Oct 032022


As I forecast in Part 1 of this column yesterday, Part 2 takes us off in some unusual directions. Much of the time black metal is still in the mix, but in most of the songs featured here it’s more of a jumping-off point to other wide-ranging experiences than it is the rigid core of the music — or it’s not present at all, except perhaps as a sinister spirit that hovers on the edges.

This excursion will be welcomed by some of you, and some of the songs will probably disgruntle others. But there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to expose yourself to the music. I hope you’ll do that with all the tracks here, all of which are from forthcoming albums or EPs.

ARALLU (Israel)

This long-running Israeli band, whose roots are in the late ’90s, will be releasing a new album (their 8th one overall) in November. With the imposing title of Death Covenant, it follows up the excellent En Olam from three years ago. I’ve already written here about one of the new album’s advance tracks, “Desert Shadows Will Rise“, and now we have another one.

Middle Eastern melodies, which are exotic to these Western ears, have played greater and lesser roles in Arallu‘s works over time, but they are the centerpiece of “Empire of Salt“. That’s apparent immediately, as the song begins with the haunting ring of strings plucked on a saz. That melody continues in even more magical tones after being joined by a big grumbling bass and mysterious tremolo’d guitar tones.

Mystery begins to give way to feelings of grim peril. A savage voice growls; strident chords clash; the drums beat and batter; and ghostly emanations radiate high overhead. Whirring arpeggios and the clack of another percussive instrument lead the band into a dervish-like outburst of riotous drumming, feverish riffing, and scalding screams. The song continues to change — in its pacing, in its tonal textures, and through the extravagance of massed vocals — and the band also reprise some of the song’s earlier motifs, this time joined by singing.

You could easily imagine “Empire of Salt” going on for minutes longer without any loss of interest, and for me it did go on in my head because the musical sorcery is so potent.

Death Covenant comes with frightening cover art by Nir Doliner, and it will be available on CD, LP, and Digital formats via Hammerheart Records on November 11th.





Blood of The Angels” is the next song I’ve chosen. It’s the first one divulged from an upcoming album named Like Ants and Snakes by this unconventional Polish band.

Actually, “unconventional” seems like an understatement when you consider all of this band’s twists and turns over their long career. The boundary lines keep changing, and based on “Blood of the Angels“, it seems like they’ve re-drawn them again.

Even though the clouds in the accompanying video don’t move smoothly, the opening echoes of the guitar are enticing, albeit sinister. Piano chords add to the ominous feeling. And with the prelude of some percussive ticks, the drums begin thudding and the bass begins throbbing — and the vocalist enunciates the words in gloomy but increasingly desperate tones as cold winds whisper.

Things get even more unnerving, thanks to the appearance of harsh gasps and howls, the spooky meandering of the guitar (beautifully matched by the meandering of ink in the video), and the scatter and ripple of piano keys. The experience is dreamlike but dangerous, oh and it will move heads too.

Synths swirl and the vocals become more intense, building tension. The song drifts into ambient eeriness, even though the drums continue tumbling like a caffeinated acrobat, but feelings of tension and angst build again, with no reprieve.

With cover art by Derek R. Setzer, Like Ants and Snakes will be released (CD and digital) by Pagan Records on November 4th.





This pair of musical starfarers from Gothenburg made a very exciting first impression with a single named “Unmapped Constellations” in September. I spilled a lot of enthusiastic words about it here, and wasted little time diving into the next single, which surfaced on Friday.

Space-faring continues to be a theme, as this new song recounts a lonely traveler’s aeons-long journey between galaxies and “Through the Cold Black Yonder“. But as was true of the band’s first single, this new one is an even more head-spinning trip than you’d expect from most groups who are intrigued by the vast cosmos in which our own orb is merely a spinning grain of sand.

Thoroughly mapping this musical vessel’s journey would probably become tedious, and might spoil all of the surprises, of which there are many. To mention only a few, the song includes bracing storm surges of hurtling percussion, delirious, blizzard-like riffing, heavy bass undulations, and acid-bath shrieking, but it also includes rocking grooves, immediately head-hooking heavy metal riffage that darts in ecstasy, and simple keyboard melodies that are bright and wistful.

The song also gets a lot more calamitous, and a lot more unearthly as the band draw on electronic musical influences way outside of metal (is this what people call “synthwave”?), before creating audio panoramas of cosmic glory again.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of Lightlorn‘s free-wheeling yet cohesive creative impulses. Both of these songs and two more will appear on Lightlorn‘s forthcoming debut EP, These Nameless Worlds. Can’t wait to hear what they do in those other two.




HEIDEN (Czechia)

I had to shake my head when I learned that this Czech band have released 8 albums, with a 9th one on the way, over a span of about 19 years, because I don’t recall encountering their music until now. But one look at the changing jumble of genre descriptions at Metal-Archives suggests they’ve switched up their musical style quite a lot over all those releases that I missed.

We have a hint of where they are now from the song “Musím ti tolik říct” (in English, “I have so much to tell you”) from that forthcoming 9th album. Well, they’re really not in any one single place musically, if this song is a good clue, even if they were in a blizzard on the hilltops of Vysočina when they filmed the captivating video that presents the song.

The funky groove and vintage keyboard melody that opens this new track, coupled with the subdued vocals, the shimmering synths, and the ring of the guitar, aren’t located in any sphere of metal, but pull instead from other old influences, including prog-rock from a distant decade. It creates an enticing spell, but one that the band shatter with crashing chords, scorching screams, and rabid snarls.

