SHADES OF BLACK: GEVURAH, SPIDER GOD, BELIAL HORDE, AU CLAIRE DE LUNE, VÉVAKI, SECRET STAIRWAYS
To save time (yours and mine), I’ll dispense with the usual windy introduction and say only that some of the choices I made this week stretch the admittedly elastic musical bounds of this column, and eventually wind up completely outside them… but that doesn’t happen right away, as you’ll soon see.
Gevurah probably need no introduction to our visitors, or to anyone else who wants to feel consumed by fire when listening to black metal. As I’ve observed both in the case of their 2016 debut album Hallelujah! (which we premiered and reviewed here) and their 2018 EP Sulphur Soul (discussed here), Gevurah are devoted to the fierce power of chaos, and the unrelenting intensity of their music can be overwhelming. Based on the first song from their forthcoming second album, they’ve not moderated their stance.
The song, “Blood-Soaked Katabasis”, comes with an age-restricted video (directed by Frederick Maheux, with cinematography by Luc Desjardins) that’s preceded by warnings, and at YouTube it’s accompanied by a link to a suicide and crisis hotline. There’s some graphic self-cutting in the video, and images of men bathed in blood. It ends with a scene of struggle beneath the weight of a cross, and eventual collapse.
Apart from the sheer unchained ferocity and incendiary intensity of the assault, the song stands out because of the possessed vocals, the maniacal but booming drumwork, the blazing and boiling extravagance of the searing chords, and a wild guitar lead/solo. After a brief break, the hammering, firebrand intensity resumes, but with a more beleaguered mood, and one more thing stands out — an extended guitar solo that begins at about the 4:30 mark. It wails and moans, and seems like a manifestation of hopelessness, but is nonetheless thoroughly captivating.
Gevurah named their new album Gehinnom, a place also called the Valley of Slaughter where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire, and the name was later used in rabbinical literature (and in the New Testament, with the name “Gehenna”) as a place of fiery torment reserved for the wicked after death. In Greek and classical mythology, “Katabasis” refers to a descent into the underworld, into the realm of the dead. In Gevurah‘s conception of the album:
Gehinnom is a journey through the physical and metaphysical desert, realm of death and transformation. From the pits of Gehinnom, we tread deeper into the abyss towards the final resurrection, with eyes opened and spirit liberated. Each track represents a step in this process of negating the flesh, linking microcosm with macrocosm and deepening the fall of Man.
Recognizably, the cover art is the work of Denis Forkas Kostromitin. Gehinnom will be released by Profound Lore, NoEvDia, and End All Life Productions on October 14th.
SPIDER GOD (UK)
After a start like that, where do we go next? Well of course we go to a black metal cover of a Men At Work song.
Once upon a time I listened to “Down Under” more times than I could have counted. Much of the rest of the world did too. I guess it got its hooks into Spider God as well, albeit later than when it first infected me. In their cover they do make the song orders of magnitude more wild and scathing, and the guitar leads and bass maneuvers are more exhilarating than anything in the original (not to mention the full-throttle drumming), but even when screamed, the chorus is unmistakable.
I’ll now have a hard time listening to the original without wanting to immediately follow it with Spider God‘s rendition:
Spider God‘s cover is one of 29 tracks on MILIM KASHOT VOL. 4, yet another fantastic compilation by Israel-based Machine Music. This one includes a lot of exclusive tracks, and I’ve tended to jump into those first, but there’s so much here that I still haven’t heard everything. What I have heard, however, made the decision to buy it a very easy one (as usual, most of the proceeds go to charitable causes, which you can read about at the album’s Bandcamp page). I have plans to feature some other songs from it in a future round-up.
But Spider God have new original music of their own out in the world now, in addition to that riotous cover of “Down Under“. Specifically, they’ve revealed an advance track from their forthcoming second album, Fly in the Trap.
That song, “The Fifty Second Murder” is the opening chapter in a concept record inspired by the real-world story of Chinese-Canadian tourist Elisa Lam, “the young woman who struggled with bi-polar disorder and was found dead in the rooftop water tank of her LA hotel in 2013.” The tale of Lam‘s death is a mysterious and eerily fascinating story, recounted here at The Font of All Human Knowledge for those who don’t know about it.
“Fifty Second Murder” is a very strong opening chapter. It races and rumbles with electrifying effect, but out of nowhere a Mellotron-like melody comes in, and then you realize you’ve really got to pay attention.
Dense waves of guitar swirl in thrilling fashion above body-moving bass lines and neck-snapping back-beats, joined again by those wondrous keyboards. The screamed vocals are thoroughly berserk, and the music gives in to sensations of fear, confusion, and chaos, but the rhythm section continue to get plenty of chances to shine.
