Nov 292021

Somehow civilization didn’t collapse yesterday when I failed to post the usual Sunday SHADES OF BLACK column, though it did leave a black hole in our site for the day. I had plans for most of the day outside the house that took me away from my computer, and I unexpectedly slept in, so didn’t have time to get it done before departing.

My tentative selections for the column as of yesterday were extensive, which also contributed to my inability to get it done. I thought about cutting back the size of the column today, in an effort to make sure I got it done without further delay, but decided to hell with that. So here it is in all its humongous, twisting and turning, glory, though with only compact commentary — and divided into two Parts, with the second Part projected for tomorrow.


Dissociative Visions/Mystískaos sent out messages over the Thanksgiving holiday announcing four new releases, accompanied by music premieres. Three of those are targeted for release in February, but Hässlig‘s debut album is out now in full. Well, it’s called a full-length, but it falls just shy of 19 minutes across 8 tracks. Its name is Guillotine, and that turns out to be an evocative description; it drops, and heads will roll. Continue reading »

Nov 212021


This morning I read an article concerning some recent books about H.G. Wells, and the article used the word “vertiginous”. It’s a word that refers to something that causes vertigo — the sensation that you or the environment around you is moving or spinning. Another word for vertiginous might be “dizzying”.

I searched all of our posts at this site and was surprised to find that I had used the word a few times before, but not in a long time. Because I think it’s a great word, and it was in my head, it pulled me in the direction of briefly reviewing and streaming music from the following two albums, which are both vertiginous, albeit in very different ways.

KAECK (Netherlands)

Kaeck’s new album, Het Zwarte Dictaat (released near the end of October by Folter Records), is war music — not because its lyrical themes are devoted to historical conflict but because the music is so often violently tumultuous. The low-end is thunderous and granite-heavy, and when the music mounts a mid-paced charge it sounds like the assault of a tank battalion. At higher speed, the drums pump like heavy-caliber weaponry and the bass vibrates in the marrow. Continue reading »

Oct 312021

from a painting by George Cruikshank (1792–1878)


This year Halloween falls on a Sunday, and thus lines up nicely with our weekly effort to blacken the Sabbath. It also provides an occasion for a brief reminder about how Halloween came to be, though I’m sure many of you already know it. The following sketch is drawn from this article, which appeared in this morning’s Washington Post.

In a nutshell, the holiday traces its roots to a celebration called Samhain (pronounced “SOW-in”) that was observed by Irish Celts for thousands of years before the arrival of Christianity in the 6th century CE. Literally translated, it means “summer’s end,” and was thus a new year’s celebration. It was a time when they thought the veil between worlds was at its thinnest, and that all kinds of things could cross over on that night.

After Christian missionaries arrived in Ireland they eventually did what they did all over the world — they attempted to co-opt existing pagan traditions for their own purposes, to aid in converting the “heathens”. Continue reading »

Oct 242021


As promised, this is Part 2 of the column I began here earlier today. It includes reviews and streams of two recently released albums, a track from a forthcoming debut full-length, and a very promising two-song demo.


In the summer of this year I premiered a song and video for this next album of atmospheric black metal (which is self-titled though it’s the band’s third full-length). Sometimes that’s the best I can do to help spread the word about a new release, but for this one I felt I should do something more.

At eight tracks and an hour of total music, Sol Sistere provides a lot to take in. More than merely the accumulated length, the music itself provides a wide-ranging experience. At their heights of intensity, the songs deliver jaw-dropping panoramas of sweeping, soaring, incendiary magnificence, with an emotional impact equal to the colossal sonic impact. The moods are often wrenching, manifesting anguish in shattering ways (the vocals alone are relentlessly shattering). Even when the breathtaking typhoons of sound soften, sorrow usually reigns. Continue reading »

Oct 242021

This turned into a much bigger round-up of black lights than I had anticipated. It started off shorter, but the predicted “bomb cyclone” in the Puget Sound turned into a big fat nothing yesterday, my wife laughed and went off to pal around with a friend, and I had a chunk of time to myself, with the cats peacefully sleeping. And so I expanded this to include three full albums and an EP, in addition to a couple of exciting advance tracks and a debut demo.

To make this large collection more digestible, I’ve divided it into two parts. I’m confident Part 2 will be ready later today, even though at this point it’s only partially written.

Even with the extra time I found yesterday, I’ve still kept my commentary somewhat brief on the longer releases, though I find all of them thrilling and hope you will too. Same goes for the other songs in this collection. Most of the world is a rotten mess, but musicians are still pulling out the stops. Maybe someday people will look back on these days as a covid Renaissance. We’re a miserable species, but we’re indefatigable.


