SHADES OF BLACK: TULUS, LOTAN, ARNAUT PAVLE, ANARETA, NATTSJÄL, ANHAGUAMA
Tulus – photo by Morten Syreng
Well I slept late again today. But unlike yesterday it wasn’t really a luxury this time. Did some partying last night and didn’t succumb to sleep until after midnight, so the sleeping late was just an effort to be barely functional today, with not a lot of hours of rest to show for it. The day is now pretty far along, and there are NFL playoff games rapidly approaching, so I’ll have to cut back on some of my own words here and there (I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth).
Prepare for a very twisty and turny trip that sometimes stretches the limits of this column’s usual focus in unusual ways.
From 1993 through 1999 this Norwegian group released three demos and three full-length albums, after which Tulus became dormant. Two of its members (Sarke and Blodstrup) went on to form Khold and recorded six albums under that name from 2001 through 2014 (the last of which in that period was Til endes).
When Khold temporarily went on hold in 2006, Sarke and Blodstrup revived Tulus and released Biography Obscene in 2007, as well as Olm og bitter in 2012, even after Khold itself had been resurrected. They were joined in both Khold and Tulus by bassist Crowbel.
There now seems to be something of an alternation occurring between Khold and Tulus, because the latter released an album named Old Old Death in 2020 (I wrote about that one here), and then Khold released Svartsyn last year. And now Tulus have a new seventh full-length named Fandens kall that’s headed our way. “Snømyrke” is the second single, released late last week.
This new one rocks hard, thanks to head-hooking drumwork and grim riffing that slashes and slithers. There’s also a nimble bass in the mix, plus sinister serpentine leads and plenty of gritty snarls. My only complaint is that it ends too soon.
The new album will be released by Soulseller Records on February 17th. It includes guest appearances by Anders Hunstad (keyboards), Lars Erik Westby (piano), and Lena Fløitmoen (female vocals). The cover artwork was crafted by Kjell Åge Meland.
This Danish band, whose lineup shares members with Vanir, got off to an excellent start in 2021 with a pair of EPs, and I happily premiered songs from both of those. Now they have a debut self-titled album on the way, and in early December of last year and then again two days ago they’ve released two singles from the album, both of them with lyric videos.
The first one, “Ignis“, blazes in daunting grandeur yet feels forlorn and even anguished. The vocals are scorching, the drums bring the thunder, and the song manages to dig its talons under the skin despite how emotionally unsettling it is. There’s also a moody and mysterious digression near the middle that adds to the song’s allure.
The more recent one, “Ashera“, is another head-hooker, this time intertwining jolting and feverishly swarming riffs, maniacal drum blasting, and melodic elements that create a downtrodden and dismal mood. The vocals are again absolutely incinerating.
Regarding the subject matter of the second song, Lotan‘s vocalist Rubin explains: “‘Ashera‘ is a doomed but yet aggressively inspired melodic black metal song. Originally the mother, then wife of God, Ashera was banished entirely in 630 bc when her statues and sacrament were banished from the temples. In this song, her names represent the hope for a rise against the oppression of the female voices in religion. Burn the text that binds you and freedom you shall find!”
Lotan will be released by UPRISING! Records on March 31st.
ARNAUT PAVLE (Finland)
I really enjoyed the 2019 self-titled debut album by this Finnish band, who named themselves after a Serbian vampire, but I’m absolutely blown away by their follow-up EP Transilvanian Glare, which was co-released two days ago by Amor Fati Productions and Mystískaos.
I wish I had the time to write a few thousand words about it, but you wouldn’t put up with that anyway. So, here’s a shorter summing up: This whole EP, all 9 tracks of it, is absolutely glorious. It’s a treasure chest of rabid vocals, fantastic riffs of differing varieties (including thrash, speed metal, and grand old heavy metal), drum rhythms that both spit bullets and significantly borrow from punk, and piercing solos that very effectively transport us into strange and sinister other-worlds.
