Label: Seasons of Mist Band: Der Weg Einer Freiheit Label: Seasons of Mist
Goodbye, Cruel World with Der Weg Einer Freiheit
Der Weg Einer Freiheit offers the world a new taste of their dominating black metal skills with ‘Finisterre’. Only two years after ‘Stellar’ the group from Würzburg is back with an absolute gem. The solid core of the band is still Nikita Kamprad, but with some member changes, it seems that the group is gently shifting direction.
Though the sound seems to evolve in the expected trajectory, the album art is different on this record. For the first time, we see some more traditional black metal symbols adorning the cover of ‘Finisterre’. In one interview, Kamprad proclaimed that this record is their goodbye to the world as we know it. A line in the sand, a point of saying that we have to start over instead of continuing along this line.
I’ve written about Der Weg Einer Freiheit before on this site. I have to admit that I find both listening to and writing about this band daunting. Not because I think there is anything obstructive, I just think that they’re that good. There’s something so immense to the sound of these Germans. Listen to opener ‘Aufbruch’ with is monumental drum work and eerie, out of space guitars. Launching into a ferocious machine gun drum roll at the end the song finishes in a majestic show of force.
As said, ‘Stellar’ was much more spiritual, so ‘Finisterre’ brings us back to the ground. The sound of the album is much more earthy, solid and strong. A mixture between Endstille and Wolves in the Throne room would be a fitting way to describe this band, but it lacks the nuances to fully embrace them. It is telling on a track like ‘Ein letzter Tanz’, where the mournful melody merges with the sheer inferno of a scouring verdict, of our times as the nadir of civilization. Never afraid to implement lessons from modern black metal, a calm, soothing break occurs as well after which the abyss fully opens seven minutes into the song.
As if that was not severe enough, the two part ‘Skepsis’ follows with a climactic explosion. The sound sweeps you along in all its dramatic splendor, only to be repeated one more time on the finalizing title track. There’s hints to the more melodic, blackgaze or post-black metal sound here and there, which is perfectly fine. The music needs to convey grief. The sound truly holds a sense of finiteness. Slowly the cavernous riffing fades away into nothingness.
Label: Der Neue Weg Productions Origin: Belarus: Band: Dymna Lotva
Belarussian grief with Dymna Lotva
The band Dymna Lotva hails from Belarus, a country with a long history and traditions. They might have been obscured in the times of the Soviet occupation and maybe still under the rule of Lukashenko. Belarus has a rich and fertile soil for re-enactment, folk music and densely atmospheric projects like the DSBM band DymnaLotva.
The group has been around since 2015 but hasn’t taken the time to relax since their inception. The band appears to revolve around their singer EkaterinaMankevich (stage name Nokt), who writes the lyrics and is the person appearing on the press pictures. The themes the band applies to their music are nature, folklore, and sorrow, which is tangible from the artwork already.
The gentle flutes play a haunting melody. A low piping accompanies the melody, offering slow bass lines until the piano starts playing. The atmosphere grabs you immediately, with a sound filled with melancholy and darkness. The careful introduction brings us to the windswept planes of Belarus in ancient times, when the sinister voice of singer Nokt starts luring you in. Her voice can be beautiful as much as frightning in its cold beauty.
Intricate melodies are woven through the songs, that truly hold to the depressive, atmospheric black metal vibe. Slow, lingering guitar passages are like a swamp to sink away in on ‘Willothewisp’. At the same time the running piano steps are seducing you to look further. Dymna Lotva seems to use quite some synths to achieve the overwhelming, smothering sound that they produce. Sometimes the sound is a bit too polished, a little too much to handle. It’s a hard balance to find and really a personal listening experience. Next to the high pitched screams of Nokt, the growls on ‘Requim’ by Andrew Tomak from Apologeth seem unnecessary. The two singers don’t add, but just double up in a sense.
Ambient sounds fill up the voids in songs and the traditional instruments give an ethnic feel to the music of these Belarusians. A fascinating record for sure. Folky with a bit of dungeon synth, in conclusion this is a joy to listen to.