Having been one of those rare people who came to extreme metal late in life, I’m not someone who experienced the foundational genre movements of the ’90s first-hand. And so it was only by reading that I came to understand the role of Eucharist. Continue reading »

Oct 172021

Hemelbestormer 2021 – photo by Istvan Bruggen

Greetings earthlings. It is reportedly the 42nd anniversary of the publication of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — not the 40th, not the 50th, but the only anniversary that matters, and you know why, don’t you?

Today we resume hitchhiking through the galaxy of black and blackened metal, with occasional detours. Please follow along, and don’t forget to bring your towel. (I may have a second installment of SHADES OF BLACK for you later today, but am not positive, and so I haven’t called this Part 1.)


I must confess that the anniversary of Hitchhiker’s Guide may have had something to do with why I chose the first three songs in today’s collection, though this opening trio of tracks isn’t nearly as light-hearted as that book. Moreover, thoughts of traveling through the dangers of space also had something to do with why I decided to open with a long a track that’s much more post-metal than it is a spawn of the black arts. I also just think the song and video are so damned captivating that I didn’t want to delay putting them before you. Continue reading »

Oct 102021



Last Thursday I seized on the chance to insert SHADES OF BLACK into the work-week with a trio of EPs as a way of trying to clear out a backlog of reviews that had been percolating in my head. I’ve decided to do the same thing today. Rather than include the usual scattering of advance tracks from forthcoming releases I’m focusing entirely on albums and EPs that are already out in the world.

Having said that, I have to confess that these reviews may not qualify as thorough reviews in the minds of some people. They’re more like brief previews and recommendations, leading all you horses to water and hoping you’ll drink.

CROCELL (Denmark)

The name Crocell has stuck in my head on the strength of their past releases (five albums over the course of a decade), despite the absence of anything new for the last 3 1/2 years. If you’ve been haunting NCS for a while, you’ve seen how often we’ve written about them. And so I didn’t waste much time reacting to the news that the band had released a pair of EPs, Funeral Bliss and Baptized in Bullets, on the same day near the end of September. Continue reading »

Oct 072021



Time is always fleeting, but I kidnapped enough of it to write some brief reviews and heart-felt recommendations for three very recent short releases that have captivated me (maybe especially because more often than not I’m angry and depressed these days). The SHADES OF BLACK reference in the post title is intended to provide the clue that this is all black metal, but no two of these releases sound alike.


One of the commenters on the Bandcamp page for Sørgelig‘s new EP Slaves of Tomorrow did a very nice job in capturing part of what makes the band, and this EP, so special:

“I love Sorgelig’s utterly ruthless and nihilistic, yet also surprisingly humane and hopeful, take on primal black metal. Yes, we all live ‘in the prison of dead dreams,’ but we *can* dream, we can rage, we can spit in the eyes of our masters and call *them* the slaves. We can burn this blighted hell of a failing so-called civilization to the ground and build something better”. Continue reading »

Oct 032021


This week’s SHADES OF BLACK is going to be a bit shorter than usual. For better or worse, I spent a fair amount of time pulling together the two Overflowing Streams roundups that I posted earlier today, and wasn’t able to get to everything I wanted to write about for this column. Still, it’s a fair share of music, with streams and reviews of two new albums and one new EP. I’ll add that all of these selections include black metal as only one of several genre ingredients.

HAIDUK (Canada)

Haiduk‘s fourth album Diabolica (released on September 21st) consists of 11 tracks, all but two of them less than three minutes in length. Both individually and collectively, they deliver such full-bore intensity they may suck the wind from your lungs. You can imagine being caught in the midst of a gale-driven firestorm, or desperately hanging onto the wing of a jet aircraft that’s blazing straight up into the skies. The dense, swarming riffs and maniacal leads are themselves a superheated blaze of head-spinning, mind-mutilating sound. Continue reading »

Sep 192021


I got a spike of excitement from a couple of of Bandcamp alerts, only to feel letdown after clicking them. One was for a new Cantique Lepreux release, but none of the songs are streaming there yet. The other was for a new Wormlust release, but there’s no page for it yet, or maybe there was and it got pulled. But it’s just as well, because I already had more to write about for this week’s column than time to write about them.

What you’ll find below are six advance tracks from forthcoming releases and then a pair of full releases that surfaced from the same band within the last couple of days.

OFERMOD (Sweden)

Ofermod wasted no time returning with a new album, just a year after 2020’s Pentagrammaton (which was itself a double album). The new one is entitled Mysterium Iniquitatis, and it  sees the original lineup joined together once again – Belfagor on guitar and vocalist Nebiros (Malign, Mephorash) – with session bass by Magnus “Devo” Andersson (ex-Marduk) and session drums by Calle Larsson. Continue reading »