Here in the U.S. we’re in the middle of a holiday that sprawls over the weekend and through Monday. Because of the nature of the celebration (Labor Day), not working is an even more central part of the holiday than it is for others. The event is also generally regarded here as marking “the end of the summer” (for reasons that have nothing to do with weather forecasting).
Probably more so on this holiday weekend than any other, I feel the urge to fuck off. Although I did sleep long and late overnight, you can see that the old NCS tradition of observing no weekends or holidays still won out today, as it will tomorrow (two Monday posts are already scheduled, and there might be a third).
The first three selections below were already on my list of things to check out in preparation for this column, but links to all three also arrived in one fell swoop yesterday from my internet friend Miloš, which eased the always-difficult process of choosing.
After those, I’ve gone off in other directions. The combined volume of the music here should give you lots of ways to fill your holiday time. If there’s one word I think applies equally to all of it, that word is “breathtaking”.
Completely by coincidence, all of last week’s album premieres involved music that in different ways could be considered “medieval black metal”. I’m always in the mood for such music, but spending time with those albums got my head in a space this weekend that was especially receptive to this new song of “Baroque Black Metal” from Sühnopfer.
“D.S.F.R.” (I don’t yet know the meaning of the abbreviation) opens a new Sühnopfer album in spectacular fashion, and does so through an assembly of contrasts — soft and elegant strains from a distant age, and blazing storms of jaw-dropping percussion, deranged guitars that sear the senses in piercing tones, and throat-splitting screams.
The fire and fury in the music is breathtaking in its intensity and eye-popping in its execution (the drumming alone is enough to leave one gasping), but isn’t starkly separated from the ancient melodies — they flow through the conflagrations in glorious fashion, elaborated by remarkably fleet-fingered, swirling fretwork and heightened by soaring, spine-tingling choral voices.
Remarkably, Ardraos is credited with doing everything on this song — and on every other song on the album.
As for the rest of the album, which I haven’t yet heard, this preview from Debemur Morti Productions is especially intriguing:
The album incorporates choral themes from Baroque composers Charpentier and Cherubini, and features a guest spot for Vindsval (BLUT AUS NORD) providing choirs/lead guitar to the exceptional “Sermon sur le Trépassement”.
The record concludes with “Le Bal des Laze”, a cover version of a late ’60s song from French chanson artist Polnareff. Performed originally as a funeral march, the track lends itself perfectly to a Black Metal adaptation and epitomises SÜHNOPFER‘s sense of daring as a living emanation from a boisterous past.
The name of the album is Nous sommes d’Hier, and DMP has set it for release on October 6th.
One piece of breathtaking music deserves another.
The next song comes from a fairly new band whose name is reportedly a Proto-Germanic word for “sorcery”. The name of their debut album Therizo, on the other hand, is reportedly a Greek New Testament word meaning to reap or harvest. And so we might expect their formulation of occult black metal to be both magical and slaughtering. Is it?
Well, the first advance track, “Veil of the Taubra“, provides an affirmative answer to the question. The music towers and menaces at first, a foreboding prelude to what becomes an eruption of blistering drums, swarming and slashing chords, writhing leads, and cruel fanged snarls.
Despite its raging intensity, the music sounds grim and oppressive in its bleakness, but it also includes heavy, head-moving grooves, and it spins up into tornadoes of consuming fire. Yet it further provides the contrast of slow and softly ringing guitar arpeggios and solemn singing that echoes, leading the way into a finale of dire and daunting grandeur.
The band’s members consist of guitarist/composer B. (Aara, Modern Rites), drummer J. (Aara, Thron), bassist T. (ex-Chotzä, Malphas), and vocalist R. (Ilhalung, Legiones). Like Sühnopfer‘s new album, Therizo will be released by Debemur Morti Productions — on October 13th.
I see no reason to allow any easy breathing at this point. This makes the third song in a row that will suck the wind from your lungs, and the third one in a row from a new album that was announced last week by the Debemur Morti label.
Like Sühnopfer it comes from a band that had already made a strong positive impression around here through earlier releases. As a preview of the new album, we all have the experience of its title track, “White Hart!“.
With respect to the new album, Slidhr composer/guitarist/vocalist Joseph Deegan has stated: “My blood boils with contempt for so much of this world that it can sometimes be difficult to focus on anything else. Thankfully I can channel these emotions into a creative endeavor such as this album.”
“White Hart!” certainly sounds like a channeling of rage. It floods the senses with maniacal drumming, thundering bass lines, caustic riffing cut loose from the restraints of sanity, and blistering vocal hostility.
Even when the drumming shifts into less furious but still unsettling patterns and the riffing descends into gloomier dimensions, the music remains unnerving; on the whole, the song is like the soundtrack to the kind of natural disasters and human hatefulness that have dominated headlines throughout the summer. Before it ends, the track also inflicts ruthless bludgeoning blows to go along with the wild firestorms of eviscerating intensity.
On this newest Slidhr album, Joseph Deegan is accompanied by Icelandic drummer extraordinaire Bjarni Einarsson, and his performance alone is worth the time it takes to be relentlessly ravaged by this song.
White Hart! will be released on October 13th, coinciding with that Taubra release.
Two years ago I had the pleasure of helping introduce people to the music of Białywilk through our premiere of the project’s stunning debut album Próżnia. The album was the work of Marek Cimochowicz (a leading member of Vukari), though he was joined by an impressive group of session musicians.
