Tag Archives: black metal

Underground Sounds: Krolok – Flying Above Ancient Ruins

Label: Hexencave Productions
Band: Krolok
Origin: Slovakia

I have to admit, that this record struck me as a little odd at first. The cover artwork and title were a bit strange, but the music didn’t need any of that to be convincing anyway. Krolok is a project by HV from Malokarpatan and Remmirath, that has been stewing for a good 6 years. This is the first record, titled ‘Flying Above Ancient Ruins’.

The title embodies themes that Krolok seems to revolve around. Mysticism, vampires, nature and the night create a particular sound, with a certain tangible aspect to it. Peter and Miroslav from Malokarpatan assist HV in this project and it’s well enjoyable if you like your black metal to be down to earth, but also filled with a folkloric wonder.

Interesting enough, this reminds me instantly of early Mayhem and Darkthrone. The rhythms are jagged, raw and sound pretty much the way they must have come out in the rehearsal space. The vocals on massive reverb sound cavernous and ghoulish, slightly detached from the music, not even trying to find a melodic click there. Then there are quiet parts, where you can just bask for a moment in the creepy atmosphere the band throws about.

Krolok is not so much into the hyperspeed blast beats, but sticks to a formula that has worked since the early days in Norway. That’s also pretty much the vibe they’re sticking with. Static guitars create this feeling of solid waves of sound assaulting the listener, while you always feel slighlyuncomfortable due to the unpredictable vocals. What I do like, is how they put in these short breaks here and there. Nothing is as boring as hearing the steady guitar riff for 40 minutes consecutively and those albums are around too. This is a fierce and exciting record, the way I like them.

Underground Sounds: Khandra – All is of No Avail

Label: Redefining Darkness Records
Band: Khandra
Origin: Belarus

It’s not a huge offering of music, but ‘All is of No Avail’ leaves you fulfilled anyways. The Belarussian duo Khandra drops this first EP, but apart from that, there’s virtually no information available about this band from Minsk. This is a bit of a shame because these 2 songs are one of the most powerful declarations I’ve heard in a while.

In a sense, this record is Khandra saying that they’re here, but not who they are and why. Well, you can’t have it all and this sort of music thrives on mystery.

We start with ‘Where Death Has Settled In Life’, which comes on with the big, echoing sound that I always appreciate so much in a band like Primordial. The bold statement of the grand gesture to announce starting the rites. That’s just before the band completely unleashes a barrage of sound. Like the heavens opening, the sound falls onto the listener. There’s a sense of vibrancy, of writhing guitars that almost feel alive and impossible to grasp. The sound is densely atmospheric at other moments and very easy to digest.

The melody line grabs you by the throat on ‘Presence is no longer relevant’, while you bask in the warm bath of sound. Again, there’s a certain grandeur to the way the sound unfolds. The mix and recording of this record are of an amazing quality, yielding a crisp and polished sound. That’s even more charming actually because the grim necrosound would wreck all the subtleties in the music. This song has a lot of these clean melody parts, which makes it almost catchy. Music to embrace in the colder days, when will there be more?

Underground Sounds: Au-Dessus – End of Chapter

Label: Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions
Band: Au-Dessus
Origin: Lithuania

Au-Dessus from Lithuania

Au-Dessus is one of the new wave of bands that bring a new aspect to the realm of black metal. Some may call it post black metal, others may use the new term blackgaze for this. Formed in Vilnius in 2014, the band has members in its ranks from groups like Pergalė, Exile Into Suffery and Mangragora. Though they hail from Lithuania, the name translates to ‘Above’ in French.

What you immediately notice about this group is their whole aesthetic. No harsh logo’s, corpse paint or spikes, nothing traditional. The only thing that you might find connective is the black hoods, but even those are stylized and different. The cover with a child, carrying coins on its eyelids is heavy. It signifies a death. The subtlety and cold beauty are exemplary for the sound of the Lithuanian group.

The sleek and clean artwork is immediately tangible in the well-produced sound of the group. Polished riffs and a great balance in the sound makes listening to Au-Dessus a pleasure. The songs are numbered, and ‘VI’ plummets you instantly into the atmospheric black metal riffing. The continuous, blaring wall of sound creates an uncanny calm, with haunting spectres ever at the edge of the experience. Vocalist Mantas roars, growls and spits in pure harrowing anger over the ever pushing and progressing sound, which flows with the smoothness of a river.

