totalitarian – de arte tragoediae divinae (2017)

i passed march and april without a decent find. that made me question the idea of an endless abyss of awesome black metal releases. that is until i came across totalitarian. their sole release “de arte tragoediae divinae”, which just came out last week, is a behemoth of an artwork that instantly commands the listener’s full attention. totalitarian is another seemingly obscure band / one person project that hails from rome, italy, from where noticeably few good black metal comes, to be fair. yes, fides inversa is good.

the work at hand as a whole feels like a bad trip, a hellish phantasmagoria, a nightmare of sorts, rather than music, with notes, passages, bridges, singing, riffs etc. and the main point is the effective creation of the horrid, claustrophobic and hypnotic dark atmosphere. totalitarian delivers. right from the start of their career. this is no lo-fi / buzzed debut. this is masterfully composed, played and produced doom/death/black metal beauty.

the basis of the hypnosis is laid down by constant repetition of one or two main themes throughout each song. you have really rare variation and after a while you lose track of any scale or progression. obviously done on purpose, this commands the immersion of the listener, ever deeper into the dark, gloomy, hellish, horrid… landscape painted right before your eyes. you have the (quite) down-tuned riffing, complemented by deafening thick basslines. you have both guttural death and wailing black metal singing full of reverb, buried deep under the soundscape. there’s the constant pounding and punishing drums, frequently on battle mode. a bit industrial too, and me likey. somehow reminds me of n.k.v.d. and irkallian oracle. on top of that is the careful execution of sound effects to add further layers of dirt upon the poor listener.

the album opens up in excruciatingly slow tempo, and that scale is revisited throughout the album but when the tempo picks up, and it does, such as in the blast-beat filled second and third tracks, that’s when the going gets rough. the fourth track is the eye of the storm. with the main theme repeating hundreds of times, over battle drums, the thick fog of confusion and punishment reaches its pinnacle, giving way to the slowly fading away closing track.

totalitarian clearly have a certain idea and direction of an oppressive, commanding hypnosis, delving deep into black metal horror and presenting ear-numbing atmospheric excellence. i just hope they keep presenting the goods.

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.

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.

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.

zhrine – unortheta (2016)

i have praised iceland before. many times. but obviously i can go on. now we have zhrine (previously a death metal band called gone postal). their debut unortheta is simply an impressive album in the icelandic extreme metal school, wandering mainly in black, death and occasionally doom metal territories. however, the load of melancholy present in the album as well as the artistic approach of the band sets this release clearly apart from your typical death metal.

this emotion manifests itself in its purest form in the opening track, with a sweet build up from sorrowful arpeggio, bass and then a torturing of guitars (rather than a riff) and an onslaught of heavy drumming. vocals totally rule the music. extremely low and loud death metal growls (and rare shrieks) add much brutality. the “death metal” however goes little further than this, except few passages. the rest is solidly structured songs of agony, anger and a free flow of experimentation. the two guitars lead the atmosphere throughout most of the album, a freely experimenting lead over manic riffing. bass sounds so organic and “old-school”, which leads quite often, rather than laying the rhythm. the fury, agony, technicality, shifting and sudden changes in tempo are only reflected in masterful drum playing here. besides being extremely well executed, the sound again is toned perfectly, thick and alive.

unortheta is an artistically executed and well produced album conveying a wide array of emotions and soundscapes. loaded with shifting passages, tempo changes and experimentation, it is still accessible at first listen and coherently structured, allowing themes and passages to build up in their time, rather than being cacophonic. an overall awesome album and one should expect nothing less than a piece of art from iceland.

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.

svartidauði – flesh cathedral (2012)

izlandalı, aslında on yıldır müzik yapan grubun tek stüdyo albümü flesh cathedral, tüm yaşamın ve umudun bittiği yerde duruyor. yaklaşık 1 saatlik ve 4 şarkılık albümde neredeyse tek bir olumlu / mutlu an yok. sözler de ağırlıklı olarak çürüme, yanma, veba (grubun adı), delilik, ölüm, kabus gibi konuları işliyor. albümün genel havasını çok iyi vurgulayan bir sese sahip. bas çok önde ve genel olarak sesin “kütür kütür” (deicide-vari) death metal sesine yakın olmasını sağlamış. gitarlar birbirinin içine karışan türden. davul ise tüm diğer seslerden farklı yerden geliyor gibi ve usta işi. vokaller de çok derinden ve yankılı. şarkılar uzun, hızlı ve süründürücü orta tempo bölümler arasında düzensiz geçişler içeriyor. albüm boyunca tekrarlayan veya farklı yorumlanan geçişler var ve albüme 4 farklı şarkıdan ziyade tek bir şarkı duygusu hakim. albüm genel olarak dinleyiciyi hiç bırakmayan yapıda ve şarkılar birbirinin içine eriyor. yine de öne çıkan ilk şarkı “sterile seeds” albümün genel kavramını belirleyen muhteşem bir açılış parçası.