Tagged: Black Metal

Per ardua ad astra

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Lustre / Elderwind
Through the Ocean to the Stars
Russia Kunsthauch CD digipak (2014)

Lustre may be familiar to quite a few TSP readers with his dark ambient / black metal instrumental soundscape work – he has released a number of EPs, split recordings and albums – but Elderwind is a fairly unknown Russian entry into the world of BM.

Lustre leads the way with the two parts to “Follow Us to the Stars” – these are completely synth-dominated instrumental pieces of long droning sounds based around sparse minimalist rhythm loops and best heard together as one track – which in a way they are. Right from the start the music settles into two opposing camps of repeating swooping drones and pointillist tones, over which effects such as a pounding background beat or atmospheric wash might add some texture or depth. The second part is as repetitive as the first but in a darker vein.

The whole thing sounds mournful though possibly this wasn’t the intention. I find no sense of wonder or anticipation of the glories of the cosmos and the chance to be at one with the universe and to know something of its purpose (and by implication, the purpose of humanity and our individual purpose). Both parts are flat in sound and feeling, and with repetition being the only way these tracks escalate tension and feeling, the music becomes a tedious affair. The droning lacks subtlety and is very heavy-handed in comparison with the rest of the delicate music.

Elderwind grabs just over half the split release’s playing time with four separate tracks. The difference between Elderwind’s side and Lustre’s tracks is immediate: the Elderwind tracks are highly atmospheric and seem more attuned to the concept of the split recording, with a sense of awe at humanity’s contact with the infinite. The tracks naturally roll from one into another which enables the momentum and the ambience (and the soothing feelings they generate) to pass smoothly into succeeding tracks without the disruption of abrupt changing repetition loops. The final track “Polaris” suggests some kind of unity or communion is reached with the combination of spiritual organ-like tones, background wave sounds and strange whistle effects that seem to encourage listeners to reach out and contact denizens of the farthest galaxies.

It’s clear to me which side is the winner by a long distance: Elderwind hands out a punishing lesson to Lustre on how to create atmospheric space mood music that respects the concept and implications involved in voyaging to the stars. Both acts proceed from a depressive / atmospheric black metal background which comes with a baggage of existential contemplation of the human condition. Listeners might assume (mistakenly perhaps) that with such a background, these bands investigating space travel would bring along a curiosity about how such travel could reflect something to us about our purpose and place in the universe.

I don’t mean to question or criticise Lustre’s sincerity or motivation but his pieces are clunky and amateurish against those of Elderwind. In all probability these fall far short of his ambitions. This split recording could have been something great, a classic of its kind in spacey black metal psychedelia. As it stands, it’s uneven and awkward.

At this point I should mention that Elderwind, according to his entry on Encyclopedia Metallum, formed in 2009 and spent a few years exploring and perfecting his sound before releasing his first recording in 2012. The careful and studious preparation is evident in the quality of the work presented on this split release.

Contact: Kunsthauch
Van Records

Womb C: a wide range of genres searching for communion with dark sinister cosmos

Womb C, self-titled, Bestial Burst, CD BeBu-059 (2013)

Dark space ambience, post-industrial percussion, sinister electronics, black metal and trance psychedelia combine to form this quartet of instrumental pieces that trace an individual journey into communion with the cosmos. The musicians responsible for this unique if weird and wonderful set of soundscapes include members of Finnish BM bands Dead Reptile Shrine and Ride for Revenge as well as musicians from bands I don’t know: Blutleuchte, Cloama (who share members with DRS) and Will Over Matter (the brainchild of the man behind Ride for Revenge). This looks like a Finnish-Russian affair which might mean (in a good way of course!) plenty of sparks flying here.

We begin with “Satan Universe Moloch”, a long sprawling track that takes in glitchy electronics, noise-lite textures, trance guitar work and atmospheric soundtrack music effects among other things. At times you fear the music might travel down some very dangerous paths menaced by black devils itching for a chance to ride the sounds and drones out of the loudspeakers or headphones and into your ears and head. Second track “Bug Humanity” is no less adventurous, daring to tread through some very low-key sections of darkness where a heavy atmosphere reigns or inhuman distorted voices make pronouncements in the far distance. A monster percussion rhythm, its edges fuzzed over with acid noise, thumps through the track. Later moments include some very odd and deranged robot voices in an apparent emptiness and some bombastic industrial metal knees-up bashing.