By the time you hit track ‘IX’ it becomes sort of clear that there’s a good bit of rocking groove underneath all the mayhem. For brief moments the engine to the sound shows, which is really running smoothly and purring like a kitten, but screams a moment later when the pace increases for a dramatic climax. Au-Dessus is all about the build-up, the subtle shifts and sudden bursts of energy. Wave after wave of dissonant, wailing guitars hit you. You submerge in the cold sea of sound.

I’m quite certain that purists will have less appreciation for this band. Their sound moves you with layers upon layers of the atmosphere, crisp production and a sense of grandeur and emotional beauty. They make me think of groups like Harakiri For The Sky and maybe elements of Deafheaven, while holding that mysterious allure of more occult bands. They never seem to actually implement many symbols in their music, maybe to let the sound speak for itself more.

Au-Dessus can be tough and hard, but only when it serves the overall narrative. Most of their music has a dirge-like somberness to it, but harrowing, biting passages are there when they need to be. Losing yourself in this record is quite possible.

Underground Sounds: King of Asgard – :taudr:

Label: Trollmusic
Band: King of Asgard
Origin: Sweden

If Unleashed hadn’t become the beer-guzzling cliché that it unfortunately is and had stuck to their guns, they might have become King of Asgard. I’m very aware that this is a risky thing to say because to put them in one sentence is bound to be controversial.  Musically, the Swedes appear to be difficult to place. Angry Metal Guy puts them in the folky black metal corner, while Metal Temple throws them in the bucket of melodic death metal. Being the much less genre-oriented typing metal fan that I am, I’ll just leave it at this; King of Asgard has a bit of both but is mostly Viking metal.

King of Asgard revolves around Karl Beckman, who has stayed firmly on the trajectory he started on with Mithotyn. This band is slightly different in being more dark and brooding. ‘Taudr’ is the fifth album by the band, which also has featured Jonas Albrektsson since 2009 (from Thy Primordial and Retaliation a.o.). Albrektsson is arguably more of a black metal guy, hence the sound on this record. Everything about this record just oozes northern folklore and the grim realities of that realm.

So even though I don’t wish to admit it, for me the great appeal of this album is definitely the black metal atmosphere blended with folk. Not in the blended way, where it all ends up being a drinking horn raising bacchanal. No, both aspects do their respective job in turn or distinctly separate. ‘The Curse and the Wanderer’ immediately jumps into the fray with vigor and battle lust. Notable instantly are the drums, that definitely keep the hard and solid bottom in the songs. Even when the chanting parts pass by, the skins keep it together. Sharp, tightly mixed guitars drive the song forward, without ever doing more than needed.

The hurdy-gurdy on ‘Death …and a New Sun’ is exactly where it needs to be. It offers the droning center that you stick with for the whole song. Rigid riffing and a continuous, monotonous sound tell a story in itself. It also makes the song extremely heavy. But I’d like to talk about the title track because the dynamic intro is already exciting foreplay to the grandeur of this song. There’s a majesty to the sound here, thanks to an again excellently produced bit of string magic. It leans towards folk metal, without ever crossing the border to fun and silly-land. The harsh bark of Beckman really shouts you into submission. Man your oars and row, you scabs! Excellent drumming on this track again.

A climactic point on the album is ‘…For the Fury of the Norse’. To me, this track crosses some lines in its grand finale moment, but it is entirely fitting on its spot in the album. The soaring guitars and slow pace are a bit too Marvel Thor for me. Still, it’s rather enjoyable and on a more critical level, I can’t find any fault in it. Closing the album is Mithotyn cover ‘Upon Raging Waves’. A cover is always tricky, particularly of a band with a distinct sound. Beckmann obviously understands his own song well enough to shape it to the sound and feel of King of Asgard. It might be the best song on this album.

King of Asgard is not breaking new ground because they do what they do excellently. A true gem in current day metal, particularly for those who need no novelties in their heavy sound.

 

Underground Sounds: Bergrizen – Der Unsterbliche Geist

Label:  Purity Through Fire
Band: Bergrizen
Origin: Ukraine

Bergrizen is remarkably enough a solo project by Myrd’raal. The band hails from Kiev. The music is self-described as HelCarpathian black metal, which was not a term I was familiar with up till now, but listening to this record I’m quite sure that its a fitting term for the furious sound.

The band has been around for a good 10 years now and in the live setting, there is a full band playing the songs, so that must be something to behold. This is the fifth album by Bergrizen, with the ominious Hegellian title ‘Der Unsterblichen Geist’.

