SHADES OF BLACK: FIAT NOX, ANIMA MORTUUM, GLORIAM, FERETRAL, ONOK, VIXENTA
For today’s black metal column I’ve included reviews of two EPs, a pair of new videos, and just a sampling of tracks from two recently released albums that I want to recommend even though I don’t have enough time to give them proper reviews. Hope you find something to like.
FIAT NOX (Germany)
I decided to begin today’s collection with a song that will get your pulse racing. Part of that effect derives from the hammering propulsive drive, the wild and sinister fieriness of the riffing, and the scalding savagery of the vocal tirades. But the song is also a thriller because of its dynamism — from the skull-popping beats and infectious yells to the bubbling bass solo and the sweeping melodic blaze behind it.
“Amok Hymn” is the second track on a new EP named In Contemptuous Defiance. The other three songs are equally electrifying. The opener “Zealotry of Ruin” is a menacing, swaggering, hard-rocking song, one that brings in ferocious roars along with the savage snarls and gang yells. It feels like werewolves on the prowl, but the band also incorporate streamers of supernatural melody to augment the attack.
After “Amok Hymn”, the band unleash ferocious mayhem with “Unheiligkeitsklage“, but also send grand waves of intense, anguished melody coursing over the feverish thrashing riffage and maniacal drumming. They generate moments of frightening chaos, but close with music of utmost bleakness and despair (backed by weird percussive clattering). And to close, “Those Shunned Hills” takes a sharp turn, spinning out a collage of frightening, supernatural ambient sounds as the backdrop for grotesquely distorted spoken words.
But at 9 1/2 minutes, this is the EP’s longest track, and so the band eventually bolt into an assault of blasting and battering drums, rabid vocals, and powerful cascades of dire, sweeping melody. The mood of the music grows more calamitous, both more beleaguered and more fraught with tension. When the drums vanish, the guitars peal like funeral bells and wail like shattered mourners — a brief break before the song ends in a magnificent conflagration (in which the bass becomes a transfixing presence).
In short, this is a tremendous EP, one that has quickly become a personal favorite among all the shorter black metal releases I’ve heard this year. It will be released by Personal Records on October 1st.
ANIMA MORTUUM (Chile)
Next up is a new video from a Chilean band that I’m only now discovering for the first time. Almost half the fun is just watching these two — you’ll see what I mean. But the song is a hell of a lot of diabolical fun by itself, in part because it’s so multi-faceted.
It includes feral punk rhythms and riffing that scorches, slashes, and flickers, as well as piston-driven beats, bursts of infectious chugging, and moments of grim menace. And on top of all that, the song brings into play beguiling swirls of exotic, Arabic-styled melody and absolutely vicious vocals.
The song in the video, “My Skull“, is from the band’s third album, The Throne, which was released in May of this year. I’m now anxious to hear the rest of it.
Gateways to the Black Absolute is the debut EP of this multinational quintet, whose extensive resumes include such names as Merrimack, Crimson Moon, Precaria, Sacrilegious Rite, Ancient Blood, Mortuus Umbra, and Funeral of God. There are only two songs here, but they opened my eyes wide.
In “Gateways to Multidimensional Chaos” the band immediately create a somber mood with oppressive riffing that sounds like it was processed through steel wool, accented by vivid bass lines, feverish leads, and bursts of drumming mania. Augmented by clawing, predatory vocals, the song repeatedly accelerates and decelerates, joining together frightening sensations of chaos and calamitous downfall. At the end, the music segues into a surprising instrumental piece that includes a wash of abrasion, acoustic guitar, and an Eastern melody with devilish hypnotic properties.
The other song, “Glorification of the Black Absolute“, is equally dynamic and enthralling. It begins in adrenaline-pumping fashion with an infectious, pulsating riff and bullet-spitting drums, descends into horrid gloom, cavorts like a dervish over neck-snapping beats, staggers and stomps, and sends up dread-inducing fretwork spirals. Like the first song, it also makes a surprising change at the end, with a cornucopia of ambient textures that are eerie and alien.
Gateways to the Black Absolute was released by Narbentage Produktionen late last month. I fervently hope these folks will continue working together and bring us more.
Though Feretral was only born in 2020 during the pandemic, they’ve already released three albums, in addition to many shorter releases. What’s next in today’s collection is a new not-for-the-faint-of-heart video for a track from their most recent full-length, The Temple Ov Feretral.
“Sewer Metal” is short, sharp, and nasty — an attack of fuzz-bombed riffing that’s both dismal and deranged, feverishly glittering leads, and uber-macabre vocals. It doesn’t last long, but it’s infernally infectious (with an emphasis on infernal).
The Temple Ov Feretral was digitally released in June of this year, and Murder Records will discharge it on tape on September 13th. I hope to explore the rest of the album soon, to see if the rest of it is as evil as this song.
For the final two entries in today’s column I’m again just focusing on specific tracks from albums that have already been released, in the hope that they’ll induce you to check out the balance of the tracks even though I’m too short of time to review them on the whole. The first of those is the second song on Onok’s debut album, The Ouroborian – Bleak Incarnations, which was released on August 11 by Realm and Ritual.
“From the Old World and the New” arrives second in the running order of the album. The power of the sound is overwhelming. It’s massively heavy, and the piercing tone of the leads immediately drives the dismal, gallows-bound melody into the mind with searing intensity. But the song’s intensity becomes orders-of-magnitude more ravishing as the guitars explode in tortured delirium and the drums transform into mechanized weapons. The howled vocals are relentlessly terrorizing, adding to the music’s feeling of pain-induced derangement. The reprise of the opening riff is just as magnetic as the first time, but this time it’s accompanied by abyssal proclamations and sweeping celestial waves that inspire a feeling of terrible awe. At the end, it feels like the world is ending in fire.
That song is absolutely breathtaking. And it’s not the only one on the album whose emotional and sonic intensity is capable of taking your breath away. The album also includes a few transportive tracks in the vein of dungeon synth, and others that combine the fantastical synth stylings with the band’s more ruinous onslaughts. The whole thing is well worth your time and money.
Per the label: “Composed of members of Siegelord and Garadrak, onok have created an expansive Cascadian influenced dungeon-dwelling BM record; equal parts sinister, haunting, and lush.”
The last song I’ve selected for today’s column is “Dream in Darkness“, the opening song on Vixenta’s album Polarity. After a mystical intro, the music blazes and hurtles, and the vocalist’s shrieks are unnerving. But glinting chords and simmering keys introduce a feeling of wistfulness and introspection. Even when the power of the music surges again, the feeling of those dense ocean waves of sound is grief-stricken, and sorrow inhabits successive changes in the song as well. And there are indeed numerous changes in tempo and tonality, all of them enticing.
Polarity was released on August 5 by Flowing Downward. I haven’t yet made my way through all of the album, but have been enjoying more of it as I finish up this post. The songs I’ve heard are often cinematic in scope and include proggy accents as well as compulsive performances by the rhythm section, and the music persistently wears its heart on its sleeve — a longing, melancholy, and sometimes anguished heart.
Per the label: “Brisbane, Australia’s Vixenta is a three-piece post-black metal band as well, but a little more on the atmospheric side of the spectrum. For fans of Ghost Bath, White Ward, and Svalbard.”
Realm and Ritual are an underrated label.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of their releases and definitely need to do more digging. The Realm and Ritual Bandcamp page is loaded with releases I haven’t paid attention to.
My goodness Gloriam + Onok how excellent !