(We’ve previously published (here and here) two installments of a “dirty black summer” playlist compiled and written by Neill Jameson (Krieg, Poison Blood), and now we’re happy that he’s followed that with a third set of recommendations for your summer listening, presented below.)
I hadn’t really planned on revisiting this series quite so soon but there were a few releases I missed last time and a few coming up that I wanted to shed a little light on, so here we are. There’s a few gloomier bits and some hints of the upcoming autumn in here which should help those of you who get a pumpkin spiced hard-on right after the Fourth of July get a bit of a fix in.
Winter Lantern “Festering Vampirism”
Right after I released Xasthur’s Nocturnal Poisoning (almost fucking twenty years ago, Christ) my PO box became a destination for dozens of projects trying to do the distorted, intrinsically creepy solo black metal experience. If any of them would have sounded like Winter Lantern’s Festering Vampirism I would have fucking signed them instantly. The deliberate pacing of each song, mixed with the ability to craft truly warped sounding late ’90s/early ’00s styled black metal, makes this project not only memorable but a very evocative listen in a still rising sea of shitty black metal demos that think throwing some reverb on somehow makes up for an inability to write good songs. Excited to see where this project goes.
Crucifixion Bell “Eternal Grip of the Nocturnal Empire”
Finding projects that make sure that no second of their music is wasted or a throw-away can feel like a fucking needle in a haystack at times but, like Kommodus, Crucifixion Bell fits that description perfectly. Utterly scathing black metal that is fucking relentless from start to finish, without becoming a chore. For better or worse we’re neck deep into this new wave of American black metal and Crucifixion Bell wields the sharpest weapon of all of them.
Spiral Staircase “Cellar Dream”
I was initially attracted to this based on the aesthetic of the cover and name of the EP. I had been previously unaware of the project (since rectified) but was so curious that I had to give in and experience it. Raw, punishing black metal with an air of melancholy to it, for whatever reason reminding me of Mutiilation (in atmosphere). This is one of the best EPs I’ve heard this or the last five years, a shining example of excellence in the underground.
Anyone who’s been reading my lists the last 18 or so months is aware that I’m fucking obsessed with Danish black metal, especially anything connected to the Korpsand Circle. The Danes have created a collective that, to me, is creating a musical legacy every bit as strong as the forefathers of the genre decades ago. While I’m unsure if there’s any connection, Jernved is the most recent project out of these fertile lands that I’ve been exposed to, and fuck-it’s deadly. Old school black metal performed with skill and fury, somewhat similar in feel to Jordslået but with more of a mid-’90s demo atmosphere. For now this is a self released cassette available through the band (e-mail is email@example.com) and I’m not sure if it’s still available or not but it is absolutely worth checking. Pure fucking excellence.
Cathedrals in the Night “Demo I”
I could tell you that this is depressive black metal and you’d get some kind of idea in your head that it’s somewhat softer guitar tones and probably self pitying. I know that’s the sort of thing that I think of when people use that to describe shit. But that’s about the furthest fucking thing you could say to describe the first demo from Cathedrals in the Night. This is agonizing stuff, the classic kind of depressive that brings to mind the first Bethlehem album or (the criminally underrated) The Funeral Orchestra. Thick, buzzing guitars slowly plod like rusty razors and the vocals are appropriately harsh. An excellent first showing.
Somme “Prussian Blood”
Another killer Deathkvlt release and follow up to their self-titled from last year, Somme once again have released another recording of excellent WWI themed black metal. Raw yet melodic, Somme definitely carry on the proud legacy of superb Finnish black metal.
Sad Forest “The Winter Ghost”
Even with the constant outflow of mediocre and boring dungeon synth demos that keep pumping out I still continue to find a few gems here and there that keep me enthralled in the genre, Sad Forest’s The Winter Ghost being one of them. Reminiscent of the excellent early Jaaportit material, Sad Forest keep their atmosphere flowing without overly complicated measures that pull you from the moment. Cassette will be released shortly through Dungeons Deep.
An Old Sad Ghost “Fullmoon over Videna”
I tend to write about this project every time there’s a new recording, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his new work would pop up at least once or twice here. I don’t want to use the term “cinematic” to describe this piece because that could cheapen it if you’re comparing it to soundtrack work from the last few decades, rather this is more of a classical feel that brings to mind images of dark nights 150 years ago, being lost in some far off city. Possibly his most evocative work to date and I only hope I’m fast enough on the draw when Gondolin releases this physically later in the year. We’ll be revisiting this in December, no doubt.
Lotus Thrones “Lovers In Wartime”
Heath Rave, formerly of Wolvhammer (and a stand-in Krieg member for a gig in 2013 while sick with tour-monia) hasn’t been musically active in a few years so it was a bit of a surprise to see him pop back up on the radar, more so with a solo project of gloomy post-punk ala The Birthday Party and the more depressing moments in The Fall’s catalog. Honestly that sentence is all that needs to be said and if that was enough to pique your interest then you should head over to Disorder Records and grab a copy. An excellent way to bum yourself out while the weather is still sunny.
Cradle of Judah
This is a new project from an ex-Human Bodies member. That last sentence is absolutely deceiving as this is pretty fucking far from metal. Rather this is depressive gothic/folk, akin to Mark Lanegan’s Field Songs or some of the later Wovenhand material. So far just The Rolling Stones cover is up but there’s going to be another single dropping the first week of August, with a full cassette release later in the month. This is definitely something different and should be well worth your time if you’re into music that makes you want to bleed out in a bathtub during a thunderstorm.
Dropdead “Live At AS220 on 11/03/20”
This is being included for four reasons. First is it’s fucking Dropdead. Second is this is being sold for a good cause, helping out Ryan Butler’s extensive medical bills. I don’t personally know Ryan but a lot of you do and even more of you know what it’s like to be faced with staggering healthcare costs. Third is that there is no good fucking reason this isn’t already sold out. And finally the fourth – it’s fucking Dropdead!
ANTIHÆLIX “Demo MMXXI”
The first thing that sticks out about this two-man black metal act out of Philadelphia is the guitar tone. It’s somehow managing to be simultaneously sharp yet dense, like a bat covered in razor wire. Three songs of traditional black metal with some serious fucking swagger to it, close to knuckle-dragging but without the detriment of being insulting to your intelligence. If you like your black metal with testicular fortitude then make sure you don’t miss out on their pre-order.
I’ll be honest, this list was edited multiple times – meaning I left out a bunch of releases that I would have normally included. This is a good problem to have because it means there’s still a lot of excellent music being created for you to go out and discover. As always I do these lists to try to expose some of the things I’m currently listening to but also to encourage anyone reading to do the same. There is still a strong undercurrent beneath all the fucking nonsense and plastic shit you’ll get peddled in your inbox by people trying to convince you that music without an identity is somehow a valid use of your time. Don’t buy into that.