nord‘s 2014 album Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry was named “Forhist“, and that is also the name of a new project by Vindsval.
As for the intent behind the project, it has been described by Debemur Morti Productions (who will release the band’s self-titled debut album on February 26th) as an effort “at reawakening the mysterious and vibrant feeling of the first years of the Black Metal scene – a time when there was an almost fanatic drive behind the artists and bands” — “a solitary walk in deep woods, an echo of the past, a return to the spiritual womb from which darkness first emerged”.
The album as a whole, which I’ve not yet heard, is further described as “a haunted dreamworld of harmonious yet savage riffs, deftly melodic leads, vocal malevolence, mystical choirs, escapist acoustics, perfectly-judged drumming and neo-gothic synth in eight compositions”.
Two singles have been revealed so far from Forhist’s debut album, the most recent one arriving last week. They are the tracks that open the album. The first of those, which begins with birdsong but then thunders, harbors an electrifying, chiming guitar pulse, bursts of extravagant wailing melody, and a feeling of immense but unsettling grandeur. That opening storm is powerful enough to put your heart in your throat, and what follows is stricken enough to sink it. Unsurprisingly, the song continues to change, and to whirl in a solemn and sorrowful dance, which just makes it all the more entrancing.
The second song begins in an immediate surge of battering intensity, and the waves of melody submerge the listener in a feeling of perilous tension and rapidly approaching catastrophe. It’s a sensation of cold sweat on the skin, and a feverishness born of helpless fear. When the drums vanish, the music only becomes more desolate, and when the rhythm returns, in a methodical thumping cadence, the dance here is a poisonous plague waltz, in which the ravaged revelers are inhaling hallucinogens and listening to monkish chants.
Well, this may have been inspired by the spirit of the early black metal darkness, but I don’t think anyone in those early years was making music like this, which should come as a surprise to no one.
Thanks to Miloš for alerting me to Forhist before I noticed the press release. The cover art is by Dehn Sora.
The next song I’ve chosen is “Zerfall des Lichts” by the Thuringian duo Kankar (vocalist/guitarist/bassist Stríð and drummer Plágan). It’s a vicious piece of work, the riffing cold and cruel at first, the bass humming with sadistic pleasure, the drums hammering at your skull, the vocalist snarling like a rabid wolf (and singing a bit too, unless my ears have deceived me).
But the more you listen, the more hallucinatory you may find the music. It also flares in moments of flailing and slashing ecstasy — and it also slugs and grooves hard enough to raise bruises. The song changes constantly, becoming feral and carnal as well as brutish in its pounding and wild in its mayhem. For just one track Kankar pack in a tremendous amount of variation, and pull it off wonderfully well — it never sounds scattered or disjointed.
The song is off Dunkle Millennia, the band’s debut album. It will be released by Eisenwald on March 19th (cover art by Northern Arts).
The last of the advance tracks I’ve chosen for this column is “Blasphemic Warfare” by the German black ‘n’ roll band MNHG, formed by former members of Thyrgrim. They start working your neck right away in this track, with pounding drums and hammering chords, accented by bursts of head-whipping, fleet-fingered fretwork and a sorcerously seductive solo.
It’s a devilishly catchy piece of music, with appropriately mad-demon vocals. Methinks the main glands this song will open up are the hormonal ones.
The source of the song is an album named Mundare, which will be released on February 26th by Immortal Frost Productions (CD and digital formats).
Now we come to the full releases, beginning with Calvaire, an album released on January 16th by the French band Ferriterium, which is the side project of Raido, who also performs in Karne, Malevolentia, and Heimsgard. Raido was accompanied on the album by drummer Julien Helwin and bassist Lethal. The eye-catching cover art is by Sözo Tozö.
The album’s four tracks are all long-form compositions, and far more involved than I can do justice to, given my opening confession that I haven’t the time for a thorough-going description. I promised only hints at what you’ll encounter, and here it’s a marvelously multi-faceted musical escapade.
Each song is a kaleidoscope, or perhaps a roller-coaster ride, both musically and vocally. There are so many twists and turns, so many breathtaking descents and heart-pounding ascents, so much inventive drumming and head-spinning guitar machinations, which interlock beautifully well, and so many changing moods of such remarkable power.
