martröð – transmutation of wounds (ep, 2016)

this is a gift i did not expect and i don’t really know if i’m worthy of it. some of my favourite bands converged to bless us all with this rather short present. bear with me, d.g., the mastermind of misþyrming, skáphe, 〇 and naðra on bass, thorns of blut aus nord (and a bunch of other bands) on drums, h.v lyngdal of wormlust and a.p. (alex poole) of chaos moon and skáphe on guitars (with the addition of wrest of leviathan and lurker of chalice) and none less than mkm of antaeus and aosoth holding the microphone. wow. just the fact that the psychopathic school of french and psychotic school of icelandic black metal came together (with added american) felt like nothing short of a little boy’s wet dream.

however, the ep of just 2 songs is more of a nightmare, with all hell breaking loose (seriously), as the mentioned musicians erupt with all their insanity, free of any chains. it is quite difficult to detail the music, rather the feel it gives is a complete euphoria, a witnessing of something glorious. there is a primordial soup of raging and buzzing guitars that explode in your face, as soon as the discomforting intro fades. and keep exploding. even long after the album ends. the shifting in melody and tempo seems positively void of any regard of ration or scale. this holds especially true for the first song, which mercilessly and fiercely keeps on pummelling the listener, without giving a chance to breathe, while the second track slows down a bit into a melancholic theme. and through those slower passages we see d.g.’s basslines shine. frost is as masterful as one would expect, carrying the music incredibly through the murk, haze and confusion, never a hit out of place. if the band were missing a vocalist, based on the music mkm would be the obvious choice. and what a chance he is actually singing. well, you know.

the atmosphere in the first part is completely and utterly chaotic and delirious. buzzed riffing, pummelling and shrieks never offer a glimmer of light or breath. insanely written and played. the second part delves further into insanity, however into a confused and self-destructive / suicidal state of melancholy. and the implementation of such unlikely formula is simply genius.

transmutation of wounds is clearly an instant classic, but hopefully a taste of what is to come. please.

devouring star – through lung and heart (2015)

hoodies and covered faces? check. incognito artists? check. 9+ minute songs? check. obvious dso / french influence? check. chaos, distance and discord? check, check and check. black metal glory? check. and here we have a good new black metal band “devouring star” and their debut “through lung and heart”.

do not let the introduction give the idea of a generic album, though. this formula and approach to music is an immensely tough job all the while conveying the black metal feeling. the finnish band, with a very stylish logo (mare cognitum, anyone?), do a pretty impressive job here and one can only hope for more in the future.

the album, with a mean cover art bestows 5 movements of fury and chaos in just under 40 minutes. musically, atmosphere setting ringing guitars are buried deep in the overall sound, under drums and even the distorted bass. as expected, we have complexity and shifting of melodies, but the band employs more power-chord sections than their contemporaries. those moments see the tempo drop for us to enjoy more heaviness. as for the dominating drums, the tone is quite raw and organic, yet the execution is sloppy at times. again, different from the likes, rather than a showcase of technical prowess, the drummer sticks to furious blast beats through a good portion of the album. abrupt falls of tempo give way to grim and heavy passages but the listener is not allowed relief from the overall horror and chaos that ensue. growling and agonizing vocals are quite in par with the tone and accentuate the death-ened sound.

through lung and heart closes up with the titular track that opens (and closes), as the album does, with a chanting / ambient section and this song sees the most variation and lengthy slow and heavy passages. life as we know it continues and the earth is in full rotation after the album’s end. while being quite good for a debut, distant and with all the instruments audible, i would expect a neater recording with a solid sound for the following albums. considering we have declining amount of good coming from finland (except the madness that is oranssi pazuzu), through lung and heart is a welcome treat and a hope for a brighter future with peace and love on earth. well maybe not the last bit.

kriegsmaschine – enemy of man (2014)

the end of times. kriegsmachine is calling it. singing about it. playing to it. in the utmost cold and lifeless manner, enemy of man is on full assault mode, relentlessly bringing the end of times throughout.

one cannot mention the immense polish black metal scene without kriegsmachine, sharing the drummer (darkside) and the main man (m.) of mgła, with the addition of constant band member destroyer on vocals. however, it is quite different than mgła and a fresh breath in black metal artistry. their second full-length enemy of man is a quite different and progressive gem, anything but readily accessible, catchy or uplifting. the war machine hits you. pounds you. on and on. and it takes more than a few listens to explore the magnitude of awesomeness under heavy battery.