Rimruna hails from Berlin and its two members are also active under the name Drangskapur. Rimruna has been active as a project since 2011 and this album is the second full length for the duo. The last one came out back in 2014. The title ‘Der Hatz Entronnen’ translates as ‘Escaped from hate’.
The music of Rimruna fits well into the German tradition of folk-flavored, atmospheric black metal. Thematically the band appears to have a particular fascination for the winter season. Much effort goes into the lyrics for this band it would seem. They are written in German, which might be a bit of work for you, but totally worth it. Being part of the Naturmacht stable, this group fits right in with their sound.
The dark folkloric sound is as dark cloud gathering and following you. Strong, galloping rhythms and drum rolls hit home, while the guitars seem to produce a thin but compelling sound of swooping dissonance. The gnarly vocals are as bent and twisted as old tree trunks sticking out from the snow, with the particular bite the language allows for.
The sound holds a clarity, which gives it a direct and melodic feel. On the other hand, it also makes particularly the rhythm section sound pretty raw and aggressive on a track like ‘Tor der Zeit’, where the melodies meander past, while the drums assault the hearing. That contradiction in sound is one of the great alluring powers of Rimruna, who truly drag the listener in all directions and often sound close to some of the blackgaze bands of these days. The sound is harrowing, but filled with melancholic melodies that take the listener along.
Still, the sound is rooted in raw black metal and that is what you get mostly. The tremolo guitar play on a song like ‘In Ewigkeit Versunken’ takes nothing away from that, but just makes the story and flow of the album so much more captivating and pleasant. This certainly is a good bit of music!
Band: La Torture Des Ténèbres
The first time I played this record by Canadian group La Torture Des Ténèbres, I was baffled. I turned it off after a few songs. Maybe it was not entirely what I expected when I read the tag ‘raw black metal’, but the sound makes much more sense if you look a bit deeper. This band creates something that lies between black metal and dense ambient sounds, thus evoking the sound of the city, of urban chaos.
La Torture Des Ténèbres has been around for a while and is the creation of Jessica Kinney. ‘Civilization Is The Tomb Of Our Noble Gods’ is the third album under this name and actually the third album in one year (2016). That makes this a rather productive act.
From peculiar intro ‘Column Of Astrological Memories’ onwards, you get into a weird sort of Sky Captain of Tomorrow -like story telling of past and future intertwined. The intro lets you hear samples, music and conversations, which launches into ‘The Great Escape From Capricorn’. A mesmerizing swirling chaos of music, ambient and noise, that holds hidden at the core vocals and lyrics that speak of a doomed world.
Civilization offers us but one choice. Conform to the collective architecture or perish beneath the weight of aeons.
The music is pretty much the unleashing of torrents of sound. ‘Descending Through Autumn Fields’ is a maddening flow, that somewhere coalesces into a melancholic melody. Surrounding is maddening howls. freakish barks and an overwhelming display of noise. The album is all the way like that, furthermore it never relents for a moment. A harsh experience for the listener, but one that has beauty hidden within. La Torture Des Ténèbres is definitely not for the casual listener I suppose. I t leaves you staring into the abyss, while waiting for the world to fall apart.
A roaring climax comes with the two parts of ‘Into The Metropolitan Abyss’. Two movements of despair and concrete madness. What a powerful record, especially relevant today.
This is the third part, where I attempt to highlight some of the names that make up the blossoming (well, withering if you prefer that) Dutch black metal scene. Dutch zine Never Mind The Hype coined the phrase ‘New Wave of Dutch Black Metal’, due to the bookings at Roadburn last year. This prompted this investigation.
Black metal has its share of underground musicians, who work on their own, zealously producing music according to their own vision in relative isolation. Musicans that only release music through obscure means, like tape labels. Who remain faceless and don’t play live. Well, we have some gems in the Netherlands too. And I’m not jus talking about the dark wizardry of Mories with Black Mouth of Spite and Pyriphlegethon
Three numbered releases is all we can really tell about Kaffaljidhma, named after a distant star system. The musician Olibanum (that in turn is a type of resin) is inspired by the stars and his music sounds as distant and estranging as you might expect. Think of Mesarthim and Mare Cognitum, but then more underground, darker and at times barely audible through the grey noise. Releasing tunes on The Throat, the artist is also active in some other acts, but this one is definitely one of the most fascinating ones.
