Aug 132023

Sorry for whining about my damn cold yesterday. I did feel better as the day rolled on, good enough to spend a lot of time listening to music. This morning was better still, so I kept at it. Maybe all the sleep has helped.

Feeling hopeful that maybe this nasty bug is finally on the run, maybe I’ve also bitten off more than I can chew for today’s selections. There’s a lot here, and some of it is a bit outside the usual black metal boundaries, but to be fair, those boundaries have always been fluid, hence the name of this column.


This first album isn’t outside the usual boundaries, but it’s an unusual pick for a different reason: Rather than a forthcoming record or one that was very recently released, it’s been out since early May (on the Eisenwald label). Like so many other albums, I had it on a long list of things to check out and never found time to get to it. But a friend happened to remind me of it yesterday.

Like some other people who’ve already written about Serpent Moon, I wonder if I would have associated the music with the high deserts of New Mexico (places where I’ve actually spent some time) if I didn’t know that they were the major inspiration for Galen Baudhuin (of Street Tombs and Infera Bruo, among other bands) to make the album. I guess I’ll never know, but in listening to it the association did flourish.

The area around Santa Fe, where Baudhuin recorded the album over a two-year period, is spectacularly beautiful. The further away you get from human habitation, the more beautiful the landscape becomes.

But as Baudhuin has expressed, there’s also something hostile and unforgiving about those high desert environments in the U.S. southwest. The climate, the terrain, and the creatures that live there don’t give a damn about humanity. If you’re not careful, the dangers can be perilous, as many graves have attested over many centuries.

In listening to these guitars it’s easy to imagine the high wail of coyotes and the attack of vipers, and to feel hard winds blowing, with nothing to stop them, both hot and arrid and bitterly cold. Moreover, the riffs (and judiciously used keyboards) don’t just blaze and bite, they ring in ways that invoke the kind of mystical wonder that goes along with the menace inchoate in these harsh places — a menace underscored by the undiluted venom in the vocals.

And man, do these riffs have hooks — wild, feral hooks all over the place. The gunslingers come out along with the wolves, winds, and vipers. But Baudhuin intersperses them with exhilarating solos as well as episodes of hallucinatory and haunting eeriness, roiling derangement, and beguiling yet sinister meditations.

The drumming also appreciably adds to the music’s dynamism, rapidly shifting from blasting fusillades to punchy backbeats, avalanche rumbling, and solemn tribal pounding, and lots of other variations not mentioned here.

What’s missing, for the most part, is the stark beauty of the landscapes that played a role in the inspiration, though the desolate yet exotically inviting strains of instrumental closer “The Infinite Corridor” come close — until it becomes very frightening indeed. Baudhuin sees the more sinister and savage aspects of this realm, even when he expands the sweep of the music in such songs as “Reptilian Sleep“.

So don’t come into this expecting “atmospheric black metal”. But do come into it expecting to be electrified (and chilled) in a multitude of ways. I’m very damned glad I finally caught up with this one.

P.S. I’ve heard rumors that Baudhuin has stepped back from Aridus, and that others have stepped forward. We’ll see. But this album is so terrifically compelling that I hope we’ll hear more black metal from him soon, whether in this entity or another.




In arranging the music I picked for this column I decided to alternate singles with complete albums. This first single is also one of those departures from the usual genre fare for this column that I mentioned at the outset. It’s here because I didn’t want to delay recommending it, because it floored me so hard.

The song’s name is “Monument“, which is a fitting title, given the immensity of the sounds. The band erect a towering wall of guitars above humongous drum-pounding, and then make the wall writhe as horrific roars and howls intrude.

Bent on destruction, Magnitudo also inflict slugging jolts as the drums hammer the spine, and they also spin out sweeping waves of ominous melody and slowly slithering filaments of sonic poison that put the frighteners in the bloodstream while the band attempt to break every bone in your body.

Monument” is the opening track of a new EP named Scotoma. It’s not this band’s first release, but I’ve read that it represents a change in their sound, as well as a change in their personalities, with two-thirds of the lineup being replaced since the last record.




Now I’m turning back to another complete release, Dead Obelisk, and another band whose music stretches the usual boundaries of this column.

I hasten to add that the vocals of Neal McAdam (Black Breath) are right at home here — many a black metal band would kill for the wild demon vitriol that pours from his ruined red throat. However, the riffing of McAdam‘s bandmate Funds (aka Zack Muljat, also Black Breath) is of a different kind, often maniacal to be sure, but maybe closer to an intersection of melodic death metal and thrash.

In the first two tracks, this debut EP packs the kind of music that makes me think of doing something other than listening to music — in this case, strapping in behind the wheel of some loud V-8 muscle car they don’t make any more and flooring it on some long stretch of deserted asphalt where no cops are to be found.