The band break up their wild bacchanal with “Final Descent”, a song that’s poisonous and agonized for its first half before igniting into sheer madness. They pull off a similar feat with the closer “On A Shrine of Rats”, but it becomes a thing of magical, spellbinding splendor rather than a madhouse race. But all these songs are dynamic in different ways, and they’ve all got hooks galore.
This next band from New Orleans includes members who perform violin, viola, and cello, in addition to conventional metal instruments, and four of the six members are women. They describe their music as “orchestral and cinematically intense metal led by a merciless string section fused with traditional metal instrumentation and anguished, howling vocals”. Their debut album Fear Not is set for release on April 8th.
The first single from the album, “Locality“, is in line with the quoted description. It’s a winning combination of melancholy chamber music that transforms into a slow and sort of devilish waltz, and then becomes even more infernal when the pace picks up. The drums snap and clatter, the strings catch a fever, the guitar swirls and darts, and maddened screams claw at the ears.
The band do revert to chamber music to lead us back into a crypt, and then build up again into witchiness, and it’s mesmerizing — and the song also ultimately becomes wild in its cavorting and spinning extravagance.
I didn’t recognize the name of this next band but after listening to the song “Höstmåne” I had to find out. With the help of a couple of e-mails lurking in our in-box and a bunch of internet hunting, I learned that Nattsjäl is a new project from two founding members of Månegarm, Jonas Almqvist and Pierre Vilhelmsson.
I also discovered that last year they released a debut EP named Under A Blood Red Sky, which included guest vocals by Thomas Vikström from Therion. I gave it a once-over this morning and really liked it. For a too-short summing up, I’d describe it as feral, swaggering, viciously head-hooking black metal full of sinister menace and barbaric intensity, but with some extravagant sky-high clean vocals by Vikström and bright fiddle melodies in the mix that sometimes give the songs an epic/folk feeling. I’ve included a stream of the EP below.
But to return to “Höstmåne“. It’s not at all what you might expect if you listened to Under A Blood Red Sky, but more like an ancient and mysterious Nordic folk song performed mainly with old acoustic instruments and sublime singing. It’s spellbinding, but the music also swells in power, taking the listener’s breath away.
I’m not sure who else may have performed with the two main members of Nattsjäl on this song, though Spotify also gives credits to Jens Jadelius Engelbrecht and Stina Jadelius Engelbrecht, in addition to those other two. I assume it’s Stina‘s magnificent voice we hear on “Höstmåne“.
Give this next EP a chance, because it’s more surprising than you might guess at first. Brutally abrasive lo-fi riffing, a heavy undulating bass, gut-punching drums, and grotesquely distorted sewer-dwelling vocals provide the raw, horrifying backbone of these blackened death metal songs, and all that could wear out its welcome.
BUT Anhaguama throw in some big head-hooking, head-hammering heavy-metal and speed-metal riffs; doses of evil lead-guitar melody; screaming solos; shrieking vocals; and enough variations in tempo and groove to help keep you attentive.
There are definitely times when the music becomes a destructive cacophony, and when the vocalists seem to be in an arms race to see who can sound the most hideously insane. But there are so many eye-popping surprises scattered throughout this war zone that I stayed in harness with it all the way through its nearly 18-minute run-time.
The name of the EP is Formula of Zos Vel Thanatos, and it was released last October but I only discovered it yesterday. Metal-Archives shows that the band released a debut EP in 2008 but then released nothing more until this EP last year and a 2022 split with the Brazilian band Murder Worship.
Just saying, The Ancient Order is one of those (probably) neo-nazi occultish rock bands with black metal vocals like Black Magic SS that have been popping up. Got an album on Darker Than Black: https://www.discogs.com/release/21199675-The-Ancient-Order-Absorbing-The-Forsaken-Knowledge-Of-Agartha
Fucking hell. The music didn’t make my spidey sense go off but I still spent time trying to find something about this band and never found that link. Soon as I get back to my computer I’m carving them out of this column.