Someday I’ll finally learn the lesson that predicting in print what I’m going to do at NCS from one day to the next is stupid. On Friday I put together a roundup of new music that I described as a way to lessen the load for the roundup I was going to compile for Saturday. And then of course I wrote nothing on Saturday.
The wreckage of that plan was the result of embarrassing misbehavior on Friday night, so it would be even more stupid for me to share details. Last night’s misbehavior was less ruinous, so I was able to get this usual Sunday column finished. It’s not as extensive as I’d hoped it would be, but at least not another complete failure.
I’ll forecast for you that in choosing the following tracks, I wandered well off the usual beaten paths.
In the early fall of last year I had the pleasure of premiering what was then the third full-length by this formidable Dutch duo. Looking back on what I wrote, I was a bit dumbfounded by how many words I spilled by way of introduction.
I confessed what was already obvious, i.e., that “[t]rying to succinctly sum up Vergezicht would be a daunting task”. But in closing I observed that the one word which kept coming to mind was “mythic”, and that there was a pervasive sense of reverence and homage as well: “Grand ambitions have led to grand achievements”.
Surprisingly, but thankfully, Iskandr are already back with new music, and this time it’s a single song named “Glas“, albeit one that’s 14 1/2 minutes long. I’m afraid that if I tried to thoroughly describe everything that happens in the song, the result would be another deluge of words. But the richness of the experience is exactly what we’ve come to expect from this band — though as you’ll discover, the song is unexpected in other ways.
Rather than get too bogged down in words, I’ll just say at a high level that it’s by turns beautiful and mesmerizing, wistful and wondrous, mysterious and menacing, elaborate and elegant. The acoustic melodies and booming low-end vibrations seem to tunnel through time to an ancient age, casting bewitching and haunting spells as they go. I’ll also share these words that appear beneath the song stream on YouTube:
Iskandr has steadily developed a highly personal style of triumphant medieval metal inspired by the natural surroundings and deep history of Gelderland and Nijmegen in particular. “Vergezicht” can be viewed as the zenith of this process, and “Glas” its afterword; making room for a future evolution in style and sound that will at first be presented as live performances starting this autumn.
“Glas” was released by Eisenwald and Haeresis Noviomagi on August 3rd and it’s available on most digital channels. Thanks to Miloš for making me aware of it.
Like the first song in today’s collection, the next song isn’t black metal in its genre ingredients either, but I think of it as a spiritual kindred. It’s profoundly spooky and insidiously seductive. The high screaming and wailing vocals are a significant source of the song’s frightening impact, but the fear-factor also derives from the weirdness of the skittering, ringing, and screeching fretwork and the clawing abrasion that backs it.
The song twists and turns in unexpected and often chilling ways. It does practice a kind of poisonous yet hypnotic seduction, aided by the prominent murmuring and rumbling of the bass, but it also brings down some humongous hammer blows, and digs quivering needles under the skin. I think of it as a psychedelic hallucination gone wrong.
The song’s name is “Beyond the Nile of Sleep“. It’s from an album named Sitra Ahra, which will be released by Dying Sun Records on September 1st.
DAEMON OF OA (Greece)
Next up are two songs from an album named Hesperian Shores by this Greek solo project. The first of them, “Congregation of Black Rats“, made me think I’d been transported into a realm ruled by wizards. The song is a pulse-pounder, but an aura of menace and magic comes through in the ringing and slithering guitars, the blaring and slashing riffs, the savage growls, and the ghostly keyboard reverberations, which all together create an atmosphere of sinister grandeur.
The second song is the album’s title track, and the skittering opening riff and maniacally clattering snare tones waste no time lighting a fire under your heart-rate. There’s a feeling of hellish grandeur and blazing sorcery in this hard-charging song, too. Grand heavy metal chords and soaring melodies account for that, but the song takes some dark turns as well, and the haunted-house keys come in again near the end.
I’m not sure about the album’s release date or how to acquire it, but further details are expected via the Daemon of Oa Facebook page.
To wrap up this round-up, I picked something of an oddball, but a very exhilarating oddity it is.
This is a track from Handheld Demise, the third part of a trilogy whose fantasy-themed narrative arc is described in a Guidebook that accompanies the album’s digital download. You can read excerpts from it at the album’s Bandcamp page, but suffice to say here that the album functions as a massive RPG filled with nightmare scenarios, “inspired by old survival horror games, handheld RPGs, and what’s known as a ‘monster of the week’ format typically depicted in horror and sci-fi series”.
The Gonemage mastermind is Cara Neir‘s Garry Brents (aka Galimgim), but the album also includes contributions by over 40 guest artists (listed at Bandcamp). As he explains regarding the track you’re about to hear, “Stairwell of Gore and the Faceless Apparition“, “Mirai of Sigh handle the ‘lead’ vocal in most sections with layers of my vocals and other guests like John Kerr (Pyrithe), B Elkins (An Evening Redness), Brendan (Altars/Convulsing), Sammy (Warren of Ohms), and more as we fill a support role”.
The music is absolutely exuberant, though the vocals are scary as hell. The grooves are rocking and rolling, the chords brazen and blazing, and the arpeggios darting and tinkling. A crazy number of sonic textures and instrumental maneuvers are layered into the track in head-swirling fashion, but the song as a whole still turns out to be highly infectious. It may describe a nightmare, but what I hear is something playful and joyous.
The album will be released in different formats on September 30th by Xenoglossy Productions, WereGnome Records, and Fiadh Productions.