SHADES OF BLACK: ENSLAVED, THE LOOM OF TIME, PANYCHIDA, ASGRAUW, CAÏNAN DAWN, IMPLORE, TRUP
I had a lot of uninterrupted listening time over the last couple of days. For this column, that proved to be both a blessing and a curse — a blessing because it enabled me to wade through a broad swath of new music, a curse because what I found that I wanted to recommend after a lot of winnowing was still A LOT. So, today’s collection may test your endurance.
Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally), there’s a lot of sheer dazzling madness in this collection. I tried to interweave some less insane but still gripping experiences, but it’s nevertheless likely that if you do make your way through everything here, your head will be spinning for a long time after. Today’s music also demonstrates why I called this column “Shades” of black, because there’s not much black metal orthodoxy here.
I was dubious about the idea of starting the column with a new Enslaved song, because they’re rightfully famous and don’t need any help from us, and because I’ve not fallen in love with their more recent releases to the extent I did with earlier ones. But those doubts were in place before I listened to this new single. After hearing it I thought, how can I NOT begin with it?
“Kingdom” is just such a fucking joy that I’ve kept going back to it, even in the midst of hunting for other things to throw into this Sunday roundup. “Kingdom” is a sprinter’s song, or maybe a high-hurdler’s song because it does leap high. I think I’d feel that way even without watching all the people racing and tumbling through Icelandic and Norwegian terrain in Gaui H‘s exhilarating yet mysterious concept video.
For this song, Enslaved cooked up some compulsive high-energy riffs that get hearts pounding (including a glorious and irresistible fast-chugging groover that provides the song’s main through-line), and then matched that up with muscle-moving drum rhythms, and then proceeded to embellish it in weird and wondrous ways — with wild, swirling and wailing guitars and keys; and vocals that soar, snarl, quaver, and mutter.
Ivar Bjørnson sums up the song as “a tribute to the riff and the rite: to the Teutonic thrash kings, to space rock, to the ambient pioneers of the ’70s”. I’d have to be brain-dead not to put this on our list of the year’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs, and my brain’s not dead yet.
THE LOOM OF TIME (Australia)
I thought the next two songs from The Loom of Time‘s new album Grand False Karass would pair very well with that Enslaved track, and they also begin taking us into the even more musically insane territory that I promised in this column’s introduction.
“The Lance of Longinas” is the album’s penultimate track and debuted with a trippy music video just a few days ago. It jolts and stomps with punishing force, it skitters and swirls in exhilarating frenzies, and it becomes fluid and sorrowful. The rhythmic grooves are potent, and the changes of energy and mood are kaleidoscopic in their variations. But perhaps the most startling features of the song are the wide-ranging vocals (including singing), which are head-spinning all by themselves.
The other song that’s out in the world, “The Depths of Hell Itself“, is the one that opens the album, and it’s berserk right from the start, like a trip through a labyrinthian asylum, with twists and turns that take it into anguished hallucinations, up into outer reaches where stars might be seen, into dervish-like black-metal convulsions, and toward looming monuments of ominous heaviness. The vocals are again extravagantly varied.
Grand False Karass will be released by ATMF on September 30th.
Now we come to an entire EP’s worth of carnival-ride craziness, thanks to the inventiveness of this bard-to-pin-down Czech band. Říruřec/Dreisessel is the name of the EP, just released on August 26th.
The EP provides plentiful doses of full-throttle ferocity, with suitably ugly, bestial vocals, but the band spice up the savagery with jolting riffage, skull-rattling drumwork, and unexpected yet seamless digressions into glittering and glimmering guitar melodies, which sometimes have folk-music embroideries.
The music sometimes cavorts like revelers at a pagan dance, and at other times sways like gatherings of mourners or engages in sinister, stomping marches. Grand keyboard enhancements lead the music into ancient and mystical realms; weird guitar arpeggios create aromas of sulphur; deep, baritone singing gives it an aura of solemn reverence and adds to the music’s folkish inclinations; and soaring, swooping, and high-fever solos channel ecstasy.
Genre-wise, the EP is a grab-bag of black metal, prog metal, pagan/folk metal, arena-ready classic heavy metal with a sword-and-sorcery atmosphere, and probably some others I’ve failed to point out. The result is a hell of a thrill-ride, and worth applauding for just how creatively and adeptly Panychidia interweave so many influences.
