This week’s SHADES OF BLACK is going to be a bit shorter than usual. For better or worse, I spent a fair amount of time pulling together the two Overflowing Streams roundups that I posted earlier today, and wasn’t able to get to everything I wanted to write about for this column. Still, it’s a fair share of music, with streams and reviews of two new albums and one new EP. I’ll add that all of these selections include black metal as only one of several genre ingredients.
Haiduk‘s fourth album Diabolica (released on September 21st) consists of 11 tracks, all but two of them less than three minutes in length. Both individually and collectively, they deliver such full-bore intensity they may suck the wind from your lungs. You can imagine being caught in the midst of a gale-driven firestorm, or desperately hanging onto the wing of a jet aircraft that’s blazing straight up into the skies. The dense, swarming riffs and maniacal leads are themselves a superheated blaze of head-spinning, mind-mutilating sound.
There’s a lot of eye-popping, technical skill, intricate plotting, and brilliantly multifarious and mutated tonalities on display, and that has a lot to do with why the music is so electrifying, along with the sheer ferocity and dervish-like delirium that flows through the music. The drums are also programmed to fly like the wind, spitting bullets and bombs at a high rate of speed. And to make the torrential, destructive violence of the experience even more jaw-dropping, the infrequent vocals are cavernous, distorted monstrosities that eject the words like fists to the face.
Perhaps paradoxically, there’s something about this no-holds-barred storming that becomes spellbinding, due in part to the bits of exotic melodic magic that glimmer and swirl through the blast. And it stops just in time, before you’ve exhausted your endurance and are left completely gasping.
We live in a merciless world, and I’m afraid no mercy will be shown to you as you move from that Haiduk album to Fall Prey, the debut full-length by Kanahn, a one-person blackened death grind band from Bilbao in the Basque Country of Spain.
In some important ways Kanahn is a kindred spirit to Haiduk, because the music is generally jet-fast and often overpoweringly explosive and violent (and at times exotic). In general, Kanahn administers a vigorous high-speed percussive beating amidst flesh-stripping typhoons of swarming, abrasive, dissonant riffage, along with throat-ruining screams in the vocal department. It’s an all-consuming and incendiary experience, although the drum- and bass-work are dynamic, and those changing rhythms help keep you on your toes in the midst of all the vicious guitar assaults.
It’s also worth noting that at well-chosen moments Kanahn throw in some highly headbangable riffs (there’s a big dose of that in “Blowtorch Excavator Truthsayer” and another in “Kaal Tyrant”, for example), as well as grandiose blaring chords, dismal squirming arpeggios, fret-melting solos, wisps of supernatural melody, and gritty enraged yells to go along with the strangled shrieks. Beginning with the close of “Stars and Torches” and continuing into the drum-less experimental final track “Death Magik”, the music also becomes frighteningly strange and mind-mauling.
In a nutshell, this is one hell of an impressive debut. Some enterprising label ought to pick this up for a physical release.
ANIMA HERETICAE (Finland)
Sadly, I’m running out of time and therefore have to bring this column to a close sooner than I’d like. To do that, I decided to make a dramatic musical change from those last two albums and conclude with Ov Behest, the debut EP of this Finnish band (which shares two members with Aeonian Sorrow and Red Moon Architect).
What drew me to the EP was a video for its title track. The song buried itself in my head the first time I heard it. The sweeping symphonic melody that opens the song and reappears throughout its course is incredibly majestic and inspiring (and a big ear-worm too). Plus, the song is home to some big, head-hooking riffs, skull-cracking drumwork, darting keyboards, barbarous growls, and torrid screams. The music is mysterious, menacing, sinister, and grim, as well as grandiose — and the video makes for an excellent visual accompaniment.
The EP includes two other songs. Both are also well worth your time.
The opener, “Stone That Burns“, does eventually bring the high-flying symphonics and a piano into play, but even with that it’s a very dark song, even oppressively so, with a stricken and hopeless mood that becomes feverish in its feeling of despair.
The closer, “Constellation of Capricorn“, is a nearly 11 1/2-minute behemoth, or maybe saga is a better word for it, because it definitely has an epic quality. It’s beautifully sad, ferociously violent, and gloriously panoramic in its portrayal of ice-bound melancholy. It’s reminiscent of other doom-inspired Finnish melodic death metal bands (old Insomnium comes to mind), though with a blackened char on the edges. The mighty roar of vocalist Ville Rutanen also stands out.