Why would any sane person wake up at 4:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, which is what I did today? Was it too hot to sleep in our un-air-conditioned bedroom? Not at all — it was a delicious 55°F (12.7°C) outside (eat your hearts out all you hell-dwellers in the rest of the sun-broiled world). It may have been that I limited my Saturday-night intoxicants to one ice-cold martini. Possibly I was subconsciously anxious because I had made no start on the writing of this column yesterday.
I don’t recommend this kind of behavior. I see no evidence that the early bird gets the worm. Instead, it turns the brain wormy… or at least very foggy. I went in search of music to function as a pesticide (the more forever chemicals, the better) and a bitter wind to blow away the fog. Here’s what I found:
Late last year we premiered a song from Von Wegen, the then-forthcoming debut album by this German post-black metal band, and it pulled me headlong all the way into that album. It’s a very good thing, then, that we haven’t had to wait long for a follow-up, which hit the streets on July 12th in the form of a stunning EP named Naehe und Flackern (via Through Love Records).
Three tracks on this one, and they’re described as thematically dealing with “the feeling of hate” in different facets — “the hate towards society, the hate the singer faces in his life and the hate the singer himself carries outward”.
Who knows what came first, the lyrics or the music? It’s not an easy question, because the music certainly seems as if it was crafted to elucidate the themes, beyond the emotions channeled by the vocalist’s torrid screams. It’s heavier than a very heavy thing, heavy enough to tunnel through bedrock and bust up the rubble, and the whirring riffing gouges, warps, and wails in disturbing ways. Even when they’re not blasting, the drums hit hard enough to justify CT scans for cranial fractures.
The punishing upheavals of power and frenzy suck the wind from the lungs, but even when they subside and the guitars ring at the forefront, the feelings of misery and gloom are themselves almost overpowering. I gaze in the mirror as little as possible, but I suspect that if I’d done so while listening to these tracks the whites of my eyes would have been showing all ’round and my jaw would have been slack.
Here’s a second opinion from Rennie Resmini‘s most recent SubStack compilation:
Return of Berlin’s Nidare and their brand of “vntrve post black metal” with a three song blast in Naehe und Flackern. Could be the fact it is quite a few months removed from last year’s Von Wegen that the ep feels and sounds heavier and more aggressive than before. There’s an enormous bass tone at play, an excellent capture of the performance on the kit, stacks of guitars, impassioned vocal delivery. Even if this weren’t a German act the way they fashion their songs and tone would still remind me a hell of a lot like Intricate and Lash Out gone down the left hand path. With the vocals being in their native tongue it all sounds far more rabid to these ears.
A big improvement in terms of the way Naehe und Flackern is presented on the sonic spectrum compared to the last recording. The drums are more audible this time out lending more impact and dynamic to the songs. The guitar tones are heavier without sacrificing atmospherics as separation between players is evident and the offsetting moments are effective. Nidare prove themselves to be quite the black star from Germany.
COLLIER D’OMBRE (?)
The Portland-based label Vrasubatlat had become a favorite of mine, but they don’t churn out releases at a blistering pace. Their last two were albums by Triumvir Foul in July of last year and by Utzalu in June of 2020. However, thanks to Bandcamp alerts, I discovered yesterday that they’ve got three new records coming out in August of this year — the debut of Collier d’Ombre; the debut of Envoûterez; and a compilation (...at the Altar of Dread) that includes 11 songs by bands on the Vrasubatlat roster; that one is described as the label’s final release, which was a very sad piece of news to see.
Eventually I’ll spend time with all three of these new records. For now, I’ve delved into the two tracks now streaming from that debut album by the duo who call themselves Collier d’Ombre (“shadow necklace”).
The two tracks from the album, “Necklace of Shadow: Noose Constellation Singed Flesh” and “Euphoric Transfixion: Sump of Ichor’s Collection“, are chambers of devouring terror. The backline sounds truly subterranean, as if recorded in giant sewer pipes; the fanatical riffing is dense and acidic, and it whirls and writhes in a semblance of blistering torment; the guitar leads are shrill and convulsive; the sky-high keyboards gleam and glitter like supernatural apparitions; the vocals are the kind of gritty, maniacal screaming that raises hackles on the neck; and the moods are dismal, despairing, and deranged.
Again, as I listened I suspect the whites of my eyes were showing, and the drool leaking out. As some would say, it’s not for the faint of heart, but all-consuming in its horrifying grandeur and demented intensity.
I note that the afore-mentioned compilation includes another Collier d’Ombre track that isn’t on the album — “Outpost Death Perennial“.
