I hope this Sunday is treating you well. Or maybe you’re landing here on Monday… or Tuesday… or (heaven forfend) on Hump Day (what a lot of time those people have been wasting).
My Sunday is off to a slow start, thanks for asking. I had a riot of a Saturday night. Splattered on the couch with the cats, binge-watching a fantastic series I don’t need to name (it was Slow Horses) until way late. So I was late to rise and feeling very groggy. But there’s nothing like plunging into a lake of black and black-adjacent metal (sometimes only barely black-adjacent) to kick-start your heart. Here’s what I surfaced with today:
We’re going to ease into that black lake with “Annihilation“. It does feel like a slow descent beneath the surface, a gradual downward drift into freezing waters. But remember the song’s name. The boom of the percussion begins to sound more like detonations. The ambient swirls begin to sear and scream. The chord reverberations bray as if we’ve entered depths where a leviathan is in agony. Disembodied voices converse and shriek. We go lower still, where no light shines and we settle into ancient soils of death.
“Annihilation” is from Fvnerals‘ new album Let the Earth Be Silent, which was released on February 3rd by Prophecy Productions. I feel like I need to be in a very dark place, uninterrupted for the full run-time to experience the whole thing, and haven’t found that yet — but I will. (The cover art was created by Anton Novozhilov.)
(Thanks to Miloš for pointing me to this song and album.)
“Flesh and Steel” from Wallowing’s second sci-fi concept album Earth Reaper seemed like a good way to move forward from “Annihilation”, which is to say it’s apocalyptic.
It too sounds like megaton bombs dropping, but that happens immediately, while waves of radioactive abrasion spread out and acid-bath screams pierce through the devastation.
That’s just to soften you up for the convulsion to come, the onslaught of hammering drums and seething and screaming guitars. Back and forth it goes… the pace slows and the bombs explode bunkers again while the guitars ruthlessly heave and gouge at your guts and stick needles under your fingernails. Through it all, those vocals are a throat-shredding and ear-ruining effusion of pain and rage.
The animated video created by Hot Frog Animations is almost as scary and unnerving as the music. Earth Reaper will be on released on April 28th by Church Road Records. For some words about the band’s formidable first album, 2019’s Planet Loss, and to check out some of the music, go here.
(Thanks to starkweather for drawing my attention to this one.)
MORTE FRANCE (France)
After those last two generally slow-moving calamities, I though we should dial up the speed, and to do that I chose this next song, “Sainte Géhenne“.
The speed goes up immediately — drums pummeling, bass bubbling, guitars roiling in a wild fever, the vocalist howling like a cornered animal with a raw wound. It all sounds like madness, but as those piercing fevered guitars continue to rise and fall, writhe and cavort, you find the hooks in the madhouse harmonies, and they seem to channel confusion and anguish as well as glorious ecstasy. The inflamed vocals are spine-tingling throughout.
A thoroughly exhilarating and elaborate whirl, this song, and it’s from the band’s debut album Souveraineté Radiale, which will be released by the Antiq label on February 23rd. I reviewed their preceding release, the 2022 debut EP Sola Fide, here.
Next up is the first advance track from the debut album by this German black metal band. “Neptun I” is the song’s name.
The guitars glimmer and ring like celestial spheres, joined by big booming drums, and then the music expands in vast melancholy waves, just in time for barbed-wire vocals to rend flesh. The song builds in intensity, still sweeping in scope but more fiery in its transmission of anguish and agony, propelled to its crest by blasting drums and hurtling bass lines.
“Neptun I” gets the heart pounding, and it’s so stricken-sounding that it’s a heart-breaker too, even when the drums vanish and the immersive riffing continues swallowing you up in the lake of tears they’ve so elegantly and eloquently created.
The name of the album is Inter and it will be released by the Swedish label Silent Future Recordings (distributed by Nordvis) on March 10th.
