Label: Independent Band: Ride For Revenge Origin: United States
Ride For Revenge appears to have been around forever and are part of that dirties, grittiest segment of the Finnish black metal realms. Their sound is almost atrocious, disgusting and profoundly evil and that is particularly enjoyable from this band. Even the artwork resonates with its origins, with a red logo and black and white artwork.
The band has been out there since 2001 and the members seem to be in a ton of other acts. At the core of the group we find Harald Mentor, who has been riding the wave of hatred since the start as founder and also plays in Flooded Church of Asmodeus, Militaris-tic (in which bass player J. Pervertor is also active), and Uskonrauha. Drummer Harri Kuokkanen notably also plays in Hooded Menace and Horse Lattitudes, some excellent bands in my humble opinion.
Initially, you might think you’re listening to one of the rawest, unpolished demo recordings ever, originating from some basement, a tape recorder and a bunch of mildly untalented musicians. You may be on to something there because that is consistently the sound Ride For Revenge produces. Gritty, slow and muddy black metal, full of demented growls and rickety rhythms, that almost sound too simple to be considered fitting. Gnarly guitars welcome you from the first track, as the band drags itself onward.
Band leader Harald Mentor has a voice, that sounds barely human, which proves effective. Joined by the solid slabs of unpolished black metal, Ride for Revenge barrages onward on ‘The One and Same and All’ and never comes to a halt without the grinding squeaks and squeals of guitars being vigorously tormented. Lumbering rhythms make it sound as if there’s glue or slime attached to the skins, as the next dissonant guitar line is spun out on ‘Sinking The Song’. What a trip this record is, much like driving your car with only 3 wheels, barely any gas, no front window and 50 miles to go.
Label: Eisenwald Tonschmiede Band: Häive Country: Finland
Janne Väätäinenis clearly not a man that allows himself to be rushed with things. His project Häive has been around for 15 years and this is the second album. A noteworthy fact is that the predecessor to ‘Iätön’ came out 10 years ago. Well, good things take time and that’s definitely the case with this release.
The theme Häive uses is mostly nature, which can be deduced from the great record cover. Väätäinen hasn’t been sitting still for the last 10 years either. The last thing this band did, was contribute to a compilation with bands like Winterfylleth, Primordial, and Drudkh. In the meantime, the musician juggles projects like Antabus, AuringonHauta, My Blood and Tevana3. Well, enough banter, let’s get to the music.
Iätön opens with an intense bit of Iron Maiden-esque guitar work, which is immediately catching on. The title track opens (which translates as ‘Ageless’ by the way), with 2 minutes of fine screaming guitars, before we launch into ‘Turma’ (translates as Ruin). The sound of Häive is big and open, with a lot of that grand riffing. A folky vibe is in there, when the sound evokes vistas of valleys, mountains and rough, unscathed nature in all its splendor. The cover of the record, of course, stimulates that sort of imagery as well, but I think the spacious sound helps.
A grand sound is constantly present, even on the doom-laden ‘Kuku, kultainen käkeni (Sing my Golden Bird)’, with its slow procession and those laborious guitars. It’s a dense atmosphere that the band sets out and most praiseworthy is that it never feels like most one-man bands with that one-dimensional sound. The layered elements create something spectacular. A rare acoustic bit fits nicely in the mix, like on ‘Tuulen Sanat (The Spell of Wind)’. Truly, this record reminds me of some older Moonsorrow stuff.
There’s no typical folk metal vibe here, but the essence is present. Not the type where you bring your kilt and a drinking horn for a dress-up party, but something more deep and meaningful. I really enjoyed this record because of that and the particular attention to the composition.
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions Band: Urn Origin: Finland
Black thrashing shot of caffeine with Urn
Finland is still the source of some of the finest metal and anything black metal seems to find great soil in the northern nation. Urn has been around for a good 23 years. Though their production of records has not been as astonishing, the quality of their output is a steady show of force. After a silence of 9 years, they’ve just unleashed ‘The Burning’. A record that feels just right.
The explanation for the low production might also be the fact that the members play in various projects. Also, the group has had some personnel switches with only Sulphur (who started out in Barathrum at the very start of the black metal scene) remaining since 1994. The rest only joined in the past year. With new members who’ve earned their name in bands like Sacrilegious Impalement, Devastracktor, EvilAngel and various other acts, the fire is burning again.
The sound of Urn hits you immediately with its thrashy, boisterous swagger. Nothing like some blackened thrash to get you up in the morning. It’s like that first scalding hot cup of coffee with a bitter, sharp bite to it. On the other hand, there’s a vibrant sort of energy to the music of these Finnish mad men with a heavy metal sentiment on a song like ‘Celestial Light’. Soaring guitars and frantic energy are the driving force of their exciting sound.
This album breathes fire. Polished riffs, sharp hooks and a continuous burst of energy. Though obviously, the theme of the music is not a jolly one, Urn is most assuredly playing music that oozes fun. Even when there’s a more black-metal passage, like the Bathory -esque tune ‘Morbid Black Sorrow’ (I want this on my coffee mug) is laced with heavy metal riffing. Screaming guitars just make me feel happy, especially if they have that Nifelheim enthusiasm to them. That would be ‘Nocturnal Demons’ by the way.
Surely, Urn might not have the catchy, fancy threat to it that people dig in some of these other black thrash groups, but they’ve got a vibe of their own. This record is the cup of coffee you need. No sugar, just furious riffs.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.