You’ll get a good preview of this in the first of the four tracks, “L’Apostasie”. It’s mainly lofty and blazing, but also haughty and harrowing, and getting swept up in its convolutions is so irresistible that the many minutes pass without noticing. If there’s a question left afterward, it’s whether your heart will take two more tracks like it. For better or worse — and by my lights it’s definitely for the better — the other three tracks are just as breathtaking, just as likely to spin your head and whirl your emotions through labyrinths of chaotic joy, crushing despair, near-celestial glory, and near-cinematic pageantry.
My friend speelie recommended this album to me. He reported that a French Canadian friend told him that “Calvaire” is French for the Biblical Calvary, and that the word is used in Quebec as a form of profanity. But of course Ferriterium are non-colonial French, and this music seems more like a capturing of the terrific drama and intensity of the New Testament story than a blasphemy. I have no insights into what Ferriterium think of that tale, but whatever may have inspired them, and whatever their goals may have been, the album is extraordinary.
I’ve appreciatively written about almost all of the releases of this Austrian band, and thus made sure to listen to their new record Triebe, which was just released on January 22nd in cooperation with AOP Records. It’s described as an EP, perhaps because it consists of only three tracks, but those add up to a half hour of music. The release is further described as “an adaptation, interpretation and mix of previous and new material which has utter importance to the Œuvre of Ellende“.
You would underestimate Ellende at your peril. This new release is another hallmark in what is, to my thinking, a brilliant career. Unbouded by the conventions of black metal, Triebe is home to ethereal gleaming and chiming melodies, beautiful piano and violin duets, moody acoustic guitar, swaths of panoramic audio cascades, body-moving rhythms, and explosions of riveting power and intensity. As they say in the trade, this is music that wears its heart on its sleeve, and for the right kind of listener it will cause your own heart to swell and to break.
It creates its own world, as vivid and almost as multi-faceted as the one around us, with both awe-inspiring heights of hope and joy and beauty, and depths of depressiveness and shattering pain, and then pulls us into it body and soul. If you’re after music that’s grim, cruel, and violent (I confess that I need strong doses of that too), this won’t feed your needs. If you just want to get lost in something that really makes you feel alive, this is your ticket.
L.G., the mastermind behind the band (who is again accompanied here by drummer P.F.), created the cover art.
The name of this Hungarian group translates to “moon ladder”, referring to one of the cryptic visions experienced by Danforth in Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. I decided to check out their debut demo after learning that the band’s line-up includes Inmar (the name he goes by as guitarist and songwriter of Vorkuta), Vorgrov (from Marblebog and Asattarn), and Kryptagonist (from Leiru and SÍR). This three-song demo is a precursor to a full-length album by Holdlajtorja entitled Ab Oriente Ad Occidente.
Largely eschewing conventional blasting aggression and paint-stripping shrieks, these songs create disturbing dreamworlds whose facets appear and change like an obsidian gem slowly spinning in the air, lit by supernatural light. The blunt heaviness of the bass and the deep gouging of some of the guitar tones, coupled with the vocalist’s bestial growls, create undercurrents of harrowing heaviness in the opening track “Ab Oriente Ad Occidente”. But what happens around those sensations is musical LSD, or whatever people use for hallucinogens these days.
The primitive, ritual drums and the trance-like, chant-like singing in the second track, “Et Erat Subter”, create a shamanistic experience, and a very charismatic one. I wish it had gone on longer, but the wound of its briefness was salved by the mind-bending exotic extravagance of “Vix In Rama”, an alchemical amalgam of weaving cobra riffs, thunderous double-bass, rocking beats, clashing cymbals, guttural growls, and a beckoning singing voice. It pours us back into some kind of opium dream, stripped of our mundane surroundings, parting veils that separate us from glimmers of some deeper understanding. Or maybe it’s just fucking us up, but that’s perfectly fine too.
Holdlajtorja’s demo was released in mid-December and is a name-your-price download at Bandcamp. I’m intensely looking forward to hearing the full album.
That Ferriterium record is a ripper; the sort of album where you take a deep breath in the moment it starts and only exhale 40 purple-faced minutes later.