Tag Archives: black metal

Sounds of the Underground #39

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

Rive – Sorg
Self released

source: bandcamp

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

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

Book of Sand – Occult Anarchist Propaganda
Mouthbreather Records

source: Blackmetalandbrews.com

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

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

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

source: bandcamp

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

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

Illyria – Illyria
Self Released

source: bandcamp

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

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

Sounds of the Underground #38

So Underground sounds, I’ve been silent but I need to tell you about Rorcal, Zhrine, Sun Worship and Unru. 

Rorcal – Creon
Lost Pilgrims Recordings

This four track album by Swiss doom masters is by now their number four of the full lenghts. De group from Geneva has a  sound that hits you like a brick in all its glorious majesty. The albumd deals with the tragic death of four greek heroes. The names are the songtitles, written in Greek, which offer a record lasting over 50 minutes. The names are Polynices, Antigone, Haemon and Eurydice. The record was recorded in three days and mixed in Sweden, it’s out on vinyl now (just ordered mine!). Check this out.

The description invites you to immerse yourself in the savage fury and beauty of this album and I think that this is exactly what the record offers. Four turbulent tracks full of blackened sludge/hardcore that feels quite on the bleak side most of the times. Continuous, surging riffs give that typical sludge feel, but the tempestuous blast beats link it to black metal joined by the vocals. The riffs lash down upon the listener, sometimes giving way to those high rising atmospheric moments, while the drums batter on. This would seem to be one hell of a consistently strong record, offering no rest for the listener in the ever dangerous mythical age of Greece. The vocals scream and sear you even further, landing like blows to the face. This record is a black pit of tar, once you fall into it, you’re doomed.

Sun Worship – Pale Dawn
Golden Antenna Records

source: bandcamp

One of my favorite metla bands for suer, these guys from Berlin. A while ago I did conduct an interview with the trio and their hipster black metal approach. I think that whole label is nonsense by the way, rarely will you find a band that so profoundly makes music from the heart that sounds so dark and oppressive. It’s the second full lenght of the band, who played Roadburn last year and are generally pretty awesome. You can read my interview here if you like.  Artwork for this album was once more done by the people of View from the Coffer. It looks pretty cool as we’re used to with these Germans.

I don’t know if the band in some way intended their cover to give a slight reference to the cosmic music of the 70’s krautrock movement. One can detect something like that in their music though, with a lot of repetition an an almost ‘motorik’ beat in the opening track. Maybe its just being highlighted in the music of these guys, who also use a lot of distortion to create this cosmic, cloudy feel of air filled with electricity. This brings me to ‘Lichtenberg Figures’, which is a the name for electric emissions that can be captures.  The use of cymbals evokes that feel, but it all lingers in the wide, melodic play of the band. This is not black metal for a black night, it’s for that starry heavens above us, filling us with wonder. The tremolo guitar play and hoars, far away focals are an expression of facing that. The words echo despair. It’s one hell of a record, do take your time to listen to it.

Unru – Als Tier ist der Mensch Nichts
Monotonstudio Records

source: bandcamp

When you look at this weird collage cover, you may think that this whole record is just some joke gone wrong. I doubt that though, because ‘As Animals mankind is nothing’ is a blistering assault on the eardrums by Bielefeld black metal/crusties Unru. The band has released some surprising demo’s and then came out with this piece of unholy matter. Many fans the band has attracted with their vitriolic sound, but this album kind of tops it all I think. Judging by their facebook pictures, we’ve got another band like Sun Worship here, that has little scene pretense, but probably an artistic statement to offer.

Chaos, that’s where you dwell on ‘Zerfall & Manifest’, with a continuous onslaught of blast beats, wavering guitars and agitated, bestial barks. What might be the typical cascadian riffs, just melts into this distorted blanked of sound. Radid screams add to this grotesque experience. ‘Hēdonḗe’ offers an opening of crushing riffs, that make it sound like some shattered speakers are being tested. Add to that guttural howls through broken microphones’ and you get the illuminating experience this track offers. It’s an abbrasive, punitative ride down on this abbrasive record. With a torturous thred the song marches on.  I don’t know what it is, every time the band seems to produce somehthing that sounds mildly intelligent, a blast of noise has to be woven around it, like ‘Totemiker’. Still a great record though.

Zhrine – Unortheta
Seasons of Mist

source: bandcamp

Iceland offers many natural wonders. It also has a shitload of good black metal bands and Zhrine is just the next kid in town, that’s gonna blow you away with their grand blackened death. On first hearing they might remind you of a mixture of Behemoth and Skepticism, but there’s much more violence to this sound. The band is not a bunch of young dogs, but have already earned their name and are earning it in various others like Naðra, Svartidauði and Ophidian I. The good label is there already. This appears to be bound for glory already after having changed the bandname from Gone Postal to Shrine and now Zhrine.

There’s a majestic side to the dragging sound of Zhrine, but there’s also the bite when they speed up and chase you with overwhelming force into a corner. Brutal with so many subtleties, that’s the cool bit about these guys. You can definitely sense some of the experimental elements on the more straight forward tracks, but it’s the other songs that mesmerize you. Both dissonant and harmonious, imposing and gentle, the record goes in all directions without ever losing its intriuge. Unconventional and progressive, this is one hell of a record to give a spin.

 

Sounds of the Underground #37

I keep finding great underground records, so here are some with Oranssi Pazuzu, Deströyer 666, Ulvesang and Plateau Sigma.

Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
20 Buck Spin Records

source: bandcamp

The name of the Finnish weirdo’s translates as Orange Pazuzu, a demon from Babylonian mythology. Vocalist Jun His’ used to be active in surrealist rockband Kuolleet Intiaanit. Apparently the band started after seeing Emperor play live. There’s little doubt about the fact that Oranssi Pazuzu is a black metal continuation of that concept. The band thus incorporates psychedelic and progressive elements into their own brand of black metal, which leads to interesting results. The band prefers to not repeat itself, leading to even more fantastic fun, every album is different.

The strange, repetitive riffs feel strangely captivating and lull you into a state of mind that is perplexingly relaxed, while maintaining a sense of wonder. The weird sound effects around the songs are enhancing this weird, submerging experience befitting such a band. Weirdly hypnotic riffs, combined with guttural barks are a strange thing to behold. The almost circular atmosphere the band generates is slightly unnerving, but fascinating at the same time in all its weirdness. Its some truly remarkable music, I have to say. I think I detected a locomotive beat somewhere between the twangy riffing.

Plateau Sigma – Rituals
Avantgarde Music

source: bandcamp

Nothing wrong with a good bit of funeral doom, specially if the band takes the easy going direction that Plateau Sigma embraces. Taking inspiration from the traditional doom/death direction, but also from the Greek and Roman societies of the ancient past, this band is on an interesting trajectory. The cover tells as much, with a warrior lady in full weaponry depicted as on an ancient fresco (the goddess Athena?). The songs are dedicated to the Roman deities and the album itself to Bacchus, because Plateau Sigma believes that their style is the best to represent Dionysian themes. I would disagree, bu tthey make an interesting case that is well worth listening to before judging.

One thing I notice rather quick into listening to this record is the limited vocal range of one of their vocalists (not sure, since most of them take on vocal duties). It just doesn’t add up to the epic scale of the riffs here and there. The general feel of the music makes up for most of that though, in its laid back, pleasant atmosphere. This is normally not the feeling you get from a bit of funeral doom, bu tthe lingering sense of nostalgia somehow captivates you as a listener into a lulling, dreamy state. For a Dyonisian experience I miss the vitality on this record though. It all seems so tame and controlled. It’s a nice listen though, specially when you’re reading D&D novels.

Deströyer 666 – Wildfire
Seasons Of Mist

source: Bandcamp

Deströyer 666 is an interesting band with an even more interesting history. Originally the band hails from Melbourne in Australia, but later they moved to the south of the Netherlands, where they resided for a while. When members left and visas expired, the band seems to have scattered towards London. I guess it’s that Eindhoven connection that made me look into this Motörhead of the black metal scene, who’ve come back to the forefront after a long, long time with their new album ‘Wildfire’.  K. K. Warslut gathered some new minions around him and its on!

From the fierce opening riff of ‘Traitor’ onwards. There is no fillers on this album, just relentless blackened rock’n’roll with a lot of oldschool swagger and rawness to it. Deströyer 666 is in no way a band that is opening new doors or is innovating the black metal genre, but they are doing everything in a way that suggests they simply don’t give a fuck whether you like it or not, This is rock’n’roll purity in its natural surroundings. What is very noticable is how the band manages to incorporate various traditional metal elements into their sound, without starting to sound cheesy. It actually makes it even more catchy and fun to listen to these guys. I really love this record, I hope you do to.

Ulvesang – Ulvesang
Unsigned

bandcamp

They might be unsigned, but someone should catch this haunting trio of neofolk musicians quickly, because wherever this music is coming from I want more of it. The Canadians have many influences, but want to state that they are looking for their very own sound within the genre they describe as dark/neofolk. Spiritualism, paganism and nature combined with an element of melancholy are their main sources of inspiration.  It’s clear that bands like Ulver and Agalloch have, wether the band knows them or not, a profound impact on the neofolk scene and I think it can be traced to records like this one.

The music is subtle, evoking images of nature and the northern forests. There is a tranquility to the calm and measured presentation of Ulvesang. It all takes its own pace, the way nature works and how time passes in that realm. Trickling gently, the acoustic instruments are not simple clean sounds but echo and reverberate in the air. The production really facilitates that organic feeling in that sense. There is a darkness to the sound though, which I think prompted the band to note their black metal influences in the tag cloud. Its that dark edge that makes them so captivating to me.

Sounds of the Underground #36

There are sounds of the underground you must hear, this time with Hoth, BreabachRotting Christ and Inverloch. This means doom, gloom, folk and black, offering a wide listening experience to those who can handle it.

Hoth – Oathbreaker
Epicurus Records 

source: bandcamp

Hoth consists of Eric Peters and David Dees from Seattle, who took the name as fitting with their icy concept. The name obviously can be a reference to the frozen planet in the Star Wars universe, but also refers to the blind Norse god who killed his brother Baldr. The duo has been making epic black metal with clean melodic death mixed into it since 2011. Their album was re-released (originally it was self-released 2014) by Epicurus Records. The theme is a concept “that follows the story of an individual from his conception and follows him down a path that grows darker and darker.” A promising sonic journey it is then.

The result is something much more than what you’d expect. Not majestic black metal, but real storytelling with upbeat, majeure riffing and playful folky melodies. The riffing here and there reminds one of bands like Norther, who combined the grim, cold sound with melodeath in a cool manner.  One can even detect a bit of classical influences and some Spanish guitar on some tracks, giving a bit more of an aura to the overall experience. ‘A Blighted Hope’ fore example is an extraordinary track, but so is ‘Cryptic Nightmares’ with its gothic piano intro. No worries, there is plenty of bleak, black metal left for you to indulge in. This record with its crisp production just doesn’t start boring you easily.

