Label: Self Released Band: Ēnu Kaleidoskops Origin: Latvia
Sometimes you need to find the sound that is lcoser to nature, by venturing into nature and trying to get in touch with it. This is what Mārtiņš Links did, while studying in Lithuania. It is the origin story for the band ĒnuKaleidoskops from Latvia. A group that creates neo-folk with a particular calm and natural feeling to it.
This is as far as I can gather the third full length album of the band. The engineering work was done by Kaspars Barbals, who is a familiar name due to his work in Skyforger in the past. The group is a loose collaboration of artists, joining forces where needed to create beautiful music. On ‘Tie, kas šķietami zuduši’, the third effort under this name, they succeed for sure.
The music is typical for the Baltic tradition. A bit heavy handed, a bit dark sounding, but also very cozy and natural. A lot of chanting and a wide array of instruments to create all the different little sounds in the clean recorded songs. The vocals are mostly in harmony with backing vocals and instruments, like very clearly audible on ‘Asā zāle’. Meandering, wavery instrumentals put no pressure on the listener.
The playful folky medleys, like ‘Elpa’ with a Jethro Tull-y flute are very pleasant to the ear. Catchy, but also a little dark and unpredictable. On ‘Bula Laiks’ we even hear the intense rhythm section stepping back for just an idyllic bit of flute a few times, which sounds so heavenly peaceful and calm. The combination with the vibrant energy of the percussion is a thrill for the ear. I think that ‘Rūķu armija’ with its jolly intro is even a little bit of a hit potential song.
The core of the music is typical for Baltic volk. The reciting tone of the vocals, the repetitive patterns of the music and all are very much reminiscent of an act like Romuwe Rikoito and I guess a dozen groups, since this style of folk is simply quite popular. Not that it’s a casual thing that the people enjoy, it seems that there’s quite some younger people inspired to re-invoke the heritage in this type of neofolk music. The repetitive element is a common feature, but the flute play and expansive instruments are not necessarily so. It does function in such a way to create a feeling of otherworldliness, even trance by the repetition. The listener sinks away into a much emptier, younger world.
The mystical sound of this group definitely works for me.
Label: Deivlforst Band: Wolcensmen Origin: England
We are what we are, because we are shaped by the land we hail from. For a long time the British isles offered much of their heritage in the form of folk, story and song. You can still see that in the more remote parts like Ireland, Wales and Scotland, but England itself seems to have lost part of it. Wolcensmen is in that sense a breath of fresh air with their heathen folk, reclaiming something that might seem forgotten.
Wolcensmen is more than just a folk project by Dan Capp (known from Winterfylleth), its a platform featureing various artists who collaborated with the Englishmen to bring his dream to life. One of the participants is Canadian cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne (Musk Ox), who is brilliant. Another is Grimrik (Arath), who is a master of dungeon synth, and creating those Burzumesque atmospheres.
Jumping ahead for a moment to the main contribution of Grimrik, that Burzumesque feel is immediately present ”Neath a Wreath of Firs’, which was written and performed by the German artis. It truly captivates that eerie forest spirit. A great tune, but my avorite is at the start of the album. When the intro starts, I imagine beautiful landscapes like those on the Winterfylleth album covers.
That feeling remains, but even more ina an eagle-eye perspective in a soaring, praying calm on ‘The Fyre-Bough’. The second song with this majestic, droning song is a connection to The Hobbit soundtrack, particularly the song by Richard Armitage ‘Misty Mountains’. Though the similarity is not as strong as my words may suggest, there is a similar evocation of a more pure, clean world that is both rough and free as well as pastoral and calm as one can find in the work of Tolkien. I wonder if that is an inspiration for Dan Capp.
There’s something more gentle to the English folk music, compared to its Celtic counterparts. It’s gentle and freely flowing akin to a calm river through a green meadow with gnarled, old trees hanging over you. It lacks the rugged yearning of the Irish and Scottish folk, which I find is particularly true for Wolcensmen too. There are other elements woven into the music, which is mainly guitar, bodhran and synths. The droning strokes on the cello by Weinroth-Browne give the music a lot of its atmosphere with a deep, sonorous sound that gives the tunes their earthy feeling. A song like ‘Hoofes upon the Shymmeringe Path’ have something of an early approach of spring. A liveliness and hunger for green land and being alive again, with a foreboding drumming and double vocals.
