Some people take their Tokien fandom to extreme lengths. Emyn Muil from Cassano delle Murge is one of those bands. The band is an epic black metal project of Saverio Giove (Valtyr, Ymir). As you probably guessed, the sound is very close to the masters of this sort of music Summoning. This is the second full length by the Italian artist and it is a grandiose spectacle indeed.
It took four years after ‘Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glaurunga’ for ‘Elenion Ancalima’ to manifest itself. The album theme is accordingly a particular section of the Silmarillion book, titled Akallabeth. Sometimes the story is published in Lord of the Rings books. The story tells of the lost land of Númenor, a Tolkienesque version of the Atlantis myth.
The lyrics seem to come straight from that piece of literature and the music really is Summoning worship at its best. Finding a spot somewhere between black metal and dungeon synth, Emyn Muil is a dreamy, intoxicating experience that easily entices its listeners to travel to strange lands. The right mixture of eerie synths (including pipes and flutes), bombastic drums and proclaiming spoken word, immediately takes you in on ‘Under A Silvered Star’. The black metal part is really restricted to a few passages, like on ‘The Lay of Númenorë’. In fact, the synths really take the upper hand in this 14-minute epic and the guitars only serve to give a bit of menacing tang to the song. Therefore it’s actually quite easy listening.
The record is more a strange soundtrack with storytelling. Listening to ‘Ar-Pharazôn’, it feels like you’re watching a grandiose spectacle in your mind. An element of remorse seeps into the sound, it’s the grandeur of ruin that is described in this song. The hubris of Icarus, of a King that wanted too much. This is the absolute magic that Emyn Muil evokes with this music, without ever overdoing it. Emyn Muil either moves you, or it bores you I suppose. You probably feel equally passionate about Dungeon synth in that case or similarly disinterested. In all honesty, I think that Emyn Muil is a beautiful project, particularly for the fans of fantasy and film. Providing that you are one of those, this is the record for you.
There’s so much geek going on here, that I probably have to start with a lot of definitions here and some I will struggle with. Melopœia makes Xenharmonic, Tolkien-Inspired Black Metal by using scriptophony. Let me start with the easy stuff…
Ainulindalë: Ainulindalë is the first part of the Silmarillion, the creation myth of Middle-Earth, the world where Tolkiens stories take place. In the book it’s shaped by a symphony of interwoven themes. It’s quite beautiful. Scriptophony: Basically it means translating script to music, so the wizz behind this project assigned every letter to a tone and thus let the words of the story shape the music. It’s weird, but cool. Xenharmonic/Microtonal: This part baffles me, but I guess you can say that its music that uses different scales and intervals to create songs. In a way it’s just ignoring the conventional tones and scales. But please, look to wikipedia for more.
So, who is this madman responsible for this project? That would be Dave Tremblay (Dinosaurs Are Not Gone!, Vod, Awaken The Ghosts and many more). Brian Leong does the vocal parts of the record. What you get is a wild ride of music that makes little to no sense the first time around. The sound is frantic, confusing and highly irregular, but also dense and complex to the ears. Sometimes it´s a burst of black metal like riffing and threatening tones, but other moments the music is trickling minimal. Stopping and starting on completely surprising moments, it´s not a calm experience, but a crazy trip.
It was never ment to be enjoyed by the listener, but still this record fascinates me. If you´d like to learn more, maybe check out this article by Dave himself concerning the project. There are interesting connections to groups like Botanist and Jute Gyte, both active in the black metal realm, but completely on their own terms. The mutating, radical approach to music definitely fits in with the genre itself I think.
So why would you listen to this record, if it´s so tricky and difficult? Well, I’ve spoken to many people who started reading The Silmarillion and got stuck in fact in the Ainulindalë. It’s a shame, because the book offers so much great stories, but I get that this part is difficult. In a way this album translates that to actual music, to an experience akin to the chapter. Understanding the effort behind both may help readers appreciate it more for its beautiful writing and complexity, which goes as well for the music. Sure, sometimes its closing in on noise, but there’s beauty as well. So all in all, not unlike the harmonious song of the Valar and Eru.
The first Sounds of the Underground of 2015 and the section of my blog seems to gather some attention. Thank you for this. For this edition I checked out The Glitch Mob, Cruachan, The Hyle and Chthonic.
