SHADES OF BLACK: XALPEN, KALMANKANTAJA, EXDESTRIER, PESTIS, DEKADENS
I read an article about sleep this morning, It reinforced the idea that I’m doing the right thing sleeping 8-10 hours a night on the weekends, a fairly recent development for me. It also helped explain why I have such vivid dreams in the last phase of sleeping right before waking up, even if they’re like ghosts that tend to vanish within minutes of waking. The article may be pay-walled, but you might find it interesting too (it’s here), or maybe you already know the details.
On the downside, sleeping late makes for a slow start on my weekend NCS posts, especially when I don’t get a head start on the selections the night before. Fortunately there’s someone out there who may have a different sleep cycle, in addition to being in a different time zone, and what he finished very late last night in his time zone was waiting for me in my in-box this morning.
Is it stealing for me to just copy/paste a few things from his collection right into this post to make up for my late start? If so, I confess to theft. At least I won’t pass it off as my own. But I do have a few of my own choices to lead the way in blackening the sabbath.
To begin I have the long, multi-faceted title song song from the forthcoming second album by these Chileans. Slow and staggering in its initial cadence, “The Curse of Kwányep” rings like wails of desolating grief and howls in stricken terms — and then convulses. The wild hammering drums, the roiling riffage, and the caustic snarls turn up the heat, but the mood is still despairing.
As you might expect from a long song, this one changes again and again, repeatedly falling back in its pace and rushing ahead, discharging fire-bright flickering leads and swaths of abrading chords, as well as nightmare interludes of heaving grandeur and ominous chanting, plus frenzied accelerations that reach epic heights of calamity and episodes that swagger and pulse with cruel intent.
Everything rings and reverberates, lending the experience an otherworldly atmosphere (in keeping with the occult lyrics), making all the changing dark moods even more frightening.
Another song from The Curse of Kwányep first surfaced about a month ago. “Moon-Woman” is also longer than average, though a minute shorter than the title track. Its own trilling harmonies are just as piercing and memorable, its heights of daunting and dire grandeur no less breathtaking, its hurtling rhythms no less viscerally compelling.
It too leads us on many head-spinning twists and turns, seeming to portray feverish feelings of anguish, confusion, and madness, but also defiant resilience. Unlike the title song, there’s no real relent in the full-throttle momentum or the blazing intensity of the music and the unhinged vocals. It strengthens the conviction that The Curse of Kwányep will be well worth seizing upon its March 24 release by Black Lodge Records.
The extraordinarily prolific Kalmankantaja just opened a stream of their first album for 2023, which follows quickly on the heels of the third full-length they released during 2022 (October’s Waiennut). This latest one is named Second Death.
Across six tracks it’s an excellent portrayal of the band’s emotionally raw expression of depressive black metal, which features ravaging vocal torment (simultaneously bestial and wretched, and persistently spine-tingling), heart-rending guitar melodies with a piercing ring, scathing rhythm-guitar riffs, and the kind of varied drumming that pounds, rumbles, and snaps with an organic tone (not fancy, but well-constructed to back up what else is happening, and varied enough to quicken the listener’s pulse while the music spreads despondency).
The moods in this new collection of mostly mid-paced songs all dwell in haunting realms where souls suffer, but that’s not to say they all sound the same – because suffering reveals itself in different shades. Sometimes the music comes across (with skipping beats) like beseeching hands extended in yearning, and sometimes those wailing melodies seem to grasp poignantly at remembrances of better days from a present day of bleakness, even though the anguish of death is never far away.
The band also bring in motifs reminiscent of dark post-punk or what some people now call “blackgaze”, as well as the freezing gloom of downcast black metal from distant decades. What remains a constant is an aptitude for writing melodies that mesmerize and get stuck in the head, even as they break hearts and pull the pieces into deepening darkness.
The album will be released in a 6-panel digipak CD edition coming out in March via Misantropia Records. I haven’t yet seen any pre-order links and don’t know whether there will also be a digital release.
(Thanks to Miloš for helping put this album on my radar screen.)
To give you a switch in the musical path, I chose a song called “To Glorious Oblivion” from this Edinburgh band’s debut EP of blackened sludge/doom, Glorious Barbarism.