A song like ‘Yerninge’ feels more like a crackling fire on a snowy winter day, when the sun has gone down and the fire offers that uncommon warmth and joy in the dark hours. There’s always a calm and tranquil feeling to the music though. It takes the listener to a time where fantastic creatures still roamed the land, like on ‘The Mon ‘O Micht. The base for the song is an old poem in dialect. The words even hold some particular wisdom. Dan Capp delivered something beautiful here.
Wolcensmen don’t sound like anything else really, but in a way they do sound very familiar. Like a voice from the past, that makes you think of a more peaceful time. A lingering memory of something that once was.
Label:Neuropa Records/Música Máxica Band: Sangre De Muerdago Origin: Spain
When I read of the origin of this band, I had to look it up. Though I’ve heard of Gallicia, I never really knew where it was. Now, it is that strange corner of Spain north of Portugal, where legends roam. It’s a land that is green and filled with rivers, haunted by myths and legends and very ancient. No wonder that this band speaks about that.
Sangre De Muerdago is a forest folk group, as they describe it. Which means that their inspiration is nature and the little stories derived from it. The words are in Gallician, which is closer to Portuguese and the music is traditional and in its own way ancient and primitive. Primitive I would normally use for rough, unsophisticated music, but in this case I mean something different, I mean its voice, its timbre and all over harmonious, natural vibe.
Oh, and they like Motörhead. This album tells a story of a fox, which you can find out about all by yourselves. The music is a swirling collaboration of acoustic instruments, that weave together this story. It tells of old tales, the forests and hills, of men gathered around the fire or under the moon to make music (and women, obviously). The thrumming of the bodhran and the continuous flow of the hurdy-gurdy are excellend instruments to create the atmosphere of a forlorn age. Continuously pumping out sounds, while a bouzouki is played and other traditional elements come to play.
The record is a mixture of traditionals from Galicia and Bretagne. Also the work of folk band Milladoiro is used, for example the swooning ‘Agullas de Agarimo’, with its harder tones and dancable energy. Different is the fragile ‘An Dro’, which meanders through an eerie forest in the early morning, when the lush green is still moist and awakening. It’s music that takes you away from the concrete jungle, to a place more simple and easy. It may just be a small taste of the Gallician group Sangre De Muerdago, but offers a wide array of folkish enjoyment.
To me it matters where I come from, it matters where I feel at home and I feel a connection to certain traditions and religious tendencies. I’m happily embracing the harmonious ideas of heritage, This is something that is very persistently present as well in extreme metal music. The connection has provided us with endless political discussions, but does that make as much sense as we think?
Though there is the rare band that embraces national socialism, racism and nationalism at large, it’s a very rare occurence. Most bands say they are anti-political and not without reason. Extreme metal has one characteristic that defines it.
Individualism: Defining the self
Extreme metal has often been about the individual. This is probably why NSBM is such a weird mix of two world views. Metal is against the herd and for the self, but that leaves the void of identity for a person. We, as human beings, like to define ourselves as something, we are always looking for a sense of belonging and reason to be. Even black metal warriors delve into identity and spirituality on all sorts of levels.
Connecting to something like our heritage, traditions and maybe nationality is a logical thing to us. Sure, we can still accept that we are all one people, but we’re defined by where we are from. Does that make me a Germanic pagan? Not necessarily, but it might just as well. Bands like Skyforger, Winterfylleth and Moonsorrow had a hard time getting the difference across. Self-identification is an individual proces, which sometimes works as a concept and identity for a band, but that doesn’t make it the herd behavior of institutionalized nationalism or racism. It’s about defining the self, not the other.
The Other: Defining the opposition
The other side of the medal is when identification of the self is done in order to define the other. The other is, for some reason or purpose, the opposed of what the self should be. This is a lot harder to do in a way, so much easier to do by defining the other first. Now, here we come into the terrain of professional hate mongering. Defining the other with unwanted characteristics is very effective, because it defines both sides. This completely binds the relation to the other in an absolute relation of the lesser and the better. There is no need to approach the other anymore, because the other is evil, wrong, lesser and the enemy.
When we’ve defined the other, we usually end up with a stereotype, with a group we’ve vilified. This puts us in a group too and sadly we soon will find likeminded individuals. The hate is concrete enough to fuel itself, but high-over enough to define all others. Though metal has the tribe mentality to form a cohesive group, it just isn’t in the nature of the culture to find such unity. Individualism is part of that identity and so is discussion and interaction. This sort of defining just doesn’t work in that environment.