The Glitch Mob – Love Death Immortality
So it would appear I like a lot of metal and truly, it is the main thing I listen to these days. I have a huge weakness however for the Glitch Mob. I like electronic music that is heavy on the bass, layered and telling a story in itself. The debut of this group from 2010 was quite amazing and captivating. It had that same mystery I find in postrock and some black metal. On their 2014 release the band takes a different approach.
The feel of the sound is much more dance-oriëntated, high on energy and with a faster pace. Fleet footed and lightweight would also be terms, but they might feel a bit negative. Songs like ‘Skytoucher’ still captivate the feeling I loved so much on their debut, but in general the album is more directed at selling and being something the kids can dance to. Not sure if that’s a good thing, for me ‘Drink The Sea’ will remain the favorite and I’ll check in with these guys again when a new record comes around. Though their ‘glitch’ may be less attractive to me, the group still makes brilliant music. Don’t take me wrong on that.
Chthonic – Bù-Tik (武德)
Since the album that is released on 29 december is a full acoustic one, I thought it fun to look back at the previous release of Taiwanese melodic death metal giants Chthonic. The band plays with folk elements and structures in a complex sort of work, that relates closely to the atmosphere of black metal in my opinion. The hectic sound is typical in most Asian metal bands I’ve heard, also the clean sound and the polished production. The band manages an accesible sound, while retaining their identity.
The narrative is that of the foundation of what became Taiwan, told in the native tongue. That shouldn’t prevent you from listening to it. The beauty of this record is it’s way of sounding like a metal band in a clear cut manner, but implementing the narrative of Taiwan by using folk elements and mythology to create distinctness. Anyone hearing this will look up in surprise to check what it is they’re listening to, but still feel it relates to them. Though the sound is rooted in the more extreme styles, the grandeur of power metal is definitely present int he riffing and huge arches of vocals and synths. It doesn’t surprise me that Spinefarm signed them. The acoustic album that is coming out is promising to be another revelation and a rare insight for many metalheads in Asian traditional music.
The Hyle – Demo
The Danish band has a wonderful sound that combines doom with a stadium rock-like swagger, without losing any of their credibility. This demo was not without reason so well liked by Cvlt Nation out of what they picked up this year. The slow, foreboding sound of ‘Lucifero’ sounds weary and whispers a certain despair. The clean vocals are warm and caring, but hollow somehow. Slowly the song runs its course, untill twangy bass sounds support samples and harrowing riffs continue the brooding sound onto the ritualistic sounding ‘Serpent King’. I feel a bit reminded of Electric Wizard meeting up with Witchcraft when listening to this record.
The second half of the record opens very slowly with ´Spiritual Sacrifice´. The spun-out track wavers on for a couple of minutes, when silence descends. The final song is ‘Children Of The Divine’, which is also a dark tune with the sense of ritual and pagan magic to it. The band creates a sound that feels like retro, but also distinctly now. The record is captivating and if these Danes call this a demo, I’m eager to hear the debut.
Cruachan – Blood For The Blood God
The Irish folk metal band Cruachan is pretty much one of the first of its kind. This year I saw them play live, finally, at the Eindhoven Metal Meeting and experienced a lot of their new songs. The work seems raw, honest and direct, but also a bit amateuristic sometimes and a little odd. The vocals of Keith Fay are very peculiar and the man is simply not the most talented singer. Still, the blend of folkish traditionals and raging metal works quite well for the group that has released it’s seventh album on Trolzorn records. The song ‘Born For War’ is representative for the epic sound and feeling this band wants to invoke.
Noteworthy is the song about ‘Beren And Luthien’, which departs from the Irish mythology and picks up a little Tolkien along the way. The band seems to have two gears, of which one is a slow, melancholic pace and the other the frantic one-two-one-two primitive death metal roll. Both are implemented in different ways, but it tells the listener a bit about this band. Cruachan feels like a band on form, enjoying what they do once more, but also stuck in thier own sound. Change is a difficult thing and this record doesn’t sound in any of it. One could argue that this is the reason the whole folk metal movement passed the Irish group by. I don’t know, perhaps they are comfortable in their own little niche. Songs like ‘Gae Bolga’ and ‘The Arrival of the Fir Bolg’ are both well constructed and atmospheric and display the strenght of Cruachan. I worry that they will remain an anachronism in a genre that moved far beyond the primitive sound of this group.
