These columns are always difficult to put together. There are just so many worthy candidates to choose from. But this weekend seemed even more difficult than usual. In an effort to call attention to as much new music as I could, I’ve made this a two-parter. To get things started, I chose advance tracks from four forthcoming records and sandwiched in a new video for a song we’ve praised before. Part 2 will be devoted to a few complete new releases.
First up are a pair of stunning advance tracks from Temple of Khronos, the second album by Australia’s Spire. “Harbinger” is an immediate storm of reality-rending chaos, a conflagration of blasting drums, massed, maniacally swirling guitars, and a choir of vocalists who seem to be in the throes of a mind-scarring out-of-body experience. The intensity will suck the wind from your lungs, but the glimmering, otherworldly melodies, which become stricken with grief and despair when the momentum slows, and the ominous chanting, which adds an element of solemn and haunting grandeur, make the song even more compelling.
The other track, “Puissant“, builds upon the final minutes of “Harbinger”, adding somber strings and momentous drums to those reverent choral voices to fashion an atmosphere of harrowing majesty. Tension builds, especially when the panoply of unhinged vocals returns and the guitars pulse like flickers of preternatural flame. A feeling of unshakable calamity creeps into the music as well — a mood of deep mourning and vast, inconsolable desolation. The music also generates an occult atmosphere that’s both mysterious and packed with menace. The song begins to seem like a towering monument to the imperiousness of death, and in those choral voices there is a chilling feeling of worship and praise to that inescapable force of darkness.
I’ll share just a few of the words to be found on Sentient Ruin‘s Bandcamp page for the album:
“Temple of Khronos is a foreboding sonic gateway that will push your imagination to its limits as it explores the concepts of time as a deity, tyrant, and as ultimate engineer and destroyer of reality to connect the listener with an obscure and distant future civilization that in facing its own inevitable demise stares back into time facing us with our own nothingness, powerlessness and finality.”
Sentient Ruin has set February 19th as the release date.
This next advance track is a big twist in the road from those songs by Spire. “Vanish Beneath” begins in eerie, spine-tingling fashion but then, with rumbling drums and wailing arpeggios, it segues into a massively head-moving, swaggering riff backed by a gut-punching back-beat. The vocals are as vicious as a rabid wolf, and there is definitely a feeling of diablical menace in the music, and a feeling of derangement when the guitars go into seizures and the rhythm section hammers with a will. Sounds of mewling misery surface, as well as sensations of wild, heartless savagery, and it even becomes gloriously anthemic. But to be honest, while I was carried away by all those changes, I was waiting for that big carnal riff to return.
“Vanish Beneath” comes from a new Wode album named Burn In Many Mirrors, which will be released by 20 Buck Spin on April 2nd.
Well, I admit this next song is more death metal than black metal, but I just couldn’t wait to crow about it. The full-bore drumming in “Kůň Kadaver” truly does hit like a high-caliber automatic weapon, and the blaring riff that opens the track seizes attention immediately. And then the song becomes a juggernaut crusher, with rock-grinding bass lines, pile-driving grooves, and brutish stomps alternating with galloping beats and deep, drilling chords. Spurts of boiling guitar work continue to give the music a feeling of destructive madness, and a quivering solo adds an atmosphere of the supernatural — and the vocals are just goddamned monstrous.
“Kůň Kadaver” is the first single from SNĚŤ’s upcoming debut album, Mokvání V Okovech, which will be released by Blood Harvest on May 14th. (Thanks to Rennie [starkweather} for making me aware of the track. If you haven’t heard the band’s debut demo, you should. I reviewed and streamed it here.)
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Last November this Roman black/death band delivered a new EP named Kulturkampf / Los Von Rom, via Barren Void Records, with the CD version officially distributed through Lavadome Productions. This time their subject matter concerned Eugenio Pacelli (Pope Pius XII), who led the Catholic Church throughout almost all of World War II. The EP stands as a condemned of his neutrality — and worse — in the face of the Third Reich. The elaborate and evocative lyrics to the two songs on that EP are well worth reading, and are available at Bandcamp.
I reviewed the EP here at length, summing it up this way: “Seriously, this is breathtaking stuff, and well worth all the minutes these two tracks ask of you. As they unfold, you won’t be able to think of anything else, and they’re so intensely unnerving that you probably need to set aside some time to get yourself back together and calm down after they’re over.”
The occasion for me reminding you of the EP is a new video that Totalitarian released for the song “Kulturkampf“. I won’t repeat my comments about the song — just watch and listen.
To close Part 1 of this column I chose a new song by the budding German master of melancholy, Nachtig.”Berg und Tal” is a long and thoroughly entrancing amalgam, of which black metal is only one ingredient. The overture is a haunting musical meditation, lonesome and sad, soft and soulful, but the strains become more abrasive and penetrating in their despondency when distorted riffing combines with cauterizing screams. Panoramic synths and a skipping beat give the heartbreak in the music a sunrise of hope, and the lachrymose union of piano and strings that occupies much of the second half, before the music soars in shattering sorrow again, is sublime.
The song is taken from a new album named Der stille Wald, which will be released on March 21st by Purity Through Fire.
That Nachtig really hit the spot today, and I’m glad someone else is enjoying that Spire album as much as I am.
Both of these are wonderful, albeit in dramatically different ways.
caught a whiff of the demo from SNĚŤ last year and maaaaan they check some boxes
I went searching for Spire after that amazing OTHRS split and was completely deflated by what I found. I’ll give these new tracks a bash in the hope that something of that project shines through. (Not to say that Spire should sound like OTHRS in anyway only that those two songs were so good I wish they would so there would be more to listen to).
Definitely give this new one a chance. They’re doing some different things here than they’ve done before.