The music enters underground metal territory proper with “She Male Vegetation” which is dominated by a repeating series of harsh textured drone guitar riffs over a shambolic drum pattern. As the album continues into the fourth track, we enter a strange universe of beings that are partly organic and partly mechanical living among environments that are at once beautifully space ambient and terrifyingly machine-like in their natural rhythms. Increasingly the record acquires a more interior and precious feel, as if it were retreating into some hallowed space where only a privileged few may be allowed to enter: it could be a shrine to unseen gods or it could be the cell of a deranged prisoner. A kind of tinny chainsaw black metal whine forms the backbone of the music over which drills whine, a melodic country-western guitar melody plays and a sorrowful clarinet-like sound follows the chaos that gradually develops. The album’s conclusion is rather ambiguous: unity with the universe is achieved in a way that suggests a return to the cosmic womb and therefore death promises a slim chance of rebirth, leading perhaps to another tortuous journey back to the darkness of the womb, risking one’s identity and sanity again. (The CD sleeve offers a prose piece which listeners can follow to make sense of the music and what it’s aiming at – but I can’t promise that the prose makes any more sense than the music does.)

The recording does feature a dry atmosphere typical of those Ride for Revenge albums I’ve heard which is no surprise as the fellow behind RfR and WoM plays a big role in creating and assembling together such a wide disparity of musical elements and genres. For all its musical expanses, the album is actually well ordered rather than full-on blatant and intense. Though it can be heavy-going in parts due to a heavy black atmosphere, the music is often very minimal and every bit of sound, no matter how far back in the distance it seems to be, can be discerned. Quite a lot of polish and care must have been applied here even though the music has its demented moments.

For fans of the bands whose members participated in creating this work of dark twisted soundscapes with a mystical message, this album is a must-have that showcases a more varied and experimental side of their heroes.

Vast Chains: a mighty mammoth microtonal missive of intense derangement and moments of silent terror

JuteGyte

Jute Gyte, Vast Chains, Jeshimoth Entertainment, CD-R JEO65 (2014)

Holy heck, here comes another mighty microtonal music missive from the one and only Jute Gyte, the one-man avantgarde black metal wrecking-ball who smashes apart all the stereotypes and constraints that keep metal in a conceptual straitjacket and reveals the boundless potential of the genre for original, intense and batshit music. Miley Cyrus don’t know nothin’ about real wrecking-ball music, that’s for sure! JG man Adam Kalmbach recorded this 2014 release at about the same time as he did “Discontinuities” and if you listen to both albums casually, you’ll be hard put to discern much in the way of progress, musically anyway, from “Discontinuities” to “Vast Chains”. On closer listen to both, the earlier album is a smoother ride and sounds comparatively sane.

Repeated hearings are necessary for albums like “Vast Chains” and “Discontinuities” because their textures are incredibly dense, the jangly chords have a weird, almost malign glitter tone, and the soundscapes created seem to shift constantly even as the riffs and melodies lurch about their business. There is nothing familiar for listeners to latch onto and use as a guide to explore this music. All 24 microtones of the scale Kalmbach uses are treated as tones in their own right and all the guitar chords and other sounds utilise the microtones fully with very few exceptions (and mostly ambient exceptions at that). You really have to go along with JG on the project’s terms. Guitar chords slide about or launch abruptly into something quite unexpected. The music usually has a suffocating and demented air. Yet each song does have its own structure and riffing patterns and eventually after going a few rounds with the recording, you realise Jute Gyte’s albums are very ordered.

