SHADES OF BLACK: GABESTOK, REVA, THY CATAFALQUE, DAUGHTERS OF SOPHIA
Gabestok (2019) – photo by Adriana Zak
Every week we receive what mathematicians used to call a metric shit ton of black metal submissions. Maybe it’s because we tend to spend more time than many other metal sites focusing on that ever-expanding genre, and maybe because we try not to limit ourselves to well-known bands with substantial label backing or PR apparatuses.
But as some people still don’t understand, there are very few of us here, and our NCS time comes after paying work, family and friends, and every other demand and distraction that everyone else deals with on a daily basis. So, lots of worthy submissions just don’t get attention in our pages.
From amongst the worthy, there’s truly a high degree of randomness in what we choose to write about, and even more so on days like today when my own NCS time has gotten further compressed by unexpected events (including the Third World quality of internet service on the island where I live).
Yeah, I hear you — “Shut Up and Get On With It, you could have covered one more song in the time it took you to write that pathetic introduction!” I hear you, so let’s get on with it:
It’s hard to know exactly what you’ll get with a new Gabestok album, but the intrigue is part of what has made their musical progression so interesting. Each record is a bit of a snapshot of time in the lives of this duo, and what happens to be catching their interest and fueling their moods.
Their latest manifestation is a 41-minute album called Med freden kommer hadet (which might mean “”With peace comes hate”), released on March 24th by Strange Aeons Records. As the label correctly explains, “As with each Gabestok release, this new work has its own sound and atmosphere, while still retaining that sweaty garage punk black metal flavour that has stuck from the band’s inception.”
There’s plenty of feral heat in the music, and it delivers the head-kick that comes from hooky, stripped-down chords and knee-slapping beats. But the vocals often furiously lash like acid-drenched barbed-wire whips, the tremolo’d riffing is capable of burrowing like frenzied army ants come upon a fallen body, and the drums periodically erupt in pummeling rampages.
Here and there, the band also bring in spooky keyboards and fuzzy psych and grunge riffs; skull-rattling drum fills and bouncing post-punk grooves; sinister, slithering guitar melodies and singing that’s both infernal and gothic (there are also some King Diamond falsetto screams in the hard rocking “Det du smager af”).
And so, the music is capable of being damned mean and mercilessly marauding, but also woozy and witchy, diabolically menacing and gleefully cavorting, and regardless of the mood and the stylistic ingredients, the songs have more hooks than a slaughterhouse. Moreover, the sound does have the immediacy and authenticity of a garage band who drank their money instead of spending it on a slick production.
It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that on this album Gabestok have pulled from musical interests that touch down across each of the last five decades, many of which aren’t metal at all. No two songs are quite alike, and all together they make for a hell of a romp, which makes these 41 minutes fly by.
(I nearly missed this album, overlooking a promo in our bulging email box, but thanks to a message from Miloš I finally caught up with it. Thanks again!)
True to our favoritism for the obscure that I mentioned in the pathetic introduction, the next track I picked out is “I’ve Never Been Here Before“, the head-spinning first single from the one-person Roman band Reva.
Part of what makes it so head-spinning is now many stylistic ingredients and mood changes Reva has adventurously worked into these nine minutes, but it’s like a completed jigsaw puzzle rather than the big mound of unconnected pieces you first see when opening the puzzle box.
You’ll encounter vicious goblin snarls but also wild yells and high-flown singing; swaths of scything, fuzzed-out riffage and frantically vibrating guitar-leads, but also soulful, seductive, sorrowful, and glorious arpeggios. The experience is devilish and dancing, grim and cruel, outraged and resilient. On top of all that, the bass work is fantastic, and just as stylistically variable as the guitars. Like everything else, the drumming changes constantly along with the shifting energies and moods.
As for the inspiration of the song, Reva explains: “I’ve never been here, tells of being alone in the center of a big city, the impenetrability of the metropolis, the sense of loneliness in the midst of thousands of people. The noise that covers our silence, the indifference of the masses towards the individual, depression, the passing of time…”
The song will appear on a debut EP named Far away from all this.
THY CATAFALQUE (Hungary)
At the outset I gave ourselves a little pat on the back for not limiting ourselves to bands with big labels and PR machines backing them. And an example of that was our early support for Thy Catafalque (early, as in beginning in 2011), long before they signed with Season of Mist. The fact that their notoriety has significantly increased since then doesn’t mean they’re now off our reservation. That would happen only if the music became uninteresting, and that hasn’t happened.
Thy Catafalgue have a new album named Alföld coming out in June, just two years after the previous one, Vadak. I would have been excited by the news anyway, but was even more excited when I read mastermind Tamás Kátai‘s preview:
“Alföld is the most straight forward and classic extreme metal album the project ever recorded. This time I just wanted to do metal without any innovation or progression, focusing on songs and riffs rather than experimenting and breaking new grounds. Had to let the old ideas out, so I did it with enjoyment. ‘Alföld’ means ‘The Great Plains,’ a massive flat part of South-East Hungary where I was born and raised and we shot the video for ‘Néma vermek’ in the middle of the barren lands, in Makó-Bogárzó.”
The first advance song from the album, “Néma vermek“, tends to bear this out. It arrived with a B&W video that features Kátai digging in a very gloomy moor, from a grey day into the night when the stars spin overhead. The music is heavy, jolting, devilish, and brutish, and Gábor Veres‘ mighty growls and scalding screams heighten its sinister intensity. But there are swaths of moody and frenzied melody along the way, and mysterious electronics that sometimes include theremin-like swirls and darting flickers.
The lyrics of the song are in Hungarian, and I can’t vouch for the accuracy of Google Translate’s rendering, but it includes this refrain:
On earth as in heaven
in the flow of infinity,
in the system of arteries
I will be lost, I will disappear
you can’t find me
Hand in hand, mud in the mud
in this iron world.
We will have more to say about the album in advance of its June 16th release by SoM. A review is in the works, courtesy of our friend Professor D. Grover the XIIIth, who’s been following the band even longer than I have.
DAUGHTERS OF SOPHIA (France)
I’m going to close with another album, this one named ソフィアの娘たち. It’s the third full-length by this solo atmospheric/post-black metal project, set for release on May 12th by ATMF‘s sub-label A Sad Sadness Song, but now streaming in full on Bandcamp.
The album’s concept is described as fitting into “the most intimate side of Japanese culture”, luring the listener into “the sad story of dissolution of dreams, expectations, hope, that perfectly represents the transformation of the will into a phantom.” Comparative references are also made to the works of Lantlos, An Autumn for Crippled Children, Svarti Loghin, Falaise, and Lascar.
The completely instrumental music is lavish and immersive, anchored by brilliantly trilling, swirling, and chiming guitar melodies whose glittering reverberations create moods of ravishing and stately splendor, but also melancholy, desperation, and grief. Dense swaths of panoramic synths provide the magnificent backdrop, but despite the vast blaze and brilliance of all these sounds, the vibrancy of the bass and the drums aren’t swallowed by them but become vital contributors to what makes the music so enthralling.
The music is so relentlessly expansive and engulfing, so luminous and dazzling (even when the moods are dark) that some listeners might tire of having their breath constantly taken away for an hour and 20 minutes. Yes, it’s very long, probably too long. What fights against the risk of feeling overwhelmed are the emotional power of the moods and the mood changes among and within the songs, not to mention the difficulty of turning away when you’re so close to a sonic supernova.