May 132018
 

 

There’s a mountain of black music in today’s column — five full releases, the shortest of which is more than 20 minutes long. Moreover, one of those releases is a single song that itself tops 20 minutes in length. I don’t expect everyone to make their way through all of this; tastes do vary, as does the amount of time people are prepared to set aside for the exploration of new music. Recognizing that, I’ve provided previews of the music (at least as I hear it), and in the case of the releases other than the two that consist of long-form monoliths, I’ve selected specific songs that I think provide a good test for whether you’ll like the rest of what’s there.

PLAGUESTORM

Eternal Throne is the debut EP by a Swedish black metal band (from Malmö) named Plaguestorm. According to the two labels who are releasing it (Helter Skelter and Blood Harvest), it was recorded in 2015 but is only now being released for the first time due to unspecified “hardships and delays”. Their description of the music peaked my interest:

Eternal Throne, they wrote, “features four tracks in 21 minutes, where all possible aspects of black metal is being mixed into one, big gruesome bowl where everything from the classic guitar leads of Mercyful Fate, and the chaotic mayhem of Katharsis has its righteous place”. Continue reading »

May 062018
 

 

There’s a lot of new music in this week’s SHADES OF BLACK, which I suppose isn’t all that unusual. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of time for me to write about it, in part because of time spent on a rare Sunday premiere (which also comes from black subterranean realms) and in part because I have other plans for today that will separate me from the computer; I hope I don’t experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

I’ll begin with streams of two fantastic new albums and follow those with four individual songs from forthcoming releases, one of which is paired with an outstanding video.

URFAUST

Maybe it’s not too soon to proclaim the emergence of a trend. Like an unusually high number of other occurrences this year, the august Dutch band Urfaust launched their new (fifth) album with no warning, no advance promotion, no opportunities for scurrilous scribblers to review it before release. This happened on Friday, and although I’ve only managed to listen to The Constellatory Practice once since then, my impulse is to proclaim it a triumph. Continue reading »

Apr 292018
 

 

Welcome to another installment of my Sunday series on metal drawn from a black vein. Some of what’s here are carry-overs from the column I planned for last Sunday but failed to finish in time, and some are discoveries I’ve made since then. I had to make hard choices, as usual, and made them in an effort to put your head through a lot of twists and turns in the ever-expanding landscape of black and “blackened” metal. I hope to find future places for the releases I put to one side in making these choices.

MALTHUSIAN

After two powerful previous releases, the MMXIII demo in 2013 and the stellar 2015 EP Below the Hengiform (which we got the privilege of premiering), the Irish black/death band Malthusian will at last release a full-length this year. Across Deaths is set for release on September 7th by Dark Descent Records and Invictus Productions. I guess it’s unusual to see the appearance of an advance track almost five months before an album release date, but only a churlish bastard would complain about the wait, and I’m not the churlish kind of bastard. Continue reading »

Apr 262018
 

 

To the millions who wait with bated breath for a new SHADES OF BLACK column each Sunday (okay, just the two of you sulking in the corner), I apologize for being a disappointment last Sunday. By the time I finished writing the two premieres we committed to do for that day, I had run out of time. In an effort to make amends, I decided to prepare what you’re now looking at.

The songs I’ve chosen here aren’t the ones I had planned to feature last Sunday. I’ll get to those, or at least some of them, next Sunday, the Dark Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise. What I have here are a few of the songs I’ve discovered since the past weekend. I’ll warn you, or titillate you in advance, that all of them are intense.

VANHELGA

To begin, I’ve chosen “Relationship in Pieces“, the first track to be revealed from Fredagsmys, the new album by the continually evolving, persistently interesting Swedish band Vanhelga. It has been presented through a video that displays the lyrics, in Swedish. Continue reading »

Apr 152018
 

 

Well, I managed to finish the second part of today’s Shades of Black before Monday after all.  I’ll dispense with any further introduction and move directly to the music I’ve chosen, which is quite varied.

CARPATHIAN FOREST

As of yesterday, when I wrote these words, the most-played track by Carpathian Forest on YouTube was “I Am Possessed” (one of the previously unreleased tracks that appeared on the compilation album We’re Going to Hell for This), with almost 590,000 plays. That song and album were released in 2002, more than a decade after the band first took shape. A couple of new albums followed that release, but nothing new has emerged for the last 12 years — until now.

