A baker’s dozen of new songs and videos is a lot to take in, but that’s what I’ve compiled here, and since we’re in the middle of Dead Week it seems entirely fitting for me to throw it your way now.
This 13-band round-up is the result of me going deep down a music-listening rabbit hole last night, a topsy-turvy underground descent in which I didn’t encounter any metal bands other than relatively obscure ones. My head was spinning by the end, and I hope yours will be too.
I did attempt to arrange the following items into “blocks”, but I make no promise that the arrangements will always make sense to you. Sometimes they barely made sense to me. I do promise you a real musical roller-coaster ride, and hope you’ll not jump out before you get to the end. And of course I had to pitch a curveball at the end.
P.S. I picked up the name “Dead Week” from this recent essay in The Atlantic, which perfectly sums up the oddities and attractions of this blank space that stretches between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
NIHIL KAOS (International)
While I think the entire journey through today’s round-up will prove to be head-spinning, I’ve chosen to lead with a trio of songs that are within themselves head-spinning. And I’ve begun with the track that for me had the most jaw-dropping, eye-popping impact of them all.
“Triumphant Silence of Void” is a new single released by this multinational black metal band just a couple days ago in tribute to the band’s former vocalist Iconoclast, who died earlier this year. It’s a 10 1/2 minute track, and attempting to describe what happens is a challenge — but it won’t be a challenge for you to get through it. To the contrary, it’s the sort of experience that will keep most listeners rooted in place. I was utterly enthralled by it.
With a sound that cuts like razors, the band discharge warped riffs, mutated leads, incinerating screams, possessed yells, choral chants, and constantly changing percussive patterns which range from stupefying blasts and hyperspeed double-kicks to methodical chops against the neck. The soloing is grand and hypnotic. The music crests in sweeping displays of magnificent melancholy, slithers in ominous mystery, and convulses in eruptions of shattering, swarming madness. There’s also a strange but entrancing interlude performed by hard-to-place stringed instruments. The technical skill on display is very impressive, and so is the extravagance of the creativity.
NON SERVIAM (France)
This initial head-spinning block continues with a new video that surfaced on Christmas for a song that promises “I Will Kill You“. The song is from this Parisian collective’s fantastic Il Pleut Partout Derrière, an EP released last month.
If you’re already familiar with Non Serviam (and if you’re not, you’ve got some catching-up to do), you already know they indulge in genre-splicing experimentation, with attention-seizing results, and that’s certainly true of this song. The video makes it even more hellish and discombobulating.
P.S. Non Serviam have a split with Gallkrist pegged for release on February 12, and I suspect it will be fascinating.
Still within this opening “head-spinning” bloc, I’m turning next to the two tracks that have been revealed so far from an album named Approaching Oblivion by the New Jersey band Fernwah. I suppose you could brand them “progressive death metal”. They are certainly bone-smashing and savage, but are so constantly in flux, so genre-fluid, and so relentlessly kaleidoscopic that the label seems too pale for these star-burst adventures.
Apart from a brief vocal sample, the title track is an instrumental extravaganza. “Leaking Out” includes guest vocals by Devin Swank of Sanguisugabogg.
Approaching Oblivion will be released by Horror Pain Gore Death Productions on December 31st.
BANK MYNA (France)
Now I’m moving into a two-song block of a different kind, though I hasten to add that I’m having trouble articulating why I paired this song and the next one. Maybe it’s because both include the spice of doom, though otherwise the ingredients are very different.
This first one, “Aurora (Vi ska sova)“, is off an album by these Parisians named Volaverunt. It is recommended for fans of Big | Brave, Emma Ruth Rundle, SWANS, Anna von Hausswolff, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but this particular song reminds me a bit of Heilung. And so that tips you off that the song involves singing — and oh my, such singing it is! — as well as big primeval beats and a collage of other misty, mysterious, mythic, and malign sounds. Prepare to become haunted and enthralled, and perhaps to have some shivers go down your spine.
Volaverunt will be released on February 25 by a quintet of French labels (Araki Records, A la dérive Records, Stellar Frequencies, Duality Records, and Cold Dark Matter Records).
GREY MOTH (U.S.)
Now we move to the title track from Grey Moth‘s debut album, Love & Hatred, a track that debuted on December 17th. In this song, the L.A.-based duo stick some quivering ice-picks in your ears and then lumber like some shaggy titanic beast. The vibrations in the chords will loosen the fillings in the teeth, the drum blows are organ-rupturing.
The song has the capacity to throw you into a full-body lurch while clubbing you senseless and dousing your mind with hallucinogens. Grey Moth also benefit from a potent two-toned vocal display, a mix of high tormented wails and vicious goblin screams.
In making the album Grey Moth say that they channeled High on Fire, Darkthrone, Envy, Crass, and Hot Water Music. They made the record with Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Jeff Rosenstock) at Atomic Garden Studios in Oakland, and it’s set for release on March 5th.
LAANG 冷 (Taiwan)
Time to switch blocks again, and again I don’t have a sharp organizing principle for these next two tracks, other than the fact that they swiftly kick up the energy level.
The first one is a new single named “在海浪之下“, which is a collaboration by Laang and the Taipei band Efflore 白華. Laang typically trades in black metal, but this new single brings other stylistic ingredients into play as well. It’s crazed and vitriolic, demented and discordant, but also powerfully jolting, and features sweeping synths and a wide range of inflamed (and bestial) vocals.