Open hearts, open minds
It’s perfectly possible to have an identity bound up with the local, the past and belief, but be open and tolerant to others. Interaction between cultures is what shapes them, but if you define your opposed identity you’ll never know this beautiful variation. I talked to a Latvian metal singer once who said: “It’s ok to be proud of your country, your tribe or your belief, but if you feel superior to others you missed the plot.” Superior thoughts lead to isolation, which creates a fearful protection of what is yours. Of vague ideas of tradition and identity that don’t really matter at all. Imagine a culture on its own. How does it get any value if it’s not challenged by different ones?
I see this constantly in the metal world. People are embracing their own culture and past, but also interacting with others. Clearly showing that, a while ago a compilation album came out titled”One and All, Together, for Home” on Seasons Of Mist. Why would all these bands work together if they were the kind of nationalists depicted in the media? If they had superiority motives, why would they ever join on a record? It’s that sort of love for land, folk and belief that creates. It connects and enriches itself and the other.
If you open yourself up to the other, to culture of others, your identity and culture will change. We learn through interaction about the other culture. We adapt, we reform, we change. Change is scary, but not bad. This sort of change we are all too familiar with. We call it growth.
If we allow growth to happen, maybe we can even get some sort of enlightenment one day.
Murmur mori is part of an Italian collective that embodies more than just music. Stramonium seems to aim and various forms of expression and this just happens to be one of them. The collective has released a compilation as well featuring groups like Ashtoreth, Sangre De Muerdago and VRNA in tribute to winter solstice.
It helps to place where this group is coming from with a revivalist attitute towards old traditions and a drive to reimagine them in these turbulent, higly urbanized times. The old forests and mountains, the sacred places in northern Italy are what inspired this record by Mirko Void and Kurio Silva.
The music is mild, slowly trickling down with a gentle hand, but never fading away. The continuity is that of the mountain river and the wind, in which you can hear the gentle song of the vocals. It’s very much like listening to nature and finding that voice. On ‘Nemeton’ we hear eerie ambient, foreboding and mysterious, as are the omnious mountains in the morning light, when the peaks are still covered by the black of night and the sun peeps up in between.
The droning sound has an endlessness to it, which is very fitting with the topics of the music. The upbeat tribalism of ‘Il Legno, il Sasso e la Volpe al Fiume’ in its percussive dance, the gloomy droning of ‘Aquile’, it both embodies the experiences one can have in nature. Never does Murmur mori waste any sounds on filling voids, it’s as complete as the nature they describe. Both the silence and the vibrancy, which can both be seen when not obscured by darkness. The discrepancy between the timbre and flow of closer ‘La Caverna’ in its own way speaks of the many sounds you can identify, the many roads to walk.
The record in its entirety is an exploration, a quest into the heart land of Europe, south of the Alps but flocking to its outskirts. It’s a tangible quest of sound and feeling, much like I feel I’m experiencing. It’s also lovely.
Let me entertain you with some underground tunes by Ashbringer, Wederganger, Laster, Wilderun and Eternal Khan. Hopefully you find something you dig in there.
Ashbringer – Yūgen Avantgarde Music
The name Ashbringer resonates to me due to the obviousl link to Warcraft. The name of the legendary blade is almost as enchanting as the music of this band, which is unique, atmospheric and grand, but always staying on the edgy. Their debut was ‘Vacant’, released in 2015, by the Minnesota group. That already intrigued me, but ‘Yūgen’ is a whole different beast. The group formed around Nick Stanger (Astral Blood, No Heroes, ex-The Broken Are Crowned), who decided to pursue his solo dreams. To my dismay I found that I never got around to penning some words about Ashbringers debut, but do check that out if you have a chance.
Deep melancholy oozes from the sound of Ashbringer. Its’s full on, blazing black metal, swelling up like a roaring fire and rolling over you, but in there is a layer of synths. Those create that feeling of magic. The band is also not afraid to add folky elements to the music, not necessary hidden behind bushes of distortion, but offering an intermezzo in a track (even the opener) or soaring high throughout a song like ‘Oceans Apart’. It adds a postrock vibe to the atmosphere that Ashbringer delivers, but the twangy steel sound of the guitar on that song takes it somewhere else. It places the band completely on its own path. I think you can compare them to a Deafheaven, Woods of Desolation and ilk, but to me on ‘Yūgen’ the band has found their own sound, which is distinct. As the Asian word they chose as title indicates, it’s mysterious and profoundly expressing a sort of suffering. This is a glorious record.
