Tag Archives: black metal

Underground Sounds: Asgrauw – Gronspech

Label: Hidden Marly Production
Band: Asgrauw
Origin: Netherlands

For such a small country, the Netherlands has a wild range of dialects. Not even that far removed from my home, the band Asgrauw at times sounds very alien to me as the titles and idiom offer exciting, unknown ideas on this album ‘Gronspech’. Featuring a foreboding vista of the Dutch countryside in oil painting as cover, an album that shows its roots proudly.

Asgrauw translates as ‘the color of ash’, but also refers to the scythe-shaped shining of the moon. The bass and guitar are handled by Kaos and Vaal, who added Batr to the line-up in 2012, who played in Sagenland and Meslamtaea amongst others in the past. Bands that explored the same mysteries of the past from regional sources in their Scandinavian-inspired black metal.

It’s not the music that sounds refreshing thus, as it is the standard fare of tremolo riffs, ripping guitar salvos and blast beats that rock your desk chair. Still, by implementing some of that Immortal epicness, the sound catches on quickly and easily gets you involved on tunes like ‘Wolvenbloed’, which has a bit of a rock’n’roll groove when the murky atmosphere fades for a moment here and there.

At times a punk feeling shines through in the sound, as the buzzsaw guitars just keep growling and the screamed vocals take on a pitch of frustration and shouts defiance at the listener on ‘Duitenpact’. At times the waters seem to grow calm, but the next outburst of hateful fury is always lurking around the corner. If ever needed, the synths provide an additional layer of atmosphere to their sound.

Asgrauw might be the thing you should check if you dig the more pungent, visceral black metal with maybe a hint of Haïve and Vreid.

Underground Sounds: Grafjammer – Schalm & Schabauw

Label: Independent/Black Tapes
Band: Grafjammer
Origin: The Netherlands

Grafjammer has been hanging around Dutch graveyards and shady parts of harbors for a long while now, but only this year we can receive their second full length. The record, titled ‘Shalm & Schabauw’, contains primitive, violent black metal. The way you love it.

The band has members active in a variety of acts. From Wrang and Wesenwille to Kutschurft, it’s extreme all over. The group sticks to Dutch folklore and nautical themes in their music, which feels as vital as ever on this latest musical endeavor.

Oh yes, this record opens with the pounding punky beat you would be hoping for on an old-fashioned, raw black metal album. Tremolo riffs that immediately predict danger, violent vocals that spit venom. Grafjammer is the real thing, with their wonky, primitive sound on opener ‘Het Rottende Schompes’. The band can go to greater depths though, with the true visceral depravity displayed on ‘Drijvende Doodskist’, with vocals that sound truly demented.

With ‘Hijs het Lijk’, the band moves towards the more thunderous, almost doomy side of their sound. Still greatly enhanced by gritty sound and buzzsaw guitars, the song takes a slow pace full of rattling and noise. The lyrics rely on Dutch culture and tradition but bends and twist it to display a rotten core at the center of this. The results are grim and apocalyptic. If you manage to envision some paintings from the classic Dutch school, with Grafjammer playing, everything will turn to ashes.

Underground Sounds: Spectral Wound – Infernal Decadence

Label: Vendetta Records
Band: Spectral Wound
Origin: Canada

Meet the second album of Spectral Wound, which just oozes darkness with a cover that captures a bit of the gloom of dungeon synth it seems. The well-defined aesthetic is definitely a quality for this Canadian group of black metallers on their second full length, titled ‘Infernal Decadence’.

Featuring members of bands like Profane Order and To The Cliffs, it appears that there is plenty of experience in the ranks of this atmospheric company. Little info though… What is clear, is that the group sticks to aesthetic classics in the black metal. Vague imagery, gothic fonts and black and white covers, but that’s not where the conservative nature of the music ends.

‘Woods from Which the Spirits Once so Loudly Howled’ is the sonic equivalent of an ice cold shower that suddenly opens up above you. Pitch-black, earthy and heavy the blasting black metal. The voice is snappy and given space in the mix, which is excellent. No rest, no remorse, just furious black metal that batters you like hail as a scintillating guitar line creates the minor semblance of a melody.

