SHADES OF BLACK: DIONE, IDOLOS, THE ARCANE ORDER, DÉMONOS
I probably went way overboard with yesterday’s 11-band roundup of new songs and videos. I could have done the same today, but decided to show a little restraint. There’s still a lot of music to be found below, with two complete EPs as well as two advance songs from forthcoming albums.
I’m also happy with the way this came together, because in very different ways (some more adventurous than others) all the music is head-spinning.
The debut EP of the solo black metal project Dione seemed to appear out of nowhere when it was released yesterday. No previous releases under that name, though M-A does point to its creator’s previous involvement in a few other projects (which themselves don’t have many releases to their credit). This just makes the appeal of the four songs on Cosmosphere even more startling.
It’s tempting to say that the music occupies a crossroads in Hell, where the throughways to different infernal regions all connect.
“Moon” opens, with a vicious storm of crazed drumwork, guitars that peal like cracked bells rung by tortured creatures, magma-like bass, and harrowing roars and screams. It’s an odd and eerie cavalcade of sensations, which further include channel-shifting guitar frenzies, metronomic beats, and windy whispering ambience. Who knows what the denizens of this region did to deserve the depredations being inflicted upon their minds and flesh? “Moon” may be the name, but here it seems to signify lunacy, created by pain.
In “Cosmological Fractals” you get belligerent growls, whining and blaring riffs that are authentically sinister, and rushing drive-trains of hurtling drums. But you’ll also encounter strange pinging reverberations, shrill discordant fretwork outbursts, drum maneuvers that sound both berserk and stumbling, and lead guitars that frantically quiver like maggots on fire. As in the opening song, there are recurring motifs that hold this one together, but in the main this is the pathway into Hell’s asylum for unmedicated schizophrenia.
It becomes clear by the time we reach “From Obliteration to Macrocosm” that dementia is at the center of these crossroads. In this song the agony sears and the drums thunder from the outset, but of course the music begins to twist, with guitars queasily ringing above bursts of percussive obliteration. You might imagine some monstrous tyrant whipping its servants to race around in terror.
But in the middle, the music dramatically changes. The bass murmurs, the beats stagger, and the guitars seem to cry out, beseeching. Those sounds of extreme grief and longing persist when the drums return to pound, to spit bullets, and to explode like bombs, and the vocals scream the throat into ruins. Perhaps here is where souls come to re-live every heart-breaking loss they suffered in the world above, endlessly.
At the last, we come to “Resonance Above the Unknown“. Like everything else, it has its twists and turns, and no comfort is to be found. At first it feels like a funeral procession, where the participants (manifested by the guitars) utter piercing wails in stricken tones, even as the drums churn out militaristic tattoos and tumble like acrobats. There’s a beseeching quality to the arpeggios in this phase of the song as well.
When the twist comes, the chiming wail of the guitars becomes more frantic and desperate above a rhythm that thumps like steady pistons. No vocals in this one, just the repeating reverberation of afflicted melody. It seems like a continuation of the penultimate song, but perhaps even more haunting — like a place where Hell has been hollowed out, a barren place with no horizon, no way back and no way forward.
My conception of the EP as a crossroads in Hell is just a descriptive technique spawned in my head by the music, and probably not the conception of Dione, judging from the song titles. But whatever the conception, this masterful EP is as relentlessly fascinating as it is relentless unnerving. Kudos are also deserved for the production strategy — the clarity of this music is unusual for black metal, but vital to what this music accomplishes.
Next I’d like to recommend the new Idolos EP, Ajchikaj, the enchanting and innervating final part of the band’s “cosmic journey from Venus to Xibalba”, which began with Ahi Cab (reviewed here) and continued in Náa (partially reviewed here).
In the EP’s spacey, synth-riding “Prolog” a woman speaks in Spanish, joined by head-nodding beats, a proggy bass, and big crashing chords. After that mysterious and momentous opening, the band launch into “Faces Revealed“, which quickly creates a feeling of tension before keyboards maneuver in inviting but still futuristic ways. There’s nothing inviting about the malignant snarls, the crazed screams, or the harsh riffing, and the fluid melodic guitar solo sounds sorrowful, but there’s still a panoramic celestial shine to what’s happening high overhead.
The band continue to display their old school prog-minded proclivities as “Faces Revealed” reveals its many intriguing faces. The rhythm section are always interesting, and the song’s closing guitar solo is downright glorious.
