Feb 122023

Obviously, I had time to pull together a lot of music for this Sunday’s column. I pushed at the usual boundaries by including bands that wouldn’t get a black metal label, but in different ways they’re close enough to blur the borders.

I ordered these seven offerings to create pendulum swings. One of them happens when you reach Lux Sine Lumine, and another happens at the end, with Lesath. In between those two are firestorms. I also thought the flow of the first three worked well, but you’ll be the judge of that.


RÄUM (Belgium)

Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions tell us that Räum was founded in Liege, Belgium during the first pandemic year, and perhaps they were influenced by those times. On the debut record’s Bandcamp page you’ll find this description of the music on these four tracks:

“It reveals the vacuity and the auto-destructive nature of the human soul, leading to an endless movement of rise and fall. Like a demon, it needs to burn our world to the ground to [be[ reborn again.”

That’s a very dismal world-view, and the title track to Cursed by the Crown does include bleak and desperate strands of clanging and swirling melody, and it also ignites in torrents of blasting drums, torrid screams, and viciously scything riffage with no holds barred.

Extra credit for the prominence given the big bass upheavals, the metronome smack of the snare, and the kick-drum punch, which provide grounding for all the burning guitar madness. Further extra for the poignant hopelessness in the lonely guitar strumming and gloomy gothic vocals that provide a haunting break in the intensity. The ending comes across like a funeral march with the coffins, and the anguish, held high.

Cursed by the Crown will be released by LADLO on March 3rd.




VITRAIL (Canada)

I paid attention to this Quebec band’s debut album Les Pages Oubliées in 2021. In its many swings between melancholy, mesmerizing moods and hard-charging onslaughts I found it thoroughly captivating. So I was interested to see that they released a new EP named Le mépris du monde on January 20th, and finally caught up with it.

As before, Vitrail are adept at interweaving many moods, sensations, and stylistic ingredients, of which black metal is only one of many. They create sharp contrasts as the music ebbs and flows, using soulful, crystalline melodies to create vibrant spells — and racing to the hunt in pulse-pounding fashion too.

The songs are elaborately constructed (which the clarity of the production makes evident), and those ebbs and flows are abundant, mediated by wide-ranging guitar tones and effects, a repeatedly scene-stealing bass performance, and well-constructed drum variations, and occasionally accented by switches in the vocals from crackling, acid-spewing shrieks to singing.

The music tugs at the heart-strings as it goes, and while it can cause the heart to fall in sorrow, it always seems to return to an overarching mood of bracing resilience and even joy.

For a second opinion about the record (also favorable), check out starkweather‘s commentary in a recent substack article. Among other things, he includes the astute observation that “there is a slight drift toward the style of Wayfarer or even Ryan Clackner’s blackened Americana oriented acts”.




THYSIA (Italy)

The PR materials for Thysia‘s debut album Islands in Cosmic Darkness punches lots of buttons. It informs us that the band members’ collective experience includes participation in Haemophagus, Messa, Undead Creep, Assumption, and Nox Interitus. It makes stylistic comparisons to Craft, Varathron, Mayhem, Celtic Frost, Tangorodrim, and early Rotting Christ. It suggests that the album will appeal to fans of Negative Plane, Malokarpatan, Cultes des Ghoules, and Funereal Presence. And thereby it creates very high expectations.

What we have so far is the album’s opening track, “Psallo“. Like the first two bands in today’s collection, Thysia make effective use of a very nimble bassist, and a drummer who can fly like the wind. The demon-possessed vocalist helps give the music a frightening aura, but probably the most exhilarating aspect of the song are the writhing riffs, whose ingenious harmonies are both ecstatically twisted and as cold and grim as a shallow grave.

The song swarms and spins the mind in myriad ways (most of them infernal), and it didn’t take long for it to infiltrate some kind of potentially dangerous addictive substance, because I’ve kept coming back to it for thrill after thrill.

Islands in Cosmic Darkness will be released by Chaos Records on April 7th.





Now for the first big swing of the pendulum I mentioned above. It takes the form of a track from the self-titled debut EP (at least I think it’s a debut) of Lux Sine Lumine, a solo project of location unknown (at least to me). I paid attention because it’s another release from The Centipede Abyss, which has already brought us (or soon will bring us) startling records by Vertebrae Flesh Totem, Zvylpwkua, and Ar’lyxkq’wr, and a split between Act of Entropy and Zebulon Kosted, all of it just since last November.

“Writhing sounds burrow through the infinite necropolis, charnel stars flicker their pale tentacles in these nameless spaces; vexatious spirals of monstrous cradles seep into the numerous graves, and there, beyond time, where the inconceivable oscillate… is the the place where… there is light without light”.

That’s the suggestive preview at Bandcamp, which accords with the meaning of the band’s Latin name. The first advance song, “TrES-2b“, on the other hand, isn’t without illumination, but the eerie pinging keyboard tones, the wailing radiations, and the crashing cymbal-like tones which manifest those lights are surrounded by dense tides of abrasion and the kind of cold, methodical pounding that will make you feel small and helpless.

