Tag Archives: black metal

Underground Sounds: Clandestine Blaze – City of Slaughter

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.

Underground Sounds: Scáth Na Déithe – Pledge Nothing But Flesh

Label: Self released / Metal Defiance Productions
Band: Scáth Na Déithe
Origin: Ireland

The name Scáth Na Déithe translates, if I’m correct, as ‘Shadow of the Gods’. The band consists of Cathal Hughes (Dúnmharú, Nautilus) and Stephen Todd (Astralnaut). The Irish band has found a spectacular distinct sound on their second endeavour. The duo previously planted their flag with the EP ‘The Horrors of Old’, but now unleash their full length ‘Pledge Nothing But Flesh’.

The record was recorded at the start of the harvest season, or as the band puts it ‘Meitheamh agus Lúnasa’.  Though dubbed black metal, the sound of these gentleman is distinctly Irish to me. A country that seems to have an ever growing black metal scene, as goes for Scotland. In the music you find elements of its origin, In this case, the unnerving cover art may speak of darker parts of Irish history. The only other clue is the reference to the time of recording and two songtitles in Gaelic.

From the start it is clear that the two members have affinity with the slow and steady, since doom and stoner are clearly in their arsenal due to other bands they’ve been a part of. The heavy rhythm parts are accompanied by abbyssal vocals, which work well with the burbling, grimy bass. The murky, dark forest on the cover is fairly well depicted in the heavy, oppressive atmosphere this creates after intro ‘Sí Gaoithe’ on ‘Bloodless’. The pummeling drum feeds vitality into the song. A fearlessness and strength that allows the brittle tremolo guitar to soar and set apart a new atmospheric trail in the songs path.

Lyrically it appears that the band connects somehow to Primordial in the take on the self and the one sided-dialogue setting of the words. In defiance screaming at an uncaring deity. The record is filled with atmospheric parts, particularly the guitar play. A little intermission in the form of ‘Fáilte Na Marbh’ therefor fits in and offers a moment of respite for the listener. The continuous string of tremolo riffs really does its part in contrast to the sometimes almost foggy sound. At times that part just overtakes the whole sound, like on ‘the Shackled Mind’. When the torrent really unleashes, nothing can stand in the way of the thick haze of sound. The song also contains a meandering, calm guitar passage towards it’s end. Offering once more the atmospheric antics of Scáth Na Déithe in glorious beauty.

The mastering of the record took place in the Swedish Necromorbus Studio by Tore Stjerna. No surprise that the sound becomes so heavy then. With bands as Watain and Funeral Mist in his portfolio, the Swede knows the impact of extreme heaviness on music. ‘Pledge Nothing But Flesh’ is a daring entry in the current black metal world. Hopelessly atmospheric and bluntly heavy, the record is not aiming for any middle grounds. Scáth Na Déithe produced another vital stepping stone for the expanding Celtic black metal realm.

Underground Sounds: Nidingr – The High Heat Licks Against Heaven

Label: Indie Recordings
Band: Nidingr
Origin: Norway

It’s a provocative title, this one. It suggest that the fire on earth has been stoked high enough so that the flames lick agains theaven, creating an uncomfortable heat in the otherwise serene halls of God. That is a fitting title for Nidingr, who are creating a great album steeped into the tradition of black metal.

Nidingr started out as a solo project for guitar payer Teloch, who is now active in Mayhem (the true Mayhem, before any confusion arises). He gathered musicians, that have played live in bands like God Seed, Myrkur and even Gorgoroth and Trelldom. That explains a connection to these fundamental black metal sounds.

Only singer Cpt. Estrella Grasa is a slightly less known figure in the scene and also in my opinion the odd bit in the sound of the band. His hoarse bark feels a bit too ‘hardcore punk’ at times and when he is simply speaking it hasn’t got that profundity. It does give a song like ‘Surtr’ a different dimension and makes it in whole a lot more accessible. The proclamation on ‘The Ballad of Hamther’ could be a bit more imposing, but hey.

The mythological titles and dissonant sound of the band makes for a rather spectacular sounding record. The turbulent ‘Sol Taker’ for example is a great, thunderous performance with vocals coming from the center of a maelstrom. ‘Ash Yggdrasil’ has some calm, beseeching voice luring the weary traveller in on the opening chords. That is no other than Garm from Ulver singing on a track that reminds me mostly of Mysteriis era Mayhem with the blaring, ugly riffing that pass by so slowly, without ever relenting the sound. Only later in the song, when only drum and chanted vocals remain there’s break, but the wavery guitars come up instantly when the song continues… but then slowly fades.

