(In a seasonal mood, our friend Neill Jameson (Krieg) has brought us and you a playlist of varied dark music for these chilly days in the northern half of the globe.)
We’re halfway through winter here in the northern hemisphere and, as is tradition by some of the louder dunces on the internet, people are already proclaiming their albums of the year. And while I could spend another few hundred words decrying the shortsightedness of this instant gratification culture we’ve fostered, that would only serve to give Metal Twitter™ more reason to warble on and on about my merits as a human being, which would take away from their time trying to figure out which band you like once shared an elevator ride with someone wearing a Goatmoon shirt.
As I’ve traditionally been a shut-in most of my life, I’ve spent a lot of evenings this winter reading, drinking tea and listening to music to find new projects to admire. I wrote that to sound more sophisticated than it actually plays out in an effort to make you like me. In actuality I’m just old and this is my idea of a wild night now.
Anyway I’ve discovered a lot of interesting and dark music, mostly through the excellent Rites of Pestilence YouYube channel, most of which was unfamiliar to me, and started making a list of what I’ve really gotten something out of. Here’s that list.
I think a lot of what I enjoy in dungeon synth is the artist’s ability to craft a visual story out of sound without going overboard on the instrumentation which can cause it to become distractingly busy. Torchlight is one of those projects that manage to put visions in my head and stay musically captivating. I’ve picked In A Foreign Village as representation for the project but any recording from his discography would do fine. Sullen and dulcet. it really evokes the feeling of a remote town in the dead of a winter’s night.
Herrgottsblick is related to Brånd I think, but I could be wrong. I’m sure a quick Google search would sort this out but who has time for actual journalism these days? Regardless, this project crafts exquisite dungeon synth that is reminiscent of Vond but mostly makes me think of Kafka’s “The Castle” for some reason. I’ve spent the most time with the second demo, VI-XI but linked the most recent one as a good starting point. All three demos are excellent examples of the mind’s solitary soundscape and really worth spending time with.
My experiences with Absolute Key before this recording were mostly out of curiosity as it’s Antti from Circle of Ouroborus’ most caustic and experimental child but it mostly ended there. One evening recently, during my ritual of tea and reading, I decided to smoke a little to help me unwind. I generally wouldn’t mention this, mostly because I think talking about cannabis is fucking boring, but it caused me to put this on in the background, which evolved into the foreground as I put my book down and concentrated on what I was hearing.
The Third Level of Decay is the very definition of a challenging listen; swirling electronics, ritualistic chanting, noise devoid of music yet somehow a rhythmic movement all its own, enhanced by the environment I had set for myself. I’ve since listened to it again (and again, and again) without the corresponding drug use, and found that it really is an experience all on its own. Not easy listening, to be sure, but the payoff for taking this journey is immense.
I wrote about the three Anonymous Skull demos from last year in my various wrap-ups of 2022 but I wasn’t expecting a full-length to appear as quickly as Oh To Be Forgotten emerged. This is closer to the Cursing the Crimson Fog cassette than the other two demos, approaching something that could be considered “traditional” (in the loosest sense of the word) black metal, albeit taken to its furthest extreme. There are also a few instrumentals akin to the Cavernous Day, Cavernous Night demo that continue the haunting atmosphere that envelopes this project. Bizarre and truly pitch black, Anonymous Skull is truly a practitioner of genuine and terrifying outsider black metal.
I went into Heraldic Scourge Anthem completely blind, solely based on thinking the cover was great and knowing the general quality of Legion Blotan’s releases. Ruin Trajectory is a stomping black/punk project of the gentleman behind Wapentake and expresses a much more malicious side musically than his main outlet, a cruel mixture of later Rudimentary Peni and the earlier Korpsand band’s material. All of this project’s releases (and Wapentake as well) are worth your time but I’ve especially become fond of Heraldic Scourge Anthem and tend to listen to it a few times a week.
I thought I’d soured on a lot of new primitive war/bestial/whatever black metal since VON™® Holdings LLC (patent pending) left a foul taste (and receipt) in my mouth. That was until I heard Púca’s self-titled demo. Bringing to mind the Ildjarn/Nidhogg black metal collaboration fronted by Goat with primitive yet fucking anthemic guitar work, this is the newest project of Lord Bill (Blood Tower, Moonworshipper Records, a fucking lot of other projects) and it just might be the best recording in this style I’ve heard in at least a decade or two. Infectious, singular in purpose, and absolutely barbaric.
There was a moment where the anarcho-punk vanguard began experimenting with industrial elements. You heard it in Cress and in the post-Deviated Instinct project Spine Wrench amongst others, which then evolved into bands like And Christ Wept which were more machine than man, to use a cliché. I bring this up because these are references I hear when I listen to Inanimate; industrial/noise tinged, anarcho-punk injected harsh black metal. Bone Awl meets SPK, b meets (old) Godflesh, etc. There is a sincere fury and venom at which everything is delivered within the music of Inanimate that just cannot be faked.
I had clicked on this because both the name and the art made me think it would be some kind of hard black metal/punk hybrid, the kind that seems to be dominating my playlists lately. I was surprised to be greeted with a quiet, sullen organ sounding as though it was coming through the floorboards of an abandoned abbey somewhere. As it turned out, Agonize is a dark ambient project composed mostly of organ and reverb-drenched piano.
Minimalist, isolationist and eldritch, Agonize’s self-titled demo is a journey of loneliness and ghostly mourning and is simply fucking fantastic. I’ve listened to this daily since hearing it and really hope that both someone is smart enough to do a physical release and that the project continues. Beautiful.
This is just a sliver of the things I’ve been discovering lately and though I’m not sure when the mood will strike me (or the motivation to find new music will end) I might be back to shine a little light on them. As always please consider supporting the artists directly; I’ve added links to each of their (or their labels) Bandcamp pages. Enjoy the rest of your winter, stay warm, don’t waste your time bitching on Twitter. Til the next time.