By the time you reach ‘Feral Gates of Flesh’, you are probably gasping for air in this continuous onslaught of tremolo guitar repetition and rattling blast beats. Yet, the melody takes on more interesting shapes and big movements that even bring in some rocking parts on ‘La nuit froide de l’oubli’. The best way to describe their sound, to me, is absolutist. Their overpowering gestures are all pervasive and grand, like those of a dark tyrant. The screeches are horrendously good, which makes this an album to cherish in all its unholy fervor.

Underground Sounds: Nishaiar – Igewanda

Label: Self-released
Band: Nishaiar
Origin: Ethiopia

One has to be skeptical when dealing with bands that claim to hail from strange realms such as Ethiopia. Not that its impossible, you’ll be hard pressed to find any confirming information on any metal bands in the African country with its rich history. Nishaiar claims to hail from there though and this is their next record, titled ‘Igewanda’.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to dispense with finding the truth (Ghost Bath anyone?) as any interview requests are unanswered by this group clearly embracing the mystique and astral wisdom they convey in every utterance. The band has released 3 full length releases and one EP this far, all with radiant, ascending black metal full of wonder and amazement. That, in itself, fascinates the listener enough.

After a tribal intro, we fall into the fullness of warm ambient and keys, that forms the bass of Nishaiar’s sound. Wind instruments and a lot of electronics bring experience to life on the title track, which is as subtle and slithering as the fog of an early morning. The guitars drop in with a crunch, solidly clasped in the droning sounds. At times the music feels almost inorganic, but a sonic stream with a drumming so rhythmic and concentrated on ‘Nayan’ seems almost to be computer-generated.

Nishaiar gives a new shape to what we call ambient black metal, with music that mostly just drifts along on the astral waves the band claims to ride. Densely atmospheric, the music captures the imagination with the tribal sounds on ‘Menigedi’. At times it is probably hard to really call this sound black metal, but the way Nishaiar immerses the listener in their feverish dream music is uncanny. An experience like no other in the current black metal landscape almost.

Underground Sounds: Striborg – Blackwave

Label: Independent
Artist: Striborg
Origin: Australia

Black metal artists have always had a knack for pushing the envelope. Though some stay in their cave and spit out furious raw sounds forever, Sin Nanna has decided to depart and enter the realms of electronics with depressed black metal outfit Striborg. Obviously, this has been to an unkind reception at times, but ‘Blackwave’ is a great, atmospheric record in its own right and worth a try for those who love the vibe of the Tasmanian artists work.

Striborg has released an impressive array of records throughout the years, but the man behind the project seems to believe a new direction is needed. Understandable, as this was not even his only project. At times he even dabbled with other projects, like gritty death metal outlet Cromlech or the one-off Sun O))) participation of Pentemple. Striborg has steadily been his main outfit, after growing out of Kathaaria, which started in 1994. That’s a long line of darkness…

Eerie synthwave with harrowing vocals, urge the listener onwards, through the dense halls of a futuristic construction or spaceship. The music is cold, but oriental influences give it some body and enhance the otherworldly experience of ‘Trapped in a Void of the Nightgrass Repetitive, droning melodies, with odd effects that enhance the futuristic feel of the music. Diving deep into the niche of synthwave, Striborg is going into the unknown here.

It’s during tracks like ‘Making The World Cold’, that the atmospheric black metal influence really shines through again. The guitars are condensed in a singular melody line, compressed and bent into an electronic vibe, but the drums are ase Burzumesque as it gets. That shifts slightly on the track ‘All Alone in A Room Filled With Souls’, which feels… dare I say? Dancy actually, with the electroclash vibe of the early synth music with a steady, thudding drum.

We close of with a harrowing, horror tune, titled ‘Penance Stare’. A creepy outro, that leaves you cold. In other words, great stuff! With ‘Blackwave’, Striborg reaches a new level of depth in the feeling and emotion of the string of great works. Definitely leaving the purists far behind, it challenges genre definitions, but grips listeners.

Underground Sounds: Ramchat – Nepočaria!

