SEEN AND HEARD ON A SATURDAY: ENSLAVED, JUST BEFORE DAWN, OUIJA, GYAOS:DIABOLICAL
It’s lamentable how little music I’ve written about today. Last night I engaged in an old tradition I’ve rarely observed since covid began marauding in March 2020, i.e., drinking in person with co-workers I usually see only on computer screens. I’m out of practice, and so forgot where the off-switch was, leading to… too damned much drinking.
On my ferry ride home I was thinking about how I would begin today’s column, knowing that I had about three-dozen links to new songs and videos I’d selected out of what I noticed over the last week, and knowing I’d never make it through all that. Fueled by whisky, I wrote this:
Imagine yourself seated across a table from a wizard, or rather what seems like a wavering mirage of a table, alternately expansive and as narrow as a rat’s tail. He buries his hands in a bowl of spiky glittering baubles and throws them at your face. Pleased with your wide eyes and the rivulets of blood coursing down your face, he chortles and beams. The pain and the exhilaration, now you feel alive!, he proclaims. And then black tentacles begin to sprout from his robes and writhe in your direction.
Reading that this morning through eyes almost pasted shut by the goo of sleep, I wonder how the hell that metaphor sprung to mind. The spiky baubles represented all the new songs and videos, I know that much, but the rest of it? The ways of whisky can be mysterious….
Anyway, I don’t feel so great this morning, and the day is rapidly flying by, so what follows is all I’ve been able to accomplish. Maybe these songs will leave you wide-eyed and bloodied. One can only hope.
Yesterday Nuclear Blast officially announced a new Enslaved album, their 16th overall. Referring to the 32 years they’ve been playing together, Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson made this statement about the new album, Heimdal:
In all these years, Norse mythology has been our umbilical cord to the realms of mysticism and philosophy, and our gateway to the realms of deep psychology and the esoteric worlds beyond. One of the most fascinating characters of our mythology is HEIMDAL, and he has been lurking around in our minds like an enigma for three decades now. His first appearance was in a song called ‘Heimdallr’ on our demo tape ‘Yggdrasill‘ back in 1992, and he’s had both minor and more significant roles in our lyrical universe over the years.
This time we have decided to dedicate an entire body of work to this most enigmatic of characters and richest of archetypes – we give you ‘HEIMDAL‘. We have reached deeper and scouted further ahead than ever before – the past, present and future sound of the band comes together in songs born from sheer inspiration – it is the common force of a close-nit group of friends and musicians.
To coincide with the album announcement Enslaved released a video for a song called “Congelia“. It follows a video they released in August for the fantastic song “Kingdom“, which turns out to be one of the new album’s tracks too (I wrote about that one here).
The dissonant whining guitar that opens the song over a feverish gallop is disconcerting, and although a juddering riff creates a hook, the experience remains uncomfortable. Blaring chords and scalding screams enhance the song’s frightening moods, even though the relentless galvanizing beats will likely get legs bouncing.
What sounds like a mandolin contributes a vibrant and alluring melody in the midst of this weird and wondrous gallop, and the song swells to even more grandiose proportions, with Håkon Vinje‘s haunting and heroic singing voice and Ice Dale‘s epic guitar solo at the summit (along with another vibrant acoustic instrument, maybe a mouth harp). Things get mysterious at the end, and the video itself is mysterious, and no easier to turn away from than this spectacular song.
Heimdal will be released on March 3, 2023.
JUST BEFORE DAWN (Sweden)
Warfare has always inspired Just Before Dawn, even when they use it as a metaphor rather than a literal basis for the music. Their last single, “We Will Rise!“, was dedicated to the Ukrainian victims of Russia’s invasion. Their newest one, “Mac V Sog“, draws upon the history of America’s war in Vietnam — which is the subject matter of a new EP named Battle-Sight Zeroing that includes this song and five others.
I wasn’t familiar with what the song was named for, and found a few articles online. You can read the details here, but in a nutshell MAC-V SOG was an acronym for Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group. That might sound like a scholarly group of analysts, but it was instead “a top secret, joint unconventional warfare task force”, eventually consisting “primarily of personnel from the United States Army Special Forces, the United States Navy SEALs, the United States Air Force (USAF), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and elements of the United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance units”. In other words, warriors, and especially lethal ones at that.
One of MAC-V SOG‘s missions was to rescue prisoners of war held by the Viet Cong and their allies, and based on the lyrics of JBD‘s new song, that seems to be its focus — an attack by “a US murder squad” intent not only on a rescue but also devoted to inflicting terrible pain on the captors.
If it’s one thing that JBD are especially good at, it’s discharging massive firepower, but this song proves again that they’re equally good in bringing to the fore the frenzy and pain of armed combatants. The raw, ragged, howled vocals add to the song’s raw emotional intensity, which varies between hard-charging, eviscerating assaults and mid-paced episodes of gloom-shrouded agony.
The participants in this newest song were Anders Biazzi (guitars, bass), Gustav Myrin (guitars), Jon Rudin (drums), and Remco Kreft (vocals). Battle-Site Zeroing will be released in December by Into It Records on cassette tape, and digitally.
I discovered this Spanish black metal band last year, thanks to their EP Selenophile Impia, which left me moonstruck (as I wrote in a review here). I was very late to the party, because Quija released their first album in 1997 and a second one in 2013. From those dates you can deduce that Ouija don’t hurry things, and so their forthcoming third album comes nine years after the second one, though it follows fairly quickly on the heels of that fantastic 2021 EP.
As far as I can tell, the band haven’t yet announced the name of the album or a release date, but they have premiered one of the new songs along with a lyric video. The song’s name is “Fathomless Hysteros“. I was tempted to put it right after the one by Enslaved, because the dissonant writhing riffage that launches it is also unnerving.
The music becomes increasingly deranged — just like the wild, attention-seizing variations in the drumwork and the mad and malignant vocals. The fleet-fingered riffing creates swaths of sound that are both fiery and cold, frighteningly intense and wretchedly abysmal, and altogether hellish, just like the words.
The new album was recorded and mixed by Javi Felez at Moontower Studios and mastered by Magnus Andersson at Endarker Studio, Sweden.
Last year I tried to help spread the word about this New Hampshire crossover-thrash band’s debut album Let the Vultures Speak. Now there’s a second one on the way, named In Accordance with the Prophecy. The album’s first single, “Destroy 2000 Years of Culture“, is the song I’ve chosen to close out today’s too-short collection of new music.
It turns out to be a cover of a 1996 song by the digital hardcore outfit Atari Teenage Riot. As this project’s alter ego Auston Koll explains: “Lyrical themes are very much in line with GYAOS:DIABOLICAL, and as relevant today as they were in ’96, speaking to the chaos, conflict, and combustible nature of current society and the need to rethink the direction we are heading”.
After grotesquely distorted voices utter opening words, the song begins to batter and bounce, to gallop and jolt. It lights a torch under the listener’s pulse while inflicting a brutal, heavy-grooved beating, and the cacophony of screamed and snarled vocals are utterly unhinged in their fury. The song sometimes sounds like a racing riot in progress, but it’s also a bleak experience, as if to say that sometimes revenge really is a dish best served cold.
In Accordance with the Prophecy is set for release on January 13, 2023.