Pro tip: When you know the wind is shifting and it’s going to blow a mass of wildfire smoke into your area overnight, remember to close the windows in your bedroom so you don’t wake up with watering eyes and clogged lungs.
Of course I forgot to do that. To compound the idiocy I still went outside on my deck today for the usual morning coffee… and cigarettes… while watching a rising sun turned the color of Hell.
I suppose there’s a fitting synchronicity in listening to black metal while feeling nasty and thinking about Hell. I’m obviously trying to find the silver lining… or at least a lining that looks like fire and ash.
Of course, given the conditions described above, it felt completely natural to begin today’s column with a song called “Impure Fire“. The choice seemed even more natural based on the heated and harrowing nature of the music.
The riffs blare in disconcerting fashion, almost like discordant sirens of impending doom. Meanwhile, an enormous bass undulates and throbs, the drums hammer in a fury, and a strangling voice spews scalding malignancy.
The drumming shifts and the riffs begin to mutate, swirling up high in a vicious, blazing delirium, finding an intersection of moods, between violent derangement and convulsions of despair.
The music morphs again, drums gone into hiding and the guitars and bass slowly ringing out a haunting melody. A plaintive solo emerges, tuned almost like a saxophone, and then the huge subterranean upheavals and distressing riff-storms resume, capped by a chanting voice.
The song is from a new Asagraum album named Veil of Death, Ruptured, which will be released by Edged Circle Productions on October 20th.
Even when I already have a long list of music I’m inclined to write about for roundups such as this one, impulse still plays a substantial role in shaking it up at the last minute, which is what happened here.
I received a link from Miloš to the recently released debut album of the Minneapolis-based duo Mycorrhizae, I decided to pause what I was doing just long enough to listen to one song, and then got swept into the vortex of the whole album.
That one song was the album opener “Loss of Life“. It makes an almost stupefying impact, especially when you have no idea what’s about to happen, and even more surprising when you see a band name that refers to fungi which grow in association with the roots of a plant in a symbiotic or mildly pathogenic relationship. (If you think you can guess what fungal black metal might sound like, your imagination is better than mine.)
What “Loss of Life” brings is an amalgam of maniacal percussive turbulence, crazed howls and screams, haughty roars, and riveting guitar harmonies whose feverishly flickering vibrations soar and sear.
There are hints of cruelty and degradation in the harmonizing of the two-toned, channel-shifted guitars, and the drumwork gallops as well as rages, but the dominant impression of the music is one of electrifying splendor.
There’s a lot more to come after that — 8 more songs on this album named The Great Filtration. Sensations of storming and splendor continue to play vital roles, driven by herculean drum assaults, adventurous bass-lines, frightening vocal intensity, and that gripping channel-separated amalgam of dismal and shrill guitars performed at racing speed.
The mad, rocket-driven momentum of the music gives it its biggest adrenaline boost, but Mycorrhizae do switch things up just enough (just barely enough) to keep a listener from completely running out of air before the end.
Sometimes it’s a shift into punkish or cantering beats and feral slashing chords, or forays into moods of harrowing imperiousness, sweeping grandeur, dervish-like whirling, sword-and-sorcery magic, or frenzies of distress; or a few seconds of odd ambient or nature-based sounds at the beginning or end of a track; or merely the switch in the register of the vocals between those echoing cavernous roars and throat-ruining shrieks.
But if you’re waiting for any one song that on the whole is less of a relentless firestorm and more of… something else… you’ll be waiting in vain. However, what the album may lack in dynamism it more than makes up for in the fierce grip of the riffs, the lights-out drumwork, the attention-catching mutability of the bass, the sheer spine-tingling intensity of the vocals, and the overall vividness of the sound.
At only about 31 minutes in length, the album is timed just right — long enough to put a lasting high-voltage charge into your nervous system and spin your head like a top, but not so long as to leave you exhausted.
If you’re looking for something that makes it easy to tell the rest of the world to just fuck right off for half an hour, you’ve come to the right place. The fact that the lyrics speak of such things as spores, mushrooms, and the cycle of life in timeless woods somehow just makes it even better.
According to M-A, the main person behind this band is Travis Minnick (aka Collector), and he has a long list of other projects on his resume. Here he’s joined by co-vocalist Forager. The album was released earlier this month by the hilariously named Minneapolis label Big Bovine Industrial Wastes.
I found out about this next band thanks to an exchange I had with a commenter (Fred) at our site that revealed our shared fandom for old Kvelertak. In that context, he recommended the young Polish band Skøv.
When I went exploring, the most recent releases I found were a pair of singles from this year. The earliest of those, “Above the Earth“, came out in April, and the second one, “The Coldest Summer“, emerged three days ago.
That newest song rocks hard, and features an array of vocals — yelling and screaming and at times sounding like a rougher version of Tears For Fears on “Mad World”. The drums also blast away, and the riffs also veer, vaulting from stripped-down punk chords to whirring tremolo’d intensity and twisting and twining harmonies.
The lyrics speak a potentially brutal truth — that last summer might be the coldest one we’ll ever experience, because this one and all the rest seem destined to broil us without relief, like never before.
Lyrically, the previous song from April seems to condemn those who have elevated promises of salvation above the needs of the earth, though I suppose it might be understood in a different way.
Musically, the guitars in “Above the Earth” ring out a lament above increasing rambunctious drums and bass, and then begin to throb and catch fire. The vocals again vary, screaming but also singing like a somber male choir.
The bass makes a big impact in this one, along with plenty of head-hooking drum grooves — and near the end everything goes wild… before falling into despair. It’s a distressing mashup of punk and black metal, but also a very infectious one.
I can see why thoughts of Kvelertak might lead to this band. And there’s more to be found at their Bandcamp page than these two singles, including an EP-length live studio session from 2021 that was mixed by Kurt Ballou and mastered by Alan Douches, and a pair of albums from 2021 and 2019.
To close today’s collection I picked “Sedunum Invictus“, the opening song on an album named De Sève et de Sang by this one-man band from a small village in the Swiss Alps. It’s the work of Marc Bourban, joined here by session drummer Nikola Dušmanić. Bourbon writes:
“This debut album delves into ancient times in Valais, from the story of The Battle of Octodurus in 57 BC to the tales and legends that shaped my childhood.:
That opening song begins in solemn fashion with the pounding and clacking of primitive ritual percussion, but then races and scorches — drums pumping like fast pistons, the bass feverishly throbbing, the riffs coming in dense and deleterious waves, and the vocals expelling the words in livid howls.
The guitars saturate the senses, creating a feeling of harrowing anguish but also charging forward in martial waves, as if bent on shedding blood even in an apparently doomed cause. There’s something inspiring about the music, but also hopeless — and it ends with something shamanic, like it began.
De Sève et de Sang will be released by Aural Music on October 13th.