Label: Independent
Band: Ramchat
Origin: Slovakia

This album oozes eastern-European storytelling, with its typical cover artwork. Ramchat hails from Slovakia and probably doesn’t like Christianity much, judging by the burning clergy on the cover of ‘Nepočaria!’. This is the third full-length by the pagan black metallers in fact, and it stings.

The band has been around since 2013 and seems to be made up out of members from previous entities like Protest and Lunatic Gods. Both bands are still around and some members still perform in there. Hirax is the core member of the project and shaper of its pagan, Slavic direction.

The record starts with a punch on ‘Tak si spomeň’. Powerfull riffing, and then suddenly that rolling launch with barked vocals and a fat drum line. The vocals switch between a burly grunt and venomous snarl. A female vocalist chants in a fashion we find in many ethnic metal bands that borrow from the eastern folk tradition. But it works and touches the listener instantly with a yearning for the past. With a good dose of death metal influences, the record plows onwards on ‘SiloSlabosť’ with some crisp riffing and a thundering rhythm section. You might want to kick stuff.

There’s something grand in a song like ‘Už nebudeme otroci’, with the big melodies. Rising in force, the song works its magic relentlessly. You find the sound flow through with rattling drums and lust for battle. Musically, Ramchat invigorates with their strong and hefty sound, sometimes approaching some pretty brutal parts on ‘KrajoZem’. Notable song on this record is the closer ‘
Postoj chvílu! (cover by ŽiariSlav)’, with its thin whistle sounds, folk instruments and the singing with some typical hope and positivity as found in many post-Soviet tunes from the east. It’s hard to pinpoint that style, but it’s the music that stirs something in the listener that feels very profound.

A thoroughly enjoyable album, fully in Slovakian of course. Recommended listening!

Ankle deep in Dirt

Featuring Bog Body, Nyredolk, The Nietzsche, Mentor and Entropy Created Consciousness

These days, what used to be metal in its most vile and violent expressive forms has become a safe and polished sound. If this is a good thing or not, that is up to you to decide. Music evolves and changes over time and where the original wave of doom metal harked towards the fantastic and gloomy, black metal to cold and desolate unfeelingness and death metal really revolved around pummeling and punishing performances, this changes over time and much music nowadays under the banner of death, black or doom sounds particularly easy on the ear. And that’s fine… I guess. But deep down, there’s always crusty, dirty music coming out.

Disgusting, raw and visceral

What should metal sound like? That depends if you believe Possessed or Death was the first death metal act or perhaps if you consider Venom or Celtic Frost the way-paver for this sound. Even doom probably has its dilemma’s. But that’s not what I’m talking about here, as I want to focus on one direction of the development into the gritty, murky, visceral and dirty sound that was so long at the core of the underground. This is the true grit, music that makes you feel like you need to wash up. It’s still there, if you look for it.

Bog Body is a relatively new band, who have not been around that long and their demo is the first statement by the New York duo. Their band photo depicts abandonment and decay, the rubble of society. Inspired by the ritual aspect of death found in bog bodies, their sound is one of simplicity and punishment. Doomy, gloomy passages with grinding distortion and minimalist repetition. The vocals are harsh howls, full of bite and venom as ‘Dessicant Drip’ despoils your senses. Pummeling, daring and challenging you like a mad hobo wielding a knife in an alley, the songs just barrel forward, lunging, grabbing and squeezing the life out of everything. And this is only the debut.

There’s a lot of similarities with the Danish band NyreDolk, who are also a masked duo standing in the remains of western society on their profile picture. Their crusty, punk-infused sound is like black metal gone wrong according to their bio and they are quite honestly spot-on there. Ramming rhythms, that sound like the instruments are scraped over gravel, as the vocalist taunts and bellows his crooked words at you. But the band can also sound truly demented and harrowing on a track like ‘Dø Langsomt’ with these crawling passages. Absolutely brilliant material in its squat-crust-splendor with that big, challenging and evil sound you love from black metal. A great record and a promise for more, but I kind of hope they stick to making EP’s like this.

Uncut diamonds

Music from the dirt doesn’t need to sound disgustingly unclean though, it’s all about the raw intent and fury. It can be a straight, raw punch to the jaw in a hardcore vibe. Uncut diamonds, rough in their pure glory.

