Category Archives: Review

Pamirt – Mausoleum

Pamirt translates to ‘to die gently’ from Latvian and is an artistic project by Kristiāna Kārkliņa. It emerged from experimentation in Berlin in 2017, creating a different sort of expression than her black metal band Eschatos. The result is a stunning display of darkness, and it’s regal beauty in sound. Pamirt has now emerged as a trio, with Kārkliņa being supported by Edgars Percevs (Eschatos) and Edgars Gultnieks (Protean, Eschatos).

What you get in recording, is quite exceptional, but there is a place that can be ascribed to the music of Pamirt. To me, that is somewhere in between Diamanda Galas, Dead Can Dance and Lingua Ignota. For the sheer recklessness of combining classical sophistication and composition with meaty bass lines and darkness expressed in the vocal style. Listening to the album, it is evident that at the heart of each song is just the piano and voice, the other instruments serve to enhance, thicken, macerate and fortify the sound into what it is: Pamirt.

Mausoleum

The record starts off mildly, with the song ‘That Day’, which relies mostly on the basics, but when the sound does swell it is tumultuous, overwhelming. It’s there where the vocals pierce the haze of distorted guitars and mesmerizing keys. ‘Mausoleum’ as well, sticks to the more common sounds, with a doomy sound and sense of foreboding every step of the way, but towards the end, these notable sounds emerge in the noise. The voice whoops and soars, as Kārkliņa rides and tames the waves of sound.

The lyrics tell us stories, which are partly inspired by Pushkin’s ‘A Feast In Time of Plague’ and by own experience. The result, at times, is grotesque, confrontational and heavy. ‘This Dinner’ is a noteworthy track in that sense, with vocals that put us on the path of Diamanda Galas if I may be so bold to make that comparison. Banging sheet metals, diabolical laughter, unnerving…but bewitching at the same time in all its splendor. We slowly wander into ‘Early March’, an intermezzo instrumental track.

Whatever you may feel of this music, that radiates discomfort, the voice is ever-present. It’s multi-faceted, of many colors. It’s absolutely stunning in execution, wildly dancing through the songs. Though the piano is almost battered with the crushing sound on ‘Danube’, the singing is calm, measured and again has all the right ups and lows. “I flee the bright white fields, I once used to call home…”, Kārklina laments a few moments later, and the pace picks up into a marching rhythm.

‘Crazy’ is the only cover on the album, a classic by Patsy Cline. The song was recorded almost 70 years ago. Pamirt turns it into a dirge, with a trudging pace, that slowly swells. As the singing soars, the music reaches a grudging crescendo. On ‘Bloodletting’ you might notice more bass, which is the double bass from Stanislav Yudin (of H2O, not the hardcore band), a composer who has, in fact, won awards for his folk music. It adds more depth to the song, which already has some of the most gutwrenching vibes of the whole piece. The vocals provoke, gibber and taunt, but towards the end, there is merely repetition and surrender:

“…With the needles, we swallow.  You hold me on my death bed, baby. You hold me on my death bed baby… You hold me on my death bed baby….”

Mausoleum is a mighty piece of work. A record that stands on its own, it doesn’t need any of my references above to convey its meaning. It’s all there, in raw honesty and daring artistry. It’s an album bravely created by a bold soul, and this you feel every minute it lasts.

Underground Sounds: rāhha – Descension Ceremony

Label: Independent
Band: rāhha
Origin: Germany

I can’t tell you much about rāhha as of yet. Not that I don’t want to, but the German duo seems to come out of nowhere with this their destructive second EP ‘Descension Ceremony’. Their Facebook page made me none the wiser either so I’m just going to tell you how they sound instead.

So think Germany, think Nachtmysticum, think Mgła, think… well, listen. It combines the atmospheric, the raw and the haunting into one epic journey.

Fire and fury erupt when the EP kicks off with ‘Diocese of Endless Strife’. The sound is cavernous but full and immersive. The vocals are in your face, raw and passionate. They are in power, in control of the depths you’ve plummeted into as the thudding drum starts to hammer away. There is not even any noticeable shift when we move on to ‘Korpsgeist’. If you catch the wave, the sonic exaltation of their song, your in for a rapturous ride as the speed and rising cadence has a sweeping power. I just want to punch my fucking fist in the air and scream until I have the same rattling howl.

