May 082022

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are mothers, and as a reminder to those of you who were born of mothers (versus those who were the result of asexual reproduction). I intended to compile a roundup of new music yesterday, but was feeling under the weather. I’m feeling less incapacitated today, as you can tell from the volume of music in this week’s Shades of Black.

There’s a method to the way I organized the following songs. Words like “grim”, “depressive”, or “poisonous” may come to mind over the course of the first three tracks, and then things begin to turn more chaotic and violently unhinged, leading to a closing twist that’s more difficult to sum up.

DOEDSVANGR (Norway/Finland)

I’m beginning with a video for the song “As the Rivers Bleed Their Blessings” from Doedsvangr‘s newest album, Serpents ov Old, which was released by Debemur Morti last fall. The video was recorded at the band’s release gig for the album, which took place at Røverstaden (Oslo) on March 26th, 2022 (credit to Carl Eek of Necrolust Productions for filming and editing it).

The song by this black metal “supergroup” manages to be both scathing and dreamy. The dire dreaminess of the song is in part the result of the lurching mid-paced groove and the big hum of the bass, but even the dirty scratch of the riffing has entrancing properties. There’s nothing dreamy about Doedsadmiral‘s possessed vocals, or about the bursts of weaponized double-kicks or the incendiary soloing, and at the end it becomes a maelstrom of chaos



ALBURNUM (Netherlands)

This next song, “Eeuwig Licht“, comes from Buitenlucht, the debut album by this Dutch duo, which is set for release by Babylon Doom Cult Records on July 8th.

The opening riff casts a depressive shadow, and the music remains bleak even when the guitars ring and the drums hurtle. There’s a sense of anguished desperation in the music, but the song is multi-faceted, segueing into a medieval-sounding folk melody that becomes a continuing ear-worm even as the shrieked vocals sear the senses and the overall intensity of the song builds like a bonfire.

That trilling melody is handed off from an acoustic instrument to the electric guitar, which shifts its mood into darker terrain but ensures that it will remain captivating as the refrain goes on and on. The song achieves a kind of tragic splendor by the end, and (I predict) will stay with you.



TANTUM (Mexico)

This next song is just one from the second album by the Sinaloan solo project Tantum. The album (Advena) was just released on Friday by Ascension Records, and I haven’t had time to make my way through all of it, but I’ve heard enough that I wanted to do something to put it on people’s radar screens now.

I picked “Cease To Exist” as a way of doing that because it’s the first song set to play at the album’s Bandcamp page. The track has a magnificent but crestfallen opening. It gets its hooks in quickly, and just as quickly becomes towering and turbulent. The snarled vocals are bursting with tormented passion, and the surrounding music has a fiery incandescence, even though it’s unmistakably heart-breaking in its mood, even when the fires are briefly quelled in sublime fashion.




Here again I’ve chosen to feature just one song from another album released in full on Friday. Here, the album is a full-length debut named Sacraments of Pestilence. Once again, I haven’t even made my way through the whole album yet but have heard enough that I feel compelled to bring it to your attention without delay.

I decided to give it a shot based on a Bandcamp message from the releasing label (Transylvanian Recordings) which summed up the album this way: “Carrion Bloom is a cold psychotic sounding Black Metal band drenched in punk snottiness from Oakland (CA) featuring members of Exulansis, Fell Voices & Negative Standards“.

The guitar tones of wailing misery that begin the album’s opening track, “Dissolutus“, make for a fitting segue from the songs that precede it in today’s collection, and that opening riff carries forward — and upward! — but the song’s energy and intensity magnify dramatically, like the ignition of a wildfire, under the power of viciously unhinged screams, searing chords, and hammering drums. The vibrant whir of that main melody is electrifying, and it’s also really hard to forget.



THRALL (Australia)

The last time I wrote about the music of this Australian band was 2014, when I anointed a song from their third album (Aokigahara Jukai) as one of 2013’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. They did release an EP in 2015, which I overlooked, but there’s been no new music from Thrall since then — until now. And what we have now are two songs from a forthcoming album named Schisms.

The most recent of those songs is “Hollow“, which premiered a few days ago at Invisible Oranges. It burns from the beginning, with dense cruel riffage and thunderous drumming — but then repeatedly changes, becoming ebullient and bounding, hallucinatory and haunting, sinister and seductive, theatrical and throttling. The changes come suddenly, keeping the listener perched on the edge of their seat and chained to the music.

The previously released advance track, “Tyrant“, is at least equally extravagant in its elaborate and macabre twists and turns, but maybe a bit more laden with hooks, especially as a result of one jittery recurring motif that you’ll notice as soon as you hear it, and a magnificent extended guitar solo deserving of a packed arena. The vocals are as frighteningly barbaric as before, and the drum flurries just as likely to give you an adrenaline punch.

