Part 1 of today’s column is in the vein of the giant round-up I prepared yesterday — a lot of music and not a lot of words. Though the music is of course “in the vein” of black metal, or at least in spiritual/aesthetic kinship with it (according to my own perceptions), you won’t find any two bands here that sound like they were raised in the same litter.
Part 2, which may appear later today or may appear tomorrow (because I haven’t written it yet), is devoted to four songs from a forthcoming (and long-awaited) four-way split, and a frightening album I meant to include in this column last week before I ran out of time.
Rennie (of starkweather) pointed me to the song and lyric video I’ve chosen to lead with. At that time, it was apparent that an album by these gas-masked Lithuanians was on the way, but neither of us could find a name for it or a release date.
Those mysteries were solved this morning when the album just dropped out of the sky, fully formed. But by the time I awakened and saw Rennie’s message about the full release, I didn’t have time enough to listen to it, so I’m sticking with the original plan of focusing just on the one song and video — but including the full stream as well.
The one song in question is the album opener “Aeternum“. It has a warm, heavy bass pulse, continually changing drum patterns, and possessed, caustic vocals. The abrading guitars change as well, wailing in the rawness of grief, screaming in pain, and reaching fever pitches of electrifying derangement through fleet-fingered, trilling leads that pierce lividly through the cascading wash of desolate melody.
When Rennie recommended this track he mentioned that it evoked “total urban desolation”. And the video directed by Emmanuel Adomaitis effectively captures that atmosphere.
The name of the album is Dezintegracija, which seems to mean “disintegration”.
Rennie gets credit for this next selection too, an album named Pleurs by this band from Montreal, Québec, which had in turn been sent his way by his friend Lev. It deserves more words, but these are the ones I have time to write, maybe enough to give you a flavor of what’s ahead.
With a bruising and often explosive rhythm section giving the songs demolishing and head-moving heft, and often joining together to inflict atonal pile-driving punishment, and accompanied by vicious deathly growls and frightening screams, the songs layer in a range of riffing that encompasses sounds of unnerving dissonance, bone-chewing cruelty, chime-like ringing, boiling madness, and tides of sweeping grandeur.
But you’ll hear that while Présages are devoted to dark and deleterious moods, they also delight in creating sharp contrasts, interrupting their aggression with somber organ chords, dolorous piano recitals, celestial synths, and a sandpapering of static, or melding tectonic bass lines and skull-busting snare beats with shimmering keyboard arrays that are mysterious and inviting.
Perhaps more an amalgam of death, post-metal, and prog, there are just enough elements of black metal in the mix to justify my decision to include it here, but I mainly wanted to wait no longer to give it a push.
The album was released on February 28th, and is thus the “oldest” one in today’s column.
A new Sxuperion release is always welcome around these parts, and that’s what June 25 will bring, via Bloody Mountain Records — a new Sxuperion album named Auscultating Astral Monuments. Along with that announcement came a preview track called “Ophanim Mechanical Drive“.
The experience of it is marauding, mind-mangling black/death, the kind of bestial and eerily supernal amalgam that grants visions of menacing extraterrestrial glory while it applies jackhammers to your spine and voraciously chews at your guts.
P.S. “Auscultating” was not a word in my vocabulary, so I went hunting for its meaning and discovered that “ausculate” means to listen to sounds from the heart, lungs, or other organs, typically using a stethoscope. In ausculating astral monuments, Sxuperion of course uses a different instrument, which exists only in the imagination.
Had I known nothing about Zgard’s music, I would have visited this track based on the stunning album art alone (created by Seeming Watcher). But having been captivated by Zgard’s past music, I was eager already.
The panoramic melodic sweep and reverent choral vocals in “Old Ruins” exude an enveloping aura of tragic majesty, but the hammering drums, the throat-ruining shrieks, and the scything fretwork seem to channel both raw pain and fierce defiance, while in the softest passages the music becomes eerily mystical and haunting. Near the end you’ll also hear the beguiling acoustic tones of what sounds like an old ethnic instrument.
The track is from the upcoming album entitled Place of Power, to be released by Schwarzdorn Production (CD/Digital) on May 21st.
lhum jolhduc is a 30-minute EP released on April 28th by a mystery band named Trhä, whose location is unknown to me, even after a little digging; even the album and song titles haven’t yielded any convincing clues, based on their defeat of Google Translate’s algorithms (which claim the EP title is Arabic, the first song title is Welsh, and gives no translation at all for the others). As in the case of that album above by Présages, I only have time to to give you a hint of its flavors.
