I’m going to dispense with an introduction to today’s column, other than to say that what I’ve chosen is going to give you a strange trip from beginning to end.
LIGHT OF THE MORNING STAR (UK)
I was quite taken by both of this band’s first two releases, a 2016 EP named Cemetery Glow, and a 2017 debut full-length named Nocta, both of which were released by Iron Bonehead. Now there’s another album headed our way, via the band’s new label Debemur Morti Productions. DMP describes the new one in these words:
“Potently blending cinematic Deathrock, ghoulish Doom, heavy Post-Punk and atmospheric Black Metal, Charnel Noir is a hook-ridden exploration of the necromantic Undead which captures the restraint, tension and dark romanticism present in the great canonical Gothic works”.
The first advance track, “Spectres“, bears out that description. It delivers magnetic grooves carved with the sharp pop of the snare and the primal thrust of the bass. Sitting still isn’t an option. As you move, ghostly vocals and glimmering tones create an aura of ethereal mystery, haunting dread, and unhealthy seduction. At times, the band douses the song with propellant and sets it on fire, with the vocals becoming harsh and predatory and the surrounding sounds searing the senses. Near the end, ringing guitars and keys set up a refrain that becomes enthralling even as your muscles continue to twitch to the beats.
DMP will release Charnel Noir on October 1st. A vinyl version will be available on December 10th. Pre-orders for the physical editions will begin on September 6th.
BEASTIAL MAJESTY (US)
The Night of the Hunter is the debut EP of this trio who are anonymous but aligned with Ordo Vampyr Orientis, a collective that also includes Bat Magic. It consists of two tracks whose names form parts of the EP title, and they should be listened to as a single shattering but surprising experience.
“The Night” administers a ruthless scouring of the listener’s cranium, all hammering drums, distorted howls and screams, and dense gales of ruinous abrasion — but things aren’t completely as they might seem at first. Borealis-like melody soars in shimmering waves above the instrumental conflagration and the stunning vocal lunacy. The rhythm changes; the drums punch and gallop and pound; the bass pulses with contagious vibrancy; the riffing writhes like a mad dervish. At the end the guitar peals like a desolate bell against a backdrop of sanity-chewing bass feedback. The track thus becomes a gloriously insane head-spinner as well as a savage mind-mangler.
“The Night” seamlessly segues into “The Hunter“, which pours more fuel on the fires of psychosis. Again, the changing drum rhythms and hurtling bass lines create a visceral impact while the guitars (and whatever other noise-makers the band deploy) create a dense and piercing array of blaring, growling, and seizure-like sensations. Synths again eerily sweep across the head-hammering and flesh-rending attacks, and the vocals are again completely unhinged.
When the morphing rhythms subside into a lurching march a guitar slowly wails in utmost misery and despair. It’s a transfixing sequence — but that experience is blasted and burned away by the cyclonic paroxysm that follows it. The music seems to whirl and cavort in mad and dangerous ecstasy at the end. It’s something of a shock when the track is abruptly cut short, like succumbing to the fall of a guillotine blade.
Like Beastial Majesty‘s EP, the new album by Estonian Thunraz messes with your mind, but in different ways. It too occasionally deploys eerie synths to cast an unearthly sheen around unstable but head-hooking rhythms, but the vocals trade off between cold hoarse roars, strangled screams, and woozy, gothic singing, and the riffing sometimes has a narcotic and hallucinatory quality.
The songs are in constant flux. They speed up and slow down with abandon. Sometimes the riffing seems serpentine and venomous, and at others feverishly crazed in their fret-leaping and boiling convulsions. Livid bursts of unnerving dissonance with microtonal qualities lie around some of the sharp corners, and you take another turn and the music becomes stoned or apocalyptically destructive. Dirty strumming will move your messed-up head one minute, a needling guitar will drill your molars without anesthetic the next, or become a nest of mindless insects stripping flesh from corpses in a frenzy, or glitter and gleam above syncopated beats like a wizard’s perilous spell. And at chosen moments the jolting bass will beat you senseless.
The foregoing words don’t exhaust all the experiences that lie ahead of you in your trip through this asylum. It is one hell of a trip, one that will leave you feeling strung out and strung up, though the closing track applies a little balm to the wounds… until it leads you into a nightmare dream.
Thsnks go to Rennie (starkweather) for pointing me to this album, a record that’s is all the more impressive because it’s the work of a single person (M. Jalakas). It was released two days ago.
CULT OF EIBON (Greece)
The next song rocks, but is unmistakably infernal. Stripped down and almost primitive in its construction, it relies heavily on the power of the devil-riff, which happens to be irresistible here. To add to the music’s diabolical flavors and sulfurous aromas, the screaming and roaring vocals are rabidly vicious, and the slowly slithering and radiantly shining lead-guitar (or synth) that eventually surfaces is sorcerous. Ultimately, the song becomes frantic and feral, jittery and jolting, before returning to an ebullient variation on the song’s massively addictive main riff.
“Into the Realm of Na-girt-a-lu” is from this cult Greek band’s debut album, Black Flame Dominion, which will be released by Iron Bonehead on October 29th. The fantastic cover art was made by Granath (of the black metal band Savari).
SUN DESCENDS BLACK (US)
Next I’ve chosen Evolving from the Aftermath, the second EP (released on July 30) from Little Rock’s Sun Descends Black. With a single exception, these 10 tracks do their savage work in short order.
All of those short tracks could easily have been extended, because they’re made from compelling (albeit corrosive) riffs and the kind of bludgeoning and battering rhythms that are heavy and hellish, combined with vocals that are relentlessly savage but varied in their bestial assaults. And though the band don’t give themselves a lot of time to stick the songs in your head, they do stick, creating sensations of crushing bleakness, pestilential peril, mangling destruction, and exultant, scampering mayhem.
The one song that summits the four-minute mark, “Filth Mistress”, proves what the band could have done if they’d decided to extend some of the shorter tracks. It’s drugged-out and ghastly, a lurching, shaggy, foul-smelling monster — but one that proves to be ferocious in its rampaging eruptions. And like some of the other songs, this one shifts into punk cadences and kicks into surges of dangerous buoyancy.
I mean no criticism in remarking about the brevity of the other tracks. They barge in, do their dirty work, and get out, and the effect is to leave a listener hungry to find out what kind of wreckage they’re going to create next.
To close, I’ve chosen the two tracks that are now up for streaming from Celestial Triarchy. I was first drawn to these songs by the wonderful cover art by Oldřich Dvorský, and then fell for the music.
The thundering bass and hammering drums give the songs a powerful punch, but that’s not all the rhythm section do. The dynamism of their movements and nuance of their patterns is a big part of the songs’ appeal, and the frequent changes are matched by the ebb and flow of intensity and the scintillating changes in the tonal and emotional colors of the melodies, crafted in a partnership of guitar and synths. The band are capable of setting things on fire, but equally capable of using lilting and ringing arpeggios to lull you into a beautiful trance, or sending the heart soaring in glory. The throat-lacerating vocals are an important factor in turning up the intensity dial, and they’re plenty intense even when the shrieking turns to strident cries.
Both songs are musical hybrids, the kind of black metal that could be categorized as blackgaze, or as post-black, given their use of post-rock and indie-rock ingredients. Whatever you call them, I found both very enticing, and a good reason to be hopeful about the rest of the album. It’s set for release on September 1st in collaboration with Trepanation Recordings, Noise Mafia and Salto Mortale Music (all of whom will release vinyl editions)