Well goddamn it’s a new year. I hope this finds you alive and well, and not in a morgue, a jail, or a hospital ward as a result of whatever you did last night.
My only new year’s resolution is to keep breathing, though that’s not really a resolution because I have no control over it, the breathing or the ceasing to breathe. Que sera, sera. However, I do have a resolution to suggest that you adopt, which is to let no day go by without coming here to have your head rattled and ruined. (Maybe committing to engage in more acts of kindness and caring toward others wouldn’t be a bad idea either, and let some of the music do the hating for us.)
It’s a fitting coincidence that the first day of 2023 falls on a Sunday, allowing me to welcome the new year at NCS by beginning to char it to a crisp, building on whatever fires were started with gunpowder last night. Fitting, because one could argue there is no realistic hope that 2023 will be better than 2022. People will continue being shitty to each other, the Earth will continue taking revenge for the pomposity, the greed, and the negligence of humankind, and the temptation to just hunker down in a bunker for self-preservation will be strong.
On the other hand, some things will still make life worth living, even if the point of existence remains obscure, and one of those is the enjoyment of art in all its forms, even the kind of art that wants to turn the world black. Examples follow.
The artist who calls himself Noise is probably best known these days as the mastermind behind the brilliant Kanonenfieber, but he has another project named Leipa and on 1/13/23 Leipa will release its second album Reue. It is introduced this way, with a grim variation on some of the thoughts I left above:
You are the abyss you gaze into. Every fiber of your body resists certainty. Change just delays it. In the end you will be what you are.
Where should the paths lead when everything ends in blackness? Why are the last moments always the hardest?
Omnipresent and always there. Regret. (Reue)
Two tracks from Reue are now available for listening. The first of them has a date for its name — “01.09.2015“. What is the meaning of September 9, 2015? From the German lyrics it was a day of severe childhood trauma, one that took everything from the song’s narrator — “The love of life / The view for freedom / The will to strive”. Whoever did this “took the dreams / And gave me emptiness”, leaving only “A maelstrom of resentment / A hurricane of hate”.
The music is as wrenching as the words. Tortured shrieks intrude upon the soft, sorrowing musing of a guitar, leading to an eruption of heavy chords that heave in agony, feverish leads, tumultuous drumming, and scorching screams. The pain in the music is palpable, and becomes towering in its immensity. The riffing begins to writhe and swirl, broken briefly by a reprise of the opening arpeggio, but the music becomes a harrowing storm again, breathtaking in its panoramic sweep, only to spend itself in a final soul-stirring lament.
The title song, which doesn’t yet have lyrics that I can find, creates a stark contrast at first, casting a wistful spell. Abrasive guitars ring and a slow but powerful rhythm joins in, and following a reminder of the spell, the music’s intensity ignites. As in the preceding track, the scale becomes vast, with breathtaking waves of sound rolling over the listener like a storm-tossed sea of tragedy. The vocals tear at the throat, the drums hurtle, the shrill lead guitar convulses.
Near the end, a sublime, crystalline guitar melody returns, punctured by startling percussive blows, but a passage of haunting, grief-stricken grandeur also returns, and after one protracted scream of severe affliction, the spell leaves its final imprint.
These are two powerful signs that Reue will erect an emotionally devastating obsidian monument to begin the new year. It will be released, of course, by the Noisebringer label.
Yesterday I prepared a round-up of new music that reached its pinnacle in a recommendation from starkweather‘s Rennie, and for my next selection today I picked up on another one, a new album entitled All Stillborn Fires, Lick My Heart by the Austrian band Kringa, just released by Terratur Possessions. Rennie quickly gave the hint of this — “post-punked black metal most unnerving”.
Kringa‘s music here often overflows with visceral, feral power. The riffing comes in dense tides, coarse and caustic, driven by skull-cracking beats and a prominently throbbing bass, coupled with screams of throat-ruining fury. But as you’ll learn from the very first track, Kringa have a fine knack for switching things up, both quelling the riots and bringing in strange digressions.
In that opening track, “Across the Firmament, Stride!“, weird quavering instrumentation and ghastly and ghostly vocals intrude, soon joined by high seething chords, turning the music into a supernatural experience. (The guitar or keyboard effect brings to mind the wavering and throbbing motif in The Smiths‘ “How Soon Is Now?”) Things get wild again, punching the pulse and spinning the mind through an electrifying whirl, with vocals that give themselves over to high-flown cries.
If that first track takes you by the throat, as it did me, you’ll be happy to learn that the rest of the album is just as good. The post-punk beats and clarion-call guitars surface more prominently in “Gardens In Bloom“, along with a bass performance that takes center stage, but there Kringa again demonstrate that dynamic change is a key feature of their songwriting, exploding in violent spasms and bringing in vocals that made me think of African or Caribbean music.
