Category Archives: Review

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!

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?

Underground Sounds: Pa Vesh En – Church of Bones

Label: Iron Bonehead Records
Band: Pa Vesh En
Origin: Belarus

Pa Vesh En has been remarkably busy in 2018, releasing a demo, an EP and a split record. Now the mysterious entity adds the full-length ‘Church of Bones’ to the mix, which is a dark and lugubrious record full of unholy black metal in the darkest form.

Hailing from Belarus is a fact that simply adds to the charm and aura of darkness surrounding this grim sounding act. The title is an obvious reference to the Ossuary, the underground places filled with bones and remnants of the deceased. Something that today fills us with horror and dread, but what once was simply a practical solution to an issue of space.

The lo-fi recording style makes the sound a gurgling, swampy mess of dark and disgusting consistency. Its miserable expression is very much the forming aspect of the art that is ‘The Wilderness of Cursed Souls’. Mad ramblings, pitiful utterings and gibbering wails fill the air as the song unfolds into a wall of sound. Eerie, high notes soar through the clouds of distortion, linking up the sound of Pa Vesh En with the DSBM experience. At times this falls into pure ramblings, like during the messy ‘A Funeral Procession’, but that is part of the expression.
You are almost forced to up the volume, as the hazy sound veritably obscures the nuances and horror of the music on ‘La Vaise Macabra’. This shapes a sound that becomes more and more ambient black metal orientated, molding into a shapeless mass at times. Yet, this record is sticky in its own persistent way and nothing really escapes the wrath of Pa Vesh En on this dark release. Make sure to check it out.

Underground Sounds: Woest – Le Grouffe

Label: Independent
Band: Woest
Origin: France

You’d think the mood would be sunnier on the Côte d’Azur in France, but Woest is a band which sounds particularly dark. Hailing from Marseille, the trio, takes their honey from the likes of Mysticum, Blacklodge and Aborym. Yet they sound like their very own type of beast on latest release ‘Le Grouffe’. That translates as ‘The Abyss’ by the way.

Woest has been around since 2016 and has been quite prolific with two released this far. Both sound dense and oppressive, but definitely strong. Their main pitfall might be that they sing in French, yet by supplying English lyrics they kind of tackle that issue and judging by this release, that should be no issue. It’s an absolute killer record, unique sounding and particularly distinctive in this day and age.

The intro ‘Éveil’ is a peculiar reminder of the Mayhem classic as this martial ambient track. It shows a little of what direction Woest has turned to on their new album. And that is a direction that is more industrial, more direct and punishing as is instantly clear on title track ‘Le Gouffre’. The drumming is crushing, pneumatic and reminds me a bit of the Mysticum live shows. Absolutely terrific, as are the joint chants.

Yet, songs like ‘Ô vide éternel’ also have that hatchet, militant sound of the later Satyricon. Threatening, but not in a figurative sense. It’s close, in your face in all intensity. At the same time, there’s so much happening. It’s an exciting narrative on ‘À la gloire de l’immonde’ with interactive vocals, intensifying rhythms and an overall sense of grandeur. The computerized drums have to be something you can get behind though, it has to be said. If you’re a sucker for the traditional bashing, you’ll likely enjoy ‘Spasme de haine’ slightly less. We move onwards to the ‘Tous restera carbone’ and ‘Vagues de Styx’, which carry a steady pace and even mellow sound due to the synths. The vocals are ghoulish, but very in opposition to the haggard emulation of a string section. his is hardly extreme, yet it’s a singular point of rest in an otherwise intense album.

Woest does something remarkable in a stale scene with ‘Le Grouffe’. You should probably listen to it.

Underground Sounds: Crimson Throne – Of Void and Solitude

Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Band: Crimson Throne
Origin: United Kingdom
Crimson Throne revolves around Dan Thornton, also known from Abhorrent Decimation, The HAARP Machine, and Novena. At least, that’s the info I can find, but currently, there is a full live band touring and playing a load of shows. This is the first full length by the band, and it’s one well worth your time.

Previously, Crimson Throne released an EP focused on Hegelian philosophy and history, but on ‘Of Void and Solitude’, we focus on human suffering and, as the title may suggest, the futility of it all. This is done by setting of a freight train of intensity down a hillside, rolling towards inevitable doom with harsh, fierce black metal.

When Crimson Throne comes on, they come on big with a bombastic introduction before we just barrel into ‘Dalit Lineage’ with mid-pace riffing with what sounds like pressed guitar sounds. There’s a certain narrowness to the sound of Crimson Throne, which helps the vocals to really come through. The ghoulish, grated howls are of a particular kind, which many a vocalist will envy. It also leaves room for the atmospheric keyboards, as heard on ‘Indignant Slumber’. After this, we enter a brief interlude before the oncoming storm of side B.
‘Scattered’ builds up gradually, but then pours out the misery like a dam cracking open with vitriolic, dissonant melodies and instrumentation. The blast beats rumble onwards as the inhuman retching and squealing resound. This is, strangely, one of the more attractive sides of Crimson Throne. One of the major appeals of bands like Mayhem or even Bethlehem, is the uncanny, utterly terrifying vocal skills of their frontmen/frontwomen. And that’s exactly what you get on ‘Sightless Remnants’. Abyssal torment.
On ‘Ekur Calls’, you get more of a feeling that you’re listening to an expanded instrumental track, but the vocals are there. Yet should they be? This song feels great without the snarls and barks int he distance, but neither is it diminished much by them. But by the time ‘Ironsides’ comes around, I realize I’ve been battered relentlessly, with an album that could also have been 2 tracks less.

Underground Sounds: Our Survival Depends On Us – Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men

Label: Ván Records
Band: Our Survival Depends On Us
Origin: Austria

Honestly, one of the most bewildering live acts I’ve seen in recent years must have been Our Survival Depends On Us. It’s a concept, an art, and the simplistic name barely makes you suspect what awaits you on stage in a pandemonium of taxidermy blood and pagan mystery. Though that last is maybe perspective from my end, or simply allegorical as it is on their latest record ‘Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men’.

The group from Salzburg has released 4 full lengths, all with titles that undermine the hit potential due to their length and complexity. There is a light connection to Austrian black metal heroes Belphegor and many members played in Soulsearch before, which had a penchant for the medieval stories. The sound of Our Survival Depends On Us is unlike any other and well worth listening to.
‘Galahad’ sets the tone with a sonorous lament, that slowly opens up with somber tones and acoustic guitars. The band leans heavily on the folkloristic vibe of classic doom metal here, also in the vocals style, yet the music is much more atmospheric with keys and strings meandering in and out. It makes for a wonderful opener that needs a long time to get to some distorted riffing. You don’t miss that. But when it comes in, it is strong and forceful.
There’s always an apocalyptic edge to the music of Our Survival Depends On Us, something threatening. Yet even though the complexities in the lyrics, the band remains accessible, also on ‘Gold and Silver’ with its catchy guitar solos of ripping guitars. The low levels of distortion in the music really make every little bit count and that’s brilliantly employed.
We move forward with ‘Song of the Lower Classes’, which starts with samples, field sounds, and ambient tunes. The song has a hypnotic vibe with the clangy guitar sounds, that simply bewitch you. Mournfully, the words come to you as if they are a drag, carrying the world’s weariness along. “Down, down we go, we are so very very low…”. It is so powerful, it almost hurts. ‘Sky Burial’ meditates upon the topic of its title in a sonic journey that feels completely psychedelic and harrowing. It feels like a shoegaze-like track until it unleashes itself in a transcendental journey to the skies as the body dissolves. The summit of a sublime album.