I had visitors from Atlanta yesterday (not Atlantis – those friends have a longer swim), and that visit included a trip to the ballpark to watch the Mariners beat the Braves. I didn’t gloat too much, and my friends were pretty stoic in accepting their home team’s loss, since their team won the first game of the series the night before.
However, by the time I made it back to my island home and got to bed, the clock had struck midnight. And by the time I woke up this morning to view another sunrise dismally cloaked in wildfire smoke, a big chunk of the early day was already gone. And then I remembered an imminent outing my spouse had planned. So there’s really not much time to give this column.
I thought about not writing anything, but didn’t want to foment anxiety among the throngs who might worry that my house had been struck by a meteor or ruined by a long-awaited reappearance of the Great Old Ones.
I’m awash in new black metal, and staring at a list of things I was considering for today’s column. But since those plans got trashed for the reasons just recounted, I’m going to start with something I didn’t know about until waking this morning and seeing a link from my friend Miloš.
I hadn’t heard of Ciemra, but I see now that they released a two-track debut EP (Agony Blasphemy) early last month. The link I received was for a new song, with a video, that just premiered yesterday. It’s called “Serpent’s“. Serpent’s what, I wondered? It’s the possessive form of the noun, but we don’t know what the object is. Maybe you’re the object.
The deeply shadowed video is really superb, loaded with diabolical imagery and dark depictions of the band that seem just as demonic (the frontman’s inhuman face is especially transfixing). Thanks to stomping beats and a very hefty bass, the song will get your head moving quickly and continuously. Thanks to ominous slashing riffs that burst open in quick fevers and vocals that seem both ravenous and imperious, the song simultaneously creates a mood of menace and tension.
Feelings of pain and misery seep into the music while the rhythm section continues to slug and then thunder. The tension builds and builds and then boils over into a convulsion of blasting drums, blazing riffage that flies high, and shattering screams. When the torrent spends itself, scythes rise, a serpent slowly slithers, and the music moans in agony.
This new single, and the preceding EP, are both on Bandcamp (name your own price option). I’ve made one run through the EP, and both those songs are viscerally powerful (I’m a big fan of the prominent bass work in both songs, and the drummer’s concoctions are always spot-on), unnerving in the moods they create, and both are powerfully good. By my lights, Ciemra is an enormously promising new discovery.
The second and concluding choice in this extremely abbreviated column is something I put on that list that I had to stick in a mental drawer, to retrieve on some later day, if ever.
It’s been six years since Terra released their last album, Mors Secunda, which was their second full-length. My comrade Mr. Synn reviewed it here, lavishing it with praise and concluding with these words:
“In the final reckoning Mors Secunda is an incredibly immersive, incredibly hypnotic, and atmospheric piece of work. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s not necessarily a welcoming or hospitable experience. It’s grim, and it’s forbidding, and well worth every second of your time.”
Now Terra are returning with a third album, Für dich existiert das alles nicht, which Google translates as “For you none of this exists”. On the last album Terra favored very long songs, and they do so again in the first advance track for the new record, a 14 1/2 minute piece named “Verisimilitude“.
As we all expect from an extra-long song, this one consists of changing movements and contrasting energies and moods. Dismal and dire at first, it builds slowly, stacking sonic bricks of both gouging abrasion and chime-like clarity to create a wall of oppression and anguish. The drums rumble and batter, pushing the music to greater heights of intensity, and the riffing becomes an order of magnitude more intense and unnerving as well, capped by shattering screams and hideous snarls.
The heaviness of the song is crushing, the grooves are neck-bending, and the layered guitars and synths (which together are still abrasively scathing and ringing with clarity) create an immersive and increasingly sweeping experience that’s somehow mesmerizing despite how harrowing that experience is.
The drummer gets plenty of chances to shine, and his relentless variations seize attention beneath the slow, vast waves of melancholy melody and undulating bass-lines that wash across the song for minutes, while the vocalist occasionally reappears to claw at the mind with razor-like talons.
It’s the kind of song that swallows up a listener, body and mind, and it’s easy to get lost in the belly of this beast.
The album is set for release on September 23rd.