Sounds of the Underground #39

Let’s bring out some new sounds from the underground, with Rive, Book of Sand, Woman is the Earth and Illyria. Check these amazing records out please.

Rive – Sorg
Self released

source: bandcamp

Imagine being in one of the most desolate places on this earth, in a windswept, frozen mining colony on the island of Svalbard. What music would come out of that? Well, now we know with this release by Rive from Norway. I was not convinced that this depresssed black metal band was actually from Svalbard, but Danthor Wildcrow told me that this was the case. The songs were made there, in the far north where only ice and polar bears can be found.

‘Sorg’ is not a complex record, but it speaks of weariness and being alone. It’s an eerie, subtle recording, leaving room for streaks of beauty and sunlight in its otherwise hazy, white sound. The drums sound a bit electronic and they hold a lulling effect, which very well adds to the vast stretched out effect the music seems to evoke. Imagine the early polar travellers, stranded and hoping for the ice to melt. The hopelessness and vast emptiness they must have felt is embrased by the music. The vocals are howls, getting lost in the gale of distorted sound with minimal riff work. This is the soundtrack of the mining colony of Sveagruva, which is only part of the year inhabited. That makes the song melancholic, as must be the temporary residents of the town. It’s a record full of yearning. Perhaps sonically not laced with complexity, but definitely captivating in its raw beauty and picturesque beauty.

Book of Sand – Occult Anarchist Propaganda
Mouthbreather Records

source: Blackmetalandbrews.com

Let me start with the basics, Black metal usually is pretty right wing, but Book of Sand really is on the veganism, feminism, anarchism and other lefty-isms with their words. The band from Minneapolis has been around since 2009 and may be one of those bands you find hard to really say much about. They’ve been out there, splitting opinions in the black metal world for a long time now. The band has had a lot of unorthodox releases, which to the purists is an offence and an outrage. Sole band member dcrf must have an interesting sense of humor. Then there’s this release.

I sometimes find myself puzzled by what black metal can sound like, but this record is like the absolute essence of that sound. Stripped of any nuances, grooves or other luxurious elements, this is rip-roaring raw black metal. It’s that place where guitars are dissonant cuts and sweeps, blending together with the bass into a droning, static unity. The tortured screams are in the thicket of noise, where constant blast beats reign. It’s a bit like the olden days of black metal, so pure and direct. Here and there the instrumental side of Book of Sand can be heared though, how could it not be. This takes you back to the early days of Emperor and their ilk. Which is cool, no?

Woman Is The Earth – Torch of our Final Night
Init Records

source: bandcamp

Well, sometimes you just stumble on the most awesome things. One of those is the band Woman is the Earth form Black Hills in South Dakota, a remote location which apparently fosters a unique atmosphere in sound and words. The band draws their inspiration from  “inspired by the earth being a powerful creator and provider and man being the one who takes from it and returns to it” according to an interview. There is something very ‘gaia’ in their sound for sure, on this fourth full length of the Americans. I had a listen and couldn’t stop doing so for a while.

The tranquility you feel when the record starts is that evoked by gentle guitar play. It’s warming you untill the sound explodes out, like the sun finally climbing over a hill in the early morning and shooting its beams out. Though the fierce vocals are clearly linking this band to the black metal genre, the music is often warm and nearly jubilant during the lovely passages on a track like ‘Brother in Black Smoke’. There’s a lot of borrowed riffs from postrock in the music, which makes it easy comparing these guys to Wildernessking or Wolves in the Throne Room (for obvious, Cascadian reasons). Take also the melancholic guitar play on ‘Broken Hands’. There’s something truly unique about this sound,  every song has its unique embrace. I can not stop listening to this.

Illyria – Illyria
Self Released

source: bandcamp

Every now and then a band is for some reason unsigned. Thus it is with Illyria, the band released a debut that can’t be denied though.  The Australians aim to blend postrock and black metal, which obviously puts them somewhere out there with Alcest, Deafheaven and other post BM bands. The band name of the Perth group might be derived from ancient times, the name Illyria would refer to a region roughly encompassing a part of former Yugoslavia on its coast. Never fully a nation, the concept has intrigued artists through the ages from Shakespeare on to these guys.

The sound of this band therefor lacks a lot of the typical black metal attributes, embracing more that flowing postrock sound in a more upbeat and pleasant form. Listening to this record makes me realize that blackgaze is a thing now, its an undeniably new genre. Devoid of the traditional characteristics, only atmosphere, vocals and the rare passages offer an inkling of its roots. There’s no feeling of hype or trend to the sound of the group, it’s a mesmerizing completeness that their sound attains. The only dischord in the sometimes even classical sounding music may be the vocals, which never seem out of place at all though.

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