Thankfully, Białywilk has turned out not to be a one-and-done side project, because two days ago Białywilk released a second album. For that record, Marek Cimochowicz wrote and performed nearly everything again, though he was again joined by Adam Harris, who performs synths on the album’s opening and closing tracks, and this time by session drummer Joey Spates.
Próżnia was named for a Polish word that refers to the void — to the vacuum of space — and the songs did draw inspiration from space and celestial realms, as well as mysticism and philosophical subjects. As described by Cimochowicz, the new album Zmora (which might mean “bane” in English) “explores the unnerving sensation of sleep paralysis and is best listened to as a whole to experience the narrative”.
I assume many of us have experienced sleep paralysis at one time or another. It is an extremely uncomfortable and frightening phenomenon. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened to me in many years, but I haven’t forgotten the terror of it during the times when it did happen. And so I confess that I wasn’t eager to listen to an album that deeply explores the experience. Had I not been so impressed with Próżnia, I might well have skipped this one. I feel both fortunate and unfortunate that I didn’t.
Sleep does seem to approach in the eerie intro track, which is palpably unearthly and seems to beckon with enthralling visions. The title track also has an enthralling quality at first — but squalling and fevered tones build in volume, beginning to create disturbing sensations.
The bass and drums then throb like a beating heart, and the gnarled vocals seem to bespeak agony, but the glistening tones that pulse and swirl in the high end still beckon and beguile. The growls elevate into howls, and the song jolts the spine before it ends.
That title song is proof that Białywilk‘s version of black metal feels no sense of obedience to rules laid down by the second wave, but maneuvers outside the boundaries as needed to create intensely atmospheric experiences that hover outside the boundaries of the waking world. And the hybridizing of styles continues over the remaining tracks.
Rather than march through them one at a time, I’ll say in summary that they interweave viscerally prodding grooves and blasting turbulence, the abrasion of grit-caked riffing and elaborately layered melodies that brilliantly glisten in the stratospheres of the mind, and vocals that are as terrorizing as the subject matter calls for.
The effect of all this (and more) is also as unsettling as the subject matter calls for, but it also does seem spawned from the vast land of dreams. Some of those are fever dreams; some of them paralyzing in their terrors; some of them shocking in their splendor; but all of them awe-inspiring in these different ways. Only at the end, with “NDE II“, do the seizures subside… but don’t think you’ll be embraced by restful slumber then either; it’s as scary in its own way as everything else.
And so, the album brings the good fortune of music that’s so extravagant and head-spinning that it’s capable of causing you to lose all track of who and where you are — and only unfortunate in that it’s such a vivid representation of helplessness within the throes of unearthly turmoil and danger.
Zmora is available on cassette tape through Vita Detestabilis and the band, as well as on vinyl and CD editions from Vendetta Records and the band. Białywilk and Vendetta are also offering digital downloads. The album art was created by Dereck Gutierrez.
In March of this year this band, a favorite of many of us who scrawl for this site, embarked on a three-part project, a sequence of EPs being released on 10″ vinyl editions by Eisenwald that share the name De Kronieken van het Verdwenen Kasteel (The Chronicles of Vanished Castle). The March release was Part I — Harslo, and on this past Friday they released Part II — Nergena.
As the band explain, the objective of the three EPs (or “Chronicles”) is to “take the listener on a wander through a vanished Bennekom stronghold,” “fortresses, mostly built on forgotten pagan shrines,” that have “ancient stories” to tell”. “We went into our mental dungeons to unravel those stories. We found exiled pagan gods hidden deep and cast away from daylight. Through the chronicles, we act as their mouthpiece.”
The newest EP consists of two songs. “De Maan, Zon van de Doden” deploys ingredients of dungeon synth to create a cold and creepy atmosphere. Brief percussive bursts, shrill wailing tones, and droning low frequencies generate menace. Scorching shrieks, furiously hurtling drums, waves of glorious yet pernicious sound, and spasms of frantic fretwork bring forth demons from where they were hiding in subterranean chambers. And swaths of sonic splendor, even while pierced by those torrid screams, elevate the experience into mystical realms.
The second song, “De Mystiek Rondom de Steen des Hamers“, seems more sinister and swaggering, driven by a stripped-down drum cadence and feral riffing, but quivering keyboard tones remind us that we’re still in a mystical realm, and the high end comes to blazing life as well. There, the music seems to waltz, absolutely glorious in its brilliance… and kind of deranged too.
I had just enough time this morning — just barely enough time — to include one more selection of music in this column, from a project that like others here today has become one whose new releases I’ll always check out.
The newest Raat release, which emerged last Friday, is entitled MMXXIII, and it includes demo versions of two songs from the band’s forthcoming third LP.
The first of those, “Void’s Embrace“, is further evidence of Raat‘s propensity to integrate a variety of stylistic influences within a thorned framework of black metal. As its title suggests, it also reaches towering heights of immense power and scalding intensity — the vocals scream in the frightening throes of possession, and the guitars burn. But feelings of heartbreak and despair fuel the music too, even as it soars high and sweeps far.
The second song, “Ad Astra, Part I“, is no less stunning in its power. Immediately, it’s a more violent cataclysm, but soon enough swells in its scale, becoming as immense as mountains and as hellish as far horizons on fire, as far as the eye can see. As on the previous song, the bass seems to rumble the earth; the drumming is perpetually electrifying; and the vocals hold nothing back.