So you hardly need that black metal vibe to sound raw and dirty, which Ukrainian dark hardcore band The Nietzsche proves on their ‘Finals’ record. Imagine the bastard child of The Chariot and Mastodon, singing in Russian and English, both hard and fierce as well as creepingly melancholic. The sound is versatile but so direct. The lyrics are in fact the most notable, with poetic and complex lyrics, particularly in a song titled, rather obnoxiously I assumed at first, ‘Shake Your Spear’ and ‘Emily (Wants The) D’. These guys are not attempting to be anything you expect and underneath the gritty armor, there’s a complex and beautiful piece of music hidden for those willing and able to understand it. Pretty sure Nietzsche would appreciate this superior beatdown sound.

Described as satanic hardcore, Mentor features members of Thaw, Furia and J.D. Overdrive. And pardon me, but… FUCK! This record comes in with a firm kick to the teeth and a whole lot of grit. ‘Cults, Crypts and Corpses’ is like a sick fantasy from a bunch of guys who normally take the roundabout way to bring their message in an atmospheric haze. This time, they can just handle the axe, bat and club. It’s tight riffing, bellowing vocals and a stomping, rocking vibe from start to end. Just check out a track like ‘Death Mask’, which just pummels you in the face, like a little Slayer tribute. Or my favorite, the darkened and demented Kvelertak-like ‘Churchburner Girl’. Man, this record makes you want to get all sweaty and dirt stained in a muddy mosh pit at a festival or so. Every guitar lick, every riff is just nasty and the record hits the right spot!

Sinister haze

Lo-fi black metal is an excellent way to create a sound so oppressing and hazy, that it feels similarly unclean. Entropy Created Consciousness does just that on their decay-ridden, abyssal sounding record ‘Impressions of the Morning Star’. There is an eerie line of hope in the sound of these songs, created by a mysterious entity without face and name, inspired by William Blake and the grand grotesque of classic doom metal by bands like the Peaceville Three. But the sound is so wrangled and wrong at times, that it makes you feel uncomfortable as a listener. Dark and foreboding, yet open and vast. Yeah, this is something sinister, so you should probably check it out.

 

Underground Sounds: From The Bogs of Aughiska – Mineral Bearing Veins

Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Band: From the Bogs of Aughiska
Origin: Ireland

From the Bogs of Aughiska returns with their masterpiece ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’. A harrowing piece of dark ambient, black metal and folklore, with samples, stories and spoken word. After their previous experiments with Irish culture and atmospheric music, the group hereby establishes themselves as frontiersmen in the advancement of dark music.

It is the third record by the act, under the guidance of Conchuir O’Drona. The sound is ever still bleak, full of threat and with an aura of otherworldliness. Ken Soceron (Abigail Williams, Perturbator, Leviathan) mastered the album and the artwork was done by Ken Coleman (Morbid Angel). The cover depicts druidic figures, in front of a megalithic structure. The figures are facing away, eyeing the moon, but their inhuman features are clear to see. A notable departure from their previous style of work.

Intro ‘Scuabtuinne‘ offers gentle waves, that just move with an easy grace. Named after the boat of Celtic sea deity Manannán mac Lir, it immediately sets the mood for the whole album in another time and place, far from Instagram-fame and famous vloggers to a place of loneliness and self-reliance. ‘Poll An Eidhneain’ follows with the sound of water dripping, under the earth, cavernous and cold and desperate black metal starts to unfold. When it then launches, the music is slithering, raw and merciless, but also contained. Constricted by the narrowness of its underground domain.

Departing from those realms, we enter ‘Wake of Buzzards’, a tune that takes us to the ambient/drone roots of the group. A story is told about the birds, who are squawking you hear, and what this means. Here we are taken into the seanchai-storytelling that is so much the distinctive part of From The Bogs of Aughiska, which we stick to on the following ‘Crataegus’, which is done in Gaelic. It has a peculiar frantic drumming passage in it, that suddenly breaks through to the surface and just hits home in stripped-down, cold tone. The track unfolds in a bit of a Bal-Sagoth-esque grandeur, where the teller speaks in a booming voice offer hemorrhaging black metal blast beats. The song ‘The One Whitethorn Bush’ deals with o lone faerie bush and its dark story, told by Eddie Lenihan, with the animated voice of an experienced storyteller. The eerie sounds surrounding it, make the track so suspiciously powerful and nerve-inducing. A highlight of the album.