Breabach – Astar
Breabach Records

source: bandcamp

Breabach plays Scottish folk music, but manages to do that in a contemporary form. The problem with folk is that it’s more often than not stereotyped, thus crippling the originalities that can be easily found in the local/regional scenes. The group has found compelling ways to emphasize their aesthetic, but growing as well by adding music from other folk scenes, like that of Norway (Olav Luksengård Mjelva), New Zealand (Scott Morrison), Australia (Yirrmal Marika) and Quebec (Olivier Demers and Le Vent Du Nord). Like any folk album there’s a lot of connections and meaning to this piece of work by the award winning group.

The sound of Breabach feels authentic and natural, upbeat and energetic with the throbbing energy of early spring in all its vibrant tones. Still, there is an element of modernity to the music, which reminds you of the timeless tunes Michael Danna made for the film ‘Boondock Saints’ in its filmic pictural force. It’s as if the band tries to depict the blooming heather. The interesting part is ofcourse the implementation of the ethnic instruments from the other parts of the world. It creats a multicultural harmony, that can hardly be found in real life, but shines in its singular beauty. For me, this is beautiful stuff and I truly recommend this to you as a listener.

Rotting Christ – Rituals
Seasons Of Mist

source: bandcamp

Bombastic, grand and unrelentingly great are some words that come to mind when I think of Rotting Christ. On their last couple of albums the Greeks have truly found a connection to the ethnic roots of the band in mesmerising albums that depict bits of history through the magnifying lens of black metal amplification. The turn the band has taken since ‘Aealo’ has grabbed my interests for sure (2010). It’s been 3 years since the highly praised 12th album by the ever productive Tolis brothers, who still hold the reigns on the creative output of the band. There’s even an Aphrodites Child cover on this album. It’s so awesome, I can hardly stop going on about it.

For this release the band has gathered a ton of guests to add weight to the already heavy sound.  Among those you’ll find Vorph (Samael) and Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost), but there are many more delivering their sacrifices to the sonic titan that is Rituals. Slow, massive riffs pulverize all in their path on a larger than life scale. The blaring bagpipes add another layer of frightning threat to the whole endeavour. The shift to the more pagan oriented metal really works great for this band and allows them to bloom to their fullest potential, even more so on ‘Rituals’ I think than on their previous work. The cthunderous choires and the exact placement of all the elements creates the epic feeling of a Hollywood blockbuster, which I mean in all the right ways. Sure, maybe this puts the band more in the corner between Cradle Of Filth and Eluveitie, but they completely dominate that corner, so its all good.

Inverloch – Distance | Collapsed
Relapse Records

source: bandcamp

The band Inverloch started out under the name d.USK a few years ago, but the roots of the Australians are in the band Disembowelment. Interestingly this is just one of the many creative directions following the group that was active untill 1993. The band has also been booked on Roadburn, so the forward path has been taken by Inverloch. The interesting thing is that Inverloch came to be, when the two old members of Disembowelment decided to go have some fun with those old tunes. It sparked the creative fire in the two and that is what created this band, which was soon signed by the great Relapse Records for a full lenght. Time to check out what that does on a sonic level.

This record is something else, it’s very far away from the traditional death metal, but still incorporates elements into its desperate doom sound. The band truly sounds like a more swampy funeral doom at times, but then a blast of muddy, sticky death metal like on the song ‘Lucid Delirium’, with its catchy rattling drums. Crawling drumlines  are like skittering, while gloomy riffs make the room feel darker. This is just a pretty awesome record, combining doom and death in the only way you really can do it. It’s overwhelming, disgusting and unnerving, but done with beautiful skill. Awesome.

Sounds of the Underground #35

Boy, what records to be found in the underground this time, with Downfall Of Nur, Skuggsjá, Cormorant and Fuath. Great music for great listening!

Downfall Of Nur – Umbras de Barbagia
Avantgarde Music

source: bandcamp

Seldom have I heard music, blending folk and black metal, that feels so full of yearning for something lost as I did with Downfall Of Nur. The band is a one-man project by Sardinian musician Antonio Sanna, who moved to Argentina and there started making his music, inspired by the Nuragian society, which inhabited the island of Sardinia since the old days and still show some traces in the wild central parts of the island. So, the band is based in Argentinia where the young Sanna released a demo, an EP and this full lenght.

The music is a mixture of two styles, but balanced in such a way that you hardly feel the transfers from one to another. The production is phenomenal and the sound completely captures the forlorn spirit of its topic matter. The eerie screams of Sanna are haunting in the sometimes completely overwhelming waves of bleak, black metal. The special touch is the folk instruments, which start the album, but also help it to close of in a similar manner. This way the album becomes a unity, instead of a collection of seperate songs. It’s an absolute masterpiece, that combines the best of the atmospheric black metal bands of nowadays and folk music.

 Skuggsjá – A Piece For Mind And Mirror
Seasons Of Mist

source: bandcamp

The magical collaboration between Einar Selvik (Wardruna) and Ivar Björnson (Enslaved) was already succesful in its limited run of live shows. I had mixed feelings when it came to an album version of it, due to its temporary and unique nature, It was an event, a once in a lifetime thing, but now there’s an album. I have to retract any objections, because this is a music for the ages. With many collaborators on this piece of heathen heritage appraisal, it’s a work like no other. The Norwegians have tried to captivate its essence on this recording.

Though labeled as a blend of metal and folk, it feels more like a ritualistic bit of music. The changing of Selvik is combined with the riffing of Björnson en Grutle Kjellson. Mystical foggy fjörds are being painted with words and music. Through the mist of traditional instruments you journey into the Norway of a long forgotten past. It’s music that makes your heart pound, that makes you look at the stars with a new sense of wonder and embrace the forgotten past. The wide range of instruments comes together for something monumental and grand, but also dreamy and nostalgic for a time in the past. Thre’s hardly any true metal in the music, which is surprisingly not making it lack in power. It’s hard to really go into it, because it knows no equal. I’m for one very glad this music is available on vinyl now.