I did promise I’d break up the insanity, and to do that (at least a little) I’m now turning to the song “Tussen Willen en Kunnen” from this Dutch band’s new album Façade. It premiered about three days ago and is a little more straight-forward than what’s preceded it in today’s collection.
To be clear, there’s definitely an element of madness in the vocalist’s raw, punk-like yells and gritty screeches, and a kind of anguished derangement in the song’s dense rolling waves of tremolo’d riffage and borealis-like synths. There’s also a prominent thrumming bass at work here, and drumming that shifts from light-speed blasts to skull-smacking gallops at the drop of a hat.
The entire experience is like being caught in a gale-force conflagration that sucks the oxygen from nearby lungs. Feelings of desperation and defiance pervade the music, but despite the grievous moods it’s an undeniably exhilarating affair.
Façade will be released by Death Prayer Records on October 7th. I assume pre-order opportunities will surface in the next few weeks. You can check out the first single from the album here.
CAÏNAN DAWN (France)
Like the last track, this new one from Caïnan Dawn is also more straight-forward than the crazier elements in today’s column, but that doesn’t make it dull.
The song’s name is “Apnea“, which (as most of us probably know) refers to a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. There’s some unexpected starting and stopping in the music too, and the music proves to be both frightening and disconcerting in other ways.
The song immediately and repeatedly assaults the senses with bullet-spitting drums, immersive waves of rising and falling riffage that bespeak fear and despair, and torrid, serrated-edge snarls. The sudden digressions introduce weird and warbling electronics that lead into grievously wailing arpeggios, mercurial bass lines, and pounding and clattering drums, as well as scathing and skittering fretwork mutilation over booming ritual percussion that paves the way into a heaving march that’s freighted with ominous, towering gloom.
As the song unfolds, it becomes mesmerizing and hallucinatory. But make no mistake, “Apnea” is home to some riffs that burrow into the mind and get stuck there, even if they feel unhealthy.
“Apnea” is from the upcoming album Lagu, to be released by Osmose Productions (CD/Digital) on September 30th.
Time to move back into wilder and woolier territory with a trio of tracks from Implore‘s new album The Burden of Existence, which is set for release on October 28th by Church Road Records.
The beginning and the end of the title track is as thuggish a lead-weighted pounding as any masochist could wish for, but in between, the band cut loose in revels of exhilarating madness. It’s still a severe beating, but the vocals sound like a cacophony from a bestiary asylum; the drums are maniacal in their changes; the bass undulates like a ravenous python; and the guitars contort and careen in head-spinning ways. The panoply of genre-ingredients is head-spinning too.
The mayhem surges even further into the red-zone in “Sun Deprived“, which leans even harder into the band’s grindcore and crust influences, and with doses of math-y guitar extravagance in the mix as well. The horrid roars and hair-on-fire screaming continue unabated, and the song ends with a breakdown of bunker-busting power.
The opening of “Love Will Gradually Perish” is also crazy — because of the startling contrast it provides to what happens in those first two tracks. And come to think of it, I’m not going to spoil the surprise. But have no fear, the song segues into humongous hammer blows, but with riveting rhythm-section interplay, and a melody that’s harrowing in its feelings of anguish and hopelessness. The ending proves to be a contrast as well, but connects to the dark moods of the rest of the song.
And to conclude today’s massive collection I’ve picked the opening track from a new EP named Nie by this Polish blackened sludge metal band (their third in a row over the last three years).
The tracks on the band’s 2020 debut album Ke were numbered 15 through 28, and the first track on Nie seems to pick up from there, with the title “29“. Its galloping, hard-charging drive is highly compulsive and savagely destructive. The cracked, violent screaming may take some getting used to as it bounces between the channels, but it gives this mechanized juggernaut of sound a human element (albeit one of derangement).
Other disconcerting things happen in the midst of the song’s mauling momentum that are just as unnerving as the vocals, and near the end the drums go nuts and the guitars emit flickering screams of piercing insanity as a prelude to one final episode of jackhammering brutality. The song is electrifying, but pretty damned scary too.
Nie will be released on November 11 by Godz Ov War Productions.
P.S. There are two Polish bands named Trup. This is not the one whose most recent release was a 2021 EP named Ecce Satanas, though they’re worth checking out too.