Schisms is set for release on May 28th on vinyl via Impure Sounds and on cassette via Brilliant Emperor.




Elysian Inferno is the name of a new EP by this Chicago-based band, which follows their 2018 debut demo R​.​A​.​I​.​D​.​S. The first advance track, “Onslaught To Absolution“, is indeed a goddamned inferno.

The song applies the whip in a slashing and thrashing fury, coupled with furious but dynamic drumming and utterly crazed vocal hostility. Yet brazen chord fanfares and a dive-bombing guitar solo that melts all the frets also give the song an atmosphere of savage, exhilarating splendor. The band do seem at play in Elysian fields, even as they’re burning them to the ground and pocking them with craters through massed mortar fire.

Elysian Inferno will be released by Dark Descent Records on June 10th. The cover art is recognizably the work of Paulo Girardi.




We gave a very favorable review to the 2020 debut album of this South Carolina band (Festering Anti-Cosmic Wound), and now this solo project of Justin Vølus has a sophomore full-length named Thrown to the Abyss that’s due for release on June 11th by Vargheist Records. My next song selection, “Black Flame of Purification“, is off that album.

Prepare yourselves for an experience in merciless black/death annihilation. Punishing drumwork, scathing riff-storms, and howling vocal madness create a warzone of sound marked by delirium and dread. But don’t be misled by what I just wrote — the song also has a strong (albeit disturbing) melodic throughline, even though the melodies are saturated with anguish and hopelessness.

The fantastically creepy cover art is by Dede Suhita.




The next song in today’s collection isn’t as extreme as the last few, but it’s plenty raucous, and that raucous energy grabbed me.

The drumming is especially off-the-chain, and seizes attention all the way through “Tragic Magic“. The vocalist’s throaty bellowing grabs a fair share of attention too. Between them you may not even notice the dismal whine and crazed screeching of the guitars and the bubbling of the bass. But listen a second time and you’ll figure out that they’ve dug into your brain too, even if less noticeably the first time around.

This is the third instance in today’s column where I’ve just chosen one song to feature from an album that was released in its entirety on Friday. That album, Ov History and Death, is the second full-length from a band that’s now based in Klamath Falls, Oregon.




To close, I now come to the music that I mentioned at the outset is tough to classify in genre terms. These are the first two advance tracks from The Lee Variations, which is the second album by a duo from Baltimore (multi-instrumentalists Weirding Batweilder and Jean Farraige of Bornwithhair). The liner notes refer to the music as “Theatrical, melodic, and dynamic — this is maudlin doom playing as raw black metal”, which is a further clue about how tough it is to slap a genre label on this band.

I wrote a few thoughts about Vinterdracul‘s first release, The Murnau Nocturnes, here. As in the case of that debut, this new one is a musical narrative with an interesting story-line (which you can find at the Bandcamp page for the album).

I don’t know this for sure, but it’s a pretty easy guess that the Lee referred to in the album title is Sir Christopher Lee. Like the protagonist in Vinterdracul‘s story, Lee was frequently beaten at school, served in the Second World War, and found a career playing horror movie monsters (and there are other parallels), but Vinterdracul put their own narrative twists into the tale, hence the album title.

The two songs you can hear now are the ones that begin the album, and from the titles it seems that the album may start at the end of the tale and then travel backward through time. “End Scene” is the opener, and it’s a nightmarish but insidiously seductive experience, while “Playing Dead” is more unsettling and unhinged.

Both songs have a peculiar psychedelic quality, and although they feature truly blood-curdling screams, black metal is indeed just one of many bamboozling and discombobulating ingredients. I gave up trying to make a list of the others.

P.S. I paid closer attention to a press release that verified the guess I made about the album’s subject matter. It includes these statements:

“This is the second in a series of albums inspired by the personalities that took part in bringing vampires to life on the silver screen,” said Batweilder. The duo’s debut full-length, The Murnau Nocturnes, told the story of a fictive F.W. Murnau, director of Nosferatu, besieged by vampires in 1920s and 30s Hollywood. This time around, the duo drew inspiration from Dracula-actor Christopher Lee and the classic period of the Hammer House of Horror.

“This album is a soundtrack to the interior of the mind of the actor who plays a villain, who plays a monster, an outsider who keeps the audience captivated and enthralled,” said Farraige, “But the album is equally a reflection on how the horror-stories-we-tell and the horror-stories-we-live intermingle.”

The Lee Variations is set for release on July 1st.

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