In part, this roundup of new songs and videos (plus a recent EP and two complete new albums) is an effort to make up in part for the absence of Shades of Black two days ago, when an unexpected intervention by my fucking day job de-railed my plans. So, there’s blackened metal here, but not exclusively so. I do think that despite the considerable stylistic variation within the collection, it’s all mind-bending in different ways.
BLUT AUS NORD (France)
The last time I mentioned the news of Blut Aus Nord‘s new album Disharmonium – Nahab I had artwork to share, but no music. Now I have music, but wouldn’t have had it for a Shades of Black column two days ago because the song was just released over the last 24 hours.
As previously disclosed, the Debemur Morti label presents the new album as “eleven monstrous new Lovecraftian nightmares”, in which BAN “uses buzzing guitar arrangements, eerie melodies, ritualistic chants and growling sounds from the deep to bring lurking shadow-horrors to life.”
The new song lives up to that billing. “The Endless Multitude” thrusts with power and also sounds like spirits crying out in spine-shivering pain. The guitars coil and uncoil in unnerving ways, quivering and blasing as the beats rumble and rock on and the bass rudely shoves us backwards and murmurs in madness. The adamant procalamatory vocals and strangled screams sound mad too.
Out of nowhere, a classically-minded piano melody takes the stage, its lonely melody saturated by grief, and on the other side lies a maelstrom — of blasting drums, screaming guitars, and heaving bass tones that yield no hope. The song stops abruptly, likely because it flows right into the next horror… which I’m eager to hear.
The album will be released on CD, vinyl, tape, and digital formats, along with merchandising, on August 25th. Pre-orders can be placed now.
While working on the production of Northwest Terror Fest in Seattle not so long ago I got my head spun (and bashed in) by one fantastic set after another, but the performance by Horrendous was one of the most head-spinning and eye-popping of the entire event. And so it was an easy decision to include this next track in today’s roundup, a just-released second advance song from their new album Ontological Mysterium.
“Cult of Shaad’oah“, presented with a lyric video made by Guilherme Henriques, is at once hulking and hallucinatory, brazen and bewildering. It does have exultant head-hooking grooves (man, does it ever), but it’s mainly a showcase for a panoply of thrashing riffage, delirium-tremens guitar outbursts, unchained drum acrobatics, and an extended guitar solo that’s the most delirious aspect of the song (which is saying something).
And on top of that (and under it), the band add a tandem of gritty, rabid cries and gruesome growls, as well as a ton of prominent and proggy bass maneuvers with a fretless tone.
Just… fucking… glorious….
Ontological Mysterium which will be released on August 18th via Season of Mist.
BLAST SHIELD (U.S.)
I couldn’t resist following up that Horrendous song with a new EP named Even Pain Counts by the angry Massachusetts grindcore band Blast Shield. Why couldn’t I resist? Because in its own way it’s also a head-spinner.
It’s not as overtly prog-minded as the Horrendous song. Instead it’s more like a full-throttle tank attack, guns blasting until red hot and ruthlessly mangling in the tone of its marauding riffage, interspersed with bursts of pile-driving brutality and coupled with roaring blood-choked vocals that seem enraged to the point of lunacy, and blistering screams.
But you’ll quickly notice that these maniacs throw in all sorts of unexpected twists, from sudden tempo changes and destabilizing starts and stops to the freaked-out shrieking, siren-like wails, and moaning agonies of the lead guitars, and a bass performance that’s as lively as it is capable of chewing through rebar steel. And when they finally slow down in the EP’s discordant and woozy penultimate track “Oath”, things get very trippy indeed.
So, on the one hand Even Pain Counts is a pulverizing demolition job, and on the other hand it’s a blender for your brain, set to puree. I also love where they got the EP’s title, from a passage written in The Dispossessed by the immortal Ursula K Le Guin:
“The thing about working with time, instead of against it, he thought, is that it is not wasted. Even pain counts.”
Now we come to the first of the two complete albums I promised. This one, Revelation, is a new second full-length by this solo project of Madis Jalakas, joined here by the prolific Jared Moran on drums.
If you heard the debut Thunraz full-length Hinterlands (which I reviewed here), it will come as no surprise to learn that this new album is a stylistic kaleidoscope and a mind-bender of extravagant proportions.
I’ve previously written multiple paragraphs about just two of the songs released in advance of the new record’s street date (“Panzram” and “Detritus“), and could easily deluge you with many more in an effort to reflect on the album as a whole, but I’ll try to be more concise and mainly let Revelation speak for itself.