The sound of Bergrizen combines a classic somberness with the rigid sound of straight-backed black metal. Pitch black, but surprisingly enough, also very listenable. There’s an inherent darkness to the sound of this band, with many remorseful and melancholic passages in the quieter bits. From the points where the music swells, we get powerful arches, tremolo riffing and pained howls.
The singing is often inaudible to an extent that only the feeling is conveyed in almost bestial screams. Musically the record cover might suggest much grimmer and harrowing sounds, but surprisingly Bergrizen is full of melody. On ‘ Ankunft der Winterdämmerung’ we also hear a deeper, more abyssal voice full of evil promises. Then again, on ‘Entsagen’ we actually get a bit of that rock’n’rolling sound and feel.
Bergrizen has a lot of the traditional black metal vibe while being much more easy to listen to. That doesn’t diminish anything of the grim and dark atmosphere on the album. It just makes it pleasant to delve into it.

Underground Sounds: Raventale – Planetarium

Label: Ashen Dominion
Band: Raventale
Origin: Ukraine

Raventale has been around since 2005. Since then the atmospheric black metal band has been steadily pushing out new records. The band revolves around Astaroth Merc, who seems to be a busy little bee with various projects. Just a to name a few; Deferum Sacrum, Balfor and Chapter V:F10. Raventale is his main project though, in which he does literally everything.

Raventale has dabbled with various themes, from Tibetan buddhism to Native American mythology. Astaroth draws inspiration from pretty much everything in order to create his art. It makes the music deep and ritualistic, with cosmic pretences. This is something special for sure.

‘Gemini – Behind Two Black Moons’ immediately launches with a big guitar wall and a thick, melancholic atmosphere. The slow pace is reverential, mighty and the backdrop for furious vocals, that preach in an apocalyptic tone. The guitar work feels very classic heavy metal. Soaring and full of strength, they really have an almost magical effect.

The regal sound makes way for a more forceful track on ‘Bringer of Celestial Anomalies’. Though the big wall of sound remains, it packs more aggression and energy. Another fact you’ll notice is how the production is exactly how it should be. Expansive at some points, and narrow at others to give you exactly what you need.

Even when the band interjects brief interludes of just guitar, a hazy wave of distortion keeps ringing in the background. Silence never falls in the universe of Raventale. For the following tune, titled ‘At the Halls of the Pleiades’, a more rigid, stripped-down sound can be heard. Blaring melodies and strong, steady rhythms are a show of muscle. Nothing about Raventale is gentle or measured, everything is about the grand gesture and that is something pretty cool in how this band does it.

A record for those who need some power and cosmic darkness in their playlist. I encourage checking this out.

Underground Sounds: Bròn – Зарђала Круна/White City, Black Circle/Ruins/Where The Leaden Dawn Meets Iron Shores

Label: Kunsthauch/Independent
Band: Bròn
Origin: New Zealand

The project Bròn originally released an album with a very natural vibe to it. It had the eerie magic of the night sky over the mountains as depicted on the cover of ‘Ànrach’ and I absolutely loved it. I wrote a little about previous release ‘Fògradh’ too.  Bròn is the project of Krigeist, or Andrew Campbell, from New Zealand. Campbell relocated to Scotland and there’s a definite connection between that move and the sound of Bròn it seems. He also plays in the amazing Barshasketh and Belliciste.

I missed the fact that Bròn had become a prolific outlet for the musician in the past year, so high time to catch up with the astonishing 4 releases of last year. I was reminded of this, because of the live show I saw in Little Devil recently. All exploring new aspects of nature and different sounds that express that passion and beauty found there. So this is 4 reviews of one artist. Never do words like this do justice to the full force of these albums, but I feel that I need to cover all for completion.

Bròn – Зарђала Круна

January 2017 saw the release of this record, which sticks close to the familiar Bròn sound with a lot of soaring guitars and tremolo riffs. The inspiration comes from the devil in nature, that is the only info given. The choice for a Cyrillic font does say more than that though. A later notification on Facebook said that it was inspired by the Serbian wilderness and the darkness within. There’s a definite darkness to the Balkan forests that is caught in the looming, dark sound of this new EP. The untarnished sky above it at night, the shades of the trees.

The record is a multi-part atmospheric black metal piece, with a definite Burzum doom and gloom vibe to it and the grandeur of an Elderwind.  The crisp clear production sometimes borders on overly polished but keeps on the right side of the track in all its overwhelming force. At other times it has the gentle trickling of an empty forest, where all you hear is the gentle sounds of the natural world around you. Pure magic and all of that in one long piece of over 32 minutes. Unfortunately, it’ll be the last black metal release, thus wrote Krigeist. His newer soundtracks take on different shapes.