By now you’re either hooked or hoping for something more scathing, but all that’s really scathing once you venture “Into the house of bats” are the bestial vocals and a few bursts of furiously hammring percussion. On the other hand, this song is an order of magnitude more sinister and supernatural than what’s come before. The crystalline soloing is again enthralling, adding a kind of “white magic” to all the magisterial black magic being practiced around it. By the end, the music has risen to heights of synth-embellished grandeur, and there’s some grand singing there as well (to go along with wrenching howls).
Finally we come to “The Sun and the moon“, which at first is the most tormented music yet revealed — but it changes. The angular, buzzing riffs sound desperate, the multi-pronged vocals so ugly and unhinged as to be frightening. The synths still give the music a heavenly overlay, almost exultant, and the rhythm section’s work is exhilarating. This time, the soloing is a spectacle, rocketing the music to ebullient heights.
How will the journey end? I won’t provide a spoiler — just find out for yourselves.
Metal-Archives classified the first two EPs as “Atmospheric/Post-Black Metal”, but I think they’ll have to extend the genre label for this one. Idolos have significantly incorporated too many other stylistic strands to stop there, some of them originating long before black metal or post-metal were born.
I’m not sure when Ajchikaj will become available digitally. I’ve learned that physical copies (500) produced by Orejona Productions/Acid Vicious/Percussive Spectre will be available on May 18th.
THE ARCANE ORDER (Denmark)
The Arcane Order have been around for nearly 20 years. At the outset, in 2006 and 2008, they pumped out a pair of albums on the Metal Blade label in fairly short succession, but then the gaps between releases became much longer. Cult of None didn’t arrive until 2015 (on the Massacre Records label), and nearly 8 more years have elapsed since then with nothing to fill the gap — until now.
Now we have the news that the band will release a fourth album, Distortions from Cosmogony, in early June (this time on Black Lion Records), and my next selection in today’s column is a superb video for one of the new songs — “The First Deceiver“.
I haven’t gone back to refresh my memory of what the band sounded like on their long-ago last album, but based on an admittedly hazy memory, this song sounds like a more blackened version of their admittedly vicious approach to melodic death metal, thanks in part to the incinerating screams of their new vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf (he’s also capable of expelling monstrous roars, and he’s a natural-born actor with diabolical charisma, as you’ll see in the video).
Behind him, original guitarists Flemming C. Lund and Kasper Kirkegaard are still operating at a high level, and a new rhythm section of drummer Bastian Thusgaard and bassist Anders Frodo S. Mikkelsen round out the line-up in compelling fashion.
To return to “The First Deceiver“, it’s relentlessly intense and harrowing. The band unleash great assaulting waves of sweeping and towering riffage and hyper-blasting percussion, as well as long chords of agony wafting above reckless and rambunctious drumming. The band make use of dissonant fretwork contortions to channel dementia, and swirling and clanging reverberations to open supernatural portals, as well as riffing that sounds like a cruel slashing pulse — plus a glorious fret-melter of a solo and plenty of gut-slugging grooves.
I must re-emphasize that the vocals are an enormously important art of what makes the song so spine-tingling and scary. And the video, shot and produced by by Hans Asmussen, with art direction by the same Kim Song Sternkopf, really is excellent.
“Magma Stigmata” is the three-part opening song from a forthcoming debut album by Démonos named Anno Daemonium.
I think of the instrumental opening part “Exordium” as viperlike and victimized. The abrading guitar, which maneuvers over a heaving low end, seems to sway like a cobra but also sounds dismal and wailing, and thus creates an unsettling spell. By contrast, the second part (“An Obeisance“) comes out storming, with blasting and rapidly somersaulting drums, manically throbbing bass, writhing riffage, and scalding screams. It carries the melody of “Exordium” forward, but sounds significantly more tormented.
There’s a sudden change with the advent of the third part, “Discovery of Terra“. The storm vanishes, replaced by a wandering bass-toned melody with higher harmonized accents, and those reverberating notes are moody yet seductive. It sounds both medieval and psychedelic, cycling over and over again until the shimmer of an old analogue-sounding keyboard joins in, and the guitar becomes more angry and abrasive.
A very intriguing piece, but who knows where the album goes from here? Even in just one song Démonos points in different directions. It will be interesting to find out — just as it was very interesting to follow the path of the band’s debut EP From Sacred To Profane, which we premiered here in 2016. The album will be released on April 30th.