This one is a heavy, heaving, hungry beast that becomes increasingly vicious and voracious, though the wild vocals are teeth-bared and ravenous from the first time you hear them. The song also administers a brutish pounding, accented by doses of screaming and woozy fretwork and bursts of boiling guitar savagery, and it further features a weird and wailing guitar solo that raises goosebumps on the flesh.
This musical beast also encounters a tar pit, and wades into it, dragging us behind, but using the opportunity to unfurl a wailing, narcotic melody and another attention-seizing solo that slithers and quivers like some infernal serpent made of gold. The way the band pick up that melody and carry it forward in a mass of tremolo’d vibrations makes for a fantastic finale. Glorious barbarism indeed….
Here’s what the band say about this song:
“‘To Glorious Oblivion‘ is a song which musically channels the sludge / punk crossover of Surrounded by Thieves-era High on Fire whilst taking inspiration from the progressive death metal arrangements of Blackwater Park-era Opeth. Lyrically, ‘To Glorious Oblivion‘ is about terrible warriors charging into certain death and exulting in the demise and the havoc they will wreak.”
The band’s lineup consists of:
Chris Smith – Bass and Vocals
Tommy Concrete (ex-THE EXPLOITED) – Guitar and Vocals
Didier Almouzni (ex-DRAGONFORCE, ex-RAZOR OF OCCAM) – Drums
Now the aforementioned stealing begins.
What I saw in my in-box this morning was the latest SubStack post by Rennie Resmini from starkweather, which arrived at 3:03 a.m. in my time zone, trailing his own East Coast zone by three hours. As usual, it was packed with musical recommendations rendered in evocative prose, along with song streams.
I quickly read it all while pouring coffee down my gullet, but haven’t yet listened to everything. From what I have heard, I decided to include two selections here, beginning with a three-song demo released earlier this month by Pestis from Kamloops, British Columbia. Here’s what Rennie wrote about it:
“From Canada comes Pestis with a rampaging style that could be considered Immolation gone war metal. Three songs each under 3 minutes and utilizing bending and trilled Vigna-informed riffs to Bolt Thrower mechanized efficiency. First song almost war metal intensity, second track a mid tempo stomp of Bolt Thrower/Asphyx proportions and the third a mix of the first two to clean your clock.”
I endorse those descriptions. This is fucking ruinous music, but absolutely exhilarating, and it gets stuck in the head like mallet-driven railroad spikes.
My second theft from the starkweather SubStack is the debut album released last week by the Polish band Dekadens. Here’s what Rennie wrote about it:
“Mommy’s alright, daddy’s alright… Dekadens just seem a little weird on Surrender. Being this depressive post black metal act is out of Poland being weird is almost a given. Not as out there as Gruzja or Biesy (transsatanizm, anyone) or some other Devoted Art Propaganda acts go, but, you get an atmosphere that can turn on a dime from dour Katatonia mope rock to black metal ferocity and post punk and back again.”
To add my own two cents: This one pulls no punches when it comes to ravishing emotional intensity, but as Rennie says, Dekadens channel their tapestry of bleak moods through a changing amalgam of sounds and styles. You’ll figure that out right away by listening to the explosive album opener and title track “Surrender“. It sets a big hook in the head, and the rest of the album just digs it deeper.
The Dekadens rhythm section slug damned hard, and the vocals are unnerving in their blood-spraying ferocity, but it’s the peal of the lead-guitar melodies, which ring and ripple like chimes and clarions, like glorious anthems of tragedy, that have created the most unforgettable impressions in my own listening. But make no mistake, Dekadens know how to cook your blood to a boil too (prime examples being “The Rumbling/All the Hate” and “Nothingness Personified“), and prove themselves adept at bringing in strains of depressive post-punk too (listen especially to “Emanation of Grief“).
Sadly, I saw a post by the band on their Facebook that reports, “Due to personal matters of some of the band members, we decided to suspend the band activity indefinitely (hopefully, not forever)”. I also hope it’s not forever.
Put your toxic elixir of love in me
That enticing mix of gangrene…and Pantene…?
O’ Moon Woman from Chile
Her bouquet cleaves my hardened…Shell. And fondles my muscled…oh, you get the point.
LOL. Yes, I think I get it. 🙂
It’s killer, that song .