I listen to music, so you don’t have to. You can decide if you want to check out what I’ve been checking out by reading what I thought about these sounds. All taken from the underground, these are the sounds for this edition. I will write a new intro text next time.
Saor – Aura
Scotland offers us some great music now and then. It normally does require you to accept the peculiar accent and rugged elements in it. On the front of black metal, I didn’t hear much about the North. If the first connection you make to their black metal sound is Saor, you’re in for a good one, like your first fried candybar. The music feels like the landscape of Scotland, with the subtle folk melodische woven into the fabric of the land as well. Powerful and subtle at the same time, the music offers a timeless journey.
The band describes their music as Celtic metal, which I think does justice to its organic, natural sound. The songs feel like a storybook, the album is like a unity. Focus seems to be a ful immersing in the atmosphere Saor has in mind for their listeners, which works out great in my humble opinion. The departure from the sound they embraced under their previous moniker Àrsaidh seems to have been left behind partly, continuing the whole postrock vibe, but making things more intense and rougher. I’m totally impressed by this, by the way One Man, project. It will blow you away. Andy Marshall, also known from Falloch, did a great job.
Jungle Rot – Terror Regime
So today I learned that the band who’s name I’ve seen around a lot of times is a death metal band. I also learned that Jungle Rot is a nasty disease that yields a lot of gruesome imagery, which I’ve never been too crazy about. Sorry, I’m not into gore and I really can’t help it. This band is frigging brilliant though.
Though called a death metal band, there’s something different going on here. It’s been called death rock in some spots and I guess some comparisons to that rock’n’rolling style of Entombed cannot be discarded. There’s a fun factor to their sound, the band also happens to have been around forever (well since 1994). The clean producation makes this a perfect album to drum along to, slap your air-guitar like it’s ‘yo bitch’ and just bang your head to. It just sounds tight and in my opinion very accesible. I wrote before that I’m reluctant to listen to death metal and I haven’t really found my hook on the style yet. This band is not on Victory Records without reason. Their sound is almost poppy to me, like many of the hip metalcore/deathcore stuff, but simply more real and pure. Enjoyable record taht I would recommend to most metal fans who also need to find a gateway record for DM.
Tryptikon – Melana Chasmata
I love Celtic Frost. I don’t know if it was the amazing titles of their albums (not the stage names, Tom G. Warrior still sounds like it was made for gay porn), or their distinctly oldschool sound with touches of genius distinctive experiment or perhaps just their aura of grandeur. I didn’t like Tryptikon much at first though, but it grows on you and so does Melana Chasmata. I’d love to somehow bash the establishment a little, which is perfectly possible with this record since it somehow doesn’t pack the punch it was intended to have. That doesn’t make it less awesome.
Let’s call it a doom record, translating sludge to the Swiss bands flavour with the old gothic demeanor. Tryptikon never sounds dirty like a damp, grim black metal band. Nor does it feel like the abandoned graveyard where doom bands lurk. It dwells in castles and cathedrals, in grandeur and might with a touch of despair and decay. There is a nobility to the sound of this band that has a lot to to with its frontman. I think that Fischer doesn’t want to shock, but just show the stories he wishes to tell to the fulles. Leaving nothing out, holding nothing back. That is the raw core of the record that delivers its powerful message. So yeah, everything stays a bit mid-pace. Heavy metal is not reshaped, but there’s refinement here.
Summoning – Old Mornings Dawn
I’ve enjoyed listening to Summoning for years, but it has always been on and off. I was amazed to discover bands playing music inspired by Tolkien and making it seem dangerous, exciting and totally new. I reckon I wasn’t ready for the atmospheric black metal at first from these Austrians. Now perhaps I am, but maybe their 2013 album just leaves behind a lot of the danger. It almost seems like a soundtrack when listening to it. Less raw, more atmosphere and synthesizers.
The songs are filled up with the mysterie from Tolkiens ‘Silmarillion’, inspired by the daring of the Mariner Earendil who sailed into the unknown. Some moments its foreboding, others gnashing and grim but always captivating and beautiful. I guess it might sound pretentious to those who are a bit purist about their black metal, but as far as I’m concerned, this album is a masterpiece that combines the best of ambient, atmosphere and black into one mesmerizing whole.
That was all for this time, lets see what else we can pick from the underground next time.