(Andy Synn continues his busy week of reviews with three excellent examples of black musical magic)
With so many different styles and sub-genres of Metal out there (don’t ever let anyone tell you “it all sounds the same”) it’s perhaps understandable that I, like many of you I’m sure, go through different phases of listening to certain sounds more than others.
In that spirit then, allow me to introduce you to three albums which have, in recent weeks, played a major role in getting me back into a Black Metal mode.
HORDA – FORM
Erroneously tagged by some as “Blackened Death Metal”, Poland’s Horda see themselves more as a Black Metal band with an additional Death Metal twist.
It’s a small distinction, maybe, but it’s one the band are keen to make and one which I find generally holds true on their second album, Form, which blasted its way into my ears last week and still has them ringing.
Largely forgoing the more martial-sounding rhythmic muscle of the Blackened Death Metal big-hitters (though they’re not afraid of a bit of neck-wrecking chug now and then) in favour of a more lithe and lethal approach (think a more sinuous Belphegor or a more sinewy Svart Crown), the group’s use of writhing, razor-wire tremolo riffs and impressively intense, yet intricate drum-work (reminiscent of both latter-day 1349 and Impiety in its ability to organically shift tempos and moods as the music requires) makes for a captivating listening experience throughout, whether you’re a Black Metal neophyte or a long-time disciple.
But what really made this record stand out to me, in a sea of similarly blasphemous bands, is Horda‘s intuitive grasp of flow and dynamic, from the willingness to explore the doomier side of their sound during “Ceremony”, or juxtaposition of almost blinding intensity with moments of mournful introspection in “Oneirataxia”, to the hyper-speed melodic malevolence (and slithering bass-lines) of “Worthless”.
It all culminates in the extravagant eight-minute “Ścierwo Rodzaju”, which continues to show off both the band’s ambitiously melodic proclivities (seriously, there are some fantastically evil, ear-worm lead parts scattered across the entire album) and their ability to ramp things up to breathtaking levels of speed and aggression, while combining it with an even more epic style of songwriting that ends the album on one hell of a high note.
RÄUM – CURSED BY THE CROWN
Black Metal… Post-Black Metal… Atmospheric Black Metal… call them what you will, Belgium’s RÄUM still sound pretty damn great to my ears, with every second on their debut album positively drenched in pure passion and raw emotion.
From the veritable deluge of blastbeats and searing vocals that is opener “Andromeda” through to the final fading note of the massive, eerily melodic closing cut “Beyond the Black Shades of the Sun” (which recalls, in the best possible way, the desolating assault upon the senses of long-time NCS favourites Feral Light) the group throw everything they have at every single track, packing each of the album’s four songs with as much venom and vitality as they possibly can.
Much like Horda above, I’m not claiming that RÄUM are going to completely change the world of Black Metal (not yet, anyway) but they have certainly planted their flag firmly in fertile soil, drawing worthy and laudable comparisons to some of the current scene’s best and brightest (the tumultuous title-track, for example, possessing strong echoes of both Vanum‘s elemental and Ash Borer‘s mournful atmosphere) along the way.
By mixing both traditional elements and more modernised embellishments, RÄUM have definitely set themselves up for a bright (or dark) future here, and while Cursed by the Crown may not end up at the top of many “end of the year” lists (though it’ll definitely at least make an appearance on one or two, I’m sure) it certainly marks the Belgian band as “ones to watch” in the years to come.
And you heard it here first.
TRESPASSER – ἈΠΟΚΆΛΥΨΙΣ
Last, but by no means least, Trespasser‘s second album has quickly become one of my favourite Black Metal albums… hell, one of my favourite albums, full stop… of the year so far.
Fuelled by anarchist ideology (specifically inspired by David Graber’s work on the role of debt, as enforced by state and religious institutions) and a raging sense of revolutionary fervor, every single song – from the triumphant call to arms that is furious opener “Forward Into the Light!”, all the way (via the puissant, polemical strains of “Holókauston…”) through to the punishing prayer for collapse that is cataclysmic closer “The Great Debt-Strike II: יובל :01” – practically crackles with compelling, cathartic, confrontational energy.
Much like their Swiss siblings in Gravpel (check them out here), Trespasser take the fundamental building blocks of Black Metal and repurpose them for a new age of conflict – but whereas the former band’s sound positioned them as a more abrasive, Anarcho-Punk take on classic Gorgoroth, Trespasser instead remind me of a more mutinously melodic Marduk… albeit, one more interested in class war than world war.
But it’s more than just another tribute to their predecessors and progenitors, that’s for sure.
Whether it’s the vicious, vehement vocals – whose fervent delivery and knack for humongous, chant-able hooks (“Burn the records of the creditor!”) make them an instant highlight – the ferocious, fleet-fingered riffage (accentuated throughout with some thrillingly infectious lead guitar melodies), or the slippery, shape-shifting drums, this is the sort of album that’s worth appreciating on both an inspiringly cerebral and purely primal level, the sort of record that goes right for your gut and then works its way up your spinal chord to take up permanent residence in your brain… whether you want it to or not.