What gripped me immediately about this release was the sunburst of fiery wonder that comes through immediately in the opening track, driven to even further heights of intense splendor by the riotous dynamism of the drumming and the utterly crazed vocals. I won’t soon forget those opening couple of minutes.
But I also won’t soon forget what else Thrä do in that long opening number after they use dead silence as a bridge into a sequence of remarkable changes, which include a stately but swinging (and cinematic) funeral march with music reminiscent of a brass band, whose captivating melody carries through even when the drums and the vocals go nuts again, interludes of both soft, lute-like picking and tremolo’d electric guitar that have the resonance of medieval music… and a whole lot more. It truly is an extraordinary, and wildly unpredictable, 14 minutes.
You may wonder, as I did, “What in the world can they do to follow such an eye-popping tour-de-force without causing a let-down?” And because I know, I have a big smile on my face, wishing I could see your faces when you find out. In a nutshell, this is one of the most eye-popping and completely welcome surprises I’ve encountered in 2021 so far. Metal-Archives says that Trhä is the work of a single person (Thét Älëf), which just makes the music all the more astounding.
(Abundant thanks to Miloš for linking me to this release.)
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this column, and as regular visitors already knew, I sometimes include music that isn’t black metal but that in my view has a spiritual/aesthetic kinship, and that’s why this next EP, The Death Ballads, is here — in addition to the fact that I’m completely captivated by it.
The Bandcamp page for the album reports that the group was founded by vocalist, lyricist and principal songwriter Mortifero, who is also the live bassist for Asagraum and Standvast and has done guest vocals for bands such as Grá, Uuntar, and Elfsgedroch. The following sentence from the same report implies that Mortifero also did everything on this EP: “Nortfalke (bass/percussion) and Neer (guitar) were asked to join the group for live shows but are also currently writing songs for a full-length album together with Mortifero“.
I sent the link for The Death Ballads to a valued musician friend who, like me, enjoys dark country and neofolk. He said it sounded like Dorthia Cottrell (Windhand) singing for Death in June. The Bandcamp page also draws parallels to King Dude and Lana Del Rey, as well as the afore-mentioned Death in June. As elsewhere in this column, I wish I had time to devote more words to what Mortifero has achieved, but must content myself with repeating that I found it completely captivating — and hope you will too.
The Death Ballads was released on April 30 by Ván Records.
(Thanks again to Miloš for this one!)
The next song, “Frost“, is the first to be revealed from Distanz, a new album by this German band that’s calendared for release (CD and digital) on May 7th.
The sound is rough, raw, and caked in lo-fi grit, but the riffs are magnetic, shifting from moods of crazed anguish to desperate yearning and beleaguered hopelessness, accompanied by both shifting drumwork with a rehearsal-room authenticity and unchained screams. The intentional abrasiveness of the music is part of its unwashed, unpolished character, and adds to the song’s visceral emotional force and impressive staying power.
VULTURE LORD (Norway)
I guess it’s obvious to all of us now that the plague has brought revivals of life in addition to mass illness and death. The last Vulture Lord album came out 18 years ago, and lo and behold, a new one (Desecration Rite) will now be released very close to that exact 18th anniversary.
I have no problem at all with a song that immediately starts with over-the-top guitar excess, which is what happens at the launch of “Bloodbound Militia”. That spectacular opening solo sets the hook hard, and it’s not the last one you’ll hear. But in addition, the song delivers rampaging viciousness, sinister menace, off-the-hook drumwork, and spine-tingling, hate-fueled snarls.
I don’t even mind that the song is really about the band and calls out the members’ names in the lyrics – now I can salute them one by one!
Desecration Rite will be released on June 20 by Odium Records.
NUCLEAR REVENGE (Spain)
Having been sent into heavy metal hellfire with that last song, it seemed only natural to me to end this with the black-thrashing “Descending Wings of Perversion“, which is also a hellishly glorious cornucopia of feverish and flaming guitars, piston-pumping drums, mad-demon vocals, eye-popping soloing extravagance, and an overarching air of blood-rushing dementia. Highly addictive, too….
This track is off an album named Dawn of the Primitive Age, and I discovered it because the album is being released in physical form by Helldprod Records on July 30th. I later learned that it was first released on April 24th by the Chinese label Awakening Records, and you can check out a couple of other songs from the album at their Bandcamp page.