‘Empty Chalice of Life’ is another firebrand on the holy houses. Black metal in righteous opposition with all the anger and not a sense of compromise as we launch into the final tune. We delve into ‘A Waxen Image Ritual’, where the raspy voice barks and howls. An immersion into the purest darkness with rapid blast beats, tremolo guitars and and a remarkable portion of catchiness to it. Can’t wait for more from this duo!

Underground Sounds: Mortuary Punishment – Pride.Power.Punishment

Label: Independent
Band: Mortuary Punishment
Origin: United States

What if your wilderness is the streets you live in? That is what shapes the sound of Mortuary Punishment, who make music inspired by the violence on the streets in Pomona, C.A. It captures something much more raw and random than the wild forest, it captures human life on ‘Pride.Power.Punishment’.

Mortuary Punishment is Bigg o))), and the record starts with the Ghetto bird (the police helicopter) and news samples about the stuff that is going on there on this doom release. The music gently comes up and hits you in the face with a bit of that Latino SoCal Punk rawness to it. It tastes spicy as hell. Not surprising, because the creator is also involved with Xibalba.

‘The Streets I’ is an intro for the record, with all the samples, so we start with the punishing ‘Streets of Death’, which is raw and raucous death doom with a rather lively pace and gurgling doomy vocals. The lyrics offer a straight-forward doom stomper: “Angels marked for death. Weakness will be destroyed. Destroy the light.” Now that’s some heavy punching right there. Sure, musically it’s simplistic, but not less effective.

We soon turn to ‘Chalice of Suffering’. This track picks up the pace after a stop-go introduction song. The repetitive riffing keeps the tension up and you imagine the wall of death to break out any moment, but instead, we move towards a slow, grinding break before we launch into full speed. It’s just bad-ass all the way. Crushing riffs and gut-punching drums, it doesn’t stop. Mortuary Punishment really focusses on the cavemen simplicity. Effect. That’s all that matters. ‘Slaughter the Sheep’ is the crushing final chapter of this crushing, primordial release and what a record it is. Check out this punishing release and get smashed with this dangerous bit of death doom!

Underground Sounds: Vanum – Ageless Fire

Label: Profound Lore
Band: Vanum
Origin: USA

Vanum is a cooperation between members of Ash Borer, Yellow Eyes, Predatory Light, Vilkacis and Fell Voices (and 3 of these names apply to one man). That puts them in a particular bracket of black metal, with pure, undiluted fury. This is their second full length, following two years after the ‘Burning Arrow’ EP and it promises nothing but power.

Vanum is all about the grand gesture, the simplified sweep, over the miserly details. That, in itself, is a testament of their power and maximum delivery and I’m glad to have witnessed this life. ‘Ageless Fire’ is the title of this album and for me its an instant elevation to the status of modern-day black metal deity.

‘War’ is like a marching song, into the flames. Slowly, majestic and strong it comes on and delivers us to a mellow tremolo riff at its ending, which fades gradually. It hardly primes you for ‘Jaws of Rapture’, which follows on the heels of a church bell. Like a cold rain, the song hits you with a wall of contentious guitars. The sky is grey, the air cold, but fire burns behind the war engine that is Vanum.

What follows after that is the 10-minute epic ‘Eternity’, which feels like a long baptizing of fire. While furious in its delivery and barked vocals claw at you with maddening fervor, the melody is leading the track. When it drops back to a slower pace, you can even feel a bit of a rock groove emerge. Yet never does it relent as soaring guitar melody enters and carious onwards. By the time you reach ‘Under the Banner of Death’, you’re battered and tired. Yet this track, with its melancholic opening salvo, digs even deeper as we go into the trenches once more.

The music of Vanum always carries both. There’s an overly epic aspect to it, a grandeur and unmistakable beauty, as we hear on the title track. But it always carries the fires of war and the eternal fog arising from it. ‘Erebus’ is then the finalizing track, the last notes, where suddenly a blissful calm has been reached. Has the fire burned everything, or are we in the fire?

Neither flesh nor fleshless,
Neither from nor towards.
Spirit terror in the mortal abyss
Rise through the nexus as the wheel turns.

Underground Sounds: Laster – Het Wassen Oog

Label: Prophecy Productions
Band: Laster
Origin: Netherlands

Laster is an oddity in the black metal universe. Not just in the looks, but musically the band leans heavily on something completely different as their peers. Though 2 of the members are active in more rootsy black metal band Nusquama, their sounds are more like those of Grey Aura than any of the more conservative projects. And their latest statement is another gem.

