death fetishist – clandestine sacrament (2016)

what a glorious year 2016 has been. we have enjoyed the refinement (so far) of the icelandic school of black metal and a strong manifestation of the new black metal aesthetics. not only new coming bands / projects such as prosternatur, throane, almyrkvi, martröð and skáphe completely blew me away with their releases, black metal giants oranssi pazuzu, coldworld, abbath, urfaust and freaking deathspell omega released new material. no “top 10 black metal albums of 2016” will do any justice.

and now we have death fetishist. the name may sound death/gore but this is pristine black metal that, although it may sound exaggerated and ambitious, brings all waves of black metal together. this is not a new coming band but a side project of ævangelist (and a shitload of other) mastermind matron thorn, supported by a whole bunch of black metal elite including none less than icelandic d.g., who releases the fury on the third track.

the intro is such a fitting (female) narration replete with cavern effects reminiscent of horror movies. although discomforting, the softly spoken words end in “all is quiet now…” over and over, and you know something is coming down. and what a delivery of a premise! the insane is at max level and it never drops. it is quite futile to do a song-by-song as the album coherently maintains the main structure throughout, resulting in much more than the sum of its parts.

we are greeted with an explosion of a synth “tone” (rather than individual chords), extremely psychedelic and ominous. the body of music seems to be buried under that never ending synth tone and the raspy vocals, handled by matron thorn (3 songs), doug moore (2 songs) and d.g. (1 song). this variation in singing only adds to the richness.

and the real deal then, the riffs, those delicious riffs of the old school black metal… supported by g. nefarious’ furious, raw and organic drums (that hit the listener rather than the kit), this is beautiful 1st wave of black metal. many parts remind the beauty of early bathory. this is not, though, a tribute to the days of old. the rhythm guitar track is topped by a more reverb-laden dissonant “new black metal” lead and this is such a sweet occasion of the old meets the new. the music bleeds out towards the end, leaving drone effects and the spoken word in reverse, bringing the horror to an end in style.

what a trip. what an album. black metal is glorious.

irkallian oracle – apollyon (2016)

i have been listening to this album over and over for the past week or so. not only because it is fucking awesome, but also i have been trying to grasp it from an angle and write down a review. the swedish sextet, bearing monikers seem to be individually contributing to various aspects of the music.

the album feels like a suffocating / disturbing night terror rather than actual music. it is like the slow psychopathic moments of early cannibal corpse for a whole album, with the musical approach of urfaust and sunn o))), topped with the visuals of blut aus nord.

the rhythm, where it exists, is painfully, excruciatingly slow. slow may even be an understatement. it rarely reaches mid-tempo (maybe except the “fast 4th track) and there are one or two blast-beat passages. the drummer makes use of his time by war-drums, attractive cymbal / bell work and loads of double bass. as the album progresses, the rhythm gets even slower to reach a lengthy, drone outro. this whole proceedings feel exactly like a slow and painful death. and they do it oh so beautifully.

the sound, complementing the crawling rhythm, is all but void of treble and at maximum level of bass. the extremely low guttural death metal singing fits perfectly. still, with the thick death metal sound and doomy atmosphere, this is glorious black metal.

despite its overt emphasis on the nightmarish atmosphere and a sound choice that buries the guitars deep down, you have some excellent riffs, but you may have to dig deep to appreciate those. the album bestows new moments of beauty and hidden gems at each listen. you also have some awesome basslines, but these are expectedly in-your-face. interludes typically let the listener some sort of relief between moments of horror in extreme metal. here, interludes of whispers, painful wails and eerie effects make the situation worse for the listener.

like all things good, the album ends. and there’s the real horror of actual existence. apollyon is a glorious landmark of 2016, an exceptionally glorious year for black metal.

deathkin – kohti kotiani kaaosta (2016)

this is so good. in a very good way. so satisfying. came out just 2 days ago, just wanted to check what it is and it completely nailed me to my chair. as soon as the first note hit, i was in. the debut of the obviously finnish quintet “kohti kotiani kaaosta” is, like a good debut imaginative and original, but unlike a debut so immaculate and well crafted.

sharing the “anonymous musicians” thing (which is totally getting out of hand) with the newer black metal acts, but that’s all that is. nothing like the new black metal, the album is pleasing the old metalhead in me.  the vocals strike first, sung in finnish with an impressive control and range, clean, angry shouts, operatic, shrills, throat, chanting… there are precious little instrumental parts. the body of the musical structure, full-on distorted guitars are so clean and audible, again unlike the reverb-laden and dissonant newer structure. one of them is in constant lead-mode, swaying within the main melody with delicious tremolo and solos. and that creativity is continuously adding new and exciting material for the listener to discover at each listening. the shift of melodies is further accentuated by a striking drum work, with a thick organic sound, mechanically precise and maniacally furious. so generous with the blast beats and double bass. you just can’t help but bang your head or play the air drum.

while being especially rich in melody, the careful repetition and recurring of the themes creates a hypnotic, uneasy and chaotic atmosphere. and it is commendable to create chaos through coherent structures. slower parts with spoken word / chanting add to the eerie religious feel. the 6 lengthy songs are seamlessly conjoined by the help of short instrumental interludes. this not only creates a sense of one continuous song with chapters, but also hits at your face as the songs burst in full force.

this is good. so good.

tod huetet uebel – malícia (2015)

i have been neglecting my black metal exploration lately. i just couldn’t get into whatever i listen to. have i listened to them all? have i finished? please no. turns out i have been waiting for “tod huetet uebel”. portuguese black metal is obviously a thing, as shown by this duo.