NIGHT HAG (U.S.)
The foul and fetid Virginia trio Night Hag will be returning on January 28th with a new album (via the Rotted Life label) named Phantasmal Scourge, and my next selection for this round-up is one of the new tracks.
“Degradation of a Putrid Soul” is a nasty and nightmarish piece of work, a death-doom monstrosity that uses filth-ridden guitar distortion and gruesome crypt-born vocal horrors to build its atmosphere of putrescent rot. It staggers through troughs of viscera — but when the drummer starts spitting snare-bullets it convulses in a mad feeding frenzy that’s just as terrorizing, and the guitar solo is a screaming supernatural convulsion all its own.
BLOOD COUNTESS (UK)
Now we move into the vampire block (for want of a better name), beginning with a new song by this York-based black metal band.
“Storms Over Carpathia” is a storming gallop, whipping the senses with caustic vocal hostility and roiling riffage, but also segues into diabolical rocking grooves and brazen, lustful chords. The stench of sulfur and the fear of peril hang about these lunging and whirling ecstasies, and it’s not hard to imagine the flashing of bat wings and the baring of knife-sharp fangs.
The track is from a Blood Countess album named Occulta Tenebris, which is set for a February 2022 release by Repose Records in collaboration with Dominance of Darkness Records.
The concept behind the debut album of this duo (multi-instrumentalists Weirding Batweilder and Jean Farraige of Bornwithhair) is fascinating. Entitled The Murnau Nocturnes, it’s described as follows (there’s more detail at the Bandcamp page):
If it were a movie, the protagonist would be a fictionalized version of the silent film director F.W. Murnau — known for his interpretation of the Dracula story in the film Nosferatu. “You can call it a concept album,” said Weirding Batweilder, “But it’s really just a series of songs that tells a story… a bit of historical fiction dressed up as a vampire tale.” The story involves Murnau going to Hollywood in 1928 to sign a big deal with a movie studio. Little does he know that Hollywood is infested with actual bloodsuckers and that he has made a deal with the devil.
The first single, “Prana“, is more mid-paced and dreamlike than the track which precedes it in this block. It’s strangely hypnotic, even with the larynx-lacerating screams and the queasy sensations of the riffing. Eerie bell-like tones ring and quiver through the repeating cycle of dismal and devilish chords. In all these ways, the music puts us in the presence of the supernatural, and may disturb your slumbers.
The Murnau Nocturnes releases digitally on February 4th on the Canticle Throe imprint.
HELLFIRE DEATHCULT (U.S.)
Well, I guess this isn’t a new block, unless you think of it as a one-song block. Maybe “Beneath The Black Moons Incantation” would have fit better somewhere else in this playlist, but this is where it is, and you’d better not miss it.
“War grinding black/death” is the appellation given to the band’s music, and this song is indeed a roiling mass of vicious riffing and insane howls. The sharp, skull-rattling pop of the snare and the prominent pulse of the bass nevertheless seize attention, and the song also becomes an imperious cold-blooded stomp, though the demented quivering of the lead guitar sounds like a superheated fever in progress.
The song is from Al Nombre De La Muerte, an album that will be released sometime in early 2022 by Helter Skelter Productions (distributed and marketed by Regain Records).
Should we have a clean-singing block, even though we’ve already had a sprinkling of singing elsewhere in this collection? That’s a rhetorical question, because I’m doing it anyway.
As you well know, it usually takes something like a cocked gun applied to the base of my neck to get me to make an exception to the NCS rule, but no loaded weapons were needed in the case of Venator’s “Nightrider“. Vocalist Huemer‘s high-powered singing, especially coupled with the highly contagious music, ensured that. It’s a time-trip back to metal from the early ’80s that’s both glorious and menacing — and speaking of glorious, there’s one hell of a guitar solo in the song, and a cool bass workout too.
“Nightrider” is the first advance track from a debut album named Echoes From the Gutter, which will be released by Dying Victims Productions on February 25th.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Anthrax this Finnish band decided to record a cover of “Only” (off the 1993 Anthrax album Sound of White Noise), and to present it through a lyric video.
You probably know this song already, at least if you’re of a certain age. It’s a huge hook to the head, and Oceanhoarse do it full justice, especially because vocalist Tommy Tuovinen (MyGrain) has such a good voice — and the rest of the band fire on all cylinders too, perhaps especially in the soloing of guitarist Ben Varon.
If this interests you to check out more Oceanhoarse music, they released a debut album named Dead Reckoning through the Noble Demon label in August.
Here’s my ending curveball. Let’s call it a 12-6 with plenty of topspin.
To be clear, I’m not a big fan of Macklemore, or frankly of any hip-hop artist, mainly because my musical interests are 99.9% devoted to what we do here to keep NCS alive and moving. But I do know who Macklemore is, mainly because he’s such a big Seattle booster. It’s hard to live in this area without encountering something about him, and even some of his music, whether you want to or not, which is how I encountered this closing video.
It’s set in a section of Pioneer Square adorned with holiday lights and features drum lines from Seattle sports teams, and that’s all attractive to me, but the real attraction is the song’s chorus which is both catchy and hopeful, as are some of the rhymes.
But this is a song that will always be locked in December. By the end of January, or at least by the spring, people may be laughing at its optimism. It’s a prediction now. Within a month or two, for better or worse, reality will set in. Between now and then I’ll probably be humming it off and on, whether I want to or not.