And again the band surprises with ‘Heimdalargaldr’. A bombastic, Behemoth-ian spectacle  with big arches, arousing drums and powerful vocals, that appear to come from deep. It’s another aspect of the Nidinger sound, but in a remarkably powerful form. The high point of the album is yet to come though, with the arrival of ‘Naglfar is Loosed’. An epic song featuring the heavenly vocals of Myrkur to create an even grander, epic journey. It’s perhaps not far off to call it a dirge, lamenting the coming of Ragnarok. But what a way to go, aye?

Nidingr is surprisingly accesible on this album, a marriage of the vocals and classic black metal. Great record.

 

Underground Sounds: Deafest – Ephemeral

Label: self released
Band: Deafest
Origin: United States

Deafest was once called DunkelSkog, which means dark forest in Swedish. Though they only played one show, they made sure it was special. As Deafest the band has been rather productive through the years and also has dared to venture into new directions, like on this rather particular EP.

Chase Ambler from Denver is the brains behind Deafest, using various other musicians to creat the art itself. On Ephemeral the band is playing acoustic music, for which Ambler did everything himself. Well, apart from designing the logo it seems, which is something that has changed a lot over time. Inspiration for this record was derived from the four seasons and though this is in a way a musical experiment, I think it is beautifully done and a true, rich bit of music.

The gentle folk music is much like the glowing green hills on the album cover. A wide, hilly land, fully in its sparkling glow of life and awakening. The guitar tones trickle by slowly in a carefree manner, like a mountain river flowing. The chiming of small bells, the piano parts and xylophone all are such sounds that put the listener at ease, offering a sense of comfort and peace in an otherwise way to busy world. With that I think we come to the most important aspect of this record by Deafest, it’s praise of nature.

In nature you can find a specific calm and peace. In black metal this often is reflected in the music with ponderous, contemplative sounding music. Those are the elements that are embraced on this EP, which is further stripped of the typical riffing and violent sounds. There’s the repetition, which creates an almost tranquil, meditative mood. It’s a beautiful experiment and a very pleasant record to just drift away with for a short while.

Underground Sounds: Hermóðr – The Howling Mountains

Label: Wolfspell Records
Band: Hermóðr
Origin: Sweden

The man behind Hermóðr is Rafn, a man who has been active in dozens of black metal projects in the past (like Mist, Deadlife and Vredesmod but an uncannily long list more). This one has been one of the longer running ones. Atmospheric black metal with a focus on nature, the north and the ancient times when the world was still younger and more close to us.

In the music of Hermóðr the listener finds something grand, the uncharted nature and the wide stretches of uninhabited ground. On the cover alone the cliffy coast beckons in a golden morning light, while calling the brave and bould to approach. I’m immediately pulled in by that imagery. There’s definitely a strain of folk music present here too.

The trickling intro promises mystery and adventure as well, but also the feeling of autumn in the air. The music never really transgresses into the tremolo and blast beat grounds of more traditional black metal and remains a more ambient metal-like soundtrack to the season. The slow progressions on songs like ‘Summer Ends’ are more inward. Introspective tunes that make the listener look back at himself. Thoughtful and with a haunting beauty the songs wander by, with an odd guitar riff spinning out or a bass line clinging to the inner ear for a moment.

Even on ‘The Mystic Forest’ the leaves are turning and icy vocals reach out to you. They’re buried deep in the mix, which I don’t always get. Lyrics should be audible atleast I feel, but it works here. The repetitive shimmering guitar parts lull the listener into a dreamy state, enjoying the natural state of the world around them. It reminds me a bit of Falkenbach, though maybe with that modern element of Drudkh. The slow, pastoral progressions, the laborious toiling of nature. The music falls in with the current movement that takes out the human part and shows nature in a pure, unspoiled way. A tradition harking back to the ‘Dunkelheit’ video by Burzum even.

A good example of really going in that direction is the song ‘Snow and Ice’, which really fades in a noisy snowstorm towards its end. The dirge-like sound just fades away due to a hazy cloud of noise. This album is one that is special. It certainly possesses its own darkness an depressive qualities, but these are just the shifting elements of nature. There’s  a simple grandeur to a track like ‘The Howling Mountains’.  There lies its beauty, in its uncomplicated appraisal for the natural.

Underground Sounds: Endalok – Úr Draumheimi Viðurstyggðar

Label:Hellthrasher Productions
Band: Endalok
Origin: Iceland

A whole mouthful, the title of this album ‘Úr Draumheimi Viðurstyggðar’, but a worthy new showdown in the continuous flow of Icelandic black metal. It has everything indeed to sound dark and grim in a similar way to every band from over there (without sounding the same). Endalok has found their own flavor of black metal though, heavy on atmosphere.