The startlingly memorable intro “Semen Dried into the Silence of Rock and Mineral” – we can always rely on Kalmbach for head-scratching titles – is a lumbering beast of discordant chugging death metal with awkward and angular riffs, made more so by the microtonal scales used. Jarring riff and melody loops, gruff bass grunts and a vocal that simply tears your endurance apart cover over a reality of black emptiness – “the silence of rock and mineral” – that is revealed in brief interludes during which raindrops of guitar might sometimes be the only thing present. By contrast, “Endless Moths Swarming” is a speedy number that imitates the frenzy of the eponymous insects as they hover over unspeakable sights. Every so often, Kalmbach pulls away the curtain of music to show what really lies beneath: the desolation and deep solitude, too dark and deep for words to express, of a universe indifferent to the presence of humans.

We never get much rest between tracks: as soon as one ends, we’re thrust straight into another as if even Kalmbach himself is afraid of the closeness and finality of death. Even the title “The Inexpressible Loneliness of Thinking” suggests that for all our attempts to thwart the inevitable with elaborate mental and social ruses and technology, we will ultimately fail due to our nature and feeble genetic inheritance. “Flux and Permanence” is a seesawing lurch of nauseous riffs and rhythms with choppy low end and disorienting mood. As it continues, the guitars become ever more shrill (as if they weren’t already bonkers) and bring you close to the edge of insanity. The same could be said of the entire album overall actually.

Each track has its distinctive riffs and melodies and thus its own identity yet they are all united not just by the particular style of demented music with its stress on jagged bass lines and the most awkward and uncoordinated riffs – there are also those quiet moments within each track that peel away the apparent cacophony and show you the real chaos of unending darkness and the silence of non-life. One odd thing about this album is that for all the dense delirium of the music, it’s all surprisingly steady and even, and no one track is head and shoulders above the others: as a result, there’s no real stand-out track to point to as typifying the album. Also for all the music’s apparent “heavy” quality, the percussion on the album is surprisingly light; the heaviness comes from the bass and the extreme range of the guitars in tone, volume and riff / melody structures. All tracks represent the entire album in microcosm, in slightly different ways.

This album is definitely for the fans; those unfamiliar with Jute Gyte are best directed to hear out earlier recordings before tackling this one.

North: heralding a gorgeous nature-themed project of folk ambient black metal

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Crown of Asteria, North, Red River Family Records, CD 025 (2013)

Crown of Asteria is a one-woman black metal project headed by one Meghan Hill that plays a mix of black metal, ambient and folk. “North” is CoA’s debut full-length instrumental meditation on nature and its wondrous, transcendental mysteries. This is a recording worth hearing in its entirety without regard for individual tracks: it’s a gorgeous work of atmosphere, acoustic folk and thrilling BM riffs and melodies.

After a brief introduction of nature-themed field recordings that transport us listeners in an instant to the CoA universe, we’re wrapped in shimmering keyboard / guitar tremolo drone wash. It’s as if we must undergo a ritual bath to cleanse us of the toxins of the urban world we left behind, so that we are ready to receive more of what CoA has in store.

“Through the Birch and beyond the Lakes” is perhaps the first real black metal track: it starts out with a shrill spiky tremolo guitar lead and has a dreamy, trance-like quality. Clear reverberating guitar-tone chords duet and perhaps duel with the black metal guitar background. There is a sunny feel that I usually associate with shoegazer BM and fans of that genre might be interested in checking out this album. The track develops into something more crunchy and hard-edged and the introduction of percussion adds a sharp crispy edge. A lead guitar solo is a late crowning glory for this piece.

The title track gets off to a slightly slow start but makes up for lost ground quickly with warm shimmery guitar noise textures and a pounding percussion beat that is all but swamped by the guitar work-outs. Licks are thrown out here and there. The real highlight of the track comes with an extended passage of folk acoustic guitar melody, accompanied by a faint but interesting rhythm in parts. The music is soft and has a strong hypnotic effect; the mood is at once dreamy, a bit lonely and melancholy, naively hopeful perhaps and uplifting overall. The transition from quiet and soft folk ambient back to assertive BM is gradual but once this is complete, the music has an exhilarating, triumphant attitude. This is one of the most intense and exciting moments I’ve experienced in listening to BM. CoA lets the moment linger for listeners to savour to the full.