That kind of thing — but not the same thing — happens over and over again. Kringa brawl and bruise, gouge and grate, with the best of them, but they have ingenious ways of repeatedly giving listeners’ heads swift spins all the way around, while giving your reptile brain a lot to feed on too, injecting punk beats and hammering grooves that are compulsive.
Every one of these songs is a carnival ride, bringing different tonal and emotional sensations and different vocal expressions around every fast turn, more richly textured and intricate than you might think, but with more hooks than a fanatic angler could assemble. Fucking brilliant.
Last sporing the post-black metal band Besna released an album named Zverstvá that I enjoyed quite a lot, but they obviously weren’t content to end the year without something more, and so in the last week they released a single named “Neha“, in memory of Juraj Vankulič and Matúš Horváth, two young gay men who were murdered outside a Bratislava bar on October 12th by a gunman who left a manifesto filled with extremist, far-right anti-semitic, homophobic, and transphobic statements.
“Neha” brightly rings and shimmers in mesmerizing fashion, and the beats bounce and punch in head-hooking fashion, but there’s no mistaking the passion in the screamed vocals or the anguish in the swaths of grim and galvanizing riffage. The rhythm section repeatedly threaten to steal the show, but the glittering brilliance of the guitars and the harrowing intensity of the agonized vocals are up to the task of maintaining parity.
With the sound of something like a bomb detonating, the song moves into a finale of earth-shaking and soul-shuddering power, where the feelings of loss and despair are wounding.
SONNEILLON (Portugal) / INFERNAL DIATRIBE (India)
I’ve intentionally tried to pack this first column of mine for 2023 with a lot of varied experiences (it’s called SHADES of black for a reason). And so to end it I’ve picked a split album called Tribulations of Total Demonic War, which features live and previously unreleased material by Portugal’s Sonneillon and Infernal Diatribe from the black metal hotbed of Kolkata, India.
There’s an Intro track that’s truly haunting and spellbinding, and the truth is that there’s something that’s also haunting about the first song of Sonneillon, “Sentimentos de uma Guerra“. It’s capable of onslaughts of madness and mayhem, but inescapable strands of gloom, grief, and abandonment flow through as well, even in the haughty growls and vicious screams.
Sonneillon‘s original songs are also dynamically crafted, displaying drum rhythms, bass permutations, and guitar machinations that change constantly, and the performers are clearly skilled technicians as well as fiendishly inventive songwriters. To be sure, the songs are geared to shove you out of your comfort zones, reaching heights of infernal mania that seem like violent seizures, but they’re just as likely to become hallucinatory and mind-warping in other ways.
Even their live cover of Mayhem‘s “Pagan Fears” is a trippy as well as a hellish experience, and the roughness of the sound doesn’t hurt at all, nor does it obscure the macabre malignancy of the vocals. Sonneillon‘s side also includes another live performance, an original hellscape-tandem named “Thy King & Feeding the Corpse” and a marauding and mind-mangling cover of Morbid Angel‘s “Rapture” that will threaten to blow the top of your head off. These songs are likely to leave you perhaps even more bone-broken, unnerved, and exhilarated.
(I should add that today Sonneillon released a new album (available here) named The Demon of Hate. I haven’t heard it yet, but I sure as hell will.)
Infernal Diatribe contribute four tracks on their side, and they make for good companions with Sonneillon‘s tribulations and tirades. The vocals are also terrorizing in their inhuman bestiality; the drumming is often off-the-hook; the atmosphere of convulsive derangement is intense; but the deleterious riffs also turn out to have staying power.
Infernal Diatribe also pull back on the full-bore incineration in the midst of “Morbid Evocation” to create a mood of psychedelic psychosis and heart-rending agony (and to let the bass shine). There, the guitar wails in a spine-tingling way that sounds like pure soul-affliction. And the opening of “The Vengeance of Garuda” is a dark mystical spell, before the music becomes a grim and grievous piece of exotic occult pageantry, capped by a thrilling solo.
The sound on “Demonic Gasping Mortal Nightmare” is rough, and it’s likely that one is a live recording too (the Bandcamp list doesn’t say so, but the track was previously released on the 2016 Videha Mukti EP, and we actually premiered it), yet the bass still comes vividly through, and the ringing swirl of the beseeching riffs comes through in that song as well, and affixes itself to the mind.
“Demonic Gasping Mortal Nightmare” is another song where the band shift the pace and the mood into one of gloom and regret, and “Tales of Lion’s Head” also segues into a grim march, though it’s severely oppressive in its mood even when more cylinders are firing.
Fittingly for such an unsettling split, the Outro track puts a chill on the spine with sounds of thunder, tormented wraiths, and spectral keys.
The split was released on December 16th by the Colombian label Masters of Kaos.