Bròn – White City, Black Circle

Living in an urban environment requires a different soundtrack, wrote Krigeist on Facebook. He explained the sound of ‘Зарђала Круна’ while introducing this new release. The organic sound of the previous releases is vastly more fitting for the verdant realm indeed. The album signifies a radical turn in sound for Bròn. With a groove that is more triphop we enter the realm of tarmac and concrete, with lamp posts illuminating the grey jungle around you. Meandering between the aforementioned, synthwave and maybe a little dungeon synth, the sound is peculiar but fitting.

The titles are in Croation, referring to central themes revolving around that of Bròn (sorrow). It offers songs of those dark, nameless places we dwell in. Whether that’s a city in Croatia, Norway, Scotland or I wager even in New Zealand, there’s a sort of nameless grief there. The mixture of beats and ambient drones conveys that feeling very well. I particularly enjoy the mixture of that with the synths, which is always the sound of the urban environment. Towards the end of the record, the music is lighter, warmer as if the sun has broken through the smoggy haze. We leave the city here to the free part of the world.

Bròn – Ruins

On Ruins we find the same instrumentation, but a more Ulver or even folkish vibe at times with spun out tones and long passages of melancholic music. The music is calm and soothing and does, like the title tells you, remind of the tranquility you find in between forgotten ruins. That is also what the song titles refer to, to various locations of ancient ruins in corners of Europe, places that make you think and imagine. The vocals are gentle as well, almost chanting in a meditative way. The record even includes a folk cover ‘Twa Corbies’ from Scottish lore.

The sound has a clarity to it, everything is wavering and calm like an easy breeze. It’s almost like listening to an acoustic performance with various musicians, all delivering the minimal bits of sounds that make out the complete tapestry.For me, this might be the most beautiful album that Bròn has created this far. The music is so intricate, without ever sounding difficult or overly contrived. It’s a natural expression of the feeling in easy flowing, but still heavy music. After this record, Krigeist announced a hiatus for Bròn. That was definitely not meant to last after this june 2017 release.

Bròn – Where The Leaden Dawn Meets Iron Shores

A trip back to New Zealand was the impulse that Bròn needed. Krigeist was revitalized and inspired to make music again under that banner and three tracks expressing the untapped dark energies that dwell in New Zealand’s wild places. There is definite darkness on this album, which almost faded on ‘Ruins’. A long murmured intro with foreboding synths leads us into this new record. Eerie synths slither out of the speakers, while a creepy, scifi tune is played on the keys in the most bombastic tones.

But then there’s also the guitars and the screams. It would appear that Bròn comes full circle here and finds a sound that truly embraces the atmospheric output that Krigeist is looking for. The melancholy of the synths, combined with the harsh, ruggedness of the guitars. The ragged fury of the vocals, like that furious sea wind biting at you, while ver in motion on the waters. Three tracks tell the story that is both beautiful and grim at the same time. I guess it makes sense what Kant once said on the sublime in art, which really goes for nature. It’s overwhelming force can overwhelm us with awe and wonder in a sense. This is well conveyed in this piece of music by Bròn, which I really enjoy.

Let’s see what the future holds for this explorer in both the geographic and artistic realms.

Underground Sounds: Sinmara – Within The Weaves of Infinity

Label: Terratur Possessions
Band: Sinmara
Origin: Iceland

After delivering a split with Misþyrming earlier this year, Sinmara drops another bomb with ‘Within The Weaves of Infinity’. A new obliterating bit of Icelandic black metal to come hit you in the ear-drums.

Sinmara actually has been around almost ten years, though at first under the moniker Chao. Their black metal is pretty much in line with the Icelandic sound of fury, fire, and ice and this new EP is definitely some of the finest.

The opening title track immediately unfolds a grim wave of interwoven guitar passages. There’s a soothing, wavering feel to the sound, while it also holds that furious abyssal rage in its thunderous riffing. The vocals are like hot coals clashing, while the words are spat out at you. The sound seems as full of conflict as its origin is fire and ice as much as calm and rage.

Sinmara clearly connects to the whole post-black metal scene in their sound, but retains that rumbling fire. This is very clear when the blasts and static guitar riffs of ‘Ormstunga’ hit you in the face like a frosty blast of wind. An eerie melody comes together in the composition, but the howls and barks offer a rough counterweight. The focus seems to be on the overall atmosphere, but that doesn’t stop the gents from relentlessly beating you with drums, guitars and words.

