awe – providentia (2015)

i always believe the likes of samael, satyricon, deathspell omega and such should always be revered for bending the rules of black metal, by introducing new elements, variations and pushing the limits. and now we have insanely amazing experimentation in black metal, as witnessed in the acts of icelandic newcomers wormlust or finnish heavyweights oranssi pazuzu.

and now awe. i feel like the ever-shifting, syncopated scales of tool, deranged shifts and passages of morgul, demanding structure of dso, confusing atmosphere of blut aus nord, transcendence of thorns all came together in an attempt to produce providentia, greek newcomer awe’s debut. with the fury and speed of marduk. the album includes lengthy blast beat sections, which barely let the listener catch their breath. and tremolos of darkthrone. add to that occasional groove and you have a masterpiece.

sadly, we know nothing about the band member(s), as is the thing with new black metal acts. also following this new tradition, the 50+ minute album contains just 3, obviously quite lengthy tracks. however, the variation, experimentation and the madness keep you going. unlike almost all atmospheric black metal acts embracing a keyboard laden structure, awe opt for a no-bullshit drum and guitar sound. the drumming is simply insane. so technical, varied and masterfully leading the scales during slower passages, while deliciously assaulting the listener’s ears during pacey parts. the guitars produce the rhythm, melody and the atmosphere. which allows the bass, with its heavy and loud tone, to wander in a complete wonderland. just a joy to follow. the vocals, furious as they are, are throatier and death metal – appropriate, however the voice is so brutal and furious that it complements the music wonderfully. the lyrical concept is heavily philosophical, mythological and biblical (in a blasphemous manner). the production quality and sound are more than agreeable, with the instruments clearly audible without sounding synthetic, with the exception of coming-from-deep vocals.

now, intros are something of an obligation, to set the mood, disturb the listener or paint the musical scenery. the first 6 minutes of actus primus though, is quite simply a wonderful and coherent song in itself. opens so slowly and doom-y, builds layer after layer by free drumming, simple melodies and noises but nothing can prepare you for what’s to come. and maybe this is what awe is aiming. the first act continues for a solid 10 minute long assault, experimentation, frequent shifts in rhythm, mood and melody, without dropping the speed until the slower outro. the second act, actus secundus, while continuing in the madness and the chaotic structure, includes more moments of traditional music and groove. amazing solos. the song closes, as the first one does, on a doomier note, with the organ and noise effects. and the last “pure act” actus purus (the absolute perfection of god) delivers exactly what its name promises. blasts open, all on, relentlessly continues with frenzied, generous blast beats, chaos, confusion and variation, occasional groove, until the slower closing minutes that wrap it all up in a slow and painful note.

awe is simply impressive and promising in their debut work. the path they chose, madness through constant shifting and experimentation however left little room for memorable (or haunting in this matter) melodies and cohesion. but this is more than compensated by the atmosphere and overall feel of the album. and now i want to close up avoiding the obvious pun.


malthusian – mmxiii (demo, 2013)

what in the name of musical beauty? just after reviewing mortichnia, i came across another irish extreme metal act malthusian’s demo, conveniently named mmxiii. and it is pretty difficult to believe that this is a demo. such a certain idea of musical direction and fresh ideas.

there is something about slashes in genre names. in this case, death/black (/doom) may bring the best or the worst in all. malthusian fortunately deliver the goods so well. their demo opens, giving an idea of what to come, with tortured screams and a stretched, slow and heavy intro, masterfully conveying the uneasy feeling before exploding into mental black/death ear assault. the song contains such an amount of variations and shifts in tone, embracing the listener all the while keeping us hypnotised in a state of sleep paralysis.

things get even more nightmarish as the second song “the mother’s blade” opens with an awesome haunting theme before bursting into deranged frenzy, shoving the listener into deeper parts of hell while throwing more bizarre passages, awesome riffs and double bass drums. the ending is just as awesome, gradually dropping the tempo while amplifying noise effects, which in turn gives way to the third and last track “hallucinogen”, and it is exactly that. probably the fastest one, then slowing down and twisting into more madness and variation.

the in-your-face sound of the demo conveys a direct message about the band’s attitude and direction. masterfully played and produced for a demo, the two guitars, similarly tuned, create a muddy / sludgy down-tuned lead. while the riffing sets the tone and direction, the drums follow perfectly. such a good dose of double-bass is a pleasing offer on my ears. the loud bass adds to the punches it throws on your face. it appears 3 members share the vocal duties, which explains the variations in singing; from throaty, death metal appropriate brutal to high pitched, shrill / shrieks. and the arkhon infaustus style cacophony created by that just serves to intensify the overall uncomfortable, hellish / nightmarish feel.

a perfect listen when you go a little mad. and we all get a little mad sometimes.

