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.

מזמור (mizmor) – yodh (2016)

i may not be always too picky on my black metal pleasure. some albums grow in me in time or after a couple of listens. some don’t. some are love at first listen. in the case of yodh, the undead voice and wind effects and the first shriek i was already searching the cd at amazon (£65.77? really?).

now, what’s the premise here? the cover. shipwrecked disturbed souls haunting innocent people? we have a.l.n. from urzeit. and urzeit is always fun in their grind approach to black metal. but this is different. a.l.n. is all we have, on extremely thick drone-y guitars, distorted bass, thumping drums, effects and… singing, because that’s the technical term. ranging from guttural to bone-chilling shrieks, he expresses excessive emotional torture, loss, insanity and such sweet tones to the depths of my soul.

the 5 lengthy songs are all structured denying any traditional musical construct. you have a totally unrelated passage as a closer at the opening track or an interlude opening the second, for instance. as expected, we have stretched passages of drone and psychedelic effects. more often than not these are carelessly written and employed as fillers that distract and you end up checking your phone. not here. those moments of “sunn o))) and wormlust meet pink floyd” employ an equal creativity and song writing effort from the part of the sole artist here. and the fact that they end abruptly, before the expected end of scales, to give way to sudden bursts of energy always keeps the listener at the edge of their seat. this structure of interwoven shifts as a whole presents an immense and coherent atmosphere of fear and an overall emotion of despair to the point where you will want to peel of your face with your nails. such joy. at some moments he completely and utterly commands before swaying the melody and / or the tempo in the most unexpected way. at the end of the hour mark, the album speeds up to bring the proceedings to a close in style, after travelling through most of the negative realms of the human psyche.

the sweet despair of loss and a monumental piece of art. 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.

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.

aosoth – iv: an arrow in heart (2013)

yet another beautiful thing coming out of france, solidifying the fact that the french make some of the best dark and insane extreme metal around. presenting their fourth full-length album (hence the name), aosoth includes the vicious madman mkm from another french black metal act antaeus, but unlike them who like to attack the listener with an incessant stream of blast beats, chaos and confusion, aosoth opt for a more minimalised approach and  a varying, but generally mid-paced tempo. and loads and loads of double-cross drumming, combined with heavily low-tuned and resonant guitar sound, creating a dark, hypnotic and strong atmosphere. aosoth also like to take their time and work the passages out, allowing the listener to immerse in the feeling and enjoy the anguish. their mastery in atmosphere is also reflected in delicious repetitions that would put lots of doom bands to shame. the concept is thoroughly sinister / satanic, as expected. the 16-minute epic closing song is an instant classic, however the fourth track “under the nails and fingertips” that open so slowly, progressing in time and closing abruptly at an insane rpm is my favourite. an amazing album overall. 

fransa’dan gelen bir güzellik daha. fransızların çok güzel karanlık ve akıl hastası metal yaptığından bahsetmiştim. aosoth’un (adından da anlaşıldığı üzere) dördüncü albümü bu kanıyı daha da destekledi. vokalde bir diğer fransız black metal grubu antaeus’tan tanıdığımız akıl hastası mkm’nin yer alıyor. fakat dinleyiciyi duraksız blast beat’ler, ve kaosla döven antaeus’tan farklı olarak, aosoth daha minimal bir yaklaşımı ve değişken ama genelde orta tempoyu benimsiyor. bol miktarda çift kros, bas tonlu ve rezonanslı gitar sesiyle birlikte “kütür kütür” bir ses, karanlık, hipnotik ve kuvvetli bir atmosfer yaratıyor. aosoth ayrıca tadına doyalım diye melodiler ve geçişler için yeterli süre ayırıyor, bu sayede yaratmak istediği duygu durumu ve atmosferi iliklerimize kadar hissediyoruz. atmosfer yaratmadaki becerileri uzun tekrarlarda da kendini gösteriyor ki pek çok doom grubunu utandıracak seviyede. albümün konsepti beklendiği gibi şeytani. 16 dakikalık efsane kapanış parçası anında klasik olmakla beraber, ağır başlayıp gelişen, inanılmaz bir rpm’de aniden biten dördüncü şarkı favorim. muhteşem bir albüm.

lurker of chalice – lurker of chalice (2005)

tamamen şans eseri denk geldiğim, iki gündür dinlemeden duramadığım albüm. lurker of chalice, abd’li leviathan’ın tek kişisi wrest’in yan projesi ve tek stüdyo albümünün adı. yer yer leviathan’ı andırsa da ayrı bir proje olması normal. albüm bir miktar lo-fi, enstrümanların kasten birbirine karıştığı, drone’umsu bir sese sahip. tam 1 saat boyunca kıyamet sonrası / kabir sonrası merakımızı gideriyor. son derece karanlık, depresif, (ambient burzum dönemi) su altı hissi veren, doom/black aleminde gezinen bir albüm. wrest’in aslen davulcu olmasından dolayı sağlam bir müzikal temele oturmuş, arada progresif geçişler barındırıyor. şarkılar tipik öfkeli black metal tremolo / blast beat yerine uzun, yavaş, acılı, psychedelic, bol tekrarlı bir yapıda. dinleyeni içine çeken, sonuna kadar da bırakmayan bir albüm. standart altı anlar bulunmamakla beraber “spectre as valkerie is” muazzam bir şarkı.