Laster/Wederganger – Split Ván Records
Laster is a Dutch band, earlier I discussed their previous release. That was an experience in itself, there’s a poetic side to the bands sound and words. On this new ordeal, the band unleashes a song that lasts close to 20 minutes. ‘Vederlicht Verraad’ is their contribution to this split, so I’ll split this review up as well. There’s something unorthodox about this track, mainly on the rhythm section, which sounds almost like wooden drums. Full on salvo’s are unleashed, but there’s a continuous measure of control to the sound, as if the band tempers the energy they unleash. From there the band slowly works towards a repetition that slowly dulls the listener, bringing on a trance that is ended by the harsh buzzing noise that remains at the end of the track.
Wederganger is a whole different beast. Steeped in the clay of their region, closely connected to more historical orientated bands and up for a bit of dirty, grimy black metal, this will not be a pleasant experience. Their song ‘Klaroenen van den dood’ translates as ‘trumpets of death’ (roughly). It opens with a languid, sizzling riff that electrifies your spine. There’s a feel of something looming in this track, it never really gives you a moment of peace and calm. The ghoulish vocals are accompanied by a galloping rhythm, that keeps a slow melodic pace. Rattling drums crawl under a soaring, buzzing guitar riff that sounds really like it’s charged heavily. Clean vocals in Dutch chant about death, it’s a typical morbid day in Wederganger land.
Eternal Khan – Lost in the Night of Ages Independent
I think that Eternal Khan is the musical equivalent of taking a bat to the face, that’s how intense the Providence black/doom metal band comes across on their second full lenght ‘Lost in the Night of Ages’. The band takes on themes like absurdity of man’s existence, which does intrigue me. The artwork and other promises also suggest that there’s an element of mythology to the band. On previous covers a Mongolian warlord is depicted, hulking and brandishing weaponry. That feels different on this album, with a more fantasy like creature adorning its front.
The feel of the magnificent riffing might be dirgelike, there’s an urgency and commanding element to the steady horse-back galloping riffing on the record. Maybe I’m just interpreting the ‘khan’ title in the album, but the threatening tone is more than just creating a languid atmospheres. In that militant element, there’s definitely a wink at Satyricon you could suggest. Vocals are much more barked and guttural and there’s definitely more of a stomping feel to the doomed up beats. Still, this is no step back in black metal history, this is a record in its full right, exploring a new avenue from that direction. It’s brutal, atmospheric and one big pit of swirling chaos. I only miss the real mythological elements that everything seems to hint at.
Wilderun – Sleep at the Edge of the Earth Independent
I’ve kinda left Wilderun for what it is for quite a while, untill I saw it pop up on some EoY lists here and there. The lustrous green hills on the cover did attract my eye, so I finally decided to give it a spin. Expecting something akin to Wildernessking I was surprised by the sound of this Boston group. The Americans produce their own specific sound of folk metal with symphonic elements. Now, this is a slippery slope that might lead up to a massive cheese fest of tacky, over the top metal music, but these guys manage to pull it of. Time to dig in and listen to the majesty that is Wilderun.
Combine the penchant for the dramatic storytelling of Turisas with the grandeur of musical brilliance of Opeth and you have a pretty adequate description of what the sound of this group is. Vocally and lyrically the work of Evan Anderson Berry is very strong and theatrical, but a bit too slick for my tastes. The same goes for the bombastic arrangements. When finally a shreddin guitar enters the fray on ‘The Means to Preserve’ I think I sigh audibly every time. Equally for the more gruff vocals by the way, but I can’t escape the notion that this is a majestic record, filled with grandeur and beauty of it’s very own kind by a band who are masters at their craft. It’s grandeur and picturesque nature remains unsurpassed and this is indeed a great album that I would recommend to those who like their music epic and sountracky.
There are sounds of the underground you must hear, this time with Hoth, Breabach, Rotting 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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.
Four reviews from the underground, as you know and love them. This time Tau Cross, Obsequiae, Sunn O))) and Kauan. Enjoy your own taste of them.
Tau Cross – S/T Relapse Records
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
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
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
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.