(Here we are, a solid year into the pandemic and maybe you see some signs of hope on the roadside, but if you’re still as confused, haunted, and angry as ever, this playlist compiled and written by Neill Jameson may improve your dark moods, or further darken them. Either way, we’re delighted to present it.)
I was planning on putting together something to mark the year anniversary of the few-part playlist series I did last year that began when everyone was stuck inside, a piece of fabric on your face wasn’t yet considered to be the master’s whip, and taking a shit in the halls of Congress wasn’t a patriotic act, just something the older members of Congress did naturally, but then I had a child and the best-laid plans etc etc.
My initial impetus for it was the same as the listicles (gross word) I did on this very same site starting in 2016(?) where I went genre by genre and that’s because I enjoy shedding light on music I enjoy and I’m an attention-seeking asshole and by reading these you are indulging me. Anyway, here’s some things that have been keeping my interest the last few months:
If you’re into caustic black metal that leans heavily into fellow Kentuckians (I can’t believe that’s a fucking word) Lord Foul territory then Glass Coffin will be your new obsession. Project has been around well over ten years but was unfamiliar to me until recently when Shep from Appalachian Noise sent me the split with Unrest (who I’ve praised here before) and the Remnants of a Cold Dead World LP which caused me to dive in a bit deeper, picking up their split with the long-running, warped black metal project Harassor, which is still available on their Bandcamp.
SPEAR OF TEUTA
Saying that your black metal project has post-punk influences in it has been somewhat fashionable since Pulver but only a few recordings actually really give you the genuine article, with Invunche and now Spear of Teuta being the most successful at it. SoT now has three recordings out since the end of last year, with each expanding on earlier sonic themes while remaining jet black. Before writing this I thought the s/t demo was the only physical release but it looks like Scorn has come and gone as well. Very interested to see where this project continues to travel.
FANEBAERER / CARVED CROSS
This is kind of superfluous as this split sold out very quickly, no one has (surprisingly) put it on YouTube yet, and you can’t find the Carved Cross tracks anywhere. But if you take anything away from this it’s that the two Fanebaerer tracks are fucking exceptional (and available digitally) lending credence to the fact that this is a band that can’t fucking miss. The Carved Cross tracks are also what you would want from another project that continues to record brilliance — dissonant and shamanic.
BRAND / CALVARY
I was very excited about this split based entirely on my continued enjoyment of Brand’s weird Joy Division meets Ved Buens Ende, which vocally is a bit more refined on this release (think Urfaust or Isengard before the disappointing third record) but was very surprised by Calvary, as per my lawyer & spiritual advisor Danny Katz sending me to check out the Shadow of the Cross demo (also released by Tour De Garde), knowing I would find it fucking captivating.
Calvary somehow has filled the niche that is Americana-influenced black metal, almost (and I know I’m not doing it justice with this description) like campfire songs from the 1880s. Remember when Earth did Hex? Something around that, but way fucking darker. I don’t think I know of a more original project at this moment but I can tell you to buy this fucking split.
GRINNING DEATH’S HEAD
It was kind of an act of providence that I stumbled on this project. I was digging through Youth Attack’s Instagram trying to find that glow-in-the-dark copy of the Arts 7″ that I’m sure exists when I saw the cover art for Cataclysm and decided to dig deeper.
I find that any black metal project Mark McCoy is involved in suits my tastes to a fucking T but this might be the best of them all. An all-out assault on the senses, it somehow manages to be harsh yet clear enough to pick up every nuance, with some sparse but effective synth and excellent vocal work. Upon further inspection the vocalist turns out to be the same man responsible for the previously lauded Calvary and apparently two decades worth of shit I now have to catch up on. So far everything I’ve listened to that this band has done is fucking gold but you’ll be seeing Cataclysm again in my year-end list.
UKCHEANSALAWIT “ALASKAN ESCAPE”
I’ve struggled with how exactly to describe this correctly so all I can really tell you is if the atmospheric, almost Filosofem (I hope I can still reference that without being arrested) nature of the first minute or so of the demo shifting into malicious Ildjarn-esque territory for the remainder of the song doesn’t catch your interest, then buddy, I don’t know what to fucking tell you.
I think I can count the goth records I own on a hand and a half. It’s just not a genre that kept my interest beyond my early years and not really for any specific reason. So this tells you that when I’m excited about a release it’s either fucking amazing or because my pallate is underdeveloped and you can name 80 better bands, which is fine. Name that shit to your hearts content, but while you’re wasting your breath I’ll be listening to Damghar, the side project of Ifernach’s Finian Patraich, which is an excellent and somewhat sparse recording that somehow didn’t sell out instantly to the flipper market, probably because it doesn’t say “Ifernach” anywhere.
XASTHUR / CASKET OF DREAMS
The last few months have really softened my enjoyment of dungeon synth. I suppose it’s because of all the novelty shit (or novelty shit they swear is serious) or because the community is about as inviting as taking a bath in someone else’s piss while covered in open wounds, I dunno. I also haven’t really followed Xasthur in quite some time, the highwayman thing just wasn’t my bag. So it’s doubly surprising that one of the few dungeon synth releases (if not the best of the year thus far) to catch my interest would also be a Xasthur collaboration with Casket of Dreams.
This is truly bizarre and ghostly soundscapes, exactly what you’d expect from the really early Xasthur records that felt like they were coming from under the floorboards of a ruined house. Whether you’re into quality dungeon synth or just curious how an instrumental collaborative Xasthur record would sound then this is worth your time.
Now just because I said my interest in dungeon synth had decayed a lot doesn’t mean it’s entirely dead, plus my appetite for anything the Avra Collective does is eternal so this was a natural addition. More a mixture of dungeon synth and Beherit’s ElectricDoom Synthesis record, there was just a split cassette released on Ancient Meadow you need to check out.
Not a new project or even, that I’m aware, an active one, but I’ve spent the majority of the Spring dusting off my CDs that Redstream released two decades ago and remembering that this electronic/ambient project really was fucking excellent and underappreciated even at the time, the sort of gem that Redstream used to pull out of the ground and wash off for the rest of us. While obviously different from anything else I’ve written about here they’re definitely worth some time to dig into and I’m sure Redstream still has copies or can point you in the right direction.
I have no real ending to this, nothing to pontificate, and, after seeing multiple people equate vaccines with abortions, no mental energy other than to encourage you to check out what I’ve laid out here and to continue to be curious about obscure and underground genres because being stagnant is fucking boring and how the terrorists win.