The members of this band are not known as far as I could find out about it, but they did drop a demo earlier, which was well received. The artwork features tentacles reaching out from utter darkness. It catches the vibe of this dark as hell record methinks. It also predicts something of what the approach is from this group.

Endalok seems to be a band that loves their slow progressions and foreboding tones. Whether it’s the introductionairy riffing, or a slow intermezzo, the haunting threat in their sound is omnipresent and very characteristic of this band. The blistering speed is lacking, but a continuous feeling of ominous looming is even conveyed through the blasted drums on ‘Afskræming holds og sálar’. You could compare the sound of Endalok to a thickish, barrel aged stout beer. It’s very full of flavor, a bit sticky and completely overwhelming.

In some respects the band reminds me of Dragged Into Sunlight. Not for the ferocity, but the haunted feeling of something lurking nearby. The mix is highly distorted, creating bigger, cohesive sounds in which the elements sometimes merge together. Endalok is more one dimensional, but does have the chaotic sound of nightmares ready and waiting for their listeners. Like the cover predicts, it is that thing reaching out from the darkness. The lurking danger from beyond. The wavery riffs, the rolling drums and the guttural barks that form within the foggy sound are a harrowing experience. The haunting, peculiar sound is something special on this first real release by this band. Can’t  wait to hear more like ‘Holdgerving Andskotans’. Fear of the dark.

Underground Sounds: Molodost – نسيم جبل صنين

Label: self released
Band: Molodost
Origin: Lebanon

This record collects music made with the project Molodost. Molodost takes its inspiration from Slavic folk metal, particularly Alkonost and their song with the same name as the band. Molodost is however a one man project in the southern land of Lebanon, far from the Russian realms.

Originally Molodost started as a vehicle for poetry, but the one man metal band has become more than that.  Finding an own sound and inspiration in the Slavic folk/black metal scene. There’s a clear ethnic element present, but also a worship of nature and the land. Though oft critisized for being very primitve and lo-fi sounding, this is definitely a choice by the artists that simply fits the need to express. The sound of Molodost is something different, something unique and highly personal. That makes this a record to check out.

The album opens with a calm piano intro, which is strangely free of a clear origin. It’s mystical sounding with synthesizers adding a dungeon synt-y feel to the whole. The blistering riffs on the second song have a metallic twang to them, which resonates with the origin of the music. The noisy drums add another layer of effec to that, which is ever so subtly present. The artist spits out the words like an enraged demon. It’s the typical Arabic pronunciation that really takes it to a new level. As many know, the Oriënt has many mysteries and strange spirits. The vocal style and meandering synths immediately invoke that feeling.

No, I’m not turning this record into a cliché, it’s way to specific and captivating for that. What I particularly like is how the artist blends in the intermissions of dungeon synth to create an aura befitting the record. The Slavic inspiration can definitely be noticed, but it meets with a very own sound on a track like [ازرع الصحراء]. The riffs sound very peculiar here, but are also very intriguing and offering another different taste of the mystique of the eastearn landscapes, also the desert under a blazing sun, the mountains when the sun crests the top.

[مائدة الفقير] is a dense song, full of synths and trickling, Burzum-esque elements. The vocals are performed by Lord Dark from the band Tears of Regret. It’s a remarkably peaceful tune, with the ever present synth elements to keep that eerie vibe up. Nonetheles, Molodost packs a punch without ever really firing up. Maintaining a steady atmosphere and an indpendent voice, make this a record I can listen to over and over.

Underground Sounds: Forest of Trys – Frostburn

Label: –
Band: Forest of Trys
Origin: Lithuania

There’s  a joke in the name, because Trys just sounds like trees. The profile picture on bandcamp is a fat cat and you might start having doubts about the seriousness of Forest of Trys . Still the sound of the band is not one for light jokes and fun, but a grim affair indeed.

Forest of Trys only has one member listed on Metal Archives, namely Šmėkla. Another fact is that the band hails from Kaunas and did release a full lenght earlier in 2016, titled ‘Architect’.

‘Stars I’ is the opener, which starts with hazy, distorted noisy black metal. It feels like an industrial haze with the lecherous sound of Fat White Family somewhere hidden in the sonic fog (no clue how I take that from it). Then suddenly it merges into an old carnival tune, not dissimilar to the Eraserhead soundtrack by David Lynch. It all sounds just a bit of and wrong, which makes the vibe more slightly unnerving. Guided by martial drumming, the song moves back to the noisey dissonance. Shattering sampling and icy beats follow for the next part of the track, creating a noisy template of assault.