The song is so simultaneously groove-some and elevating (it really soars in gleaming brilliance as the end approaches) that it could have gotten a lot more radio air-time if the band hadn’t blackened it with the harsh vocals, but bless them for doing that.

The song comes from Heiden‘s album Andzjel, which will be released on November 11th by Magick Disk Musick. The album’s concept is described this way:

Seven songs, thematically set in the inhospitable beauty of the White Carpathians, offer an insight into the souls of the local people, sharing the soil, blood, healing and knowledge passed down through generations. The phenomenon of Žítková goddesses, which the post-war totalitarian regime permanently eradicated.

According to Heiden, the eye-catching cover art is an image was “taken from the personal collection of inhabitants of the Žítková village and repainted by Luděk Řezáč“.

I’ve also included a stream of one more single from the album, “Nevěřím těm očím“. At the outset, that one is much more adrenaline-fueled than the one I’ve just written about. It inflicts a beating, and it flies high, and the vocals are maniacal in their savagery. But the song makes a sudden change, and feels like slowly drifting on a night-time stream, with stars winking overhead, and someone who sounds like Tom Waits as your companion. Fascinating….




VIKVANIR (Australia)

Vikvanir seized my attention just for the first time yesterday, thanks in part to viewing the cover art for this solo project’s debut EP, which was created by the late, great Mariusz Lewandowski (Vikvanit licensed and used the painting with his permission), and in part because the first advance song sunk its hooks in damned fast.

In some respects, “Corpse-Strewn Path To The Citadel” is more studiously black metal than other offerings in today’s collection, thanks to waves of grim, cold riffing and hurtling rhythms, but it rocks hard and steady too, and the raw, braying vocals aren’t exactly black-metal-standard either. There’s menace in the music, as well as primal, carnal moods, and those rocking riffs give the music an almost bluesy roadhouse swagger.

And there’s more here that goes off the well-beaten paths — glittering guitars and magisterial chords, analog synths that contribute to a sweeping melody that soars toward the stratosphere, swaths of classical strings that become bright and bounding, and guttural bellows that bring out the beast.

The name of this EP is On The Shoulders Of Gods. It’s the solo work of musician, vocalist, and composer Zachary Carlsson from Sydney, with classical strings contributed by Elise Carpio. I expect the rest of the EP, like this song, will also be a multi-faceted genre mix.




SECOND TO SUN (Russia -> Sweden)

From the beginning, the prolific Second to Sun has been the brainchild of Vladimir Lehtinen, eventually joined by a changing line-up of other band members. Lehtinen has lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, but if you visit Second to Sun‘s Bandcamp page, you’ll see that Sweden is now identified as the band’s location. I haven’t seen any official announcement, but here in the time of Putin’s increasingly unhinged and ruthless tyranny, it wouldn’t be surprising.

What’s less speculative is that Second to Sun will have a new album named Nocturnal Philosophy coming out on November 1st. Its cover art is an excerpt from a famous painting by Mikhail Clodt von Jürgensburg (1832–1902) (himself from St. Petersburg) named ”Ivan IV (1530-84) the Terrible Visited by the Ghosts of Those He Murdered”. That choice is probably not a coincidence.

You can listen to two songs from the new album now. “North Metal Legion” is a behemoth of a track, topping 12 minutes. Synth-driven and spacey at first, it becomes an immensely heavy and ravaging storm, heaving and crushing with titanic power and then blasting away like automatic weaponry. Those exhilarating synths still brilliantly swirl and dance overhead, like a mad organist given free reign, even as vitriolic vocals join in to scorch the senses.

There are a few breaks in this breathtaking spectacle, where the drums crack, the bass rumbles, and the guitar slashes, and feelings of sorrow and desperation emerge amidst the fury and defiance, but there’s really no relent in the song’s heart-stopping intensity, even when a gruesome distorted voice speaks and sandpaper abrasion clashes with sparkling streamers of celestial sound at the end.

Another song from the album, “Frozen Paradise” (or perhaps it’s a different version of what will appear on the album), surfaced as a single at the start of September, and I’ve included a stream of that one too. It deploys similar ingredients, to similarly jaw-dropping effect.




UNFYROS (Finland)

Last but not least, I’m bringing this mammoth two-part conclusion of music to an end with a music video for a song from the recently released debut album of this Finnish duo, an album that follows up a debut EP named Into Sibylline Woods released this past June.

A Numinous Meeting” is well-named, because it does sound like an encounter with haunting and harrowing spirits. Barely mid-paced in its tempo, the abrasive yet ringing guitars and vampire vocals steadily build a mood of misery and malice. The beats feel like a primal pulse, compulsive in their effect, but as the chords rise the music becomes even more unnerving, and then the ringing and writhing guitar maneuvers deepen the feeling of frightening hallucination.

The song is like a dangerous narcotic. It’s seductive and spell-binding, but if its un-real scariness doesn’t put a chill on your skin and shivers down your spine, that would be surprising.

The name of the new album is Alpha Hunt, and it’s available now on CD from Aural Hypnox. Unfyros describe their music as “no less than a lasting stream of Power and Lunacy; a quest of forging the self through the awakened knowledge and experience. A form of archaic magical practice focusing on a change of reality. We stand dead still at the threshold of an ancient storm, rational minds bypassed yet wide awake and instincts alert.”


 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.