The Throat is a label with some unexpectedly, excellently odd releases and the latest effort by Himelvaruwe definitely puts them in that category. The sound approaches dark ambient or even just noise. A grey fog envelops the listener, who just sinks into the swamp that is Himelvaruwe. Occasional high pitched screams come through the fog, distorted and grim, but the weary drag really is getting you too much down to really look up anymore. Everything is grey and all is lost, that is the feeling this act evokes on the majest ‘CCIII’, give it a listen.
Another strange entity is Voidspell, who draw their listeners down into the pitch black of the absolute void with their noisy, abrasive sound. Let them take you along for an eternal trip into the endless with their debut release ‘The Eternal Voyage Through The Eternal Void’. A meandering descent with despair seeping into every note the band plays. It’s a spiralling fall with these guys, who sound truly dark and foreboding. A real recommendation!
For the one-man metal fan, there’s quite some gems to be found in the Netherlands. Another taste of ravishing grimness we get with Kraggsygh, a project that has been around for only a few years, but has been highly productive. A lot of releases, including this little gem with Russian band Wounded Orb. Sole bandmember Count Azathoth creates a gurgling, formless mass, a dark creeping sound that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Well worth your time again.
Dark artistry: Grey Aura, An Autumn For Crippled Children, Moenen
The band GreyAura from Utrecht is exploring the boundaries of what black metal can be. They are currently working on a four demo series, which will shape up to be a 2,5 hours piece to accompany a novel one of the members is writing. In the music they’ve integrated even flamenco music and traditional flamenco singing. The record is a mixture of fierce black metal, conversations and ambient passages. It says alot about the new direction some bands are taking the music in these days. Greay Aura is definitely turning this music into art.
The most peculiar and often misunderstood project from the Netherlands must be An Autumn For Crippled Children. In nine years the post-blackmetal band spat out 6 albums of the most harrowing atmospheric music. The band has been moving to a more postrock-orientated sound, which they do pretty well actually. This probably will alienate listeners, but their bandname was doing that anyways, so this is not for any real purists. It’s an engrossing sound , completely captivating and full of warm hope of this mysterious group, check out their latest to see if it’s something for you.
Another one that stood out for me is Moenen from Dordrecht. Moenen may not be one of those mysterious one-man metal bands in the traditional sense, but it is the side project of a Arminus member, creating atmospheric black metal with some synth elements. The sound is particularly smooth and mellow, but with an ever present dark edge. Moenen might not be that far out from what is common use of black metal these days, but there’s something really catchy to the sound. On bandcamp the krautrock tag is listed, which makes sense. Really worth listening to if you like some shoegaze with your black.
Stranger Gods: Solar Temple, Hellevaert, Slechtvalk, Cultus
Solar Temple worships at the altar of the otherness. They’ve just released a very first demo, with the song ‘Rays of Brilliance’. It’s out on Haeresis Noviomagi in conspiracy with Fallen Empire Records and offers something quite peculiar. The sound is a continuous barrage of lo-fi black metal, blasting and riffing away to get this static, continuous sound of hypnotic, psychedelic music. Pious chanting can be heard and ever so gently does the sound shift. Alluring and charming the listener into submission, this is a band that may be close to Urfaust on some fronts, but totally distinct in its otherworldliness.
From the southern part of the Netherlands hails the band Hellevaert and though the artwork might appear to be traditional in the Dutch black metal scene, we hear a distinct sound here. Blasting drums and wavery, melancholic guitars lead the way in a dreamy and dark descent on their debut album. There are no vocals most of the time, therefor the music needs to do the work and the storytelling.
On the song ‘Hell And Apocalypse Await Eden’ we do hear samples and some operatic singing, but mostly it is just music. The drums sound a bit computeresque, but overall this is something to just sink away in.