Four minutes of mostly monotonous strumming acoustic guitar with a late melody follow: “Wildflowers” is a pleasant pause for breath but for what it does, it’s too long and could have been slimmed down to 2 – 3 minutes. Final track “These Stars hang from the Boughs of Firs” is a great finale, though again there are parts that are just a bit too long and repetitive. Admittedly the percussion throughout this album isn’t great but on this track its deficiencies are amplified: the drumming is too soft and needs to be a bit more upfront in the mix with a strong thumping sound. On the other hand the acoustic guitar melody loop is a welcome warm contrast to the generally grim black metal.

Without a doubt this is one of the most beautifully atmospheric BM recordings I’ve had the privilege to hear, a tremendously immersive musical experience with deep sincere emotion. The first half of the album has a slight edge over the rest, being more attentive to creating a definite atmosphere of beauty and wonder, inspired by the artist’s contact with her woodland surroundings. The later half of the album has rather less emphasis on maintaining atmosphere; maybe the work seems that way because there’s much more acoustic music and how it just absorbs Hill’s attention (and ours) to the full, but some of the early lushness seems to disappear. The production is crisp but not too clear: it allows a dream state, in which meditation and inner journeys of exploration become easy, to dominate.

The drumming is the main weakness here – it’s soft when perhaps it should be loud, hard and energetic. There are long passages on this record that cope very well without any drums and perhaps an entire album done only with guitars and atmospheric effects is something CoA should try.

The album is a rich audio experience of folk, ambient and black metal elements and natural field recordings, all the more so because the music is not heavily layered: by that, I mean there are no strata of guitar textures overlaid with excessive effects, Nadja-style, yet what few ambient effects CoA deploys seem to be used to their utmost, with all the nuances of meaning they bring to the recording. Pure-toned music is crisp and brimming with feeling and context. This debut album deserves to be better known and in time might be considered a classic of its kind.

Decollate: going headless again with the thinking person’s favourite black metal horde

Source: http://clothbodies.blogspot.co.uk/
Source: http://clothbodies.blogspot.co.uk/

L’Acephale, Decollate, Black Horizons, Canada, cassette (2013)

L’Acephale‘s latest release “Decollate” is a short five-track set on cassette that includes two original songs and three covers of songs by Emperor, Darkthrone and Current 93 in that order. For less than 30 minutes in total, Set Sothis Nox La and his merry musicians deliver some of the most militaristic, sabre-rattling, operatic and bombastic music this side of La Scala Theatre in Milan. Plenty of industrial, folk and ambient music elements abound here without the band’s essential black metal style floundering under so many different genres.

First up for the headless horde’s treatment is Emperor’s “Ye Entrancemperium”, a thumping martial folk beast with savage rhythms and riffs, a venomous gabbling vocal and super-bombastic percussion. Multi-layered at various points, the song is complex and murky. L’Acephale’s rendering of the track sticks closely to the original with details in the vocals and percussion being different and the production distorted. Then follows one of two original songs, “Sleep is the Enemy”, a seething sinister beast, laidback yet doomy, lurching into view with subliminal swamp-monster groans and growls and rhythms that slouch from somnambulist soldier march to frenzied blast-beats and chaos, and back again. And again. It’s a simple song to follow though with much of its emphasis on the quietly creepy atmosphere that envelops it.

Flipping over to the B-side, we find Darkthrone’s “As Flittermice as Satans Spy” given a dramatic neo-folk reworking that makes the song supremely sinister and inhuman. Militaristic horns, severe marching percussion, jittery mandolin tones and crabby misanthropic grim vocals render the track an implacable juggernaut experience. My complaint is that it’s not long enough to drive a listener totally deranged. “Passing into Sleep”, the second original track which might be a continuation of “Sleep is the Enemy”, is another quietly malevolent and oppressive piece with samples of droning vocal chant combined with operatic singing, percussion experimentation, guitar drone and piano punctuation. Again the atmosphere is the most important element here, more so than the previous original, allowing L’Acephale the opportunity to experiment with tone, space and texture.

