Have you had your daily dose of whining and excuse-making? If not, I can remedy that, free of charge.
I went to a baseball playoff game in Seattle last night, except it unexpectedly turned into two games in one, lasting 18 innings. Arriving at the ballpark at 11:30 a.m., my spouse and I left at 7:30 p.m., hungry and tired and not feeling great about the 1-0 loss our team ultimately suffered. So we stayed in Seattle to eat and drink, and after a dreary ferry trip we didn’t make it back to the NCS island HQ until late.
This morning, which started late, I spent a lot more time going through about 400 previously un-read e-mails lodged in the NCS in-box than I did listening to anything. But although the day is now rapidly getting away from me, and my day job is now intruding, I wanted to do something so I wouldn’t pass through yet another Sunday with no Shades of Black. It’s not a lot, obviously, and I made the choices hurriedly (before getting immersed in historical research), but I think you’ll still be well-pleased, even if not thoroughly sated.
There’s no way we’ll overlook a new release by Kanonenfieber, even on a day like this when time to write about anything is extremely cramped. Thanks to a message from my friend Andy that arrived about halfway through that baseball game, I learned that these Bavarians will be releasing a new EP in November. After the release of their Yankee Division EP last March and their pro-Ukraine single “Stop the War” single that same month, I wasn’t expecting another release before year-end, but Hallelujah!
The name of the new one is Der Füsilier. It “tells the story of a German soldier who, after a failed attempt to liberate the occupied town of Przemysl, makes his way home through the icy hell of the Caparten.”
Through a big of googling I learned that the assault on the Galician fortress city of Przemysl (a town now located in Poland, only a few miles from the Ukrainian border) mounted by the tsarist Russian army was the longest siege of World War I. I’ll quote a few excerpts from this fascinating and harrowing account:
The fighting was as hellish as any seen in the Second World War. To break the encirclement and save the fortress-city, the Habsburg Army launched three futile winter offensives over the Carpathian Mountain Range. From January through till March 1915, the troops fought at altitudes of over 2,500 feet in temperatures below -4°F, trying vainly to struggle forward in deep snow. The casualties on both sides together numbered well over a million men….
From December 1914, Russian aircraft attacked Przemyśl in some of the earliest aerial bombing raids in history. Though ineffectual, these pointed forward to an apocalyptic future. Not only Tsarist besiegers but also the Habsburg defenders embraced mentalities of absolute destruction.
When, at last in March 1915, all the fortress’s food was exhausted and a fifth of its soldiers were hospitalised due to malnutrition, capitulation became unavoidable. On the final, apocalyptic night of March 21-22, the guns fired off their ammunition and all the forts were blown sky high with earth-shattering explosions. The three central road and rail bridges were also destroyed, cutting off the city’s main northern suburb from its centre.
When the Russian Army took control, the city’s new Tsarist commander warned residents that anything less than absolute obedience would be met with brute force: ‘the siege artillery … will shoot the city into ruins.’
Does some of this sound depressinglyfamiliar here in 2022? Perhaps it did to Kanonenfieber.
Painting by Tuomas Koivurinne
The EP’s two songs are named “Der Füsilier I” and “Der Füsilier II“. You can listen to the first one now (with a lyric video) in advance of the EP’s release by Noisebringer Records on November 19th. The lyrics focus on the death that visited the German-Austro forces in the snow and bitter mountain cold as they escaped from the enemy in Galicia.
Given the subject matter of the song, it’s not surprising that the ringing guitars drape dark and defeated clouds over the music from the very first. But militaristic drumbeats, jolting riffage, and braying chords seem to announce a march — and then the music erupts in blasting percussion, scalding snarls, a blazing melody, and fiery fretwork flickering.
Dismal moods return, with long, dragging tones and bitter guttural growls, before the song resumes its frantic pace and the riffing boils the blood again. With a sudden explosion, the song becomes vast in its expanse, raising pain to towering heights, but an ensuing solo (which is transfixing) suffuses the music with grief in the midst of that stunning display of agony on an epic scale.
This next song I found completely captivating, a creation of many facets and all of them gripping. It’s the title track to The Secrecy, a debut album by a project called Skála. To help introduce it, I’ll quote the words found on the Bandcamp page for the record established by the Eternal Death label:
SKÁLA is a place of childhood memories. A long path winds through the fields up to it. The woods up there are overgrown with wildflowers and scraggly birches that hide mushroom groves. Through a gate of twisted saplings, you enter the main festival grounds, and all around you, dancing shapes hoot and cackle in the trees. The bonfire blazes toward the sky, casting wild shadows on the bright-orange rock walls.
With SKÁLA, Chris Danecek (Infera Bruo, Encrimson’d) has attempted to capture the essence of this mystical rock and its environs that is located in the heart of the Czech Republic. As such, The Secrecy emits an aura not unlike Czech black metal past and present: ripped-raw and grim, but not without a surfeit of splendor and mysticism – and of course, a grounding in actual heavy METAL. Of course, no “happy headbanging” is to be found here; The Secrecy is pure imagination and transportation, whisking away the faithful to forgotten realms within and without. Travel to SKÁLA and you will lose yourself.
The music is indeed raw and rough on the ears, and it’s rough on the emotions as well. As the riffing roils and falls, and feverish wailing tones rise up, moods of bleakness and despair come through. The drums methodically chop like spring-loaded axes, and a voice snarls like a beast and screams in equally vicious tones. It’s the kind of experience that immerses the senses and harrows the emotions.
It gets more intense too, thanks to blasting drums and crazed guitar frenzies, but it also sends up a blaze of grand fanfare-chords and swirls of equally grand but ecstatic-sounding leads, warlike but exultant.
And there’s still more here — a slower movement featuring a grumbling bass and ringing arpeggios that strangely sway (and seem almost psychedelic), as well as deep chant-like growls and music that channels deepening mystification and misery, plus a guitar solo at the song’s closing crescendo that’s downright glorious, even though the great waves of sound again seem to manifest desperation.
Eternal Death will release the album on cassette tape and digital formats on December 9th.
It was an incredible game!
Also: Go Astros!
This isn’t the first time that the Przemysl campaign has been inspiration for a metal EP: 1914 and Minenwerfer wrote about it at length in a split they released a few years ago.
This reminds me that I missed that split.