SHADES OF BLACK: MORIBUND MANTRAS, DACCAR-TCHUV’S CAVE, PINCER CONSORTIUM, NON SERVIAM, ALTAI-SAYAN
Humans continue sending cameras into the deepest waters on Earth and continue seeing strange creatures that live there. If those creatures have minds, they may be thinking we should mind our own goddamned business, especially the two snailfish that were physically caught in the Izu-Ogasawara Trench last September at a depth of 8.022 meters (just under five miles below sea level). Even the snailfish that were only videoed at a depth of 8,336 meters, making them the deepest fish ever captured on film, might have felt annoyed. (The film was released earlier this month, reported here.)
But the snailfish aren’t the deepest sea creatures discovered so far. There’s an octopus that’s been found at an estimated 9,800 meters below sea level in the Marianas Trench. And the deepest part of the Marianas Trench measured so far (the deepest surveyed point of all the Earth’s oceans) is 10,971 meters (6.817 miles) below the water’s surface. There’s probably life down there too — we just don’t yet have the technology to go look.
Why the hell am I sharing this info here? It’s because I’ve been thinking about the allure of oddities (for want of a better term). Life-forms found at depths once thought unsurvivable bear resemblances to creatures that dwell far closer to the surface, but their appearance has been twisted in unusual and often frightening ways as they adapted through evolution in their epochal descents. Their strange fascinations lead us to keep searching for them, and to attempt to comprehend how they have survived.
Some (but not all) of today’s music bears resemblances to more familiar forms of black and blackened metal, but it is also twisted into unusual and sometimes frightening shapes. Searching for such oddities is one of our pastimes, because the results can be fascinating. (The risk of operating in a blog where there’s no one telling you what to do is that it permits strained analogies that consume a lot of space.)
MORIBUND MANTRAS (Germany)
Well, of course I had to begin with an EP named …Of Fathomless Depths, especially because the first full song (following the intro track’s bathyspheric descent through glittering phosphorescence) has one of the most electrifying beginnings I’ve heard in weeks.
The riotous drumming in the opening phase of “Sinking-Floating” seizes attention while the sensurround sonic radiations that envelop it simultaneously create an atmosphere of danger and wonder. The low end also gives the music the weight of fathoms.
The oddities begin to emerge in the vocals, which are something like gritty, disorienting wails of utmost torment, “scream[ing] the pressure of human existence (I borrowed that last point from the label’s description). The music heaves and groans, quivers and shivers in brilliant tones, and pounds with megaton force. It seems that something gigantic and monstrous is down here with us, and it’s we that are tiny and frail.
Okay, it’s obvious that post-metal and doom are more significant ingredients in the music than black metal, but again, I couldn’t resist. And speaking of doom, that influence really comes through both in the singing that emerges in the follow-on song “The Shimmering Darkness“, and in that song’s atmosphere of oppressive gloom and fracturing despair. Even there, however, the drumming is terrific, and the guitars ring like bereaved chimes and stricken sirens.
There’s a brief and mysterious “Interlude” where you can envision translucent creatures coming into view, and then the mammoth closer “Shore of Knowledge” wraps up the excursion in a harrowing blend of musical cataclysm (featuring another lights-out performance by drummer J, along with those excruciatingly tortured vocals), agony, dementia, fear, and unearthly eeriness. Of course, the song is a crusher too.
…Of Fathomless Depths was released by Argento Records on April 14th.
DACCAR-TCHUV’S CAVE (?)
Now let’s get to something far stranger, a song called “disobedience” from the third release by Daccar-Tchuv’s Cave; Metal-Archives says they are from Canada, but they say they are not.
The drum patters along and the bass intriguingly murmurs, and around them the music abrasively whines and eerily rings. The drums vanish, the dense, distorted riffing becomes more heated and cacophonous, and a voice vents scarring screams and imperious yet strangled snarls. Dismal tones rise and sway as if on narcotics.
The song has the hallmarks of raw black metal, but is more disconcertingly weird than usual for that sub-genre, and as if to re-emphasize the point, celestial choirs bring hallowed tones above distant strings at the end.
The name of the new release is Cold Disobedience. I presume it will eventually be made available at the Bandcamp page linked below.
PINCER CONSORTIUM (UK)
If you haven’t yet discovered the strange and slaughtering wonders of Pincer Consortium despite me discharging great torrents of words about this Belfast duo’s first two singles beginning last November, now you’ll have another chance because today they’re released another single — “Tandemic Dispersal“.