When we talk of stranger gods, the band Slechtvalk comes to mind. Regardless how you feel about a band implementing Christian themes, they were boldly different and bravely defiant of the norms in the black metal world. That Christian thing was actually never a thing, but it has tainted the band for the rest for their carreer. Unfortunately this happens. The band from Deventer plays black metal for a good 18 years now and has released many excellent albums. Sure, they’ve moved into a more viking metal direction, but their solid sound, excellent production and powerful presentation make them impossible to ignore. Their latest album came out in 2016 and though it is much more accesible, it sounds damn good in my opinion.
If we stick to these different divinities, other than Satan I mean, then Cultus definitely should be here. Not only are they one of the long standing names in Dutch black metal, yet they sound as roaringly angry on ‘Gezeteld in Zegeruïnen’ as they did 20 years ago. The themes of their music revolve around the old Germanic history. There was a period of inactivity before, but this album must be one of the most powerful releases in a while and it has a certain bombast and strength to it, that is hard to emulate. It feels epic and powerful, like a sky filled with thunder.
The Verdant Realm: Irrwish, Wilds Forlorn, Flooded Grave
Nature is a theme of worship in black metal. With longing we think of the dark forests of old and Irrwisch expresses that. The band name refers to the forest spirits of yore. You might considered the sound quite traditional. There’s a more to it though. There is a melancholy of beautifull melodies interwoven in the songs. The production left a lot of hazy noise in the songs, which really works on the slower parts. Irrwisch is like a black metal snow storm. It completely overwhelms you, batters you and cradles you in the heart of the natural realms at the very same time. They haven’t released anything since 2014. I’d love to hear more from this group from the Nijmegen region, releasing material on Those Opposed records in France.
Another band drawn to the wilderness is Wilds Forlorn. A one man project playing black metal from Utrecht with sole member Yuri Theuns (also active in Ascese and Eater of Souls). The band has been silent for a few years. Now with the single ‘Upon The Horns’ the project is back alive. A twenty minute epic with roaring black metal and classic piano intermezzo’s to boot. It sounds like a bit of a Primordial vibe on this release, yet that might be a bit far fetched to other listeners. Powerful, roaring passages with a visceral effect on the listner definitely hit home. We can definitely hope for more from this musician, it’ll be well worth it.
Final entry in this edition is Flooded Grave. A solo endeavour of Adonai Nero of Heavens Fall, also inspired by nature and myths. The band has not released that much work yet, but this tune is very promising. The latest release is an odd three way split record, which you can pick up from Zwaertgevegt. The band is very new, while sticking to traditional sound. Check this band out, because thisis good stuff!
Label: Naturmacht Productions Band: Grima Origin: Russia
With their debut album ‘Devotion To Lord’ the band Grima definitely left an impression. Lord was not anything Christian though, it was nature in its full glory that this atmospheric black metal band worships. Now they return with their second full length ‘Tales of the Enchanted Woods’. I’d like to point out that I recommended their record as the best of the year this far for 2016 in the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, the daily Roadburn zine.
The studio project by Morbius and Vilhelm hails from Krasnoyarsk, which is in the heart of Siberia. Krasnoyarsk is not a hovel in the snow, but a city with almost a million inhabitants. The city was a center for the gulags and even in Tsarist times was a place where dissenters were sent to. It says a lot about the sort of place this must be, though there’s little to go on regarding Grima.
To start with this album, maybe start with the cover that immediately offers a particularly fairy tale like design and folkloristic vibe. The album kicks of with the grand ‘The Sentry Peak’, which really works as a brief intro to the album, lining up the second song ‘The Moon and its Shadows’, which is a pleasure to behold. Atmospheric and powerful, this record fits right into the Norse nature-loving movement of the black metal genre.
The sound is tempered, let go only in minimal waves when most effective. The build-up reminds me a bit of Downfall of Nur, one of my favorite bands. It sounds like there’s even an accordeon present, but it’s probably the synths. Those help with the fairy-tale/eastern vibe of the record, giving a moment of respite and evoking images of strange towns with hospitable folk playing music around the fire.