Sinmara is a challenging listen, but this is Icelandic black metal at its best. Both traditionally furious as well as melancholically melodic. A pleasure indeed.

Underground Sounds: Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Finisterre

Label: Seasons of Mist
Band: Der Weg Einer Freiheit
Label: Seasons of Mist

Goodbye, Cruel World with Der Weg Einer Freiheit

Der Weg Einer Freiheit offers the world a new taste of their dominating black metal skills with ‘Finisterre’.  Only two years after ‘Stellar’ the group from Würzburg is back with an absolute gem.  The solid core of the band is still Nikita Kamprad, but with some member changes, it seems that the group is gently shifting direction.

Though the sound seems to evolve in the expected trajectory, the album art is different on this record. For the first time, we see some more traditional black metal symbols adorning the cover of ‘Finisterre’. In one interview, Kamprad proclaimed that this record is their goodbye to the world as we know it.  A line in the sand, a point of saying that we have to start over instead of continuing along this line.

I’ve written about Der Weg Einer Freiheit before on this site. I have to admit that I find both listening to and writing about this band daunting. Not because I think there is anything obstructive, I just think that they’re that good. There’s something so immense to the sound of these Germans. Listen to opener ‘Aufbruch’ with is monumental drum work and eerie, out of space guitars. Launching into a ferocious machine gun drum roll at the end the song finishes in a majestic show of force.

As said, ‘Stellar’ was much more spiritual, so ‘Finisterre’ brings us back to the ground. The sound of the album is much more earthy, solid and strong. A mixture between Endstille and Wolves in the Throne room would be a fitting way to describe this band, but it lacks the nuances to fully embrace them. It is telling on a track like ‘Ein letzter Tanz’, where the mournful melody merges with the sheer inferno of a scouring verdict, of our times as the nadir of civilization. Never afraid to implement lessons from modern black metal, a calm, soothing break occurs as well after which the abyss fully opens seven minutes into the song.

As if that was not severe enough, the two part ‘Skepsis’ follows with a climactic explosion. The sound sweeps you along in all its dramatic splendor, only to be repeated one more time on the finalizing title track. There’s hints to the more melodic, blackgaze or post-black metal sound here and there, which is perfectly fine. The music needs to convey grief. The sound truly holds a sense of finiteness. Slowly the cavernous riffing fades away into nothingness.

Underground Sounds: Dymna Lotva – The Land under the Black Wings: Swamp

Label: Der Neue Weg Productions
Origin: Belarus:
Band: Dymna Lotva

Belarussian grief with Dymna Lotva

The band Dymna Lotva hails from Belarus, a country with a long history and traditions. They might have been obscured in the times of the Soviet occupation and maybe still under the rule of Lukashenko. Belarus has a rich and fertile soil for re-enactment, folk music and densely atmospheric projects like the DSBM band Dymna Lotva.

The group has been around since 2015 but hasn’t taken the time to relax since their inception. The band appears to revolve around their singer Ekaterina Mankevich (stage name Nokt), who writes the lyrics and is the person appearing on the press pictures. The themes the band applies to their music are nature, folklore, and sorrow, which is tangible from the artwork already.

The gentle flutes play a haunting melody. A low piping accompanies the melody, offering slow bass lines until the piano starts playing. The atmosphere grabs you immediately, with a sound filled with melancholy and darkness. The careful introduction brings us to the windswept planes of Belarus in ancient times, when the sinister voice of singer Nokt starts luring you in. Her voice can be beautiful as much as frightning in its cold beauty.

Intricate melodies are woven through the songs, that truly hold to the depressive, atmospheric black metal vibe. Slow, lingering guitar passages are like a swamp to sink away in on ‘Willothewisp’. At the same time the running piano steps are seducing you to look further. Dymna Lotva seems to use quite some synths to achieve the overwhelming, smothering sound that they produce. Sometimes the sound is a bit too polished, a little too much to handle. It’s a hard balance to find and really a personal listening experience. Next to the high pitched screams of Nokt, the growls on ‘Requim’ by Andrew Tomak from Apologeth seem unnecessary. The two singers don’t add, but just double up in a sense.

Ambient sounds fill up the voids in songs and the traditional instruments give an ethnic feel to the music of these Belarusians. A fascinating record for sure. Folky with a bit of dungeon synth, in conclusion this is a joy to listen to.