SHADES OF BLACK: ADAESTUO, VOLLOÍOM, HYNGWAR, VOAK
For this Sunday’s column I’ve included three complete releases and one from a forthcoming album. I venture to say that you’ll find the first two releases formidably frightening and the third one more head-hooking and heart-exploding, while the advance track is an amalgam that’s fiery, feral, and defiant.
I’ve written with admiration about all three of Adaestuo’s previous releases — the 2016 debut EP Tacent Semitae and the band’s two albums, Krew za krew (2018) and Manalan virrat (2020). So there was no chance I wouldn’t make the dive into Purge of the Night Cloak, a new EP they released just last week, but which seems to consist of recordings conceived in 2016 and first made in 2020. They describe it as an effort “to bring the intrepid beholder into a more Faustian Gnosis”.
It’s fair to say that Adaestuo‘s music has always been unsettling in many ways, and that it has been marked by an evolving experimentation as the band explore new techniques for messing with your mind and plundering your soul. All that’s certainly true of this newest release, which includes three inter-connected tracks and one startling interlude.
Over the course of the four tracks Purge of the Night Cloak creates a trip through an inter-dimensional labyrinth of nightmares. The band bring to bear sweeping synths of world-ending intensity and vast grief, the dismal clang of piano keys, shrill tones that freakishly flicker, drums that attack or detonate and suddenly vanish, agonized choral wails, and blood-freezing screams of unhinged fury or pain.
It may seem strange to say it, but there’s a kind of elegance to the dominating synth progressions and clergical choral voices, which only strengthens the feeling that we’re witnessing calamity and downfall on a vast scale, one that extends to dimensions beyond our own. (The juxtaposition of choral chants and sounds of bestial madness in that interlude track, “The Hydra”, is particularly frightening.)
This might be one of those releases you don’t want to listen to before bedtime, unless you want your dreams to be severely disturbed. It won’t make your daylight hours happy either, but at least you might find something later that will lead you out of such pitch-black darkness.
Once you start listening to this next long track, I think you’ll understand why I put it right after Adaestuo‘s EP in today’s collection.
“Votum” brings scarring cascades of sound (which I initially mistook for synths but have learned were made with baritone guitar and a wall of reverb) and tormented choral voices, as if the heavens themselves were wailing in agony in the final minutes of existence. If you listen closely, distant drums slowly thump and boom in unpredictable appearances, lending the track an aspect of primitive ritual. Shrill tones also eventually surface, flickering in a fever. But apart from the burning sky of agonized sound that suffuses the track, the layered, distorted vocals are the dominant force, and they are horrifying in the extremity of the pain and rage they bring to the experience.
These subtly morphing terrors are unrelenting. If you’re expecting some outburst of blasting drums or furious riffing, you’ll be disappointed. This is designed to immerse listeners in catastrophe on a cosmic scale, straight through to the baritone choral voices and void-like ambience that draw the track to a chilling close.
Not surprisingly, in retrospect, the legend for the music on Bandcamp is “Adversarial Sonic Entropy”. The name Volloíom is described as “ancient Oscan for ‘To Destroy'”.
Drums on the track were performed by Eric Morotti (Suffocation) and it was recorded by Joseph Cincotta (Full Force Studio). Everything else was done by a lone wolf identified as F.F.
I thought the opening of the first song from this solo project’s debut EP made for a good segue from the unearthly immersive frights of Volloíom. An ancient horn slowly moans in vast funereal tones at the beginning of “The Gates of Valhalla“, quickly taking us into a primitive, mythic realm. But that intro only lasts a minute, and afterward the guitars slash and swirl in gripping fashion, both abrasive and gleaming in their sound. That turns out to be yet another prelude, because the drumming then accelerates and the riffing becomes incendiary, backed by heavily reverb-ed lycanthropic howls.
The lead guitar remains a frantic and fiery presence, and the rhythm guitar a rough and grim companion. The drums shift gears repeatedly, creating an element of dynamism in this sonic conflagration, and the riffing shifts too, changing the mood to one of dismal desperation in between the raging wildfires.
“The Gates of Valhalla” provides an electrifying start to Eternal Glory. The next one, “Thunder of Sword and Shield“, is a minute longer, and it too gives a central place to raw and ravaging riffs and drumming that mostly races but is still variable. Wild and warlike in its assault, it creates a conjoined feeling of violent delirium and cold-hearted cruelty.
But this track includes a startling divergence, falling completely silent after three minutes of feral bloodlust. All you’ll hear for a while are faint whispering sounds, and then a sorrowful piano melody that sounds like it’s coming from another room. It’s as haunting and hypnotic as what preceded it was riotous, with a sadistic little surprise at the end.
I was skeptical about Hynwar‘s decision to end the EP with a 17-minute track, but having been intrigued by what happened in the second song, I steeled myself and proceeded. It turns out to be an epic and ever-changing journey.
Rather than attempt to exhaustively map the course of this excursion in words, I’ll just give a few hints: At the beginning and the end it includes another somber piano melody, with a medieval air, and the song also includes scathing and battering attacks that reach heights of blazing, heart-pounding glory; episodes that seem to swing and dance in celebration over a jumping beat; a slow, dismal march where the guitar claws at the mind and pulls it down while the drums hammer and slug; and moods of grim but beleaguered determination.
The riffing is still rough and raw, but also still intensely gripping and infectious, but a solo near the end rings out feelings of anguish in relatively clear tones. The drum variations are smartly crafted and well-executed. As ever, the vocals are an echoing terror.
Eternal Glory was released in May of this year by Hexencave Productions (Slovakia). I would have continued to overlook it but for the recommendation of my Serbian friend Miloš, who rightfully advised me “Hyngwar has some serious riffage”.
To bring today’s column to an end I chose just one relatively compact track rather than a full release. Entitled “Atemzüge der Wölfe“, it’s the first advance song from this Greek duo’s debut album Verdrängung. I haven’t yet listened to the full album, but this one song swiftly makes a very positive impression.
In just shy of three-and-a-half minutes Voak deftly pull together several influences and ingredients. The beginning sounds like a groaning and warbling horn, and the song then abruptly segues into a young woman’s speaking voice, followed by a sweeping blaze of defiant riffage (there might be fiery synths in the mix too), thundering drums, and barbarously ferocious snarls.
The guitars also swirl, dance, and hit power chords around a potent thrumming bass and beats that bounce and hammer. To cap things off, there’s a glittering solo that seems both exultant and mad, and will send you on your way with your head spinning. Where will you go? Well, if you’re like me, you’ll go right back to the start and hear the track again.
I, Voidhanger Records introduces the album with these words:
VOAK‘s political instances are clear and very current in a society shaken by racial tensions, sexual discriminations and extremisms of all kinds, and their invitation to act undoubtedly shakes consciences. The band pours all this into fast, hypnotic black metal, with punk/new-wave and avant-garde accents that underline its rebellious, progressive and unconventional nature. “The oppressed and the ones struggling against the ‘Verdrängung’ may live in different prisons,” VOAK conclude, “but they are the majority… And in unity there is hope.”