SHADES OF BLACK: THE SPIRIT, SLAGMAUR, CULTED, THEBES, MOTSTAND, LENGUAJE DE VIBORAS, UNITED COLOR OF BLACK METAL
In normal times I would have posted this column yesterday, but I decided to devote yesterday to playlists of Ukrainian metal, which I hope you’ll explore (here and here) if you haven’t yet.
For this week’s black metal column I picked a variety of new songs and videos from among what I listened to in recent days, plus one big curveball of an album at the end that’s more than 18 months old.
THE SPIRIT (Germany)
To launch the column I picked the second single (with a video) to be released from this German band’s new album, Of Clarity and Galactic Structures. The new one, “Celestial Fire“, was preceded by the title track, which I’ve already written about here. True to its name, the new song blazes.
Together, Matthias Trautes (vocals, guitars, bass) and Manuel Steitz (drums) rush through an adrenaline-fueled surge of battering drums, searing riffs, jolting grooves, and scorching vox. But while the music sounds maniacal, it’s also intricate, technically impressive, and rapidly changing, and it includes a spectacular guitar solo. A fantastic track….
Of Clarity and Galactic Structures will be released on April 1st by AOP Records. It features great cover art by Eliran Kantor.
These head-twisters and body-maulers have returned with a new single named “Ritual Dogs“. You can never be entirely certain what you’ll get with this band, which is part of the attraction. What you get this time is a rumbling and rolling earthquake in the low end that you can feel in your bowels, fiery and frenetic fretwork ecstasy, and berserk vocals, interspersed with episodes of deranged misery. There’s a grand, sweeping quality to the music, and the piercing, channel-separated guitars create an atmosphere of savage splendor.
I’m also including a stream of Slagmaur‘s last single before this one, 2019’s “Wildkatze” (“wildcat”), which musically goes hand in hand with this new one, like cats and dogs who might have been raised together. 🙂
Culted released a new album named Nous almost exactly one year ago, but what comes next isn’t from that album. Instead, it’s a new video for a song from their preceding release, a 2019 EP named Vespertina Synaxis – A Prayer for Union & Emptiness. It’s curious that they jumped over their most recent release to find the subject of a new video, but there’s probably a good reason even if I don’t know what it is.
Anyway, this particular song made a big impact when I first heard it almost three years ago. I think it’s suitable for this column even though Culted are known as an extreme doom band. On the one hand, the song is a grim, lumbering behemoth, but the shrill tremolo’d riffing and unhinged screaming send different kinds of frightening chills down the spine.
In a nutshell, “Dirt Black Chalice” is a 10 1/2 minute nightmare that will also throw your body into a reflexive lurching momentum, the kind of long jam you can get lost in.
Now I’m recommending the stream of a complete new EP named Ziggurat Beyond The Unseen Shroud. I paid attention to it because the band Thebes is the solo work of Colby Hink from Wormwitch and Boreal Hymn.
Across four absorbing tracks of dramatically varying lengths Thebes creates and changes moods with formidable power, so powerfully immersive that at times the songs seem capable of swallowing the listener whole.
Propelled by heavyweight rhythms, and pitched to further heights of intensity by full-bore vocal assaults, the music is capable of channeling shattering torment, soul-stricken melancholy, and wistful musing, but also moods of ravaging turbulence and fierce resilience. Varying the pace and the magnitude of the sound, and introducing acoustic accents, Thebes creates episodes of towering grandeur, ominous mystery, and lonely desolation, and all of the longest tracks are packed with head-moving riffs and memorable melodic hooks.
All in all, the EP is an extravagant success. It’s streaming now and available for download on Bandcamp. A cassette tape edition will be released on April 1st via the Hidden Tribes label, owned by Kyle Tavares (Wormwitch, Seer). The pre-order link for that is below.
I don’t know much about this next band, other than their name (which is Norwegian for “resistance” or “defiance”). The Bandcamp page for the song I’ve selected, which is from their self-titled debut album, identifies no members and says the album “was originally recorded in 2012, but has remained under lock and key until 2020 when vocals were recorded, and in 2021 the final mixes were completed”.
“Fortapt” is the song’s name. The riotous drumming, the high, whining riffage, and the brazen leads give it a desperate and demented mood, but most crazed of all are the vocals. The riffing descends, the drums meander, and the mood becomes one of oppression and misery, but the vocals are still stunningly livid and abrasive at all times, As the song goes on, the dissonance of the music and its varying dismal and demented moods of calamity become more and more disturbing.
A very unsettling track, but it exerts a vicious grip on the senses. The album will be released by Duplicate Records, but I don’t know when.
LENGUAJE DE VIBORAS (Argentina)
The next song I’ve chosen is a bit of a twist for this column. Metal-Archives classifies the band as “sludge/stoner metal”. The band themselves brand their music as “hardcore punk stoner from the Third World”. But the song I’ve chosen to feature from their recently released album Ascensíon still seems to fit here.
“Saturno devorando un hijo” features a big growling bass in the opening and then swings into a poisonous but highly contagious riff and skull-popping, neck-slugging beats. The guitars jitter and whine, and the vocals are a raw braying howl that tear themselves into screams and double-up with roars. The music sounds pernicious and even evil (it is, after all, about the tale of Saturn devouring his son), but man, the riffs and the grooves are infectious as hell.
UNITED COLOR OF BLACK METAL (France)
Now for the curveball. You might get a hint from the tongue-in-cheek band name (who remembers United Colors of Benetton?), or from the band’s description of their music on Bandcamp:
Oscillators, transducers, microphones, outdated objects, two people, fermented fruit juice without additives, percussions, humour in the colours of the project and a very special tool, chance.
Nothing is foreseen, not even the music. Nothing happens by chance, except maybe all things that happen to everyone, all the time.
This music is not easy to describe, but here goes:
The first song set to stream at Bandcamp, “Fumée Noire“, opens with eerie twittering tones and then the sound begins to swell in ominous fashion. Backed by deep droning tones, it sounds like an insect swarm, then like the frenzied bowing of violin strings, and then like a mad organist with a face like the Phantom of the Opera. Percussive clattering and vocal muttering ensue, and then a primitive beat surfaces in increasingly convulsive and then off-kilter fashion.
It’s a very strange yet surprisingly entrancing experience. And so are the other tracks, each with their own weird and frequently abrasive tonal collages, their own ebbs and flows of intensity, and sometimes their own primal rhythms. There are voices in the mix too, or at least what might be voices, which range from deep ominous chants to horrid screams.
The music does have an improvisational quality, and it’s hallucinatory and scary and fascinating. Not black metal, but plenty black nonetheless. This album was released by zamzamrec in June 2020. I owe my Serbian friend Miloš thanks for sending me the link.
Holy! Crap! Dirt Black Chalice!