Last up is a Current 93 cover “Allons vior si la Rose” (“Let us go to the Rose”), dressed Burzum-style in folk melodies and a lead guitar playing over a steady repeating rhythm and a basic drum beat. The ambience is a curious mix of not-quite summer folkiness and sinister blackness. The song ends all too quickly after a minimalist delivery and listeners are likely to feel a bit cheated that the cassette ends much too soon.

Thirty minutes for a recording, even if it’s an EP, are just too short and cramped for an ambitious and maximally inclined band like L’Acephale who like throwing everything they know or can reference into a big pot just for one song. The individual tracks go by far too quickly and, though some songs can perhaps sound overdone and overwrought, they all seem to need more development to become mighty huge structures of black metal evil.

One problem with covering other people’s songs and including them with your own work is that the song covered can show up deficiencies in your own song-writing and arrangements. This is true with particular bands whose work you’re covering and which happens to boast complex musical structures and arrangements – like Emperor for example. But I should think SSNL and company would have been well aware of the scale of ambition and ability needed to tackle Emperor’s work and what they needed to do to make their version succeed. The cover is very good indeed but L’Acephale’s own compositions on the cassette pale in comparison as a result.

As always, L’Acephale make no concessions to first-time listeners who have to come prepared with sufficient general knowledge worthy of ten university doctorates to understand the references the band tosses into its music. Fans will find this cassette an essential addition to their collections, as long as they realise it’s not likely to deliver to their high expectations.

Snowland MMXII: revisited debut album has a grand and epic quality

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Sorcier des Glaces, Snowland MMXII, Mankind’s Demise Records / Les Productions Hérétiques, CD mdph-03 (2012)

An interesting record in itself in that this is a revisit by Canadian black metal duo Sorcier des Glaces of their debut album released way back in 1998. The debut was self-produced with a very raw sound and was also self-released. A major difference between the debut and this revisit is that the debut featured keyboard work whereas here the keyboards have been removed almost completely.

The reprised album has a grand and epic quality and this is apparent right from the start with the instrumental introduction that features thundering drums and sweeping sandpaper guitar riffs. The ice wizards launch into the business end of the album with “The Winter Nightsky”, a speedy rush-along with clicking cymbals and thumping percussion against high-pitched guitars and a clear icy ambience. The new production gives the music a cold wintry feel and a deeper substance so that it seems to emerge from its snowbound environment without ever actually leaving it altogether, in the manner of sculptured reliefs.

Early tracks are very fast and fairly basic in their structures. “Onward into the Crystal Snows” signals that back in 1998 the duo were experimenting with song composition; the track  is varied in pace, rhythm and mood, and changes of key as it progresses. The combined piece “My Journey into the Black Forest / Darkness covers the Snowland” is a significant change from the original separate twosome and features two vocals in a track that features frantic rush and epic stirring martial rhythms.

As the album progresses, the songs get better – or maybe I’m unconsciously being absorbed by the music – and culminate with “L’eternelle majeste des montagnes (The eternal majesty of the mountains)”, a grand piece that captures the awe and reverence the musicians feel for their Quebec homeland.

This recording has real presence even if most songs are short – the combined track comes to ten minutes which is the longest of the entire set – and the atmosphere throughout is a distinctive icy-cold wintry one of very clear, still nights with distant sparkling stars shining down on landscapes of tall, silent fir trees and deep undisturbed snow. The cold mood suits the album’s basically misanthropic premise which reveres the spirits of the land. There is still room for improvement: the percussion sounds quite thin for much of the album and together with the bass guitar could have been made deeper and thicker. I confess I haven’t heard the original 1998 recording but I will hazard that this album is a major improvement at least in its production and changes in sound.

What was Once there is Now Gone: desert-Western blackened sludge doom packed into tiny CD-R

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Bird of Omen, What was Once there is Now Gone, Hand Hewn Timbre, 3″ CD-R (2013)

Bird of Omen is a recent project by the unknown man who was behind the blackened drone doom metal act Monument of Urns. All the releases by MoU were issued by the artist’s own Hand Hewn Timbre imprint on tiny CD-Rs. Now MoU has been laid to rest for the time being and in its stead is Bird of Omen whose releases so far are also on tiny CD-R discs. The album under review is BoO’s second.