mortichnia – heir to scoria and ash (2016)

mortichnia is a good old 5-piece black metal band from ireland, which you don’t see every day. after keyboard-laden structures of most recent releases, the band’s debut heir to scoria and ash felt a good return to the guitar-led metal sound; the album is rich with riffing and variation. while the rhythm guitar is more down-tuned and sludgy, the (dso inspired) lead sounds more crisp and industrial-like. this results in a richer tone and a thicker sound, making it anything but boring. also reminiscent of so-called “post” black metal sound.

while the drum and bass sections are neat and deliciously audible, the vocals need proper attention. the high pitched, desperate shrieking sounds distant and low, making it blend in with the instruments, rather than obscuring them. this seems to be a pattern with the recent releases.

the songs are very well structured, cohesive and rich in material. while the first song is filled with furious energy, the 14-minute second track is more on the sad side. exploring the scope of human emotions is just another fine variation presented by the album. after a short and emotional interlude, the fourth track continues presenting the goods, with tons of rather gloomy and melancholic passages and variation. the closing track “heir” is difficult to explain by words; confusion, phantasmagoria, derange and delirium.

an overall kick-ass work and a fresh breath.

severoth – cамітність / solitude (2016)

severoth is the ukrainian one-man project and the man himself. and his second full-length album, “solitude” is the album title and the feel it gives.

the album includes over one hour of minimal themes with quite generous repetitions, which would tire the listener out in other conventional forms of music. however, in this atmospheric black metal release, those repetitions lay the foundations of the feel he wishes to create, supported by the very deep and distant sound. the foundation of the musical structure is keyboard; mostly haunting, depressive and recurring chords. under the lead of the keyboard, solid (ringing) guitar riffs support the melody and the slow/mid-tempo drum (machine?) is very neat. the album, for the great part is instrumental and the occasional shriek/anguish vocals complement the music so beautifully.

after the obligatory intro composed of eerie keyboard & night time bird hoots, the album explodes with echoing shrieks, double-bass drum attack and the trademark keyboard chords. the first half hour includes two intertwined opening tracks, with simple and recurring keyboard themes. again, a generous time is afforded for the melodies to build and rather stretchy ambient keyboard passages, enriched by natural effects such as blowing wind, storm and hoots, also whispers.

then comes the rather ambient, keyboard heavy autumn’s breath pt. 1&2 and a glowing masterpiece “last birds” in between. that song seems to be everything he wanted to achieve, with a brilliant balance of fury and desperation and the perfect intro & outro. the album closes with a 15 minute-long instrumental, which carries the repetition formula, with heavy use of piano chords, ending the dark and cold experience.

the album would be a fine choice to listen to at night with headphones and attain some of the deepest feelings through black metal. somehow reminiscent of ambient – era burzum. a solid atmospheric piece, making me expectant for more.

throane – derrière nous, la lumière (2016)

just look at the cover. gives an excellent clue about the nature of the music one is about to experience. i love french black metal, i love one man bands and i love gloomy music. so i would love throane, right?

right. such a happy coincidence that i came across the debut album (behind us, the light?) just 2 weeks after its release. the man behind the project, “dehn sora”, is noted for the artwork of other black metal album covers, including none other than blut aus nord.

the album, more of a collection of beautiful black metal soundscapes rather than conventional “songs”, conveys a heavy and thick feeling of darkness, desperation etc. to the listener. not one upbeat moment. the sound is deliberately deep, down tuned and cavernous, which gives a claustrophobic and uneasy feel. again, the sound and feel reminds the haunting moments of blut aus nord, which is a good thing, but without the avant-garde element. this is stripped down, untraditional, low to mid-tempo black metal anguish with sharp and unexpected turns and experimentation.

the album opens slowly and progresses ever so gradually and the songs take up where the previous one left. this continuation of themes and melodies lends the album a coherent structure, yet remaining chaotic and confusing. the layered and blending guitar sound is so 90’s black metal. reverbed high-pitched tremolos and occasional power chords. awesome. the drum work is masterful. anything but monotonous, the drumming follows the melody, leads it, strays from it, adding further elements into the fragmented soundscapes. the rhythm defining bass sound is loud, rather raw and brutal and complements the music wonderfully. the progression of the tempo, from ambient to mid-tempo, syncopated, puts the listener in expectation of an explosion of blast beats, which never come. oh and the vocals. again, look at the cover.

the feeling intensifies as the album progresses, with longer ambient passages of noise effects and finishes off with a peak experience closing song, just over half an hour, leaving me in awe and anticipation of following works. definitely the highlight of my week.

downfall of nur – umbras de barbagia (2015)

i’m not a fan of folk metal. music is personal taste and folk metal albums, for the great part, do not appeal to me. there is something uplifting about folk music that does not fit (black) metal. however, in the case of downfall of nur’s debut, the “folk” part, pretty solemn and masterfully played, lays the foundations and sets the mood for amazing partitions of atmospheric black metal. interludes continue along the album with recurring themes and spacious time and repetitions for the melodies and atmosphere to build. besides the obvious cultural theme, the one-man (italian / argentinian) band conveys the message and the feeling as he wishes. being precise and artful in composition and execution, the only possible letdown may be the sloppiness in rare blast beats. the title track is my favourite.