Fair warning: The worldview expressed here is devoid of light and hope, and the music is also capable of discharging ruinous mayhem, as if bent on scouring the earth clean of a parasitical humanity with merciless violence, and also rendering portrayals of insidious sickness and soul-sucking despair. But as previewed above, it does this in ways that seem capable of severing cranial neurons and tying them in dazzling new knots.
At high speed, the music is voraciously savage, but bamboozling in its unhinged intricacy (including Moran‘s lights-out drumwork). At somewhat slower speeds, as in the deranged sonic hallucination of “Lithopedian“, the industrial-tinged brutalizing of “Frostbite“, the heaving, stomping, and spasm-laced monstrosity of “Hordes“, the suffocating oppressiveness of “Breathe Smoke“, or the doom-saturated slog that begins “Hope Dies First” (before it convulses), things really don’t become any more comfortable or any closer to the borders of sanity. They’re just other ways of expressing the mental and emotional fracturing caused by pain and disgust.
The vocals aren’t quite as crazed in their variations, but you will encounter gloomy singing and hair-on-fire screams in addition to the usual roaring bellows.
The afore-mentioned “Hordes” is the track I’d recommend for those who haven’t yet fallen prey to this album, because it stitches together a lot of what I’ve tried to describe above, though most of these songs are so unpredictable, so demented, and so unsettling that you could throw a dart at the track list and get the idea.
Revelation is out now digitally, and cassette tapes are available via Planetary King Records.
To close out this collection I’ve picked a new Dødsferd album named Asphyxiating Late Night Sessions: Collaboration with Sarvok, so named because it is indeed a collaborative exercise between Dødsferd‘s mastermind Wrath (who wrote the music and performed all Vocals, Acoustic Guitars, and Electric Guitar) and m.Sarvok (who is credited with Acoustic Guitars, Rhythm and Lead Guitars, Bass, Cello, Violin, and Sound Design). Wrath explains:
“In the end of 2022, on our late night meetings with m.Sarvok, jamming, drinking the fruits of hell and having our long discussions, I created some new songs, which he had the freedom to add whatever he felt they needed. Two of my poems were included in the two new songs, along with the lyrics.
“This unique album also consists of three older songs of mine, that had been included in the albums A Breed of Parasites and Suicide…Part II and were modified by m.Sarvok. In the beginning of 2023, the album was ready!”
As you might guess just from those credits and the quotation, the album isn’t an easy one to sum up. We could call it a collection of acoustic, experimental, and dark ambient music, but those hints are still limited in the information they provide.
Take, for example, the opening track “Το βάρος να νιώθεις ζωντανός (The Burden of Feeling Alive)“. The collage of opening tonalities and wraithlike gasps and cries create an otherworldly atmosphere, a mood of sinister mystery. The sharp crack and clatter of tribal percussive beats adds an element of ritual. And then the song transforms, thanks to a powerfully compulsive bass-and-drum groove, an enticing melodic shiver, and the soaring sheen of a gleaming electric guitar, which altogether make it seem more witchy and seductive, straight through to the exotic little acoustic motif at the end.
Or take the immediately following track, “...και το είδος σας θα ακολουθήσει (…and your kind will follow)“. The cello- and keyboard-accented music is mesmerizing. It sounds darkly romantic, like the languid sonic equivalent of a dying rose, its leeched petals slowly falling. But the song is also wrenching because of the vocals, which eventually move from tormented recitals to screams of such tortured intensity that they’re frightening. There’s a big slow groove that can get heads moving in this one, but the music’s mood is as depressive as it is tragically beautiful — and Wrath‘s vocals are shattering.
Rather than continue proceedings track by track, I’ll just say that the remaining three songs are as varied as the first two, both in their instrumental and vocal ingredients and in their emotional quotients. They’re also capable of becoming hypnotic, of moving on the wings of celestial cello and violin strains into extraterrestrial dimensions, but also of tugging hard at the heart-strings, to the breaking point.
The acoustic guitars, the primitive beats, the folksy bowing and singing, the plaintive spoken words, and tribal vocals give the music a familiar earthiness — familiar in the loneliness and grief they translate. But that’s balanced by other parts of the changing tonal and melodic palette that continually transport the listener into mystical unearthly dimensions of wonder and peril. It’s easy to get lost in the excursion these two lead us on….
The album is available in Digi-CD and digital formats, and a cassette tape format along with merch is expected soon.