first things first, more than half of the album is drum work. an incredible and respect-demanding amount of time was obviously spent on writing and performing the drum tracks. such a listening experience (such technicality very variation wow). darkside never gives a break from his unbelievably complex and hard to follow drum sections, with a heavy wtf? effect, leaving the listener wondering if it is actually a single human being with two arms behind the drum kit. the riffing is integrated within and under the drums, with a fitting apocalyptic tune. while the riffs themselves may be found as nothing unordinary, the atmosphere created by the guitars, gloomy and unsympathetic, complements the whole end of times theme masterfully, supported by such a meaty bassline. and last but not least, destroyer utters the chants of apocalypse with inhuman apathy towards life. his vocal range is quite wide and thick, accentuating the death metal sound so evident in polish black metal.

the album showcases a non-conventional approach to song writing, with black metal riffing playing second fiddle, so to speak. at the end of the album and after the ear ringing ends, there are hardly any riff-led melodies lingering. this emphasis on structure rather than melody is the obvious trademark. this is not done, however, for the sake of continuity. the music flows beautifully and brutally, as the listener is constantly battered by bass/snare/cymbal, growls and riffs in stormy weather. you even have some groovy outros. and the overall effect lies in the way in which all this is brought together, chaotic, distant and grandiose, commanding repetitive listens to get through the lava lake of drums to reach the substance.

the whole album is a gleaming pinnacle of black metal artistry in song writing and execution. the rather deep sound encourages you to turn the volume constantly up. besides the intro of beautiful chanting in german, this is all drums, guitars, bass and vocals and a progressive masterpiece of black metal. still, the “progressive” is not a separate part from the “black metal”, as it often is the case. in this sense of integration, kriegsmachine may be accepted as successful as (the unavoidable comparison) deathspell omega. the album contains 6 attention demanding and lengthy songs of equal calibre but the opening track is legendary. wow poland, nice going. keep it coming.

samael – solar soul (2007)

(written for encyclopaedia metallum)

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samael and satyricon have striking similarities through their respective musical journeys. samael made their cult black metal classic ceremony of opposites and satyricon nemesis divina. both bands suddenly went rampant afterwards and took listeners completely off guard (bar the ep’s) with colossally innovative and colossally magnificent masterpieces, to the point of inventing new music, with passage and rebel extravaganza. both received immense resistance and criticism from conservative listeners and fans alike (samael even were once booed on stage).

now, being a fan of a band is a curious thing. after a while, one goes beyond appreciation of the music to identification and a feeling of a right to demand. many fans demanded bands to “stay true to their roots”, actually record the same album over and over again. however, appreciation also applies to the artists’ product and the direction they wish to pursue. and that new direction saw both bands travel away from classical black metal (maybe further for samael). while samael delved into cosmic/electronic side and leaving black metal almost altogether (except no clean singing), satyricon went on to strip down the musical structure to a black & roll.

and in their new direction, both made an exemplary album of what they now wanted to do. in this sense, solar soul is samael’s “now, diabolical”, their most successful post – masterpiece release in their newly explored realm. this new music is almost entirely void of the darkness and grim musical structure of the old. instead of faking the darkness they lost or decided to leave or grow out of, samael embrace the new found light. relying on synthesisers and drum programming, solar soul creates a different transcendental atmosphere, but is oh so successful in doing so. we even have hits in alliance, slavocracy and ave! (and a miss in architect).

different, agreed, but innovative and just as majestic, in its own way.

gespenst – forfald (2016)

whoa. this is a glorious day for black metal. gespenst is a new-coming duo of a danish (genfærd, guitars and synth) and a french (galskab, bass and vocals) musician who also play in two other bands. and their debut “forfald” blesses us with four lengthy songs of black metal beauty.

the album opens up in an old-school classical black metal fashion, with tremolo & blast beat and this could not be any more misleading. as furious and accomplished are the pacey moments, very few henceforward, the band really shine as the tempo drops. the second track “revelation of maggots” is a shining example of what the band aimed to do, the music overall is slow, sometimes painfully so, including lengthy atmospheric/psychedelic/doom-ey passages.

the song writing appears to be quite personal and anything but stereotypical, allowing time for the melodies to develop. instead of bombarding the listener with ever-changing themes, the duo opt for repetition and theme development. this results in a shivering atmosphere and lingering / haunting melodies long after the album ends. like a good wine with a long finish. guitar dominates the proceedings, laying the melodies and atmosphere, supported by a heavily toned bass and toned-down throaty vocals. there are few moments of synth, effects and samples. the session drummer andreas joen provides a precise, firm, organic and restrained drum work, occasionally shining and delivering extra touches. this seems to be a general approach for the band; while technically accomplished, they do not show off technicality (as several bands attempt and some succeed) at the expense of atmosphere and continuity.

an exceptional, rather short black metal experience of melancholy and horror.