It’s one of those songs that’s so kaleidoscopic that it’s hard to pin down in genre terms — sure, it’s a black metal tirade, but I also got flashes of bouncing post-punk and death rock, among other things — and it’s also very difficult to forget. Very eager to discover where the band go in the remaining chapters of this mysterious narrative.
Fly In The Trap will be released by Repose Records on November 11th, complete with artwork by Lucas Rackcliffe. It includes guest contributions by Revenant Marquis, Rope Sect, and A Forest Of Stars.
BELIAL HORDE (Costa Rica)
Metal-Archives reports that Belial Horde‘s discography includes a pair of demos and a 2015 debut album (A Post Apocalyptic Landscape), but I can’t remember encountering the music of these Costa Ricans until yesterday, when I listened to a new Belial Horde single named “Sympathia Malevolens“. Obviously, it made a favorable impression or it wouldn’t be here.
The riffing is both grim and glorious, and the high, swirling guitar leads and what might be grand keyboards give it a wondrously sinister aspect. The song also jolts and jabs as well as soars, and the demonic vocals and bursts of percussive blasting provide palpable elements of savagery. Eventually, those theatrical, high-flying melodies begin to sound like an elegant delirium.
It turns out that this is a song that the band wrote and published in demo format back in 2005, but it has now been re-recorded with their new lineup. The new version is available on many streaming services. For the first, but not the last time today, I owe thanks to Miloš for linking me to this.
AU CLAIRE DE LUNE (Italy)
Now we begin the trip toward the outer musical bounds of this column.
This next song, “Moonlight Romanticism“, moved in directions I didn’t expect based on the way it began, and those other directions helped solidified its place in today’s collection. At first, the song weaves a spell from glittering keys, shimmering synths, and a musing bass. But after a brief pause, a ringing but rough riff leads into hurtling drums, harrowing growls, and swaths of sandpaper abrasion.
The changes continue. Glittering keyboard melodies return; seductive guitar arpeggios join in; crazed upheavals erupt, and chime-like tones glimmer above them; scorching screams assault the ears and angelic voices create mystical visions. The song’s continuing juxtaposition of earthy roughness and primal grooves with heavenly clarity makes for a winning combination.
The song is from an album named Mysticism of Ecstatic Communion, which is set for release on October 9th. Everything accomplished here is the work of Leonard, with additional vocals by Falyriae, who also created the cover art. (Thanks once more to Miloš for linking me to the song.)
The Vévaki collective use old instruments to perform old music, but who knows whether anything that even resembles Vévaki‘s music was ever performed in the ancient age that inspires the band?
Nordic heathenism and animistic traditions provide their creative fuel, along with visions of myth, ritual, and the harsh beauty of the natural world, and they make use of lyre, taglharpa, drums, and pontian lyra to bring those visions to life — along with a striking array of vocal parts that range from near-throat-singing to high crystalline harmonies.
The recently released video for the song “Heimdalagaldr” is a transfixing and transportive experience, in part because of the spellbinding music (which is both primitive and celestial) but also because of the spellbinding visual narrative. And because I’m running out of time, that’s all I’ll say — but that should be enough to tempt you, right?
“Heimdalagaldr” is from an album named Fórnspeki, which will be released by Season of Mist on October 28th. Credit for the cover art goes to Živa Ivadóttir. Credit for the video goes to Dániel Puskás – Valhallartworks. (Thanks one more time to Miloš for pointing me to this video.)
SECRET STAIRWAYS (U.S.)
Until Miloš (yes, him again) pointed me to this next release I was unaware of Secret Stairways, or any of the other projects and bands in which Secret Stairways‘ sole creator Matthew P. Davis participated before his death in 2011. The album I began listening to, Turning Point, consists of songs that were originally recorded in 1999, but apparently were never released except on a home CD-R. Now they’ve been published through Dungeons Deep Records.
And yes, all I’ve done up to this point is begin to listen to Turning Point, but the opening tracks so quickly captivated me that I felt compelled to share the album here. I say that as someone who is no expert on dungeon synth and no ardent lover of it either. But the album opener “Transcendence” is sublimely beautiful, both elegant and haunting, both mysterious and vast in its splendor, and the booming drums vibrate the marrow.
I got stuck on that opening track, which is one reason I haven’t made my way all through the album. But what I’ve learned so far is that Turning Point isn’t repetitive. The changes in mood and instrumentation from one track to the next are a big reason I’ve found the trip captivating — so far.