Compared to its predecessor, BoO has a lighter, less oppressive sound. While the music sounds very much like a desert-Western movie soundtrack, the black metal influences are present in the quivering strings and the piano melodies take the place of extended tone drones. The percussion is slow and emphatic with crashing cymbals but the beats are muted and the cymbals merely sound crisp. The result is no less stark in mood and ambience: the desert sun’s rays beat pitilessly on your head and shoulders and all around you is bare ground with only bleached cattle skeletons lying in the dirt. You know there’s only one thing that’s important, and that’s to find water in this baking heat; everything else, such as why the gangsters dumped you in this hell-hole, fades into insignificance.

The second track is the major piece at just over 10 1/2 minutes and is sludge doom in a cleaner, lighter vein than might be expected. Now guitar feedback drones come to the fore in parts of the track while vibrating bass guitar and funeral march percussion carry the music, pallbearer-style. The third track is not much different from the other two except for the vibrato guitars which start to have a more buzzy hornet texture.

It can be very monotonous and sometimes overwhelming music even though it’s not especially heavy and there are light moments where the music reduces to quiet solo piano, a subdued guitar drone and a strange atmosphere of foreboding. There’s no easy resolution and some time after the album ends, the tension and ominous feeling hang in the air like vultures circling about, waiting for their victim to succumb to dehydration.

In a tiny disc, an entire world of desolation and harsh, unforgiving Nature are contained. You venture there at your peril. If the music were any longer than it is, you would be close to an agonising end. The wonder is that the fellow behind Monument of Urns / Bird of Omen can remain incognito; in spite of creating music with such a narrow range of riffing and melody and a small sound palette, he knows how to hold his audience spellbound by changing emphasis now and again, and by subtle variations in the instrumentation, suggests that there’s far more happening in the music than there is.

They Awoke to the Scent of Spring: repetitive nature-themed black metal with nothing to say

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Lustre, They Awoke to the Scent of Spring, Italy, De Tenebrarum Principio, DTP023 CD (2012)

A nature-themed atmospheric black metal album of beings that hibernate for most of the year to enjoy a brief period of life during spring, “They Awoke to the Scent of Spring” is grim majestic epic work. The music is split into four parts of which only the first two feature lyrics. Lustre’s style encompasses two extremes, one based on raw black metal guitar and the other based on pure-toned synth and both carrying all the advantages and limitations of their respective ranges. Ultimately they suffer from a fairly limited vision on the Lustre musician Nachtzeit’s part.

Part 1 begins well with aggressive raw BM guitar noise that burns steadfastly for much of the track until a repetitive synthesiser melody loop takes over and dominates the rest of the piece. Repetition and monotony reign for what seems an excruciating eternity. Part 2 starts out well enough but like Part 1, it’s slow-paced and endlessly repetitive. The vocals are reverb-heavy slurry that slide over the tremolo guitars.

The later two parts are very different, essentially being atmospheric non-BM acoustically styled material but still as slow and minimalist as the previous tracks. The fourth part is a ghostly piece composed entirely of a looping field recording of falling water and a wistful circular synth motif.

That Nachtzeit wants to emphasise the circular narrative of nature and life, and implicitly suggest that humans are also part of this order and if they try to subvert it, they will come to ruin (because as we know, Nature always bats last); but beyond stating the obvious, he does very little else with the music. Imagine reading one of those experimental novels where the backgrounds and furnishings are described in exquisite detail and the characters’s clothes receive equal fastidious attention, but what they do, say and think is unknown, and you have some idea of how this album pans out. We are left with a very well-crafted work of ambient black metal that really has nothing to add to the genre overall.