Fuath – I
Fortriu Productions/Neuropa Records

source: bandcamp

I’ve had this record on my shortlist for reviewing for a while, but somehow dropped it for a while, due to its musical nature. The post black metal that praises the land of the Britons has often represented in my reviews so I let it simmer for a while. That did not diminish anything of the beauty that Fuath has to offer. Andy Marshall knows how to make this kind of music. The Scot was also responsible for the work of Saor, Falloch and various others. Where Saor and Falloch are mellow, representing the wide heathers and hills, the music of Fuath is more harsh, more overwhelming and seemingly more about the deep forest.

The name Fuath translates as ‘Hatred’ in Gaelic. That tells you quite a bit already. The sound is more streamlined than the previous efforts and relies on that stream to create an atmosphere of a misty forest and being lost in its foggy depths. It invites you in, takes you into its warm embrace. Only then you feel the eerie cold and the fury behind it all in icy riffs and cold, distant drumming. Vocals are howls, raw and filled with hatred, in the background. Ever seen that scene in the old BBC Robin Hood serious where Guy Of Gisborne runs scared through the haunted forest? This was the soundtrack of that bit.

Cormorant – Dwellings
Self released

source: bandcamp

Yeah, this is something else. Cormorant is a black metal band that can trace its roots to the melodic and grandiose sounds of Emperor and Satyricon in the early days of the genre. Where the focus of bands is lately much on returning to its roots, like the Icelandic and Nidrosian scenes, this band returns to its mystic, fantastic origins. Think Bal-Sagoth, but without the cookie monster gutturals and and He-man like landscapes. The Bay Area band of Americans have released this album in 2011, but it crawled up on bandcamp for a bit and I had to check it out. I was amazed.

You think progressive usually takes a more agressive, extreme angle, but interestingly enough these San Francisco boys have taken it to a more traditional folk/heavy metal direction. More riffing, more soaring guitar parts and that galloping rhythm you’ll find in the power metal corner. Maybe even a bit of Iron Maiden? It creates a unique sounding band, that unites the cravings of angered D&D players with the need to stand bare-chested in a forest wearing corpse paint and wielding swords. It is not filled with hatred, but with longing for that other worldliness. On top of that, they do what they do in a magnificent manner. What an album! They did release a new one in 2014, but I’m most keen for more.

 

Sounds of the Underground #34

All corners of the world in this sounds of the underground with Skáphe from the USA/Iceland, Wildernessking from South Africa, Burial Dust from Bangladesh and Cadaver Eyes from Israel.

Skáphe – Skáphe²
Fallen Empire Records

source: bandcamp

I came across these guys, while doing a SoU about bands from Iceland. They were cool, but not Icelandic, so you get them now. Skáphe is a band from Philadelphia in the United States (partly Iceland too) and this album came out after Trump started rampaging across any sort of decency that you’d find. I guess it is what fuels their anger. The band sounds pretty much like they’re actually part of that Icelandic scene and are indeed part of the Vánagandr group, which in its own peculiar way is embrasing the nidrosian idea of pure, back to basics black metal. I feel that this is in large parts what you get when listening to their relentless record.

Think of early bands like Blasphemy and you get a similar, overwhelming and raw delivery. The sound in general is a roaring and thunderous one, with little subtlety. There is a slight bit of that tremolo guitar sound, you’ll find in the post black-metal bands now usually, but it’s used sparingly. Cacophonous sounds peep through the solid wall of sound now and then, offering you a glimpse into the swirling malestrom of madness behind it all. The whole recording seems to have done in a concrete storage hall or something, because there is no sense of subtlety or grace to the sound of these Americans. Only after the full album I checked its members: D.G. is known from his work with Misþyrming and Naðra (see this SoU#33) and Alex Poole, who did his thing in Krieg, Esoterica and Chaos Moon. Things make more sense to me now.

 
Wildernessking – Mystical Future
Sick Man Getting Sick Records

source: bandcamp

I had to check it twice myself, black metal from South-Africa? That seemed wild. Not because I don’t think it shouldn’t be played in Africa, but the relationship seems like one that is bound to face with troubles. Wildernessking has been around for a good while though. In 2012 they released their debut, but in 2010 the band formed under the moniker of Heathens. The range of topics is broad and obviously inspired by the countries own nature and sensibilities. The Cape Towners fill their music with progressive elements to create something unique.

Think Winterfylleth, but set in the wide stretches of land of South-Africa and with probably better weather. You can hear that sensation of sunrays in the warm and beaming feel of the riffs. Though intensely played and full of hard work, the sound feels languid, relaxed but also danger lurks. The bestial roar of Keenan Nathan Oakes rips through that languid mood with an urgency, while the riffs smoothly cascade onwards in a dramatic though doomy way. There’s a longing or lamenting in the music and voice that grip you. It’s that amazing sincerity that makes this feel so good.

Burial Dust – Oshubho Ahobaan
Independent

source: bandcamp

Bangladesh is starting to develop it’s very own black metal scene, with primitive, furious and quite convincing. The main theme appaers to be the ancient death cult and occult religions, but more than anything the denunciation of the false gods that rule our society. Reminds you of Norway some decades ago? Bands like this show that black metal has matured and found a deep rooting within counter culture and anti-religious thoughts with serious followers. Wether that’s a good thing, is not up to me to decide, but it lends a certain gravity to the expression in the music itself. The title translates as ‘Ominous call’.