As described, what you’ve just made your way through since the beginning of this column left me wide-eyed and all nerves tingling, all the mental worms killed and all the fog blown out. So I thought I could yield to something less devastating, and with that expectation turned to a new song by Grift, which arrived a couple days ago with a video.
The inspiration of this new song, “Nattens pilgrim” (“Pilgrim of the night”), is described by Grift as follows:
“This is a hymn to the fragile life pulsating outside our doorstep. Out there, a world of hidden lands sparkles. The blackbird’s song reminds us of this treasure every year. To get closer and partake of its richness, we must sacrifice something of ourselves. Only then do we have the chance to don the mantle of the night.”
You do hear the blackbird sing at the outset, and then a beautifully melancholy keyboard melody takes over, this time joined by the ragged caw of human vocals, acoustic strumming, and a primitive drum thump. The tones of a melodica are even more mournful, but the music does become brighter, like sunlight on drifting waters, though the ensuing singing still sounds haunting. Strummed chords, serious spoken words, and the tweeting of the blackbird provide another interlude, before another episode of spring.
In a word, “Nattens pilgrim” is mesmerizing. It’s the debut single from the upcoming album Dolt land (“Hidden Land”), which will be released on September 22nd by the Nordvis label.
With Grift having salved various mental wounds, I decided I was ready for something more assaulting, and found it in what seems to be the debut EP by L.A.-based Atgeir. Its name is Remember.
The opener “Through Sunken Eyes of A Broken God“, introduces us to blasting drums and a beefy bass, and to roiling sandstorm riffing and crazed shrieks. But it also introduces us to a softer guitar instrumental, whose rippling and ringing tones are menacing, mysterious, and mesmerizing. The mood overall is distressing, but the prominent bass and herculean drumwork continues seizing attention, and so does a weirdly woozy and eventually firestorming guitar solo.
Well, that one song proved to be a multi-faceted affair, and so is the second one. “The Darkness Encroaches, I Press My Blade Closer to My Chest” is also severely tormented but spine-tingling in its feverishness, and the riffs burrow into the skull with relentless penetrating power. It too includes a striking shift, where the guitars ring and warp over a cantering cadence, and then chime and sear while the bass growls like a beast.
Even the much shorter closing song “Auroras” makes a favorable impression, even though it’s quite different. I’m not sure what instruments were used to make those scratchy bell-like and brittle tones, maybe just ingeniously toned guitars, but the effect is simultaneously beguiling and forlorn.
The artist’s statement at Bandcamp is worth reading. There you’ll also find a column of free download codes, though I decided to pay the $3 in gratitude for a very auspicious debut.
I decided to close with a complete album named Labyrinthical, released on July 7th by a project described as an “avantgarde black metal band from Chilean multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Hugo previously known from post-black metal project Lascar“.
With an album title like Labyrinthical, one would expect Voidmïlker‘s music to be… labyrinthine… and so it is.
Backed by rampant thunder and clatter, which stops and slows without warning or bursts like dropping bombs, the layered guitars, which sizzle like boiling grit but also ripple and ring, frequently cavort and contort. But the effect is not wholly chaotic. Structures emerge, as do changing moods — though the moods are often afflicted: The piercing, abrasive fretwork channels torment and anguish, hopelessness and despair.
Sometimes the music feels like we’ve been caught in a vortex, like the Charybdis of old, spun downward toward a bitter end. The music also booms and crashes us against the rocks of injurious fate (Scylla looms on the other side), or groans and heaves, wounded and spilling ichor. And such mythic imaginings are easily spawned, because the music does often have the feeling of a tragic epic, such is its often vast scale and daunting sweep.
Yet around some corners of this labyrinth the music becomes soft and lonely, ringing like fractured bells, a different fashioning of desolation, or whips and blinds like a typhoon of pain. At times, the melodies also connect with ancient medieval traditions, and in “Bronze Child” you’ll suddenly be jackhammered into submission more than once.
I’ve left mention of the vocals to the last, but not because they’re an afterthought in the music. To the contrary, these serrated howls and screams are absolutely frightening in their intensity. Given the primal wrenching power of the music, one would hope for nothing less.
Lascar is a vaunted name, for good reason. In his guise as Voidmïlker, Gabriel Hugo still displays a mastery of gripping melody, powerful propulsive momentum, and mind-scarring vocalizations, but this music seems more consistently rough and raw, the keyboards more diminished, ethereal tones banished, and darker moods even more prevalent. Far less likely to attract the “post-black metal label”, I would think, but whatever you call it, it’s damned formidable.
(Thanks to Miloš for linking me to this album.)