Yesterday I managed to crawl through the 300-400 Bandcamp alerts and e-mails that hit our in-box during the 24 hours of Bandcamp Friday, plus social media messages from a few of the people whose recommendations I pay attention to. I even managed to very quickly skim through e-mails from the day before.
Doing that, I saved a shitload of links, and then barely scratched the surface of them in listening. There were some big surprises in that pile, some from bands I knew about and even bigger ones from names I’d never heard of. I picked some to pass along to you today. I’ve saved some others for the Sunday column, which I hope I’ll get to.
I had so many picks for today that I decided to divide them into two parts. The second part includes three bands from the same archipelagic country, all of which fall into the big-surprise category. I haven’t yet written part 2, and because the hour is late, it will probably come tomorrow.
This was one of the surprises yesterday from a band whose name I already knew — two new songs from Ukrainian Svrm, which were released yesterday, digitally and on 7″ black vinyl by Vendetta Records.
The EP’s name is ... а смерть ввійшла у тебе вже давно. It is taken from a poem named “Менi здається, що живу не я…” by Ukrainian poet and anti-Soviet dissident Vasyl Stus (1938-1995). I found an English translation of the poem here. All the lyrics here are poems by him. The cover is a work by the Finnish painter and graphic artist Hugo Simberg (1873-1917) named “Kuoleman puutarha” (Garden of Death).
Both tracks vividly display Svrm’s ferocious passion — and moods of haunting grief. The drums hammer, the ragged vocals howl, and the roughened, roiling guitars and glittering synths roll in large waves, channeling desperation and yearning. But soft piano keys and tonal mists also create sorrowing spells.
I didn’t follow the music of a Ukrainian band by music from a Russian band to be “even-handed”. It just happened that I heard this selection right after listening to Svrm‘s new release (and I don’t hold the lawless and brutal thuggery of the dictatorial Putin against ordinary Russian people).
Not that Moscow-based Malist is ordinary, as you might know if you’ve encountered its previous releases. The two songs that just surfaced from this one-man project’s latest album Of Scorched Earth confirms that impression.
“The Lone and Level Sounds“, which arrived with a lyric video, provides a fine companion to Svrm‘s songs. Its passion is also plain for all to hear, in the caustic snarls, the pummeling drums, and the searing brilliance of the guitars and synths. But the lead-guitars also gloriously dart, dance, and flicker, with even more electrifying and even joyful consequences.
And yet an instrumental interlude uses a harsh guitar to drag the mood into more dismal terrain, and then turns to acoustics and eerily wailing instrumentation to darken the mood further, and to provide a prelude to a transfixing solo and a heart-pounding symphonic extravaganza in the finale (and yet another stunning solo).
The other song, “Ode to the Night“, isn’t as long or as embracing of moments of uplift but it’s no less gripping. Mournful in its mood at first, it becomes very heavy and very hard-hitting, and more powerfully distressing as the music swells in vast cascades, pierced by ringing keyboard tones.
It has its own acoustics-accented interlude too, highlighted by great drumwork, hypnotically swirling synths, and a scratchy but soulful solo. Afterward it’s both harsh and wistfully dreamlike.
Regarding the album’s themes, Malist‘s mastermind has said: “Of Scorched Earth tells a tale of mankind, and why it shall inevitably die in nature’s grasp. The ships of those seeking conquest shall be forever buried in the sands of time. Only the few blessed by the primal deities shall be granted passage through the gates of apocalypse”.
The album will be released on January 19th by Avantgarde Music. I haven’t yet identified who created the remarkable cover art.
DEPARTURE CHANDELIER (Canada/U.S.)
This next selection was one of the surprises I mentioned from a band whose name I already knew. For the uninitiated, this band allegedly recorded their first demo, Antichrist Rise To Power, in a basement at grave-level behind the New York City Marble Cemetery (the oldest cemetery in New York City) nearly a decade before its 2018 release. That demo traces the life and death of Napoleon, envisioning him, and honoring him, as the Antichrist (drawing upon the predictions of Nostradamus in doing so). I gave it some attention.
