Tag Archives: black metal

Underground Sounds: Slegest – Vidsyn

Label: Dark Essence Records
Band: Slegest
Origin: Norway

Slegest

I found out about Slegest, thanks to the Cult Never Dies: The Megazine book by Dayal Patterson. 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.

Underground Sounds: Pillorian – Obsidian Arc

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 BanewreakerUada 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.

Underground Sounds: Fen – Winter

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.

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.