Aug 202023

Pro tip: When you know the wind is shifting and it’s going to blow a mass of wildfire smoke into your area overnight, remember to close the windows in your bedroom so you don’t wake up with watering eyes and clogged lungs.

Of course I forgot to do that. To compound the idiocy I still went outside on my deck today for the usual morning coffee… and cigarettes… while watching a rising sun turned the color of Hell.

I suppose there’s a fitting synchronicity in listening to black metal while feeling nasty and thinking about Hell. I’m obviously trying to find the silver lining… or at least a lining that looks like fire and ash.

ASAGRAUM (Netherlands)

Of course, given the conditions described above, it felt completely natural to begin today’s column with a song called “Impure Fire“. The choice seemed even more natural based on the heated and harrowing nature of the music. Continue reading »

Sep 262019


(The Dutch black metal band Asagraum released their second album digitally on September 13th and Edged Circle Productions  will release physical editions on September 27th. What follows is a review of it by TheMadIsraeli.)

Over the last few years I’ve really made a turn-around on black metal as a style and have come to love it, but I’ve only settled on a particular bent. It has to really engage in that very meta-spiritual vibe of melancholic and enigmatic melody while retaining a sense of brutality and mercilessness.  This has led me to more concise, more  “lean” (for the lack of a better word) riff-driven black metal like Old Man’s Child, Nidingr, Naglfar, Dark Fortress, and so on.  I like my black metal to definitely strive for peak musicianship, instead of relying on the gimmicks and the edginess the style sort of has a reputation for.  If you can channel the sensation that your music is an attempt at invoking some kind of ritual or summoning, then that’s even better.  That’s the sort of ritualistic take on black metal I’m very fond of.

Which brings me to Asagraum. Continue reading »

Aug 102019


I hope your weekend is off to a good start. As you can see, I managed to start mine last night without allowing the demon alcohol to inflict obliterating damage on my brain, only moderate damage (it feels like there’s a tiny man, center-right in my skull, repeatedly jabbing with an ice pick). And so I decided to pull together four of the better songs I heard over the last 36 hours and one I discovered about a week ago. All of them are from forthcoming albums.


September doesn’t seem as far away as it did when I wrote about a new song from Blood Red Throne‘s new album back in June. That album, Fit To Kill, is the ninth full-length in a career that began in 1998, and it will be discharged by Mighty Music on the lucky 13th of September. Now there’s a second song from the album out in the world, a track named “Requiem Mass“, which premiered this week at DECIBEL. Continue reading »

Mar 082018


The third and final edition of Oration Festival began last night in Reykjavik, Iceland. The first night of the festival featured performances (in this order) by NYIÞ, Naðra, Auðn, Asagraum, Sinmara, and Aluk Todolo. A big group of friends and I made it to the venue just as NYIÞ was beginning, and I stayed through Sinmara’s extraordinary set but was too drained of energy by that point to hang in there for Aluk Todolo.

So, what you’ll find below are thoughts about all the performances except the last one, accompanied by three videos that I made from the side of the stage and an assortment of photos. The dark, blurry, amateurish photos are mine; the really good professional quality ones are by our Seattle pal Tanner Ellison. Continue reading »

Jan 142018


There won’t be a SHADES OF BLACK column today. I’ve had a very busy but fun-filled weekend with Ms. Islander, one of her sisters, and my brother-in-law, whooping it up in Las Vegas. Lacking the time to write any more than one post for this Sunday, I felt it would be better not to miss another day on the rollout of this list. I’ll try to do some catching up on new music tomorrow.

But although there won’t be a SHADES OF BLACK column today, I did decide to focus on black metal for this episode of the Most Infectious Song list.


I’ve been a big fan of “Carried By Lucifer’s Wings” since I listened to it the first time before agreeing to premiere the song last August. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s one of eight tracks on Potestas Magicum Diaboli, the debut album by Asagraum, a band whose line-up (as of the time of this recording) consisted of Dutch guitarist/vocalist Obscura and drummer T. Kolsvart, who is Canadian but lives in Norway. Continue reading »

Aug 252017


In January of this year I haphazardly encountered (and then wrote about) two tracks — “Black Triangle Temple” and “Transformation” — which appeared to be the lone finished recordings by Asagraum, a two-woman band composed of Dutch guitarist/vocalist Obscura and drummer T. Kolsvart, who is Canadian but lives in Norway. They founded Asagraum in 2015, though both women have performed with other groups (T. Kolsvart, for example, has been a live drummer with the likes of Craft and Isvind, and Obscura is also a member of Draugur). I reported at that time that they had ambitions to release a debut album this year — and soon those ambitions will be realized.

On September 29, the Finnish label KVLT will release Asagraum’s debut album, Potestas Magicum Diaboli, which features artwork by Depravarts and Khaos Diktator Design. The album includes those two excellent tracks that I discovered in January plus six more, for a total of running time of 44 minutes. In May, one of those remaining six (“Black Sun Prayer“) also appeared on YouTube, and today we present the premiere of another: “Carried By Lucifer’s Wings“. Continue reading »

Jun 302017


I began writing this post on Tuesday, intending to finish and publish it the next day. Events conspired against that plan, and I was defeated again yesterday by technical problems ironically created by malfunctioning software installed in our web-host server by the company we pay to armor us against malware.

I’ve resisted the temptation to make this burly collection even bigger by including more new music I’ve spotted in the days since I started it. I also resisted the temptation to just shove this column into its usual place on Sunday, especially because I’ve taken a few liberties with the usual configuration of SHADES OF BLACK. Posting it today will also me to harness different new audio assaults to char the coming Sabbath.


I stay away from metal message boards for fear of losing IQ points, which as you well know are meager enough already. But I could guess that the people who think they are the trve keepers of the holy black flame are gnashing their teeth all over again because Myrkur has released a new song and soon enough will release a new album. Based on experience, I presume that the readers of this site will take the music as it comes and assess it on its own merits, which is what I’ve done — and I do like what I hear. Continue reading »

Jan 222017


I have a large and broad array of music in this Sunday’s Shades of Black collection. In some instances I’ve stepped outside the usual boundaries of this series, mainly because I didn’t want to wait for an arguably more appropriate way to feature the music. Hopefully, this playlist will prove interesting to you, even if you came hear expecting nothing but black metal.


Earlier today we premiered a song from a band on the Naturmacht label, and the first music in this collection also comes from Naturmacht. It’s a complete album released on January 8 called Lopun Alku, by the Finnish project Author. The photo that comes next shows a full live band, but on the album one man (J.V.) did almost everything — vocals, lyrics, guitars, bass, keyboards, all music — with session drums performed by J.W. Continue reading »