Label: Tartarus Records Band: Grey Aura Origin: Netherlands
Grey Aura kind of dazzled me with their first release, which I reviewed for Echoes & Dust. The record series is based on a book, created by singer Ruben Wijlacker’s novel De Protodood in Zwarte Haren (The Proto-dead in Black Hair). The records are full of references to cultural pillars like Malevich, the De Stijl movement and this time in title with ‘ 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd’ also Gustave Flaubert.
Other references we read about in the bio are Rimbaud, Bataille, and Kandinsky. The record is also filled with field recordings and spoken word dialogues, done by professional voice actors. These complex efforts towards the narrative of the record are particularly noteworthy and grant Grey Aura an aura of the artistic and complex, which is reflected in their expressive live shows (which I enjoyed witnessing during the 2019 Roadburn festival).
The intro is a dialogue, spoken in terse, serious tones before we launch into ‘De onnoemelijke verleidelijkheid van de bezwijkende deugd’. The vocals of Wijlakker are something to experience, as they rip asunder any black metal cliché. He screams, bellows and then hoarsely speaks as a man lost to the listener as odd rhythms and sounds enter the song and transfigure it into something completely different.
Grey Aura doesn’t shun stepping far over their genre boundaries, as done on ‘Parijs is een portaal’. Mild Spanish guitar and a jazzy, fresh rhythm evoke the vibe of the Parisian nights. We even get some polka rhythm on ‘De Drenkeling’ a moment later, while the lyrics take the overhand in telling us the story, which you can find on the Bandcamp page in a more elaborate form. This grand canvas behind the record is what makes it all stick together, even if you don’t know about it. That is the absolute strength of this record in my opinion. It’s internal coherence and consistent delivery of surprising tunes. As you hit ‘Sierlijke Schaduwmond’ little remains, but gentle jazzy music and spoken poetry. Captivating, mesmerizing and enthralling the listener with occasional screams of fury and anguish.
The play ends with ‘De Drenkeling’, a spiraling song of despair, ending in a rigorous march with a fatalistic edge. Marching into the sea, into doom. What will follow?
Label: self-released Artist: lcbrt Origin: the Netherlands
Dutch black metal has started exploring the more recent cultural realms for inspiration and this is not without its benefits. lcbrt is the most recent of these acts, combining experimental black metal with the work and concepts of Dutch poet Lucebert.
Sole member Evio is also active in Morvigor from the city of Alkmaar in the Netherlands. With this act, he creates death-black metal. Also appearing on this record is the voice of the poet himself, who did a lot of recordings during his lifetime of his complex and bewildering works.
Raw black metal hammers on, much in the lo-fi veins of early Burzum, intermixed with samples of poetry. The dulled, flat spoken words resonate with the static riffing and metallic twang delivered by lcbrt. He simply picks up a riff and goes with it. Sometimes fast and bashful, at other times soothing and layered. As these parts continue, there are some tempo changes, but not too much. It just works, it delivers a straight-up piece of art with dissonant and confusing black metal.
As the main track ‘i t/mv’ lasts almost 15 minutes, the second song on this record only takes a little chunk of your time. ‘Incarnatie’ continues in the peculiar vibe and sound, that is lcbrt. It’s harrowing, cold and unpleasant, yet offering a warm bath to sink into at the same time with its haggard sound and feisty riffing. The ploinky outro is particularly enjoyable. Yet, at the same time, the guitars are sharp and almost cut your hearing. That is part of the delivery and particular concept behind the act. Curious to see where this moves from here.
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.
Since I seem to be running behind on blogging about books, here the new reading sessions I had.
Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian
I think I actually promised Selim Lemouchi to read this book he was so very fond of. I finally did after I bought it a few months ago. This is not a happy book, nor an easy read. It’s a story, where the reader feels detached, dehuminized and lost in a desert where the sun and blood are all that matter. It’s the story of the kid, who goes with a band of ragtag outlaws to collect Apache scalps. When there’s no apaches they murder and maim whatever else comes in their path, looking for riches and excesses. The other figure is the judge, a bald, big man who seems to fulfill a more philosophical role if anything.
The book follows the kid through dark deeds, death and despair, all the way to a grim and confusing ending. People have been trying to analyze this book a lot, but I think it’s a story that works more on a conceptual level. It’s not the actual happenings in it, it’s the ideas that play out, the corrupting effect of power and lawless existence. I truly think this is an amazing book, but I don’t think I’d recommend it to just anyone to be very honest. It’s difficult and leaves you with an uncanny feeling. If you’re up for that, do pick it up.
Thich Nhat Hanh – The Heart of Understanding
I’m not what you would call a full-on Buddhist but it has become a huge part of what I consider my spiritual side in the last years. This book deals with the heart sutra, and like the heart sutra is thus particularly short. Short does not mean simple however, because no matter how clear Nhat Hanh is in his explanations, this is dense material. I also have to add that I greatly enjoyed listening to them.
Learn about the essence of buddhism with slow and deliberate explanations that seem simple but develop into ideas that captivate everything. Also enjoy the wit of this buddhist monk, who reads from this book to an audience and then really seems to get going with examples and jokes in between that keep everything light and open. I don’t think everyone should get into buddhism, but there’s practical lessons in this book that are a welcome thing in most people’s lives.
Paul Rodenko – Nieuwe Griffels, Schone Leien
I had doubts if I should mention this, since not only is it a book of poetry, it’s a book of dutch poetry. That means, pretty much no one else will be able to read it. I purchased this years ago, after I had my literature classes on the university. This was a significant book, because it truly displayed the revolution in Dutch poetry in the fifties. The new wave, you may say. I felt like I found a little treasure. It took me years to actually read it from cover to cover, but now I finally did.
The poetry in this book is material from the early 20th century up to it’s present day, which was the late fifties. In a way the book turned the free-form poetry into a part of the bigger avant-garde waves. I can’t say I enjoy everything as much to be honest. I’ve got my perennial favorite in the poet Lucebert. Still, it felt like a good thing to finally read it and try to imbibe the atmosphere and feeling of the words. Sometimes, when you read out loud, the words offer you flavors you wouldn’t have expected.
Mikael Bulgakov – Heart of a Dog (adapted BBC audioplay)
Bulgakov is a writer everyone seems to love but that I never actually read anything of. So time for that then, so I decided to check out ‘Heart Of A Dog’, which was kindly adapted to an audio play by the BBC. The piece is funny, but critical of some elements in Soviet society. It offers a lot of points to get into fo rthe reader and freedom for interpretation. The pace is high and the adaptation does a lot of justice to the work of this writer.
Bulgakov is a peculiar figure in Soviet literature, being banned and shunned, but also protected by Stalin (who in turn, personally banned his works). It’s intriguing in itself. This book is a very own version of the Frankenstein story, dealing with a dog who gets intestines of a drunkard that played Balalaika in a club. The dog becomes very human and loses its innocense and purity.