But this only brings us to greater depths, with the abyssal drones and church bells from ‘The Devil is an Irishman’, which builds up laboriously and stumbling to a black metal barrage with a deeply melancholic angle and cold atmosphere. This slides into traditional Gaelic sung ‘An Spealadoir’, with that sensitive waver and shiver in the delivery, drowned in distortion and hazy guitars, that slowly slip away.

‘Lios Duin Bhearna’ is the all-consuming outro, where ambient violently merges with the black metal explorations of From the Bogs of Aughiska. It brings this trip to a close, after traversing the deep realms and the mysteries of the green island. These mysterious explorers of the dark and obscure have definitely found a new place on this record, which will probably haunt your dreams.

Underground Sounds: The Flesh – Dweller

Label: Independent
Band: The Flesh
Origin: The Netherlands

The Flesh made their first appearance on the main stage during Netherlands Death Fest. I forgot who they were replacing, which is a good sign. It means I do remember the replacement very vividly. Though the lights could have been a better effort and the stage is really big for such an intense, threatening live act, they ruled.

Now, finally, you might say, the band has released their debut album. Titled ‘Dweller’, it’s one big jar of hot sauce with death and black elements and a lot of groove and thumping hardcore vibes. Featuring former members of Herder, Blood Diamond and Feast, no real surprise there I suppose.

The slow, crushing intro of the record is an instant hit on ‘Tot In Den Treure’, with that jangled, buzzing bass-line curdling up from below. When the band picks up the pace with those vitriolic, venomous vocals it’s a straight-up hell ride. They stick to a hardcore pace with songs clocking in under three minutes, as ‘Black Rain’ and ‘Siren’s Call’ ramble past at break-neck speed and intensity, with muddy, sludgy streams surging through the dense guitars and drums.

‘Dweller (In the Dark)’ is a truly harrowing track with a doomy premonition whispering through its cosmic horror-infused tunes. The inhuman roar on ‘Salax’ helps keep that vibe going onto the next half of the album, with that thick, death metal sound, barrelling onwards onto the high-paced ‘Thrones in the Sky’, where the bellowing vocalist takes the band to a whole new level of awesome and overwhelming. Full-on killer ‘A Knife To The Conformist’ is the closing cut for an excellent debut record. Where are you, label bosses?

 

Underground Sounds: Vreid – Lifehunger

Label: Seasons of Mist
Band: Vreid
Origin: Norway

The triumphant return of Sognametal is here, with the new album by legendary Vreid. Following in the spirit of originator Windir, the band freely creates their own brand of black metal, quite distinct from the overall Norwegian sound but also very much a part of it. ‘Lifehunger’ is the eight full-length of Vreid.

We also have to mention Ulcus, since the Sogndál metal network is small and cohesive. Their music shaped through the years into something more melodic and accessible, with war-themes. In fact, I sometimes have to think of Loits in that context as much as of Kalmah, but hey. I’m thinking out of the box here.

The melancholic intro of ‘Flowers & Blood’ promises much as an acoustic guitar casts a moonlit setting for this album. As a prelude, it opens up for ‘One Hundred Years’, which combines the penchant for the epic and melancholic that Enslaved and Opeth have perfected. The sound is tight and polished, with the occasional marching beat as displayed on the title track keeping everything as tight and organized as possible. In that sense, Vreid follows the trajectory of bands like Satyricon to a more vitalistic and rigid sound.

The vocals are particularly captive, sounding like a vicious snarl that bites and snaps at the listener with fury. Yet, on ‘Hello Darkness’, we have the big outsider track. Clean vocals and maybe even a little nod to the true masters of darkness Simon & Garfunkel here? It’s mellow vibe and acoustic parts are truly dark though and capturing a different kind of melancholy. The rest of the album kinda picks up the pace again with steady quality, catchy riffs and a razorsharp bit of songwriting. I don’t know if anyone ever thought Vreid was gone, but then they’re back with a vengeance with killer tracks like ‘Sokrates Must Die’.