SHADES OF BLACK: MÜTTERLEIN, 0-NUN, ELLES VĀRTI, CRUCIFIXION BELL, WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, WORMWITCH, NYTT LAND
Hate to say it, but this week’s column is in some respects going to be linguistically abbreviated, if not musically. The day job has been a bear this weekend, and on top of that I’m getting together via Zoom in a couple hours with Andy Synn and DGR to record “voice breaks” for our next session as Gimme Metal DJs on July 30 (at noon PDT, 3:00pm EDT, 9:00pm CET). I’m not confident in my ability to ad lib about the music we’ve picked, so I need to make some notes to myself, e.g., “don’t fuck this up!” We’ve picked a lot of good stuff for our two-hour show, so I hope you’ll tune in.
Anyway, my writing eventually peters out today (you’ll see what I’ve done to short-cut things as you move through this collection), but that’s not a sign of lack of enthusiasm or appreciation for the music itself. I do believe it’s all still worth your time.
About three weeks ago in one of these columns I highlighted the release of a giant 24-track sampler by Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions. At that time I picked out tracks from three French black metal bands to feature, because they were all from forthcoming albums. I also mentioned that the sampler included tracks from a new split by Limbes (formerly known as Blurr Thrower) and Mütterlein — though I hadn’t yet listened to them. Now I have, and I want to draw special attention to Mütterlein’s track here, in part because it creates such great anticipation for a new Mütterlein album headed our way via Debemur Morti Productions.
The track that appears on the sampler appears to be named “Liars Wankers” and also seems to be an edited version of a longer piece. Its opening is chilling, thanks to the wrenching intensity of Mutterlein’s vocals, the descent of cold, heavy chords and pounding beats, and the celestial choir that wails overhead. Deep, moaning horns and the pulse of ringing strings carry the song further into a vast sonic abyss, where tension and turmoil build in frightening and ultimately nerve-abrading fashion. The drums spasm in bursts, and Mutterlein’s voice re-emerges, somehow even more terrifyingly tortured than before. Bell-like tones toll… the apocalypse unfolds….
With respect to Mütterlein’s next album, I’ll quote a comment by the band’s alter ego Marion Leclercq:
“That concept – the desire to express and assert oneself as a woman and musician – is unquestionably the driving force behind the project as a whole. I do feel, though, that the upcoming album is perhaps less political, less militant, than the first, and, by the same token, even less optimistic. I think that where I may have still felt compelled to fight or overcome on “Orphans Of The Black Sun”, the new album offers more of a feeling of being completely broken down. In the wake of such unhinged aggression, all that is left is anger and bitterness. MÜTTERLEIN has always been troubling, but she is now bordering on monstrous. In this respect, the new album is less reserved, less cautious. It is filthier, more intimate, and visceral. It is pure, unbridled rage.”
I’m grateful to Rennie (starkweather) for urging me to go back to the sampler and listen to this song.
I’ve previously reviewed the first three EPs in the “Shamanic Trilogy” by this Brazilian solo project (the work of Nuno Lourenço) — Nihility Ascetics, Dissociate, Alienate, and Transcendental. I thought all three were stunning, and so I leaped at the chance to check out 0-NUN‘s latest release, which surfaced on July 4th.
This latest release, Part the 4th, is a single track almost 18 minutes in length. As the journey into a hope-killing vortex begins (and it really is a journey), the atmosphere is alien and haunting, a panorama of freezing cold and celestial lights. The pulse of the music quickens, thanks to maniacally popping drums, shrill and feverish guitar delirium, and titanic low-end abrasion.
Scalding and growling vocals make vicious proclamations within the building maelstrom. Ghosts seem to gasp and snarl within cosmic cinematic soundscapes. Dismal ringing tones slowly writhe, and massive low-frequencies undulate, while the drums hammer away like automatic weaponry and the vocals scream. Symphonic strings channel inconsolable grief and are given a space of their own to cry, but soon again they are subsumed by the gravity of tectonic plates grinding against each other. Vibrant pinging tones sound enticing, but at the end horrors await, something like the labored breathing of a monstrous gargantua.
ELLES VĀRTI (Latvia)
I suppose if you had to force this next album into a metal pigeonhole, doom might come easier than black metal, but the music is so pitch-black in its atmosphere that I don’t think it’s out of place in this column. The music is profoundly nightmarish, and punishingly heavy. It possesses the kind of granite-crumbling, über-distorted low-end impact that creates visions of mountains moving or continent-spanning pythons slowly slithering, accompanied by drums that often sound like bombs going off.
All of that is frighteningly oppressive, but it’s what the band weave around those sensations that’s even scarier — an unearthly and blood-freezing collage of wailing, shimmering, warbling, and shrieking sounds, throat-lacerating screams, wretched moans, and grievous lamentations. The music occasionally opens into vast cosmic vistas that evoke confusion and fear, and in general the sounds are so titanic that they seem capable of swallowing the listener whole in a great leviathan maw of world-ending death.
What an uncompromisingly hopeless and soul-shuddering experience this is… I think you’ll have a tough time finding anything more convincingly apocalyptic that has emerged during the first half of the year. And I have Rennie (starkweather) to thank again for recommending this one to me.
CRUCIFIXION BELL (U.S.)
I discovered Eternal Grip of the Nocturnal Empire, the June 2021 debut album of this one-person band, thanks to some recommendations that landed as comments when Neill Jameson shared on Facebook the link to Part 2 of a “dirty black summer” playlist we published here, and then saw it again on starkweather’s page. In a nutshell, the album is a massive conflagration, a hellish firestorm of sound that also sometimes creates an aura of terrifying majesty.
Pulse-pounding drums and prominently thrusting bass provide a relentlessly gripping though rhythmically varied drive, anchoring an array of equally gripping, mind-mauling riffs. The riffs are abrasive (though less so than the absolutely deranged, anti-human, flesh-eating vocals), but they effectively channel a ranging array of moods — violence, anguish, dementia, and dervish-like ecstasy.
The music rips, rocks, and ravages, and its blast-furnace intensity leaves little room for breath. When the band do give you a chance to breathe, in the interlude tracks “Eclipsed Moon of the Eternal Feast” and “Fields of Everlasting Night”, breathing still won’t come easy, because the collection of bizarre ambient sounds and distorted vocalizations they serve up are sonic nightmares.
This is the kind of album that pins you in place like a helpless insect and has its way with you. What a thrilling way to be dissected and dismembered.
And now I’ve decided to conclude today’s collection by installing three new videos, all of which debuted last week, without commentary from moi. I don’t think Wolves in the Throne Room or Wormwitch require any introduction. Nytt Land may still not be on your radar despite me banging the drum about them here in mid-June, but they should be.
Respectively, the songs in the videos come from the following albums: Primordial Arcana (August 20 release via Relapse), Wolf Hex (August 27 release via Prosthetic), and Ritual (August 6 release by Napalm Records).
Well. Here I am again thanking you for your words. I am extremely happy that you’ve liked my voidian endeavors.
I somehow conclude that even the void always has some kind of remnants of substance…
Thank you for continuing to do what you’re doing!
ELLES VĀRTI is absolutely tremendous. (As are Starkweather)