novae militiae – gash’khalah (2017)

a beautiful country, civilised people, amazing food, wine and brandy, countless tourist attractions, you do not think of france as producers of extreme things. but then you have movies that explicitly show a woman perform caesarean section with a huge pair of scissors and more vulgarity that make even goriest hollywood horror flicks squint. then you have antaeus. arkhon infaustus. vi. aosoth. throane. you have deathspell omega and blut aus fucking nord.

oh, and novae militiae. gash’khalah is the second release since being founded in 2009 and the incognito band has all the clues of being a supergroup / side project. as the cover work and the inevitable religious horror soundtrack of a short intro imply, we are to be treated a delicious main course of blasphemous black metal. still, you cannot be too prepared for the proceedings. the album opens up ever so slowly and heavily with my distant favourite “the chasm of the cross”. the first thing you notice is how “every” instrument and vocals are distorted towards a single sound. that sound, however is far from a generic “transylvanian hunger” rip-off lo-fi buzz, but a resounding and ear numbing cold industrial wall. and within that explosion that keeps on exploding, each sound is still clearly audible. i know this makes little sense but novae militiae has obviously managed that.

the vocals take centre stage here. the heavily distorted and double-tracked semi guttural shrieking rarely takes a notch down, except the rather clean / operatic singing on the amazing 6th track “black temple consecration”. an interesting trick, vocal lines are composed to be somewhat longer than you’d expect from the scale, or so it feels, and that effect just intensifies the overall atmosphere and feeling of horror and despair. on top of the music is the pounding (i couldn’t just write “drums”). except the most part of the opening and the 5th & 7th tracks, you have a downpour of heavy battery; double crosses and blast beats throughout, executed in military discipline and mixed to sound as industrial and uncomforting as possible.

a worrying number of newer black metal releases that lean towards a chaotic atmosphere tend to treat guitars as a layer, therefore sadly neglecting original riff/tremolo composition. now, i have written about the vocals and drums first, for those reach your ear canals before the guitars do. luckily, the album includes so many delicious black metal riffing / tremolo that you do not simply get bored from the constant industrial / military attack. while some riffs are boldly in-your-face, most of them lay as hidden treasures for subsequent listens.

gash’khalah is an uncompromising, unrelenting black metal gem with a clear direction and attitude. clearly one of the best releases in 2017 so far.


zebulon kosted – you have no race you have no culture (2017)

zebulon kosted is around since 1999 and “you have no race you have no culture” is his 21st album, so it is quite a miss on my part that i’ve just been tipped off. the work at hand is quite a lot to digest with ease, evidently on purpose, by mechanically combining simple individual elements.

for the first part, one person band is quite a thing. the formula, while possibly lacking the virtuosity of individual players, obviously offers the sole musician endless expressive freedom. we have witnessed where the formula failed horribly. but then we have the ruins of beverast. the bottom line is, in essence we would expect originality and novelty from a one piece band.

second, we have a cycle of destructuring and restructuring of art, “in order to create, you must destroy”. the firmly established rules, guidelines, scales etc. of music (as in many other forms of art) have been continuously challenged, expanded, broken, only to be restructured as a novel form of self-expression. a shining example would be the glorious “einstürzende neubauten”, who destroyed everything we know as music, to bring us self-structured industrial soundscapes.

drawing parallels to the second point, the reshaping / restructuring in black metal has brought us numerous monumental pieces of art to behold in awe; but only after when we left our preconceptions of what black metal “should” sound like and embraced the beauty in the artists’ self-expression. arguably, the man himself ihsahn challenged those preconceptions and the boundaries of black metal by boldly producing those albums that we “now” hold dear. that creative vision paved way to (the later albums of) samael, satyricon, dødheimsgard and the like, to the constant restructuring of black metal and all its subgenres, all the while preserving the essence of black metal: the way it makes you feel. so, along the journey from “under the sign of the black mark” to “666 international” to “skáphe²“, black metal has continuously “evolved”, all the while maintaining its glory.

