SHADES OF BLACK: MARE COGNITUM, PAYSAGE D’HIVER, CAESTUS, WESENWILLE, LESATH, MINNERIKET
Someone (besides Andy Synn) must have noticed that yesterday I posted a round-up of new songs and videos that I named “Seen and Heard on Valentine’s Day“, when in fact yesterday was not Valentine’s Day. I conceived of various justifications for this, including the assertion that I live in the future. But the truth is that what I did was probably dictated by my subconscious mind: Sundays here are for Shades of Black, even a Valentine’s Day Sunday, and I sure as hell couldn’t call this “Valentine’s Day Shades of Black”.
Let’s face it, black metal is not about love, even when it’s the kind of more modern blackened metal that wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s more about bitterness, hate, and hopelessness. When it becomes celebratory, it’s usually envisioning the savage triumph of the Fallen Angel over the deluded sheep of humanity and the institutions that have herded them, or the death of the cosmos itself.
Well, those observations may not cover the entire spectrum of black metal, especially in the modern era, but you know what I mean. Generally speaking, black metal isn’t about hearts and flowers unless the hearts have been freshly ripped from chest cavities and the flowers bloom at night and are poisonous. So, I’m just going to continue pretending that yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and we’ll say nothing more about it today.
As usual, I’ve struggled to make the following selections because so much worthy new music surfaced over the last week. There was a lot of other news as well, including the announcement that the long-running Serbian band The Stone will have a new album named Kosturnice coming out in late March, and that Necros Christos have announced their permanent disbanding. Nevertheless I did my best with these choices, and of course you should feel free to use the Comment section to point out other new black metal that I should have paid attention to in print.
MARE COGNITUM (U.S.)
The cover art tells the tale of this first song more eloquently than I can, and I put “Antaresian” here in the lead position so that Adam Burke‘s cover art could appear at the top of the blog today.
The song is a long one, and thus changes, revealing different sensations, but it absolutely blazes and soars throughout. It’s turbulent, molten, and laced with jolting lightning strikes. It glitters like a panorama of gold, reaches spectacular heights of feverish exultation, and provokes involuntary physical movement. Jacob Buczarski‘s vocals are in the red zone of intensity. The song’s tremendous energy never abates, even though I thought it might because of its length. In retrospect, I’m grateful for its relentlessness.
“Antaresian” is from Mare Cognitum‘s well-named upcoming album Solar Paroxysm, which will be released by I, Voidhanger Records (CD, LP [EU]) and Extraconscious Records (LP [US]) on March 19th.
PAYSAGE D’HIVER (Switzerland)
The announcement last week of this band’s new album Geister came as a surprise. Along with the announcement, “Bluet” was revealed just as suddenly. Where “Antaresian” blazes in glory, “Bluet” swaggers and swings, but is full of menace and tension. The rocking beats give way to double-kick thunder, and the music swells and sweeps. There’s glory in that, but the sound is still chilling, made more so by the shrieking viciousness of the vocals. The song’s carnal quality is palpable, but filaments of clear, swirling melody make it mystical, otherworldly, and entrancing too.
This new song suggests that Wintherr’s latest chapter in his narrative of “Der Wanderer” will be another winner. Geister is set for release on April 23rd.
This four track demo, Nordic Luciferian Discipline, is the debut release of Caestus, a duo consisting of Vexd (from Kangeheet, Odiosior, and To Conceal the Horns, and ex-Alghazanth) and lead vocalist/drummer Skymion. Digitally discharged in late January, it’s packed with piercing riffs and sparkling leads, and the layering of the guitars make an electrifying impact. The songs are also dynamic affairs in which the drum rhythms change repeatedly and the dark moods of the music do as well, channeling derangement and desperation, bitter hopelessness and grim defiance.
The vocals are usually incinerating, though there’s some raw but affecting singing in “War Horns” and bestial growls in the title track. The bass-and-drum-work effectively does its simple job of rocking, stalking, and blasting. But it’s the emotional power and melodic memorability of the riffs — and the often dramatic, panoramic sweep of the sounds — that cause this demo to stand out. The beleaguered grandeur that rises above the war march of the title track, in particular, caused my heart to leap into my throat, while the moody glinting tones that begin “Aura of Frailty” are a nice surprise — before the music explodes into a ravaging, larger-than-life spectacle.
Each of these songs has depth and character, each one presenting its own marvels and interesting juxtapositions, perhaps most especially in the closer, “Conduit of the Fallen Spirit”, which provides a rich tapestry of sensations and styles. A great discovery — and I owe thanks to both Rennie (starkweather) and speelie for recommending this to me.
It wasn’t long ago that I called out the first single from Wesenwille’s new album (here), and now there’s another. This one, presented just a few days ago through a lyric video, is the title track. I expect my friend Andy Synn will be reviewing the album soon, so I’ll just say that this track is a dissonant, demented, distraught, and hallucinatory extravaganza. The visuals in the video are beautifully arranged and, combined with the words (which offer strange, and probably cynical, mystical entreaties and praise to the god of our empty material achievements), they present a bleak view of the industrial age and the paroxysms and shallowness of dense urban life.
The album is II: A Material God, which will be released by Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions on March 12th.
February 12th brought us another album by the prolific band Lesath from the Indian sub-continent. It’s too multi-faceted for me to capture in the short amount of time I have to choose these words. The vocals are persistently shattering in their intensity, but the music ranges far and wide, creating moody and mesmerizing spells, offering moments of lilting self-reflection, haunting heartbreak, and wondrous splendor — but also slashing at your contentedness, dragging you into despondency with nightmarish intensity, and throwing itself into unbridled frenzies of turbulent desperation. Not for naught is the album named Heavenless.
The album’s ebb and flow is arranged in a way that makes it immersive, and the braiding together of divergent stylistic ingredients further strengthens its grip. The Bandcamp tags call out atmospheric black metal, blackgaze, and post-black metal, and those all fit.
To close today’s column I picked “Hjemlengsel“, a new single by the Norwegian band Minneriket. The video through which it was first presented on February 11th (filmed in Iceland) is beautiful, cold, and desolate. The music, performed with piano, violin, and cello, is also gorgeous, and saturated in haunting melancholy. It’s a shame that it isn’t longer. Maybe I can put it on a loop, as I gaze at the snow-covered forest around my home before it all melts.
In case you’ve forgotten, Minneriket is another one-man band, consisting of Stein Akslen from Vakslen, Æra, and Blodsgard, though he’s aided here by Margarita Chernova and Norlene Olmedo.
The Minneriket video is the perfect way to end my day.
I also wish the song wasn’t as short.
I don’t know if you’ve missed these, but I can’t remember seeing them, so here goes: but Malakhim released their debut album “Theion” in January in IBP and it’s a scorcher!
A two-track EP by UKBM band Reign is can be found here:
Midnight Odyssey, fellow comrades in weird of Mare Cognitum.
Ancient Mastery is a fantastic blend of black metal, nerdy dungeon synth bursts, and even nerdier fantasy lyrics.
Belated thanks for these recommendations. I had the first three on a list of things to eventually check out, but the 4th is a new discovery.