‘Het Wassen Oog’ is already the third full length by the Utrecht band, maintaining their sound and visual aesthetics. This time on Prophecy Productions, a label open to that which lacks categorizing. I’m not sure if it will appeal to the more conservative listener, but as a fan of the experiment and expressive, I enjoy very much the sound these guys produce on this album.

‘Vacuüm ≠ behoud’ maybe references clearly one of their influences, by addressing the theme of a different world and closing with the line ‘Ceci n’est pas un souvenir’. Is that a nod to Alcest (‘Souvenirs d’un autre monde’). It wouldn’t be surprising as the music is filled with the sweet sounds of postrocky/shoegazy passages. Dreamy, yet also containing harsh screams, the music offers a strange contrast, that is eerily beautiful. It allows you to sink into the obscure dance music.

Often there are these peculiar, repetitive parts that have something carnivalesque, that mesmerizing mystery of the circus. It is a different kind of dark, but equally alluring in their music. This can be heard on tracks like ‘Ondersteboven’, which also has a funky bass line, but also ‘Weerworm’. In between, ‘Haat & Bonhomie’ breaks the mold and surges into classic black metal in all its formal fury. Yet, there’s always a mystique. A movement, a dance between the instruments. It simply feels enjoyable, inviting, and fills you with excitement.

It’s hard to really put to words what Laster submits you to, but it’s a highly immersive experience. Catchy, surprising and still very much true to the essence of what this black metal record should sound like.

Underground Sounds: Nelecc – The Stars

Label: Independent
Artist: Nelecc
Origin: Kenya

Metal touches hearts and minds in far-off places and Nelecc is a solitary act in Kenya. Seeker, the man behind the act, is intrigued by nature and solitude, but also the stars are significant in his work.

Recently, he also engaged with other East-African artists in the project Krummholz, which clearly shows his artistic vision of atmospheric black metal as well. It’s all about immersion, storytelling and a strange way of letting go. That is the beauty of his work and what I love about ‘The Stars’.

Nelecc is a star gazer and that is what his music brings forth with an almost shimmering quality as opener ‘The Stars’ unfolds. The melancholy in the initial sound is deep, profound and warming. The song merges into ‘A Thousand Suns’, which contains some storytelling passages, with spoken word, introducing the overall story. Though muddled slightly in the mix, the music is tight and captures the attention like a steady stream. All of it flows with a cosmic languidity.

The music is epic in its formulation, slowly building from a murmur to a warm blanket, draped over everything in sight and filling one as a listener with a pleasant sensation. But as we advance, up the slopes towards harsher grounds, the sound becomes more punishing, more battering. ‘Forest of Gloom’ thus is an onslaught of blast beats and heaviness, hitting you like cold rains. In that way Nelecc shows its diversity and potential, Wonderfully hazy, dreamy and yet resonating broadly. It’s a record to listen to, now.

Final song ‘Amidst the Mist’ is an eulogy, a farewell with longing to a place of magic. It’s one you wouldn’t want to leave with the lo-fi sound and pools of sonic magic.

Underground Sounds: 雲雀/Hibari – 雲雀

Label: self-released
Band: Hibari
Origin: Japan

雲雀/Hibari is a one-man black metal band from Kyoto, playing a sound not far removed from the current blackgaze trend, but with a leaning to the atmospheric and DSBM side of things. The intermezzos remind a bit of Opeth.

If you want to write the name slightly more accessible it’s Hirari. The man behind the band is Ryotapon. He’s been active in 5PM Promise and Arbus, two other projects. The interesting thing about his record is that the inspiration is taken quite liberal. No holds barred, which is quintessential black metal in my book. For this band, a full band is listed, but Ryotapon is the only creator.

‘Antidote’ sets us on the path with a reluctant beginning. The tunes are like the first fall of snow. Gentle, drifting down to earth with a slow, reverberating sound attached. But once the flood gates are open the sound streams in and a moment later fully unleashes. Everything is smooth and soft, but the vocals, which are raw and harrowing, disrupting the peace. Hibari likes to interject a little Opeth acoustic, before jumping through the eyes in a warbly tremolo passage with oddly clanky drums.