Though the sound may come off as pretty lo-fi (necrosound!), it works in the favor of the band in the sense of aura and vibe. Blistering, crackling blasts and deep, unearthly gutteral vocals show the mixed ancestry in both the death and black scene, giving a similar feel to the band as the primitive origins of Mayhem and Darkthrone (maybe even a little of the more death orientated sounds of Von and Morbid). The attentive listener can detect some oriental influences in their sound, where the evocation of ancient Egyptian deities is no strange occurence. From the guitar crescendo’s to the unbidding chasm of the vocals, this is a powerful bit of dark magic.

Cadaver Eyes – Class Mammal
HCB Records

source: bandcamp

Sometimes you get these requests that sound just too intriguing to be ignored. This Israeli band claims to implement elements of doom, noise and experimental sounds into their product and that alone is quite peculiar. The sound that you experience when listening to it is even more weird and unsettling then you’d think. To give a bit of context, the band is a project more than anything, based in Jaffa, Jerusalem and New York. Bandmember Zax indicated in his e-mail that he also plays in  Lietterschpich and in Hyperion Ensemble, along with drone deity Stepehen O’Malley’. It should give you some context on what these guys are doing.

The line between fucked up noise and brilliance is a rather thin one, leaving a band to be often misunderstood. As one, I presume Chinese, site described Cadaver Eyes: “in these music there is nothing but amounts of buzzing”. Brilliant quote, but there’s much more to it. The base of the music is a drone that truly unsettles the listener, specially when David Opp (also Lietterschpich, Balata etc.) starts barking at the listener through a fog of distortion and rage. The drum patterns make little sense, giving you hardly any space to breathe and find a calm in the music. Though it lacks a certain sonic intensity, the experimental, fuzzy crackling of electronics gives no quarter. The record also has two cover-like tracks, one being ‘Acetone’ by Mudhoney. You can’t go wrong with Mudhoney, but for some listeners Cadaver Eyes might feel like you’ve really been walking down the wrong kind of alley.

Sounds of the Underground #33 Iceland Edition

A special edition of underground sounds from Iceland, with Naðra , Wormlust, Auðn and Abominor . Am I jumping that Iceland black metal bandwagon? Well atleast for this round up, I guess I am.

Naðra – Allir Vegir til Glötunar
Vánagandr Records

source: bandcamp

The stars are right. The serpent has awoken. This band from Reykjavik features an all-star line-up from the Icelandic black metal scene (which, to be honest, makes it easy to get an all-star line-up). Members are active in Misþyrming (4/5) and other acts that make up that typical sound. The title means ‘All Paths to Oblivion’ and is the first full lenght effort of this band. The artwork is a copper engraving and the band does have a bit of that Celeste or Deathspell Omega thing going.  Those are the facts.

I mention those names, because the sound blends atmospheric, vibrant sounds with a brutal, full on wall of sound to create a mesmerizing spectacle from the first tones of ‘Fjallið’. Relentless the sound surges on and it does take a few listens to get through the primal roar and experience the hidden majesty of the band. It takes all the way to ‘Fallið’ to get a moment of the clean, folkish roots of that form the sound of this band, which is brought as an intermezzo during the 9 minute song. The pace slows down on that track and brings a purifying experience back to a slow wind down. Absolutely a great record, so recommended listening.

Auðn – Auðn
Metallic Media 

source: Bandcamp

“I mean, if you’re on the fringe of the black metal scene in Iceland, what does that leave you with?” said vocalist Hjalti in this cool piece on Icelandic black metal (grapevine.is). It describes well the position of this atmospheric band, who are on the fringe of a fringe genre in a fringe nation. The band is one of those who get lumped into the post black corner here and there, which is a bit hard to explain. Maybe its the interest in landscapes and not showing band pictures that makes them unique?

Bleak and barren are the landscapes that the band paints in their music, with melancholic and merciless music that cuts you like a knife. Their soaring guitar work combined with meandering rhythms forms imagery in sound, though the band also manages to sound brutal and fiery now and then. Then there are the mild passages, with gentle guitar play. They are brief, but offer a glimpse at the beauty that the band also embodies. Though harsh, the bittersweet melancholy of the songs is convincing and easy to pick up. Even though the lyrics, presented in a hoarse but controlled bark, are in Icelandic this band speaks to you in all their glory. Outsider art is the best art, am I right?

Wormlust – The Feral Wisdom
Demonhood Productions

source: Bandcamp

This record hits you like a brick to the fucking face, after which you feel the psychedelic display on its cover is a much more logical thing to behold. The record has been out for a while, but a re-release was inevitable. The band has two members and has been around in Reykjavik for about 13 years, playing a very distinct, very own brand of black metal. I mean, this shit is real, it’s not something for the weak to listen to and the first time I put on some wormlust, I turned it off after about 5 minutes.

The album is cathartic, as in surviving it is something you do willingly and decide to actually strive for. It’s torture in its aural intensity and refusal to form any true musical rules. Psychedelic means something totally different if you enter the black spheres of WOrmlust. For example, the track ‘Á Altari Meistarans’ is filled with woozy effects, surrounding a blastbeat fueled orgy of screams and riffs that feel like a black hole sucking out all life from the universe. It’s intense listening, dear readers. This is hefty material. Despair, mortals, this is the soundtrack of your darkest dreams.

Abominor – Opus:Decay
Vánagandr Records

source: Bandcamp

Abominor is anoter group, hailing from the city of Reykjavik. Not much has been released this far by the group, apart from a demo in 2010 and this ep in 2015. A meagre harvest, but not a disaster if the quality is right. The main tipic is death and all its futility for the band, which explains the swirling cover, depicting a sort of emptiness after all. Noticable about this band, is the fact the band moves into post-black metal and black/death crossover with their sound. An intriguing listen.

