Sep 102023

I hope this Sunday finds all of you well, and ready to have your heads bounced around like tennis balls in a spinning dryer. Which is a way of saying that the music I picked for today’s collection careens around, not staying in one musical place for very long and ending with a curveball that swerves outside the black(ish) metal strike zone.


We latched on pretty hard to the music of Night Crowned, beginning with our premiere of a song from their 2018 debut EP, Humanity Will Echo Out, continuing through our premiere of a song from their 2019 debut album Impius Viam, and moving on from there with a lot of enthusiastic commentary about their second album Hädanfärd in 2021.

And so we’re already relishing the release of their third album Tales, now set for release by the Noble Demon label on November 10th.

The first sign of what it will bring is a lyric video for a single called “De Namnlösa” (The Nameless) that surfaced two days ago. It includes a guest vocal appearance by Jens Rydén (Thyrfing) and it tells the story of an entity called Myling, the raging ghost of a murdered bastard child.

The song is itself a raging sonic blast front, an explosive upheaval of obliterating drums racing at light-speed, deranged riffing that feverishly seethes, swirls, and darts, and a tandem of super-heated screams and harrowing roars.

But the song also ominously towers and viciously jolts, and it further sweeps high and far, revealing visions of daunting and distraught magnificence. The band also interweave sprightly and glistening synths and melancholy melodies, and as if they hadn’t already pulled together enough variety, they end it with a sad piano solo.



ASET (multinational)

Curiosity got the better of me on this next choice. Despite being left a little uneasy about Aset‘s album title (Astral Rape), I was intrigued by the report that their lineup includes “several high profile artists (including members of SETH, Oranssi Pazuzu & other still undisclosed bands)”.

Three of this debut album’s seven songs are now available for streaming, and they lead listeners on lots of chilling twists and turns, beginning with the hellish and hallucinatory opener “A Light In Disguise“.

There the drums thunder and tumble at high speed, the bass shudders the earth, the guitars writhe, wail, shiver, and warble in piercing dissonant tones, and the vocals hatefully howl and screech. The music also clangs, crashes, and convulses in maniacally violent fretwork spasms, in which the vocals soar as if possessed.

That one song alone is a display of head-spinning intricacy and technical virtuosity, but also of an unusually multi-faceted approach to songwriting that’s as unsettling and unnerving as it is exhilarating.

The next two tracks share those hallmarks, but “Abusive Metempsychosis” is also eerily glorious in its sweep and sulfurously imperious and ecstatic, in addition to featuring a relentlessly jaw-dropping drum performance, bursts of sheer fretwork lunacy, and another display of sky-high vocal extravagance. By the end, when the pacing and instrumental performances become less berserk, the music becomes frighteningly abysmal.

Lord of Illusions” is as mad and morphing as the first two songs, but does have otherworldly, hallucinatory and haunting qualities to go along with its many viciously swarming and battering barbarities, and all those remarkable vocal variations.

All in all, these three songs are downright breathtaking. They take us to asylums in Hell, and it sounds like there’s no coming back.

The album is described as a “concept blending Egyptian occult rites with modern, aggressive black metal”. It will be released on September 22nd by Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions.




This next song and video (from a mysterious duo located in Joshua Tree, California) seemed like a good way to follow the spectacle of Aset, not because it’s equally spectacular but because it doubles-down on the exotic occult features that seem to have inspired Aset‘s album, and that becomes apparent in the Eastern resonance of the wailing violin-like melody that both begins “The God Complex” and re-emerges as the song advances.

The track is also eye-opening in its own way, in part because the instrumentation depends heavily on gritty, gravel-chewing, brutally distorted bass tones, in addition to vivid neck-snapping drum patterns that also occasionally seem to draw inspiration from non-Western traditions, and scalding vocal tirades.

But the song also includes futuristic ingredients in addition to seemingly ancient ones, with doses of slowly slithering and ecstatically jumping electronics in the mix, as well as distorted growls and spoken words. Actually, everything seems to be electronic, as I’ve read that no stringed instruments are used at all.

The song also comes with a fast-cutting video created by Matt Zane that adds lots of extravagant masks and costumes to Antania‘s already off-beat musical aura.

The track is a new one, apparently not yet officially released. It’s about the Manson family. After getting interested, I discovered that Antania released a debut album named Lividity in June of this year, and that each song on it represents a true crime story of murder and violence. Haven’t heard it yet, but want to.



CIRKELN (Sweden)

Having previously been captivated by the musical genre-hybridizing and fantasy thematics of this Swedish solo project, I jumped at the chance to see what Cirkeln had done next. What I specifically jumped at is the opening song on a new album named The Primitive Covenant.