The band really knows how to be theatrical, without sounding cheesy. The synths are everywhere to add to the overal experience, to paint the sound in many colors. The vocals are varied two, which gives you the feeling that this band is much bigger than just the two members. Noteworthy is the track ‘Never Get Off The Trail’, where we hear a deep shoegaze influence and even some postrocky soundscaping on the following ‘The Grief’. As a listener, it is as if the song bares its essence to you. It shows it’s inner magical stream of music. Excellent black metal enriched with a sense of the magical and unknown of the forest.
Grima succeeds in probably making one of the most amazing black metal albums of the year, but also a journey into nature where the true beauty of an untamed land shines through. The balanced production and the rich sonic textures offer a much bigger production than you’d imagine. I sincerely hope this album gets the recognition it deserves. It shouldn’t be lumped into the ‘archaic folk’ metal category, much like other great music from Russia. This seems to receive little interest from the western press. This album embodies the magic that black metal music always has had for me. It embraces nature in the way only a specific branch of the genre does. A joy to listen to, while true to the genre.
Label: Dark Essence Records Band: Slegest Origin: Norway
I found out about Slegest, thanks to the Cult Never Dies: The Megazine book by DayalPatterson. I read about the multi-instrumentalist Stig Ese Eliassen, who played in Vreid before. He now does Slegest, combinging ’70’s hardrock, thrash and black metal into a unique sound.
Like many people making extreme music, Eliassen is a guy with a history. A person with conflict and a need to expres that. This is where Slegest is born from and now growing into an entity that hopefully will play live soon. The lyrics are in Norwegian, but the sound had a universal quality to it I think. The album was received well so time to share it with the world.
Dirty black’n’roll from Norway
The cover is immediatelly different, catching the attention without being anything special. Then there’s the opening riff of ‘I fortida sitt lyss’. Catchy, driven and timeless, this is music that alway works. A little like the crustpunk albums of Darkthrone, catchy bit dirty. It’s an interesting contrast, the catchy music with the gritty vocals. That gives it a dark edge and a real rock’n’roll feel. It’s got that underground edge, but also a great mix and production. Slegest doesn’t rely on grimy distortion to cover up anything, it’s a band that really knows how to deliver a great tune.
Specially on a gloomy track like ‘komfortabelt nommen midtvekes’ the formula of Slegest works. With a wicked grin, you listen to the chugging riffwork, the playful guitar loops and the trollish (yes, I used that word) vocals. This record is great stuff to listen to in the car, the clean production, the energy, it all falls into place. Would this record benefit from clean vocals? I think it would lose it’s dark shine without, I enjoy the punky, raw but still slick sound. It really fits into the tradition somewhere between Skambankt and Abbath.
I love this album by Slegest, the dirty Norwegian biker sound should appeal to a broad audience. If Speedfest was still around, this is a band that should play there. This album totally rocks.
Label: Eisenwald Tonschmiede Band: Pillorian Origin: United States
On Roadburn this year, Pillorian was well impressive. The sound of the group is densely atmospheric, but also heavy and very much something that grabs you as a listener. The group from Portland, Oregon in the States is ofcourse the group of John Haughm, who we know from Agalloch.
Haughm gathered some experienced musicians to form Pillorian after Agalloch split. Members have gained experience in groups like Banewreaker, Uada and Maestus. Soundwise, the group goes in similar directions as Agalloch, but just darker and more heavy in my opinion. The complex poetry in lyrics and titles is still there though.
On opener ‘By the Light of a Black Sun’ the ingredients are immediately employed. An epic intro, with a majestic intro leads us to a song that feels a lot like the bombastic, iconoclastic sound of the great Primordial. From those big, moving intro’s, the songs move towards a frantic, high-paced black metal sound with rapid barked vocals, creating a sharp sound. There’s an urgency to the sound of Pillorian that is very noticable. The voic drags you into a narrow tunnel of sound for a moment, only to throw you out into the big chorus again.
The production is rather clean, so every aspect of the music is audible. It allows the listener to hear the tight and merciless precision of the band, not a blanket of distortion. ‘Forged Iron Crucible’ moves to a more traditional sound, but really all the effort again is in the build up, the dense atmosphere and grandeur of the music. That is the absolute strength of Pillorian, to really get the listener to immerse and be touched by the profundity and heaviness of their expressions. A bit of clean vocals would not have been amiss here, to create even more of that feeling.
