Underground Sounds: Meslamtaea – Niets en Niemandal

Label: Heidens Hart
Band: Meslamtaea
Origin: Netherlands
Some more bubblings from the Dutch black metal sewers here with the new release by Meslamtaea. Out on Heidens Hart records, this is the second release by the band, who have gone through a mild transformation in between their two releases. ‘Niets en Niemandal’ seems to hint at the destruction humankind is wreaking upon this world. Perhaps as urgent as ever for a band that is drawn towards the past.
The duo both play in Asgrauw and have done a split with that band, but also two with legendary Dutch black metallers Cultus. All in all, that makes it easy to place them in the right corner between forward-thinking and essentialist black metal under this banner. And that’s pretty much what you get on this record.
Spoken-word, thunderous preaching opens up ‘Neonschemering’, which ads that post-apocalyptic vibe to some traditional themes. The firebrand vocals are as doomy and gloomy as well, summoning the dark. Yet a little more mellow is also an option on ‘Weer een dag’. Overall there’s a nostalgia, a yearning, that is captured in the sound of Meslamtaea. The tremolo riffing just stick to that minor note and even though it’s played fast, it creates a languid feeling.
At times the riffing really takes a slow, clingy vibe, like on ‘Leegte’. The reverberation feels like a thick summer air, where you can almost feel like you move through mud. Loss, confusion, it’s all there. ‘Verlaten Stad’ is another notable tune, thanks to its thick, layered riffing. But it also has some simple music, almost melancholic Americana going as an intermission. For some strange reason, that works extremely well for me. It then fills, swells and becomes again the song that it was. It’s beautiful.
The strange ‘Vervreemdingszone’ is then the outro, taking us out of the song with strange, dissonant sounds. It leaves you a bit confused. But I think, in a good way.

Underground Sounds: Mystifier – Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia

Label: Season of Mist Underground Activists
Band: Mystifier
Origin: Brazil

Mystifier is one of the originals, one of the first bands to play what we now call black metal in their very own, distinct way. All the way in Brazil nonetheless, a country known for its vibrant extreme metal scene. Never shy to voice their opinions, the band took an anti-right stance in their early days and not much has changed in any part of their approach, ethically and musically.

For the last 18 years, however, Mystifier was quiet on the creative front. A box set and compilation were released, but their fifth full length took a long time to make. ‘Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia’ is finally here and offers those who love traditional black/death metal a tasty slice. Under the guidance of founding member Beelzeebubth, the band is going to war again. I saw them play in Tilburg, they were awesome! I have to mention Paolo Girardi, the legendary album cover producer. He made a piece that captures the cavernous, occult nature of the album very well.

The opening title track has something very remarkable to mention and that’s guest vocals from Proscriptor McGovern from Absu and Jim Mutilator from Rotting Christ. The second has not done much music in… forever. It leads to a dark invocation, with slow music and a fantastic vocal interplay. ‘Weighing Heart Symphony’ stays in the mumbling, ceremonial vibe, but also blasts some waves of tremolo guitar work in between the theatric interactions in the dark cave of Mystifier’s music. Melodic parts bounce off the walls with a lot of reverb as rackety vocals resound. I love how the vocals create this weird atmosphere and otherworldliness. Take ‘ Witching Lycanthropic Moon’, where the unearthly rasps and ambient sounds make you feel to have landed in an evil world, with a gibbering moon.

There’s definitely a sense of barbarism to the record, where the drums, bass, and guitars are purposely pronounced. At times, they hardly seem to work together in weaving the songs and go in their own ways. As the vocals and bass go into a doomy break on ‘Six Towers of Belial’s Path’,  drums are like an anxious reminder of speed and intensity just there. But that’s exactly what works so well for Mystifier, their approach to black metal is almost tribal, expressionistic and I would argue a kind of storytelling. Rarely do they simply blast you with riffs, but heavy metal licks spruce up the flavor of the whole instead. The pace may be slow on tracks such as ‘Demoler Las Torres Del Cielo’, the explosive force of demonic winds is just one breath away it seems as the band launches into brief salvo’s throughout the song.

As the album comes to a close, you get pummeled around the head by  ‘Al Nakba (666 Days of War)’. Sure, there’s a tasty guitar lick, but most is repetitive violence. The title shares some political engagement with the Palestinian cause, but it’s also a damn good track. Similarly, the feisty ‘Chiesa Dei Bambini Molesta’ is a piece of force and that means the album ends on a high note. Let these Brazilians not take too long for their next offering!

Underground Sounds: Grey Aura – 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd

Label: Tartarus Records
Band: Grey Aura
Origin: Netherlands

Grey Aura kind of dazzled me with their first release, which I reviewed for Echoes & Dust. The record series is based on a book, created by singer Ruben Wijlacker’s novel De Protodood in Zwarte Haren (The Proto-dead in Black Hair). The records are full of references to cultural pillars like Malevich, the De Stijl movement and this time in title with ‘ 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd’ also Gustave Flaubert.

Other references we read about in the bio are Rimbaud, Bataille, and Kandinsky. The record is also filled with field recordings and spoken word dialogues, done by professional voice actors. These complex efforts towards the narrative of the record are particularly noteworthy and grant Grey Aura an aura of the artistic and complex, which is reflected in their expressive live shows (which I enjoyed witnessing during the 2019 Roadburn festival).
The intro is a dialogue, spoken in terse, serious tones before we launch into ‘De onnoemelijke verleidelijkheid van de bezwijkende deugd’. The vocals of Wijlakker are something to experience, as they rip asunder any black metal cliché. He screams, bellows and then hoarsely speaks as a man lost to the listener as odd rhythms and sounds enter the song and transfigure it into something completely different.
Grey Aura doesn’t shun stepping far over their genre boundaries, as done on ‘Parijs is een portaal’.  Mild Spanish guitar and a jazzy, fresh rhythm evoke the vibe of the Parisian nights. We even get some polka rhythm on ‘De Drenkeling’ a moment later, while the lyrics take the overhand in telling us the story,  which you can find on the Bandcamp page in a more elaborate form. This grand canvas behind the record is what makes it all stick together, even if you don’t know about it. That is the absolute strength of this record in my opinion. It’s internal coherence and consistent delivery of surprising tunes. As you hit ‘Sierlijke Schaduwmond’ little remains, but gentle jazzy music and spoken poetry. Captivating, mesmerizing and enthralling the listener with occasional screams of fury and anguish.
The play ends with ‘De Drenkeling’, a spiraling song of despair, ending in a rigorous march with a fatalistic edge. Marching into the sea, into doom. What will follow?