Jan 082018


In an effort to catch up with new music that appeared last week (or in some cases that I only discovered last week), I’ve resorted to a two-part OVERFLOWING STREAMS post. And for those who haven’t noticed the format of these posts, they’re a form of personal surrender to the flood of new music. I enjoy writing thoughts about what I want to recommend, but in posts such as this one I just let the music speak for itself because there’s so much to recommend that I don’t have time to blurt out my own reactions.

In Part 1 (here), I collected some newly discovered splits. This one is devoted mainly to new advance tracks, some of which just premiered today, with a few full-album or EP streams in the mix. Continue reading »

Nov 242017


I saw a meme this morning on Facebook, which read as follows:  “Black Friday: Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.” And yes, I suppose it’s so. For some of us, however, the last thing on our minds on this day, a thing to be avoided like the second coming of the black plague, is an excursion to retail outlets of any kind. The stronger impulse is to become even more hermit-like, to hunker down in our bunkers and put the thought of voraciously consuming crowds as far away as possible.

On the other hand, getting trampled is not in itself a bad thing, and can indeed be a very welcome experience, as long as the trampling is inflicted through the earholes, and the resulting visions of turmoil are spawned by the mind rather than observed through the eyes. And so here’s a rare Friday edition of SHADES OF BLACK, probably to be followed by another one in its usual place on Sunday.


Unless I missed something, the release of Taake’s new album, Kong Vinter, was preceded by the release of only one single (“Inntrenger”), and what a fine one it was. But the entire album is now publicly available, having been released yesterday by Dark Essence Records, in physical form and as a Bandcamp download. We failed to prepare a review in advance, and I’m afraid that what I’ve written below may not merit such a word, but I do want to share my enthusiasm, along with the music stream. Continue reading »

Oct 262017


I started writing this round-up of new music two days ago, but was unable to finish it. It is now somewhat dated. But I’ve resisted the impulse to make it dramatically longer by adding everything I’ve discovered in the intervening days — I only added two new things. But since the collection has now ballooned up to music from 10 bands, I divided it into two parts

I really don’t believe that there is a higher or lower power organizing the events of my life, but I can understand why other people do believe that. Sometimes the shit rains down so hard and chokes the throat so completely that I think to myself, “This can’t possibly be a matter of chance!” And sometimes everything flows so shiny and chrome that I think I have done something right and some force recognizes that and bestows a blessed reward. Take last night, for example.

In making my usual rounds, in which I surf the effluent of the internet and our own in-box looking for musical revelations, I came across the following gems gleaming among the sewage. And it’s all pretty damned filthy, yet still gleaming, in the way that the best filth shines with a preternatural vibrancy.

And while I don’t believe in higher or lower powers, I do appreciate synchronicity, and so it proved to be that almost everything here was a form of death metal (though my later additions diluted the death a bit), and the excursion began and ended with scarecrows, which seemed so fitting less than one week before Halloween. Continue reading »

May 272015


When I ended yesterday’s installment of my poorly organized reflections on Maryland Deathfest XIII, I had made it through the last performance of the festival at Edison Lot, the killer show by Amorphis. I will soon be moving backward in time to fill in a few gaps from my impromptu posts about the earlier days of the festival, but first a few words and photos about what happened after Amorphis said goodnight.

My friends and I shambled out of the Edison Lot along with hundreds of other people and found cabs that would take us to Ram’s Head (which was not difficult). Yes, we could have walked, but after three-and-a-half long days and nights of standing on hard surfaces, my feet had swollen up like rotten fruit — plus, every minute lost was one less minute of music to hear on the final night of MDF. When we arrived at Ram’s Head, that photo up there shows you what greeted my eyes. Continue reading »

May 272015


This is a collection of music I discovered over the last few days, most of it recently released. Most of it also wells up from the ichor-filled aquifers of black metal, though as usual for this Shades of Black series, no two of the bands sound alike.


Most of the new music included in this collection consists of complete EPs or albums that deserve full reviews, but I’m afraid I may never find the time to write them. Rather than risk saying nothing at all, I at least want to offer some brief descriptions and strong recommendations. This debut by the one-man Chicago band Erraunt falls into that category. Continue reading »

Oct 312013

Not long ago Australia’s Portal released a new official music video for the song “Curtain” from their tremendous 2013 album Vexovoid. It was produced by Panorama Programming and directed by Zev Deans, who drew inspiration for the video from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Conqueror Worm”.