and finally we have “you have no race you have no culture”, a 52 minute self-expression by rashid abdel ghafur. what at first listen sounds like a total chaos of soundscapes is in itself quite well structured into two 3-song parts, an interlude, intro and outro. the actual songs themselves are quite good examples of restructured black metal. while being fundamentally coherent in themselves, the progression is undeniably unexpected in certain moments. take the opening track “stripping, burning, crushing” as an example. what starts as a good old aggressive blast beat frenzy of a black metal song suddenly delves into a demented fanfare and then melancholia. and you just keep saying “well i didn’t expect that!” i didn’t expect that tempo shift. why is this part here now? aah. the vocals range from raspy shrieks to wailings and always in place, the drums sound quite organic and the bassline is a joy to behold. the guitar sound is inescapably reverbed and buried as a layer but through all that is happening, you just cannot miss those beautiful black metal riffs.

through the rest of the album however, things take quite a different turn. he freely coveys his disdain on urban, religious and racial subjects through spoken word / movie samples. through these parts the sound is definitively industrial. you have mechanic percussions and sound effects galore, layered upon spoken parts. through the interlude especially, we listen to a poor lady’s terrified narration of how sebastian (?) showed him the face of the false god (track name) through the sad story of sea turtle hatchlings (?). after the title track, which blows the heaviest punch, the outro is half racial mumblings and half demented laughter over a pretty drone.

“you have no race you have no culture” obviously is an acquired taste and a lot of work to get into. the artist clearly does not aim at appealing to masses, nor does he hold any regards for conventional art. if the album does appeal to you, it will undoubtedly be a favourite, and if not, it is most certainly “interesting”.

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.

caïna – christ clad in white phosphorus (2016)

another couple of weeks passed by with a cranky mood, listening to and not liking a number of albums, until finally… i came across caïna’s latest full-length “christ clad in white phosphorus”, which came out just 2 days ago, and it pinned me down my chair. behemoth of an album, completely cold, chaotic, lifeless and extremely heavy on the ears. the ear assaulting sound reminds of ulver’s black metal masterpiece nattens madrigal on songs and einstürzende neubauten-esque (though much angrier) industrial noise on interludes. so generous on the treble, the guitars and the shrieking vocals rip through your ear canals. the manic moments of blast-beat filled songs also reminded me of antaeus madness. a mention for the drum work is also in place, for masterfully setting the pace through all this thick mud. the british mastermind andrew curtis-brignell seems to be accompanied by a vocalist and a bass player on this album, contrary to the previous ones in which he did (almost) all the work.

through all that inaccessible wall of chaos, fury and industrial ear-attack though, caïna delivers so much material, artful variation and many ideas. the instrumental opener, completely void of any sympathy or any regard to an organic feel, tries to prepare the listener to what’s to come. which is a tough job, considering the second track “torture geometry” explodes with such unprecedented fury, with the signature over-the-top loud noise and industrial structure. noise and music begin to merge with the third track, “fumes of god”, while just as hostile, includes more layers of keyboards, followed by a lengthy interlude mostly of discomforting noise effects. then comes the oddball “gazing on the quantum megalith”, punk-infused and groovy, yet maintaining the uneasy and inorganic feel. after two more heavy songs intertwined with mad blast beats and keyboard/noise passages comes the highlight “pillars of salt”, a surprising jazz-drum attack. madness ensues with the 8th track, probably the most nordic black metal sounding song with delightful tremolo. after the 12-minute long interlude of spoken word and noise, the closer, “christ clad in white phosphorus” is a black metal take on synth-pop.

it is just amazing the amount of unorthodox and even controversial material, that fits so masterfully in one album, while maintaining the uncompromising, industrial and inorganic feel. however, all this experimentation and variation results in the lack of continuation and coherence but i highly doubt if he cares. the album is quite inaccessible yet so rewarding once you plunge into it. and the madness takes you to places.