Once again, “Garden of Thorns” is a musical and emotional amalgam of epic scope, but as Cirkeln says, the music is more aggressive and warlike than before, “channeling a bare bones, no frills heavy metal from the days of yore, eschewing the bells and whistles for an upfront attack of well honed steel this time around”.

Well, I wouldn’t say it’s exactly “no frills”. This song pulls together viciously rasping snarls and ingredients of blaring classic heavy metal exaltation, dense waves of grim downcast chords, feverish infernal-sounding arpeggios, high-flying melodies with a beseeching mood, and episodes of haunting keyboards, goblin gasps, the sound of heroic choral voices, and elevations into tragic glory.

Backing all these many riveting variations are an equivalent variety of drum and bass tempos and patterns that aid in the song’s head-spinning impact.




Now I think it’s time to jam the pedal to the metal again, fire up the flamethrowers, and bare the fangs — which metaphorically is what happens in the four songs I’ve included next.

These four fanatical assaults are included in a new split from Indiana-based Wise Blood Records called Faster Than the Devil 2, which is a follow-up to a four-way split the label released last year under the name Faster Than the Fucking Devil. (This time we’ll just have to sub-vocalize “Fucking”).

Each of the four bands on the new split — Vicious Blade from Pittsburgh, Blasted Heath from Indianapolis, The Gauntlet from New Jersey, and Bastard Cröss from Philadelphia — contribute three tracks to the split, and the player below will let you hear one from each of them.

They’re not all the same stylistically, but they all have a similarly savage hell-bound attitude and a need for speed.

Vicious Blade brings feral gallops, slashing thrash riffs, doses of poisonous sizzling fretwork and haughty brazen chords, and the barking of a big rabid mastiff that elevates into frenzied screams.

The song from Blasted Heath is sinister and supernatural at first, but it also surges into racing gear, propelled by fast-hammering drums and maniacally roiling and darting riffage that sounds freshly uncaged from Hell, along with truly hellish screams and convulsions of crazed soloing.

The Gauntlet‘s song is called “Screaming Steel”, and it’s well-named. It goes flat-out, like a flurry of ferocious bat-winged demons, driven by an exhilarating but kind of off-kilter drum pattern, an amalgam of dismal and diseased riffing, and feverishly lunatic leads that burn like fire. There’s also an insane solo and screaming goblin vocals that have also gone far past the bounds of sanity.

It’s pretty clear already that this split isn’t designed to give listeners any time to breathe, and that conclusion is reinforced by “Beasts of the Night” from Bastard Cröss. It’s not as turbocharged as the preceding three songs, relying instead on a kind of lurching and stomping groove, but it’s still a nasty piece of work.

The riffing blares and rapidly jabs with diabolically vicious intent, and the snarled and screamed vocals have a serrated cutting edge. The song is also home to an extended whammy-aided solo that swirls, spasms, soars, swoops, and wails with electrifying effect.




And to conclude, here’s the promised curveball.

I was drawn into this song after seeing that the band’s instrumentation on their new album Victory & Defeat includes accordion, cello, violin, viola, recorder, glockenspiel, lap steel guitar, zither, trumpet, and a saw, in addition to guitar and percussion. Headstone Brigade are also from Seattle, which sealed the interest.

The band don’t use all that instrumentation on every song. As best I can tell, the title song “Victory & Defeat” includes accordion, cello, acoustic guitar, and drums, in addition to ardent vocals by the band’s leader, composer and accordionist Egan Budd, and backing vocals from main percussionist Bree Sadira Rose and from Ian Campbell.

The song’s cadence is a kind of swinging march, and the music gives it the air of very old folk music, perhaps with Celtic roots. It has a feeling of beleaguered determination, moving forward but draped with a dark, melancholy shroud.

Budd‘s vocals and the well-crafted words about the woe and weariness of war also channel those sensations, and the harmonies added by Rose‘s high crooning and Campbell‘s gritty baritone add to the song’s sad but mesmerizing allure.

Headstone Brigade call their music “depressing polka”, which makes me smile. I’m left very eager to hear the rest of this album… which will be released by Weregnome Records on October 31st.

The recording line-up identified at Bandcamp is large; the live line-up includes cellist Jeff King (also of Isenordal, Other) and guitarist Mitchell Bell (also of Thunder Grey Pilgrim and Knifecream), in addition to the previously mentioned Egan Budd and Bree Sadira Rose.


  1. The polka is a half-rhythm dance traceable to nineteenth-century Bohemia. The form was included in classical repertoires and diffused worldwide, emerging with distinct regional variations. Another great Czech invention is Kolache a delicious bake good brought with that ridiculous dance ridiculous because so much fun!

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