SHADES OF BLACK: HEMELBESTORMER, ARKENFROST, OTARGOS, VISEGARD, SVARDENVYRD
Hemelbestormer 2021 – photo by Istvan Bruggen
Greetings earthlings. It is reportedly the 42nd anniversary of the publication of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — not the 40th, not the 50th, but the only anniversary that matters, and you know why, don’t you?
Today we resume hitchhiking through the galaxy of black and blackened metal, with occasional detours. Please follow along, and don’t forget to bring your towel. (I may have a second installment of SHADES OF BLACK for you later today, but am not positive, and so I haven’t called this Part 1.)
I must confess that the anniversary of Hitchhiker’s Guide may have had something to do with why I chose the first three songs in today’s collection, though this opening trio of tracks isn’t nearly as light-hearted as that book. Moreover, thoughts of traveling through the dangers of space also had something to do with why I decided to open with a long a track that’s much more post-metal than it is a spawn of the black arts. I also just think the song and video are so damned captivating that I didn’t want to delay putting them before you.
Near the outset of “Void” a moody riff meanders across a mass of sandpaper-textured riffing and a clopping beat, like a lone cowboy crossing a blasted desert plain — or like a doomed astronaut whose craft drifts ever deeper into a hostile void. The lonely feeling of the song intensifies, but as the guitars increasingly sear the senses with its fever, feelings of wonder, terror, and desperation also emerge, even as a compelling rhythmic sequence moves the body.
The bass and drum fall silent and the music becomes astral and eerie, Pink Floydian in its style, and nearly vanishes, but then begins to rumble and clang (time to begin moving again), and to become blinding in its harrowing splendor.
“Void” comes from the album Collide & Merge, to be released on the 19th of November 2021 by Ván Records.
Arkenfrost’s self-titled debut EP (released last month) follows beautifully from that Hemelbestormer track, as if they were made for each other. “Die Schöpfung” sounds futuristic and forlorn, once again like the drift of a craft that has exhausted its propellant. The ringing melody is mesmerizing but desolate, the vocals an expression of ear-scarring pain. The sound becomes vast, but simultaneously hostile in its towering magnificence, with the rhythm section reaching breathtaking speeds, like a racing heart driven by fear.
From there, these German void-farers proceed through “Aether des Seins” and “Interstellar“, preserving the chilling off-planet spell through glimmering and blazing synths, dirty abrading chords, clean flickering arpeggios, feral howls, and the coming and going of head-moving and hurtling beats. Easy to become enthralled and unnerved by this EP….
This next song by Otargos isn’t as overtly space-bound in its music, but its incorporation of synths does create an atmosphere of vast and ominous sweep, the perilous melodies moving in grand waves above crazed vocal cacophonies, frenzied guitars, and lightspeed drum blasting. Tension and terror inexorably build as the track rushes ahead, abruptly ending all too soon.
“Larva Venom” comes from the band’s seventh album Fleshborer Soulflayer, which will be released by Xenokorp on December 10th.
I guess it’s time to come back to earth, and to do that I’ve chosen “Hvor Gausta Rar” by these Norwegian heathens. It’s a wild torrent of sound, with a feeling of fierce uplift in its scorching and skirling riffs, ferocious shrieks, and turbocharged drumming. Even before the heroic singing arrives, the music has a mythic, warlike feel, though as the chords morph they also introduce feelings of deprivation and downfall. The song also becomes a grim march before the exhilarating battle of the ages resumes.
The track is off a new Visegard split release with fellow Norwegians Kirkebrann named Kirkegard. Odium Records will release it on November 30th.
Svardenvyrd dedicate the next song I’ve chosen to “all victims of inhuman regimes, racial and political terror from the period of 1925-1953 in Central and Eastern Europe”. Further info about the album as a whole shows that it focuses upon the terror and mass deaths inflicted upon the civilian population of Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states by Hitler and Stalin. This particular song is presented through a lyric video that’s a collage of haunting historical photographs from those times and places.
With the heart-breaking words passionately ejected in gritty, wrenching howls, and the drums popping as if the kit is right in your room, the song unfolds in overpowering waves of tremolo’d riffing. The emotional intensity of the vibrant whirring melodies is unrelenting, channeling feelings of longing, despair, and pain. But those ultra-dramatic riffs are just as intensely magnetic — they’re transfixing, and just dig themselves deeper and deeper into the head as they cycle through their shattering refrains.
“Memories Will Keep Us Alive” is taken from this band’s second album (and their first in six years), Scarred Lands, which will be released in November 2021 on Far Horizon Music. For reasons I don’t understand, the video is age-restricted, so you’ll have to click the player below and be transported to YouTube to hear and see it.
This installment of Shades would clear out ALL THE SCRABBLE RACKS
That new Hemelbestormer is fantastic. I love Aether, but somehow I missed the last one; listened to it today on my commutes and it was great as well. So I’m stoked for more of that!