Happy Fourth to all of you in the U.S. Hope you have something worth celebrating, even if it’s mainly the chance to safely commingle in the flesh with people you haven’t seen in a while. As usual on a Sunday, I’m celebrating the discovery of new dire, dismal, demented, and demolishing blackened sounds.
In Part 1 of this thing yesterday I focused on a handful of individual tracks. Today, with some help, I’ve selected a group of full releases — most of which pay little homage to ancestral Scandinavian second-wave black metal. Like yesterday I’ve mostly kept my commentary briefer than usual. I’ve got other tasks ahead of me today, though they won’t include cookouts, fireworks, or drowning in beer.
I’m bookending this collection with recommendations from starkweather‘s Rennie, beginning with Morast’s new 7″ EP, The Palingenesis, which was released on May 21st by Ván Records/Totenmusik.
I’ve already written here about the EP’s first track, “In Gloam”, when it surfaced with a video made by Chariot of Black Moth. It takes little time for the chiming guitars, the slowly undulating low frequencies, and the ghostly wails and whispers to reveal Morast‘s supernatural doom influences. Their black metal inclinations come out as well, as the guitars begin to seethe, the drums to hammer, and the vocals to become savagely infuriated. Combining all these sensations, Morast have created a frightening sonic hallucination. It feels suffocating and suffused with illness, but also cruel, and its upheavals seem apocalyptic.
The second song on the EP, “Augmentation of Time“, provides no relief from the atmosphere of claustrophobia that emanated from aspects of the first track. It’s utterly dismal, but its grim buzzing chords are harrowing in their pestilential radiations, and the slithering melodies are penetrating manifestations of abandonment and agony, while the vocals (both savage and chanted) are spine-tingling in their torment and rage.
This, by the way, is the first Morast release with new vocalist Z., formerly known for his work with Nagelfar, Endstille, and Graupel.
Next up is Concealment, which emerged on June 30th. As Rennie wrote when he me linked me to this, it’s a form of blackened death metal that’s “mangling and destructive”, replete with thunderous subterranean upheavals, voracious roaring and howling, thick miasmas of minor-key riffing, vicious blizzards of down-tuned mutilation, and eruptions of squirming-maggot leads.
When the band choose to crawl, and the vocalist inserts occult-sounding chants or ghastly snarls, the sound oozes plague and narcotics, but still delivers punishing body blows and concrete-chewing bass lines — except “Mirror”, which is just a rhythmless ringing and gouging nightmare, and the close of “To Nothing”, which is maybe even more bizarre and terrorizing.
A very accomplished debut that’s pleasingly multi-faceted, though persistently horrendous in its assaults on body and mind. An easy purchase on this end.
ISKALDE MORKET (UK)
My own discovery of Iskalde Morket occurred through the band’s spring 2020 album, Metaphysics of Mass Murder, which I reviewed here. That’s now been followed by a new EP named Screams of Dying Animals, which was released at the end of May.
As one might have expected from listening to the preceding album, the new EP is an elaborate and frightening embroidery, woven with strands of ominous, eerie, and majestic symphonics; freakishly dissonant but weirdly enticing guitar permutations; crazed screaming; and highly undependable tempos and rhythmic progressions. It’s the kind of progressive metal one might imagine being made in an asylum for the insane, overseen by demon caregivers.
While the sounds are frequently disorienting and destabilizing, trying to keep up with them is nevertheless a fascinating exercise, and the songs do include threads of melody that are emotionally expressive, creating distinctive moods, both deleterious and deranged as well as haunting. Much of the technical skill on display is also as impressive as the mad-scientist inventiveness of the songwriting.
Do your best to focus — there’s a lot to take in here, but your careful attention will be richly rewarded.
At first, I didn’t expect to get as caught up in this next album as I ultimately did, but it grew on me quickly.
Spiralscape turns out to be a fascinating excursion. In most of the tracks (including the opener), the music employs symphonic and shimmering synths to create a sense of vast and perilous panoramic grandeur, or organ chords that portray hallowed but horror-stricken reverence. It blends those sensations with vibrant and vital bass performances, unsettling guitar motifs, dynamic drumming with a pulse-pounding effect, blinding and bereaved guitar solos, and reverb-heavy vocals whose raw screams and malignant roars sound unhinged.
Elsewhere, as in the short second and sixth tracks and in the longer interlude that comes fourth, things take somewhat different turns. The keyboards in “door” create eerie and astral sensations; “locus” spawns visions of fractured spirits congregating in the ice-cold netherworld; and “quake” sounds pretty much like what the name signifies, though there’s a celestial overlay there as well.
Even within the longer songs, strange electronics sometimes rear their heads in ways that seem designed to shove you out of your comfort zones, and the gossamer and ghostly sounds of “Shapeshifter” are simply wondrous (though the song certainly has its scary moments too), while the closing track seems like a calamitous funeral march or a chilling journey ‘cross the Styx.
If you’re not into symphonic or synth-heavy metal, you’ll want to pass this by. But if that kind of thing is appealing, this album is well worth your time. It’s the solo work of Patrick Michot, who’s also a guitarist in the Texas blackened sludge band Oil Spill.
I’m going to close with another recommendation from Rennie, Bezdech’s debut EP Duhkha, which is a hair-raising and head-spinning alchemy of avant-garde black and death metal. (You’ll understand that I might have chosen to insert it after that Iskalde Morket album above, rather than holding it ’til the end.)
This Polish duo paint their disturbing but often electrifying sonic portraits with colors of mind-abrading dissonance, thoroughly unpredictable fretwork maneuvers, and rapidly veering tempos. But the music is just as likely to become cloaked in shrouds of haunting gloom or to dip into streams of soul-shaking misery as it is to spin like a centrifuge of technically impressive lunacy and riotous savagery. And holy shit, the vocals are stunningly rabid and possessed.
Duhkha is guaranteed to keep you off-balance, but I think equally guaranteed to keep you perched on the edge of your seats.