In those songs the programmed drums usually hammer like pistons fueled by the highest octane money can buy. The riffing often mimics the high whine of an engine going flat out, and a muffler that’s seen better days, with flames jetting from the exhaust along with toxic gasses.

The guitars also crazily pulse, dart, and jab as well as drive, writhe, and scorch. They’ll get your muscles twitching and your head spinning, even in the more moderately paced mind-benders that occupy third and fourth place on the EP. What they won’t do is leave you wondering about your daily to-do list or looking to social media for some relief from your boredom.

I wrestled with whether to specifically mention the EP’s third track, “Dream of the Stellar Horde I [Cantique de Guerre]“, because its opening is such a bamboozling surprise, and so is the interlude-escapade that arrives about halfway through. I decided not to completely spoil the surprises, only to tell you that there are some big ones waiting for you there (of classical, proggy, and psychedelic varieties), and it’s proof that Come Horrid Sigil have a lot more tricks up their sleeves than you might be expecting.

The closing instrumental track, “Dream of the Stellar Horde II [Défilé Militaire]“, is another surprise. The whole EP feels like a demonic romp, and this one does too, just a romp of a different kind. It employs astral and haunted-house keyboards, a kind of lurching cadence, and riffing of monstrous, swaggering menace.

The EP as a whole is a big delight, but it does feel like a talented duo trying out a lot of different ideas. It does have hellish throughlines that I’ve attempted to capture above, but it feels more like a carnival ride than something with a straight and cohesive course. I mention that not as a criticism, but as question mark about what might come next. Whatever it might be, however, the main wish here is that there will be something more.




Now for another single, and another band whose music is on the outer boundaries of what usually fills up these columns, and this time it’s from Nekrofilth, operating from a new home base in Portland, on their first EP of new music in three years.

Feel free to scream the title of the song, “Narco Satanist“, right along with the vocalist. Before you get that chance, however, prepare to have your skull scoured by feedback, your guts bruised by the pulse of a bass that’s bigger than your home, and your mind filled up with dense guitar acid.

On top of that, the drums will give your heart a bunch of swift kicks, the soloing is absolutely berserk, and the vocals sound like a pack of werewolves and vampires rabidly fighting to see who gets to eat you first. Nasty stuff, very nasty….

The EP, Nganga, includes three more tracks, including a cover of NME‘s “Decadent Mayhem/Unspeakable”. It was released by Doomentia on August 7th. Although there’s only this one track streaming on Bandcamp as I write this, I can verify that if you buy it, you’ll get the download of all four songs. Hurrying to finish this column, I haven’t listened to the rest of them yet. I’m expecting more top-shelf nastiness to come….



RUNESPELL (Australia)

Here’s another complete recent release to occupy your time, and this one moves back into the usual territory for this column, like an occupying army against which resistance is futile.

Once you begin listening to Shores of Nastrond, I think you will feel fully occupied, though I hasten to add that the album is very difficult to sum up. By turns (and there are many of them) the music is mystically haunting, inspiring in its sensations of ancient banner-waving grandeur, and electrifying in its warlike assaults.

The power of the storming moments is breathtaking, but even there the guitars ring out in tones of almost bell-like clarity, and as likely to add elements of sorrow as they are to blaze with fierce defiance or reveal vistas of magical splendor.

You’ll also find plenty of head-hooking heavy metal chugs and swaggering chords in Runespell‘s massive arsenal of riffs, which create contrasts with all the mystical and mythic moments that provide the album’s backbone. On the other hand, you’ll also encounter mesmerizing music that seems the stuff of ages-old tragedy, both soft and stirring (and acoustically accented) remembrances of times long gone or maybe simply imagined.

The whole album really is stirring, and transportive, even with vocals that are relentlessly scorching. A very good album to use if you want to leave this world for a time and lose yourself in another one.

The album was released on August 11th by Iron Bonehead Productions. It’s the first Runespell album to feature a full lineup, with founder Nightwolf joined here by drummer Basilysk (Nazxul, Temple Nightside, Pestilential Shadows, etc.) and keyboardist Irrwycht (Grabunhold, Baxaxaxa).



NYTT LAND (Russia)

One more single to end it today.

Nytt Land‘s videos have always been fascinating, mainly because of the costumes and face markings of the participants, and their new one for the song “Nord” is no exception. As usual, the music here is also fascinating.

The music is stripped-down, primitive in its resonances but also spine-tingling in its otherworldliness. Like most of what Nytt Land do, it seems to be a re-imagining of ancient traditions and ancient thinking, grasping what remains of old roots and splicing them to make something that lives again.

To do so they interweave big pounding drums with clacking percussive accents, a flute, a tagelharpa, Anatoly Pakhalenko‘s throat singing, and Natalia Pakhalenko‘s ululating wails. The combined effect is mesmerizing, yet menacing.

Nord” is from a new album name Torem, which is set for release on October 6th by Napalm Records. Péter Sallai made the striking cover art.

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