In recent months I’ve been alerted to a trend in black metal in which the basic black metal template of minimalist guitar rhythms and interest in guitar-based noise texture and atmosphere combines with psychedelic / trance music elements to generate a highly immersive listening experience. A strong nationalist, anti-colonialist stand may be part and parcel of the music. The bands associated with the LA-based Black Twilight Circle (Arizmenda, Ashdautas, Axeman, Blue Hummingbird on the Left, Kallathon, Volahn) who identify with Mexican nationalism are part of this black metal / psychedelic trend; another band that might also be associated with this tendency though not associated with the BTC bands is Dressed in Streams. DiS is based in Michigan and its agenda extols Indian (as in pertaining to India) nationalism and freedom from colonialism. The group’s calling-card is the use of Indian folk and other musics to bookend its powerful, raging black metal music which obeys no song-writing conventions or expectations and simply carries on and on regardless of time, space or even format in the manner of the Giant Red Spot (actually a centuries-old storm) on the planet Jupiter.
On my crappy little tape player, the cassette sounds quite basic and tinny when I play it as background music. If I listen to it properly and with the sound turned up, the music is simply tremendous and is a true force of terror against all the evils the universe can throw at me. “Leaping Tiger”, after its announcement by a tabla drum rhythm, a sitar and a lone vocalist singing a raga, dives straight into a storm of layers of melodic tremolo guitar, huge bass rhythms, synthesiser horns and roaring, screeching BM voices. The texture of the music is dense and rich. As the song continues, the mood becomes more intense, the growling vocals seem more vicious and all instruments appear at odds with one another so the whole set-up comes across as chaotic (but not very much so).
With “2 April 1941 (Berlin)”, the music picks up where it left off with more background screaming and squiggly guitar chords and giant triumphal riffs dominating the huge barrage of noisy rhythms and percussion. Halfway through the track the rhythm changes and a huge orchestra of synthesiser brass appears between gaps in the choppy guitar chord sequences. Gradually the music, after hitting heroic heights, calms down – even the growling seems less aggressive – and exits to the accompaniment of tabla drums and deep-droning synthesisers.
The band is often labelled National Socialist but I find very little in the actual music itself that’s parallel to the work of acts like Burzum and Graveland; only the track titles and the photographs, some of which can be a little suggestive of sympathy with Nazi Germany, on the cassette sleeve indicate a particular political outlook. The band may be Hindu nationalist or not, I have no idea. The Indian folk music at both ends of the work add an exotic touristy feel and does not really integrate well into the sonic juggernaut. Not knowing who the musicians are and what their intention in using samples of Indian music is, I’m unwilling to pass judgement on why the samples are present at all. Nevertheless to plunge your head into this kind of overwhelming black metal psychedelia after the raga initiation and to hear order in otherwise chaotic and texturally dense music is an experience listeners should try.
Contact: Colloquial Sound Recordings