now, we have a new aesthetic in black metal (i refrain from using the term post-black). the old riff & tremolo structure, where you could hear every single pick is largely gone in favour of a reverb-laden continuous buzz/ring layer, in parts with chords with little to no distortion. while individually inaudible, this creates amazing atmosphere and melody when successfully composed and executed. this unorthodox guitar style, dare i say perfected by the french giants, is increasingly adopted by newer black metal acts, including this one.

the cover strikes first. i feel i saw it before. wormlust – the feral wisdom? same stylised twirls and dark imagination? turns out i am right, the french artist valnoir painted both, and a shitload more, including antaeus, behemoth, blut aus nord, morbid angel, peste noire, taake, ulver… the visual aesthetic has also undergone transformation, the blurry black and white dark forest under a full moon theme gave way to this artistic, symmetrical illustrations of horror.

from the first moments, “malícia” pulls you in. in a stormy sea of chaos, confusion, madness and a constant stream of beats. the drums are so in-your-face loud and never let go, except the slower sections of madness. uncredited, and obviously programmed blast beats and double drumming does not, however, feel industrial. the guitars and bass create the main layer and are played by the main man daniel c. besides building the soundscape and melody, we have some striking riffs of equal imagination as the atmosphere created. especially the closing of the second track “i” gives you the heebeegeebeez. i am so glad i got to use that word. oh by the way, the now mandatory roman numerical song titles are completely disordered.

and the crown jewel of malícia, the singing (?). it seems this is the singer’s (marcos m.) first time handling the microphone, which is such a shame. his vocal range is beyond impressive, nailing death and black vocals and double-tracks but he completely kills it with his wailing-in-anguish-black-metal-operatic insane-ness. imagine the tortured screams of a horror movie killer. but this is the worst kind of horror movie killers. this one haunts you at your dreams and you never get to see his face. and when finally he confronts you, screaming like a madman that he is, cuts himself because he likes to torture you emotionally. and you hear the wailings. well you get the picture.

malícia, the band’s debut full-length, delivers what they set out to do. seven tracks of madness in the new aesthetics of black metal. black metal is glorious.

ergholae somptator – morendo jusqu’à la fin (ep, 2016)

there are so many reasons to be happy in life. you have kittens, smell of earth after a brief summer rain, lazy sundays, and french black metal. of all the amazing stuff coming from france, ergholae somptator is the most recent one, which i would have missed if it wasn’t for the polite notification of the drummer/keyboardist/singer jérôme bouquet that made me feel kind of famous. léo louis-honoré handles guitars and vocals.

the duo’s second release “morendo jusqu’à la fin”, just under 20 minutes contains four songs individually travelling different realms of black metal. and you would expect an ep to showcase songs that variate (fun fact: limited to 66 cd’s and 66 cassettes). the short opener “rhizomes insidieux” is a thrash/black blast that abruptly drops tempo towards the end, making the blast beat filled “prisonnier des orbites” even more striking. this track, still in the thrash vein, serves some death and atmospheric black metal moments as well. the band keep exploring new ground as the third piece “un manteau en chauves-souris” delve into pagan & stoner/doom with a hypnotic main theme and light symphonic touches of keyboards and a sorrowful clean guitar interlude. and frankly, they are at their best in those moments of suspense and atmosphere. the horror show that closes the proceedings, “la mélodie de l’horloge” (hello ctrl+v my old friend) travel through different human emotions, with a morgul-esque, insane slow and heavy first part supported by piano and a theme that carries of throughout the song. that riff is also present in the opening of the first song, giving a nice loop effect. tempo picks up to a peak towards the end, only to drop again.

the bulk of the sound is thin and crispy guitars and raw drums. it feels like a live record and i’m digging the dirty low budget / garage sound that gives musicians room to express creativity. the dual vocals add to the chaos with a range from death metal to shrill. this is a tough job to tackle and an obvious example is another french powerhouse arkhon infaustus. i failed to notice any bass, not credited either, maybe except the fourth track. the ep satisfies the expectations from a french black metal release, a psychopathic atmosphere, unexpected shifts and changes of tempo, chaos and creativity. the duo also boldly steps over different genres and influences with ease. now all that is left is to wait for the full-length. again, merci france.

septuagint – negative void trinity (ep, 2014)

the greek school of black metal usually leans toward the theatrical / operatic side of things. and you have the emphasis on melody. what we have is a first taste of a good new greek black metal act. the sound is a warm welcome back to the roots, with fine distorted chord & tremolo, organic drums (with a raw snare) and roaring vocals with precious few clean singing. and structurally, it is anything but shocking, especially after the jaw dropping releases of the last few years from iceland. i should elaborate on that, septuagint take their time for melodies and passages to develop, with respect to conventional scales. tempo shifts, and quite often so, but the proceedings still are in the mental health zone.

the ep contains 5 tracks, all around the 5 minute mark. riffing, tremolo and furious blast beats carry the sizeable majority. and they are quite well executed. as you would expect from a successful band. sections where the tempo drops see more of a desperate and eerie atmosphere, but again, within the limits of sanity. also, delightful double bass work. i could go on about the drum tone.

the band do not break new ground of breathe fresh air to black metal. and they do not aim to do so. this is overall a solid black metal executed in a classical frame, filled with beautiful melodies and creative material, which develop, repeat and in times recur, instead of fillers. especially the theme of the closer lingers long after the ep ends. but it needs to be said, those beautiful melodies sometimes edge on the outer, calmer realms of black metal. at least the hopeless, “negative void” of the black metal feel we all know and love.

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.