Whether you celebrate Christmas because of its religious significance, or simply indulge in its old pagan trappings, or only try to keep your head down and get through it like running a gauntlet, I hope you have a joyful holiday. Of course I’m about to try to make it more joyful by sharing some dark, dreadful, and exhilarating tunes that have recently surfaced in the manifold realms of metal. Before doing that I’m going to digress in a way that I don’t think I have ever done before at NCS.
Some of us who can afford it at this time of year look for ways to make charitable contributions, and I want to suggest one. It arises from a severe misfortune that has befallen my friend Dustin Carroll.
I knew him first as the bassist for the Seattle-based metal band A God or Another, and later has a member of the bands Addaura and Bréag Naofa. But the context in which I got to know him better was through his volunteer work for Seattle’s Northwest Terror Fest, which I’ve been involved in producing and supporting since its inception, and which we’re planning to resume (covid willing) next year.
Dustin is a good dude, not without his own demons (like all of us), but a caring and good-hearted person. On December 21st he had to undergo emergency open-heart surgery in Portland to replace two valves and save his heart because he was suffering from immediate heart failure. During his hospital stay he also suffered multiple small strokes that has left his speech and thinking process difficult and confused. He now faces significant medical expenses, including for physical and speech therapy as well as living and caregiving costs, and he is not a man of independent means, to say the least.
Friends of Dustin‘s have established a GoFundMe campaign to help out. I honestly don’t expect that people who don’t know him will feel motivated to help, because so many other people are in need, but I felt obliged to try to spread the word. If you do want to help, no matter how small the contribution, go here (and thank you if you do feel motivated to help):
And now, on to the music I’ve chosen.
I admit that I decided to begin with this new atmospheric black metal song because it seems appropriate for the Christmas season. To be clear, I don’t mean to suggest that it has a religious message. Maybe it’s because the guitar harmonies sound like they could have been performed on lutes before a blazing hearth during a winter in the Middle Ages, or perhaps because the song as a whole feels so uplifting (even though the screams are shatteringly intense).
You listen, and it’s not hard to imagine soaring aloft over vast pine forests and mountains adorned in snow shining in the sun. The music exudes a thrilling feeling of wonder and joy (and it aggressively pounds the skull as well). The melodies get stuck in the head damned fast too.
Nor surprisingly, the sole creator here uses the word Sij (pronounced “see”) to describe this art. As disclosed on the Bandcamp page, it’s a Slovenian word for a “glow/shine”, and he chose it to present his idea of musical and visual creation to the world “in order to bring some glow in these, sometimes, dark times”.
This song, “Speaking For the Light“, comes from an album named The Song Among Branches that’s set for release on February 4th.
DARK MEDITATION (U.S.)
Just because it’s the Christmas season doesn’t mean we’re going to banish the devil’s music, and as proof I turn next to a video just released (with a Decibel premiere) for “Haunt of Fear” by Seattle-based Dark Meditation. The song does invoke the devil (at least metaphorically). Candles burn, blood flows, and sinister keyboard-enhanced melodies surface — and the song is steeped in old school heavy metal and death rock glory.
It pounds the pulse, drives the head, and the soloing will make you want to hoist those invisible oranges toward the rooftops. Great vocals too, with enough grittiness and extravagant demonic flare to avoid running afoul of the “rule” in our site’s title.
“Haunt of Fear” is off a debut album named Polluted Temples that will be released by Satanik Royalty Records on January 28th.
Speaking of the devil’s music, let’s go further in that direction with “Demonic Possession“, a rough and raw blast of volcanic blackened speed/thrash. The riffing reeks of burning sulphur and does a damned fine job of opening up the adrenaline spigot. It’s wild and vicious, from the slashing chords to the gut-thumping drums and cacophonous vocal madness, and the melodies channel menace and mayhem quite effectively.
The song is the title track to this band’s first seven-song demo tape. It will be released by Helldprod Records on January 31st.