After a brief intro, all gates are open and thick, layered slabs of sound are delivered over doomy rhythms. The fat, textured feel of this sound is clearly different from the other bands I’ve been checking out, offering more of a chunky, heavy handed approach by creating dark and overwhelming soundscapes. This sound envelops the core of the black metal assault as a misty blanket when the torrent unleashes. This full and grand approach is probably how the end-times will sound. Turbulent and wild, this is some heavy stuff.

Interview with Sun Worship from Germany

I did an interview with lovely black metal innovators from Berlin Sun Worship. It appeared in Rockerilla magazine (Italian) and on Echoes & Dust 

For this interview Lars (guitars/vocals) and Bastian (drummer) answered some questions, while busy touring and spreading their great music.

Can you guys introduce yourselves a bit, for the ones new to Sun Worship?
L: Sun Worship is a band that started in early 2010, has drums, guitars and voices and was started with the intention to write songs and play them live.

B: We play what pretty much everyone calls black metal. We like to make music that is fast, harsh and dark. It is supposed to generate a trance-like experience.

Why did you guys pick the name Sun Worship?
L: Because the Sun will be the death of everything around it in the end!

B: Yeah man! There is an interesting paradox in worshipping the sun. You’ll never be able to reach it and if you do, there will be nothing left of you. However there is a lot of interpretational dimensions of the name. I like that it refers to the religious aspects of black aesthetics by somehow turning the cliche into the opposite. Also, people think we’re hippies because of the name, I like that this causes some irritation.

Do you have any funny experiences, due to people thinking you’re hippies?
L: We had a funny experience once when people threw their beer cups at us (and missed) because they couldn’t handle the fact that we didn’t look like them. Provocation is not something we actively pursue, that would be kind of dumb and not what we are about. We put our hearts and minds in the music, so it’s kind of offensive when people think we’re about that. I prefer to do things for my own good and pleasure and according to my own rules and standards, and if that rubs people the wrong way or fails to live up to their expectations and upsets them, fine with me. Saying that you enjoy the irritation you stir in people once in a while doesn’t mean that you have to limit yourself to that cause. We are perfectly aware of the fact that we don’t live up (haha) to some of the ‘standards’ people have come to associate with what they call black metal. We see things differently.

How did you get started playing with this band and did you guys have any previous bands (either seperate or together)?
L: We didn have bands together, but we shared the stages and sceneries. That is how we knew eachtother. The idea for Sun Worship had been around for a while, since our drummer and me had been into this kind of music since our teens. It did take us some time to get started with it though. Bringing in a third person was necessary to make it work, because we have rather chaotic minds.

B: In German terms it was a so-called ‘Schnapsidee’, Lars and me got pretty wasted one night in a bar and then the conversation was basically like: ‘Dude i want to play in a black metal band…’ Which got the response: ‘Yeah man, me too!’No further intentions, i guess… We just did it.

L: We had to get wasted a couple of times to remind ourselves of that idea actually.

What is it you guys do when not making music?
L: Sleep, eat, work.

B: That’s pretty much it. I play squash and do yoga… Spiritual enlightenment. I also help organizing shows in a DIY space.

What are the main inspirations for your sound, the main purpose and goal behind Sun Worship?
L: There’s music in my head ever since II roamed the forests around the place where I grew up. Itś been with me since childhood and it wants to get out.

B: Reaching a higher state of consciousness by exploring the limits of speed in relation to physical abilities. Creating a dark and negative atmosphere to gain a positive experience. That’s what I like about it. For me it is a lot about canalizing the concrete nature of Berlin. At some point i realized that living in Berlin can be quite challenging.

I’m interested in the aspect of Berlin as an inspiration for your sound. Can you elaborate on that? Would Sun Worship sound different, if it was from any other city?
L: Would Sun Worship even exist in another city? Probably not… Of course your everyday surroundings are going to influence you no matter what, but I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that this city as a place inspires me. If anything, it inspires negative energy which I need to vent. I am inspired by other things and other places and I’d rather use the music to escape from here. That said, people in Berlin have created an open infrastructure over the years which is both inspiring and helpful. It’s an ambivalent relationship and this ambivalence is an inspiration in itself.

Black metal is a genre known for its amount of cliché elements and such. You guys seem to take your own approach to it. Can you tell a bit about that?
L: I have no interest in dressing up to look tough or whatever. Anyway, there’s a lot of cliché elements in our music (and artwork too) but we celebrate those. We take our art dead serious, not so much ourselves though.

For many bands and fans black metal is more than just music. What do you think about that?
L: I think it’s a bit of a childish concept especially considering the alleged ‘rules’ and ‘values’ of black metal, but hey, for me pizza is more than just food so who am I to judge?

B: For me music is more than just black metal, an emoticon would make sense now. Anyway, I wouldn’t go so far, and judge peoples attitude towards the genre, but I must say that i don’t really like the concept of scenes and their aesthetic rules in general.

How would you describe the genre, what does it mean and what makes a black metal band?
L: It’s been dead for at least 20 years, for better or worse. Once in a while I hear a band which captures the spirit at least musically (Murg would be a good recent example) but generally all the good bands today are black metal influenced (us included) only anyway. I find that a lot more respectful than to try to desperately reenact what some Scandinavian teens did back in the 90s.

B: The last few years it has become very popular again. A lot of kids from the hardcore and punk scene just realized that it’s by far more than just corpsepaint, torches, spikes and full moon nights. I think the genre and its development profits quite well from it.