Anti-Cosmic Tyranny: leading the faithful in maximalist ritual Satanic worship

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A.M.S.G., Anti-Cosmic Tyranny, Profound Lore Records, CD PFL119 (2013)

As we zip towards the end of 2013, it’s high time we had some serious Ritual Satanick Worshippe here and who better to swing the thuribles of burning sulphur in anti-clockwise procession and lead the daemonic choirs in throaty guttural hallelujahs to the Dark Lord than Ad Majorem Satanae Gloriam, a duo from Edmonton, Canada. We’re allowed to call them A.M.S.G. for our convenience ‘cos we’ve yet to endure the necessary initiation rites into the hallowed inner circles of priestdom. “Anti-Cosmic Tyranny” is the band’s debut full-length and second formal release since forming in 2007 (an EP having been released in 2010).

One surprise here is that plenty of jazz and saxophone are featured in the music, adding a smoky and rich element to proceedings. Subterranean noise murmur that might have been mistaken for a Merzbow release makes a brief appearance as well. Generally the music is restless and skittery, never settling for very long in a particular rhythm or riff loop. The harsh, crabby, complaining vocalist has a lot of chanting, declamation and invocation to do in each song – the lyrics are incredibly dense – so perhaps it’s no surprise that his constant grumblings border on camp. Guitars are so raw they almost bleed. The drums probably could have a deeper and more thunderous sound and rhythm but as they are, they hold up the runaway strings and bass rhythms, all over the house sometimes, well enough. Interesting vocal effects, mysterious samples and some experimentation with sound and ambience adorn most songs to achieve an atmosphere of palpable evil and a clear darkness.

Most songs are invocations and appeals to various levels of the daemonic hierarchy. One’s got to be careful to address the right daemon in one’s prayers for each and every one of Satan’s little helpers is a jealous being who guards his or her allotted territory of evil incarnate. All tracks have their own intricate details that push them into above-average levels of Satanic musical worship but a couple of tracks, “Sacrificial Chants of Cosmic Separation” and “Gnosis Granted from the Bloodline of Fire”, stand out. The first of the two features extreme vocal gibberish and has an air of dark derangement which is amazingly clear as well. “Gnosis …” has some memorable doomy riffing and weird juxtapositions of fast, choppy passages with scrabbly vocals and slower sections of slashing guitar riffs and droning saxophone howl. Final track “Bone, Blood and Blackthorn” includes some bass-heavy Sunn0)))-styled riffs and vocal susurrations and yawns among the generally busy music.

Probably the one thing listeners will take away with them after hearing this album is the duo’s dead-set serious attitude towards ritual Satanism that informs the guys’ extreme maximalist approach. So wacky and deranged the album turns out to be that it’s sure to be on a lot of people’s lists of most outstanding black metal albums for 2013.

You know the boys are deadly serious about their path in life when they list as their band duties “hostage taking” and “suicide bombings”.

Three Rotary Roarers

Boy, are things frustrating me lately. Maybe I just need a half of minim…mind you there is nothing like starting off a crisp autumn morning with some twisted and alienated guitar noise, and that’s exactly what is on offer from Clifford Torus, a three-piece whose self-titled cassette (DRID MACHINE RECORDS DMR4) in a lurid orange dayglo cover was sent to us on 19 October 2012. I felt much better after immersing my bonce in these rich metallic shrieks for 30 mins. The guitarist Horacio Pollard has made his electric-shock presence felt to us on at least one CDR of his scalding and bittersome electric noise, but here he’s opting for a slightly more traditional avant-garde rock setup. For this activity he’s aided by two of the best like-minded players a man could hope for: the bassist Kjetil Brandsdal from Noxagt, and Anders Hana who drums for MoHa! That’s a dream team in anyone’s book. Just six tunes on this little power-pack, but it’s enough to recharge the flagging batteries of any jaded nightclubber as they stagger back from Vauxhall on any given Sunday morning. This trio’s particular take on the excessive amplified doom-noise thing meets many of our exacting standards: monotonous, flailing energy, mumbled half-screamed vocals when they appear, and a continual sense of teeth-grinding alienation underpinning every moment of luscious grind. Kjetil is an asset, rarely departing from a single root note for most of th’ tunes; he almost hammers his bass like a percussionist. Although only guitar, bass and drums appear in the instrument credit roster, there are occasional burstings of strange and unidentifiable screech which somehow leak into the sounding-box, at times resembling a mangled saxophone or a crushed synthesizer. Maybe Pollard is just very well-equipped with hideous FX pedals purchased from planet Jupiter. Only sometimes does the energy level droop a little, and I wished they coulda sustained that power for a few more minutes (especially on the crunch-worthy opening number) but when these three lads get into their “groove”, it’s obvious they are mesmerised by a higher power from the dreadful zones, and nothing short of a steamshovel will ever dislocate them. When this tape was sent, it seems the threesome were about to play a free gig at Bohemia in Hackney. True to form, this blog is a year late with the hot news!