Two years later they released Dripping Papal Blood, another demo recorded in 2010, long before its release. Again based on historical events, in this case involving the interactions of Napoleon and Pope Pius VII but again envisioning Napoleon as the Antichrist, this demo intruded “into the interplay and triple-crossing corruption between napoleon, the church and his own art plundering family members appointed through nepotism to the diocese”. I wrote about it here, and concluded by wondering whether this band would ever do anything other than un-earth music they’d buried long ago.
The surprise is that, yes, they have. Staying with their unusual theme, Departure Chandelier have recorded a second album named Satan Soldier Of Fortune that’s set for release on February 23rd by Occult Antiquities. Based upon the extensive discussion at the album’s Bandcamp page, it recounts the looting for profit of fallen bodies on Napoleon’s battlefields against the backdrop of the emperor’s coronation and his ascent to deity as the Antichrist.
The two songs you can hear below are “Hard As A Coffin Nail” and “Accipitridae“. The latter name refers to a family of birds of prey, a family into which Napoleon ascended in the band’s telling.
The claw-toned riffing in both of them get their hooks in the head damned deep, and the hard-hitting low frequencies and hammering snare will move muscles, just as the brazen ferociousness of the throat-lacerating vocals will tingle spines. They’re more primitive than fancy, but vibrantly dynamic in their pacing, and they very successfully create feral and diabolical moods.
As we’ve come to expect, Departure Chandelier also insinuate glimmering keys that give the diabolism a different and more supernatural dimension, and they go wild too — especially in the riotous second song, where the vocals and drums are even more unhinged and the darting of high organ tones add some baroque elegance to the mystique. (You’ll also get a chance for your head to hammer in that one.)
And here we have yet another surprise I encountered yesterday. Although Vergel released a pair of demos in 2006 and 2015, I didn’t know about either of them. I found out about their new EP Hermetic Aspect only because I received a Bandcamp alert from the Ukrainian label Archaic Sound, because I’ve bought from them before.
The one song from the EP that’s streaming at Bandcamp is named “Mageelaah Hellcult 2006“, which suggests that this might be an old song (it doesn’t appear on either of those earlier demos), but I’ve read that all the recordings are new.
This song shakes the earth, thanks to the immense subterranean rumble of the bass, and the riffing is also low-tuned enough to shiver the ground as it rises and falls, though within it brilliant shining tones also shiver. The absolutely exhilarating drumwork will have its way with your neck and your mind, and the vocals are shattering in their crazed, white-hot intensity.
But this song is also home to some slashing, head-hooking riffs, exhilarating guitar-trilling, corrosive, near-throat-singing growls, the brittle yet sprightly tones of some ancient-sounding instrument I can’t place, and a convulsive full-throttle finale that’s goddamn breathtaking.
I guess you’ve figured out by now that although tomorrow’s column is devoted to black metal, that didn’t stop me from including a lot of black metal in this Saturday roundup. That’s just how the listening happened to go this time… and it continues now… with another surprise.
Like Vergel, Ebola does have previous releases — quite a lot of them, it turns out — but I hadn’t listened to any of them before yesterday, when a Bandcamp alert from China’s Pest Productions caught my eye.
The newest Ebola release is an album named Distorted Romance. Pest‘s Bandcamp page for the album describes Ebola‘s music as “Japanese cold wave experimental depressive black metal”. The two songs available on that page now — “Our Server” and “A Million Lies” — tend to validate that description.
Hard-hearted black metal zealots probably won’t appreciate the big booming electro-beats and pinging and warping keys that animate “Our Server“, or the choral singing, but they shouldn’t deny the cold vampiricism in the fanged, snarled vocals, the lycanthropic madness in the screams, or the raw sizzle in the guitars.
As for the second song, “A Million Lies“, the ringing rawness of the opening guitar melody is less dance-y and more moody and eerie (but captivating), and the song as a whole is more likely to appeal to fans of DSBM than the earlier one.
Eventually, the groovy drum rhythms will give your reflexes a push, but the percussion also starts blasting, and the high whirring melody sounds of despair. When that opening melody re-surfaces, it’s joined by gloomy, gothic-but-gritty, crooning, and the sheen of synths eventually play a mystical role too.