So do you think there is some sort of core to the genre?
L: There isn’t any. It’s just been canonized one way or the other, for all sorts of reasons and due to all sorts of perspectives. That’s the way I see it. To me, black metal – or the essence of it, if you wish – is closer to ambient music, krautrock and early hardcore punk than to any other heavy metal subgenre. Monotony, minimalism, repetition, that certain kind of atmosphere, a refusal to play by the rules. One of the very few bands that I can actually apply that to are Darkthrone circa 1992-1994 (and they were very much inspired by 80s heavy/thrash/black metal actually.) It’s a complex matter. Suffice to say that you’d rather find “my” essence of black metal on a Swans, Phill Niblock or Mt. Eerie album than on any “black metal” album released during the last 20 years.

How was it to play Roadburn earlier this year?
L: It was a very good experience. Very professional, but very friendly and exceptionally down to earth at the same time. The enthusiasm and attitude of the people there were very inspiring.

In some preview I read that you guys were music nerds, is there any truth to that? (I think its a good thing)
L: Definitely.

B: Can’t deny it. No.

L: There’s so much good stuff out there. And it’s easier than ever to access it. I suppose that ‘music nerdism’ allows us to approach our music with an outsider perception. Not in the sense that we tyr to incorporate all kinds of weird stuff into our songs, but just for the sake of it. It’s the mindset that matters.

Your record ‘Elder Giants’ is my favorite Roadburn purchase. Can you tell a bit more about its creation proces and the general concepts behind the album?
L: Thanks for the compliment. We had five new (at the time) songs in summer 2012 which we went on to record by ourselves. Two of them became the ‘Surpass Eclipse’ 12″ which was released in early 2013. the other songs partly lacked lyrics and were sitting around until we discovered that the rough mix of the recorded versions suited them quite well. So we finished them, vocals and all, and basically sent the rough mix off to be mastered. We added the ambient track and thought we had an ok sort of demo tape (which us and View From The Coffin planned to release in a small edition) to fill the gap between the split 12″ w/ Unru and whatever would become our first album… but then it actually became our first album. So there was no masterplan or that kind of thing really. And no clearly cut out concept either – however, the album turned out to be a very personal retrospective on and tribute to the music which initially inspired its creation, hence the title.

The album feels more like a big whole, a unity, than just a collection of songs. Is this intentional?
L: The songs were all written within three month or thereabout, that would perhaps explain it. As I said, there was no plan to create an album the way it turned out.

B: A huge amount of the songwriting process happens in the rehearsal room. We listened to the same records during that time, somehow we got into a vibe that lasted a few songs.

How has the reception been, both inside the scene as well as outside?
L: I have no idea about the scene to be honest. Reviews were mostly good and people tell us we made a good album. I’m largely satisfied with it myself and that’s what ultimately important.

Black metal from Europe seems to be returning to full power. What bands from Germany do you think people should listen to (and why)?
L: Unru, Ultha, and Antlers, because they’re damn good and because they have their hearts and minds in the right places.

What are the future plans for Sun Worship and what do you hope to achieve with the band?
L: We’re working on new songs and ultimately a new album, getting that one finished and released is the main goal right now. It’s going to be darker and heavier, but we disagree on that.

Sounds of the Underground #30

Sounds from that ol’ Underground, this time with black metal from Grima, Ancestors Blood and Bucovina. Also in this is In Gowan Ring who add a bit more folk after Bucovina’s folk metal. Enjoy reading and listening please.

Grima – Devotion to Lord
Naturmacht Productions

source: bandcamp

No, this ain’t no unblack metal band, this is nature worshipping, organic sounding intense Siberian black metal. This duo from Russia might be that answer to the Cascadian wave from the USA from the frozen wastes of the tundra. Ok, I’m romanticizing the whole thing now, but there’s s a truth to it. Naming it atmospheric BM, Grima could have just as well decided n the post-black metal description, because their sound is far removed from the fire and brimstone roots of black metal.

The shades of trees, the stingy needles of pines and the cold fog on the floor level are not hard to picture when listening to the music of Grima. Bewildered and lost in the middle of a primordial forest, one finds quiet and peace, but also the full intensity of nature as blistering salvo’s of guitar play imitate wind, water and earth in its full majesty. The music can be beautifull, but also cold and biting, with long, wavy passages of guitars and the drums brought really back in the mix. A great record for those who love the BM nature worship. Props.

Bucovina – Nestramutat
Lupii Daciei

Source: Bandcamp

Hailing from the Carpathian mountains, this folk metal band from Romania has been around for 15 years now. This is their third full length, and it’s a special one at that. They demonstrate that Romania has more to offer than Negura Bunget, who used to be on the same label actually. Bucovina now operates through their own label Tara de Sus. The band explores in their music the ancient Dacian heritage and Romanian lore in a romantic fashion. The band implements folk influences and storytelling into their sound.

That results in a truly stunning album, where the vocals actually take a main role in it. While blistering blast beats bludgeon their way forward, the band also has melancholic singing, which appears to lean close to spoken word and chanting at the same time. The music is epic, but never bombastic and has interesting structures in its build up. The timbre of the sound is very earthy and at that also rather catchy I’d say. It results in distinct sounding album, that reminds me most of the likes of Dalriada. Recommended listen.

Ancestors Blood – Return of the Ancient Ones
Heidens Hart

source: bandcamp

The unmistakable cold sound of this band reveals the Finnish origin instantly. Cold, harsh Finnish pagan metal, paying homage to the forefathers of the ancient times with magic and rituals and all. The album counts 50 minutes of dense, atmospheric black metal to commemorate the pagan times in a glorious manner. The band themselves describe their sound as Esoteric Heathen Metal. A fine description I would say, for a rather particular sound that the band embraces.