Here’s another fine cassette, also realised by a trio, but this time the players weave a somewhat more abstracted and dynamic form of electronic noise. Destruction Des Animaux Nuisibles #1 (ALTERACTION ALT01) features our good friend Xedh (i.e. Miguel A. García), the Prince of Spanish experimental music who has proven himself a nonpareil when it comes to realising fatalistic nightmares and uncanny experiences in sound, often with a grim caste. Here he is joined by Enrique Zaccagnini, the two of them forming an eerie backdrop of sinister electronic purring and grisly loud noise, tempered by the unsettling vocalising of Marta Sainz. I suppose it is she providing the strange whimpering sounds on side one, a ghastly sobbing effect which arouses our empathy as much as it sends tremors of terror running up and down our spinal columns. We could be hearing the voice of an exiled ghost, doomed to replay the same traumatic moment in her life for all eternity. Enrique and Xedh produce an accomplished tapestry of complicated noise for this after-life symphony, where the startling eruptions into ear-splitting volume are reined in and controlled, forming part of a fascinating and constantly-changing slow-motion whirlwind of textured sound. The B side feels a tad more pedestrian somehow, not as “composed”, and emerging as a jumble of clatter and screech which is heaped up into a pile rather than arranged in a garden by architects using rakes and blueprints. Even so it doesn’t stint on serving up the manic energy that noise-freaks go for. Marta’s excessive vocals make it clear she’s aiming for a gold medal in next year’s Junko-soundalike contest, to be held in 2014 in Budokan. Lastly we have the grisly cover image of ten dead rats caught in traps and apparently pinned up for display in a shop window in France. Since the title of this release translates into “destruction of harmful animals”, evidently we’re supposed to use this cassette as a cheap alternative to mousetraps or cockroach poison 1.

We’ve also been sent four cassettes in a box from André Foisy in Chicago. As well as playing in Locrian, it is he I suppose who masterminds the Land Of Decay label and blog, specialising in doomy rock and noise that inculcates decrepitude and ruin. Cultus Sabbati – another trio – have about five albums released at time of writing, not to mention a few video works whose titles betray an interest in the written works of Poe and Lovecraft. This anonymous band conceal their work in a fog of mysticism and cast about references to ritual trance magick, witchcraft, and Norse mythology, revealing little of their musical methodology as they foregather in unknown locations to emit strange dark ambient drones. Thanks to Sunn O))), pretty soon every metal band in the world will end up sitting in a circle in a lonely forest wearing cowls. To some extent all of this does cover ground already well-worn by many other projects in this and related genres, but The Hagiography Of Baba Yaga (LOD 039) does evince some powerful moments of doom and horror in among the general murk and turgidity of its throbbing drones. Echo and reverb effects are used with scant regard for good taste, and evidently Cultus Sabbati believe in saturating every other musical utterance with as much artificial enhancement as they can generate from their small black boxes of evil, undercutting the swampy sludge with whispered chanting vocals and crazed guitar solos so acidic you could use them to unclog a kitchen sink. Track titles like ‘The Attestation Of Vasilissa’ or ‘Koschei The Deathless’ are like the titles to lost Lord Dunsany stories, and when raging at full stretch, the threesome can produce music that will either instil a deep supernatural fear in the listener, or suffocate us within the writhing coils of a deathly inescapable curse. Nice typography on the cover with its saturated golden-brown autumnal colours, images of forests and deadly mushrooms, overprinted with runes and magic circles. From 17 October 2012.

  1. Savage Pencil also used this trope in the 1990s for the noise band Ultrasonic Attack Wave Pestrepeller.