I’ve listened to some weird stuff over time, but this batch is just full on strange: Jute Gryte, Zeal and Ardour, Bat and Oak Pantheon. Enjoy listening to these strange sounds from the underground.
Zeal and Ardour – Devil is Fine
By far this is one of the weirdest releases I found labelled black metal, implementing elemetns of various other genres and mixing it all up in a collecting blenderform with chunks of the originals ript out of their context and thrown into the abbyss of weirdness. The man behind Zeal and Ardour is Manuel Gagneux, who is based in New York but other than that we have little to go on for the origin and goal of this weird project where blues meets black metal and where gospel and melodeath collide. The cover features Robert Smalls, a former slave and liberator, with the sigil of Lucifer imposed over his portrait. It gives an inkling to the connection Gagneux is trying to create between the rebellion of black culture and that of black metal, both rebelling against an imposed identity of Christianity and tracing their roots in specific, artistic ways. It’s a tricky bit of matter, but quite intriguing to listen to.
Imagine blistering metal riffs being played, while you hear dark worker songs being sung, like on ‘In Ashes’. Frantic electronics are somewhere in the mix and then suddenly everything unloads. Oriëntal beats mixed with fancy electronics and hacking beats on ‘Sacrilegium I’, it’s all possible on this eclectic record, but it truly works. Sometimes that results in strange moments, like the cute bells on ‘Children’s Summon’, which then launches into chanting and cold guitar riffs. Most interesting is when the blues elements clash with the black metal. It feels weird and different, but it works in a very special way. The rawness of both somehow complements eachother. Particularly ‘Blood in the River’ is with its repetitive vocals and strong lyrics an intriguing listen, where similar dark sentiments are expressed. Though this is a strange record and hard to get into at first, it’s a brilliant connection and artistic vision that is realised in daring form. Great stuff!
Oak Pantheon – In Pieces
I must confess that I have always had a great love for postrock. Finding the combination of that sound with black metal in current day post BM movement is more than pleasing to me, it’s music I can’t get enough of and Oak Pantheon has been winning me over one play at the time. ‘In Pieces’ is the second full lenght for the Minneapolis duo, released by themselves independently. There’s definitely something unconventional about the artwork and vibe of the band, blending post BM with folk influences into an atmospheric concoction. Interestingly, the previous album had a much more ‘metal’ looking cover, where this one could be anything really. The natural themes are very easily deduced from it though. The boys have been to the music school of Agalloch clearly and pay homage to that sound.
From barrages of wild guitar salvos to blossoming drum assaults and tortured hows, the music is something different. Deeply emotional and widely varied from wide americana guitar picking to full on black metal assaults, the band is completely out there on their own. Ambient sounds enrich the already strongly organic and natural texture of the music. I have the feel of Empyrium on some of the more classicly inspired pieces or even a bit of Opeth, which seems to be the unavoidable touch stone for post-bm bands in this corner. There’s a majesty in the sound, but it’s the majesty of the forest and nature. The band may be gloomy and filled with a certain darkness, there’s also life and hope in the sound of these guys. So yes, there’s a soft side to this band, but it still feels very much black metal. Paying homage to nature has always been an integral part of black metal, even in the heyday of Satanic panic. Oak Pantheon manages to really convey that in their sound by implementing the acoustics.
Bat – Wings of Chains
Hells Headbangers Records
With the most ridiculous reference to the Scorpions as their album title, is this the first full lenght of this rather young band (they’ve been around since 2013). Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, these boys know how to make some old fashioned speed metal. These guys are no novices though, with Ryan Waste (Municipal Waste, Volture) on bass and vocals, Felix Griffin (ex-DRI, Bluntforce Trauma) on drums and Nick Poulos (Municipal Waste, Cannabis Corpse) on guitars. If that doesn’t offer enough talent to present some raging thrashy speed metal, I don’t know what anymore. I get the feeling thta there’s a weird kind of humor involved in this project, but let’s just leave it at that and give a listen to the blast-beat fuelled mayhem that is Bat.
The record is pretty much a furious version of Venom raging against the world with an ongoing explosion of dirty, grimy riffing and barked vocals. It reminds us again where black metal originated from, which is raw and in your face thrash metal. It may lack any sort of subtlety or complex elements, but it’s such a fresh breeze in two genres that can do with some new energy. The vitality of this record is amazing. Grimy punkroots are displayed on ‘Ritual Fool’ but also shredding guitars on ‘Rule of the Beast’. Sure, originality is not on top of the priority list for Bat, but does it need to be? These guys know how to make record that hits you like a fucking baseball bat to the temple and sound tight as a tick.
Jute Gryte – Perdurance
This latest release by insanely productive musician Adam Kalmbach is one dense spectacle to behold. Not only is it a layered contraption of uncanny sounds, speeds and rhyths, it’s lyrics and other aspects are loaded with intertextuality. The Missouri resident started this project back in 2002 and has for years managed to put out atleast 3 releases a year. By that I don’t mean EP’s and singles, but full lengths. If that’s not enough to offer you a big wow-factor, it must be the amount of work and referencing that goes into a record, like this latest one in a series that pushes the envelope on what black metal is, much like Zeal and Ardour mentioned earlier in this section. This is pretty much how King Crimson would sound if they started out in early 1990 in a remote village in Norway.
For those like myself, not versed in deeper musical theorems, it helps that Adam has taken the time to explain what he did on this album, like taking multiple tempi and twitching and turning them into something new. Dissonant sounds are everywhere, combined with uncanny and unexpected moments of ambient music. Even abusing some classical pieces into complete new elements is not too far-fetched to Kalmbach. There’s an artistic madness to the soaring, shooting and wooping sounds, that don’t connect to any known instruments. It creates a wondrous record with great barrages of riff-like constructions, cloudy dissonance and a constant reminder of the wide array of musical history embedded in the Jute Gyte sound. If that wasn’t enough, even the lyrics and artwork are references to Rembrandt and Cioran (one of my favorites in fact). I think this is a record you should listen to, specially if you’re a musical all-eater.