Pillorian is a band that delivers black metal in a majestic manner. Everything is well balanced, polished and tells a story if the listener is willing to hear it. John Haughm is a creator of beauty, even when that beauty is grim and bleak. That is what makes Pillorian so good.
Label:Code666 Records Band: Fen Origin: United Kingdom
On Winter the band Fen is trying to really create a record that expresses their identity as a band. This is one of the reasons why this record turns out as the great piece of music it is. Perhaps the best record Fen has made this far, though that is always a matter of taste.
The story on ‘Winter’ is that of the season, as told through atmospheric black metal. That immediately sounds like a match made in heaven. Throwing different styles in the mix, the Britons have crafted a great fifth album in that English tradition. Intrigued about the name, I wanted to mention that the group is named after a region called ‘The Fens’, a flat land full of bogs and marshes with a sense of mystery. That is also something that is put in the music.
The album opens with a slow piece of music, titled ‘Pathway’, which is expressing the atmospheric postrock influences the band wishes to display on this album. Creating a long and slow build-up, the track really allows you to slide into the album gradually. Once the vocals kick in, you’re already under its spell. Peculiar is how gentle the music is at this point, even with the screams of vocalist Frank Allain. The band pulls of a grander sound on ‘Penance’, where mighty cascades of guitars push outward and expand their reach. For me their sound is close to that of an Agalloch, but also Island-buddies Saor comes close. There’s something to the sound that tells you of its origin.
Big parts of the record feature shoegazy, dreamy passages. In that sense, Fen really goes for the feeling more than the power. It gives a warm sound, remniscent of sunrays and the tremble in the air on a nice summer evening. The music paints in different colors and moods, working with long songs and complex meandering passages. The song ‘Internment’ for example offers a gentle, folky intro that lasts for minutes and could last forevermore for all I care. This record is one hell of an album, clocking over 70 minutes over six tracks.
This might actually be some of the best work that Fen has delivered. It’s warm and conveys an abstract image of the nature and land it comes from. Beautiful stuff.
Label: Northern Heritage Band: Clandestine Blaze Origin: Finland
The raw, artistic brilliance of Mikko Aspa can’t be denied as he spews out a new Clandestine Blaze album shortly after his last endeavour with Deathspell Omega. The Finnish one man band had been a quiet since 2015’s ‘New Golgotha Rising’, but now is back with ‘City of Slaughter’
Aspa is a fascinating character and has been producing massive amounts of music through the years. I would recommend reading this Heathen Harvest interview with the man if you’d like to know more. Other musical avenues he’s been working on is Vapaudenristi, Grunt, Creamface and D.O.M., all exploring different directions of extremity.
The album is out on his own label, so Aspa is in full control of this release. It feels like this record returns to the roots of the dirty punk sound that makes up Clandestine Blaze. From opener ‘Remembrance of a Ruin’, a lazy rhythm rambles onwards with repetitive arching riffs. This creates the feeling of something freakish, while barked vocals roar over the tunes. It’s a remarkable side of this release, it never feels that much like a black metal album. The second part of this song becomes much more of a doomy/sludge passage. The whole record from there on sounds particularly muddled, sticky and grimy, not with the clean, cold riffs you’d associate with black metal.
Still, the blast beats are there and the bestial growls from Aspa are nothing less than ghoulish, unearthly growls. The production is just precisely right to create that feeling of a formless, crawling abject entity that is the sound of Clandestine Blaze. So yeah, I love this album, it makes me feel like bashing stuff and spray painting the office walls at work. Primitve fury oozes from this record, particular favorite is ‘Return Into The City Of Slaughter’, which feels like a crusty Darkthrone in a tar pit tune. Simple, pitch black and really captivating. Raw hatred in the vocals, blistering riffs and a good pace to let loose to.
‘City of Slaughter’ recaptures the spirit of oldschool black metal in its ferocious primitive fury. A record to fall in love with the genre to again.