A more gritty sound can be heard on ‘Stars II’, where we seem to move away even further from the noisy black metal sound. Groaning noise pulsates in the air, while string elements create a semblance of style and class in sharp contrast to the colossal noise. Again, such a peculiar sound, but the final song, surprisingly titled ‘Starts III’ really takes the cake. Grim, desolate and full of industrial elements, it consists of more effects and samples of people speaking in an order that feels completely random. Pulsating, humming, squeeking the sont thunders on, with a seemingly random drum pattern offering a semblance of steadiness in the sound.

The record is an almost nightmarish trip. This is a peculiar album, with only black metal as a spirit present. Lithuania seems to have some interesting musicians out there. This record would go down well with noiseheads and experimental listeners too. Nice stuff!

Underground sounds: Draugsól – Volaða Land

Label: Signal Rex
Band: Draugsól
Origin: Iceland

Iceland’s young black metal scene keeps producing diamonts. I think that Draugsól is just the next one in line with their excellent debut ‘Volaða Land’. It translates as something like ‘land of misery’, which is a fitting titled for a black metal band that seems to have a sound inspired by the Nidrosian style in black metal. But hey, that’s probably painting them with too broad strokes.

This group is ofcourse not a collective of unknown figures, but are also active in Mannveira, In Crucem Agere and Cult of Lilith. So all in all, close to the tight knit Icelandic scene with a bit of death metal thrown into it. Like most band in that scene, there’s a definite identity to their sound. A rawness and untamed element that immediately stands out when you listen to them.

The sound of the title track immediately sets up something epic, working as an intro with powerful voices and muscular drum rolls. Howls and dissonant guitars fill the air and let their squeel merge into ‘Formæling’. The deep, guttural vocals and the cascading riffs are immediately affirming the chest pumping epic direction the sound is going in. The cascading riffs are remniscent of other northern battle metal bands, maybe even a bit of Keep Of Kalessin with the straight forward, clean riffing. The overall clean production really helps the band carry their sound to an epic status, instead of becoming a more bestial sounding band.

No, there’s an honest grandeur to the sound of this band.  Mainly thanks to the arches of the guitar, that is often let free to soar and roam the land. Implementing some nature sounds also works in favor of their overall experience, like the falling water on ‘Bót Eður Viðsjá Við illu Aðkasti’. As a listener you can detect some Enslaved in the sound here. The stretched out parts with intentse tremolo riffing, the shifts and build-up in the song, even the gurgly vocals feel like they connect there. It feels as if Draugsól has a tendency to be slightly more progressive.  At other moments they really stick to the traditional aspects, but there’s definitely a different groove to this band.

I have to add some Behemoth to that, because the band certainly knows how to bring it big. Somewhere in between all that they deliver a fierce debut and I hope these guys will be around for a bit.

 

Underground Sounds: Veldes – Ember Breather

Label: Razed Soul Productions/Pest Productions
Band: Veldes
Origin: Slovenia

One could argue that autumn is not the worst time of the year, but on ‘Ember Breather’ one might start changing ones opinion. This is the second full lenght of Veldes from Bled. A project manned by Tilen Šimon, who’s been active in NephrolithWintersoul and more. Veldes is also the word from medieval times for the vastness of the landscape in the region where the music originates from. Roots run deep as we know.

What attracted me to the record are the clean passages, the mournful tone and a sort of olschool feeling to the sound. You can feel the nature inspiration in the way the sound wanders of, the acoustic elements and warmth of the sound. The contrast between that warmth and the icy high-pitched screams is rather big, which is a specialty for Veldes. I get the comparison to Drudkh, but there’s also something of Agalloch I suppose.

What I particularly like in the sound of Veldes is the contrast between those clean sounds and the harsh, gnarly drums and vocals. It gives a much more hooked and scharp sound to the band, without taking away the massive atmosphere that is created. The sense of forlorn times and grief remains intact for the listener. Those themes are very present in the song titles as well and the fading art work on the record cover. It all falls into place with the long piano pieces, like on ‘To Ruins Of Throneless Realm’. A slow progressing piece with laborously toiling guitars and some tremolo play. The drums are barely needed to keep the flow of sound going.

When you find that calm in the flow of the music, there’s always that shriek to wake you up again and arouse you from the slumbering trees. When it comes to this type of music, Veldes is in its own remote valley.