It’s not much different on the eerily melodic ‘The Wheel of Sins’ and ‘Lunaj Meduzoj’, including that odd singing in the intro, making it feel a bit more like a pop ballad for a moment. But hey, that’s part of the deal and it works out pretty well as the song builds up, not unlike a Solstafir work. Cold, melancholic and gloomy is what describes Hibari best, which is just the way we like it.

Sounds of Elsewhere: Facthedral’s Hall

As a label, Facthedral’s Hall has been around for more than 20 years, releasing bold music, adventurous and innovative. That is a long time of unleashing limited batches of music into the world.

The beauty of this label is, apart from it being independent, it’s wonderfull open-mindedness. Music that is dark seems to be the only binding factor, apart from mesmerizing quality and a sense of enchantment. From pummeling death metal to otherworldly ambient, industrial and electronics, it’s all there.

That makes Facthedrall’s Hall, also a mailorder and event organizer, a label for listeners who are bold. Listeners who like sounds that are different, transformative and exotic. That’s why I decided to explore a number of releases from the label here.

Ingodeme – Endless

Ingodeme

Meandering beats, laser sounds and a seemingly incongruent arsenal of sonic collage elements assault you. The odd whistle suddenly grips with intent, a repetition that creates an anchor point in the swamps of sound as the whole of the music starts throbbing forward. Slowly, but surely, this drags you into the sound as it becomes more and more hypnotic and part of your own bio-rhythm. I love how all the layers of sound come together. It’s endlessness captured in a good 18 minutes with two tracks, titled ‘Endless’ and ‘Endless 2’. I know nothing about the artist. I don’t know if I need to. But I know that this is an experience.

Archenterum – “​.​.​.​ainsi fut Abîme”

Archentarum
Archentarum

And maybe this switch is slightly too absurd, but I jump into the technical sound of Archenterum. A black metal act from Avignon. Or death metal. You can pick which you find most fitting, but I hear the cold industrial sounds of Woest in this band. Yet, Archeterum likes to stick to a steady pace, a bone dry rhythm without much deviation and fierce intensity that never really relents. There’s, at times, a little ritualistic aspect to the thundering riffage, which I do enjoy. For example, ‘No Light’. A catchy song in my book. What this record does most of the time though is blast you with repetition. It overwhelmingly drags you along in its surging sound full of foreboding tones. Noteworthy in that, and its somber melodies is ‘Vortex of Death’, which is a high-paced slide into the abyss, where disparaging synth sounds bewilder the listener even further. Archeterum is an entity of its own, creating a claustrophobic unnerving sound. It’s highly recommended.

Chalung-Gra – Mostaferi

The term deep industrial ambient may not immediately summon a clear sound to mind, but it does actually deliver quite some upheaval. I can’t help it, but to me, it’s like I hear the roaring dinosaur toys of my childhood as nightmarish screams throughout the soundscape ‘Somes Pieces for Destruction’. This may sound funny, but actually provides a sound that is frighteningly apocalyptic. Distant thunder, collapsing buildings, these are the end-times. Is Chalung-Gra providing a wildly dystopian soundtrack? I think so indeed, but it is wholly captivating and deeply immersive. The dark drones on ‘Trminal’ make it seem like there’s nothing left on this planet and after some time I have to retreat, just to recuperate for a while after this excellent record.

Facthedral’s Hall – 20 Years Of Improbable Music

This sampler might be a collection of music, but it listens like a mixtape. Opening with the hooky electronics from SomniaK on ‘Tears of Fish’, you instantly get into the groove of the recording. You’re taken on a journey of samples, tribal beats, crackling electronics and unholy ambient with Sizzle, Pi Cab Alter and Anti. From heartbeat throbbing baselines to wonky, warbled effects with some dungeon synthy explorations in between, the music is highly engaging. Particularly I enjoy the industrial soundscapes of Minitel, though the strange, doomy synths of deathrow77 stick in your ear for a while too I must say. But then again, Silent Tower will pound it out of you with their harsh electronics.

Strange closer though, by Death Power, who deliver some miaowing followed by some raw as fuck thrash metal. I mean, everything is just pure fury. It would appear that this is contrasting with the electronics-heavy music mostly released by Facthedral’s Hall, yet it is not so. The label focuses on a certain vibe, a feeling, that is hard to really put your finger on. They do it quite well.

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!