The sound of the Laitila band (that’s a town, not a weird spelling of Latino) is landing on you like showers of rain in a gale of wind. Continuous, gracefully waving windows of sonic distortion, combined with atmospheric synths that give an almost sacral, ritual aura to the sound. The vocals are wild howls, a deep despair oozing from, in the same way the rest of the sound envelops you, slowly bathing you in grief and mournful rememberance. There’s definitely a lot of emotion in the sound, without ever trying to really seem grim and dark. In a sense the comparison with Summoning makes a lot of sense to me when listening to the record. The way the keys and guitars work together, offers an epic bit of black metal, but without any sort of hope. The record has been out since 2007, but has been put out again. A good choice I’d say for the label.

In Gowan Ring – The Serpent and the Dove
Les Disques du 7eme Ciel

source: bandcamp

Music does not need to have full on blast beats and bleating vocals to overwhelm. Music can be quiet, gentle and measured to achieve maximal impact and that is exactly what In Gowan Ring aims to do. This is the first album in a long, long time. Poetry, nature and folk instruments and stories of both stoens and angels, as the description states. This is an album to dream away with on these long, cold winter nights.

Gentle music trickles out of the speakers, with minimal sound and therefor so much more power. The opening strings immediately evoke the autumn. Wind swept fields and a rainy sky, with trees on the horizon. Then the clouds break and the tranquility of ‘Thousands of Bees’ is like a warm sun beam on your face in a dense forest. The beautiful words strung together warmly by the American B’eirth. His vocals lull you into dreamy realms of a different, other world that once was and maybe once may be.

Sounds of the Underground #29

Four reviews from the underground, as you know and love them. This time Tau CrossObsequiae, Sunn O))) and Kauan. Enjoy your own taste of them.

Tau Cross – S/T
Relapse Records 

source: Bandcamp

Call it a supergroup if you will, I just call it great stuff. The band was formed by Rob “The Baron” Miller of UK metalpunks Amebix and interestingly enough you find a tau cross decorating the last album of that band. Add members of Voivod and Misery to that and you do have something that definitely can get the label super group. In my opinion that term usually totally misses the plot and makes a band sound shitty instantly. Not in this case, this sounds great.

Musically the band is not really reinventing the steel, but neither do they sound explicitly metal. In fact the band has a sound that comes remarkably close to quite catchy and middle of the road. The vocals of The Baron, would suggest there’s family ties between him, Abbath and Lemmy. Great guitarwork creates a soaring sound, that feels big and stretched out. A lot like a good bit of desert stoner, but with that rough, crusty edge to it. The band is surprisingly melodic and catchy at times, with these sudden hooks like on ‘Prison’. This band is one of the reasons to go to Roadburn!

Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs
20 Buck Spin

source: bandcamp

You’re never quite sure what you’ll get with these random black metal picks on bandcamp, but I’m pleasantly surprised by these boys from Minneapolis. There’s a sense of fresh sound to this band, they have found there own almost power-metal like sound somewhere  (I’m struggling to describe this in the positive way it deserves, fully understanding power metal is not doing that). It’s the band’s second effort and well worth a listen due to its peculiar other influnces.

The wavy rhythm behind the song is in some way giving it a swirling, big aura. It makes the sound feel a bit bigger and warmer. Add to that the folk passages here and there and warm guitar lines and in the centre you have  very condensed, powerful black metal element, enveloped in atmospheric elements. The clean instruments are working out very well in combination with the harsh vocals and blast beats. I mean, this is medieval black metal or black metal for dragonslayers, it just works. Sure, if you like harsh, then this might be too mellow for you. I dig this one for sure.

Sunn O))) – Kannon
Southern Lord

source: bandcamp

If you want to really get a grip on the intense meaning behind this new project by lords of the drone Sunn O))) you should read this. The artistic angle on the whole project is so complex and globally involved that it almost overshadows the art itself that goes into the record. Luckily most will relinquish form and go for function, which in the case of this band is being baptized in body crawling drones and mythical chanting over a layer of fuzzy distortion. The fact that the band worked with Aliza Shvartz to me says a lot about the daring behind it, but also the artistic position of the band. But lets not digress further and talk about this trilogy.

The dark, foreboding drones follow eachother and pile up layer after layer. It creates also an atmosphere that is closely relatable to the oriëntal theme of the record, which can be alligned with buddhist ideas. There’s a calm to the music, that somehow lingers just long enough to keep holding that vibe. The vocals of Attila Csihar are the dark element on this record, because the music feels more earthy and calm. His guttaral meanderings are there to push the sun away. Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson succeed in blending their guitars an equipment into a captivating piece, with a certain mystic side that entrances the listener. A surprisingly accesible record as well, in which much more depth can be found by repeated listening.

Kauan – Sorni Nai
Blood Music

source: bandcamp

The new album by the Chelyabinsk band is an attempt at telling the story of the Djatlov Pass Incident, where 10 hikers under mysterious circumstances found their deaths in the Ural. The band does their lyrics in Finnish, but likes to tell Russian stories in their music, which is a blend between folky doom metal and postrock-like passages, combining clean and distorted sounds into atmospheric pieces. The artwork is magical, which accompanies the record and depicts scenes from the incident that is the theme of the record. It shows an eye for detail and a complete approach. The band has been sharing footage from the hikers as well.

Weaving beautiful passages, the band creates the vista of snow covered mountains, the wind surging through the trees. Intensifying, it also relates of the weather, the danger and possible disastrousnes. There’s also trickling guitar play, gentle like nature can be with a ray of sun or the drops of water falling of a branch. Most of all, the music is absolutely gorgeous and haunting. It’s hard to describe the way this band manages to set up an atmospheric and dreamy record that tells a story like no other. The growled vocals speak of the harsh parts, while the clean sing of the adventure and nature. The sound remains natural and  a bit as if the band is showing us a film, while in flowing motion the journey passes by in musical fashion.