To be sure, all those shrill and shivering sonic accents don’t exactly point the way to a warm hearth. Instead, they needle at your sanity, billowing into vertiginous alien cacophonies that are perfectly in keeping with the idea of charnel stars flickering their pale tentacles in a nameless extraterrestrial necropolis. This will disturb your sleep. You’re welcome.

The Centipede Abyss will release Lux Sine Lumine on March 16th. They recommend it FFO of Nadja, CHRCH, and Khanate.




ORDALIE (France)

The pendulum swings again now. I promised firestorms, and the first one comes from this Lovecraft-inspired French band whose lineup includes members of Aldaaron, including the blistering work of drummer Morkk.

I’ve found two songs from the album out in the world. The first one I encountered was “Destroyers“. Just the sound of drummer Morkk going inhumanly fast reminds me of the scene in Pulp Fiction where the dude plunges a syringe into Uma Thurman‘s heart. Yes, it will wake you the fuck up, but so will the twists and turns of the incendiary, high-toned riffing and vocalist Ioldar‘s scorching shrieks and leonine howls.

The band do create some dark and dreary breaks in the conflagration, including chant-like singing, and the song is all the better for those divergences. Morkk also adds in some fills that are electrifying in different ways, though he’s quite capable of just keeping time. This is also another song in today’s collection where the bassist gets moments to shine. All in all, it’s an intense but melodically memorable song.

I’ve also included a stream of the second song, “Projection“, which briefly opens the album in void-faring, blood-congealing fashion (reminiscent of that Lux Sine Lumine noise above).

The name of the new Ordalies album is Mass of Perdition, to be released by Paragon Records (CD/Digital) on March 17th.




KAIVS (Italy)

Kaivs recounts that the band was formed by its singer on the precise date of June 19th, 2022, inspired by the early ’90s Stockholm sound of such bands as Entombed, Nihilist, Dismember, and Carnage. But the title song from their debut EP Horrend hits me in a slightly different way from those influences (i.e., it’s more “blackened”).

Horrend” is a full-on assault that never really relents, a maniacal scourge of dense, distorted, and devouring guitars; neck-snapping snare-grooves; hideous screams; and gargantuan growls that have no mercy in them. The mauling force is crushing, augmented by lead-weighted bass lines and broken up by some pavement-cracking pile-driver blows. The song eventually does slow at the end, just in time to vent a whisp of eerie astral ambience.

There are two more songs on the EP, “Krushing All Altars” and “Sepulchrist“. I haven’t found streams of them anywhere, but Kaivs were kind enough to let me listen. Both of them again make use of ravenous tremolo’d riffing, mountainous bass lines, monstrous vocal barks and howls, and measured drumming that will smack your skull damned hard.

Krushing All Altars” sounds grimly oppressive and agonizingly hopeless, but also segues into a punkish, head-jolting crushfest.

Sepulchrist” is a crusher, too, like a gigantic radioactive excavation machine at work in a granite quarry, under the control of a demon horde. Once again, you can hear the bass gnawing through rock, the riffing channels frenzied lunacy as well as punishing imperiousness, and the groove-some vocals are as horrifying and as spine-tingling as before, though still enunciating the ghastly words very clearly.

In a nutshell, these three songs prove that Kaivs are worth keeping a close eye on.

Kaivs say that the Horrend EP is the forerunner of an album entitled After The Flesh, which they expect to be ready for release sometime this coming summer. I don’t yet know how Kaivs intend to distribute the Horrend EP, but they’ll probably reveal that at the locations linked below. The cover art is the work of the great Juanjo Castellano.





Thanks to a Bandcamp alert I discovered that Invictus Productions just launched a stream of the title track to a new EP named Merciless Storm by the Finnish band Malicious. It follows up their 2020 debut album Deranged Hexes, which I summed up back then as “a wild, swirling, fret-leaping, stylistically morphing extravaganza”.

Well, with a band named Malicious and an EP named Merciless Storm, you don’t go in expecting mood music, unless the mood you’re after is a killing spree. And sure enough, the title song quickly surges into a mad gallop, with guitars writhing and swirling in a lunatic frenzy, and the larynx-rupturing vocals too rabid to be treated with modern medicine.

But, this being Malicious, the band do shift things up frequently, varying the tempos, rhythms, and the different ways in which riffing can sound demented — but finding a zenith of delirium when a crazed solo spurts from its hiding place. One more time today, let’s also ask the bassist to take a bow for vividly keeping pace with all the other adrenaline-fueled escapades of the rest of the band.

Malicious is set for release on April 7th.




LESATH (India)

We reach the end, with one last swing of the pendulum today.

This final song is the title track to a new Lesath album named There is a profound sense in which we are isolated. You can guess from the name alone that the music will be downcast, and much of the time it is. But the song’s heartbreaking moods are rendered in rolling and ringing waves of vast splendor, backed by another vivid bass performance and bounding beats. There’s also heart-felt singing in this song that brings to mind gloomy post-punk, sounding just as crestfallen as the immersive cycle of those majestic blackgaze chords.

I found it easy to sink into this song and be carried along by it, right up to the end, where the music becomes significantly more distressing and wretched rasping screams can be heard. As has been true of other music made by this creator (who is also the person behind Raat), it manages to swell the heart at the same time as it’s breaking it – until the end, when everything falls apart.

The new album will be released via Bandcamp on February 17th.


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