As before, the new song is accompanied at Bandcamp by a gigantic block of chilling text — open to interpretation, but seemingly a dialogue conducted by enormous powers far out in the cosmos, a dialogue that describes stellar death on an unimaginable scale, but from which something devious survives to torment whatever has lost its immortality. But as I say, these extravagant words are open to interpretation. Reading and trying to decipher them has turned out to be half the fun of every Pincer Consortium release.
The other half is the fun of being left obliterated and bamboozled by the music, and “Tandemic Dispersal” might be the best yet. At the outset it combines eerie astral waves and physically convulsive drum progressions, haughty gurgling growls that abusively enunciate the massive text, and weirdly roiling guitars, all of it anchored by lead-weighted bass undulations.
The song builds toward searing sonic storms that abrade the mind with their feverish fieriness, and those searing tones also begin to sound like massed wails of pain. Big booming bass grooves and clobbering percussion provide visceral strength, but the drums eventually explode in a blasting fury and everything around them becomes a convulsion of darting and swarming frenzy, blaring and blurting madness, and voracious violence.
This song, along with the two previous singles, will be included on a forthcoming album named Geminus Schism. The band say this is the last single, so maybe we won’t have to wait much longer for the album release (I say greedily).
NON SERVIAM (France)
Now I turn to another band that have a freewheeling approach to genre-splicing (so much so that Metal-Archives won’t give them the time of day), and use their inventions to send infuriated messages.
They say this about the message of their newest song, “Prends Moi Dans Tes Bras“, which was released with a freaked-out video just a few days ago: “This song is dedicated to all the bodies that refuse, to women who fight back against their abusers, to trans folks who will not allow themselves to be intimidated by normative terror. Hug each other and embrace refusal: non serviam.”
For the people who come to this column for black metal, the song does include horrifyingly vicious vocals, which maniacally come for the throat, and abrasive assaults of scathing riffage. But it also includes bouncing industrial grooves, ginormous detonations, shrill sonic aberrations that sear the flesh, weirdly undulating tones, pinging electronics, and cacophonies of yells and screams.
The song is taken from a new Non Serviam album named Death Ataraxia, which is set for release on June 2nd by Trepanation Recordings. It features a guest appearance from Colin Marston (Krallice, Gorguts, Behold the Arctopus). It’s available for pre-order at Bandcamp, where you can also listen to another advance song, “Mortrien“.
I’ll also mention that earlier this month Non Serviam released a split with Biollante to raise money for the benefit of their friend Serge, whom they report was left in a coma after being hit in the head by an explosive grenade during a demonstration in late March against a massive water reserve project in Sainte-Soline. Hundreds of other protesters were also injured. That split is available here.
Well, this is another band of location unknown to me.
The Font of All Human Knowledge tells us here that “[t]he Altai-Sayan region is an area of Inner Asia proximate to the Altai Mountains and the Sayan Mountains, near to where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan come together”, but I don’t know if the name points to an exotic place where the band is located. I do know that the music on the project’s new album Sängke-Tūrem Najt Mut-Moräh sounds exotic, and glorious.
Four of the six tracks are long, three of them very long, and Altai-Sayan uses the time, and repeating motifs, to create heart-pounding spells. The longest ones combine overpowering cinematic synths and guitars that vibrate in brilliance to create vast soundscapes above almost relentlessly pumping beats, and the melodies do conjure images of towering mountains and expansive deserts, where small pockets of people humbly survive and perhaps commune with spirits in ways unknown to those of us who dwell in “civilization”. Only occasionally do ugly garroted growls intrude.
As I’ve suggested, it’s not all a portrayal of spectacle. Along with more rambunctious drumming, “Your Cities Will Burn” descends deeply into sorrow, which knows no geographic boundaries (though even there the music is breathtaking in its sweep), and the title song is damned grim, even oppressively so (though the glittering guitar work — though it may be a different instrument — pierces through in moments of eye-popping wonder, like a djinn emerging from a mirage).
On the other hand, the simple keyboard motif at the outset of “Nax-Matängat“, which sounds almost like an accordion backed by a church organ, creates moodier moments — until the music explodes again, like a tornado of fire descending into an avalanche. There, the electrifying gleam of the frantic arpeggios sounds almost like a blazing violin rather than a guitar (hell, maybe it is!).
The shorter tracks consist of a shimmering ambient interlude that heightens the mystical atmosphere (though horses gallop in there too, and maybe someone is chanting and strumming beneath the arc of the stars) and a completely unexpected outro track, which sounds like a chamber music string ensemble… joined by hyper-fast electro beats and dancing Casio-like keyboards.
(Thanks to Miloš for pointing me to this album.)
Oh, very cool. That weird fish at 8000 meters. Deep sea creatures are awesome. And a weird and wonderful collection of black metal strangeness to go along with it.