The German project Skognatt released a new EP on January 27th named Of Mountains, Rivers And The Moon At Night. Here the sole creator DZ was joined by drummer Gerileme.
The titles of the three tracks go into the EP’s name. Of those three, the lyrics on “Mountains” are from the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and those on “Moon” were written by Percy Bysshe Shelley. All those lyrics are voiced in harsh and harrowing tones, scathing the senses.
“Mountains” quickly demonstrates the dynamism of Skognatt‘s songcraft, quickly moving from a mix of galloping drums, pulsating bass, and dire, roiling riffage to music that’s soft and elegant and then feral and jabbing. Ethereal overtones and a slithering guitar-lead add further variety, along with gentle picking and violin-like melody, which collectively create a mystical atmosphere. Altogether, the song spawns feelings of intrigue, wonder, and sorrow, but kicks at the listener’s pulse too.
“The River” and “Moon” are similarly multi-faceted songs, of many sensations and moods. “The River“, which has no words but packs a rocking groove, is lush, pastoral, and inspiring but also seems like a portrayal of loneliness and introspection, and it closes with in a resilient head-hooking riff.
And finally, “Moon” kicks up the intensity in a hurtling race. The snarling and howling vocals are back, and the music combines a grim, heavy pulse with star-bright sensations high above. Like the other songs, it digresses and mesmerizes with folk-influenced instrumentals, much like gazing at the wonders of the lunar orb somewhere far away from urban distractions. But the word also furnishes us the root of “lunacy”, and the song is also wild in its galloping and whirling segments.
And so we have an EP that’s poetic and beautiful, spellbinding and transportive, but also has its fair share of adrenaline for fuel and succeeds in firing up the reptile brain.
To close I’m finally commenting on an album I’ve been meaning to say something about for more than four months. And I guess I’m leaving the black lake almost entirely, with maybe just a few toes still dangling in the water.
The album is Causa Sui, the debut full-length by a band (released by Lifeforce Records) whose line-up includes members of Eryn Non Dae., Gorod, Psykup, Zubrowska, Dimitree, and Drawers. Those names along ought to kindle your interest, and the music is also extremely interesting — and not easily summed up.
The 8 songs all have one-word names, which provide a few clues to what’s coming in them. The opener “Fierce“, for example, is exactly what the name says. And that song is also your first big clue to just hoe wide-ranging the album’s musical ingredients are — which ultimately range from sludge and groove to post-metal and math-rock, with plenty of progressive and technical flourishes, and yes, a bit of black metal, which is all the reason I needed to include it today rather than let any more time pass before recommending it.
In fact, if you reflect on the music of the other bands that appear on this line-up’s resume you’ll have more good clues to what Causa Sui delivers. To call out just some of what makes the album such a gripping trip: The grooves in the music are of the megaton variety, real pavement-splitters and bone-breakers, with the kind of rhythmic punch that provokes reflexive movement. The melodies are head-hooking too, and are sometimes carried by singing voices, which trade places with vicious snarls, barbarous roars, wild cries, and teeth-bared screams.
And the music is repeatedly head-spinning. The band trigger wild fretwork explosions, many of them apparently intended to scramble brains or use ice-picks to root around in your ears, and they also frequently switch up the tempos and rhythmic patterns to keep listeners on their toes. The one thing they don’t do is back off. Even when the moods darken, they can’t help but keep the songs exhilarating.
By the time you reach “King” you may be experiencing heart palpitations from the virtually non-stop genre-whirligig of the music and the equally eye-popping instrumental talent that’s on display. “King” doesn’t really provide a break from the album’s torrent of twists and turns. In fact, it’s the longest track, anchored by a full-throttle blasting attack, but of course it follows a labyrinthine course, with doses of funk, groove, prog, noise-rock, and a lot more, around every corner. It flies very high but will slug you silly too.
There’s even an extended finale in which you get to listen to a profound spoken-word essay by Carl Sagan, and that’s no bad thing either.