So, in the annals of Norwegian black metal, it’s fair to say this new release is an historic event. But is it more than that? Continue reading »

Apr 152018
 

 

As you can see, I’m going to attempt a two-part Shades of Black this week, because there are so many recent discoveries I want to recommend (not including the new Ghost song and video, which I actually do enjoy, but there’s a limit on how far I’m willing to stretch the musical boundaries of this column).

The second part of this thing’s not finished yet, and the rest of my Sunday is looking kind of crowded with non-blog activities, so I can’t promise Part 2 will go up today. I also can’t promise I’ll be alive tomorrow, but hope springs eternal.

GAEREA

If you follow this column regularly, you’ll have already heard the first single (“Whispers”) from Unsettling Whispers, the debut album by the Portuguese band Gaerea. You’ll also have realized that the band’s music tends to bring out the poet in me, or at least I pretend to be one in an effort to capture sensations I have a tough time satisfactorily describing in more prosaic terms. And I’m afraid it’s about to happen again, because a second single from the album has now appeared. Continue reading »

Apr 082018
 

 

I’m deep in the heart of Texas today for my fucking day-job, and will be deep in the heart of Philadelphia tomorrow for the same reason, but in the meantime I’ve managed to cobble together some streams of new music from the black realms, and some thoughts about each selection.

LEVIATHAN

It may be my imagination, but it seems that more and more bands who have a devout following are choosing to spring their new releases without much warning or PR assistance. That’s what Leviathan did one week ago, with the release of Unfailing Fall Into Naught through Ascension Monuments Media.

This new album is a compilation of tracks previously released in other formats. It includes Leviathan’s contributions to a 2004 split CD with Xasthur (released by Profound Lore Records) and a 2006 split with Sapthuran (released by Battle Kommand Records, and then later released by Southern Lord in 2007 as a stand-alone Leviathan EP called The Blind Wound). Continue reading »

Apr 012018
 

 

As usual, I had a rough time trying to decide which songs to pick for today’s SHADES OF BLACK column; as usual, there was a lot to choose from. If I’d known when I made the selection that (as announced here) this would be the last NCS post after 8 1/2 years of effort, it would have been a whole lot rougher.

GAEREA

I thought the self-titled debut release by the Portuguese black metal band Gaerea was one of 2016’s best EPs.. We featured music from it repeatedly at our site, both before and after its release (including a post in which we named “Void of Numbness” to our list of the year’s “Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs“, and our premiere of a bonus track that appeared on the vinyl edition).

Not surprisingly in light of all that, I have very high hopes for Gaerea’s follow-on release, a debut full-length named Unsettling Whispers. Based on the first single from the album, it seems likely those hopes will be fulfilled. Continue reading »

Mar 312018
 

 

A few of my NCS comrades have been nudging me to do a round-up that includes the latest songs revealed by At the Gates, Kataklysm, and Light This City. I didn’t have time to do this yesterday when I got that nudging, but decided to do it today even though Andy’s latest Waxing Lyrical post would have given me an excuse to check out from NCS writing for the day. And since I decided to pull those three songs together, I added one pick of my own.

AT THE GATES

I suppose you’d have to be living under a rock not to know that At the Gates have a new album headed our way. For you under-rock dwellers, To Drink From the Night Itself will be released by Century Media on May 18th. Yesterday brought another single from the album, packaged with a wonderful video created by Costin Chioreanu of Twilight 13 Media. Continue reading »

Mar 302018
 

 

Like the vast majority of all grand estates and even medium-sized garden plots on the landscape of the internet, most sites that offer writings about metal are captives of the culture of clickbait. They are honey traps for lazy flitting bees, offering precious little intellectual sustenance of any lasting value, or even much fleeting value. They mainly just make the frenetic buzzing of their visitors grow louder, but no more coherent.

But there are exceptions. The extraordinarily ambitious essay by R.M. Temin published by Toilet Ov Hell a few days ago is one of those. For most of its considerable length, it is a history of transgressive music, mainly focused on metal. It takes Black Sabbath as its starting point (after first drawing connections to the Beat Generation and “hippie counterculture”) and charts the course straight through to the present. Its overarching theme has to do with the connections between metal and politics, and ultimately about the rise and persistence of far-right politics within certain sectors of extreme music. It’s title is: “Rock Against Anything: How Metal Became So Fucking Reactionary and What To Do About It“. Continue reading »