THE STROYMACHINE (Slovenia)
Finally, I am moving away from black and blackened metal. I left this selection and the one that comes next here the end, because both involve brass instruments. But that’s the extent of the similarities.
I found out about The Stroymachine‘s new album Renesonanza from Rennie‘s latest starkweather SubStack column (here). Along with some back-story and a connection to a disappointment from a few decades ago, he wrote this:
After one pass, even with a misstep here and there, and the bandcamp default track being the bastard spawn of Sepultura’s “Ratamahatta” and Schooly D’s “Saturday Night,” augmented with brass, I’d venture to say this is more physical and percussive than the exceptional Nihiloxica.
My time for NCS is rapidly vanishing today, so I won’t pretend that my thoughts qualify as a review, especially because the album is multi-faceted and not terribly easy to sum up. It definitely does thrive on big primal/primeval beats, but if you start at the beginning you’ll quickly realize that’s not all that goes on here.
That first song, “Mi$a” (a long one) initially sounds like a mad Arabian djinn crying out in the desert, his torment echoing across vast dunes, and drifting synths and moaning horns play as big a role as the shamanic tribal percussion.
Moreover, the percussion becomes considerably more animated as the song moves on, accompanied by a body-moving bass-line, flute-like instrumental accents, and the high twitter and wail of vocals that don’t sound indigenous to anything north of the equator.
And my description still doesn’t exhaust everything that happens in that song. You’ll also encounter variable electronics — glitchy, blurting, and screeching — as well as the vibrant pulse of the brass (might be a trombone?).
As for the rest of the album, I’ll just let you know that the creativity manifest in that first song is alive and well in what comes next. Depending on where you are, the percussion brings in African, Afro-Caribbean, and South American traditions, as well as EBM beats, and the horns capture both jazzy and big-band sounds, as well as psychedelia and Eastern arcana.
Of course, The Stroymachine also continue bringing in a wide panoply of other instrumental and electronic ingredients and vocal variations. (From their photo, it looks like the band is a dozen members strong, and that’s not surprising when you listen to what they’ve done.)
There’s even a song (“Niedrich“) that seems to have its roots in New Wave, another (“1KG“) that’s downright spooky and industrial, and a massive, synth-dominant closing track (“Resurrection“) that seems like a stellar journey.
It all makes for a fascinating thrill-ride — musical voodoo of a high order.
THE LORD AND MARTHE (U.S./Italy)
To close part 1 of today’s extensive roundup I have a new EP that’s the result of a collaboration between Greg Anderson in his humble guise as †THE LORD† and the Italian doomstress Marthe (aka Marziona Silvani). In addition to the two of them, the EP includes brass performances by Anderson‘s Sunn O))) bandmate Stebmo (aka Steve Moore).
“The Eye of Destiny” was written by Anderson as a tribute to Bathory‘s Quorthon, and Marthe added percussion and words. She says she crafted the lyrics as her own homage based on the writings of Quorthon, a person she considers “the most talented artist of all time”.
In that song, Marthe‘s crystalline voice echoes from the heavens, or like the lone inhabitant of a vast gothic cathedral. It’s mesmerizing at first, but blasts from a horn signal increasing intensity, which arrives in scarring bass chords, startling percussive upheavals, extravagant wails of striking intensity (both male and female), and dramatic brass tones that sound like fanfares for the world’s end. If it doesn’t put a chill on your flesh and send shivers down your spine, I’ll be very surprised.
For the second song on this collaborative effort, “Wisps of the Black Serpent“, Marthe has explained that the lyrics were improvisational, and that her synths reflect a budding interest in “soundtracks and especially horror music composition (following from my love of horror movies, especially Gothic Italian classics)”.
It might be a tuba or might be a trombone that expels its breath at the beginning of this one, and then reverberates and drones at cavernous depths, on and on, with shrill, icy synths on the other end of the spectrum. Here, Marthe‘s wailing and warbling vocals sound like a high priestess from some place and age long gone, and here they (as well as male vocals, I think) get intensely harsh too as the music swells in its harrowing power. Very scary indeed.