Like almost everyone else who writes for NCS I mainly try to spread the word about lesser-known bands, but I’m not going to discriminate against big names and big labels, at least not when the songs light me up as well as this new song and video by Sylosis.
“Immovable Stone” gives you a chance to get jolted and spun through a centrifuge while an unhinged man yells, vomits, and nearly sings in your face. There’s a heavy shadow of bleakness in the song for sure, but it fires the nerves.
This is a new single that came out a couple weeks ago, though I only checked it out today, and it’s intended to provide a bridge to a new album coming out next year.
Well, enough with the big names, let’s crawl back into the fetid subterranean world again with “Visions of Yog-Sothoth“. Like you I’m sure, I’m always drawn to bands who embrace Lovecraftian themes, which is obviously true of this genre-splicing Polish band, and I’m especially drawn when their music is this good.
The riffing in this new track feverishly skitters and spasms, hammers and cavorts, accompanied by high-powered, continually changing drum propulsion that will give your heart-rate a swift kick. But the song also repeatedly segues into realms of chilling dread and hideous horror, with the guitars dragging, clawing, and wailing in misery as the usually nimble and nuanced bass notes moan. The varying vocals are suitably cruel and macabre for a dose of such Lovecraftian madness — and the guitar leads in the track are indeed certifiably insane.
The track is from an album named Obliteration of Souls, due for release by Old Temple on December 28th.
We’ve just been through a block of high-energy songs (even though Cthulhuss did ease back on the throttle here and there), so I decided to keep the voltage and the speed up in the red zone with this next lyric video and song from Ironmaster.
“The Unbreathing” is definitely a piston-pumping race, packed with savage circle-saw riffing, screaming leads, rabidly howling vocals, and organ-rupturing drum assaults. For icing on this mauling cake (can cakes maul?), the band throw in some unexpectedly fluid and seductive melodic leads, bits of darting fretwork, and a dose of pile-driving groove. But mainly this baby will get your heart pounding.
“The Unbreathing” is the first single from this hard-charging Swedish trio’s upcoming album Thy Ancient Fire, to be released on January 28th by Mojoholic Records.
ET MORIEMUR (Czech Republic)
I found this next song (which just premiered today at Doomed Nation) completely fascinating. It includes bits of exotic and enticing instrumentation, used to weave exotic and enticing melodies (which, like the song and album title, do seem to have a Japanese connection). The melodies ring in eerie, ethereal, glittering tones, and become sweepingly symphonic.
The song’s overarching mood is melancholy, but mesmerizing. However, the song will also jackhammer your body into the ground, and the vocals are utterly vicious (except when choral voices come into play).
The song, “Izu“, is from an album named Tamashii No Yama that’s coming out “soon” on Transcending Obscurity Records.
I began with black metal and will close with it — and simultaneously change the speed and the mood. The last track I’ve chosen is a new single from an upcoming album by the Russian atmospheric black metal band Eisflammen.
The song is “Огни костров” (“The Bonfires”), and it does eventually blaze, but the emotional through-line of the song, in both its slower and more racing speeds, is one of despair and agony. Sombre spoken words and wailing singing enhance that feeling when they trade places with scorching screams and tormented yells, but it’s the timbre of the strummed chords and ringing leads that make the song so daunting in its powerful rendition of sorrow and anguish.
It’s a completely gripping and powerfully immersive piece of music, which has a grand and tragic sweep. The song is from the upcoming album Следуй за мной (“Follow Me“), to be released by Depths of Void.
It’s doubtful that I will be posting anything during the coming holiday weekend. Some of my (fully vaxxed) family members will be visiting, and I unfortunately have some job-related work to do, plus I might make time to begin figuring out how to begin rolling out our Most Infectious Song list, though I don’t plan to start the rollout until early next year. Next week we’ll continue presenting year-end lists by NCS writers and guests, and I’ll probably also spend some time getting the next ones ready to go for Monday.
If I don’t surface again tomorrow, I’ll say now, on behalf of everyone here at NCS, that I hope this weekend is a pleasant one for all of you.