I failed to get one of these columns done last Sunday, so I decided to go big today. I was able to spend hours yesterday listening, making choices, and beginning to write. From the windows, it looked like a beautiful day outside my home, but that’s as close as I got to it.
I made 13 choices, and 6 of them are in Part 1. Thirteen selections of music seems like too much to lay on anyone in a single day, particularly a weekend day, so I’m saving Part 2 for tomorrow. But I’ll give you a quick explanation about how I divided the choices:
Until you get to the last song, Part 1 is basically an inferno; the music in Part 2 goes off in a number of unusual directions that probably won’t please the trve and kvlt among you, but may intrigue others.
“Iberian blackened death metal behemoths NOCTEM today unleash their lyric video for ‘I Am Alpha.’” So read the press release we received announcing the premiere at Brooklyn Vegan (of all places), and coincidentally (or not) the song does remind me of Behemoth near the heights of their imperial black/death domination. The imagery in the video is equally dire and daunting.
The song’s melodies of anguish and despair come in powerful repeating waves, and they wash into the head and become saturating. The vocals are both searing and magisterial; the drumwork is obliterating; and an atmosphere of the occult comes through as well.
“I Am Alpha” is another advance song off Noctem‘s new album Credo Certe Ne Cras (“I Believe With Certainty That There is No Tomorrow”), which will be released by MNRK Heavy on October 28th. Noctem are such a favorite of many of us at NCS that I’m sure we’ll have a full review between now and then.
“Qliphotic Trance” is the next song in this collection, an offering of cabalistic black metal by this Dutch band that creates an extravagant vortex of fire and fury. The writhing riffage seems all-consuming in its intensity, coupled with vocals that are utterly rabid, drums that move at machine-gun speeds, and soloing that’s berserk.
The band do break up the war-zone delirium with episodes of neck-cracking beats and blazing fanfares, and somehow manage to make the song a “catchy” one too, despite its torrential force. “Trance” isn’t the word that comes to mind in listening, but it does sound fucking possessed.
The song is from Lucifericon‘s second album, The Warlock of Da’ath, which will be released by Invictus Productions on November 25th.
At the outset I did hint that there would be almost no relent today, and so next up is a lyric video for “Unsegen II“, a bonfire of a song from the debut album of this German band.
I’ve said more than once in the past that I’m drawn to black metal albums that are based on historical conflicts, and especially albums that are based on the First World War, in part because there are so few of them. But Unsegen is one. As the releasing label explains, it “tells the story of a young soldier in World War I, who is driven by his conscience into a no less harrowing inner struggle due to the atrocities he has experienced, which he ultimately loses”.
In the video the lyrics are interestingly rendered, but I can’t read German so I’m not sure what’s going on. But I can certainly hear the madness, mayhem, and tormented gloom in the music. The song delivers lots of swift jolts too, as well as queasy melodies that seem almost hallucinatory. Signs of abject hopelessness also come through in the song’s slowest movement, just before agony ascends in the whirling arpeggios that bring the track to a close.
At times I thought of Marduk and 1349 in listening to this one, but there’s pain and anguish here as well as savage slaughter.
Unsegen will be out on October 28th from MDD Records.
One good historical turn deserves another, and so my next choice today is the title track from a debut album named Molon Labe. Its conceptual focus is also on war, but a much older one than that of Nocturnis. It’s described this way in the press materials
Molon Labe (in ancient Greek: μολὼν λαβέ, Molòn labé, literally “come and take”) describes the epic journey faced by Greece against the Persian threat in 480 BC. The new album faces an epic world where the music is dictated by both arcane melodies reminiscent of the fury of Greek soldiers and more atmospheric and evocative melodies to remember their tenacity and devotion to their native land.
As for the title song in particular, those same PR materials say this:
Intense and frenetic riffs set the stage for the clash between the Spartan warriors, driven by a desire to preserve their freedom, and the Persian advance. Chaos and destruction are musically balanced with their counterpart, which symbolize what will allow the victory of the few warriors over the hostile multitude. Melodic atmospheres will serve to echo the Spartan success, sending a message of security to the whole of Greece but at the same time underlining the strength of those dedicated to safeguarding what is threatened to them.
As one might expect from these previews, the riffing is indeed both fast and melodic, frenzied and ferocious, and the drumming is maniacal. But there’s also grandeur in the song, as well as episodes of panoramic sweep augmented by the mimicry of celestial voices high above. By contrast, ravenous death growls dominate the human vocals, and the song packs a lot of heavyweight punch too.
Molon Labe will be out on November 25th via Non Serviam Records.
Next up I’ve chosen Pyra, the self-titled debut EP of another Italian band, released last Friday by Immortal Frost Productions.
After an ominous, windswept introductory track, Pyra erupt in an electrifying tirade of high-BPM blasting, dense roiling riffage, and ghastly reverberating howls. “Barren Earth Dug” makes for an exhilarating first statement, but Pyra leaven the mad onslaught with metronomic beats (and scattered fills) paired with an eerie wailing melody that drifts like slow waves in a lake of misery. And so the song devotes as much attention to the channeling of bleakness and agony on a sweeping scale as it does to kicking your adrenal glands into action.
The permeating darkness of “Barren Earth Dug” makes a strong first impression, and the remaining three tracks are themselves pitch-black in their moods, but Pyra show themselves to be dynamic in their renditions of horrid and harrowing conditions.
“In A Thousand Different Voices” is more dismal and otherworldly, and it’s ringing and roiling guitars are entrancing as well as steeped in peril and pain. “Abandoned Shrines of Light” periodically kicks up the intensity but its own chiming melodies are haunting, as well as pestilential, just as the cavernous vocals (as always) are horrifying.
“Eternal” gives us one final taste of Pyra‘s formidable ability to create daunting moods as well as to deliver visceral turmoil, and to combine sounds of abrasion and ringing clarity with enticing effect. Both hellish and hallucinatory, morbid and mad, it seals the deal on a very impressive debut.
SHEOL BLANC (France)
Pyra‘s EP marked a turn in the course of this column. For sure, it had its incendiary moments, but it was much more moody and otherworldly than what preceded it. And to close Part 1, I’m turning even further in a different direction. You might even consider it a segue into Part 2 of this column, as I’ve intended it to be.
This final song is “Misère“. It’s a track released on Friday that Sheol Blanc decided to omit from the band’s new album Deuil, which was released just a few days earlier.
At more than 11 minutes in length, this piece creates a gauntlet that you must run. And it doesn’t provide much choice in the matter, because it so quickly creates a startling atmosphere of world-ending catastrophe. At first it sounds like megaton nuclear warheads going off in the midst of very strange and very unsettling ambient waves, but then manifold changes begin to unfold.
The music becomes soft and strange, almost jazz-like in its neo-noir atmosphere. Odd-timed percussive hits go off (along with more bombs) while the surrounding sounds resemble a cacophony of mutated horns and the wandering of wraiths, or settle into a faint drone.
Well, but there’s really no way you can settle into anything here, because Sheol Blanc continues switching things up, to keep the listener disoriented and increasingly frightened. Weird warbling and buzzing tones emerge, along with distant echoing booms and thick miasmas of deleterious abrasion. It’s easy to get lost in this gauntlet, and to wonder where the hell you are when you escape at the end.
“Misère” is a free download at Bandcamp. But I’m also including a link to Deuil and a stream of that album, if nothing else than as a reminder to myself to listen to it very soon!