And the video really is inspired. “Curtain” is a horrifying assault of blackened death metal, thoroughly inhuman, oppressive, and doomed in its atmospherics. The video matches the music in its hopelessness and its ominous obscurity. You can watch it after the jump, and I thought it might also be interesting to include the text of Poe’s poem, too.

Trick or treat! Continue reading »

Feb 072013

(Our man BadWolf is trying a new review format with these quick takes on new releases by Portal (which I reviewed at length here yesterday), Head of the Demon, and Shai Hulud. Leave a comment and let us know what you think of this idea.)



By this time many of you are already familiar with Australia’s Portal. They play a technical, alienating brand of death metal, a bit like Pyrrhon but sludgier, with more blunted riffage. The band’s imagery–hooded members and vocalist wearing a clock on his head—made a big splash at Maryland Deathfest. So big an impact, in fact, that I’d wager more people are familiar with the band’s image than their music—Portal is the only death metal band I can say that about, come to think of it. I found their 2011 album, Swarth, pretty unremarkable—another substance-free death metal record that sounds like it’s coated in mucus. That Swarth came out on Profound Lore, normally the best label I can think of, irked me more.

Now Portal’s back with Vexovoid, and maybe I was wrong to dismiss them. A little clarity in the production really shows off the technical aspects of their music—my inner Deathspell Omega fanatic did a little backflip while listening. I especially liked the song “Plasm,” which opens with a flurry of hypnotic blasting,  then degenerates into foghorn distortion. I still hold some qualms: the titles and vocals still sound essentially like word-vomit, and Portal are aware that HP Lovecraft wrote fiction, not prophecy, right? Still, Vexovoid impressed me enough to warrant giving Swarth a second chance. Continue reading »

Feb 062013

Portal’s new album Vexovoid comes more than three years after their last album Swarth, which was my introduction to the band. At that time, I had heard nothing like Swarth. My reactions, of course, were a product of my tastes at the time and what, in retrospect, was the limited range of metal to which I’d been exposed up to that point in my education as a metal lover. I found the album deeply disturbing and yet transfixing. I can’t say I immediately liked it, but I couldn’t stay away from it either.

Since then, my tastes have expanded, as has the range of extreme music I’ve heard. Among other things, I’ve listened to a lot more blackened death metal (a micro-genre I also think of as apocalyptic death metal or atmospheric death metal, some of which also gets labeled “war metal”). Which is to say, I’m no longer the innocent virgin who was violated by Swarth. Having been violated by many other rough beasts in the intervening years, I wondered how the new me would react to Vexovoid.

The new me likes Vexovoid very much. It doesn’t have the shock value that Swarth delivered to my unprepared ears more than three years ago, but even to these now mangled and punctured ear drums Portal haven’t lost their ability to create vivid, catastrophic atmospheres of horror and doom. Vexovoid is both disturbing and mesmerizing. It will detonate a highly radioactive bomb in your head, grind up the remains like hamburger, and send your soul into the void. Continue reading »

Jan 182013

NPR’s Lars Gotrich has been a fan of Australia’s Portal for a long time. I’m pretty sure that seeing a Portal video in one of his columns a couple of years ago was when it dawned on me that NPR’s music focus was beginning to spread out into darker places than I knew. Because seriously, music doesn’t get much darker than Portal’s.

Mr. Gotrich has scored another Portal debut. Today he premiered a track named “The Back Wards” at NPR, which comes from the band’s next album, Vexovoid, due for release on Feb 19 via Profound Lore.

It’s four minutes and sixteen seconds of grinding noise, needling guitar leads, calamitous percussion, and Cthulhu vocalizations. The aura is dank and destructive, pummeling and perilous.  Continue reading »

Jan 142013

As previously disclosed, my head and my free time are being squeezed down to the thinness of a pancake by my fucking day job this week. But to maintain my own sanity, I did take a quick break today to glance around the interhole in search of filth. I found some, and voila!


Man, talk about delayed gratification. It was January 2012 when I reported that this killer South Carolina band had completed their third album, Behold Almighty Doctrine, and that it would be released later in the year by Unique Leader Records. I even brandished the same delicious album cover that you see up above.

I’m not sure what happened, but 2012 came and went, and the new album never appeared. However, I now see that it will finally be released on March 19. And yesterday the band debuted a song called “Those Having Been Hidden Away”. I like it and will play it for you right after the jump. It’s the sound of a furious tech-death demolition project joined in progress, with a cool bounding bass line and a load of slashing riffs and brutalizing percussion. Continue reading »