Tagged: Black Metal

No Stars, Only Full Dark: a self-assured release of black metal fusion

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Windbruch, No Stars, Only Full Dark, Canada, Hypnotic Dirge Records, CD HDR-037 (2014)

On first hearing this album, the second by Russian one-man band Windbruch, hailing from Nizhnevartovsk in the Khanty-Mansi region in western Siberia, I get an impression of  raw and sometimes angry music, ragged and sharp in tone with a full bass backing, shaped into actual songs edged with delicate ambient sounds and tones that add touches of ice coldness.

Lone Windbruch member Iluzii Optice brings skill and imagination to craft an album of self-contained and clearly defined songs that feature as much cold space-ambient synth, field recordings of nature and what might be termed “soundtrack music” as they do raw suicidal black metal. The path “No Stars …” takes might not sound different for the most part from what other one-man or two-men BM projects have done but it’s perhaps ideal at this early stage in his career for IO to get the balance between a more commercial style of BM rock pop and his more abstract experimental tendencies right, and to gain the support of a loyal fan-base, before he starts stretching the formula to his own ends.

The album begins strongly with “No More Entry, No More Exit” (taken together, the track titles suggest an arc of being enticed by the city, ending up being trapped there, reaching one’s nadir and experiencing a crisis) which is actually the second track, the first being an extended introduction. The music is robust and hard-hitting; as the album progresses, more ambience, especially at the start and end of each track, and melodic keyboard are brought in, and the album becomes more post-BM in style. Vocals, where they appear, are upfront in the music and are deep and gravelly, almost death-metal in style. The tension builds up through each track and flows into the next; ambient passages relieve some but not all of the tension so the suspense and momentum are still present.

Later tracks like “A City on Fire” and “Only Full Dark” are ponderous and include cold, forlorn space-ambient melodies and spoken-voice recordings. There is a definite urban-blues / post-rock feel which might seem surprising for a Russian BM band, especially one so far away from Europe and North America. The latter track throws away actual music and becomes entirely experimental in most of its second half; its reliance on near-inaudible drone rumble beneath a Russian-language radio monologue is daring. “Neswa-Pawuk” has a dreamy shoegazer atmosphere, a bit like a harder version of Alcest. From this moment on, the album has a sunnier and more positive outlook even if its central protagonist is still stuck in a grim urban environment.

The album is very self-assured and demonstrates confidence in its combination of BM / ambient / post-rock. Most songs are well-defined with some allowance for experimentation. There is something to please most people here.

Contact: Hypnotic Dirge Records

Lake of Solace: black metal and rock meet Chinese pop culture influences

Deep Mountains Lake of Solace

Deep Mountains, Lake of Solace, Pest Productions, Digipak CD PEST046 (2014)

Deep Mountains is a Chinese black metal band and “Lake of Solace” is the musicians’ first full-length release (after an EP released in 2010). The band’s existence and the presence of other Chinese black metal bands in a small scene are testament to the spread of the music across the world since its emergence in Norway 30 years ago: in spite of being ignored or avoided by the commercial music industry, black metal can truly stake a claim to being an international music phenomenon.

The music mixes elements of epic melodic post-BM and what might have been called blues and hard rock in decades past. It’s almost as if Deep Mountains are compressing the history of rock and metal, stretching right back to the 1960s almost, into one package for the benefit of their audience. Black metal is just one of several influences that add flavour to the overall mix: it adds toughness and a sharp steely edge to the music and the raspy BM vocal brings harshness and aggression. The songs tend to flow into one another with barely audible breaks. An early track, “Wind and Stellar”, combines typical BM tremolo noise guitar and spidery BM voice with passages of lilting melancholy acoustic guitar music, desert-desolate lead guitar solo yodel and clean-voiced singing with some Chinese melody structures.

The guys do not forget that they are playing to an audience eager for foreign Western cultural fads: “Detachment” includes English-language spoken-word recordings about rebelling against being dumbed down and maintaining personal integrity and honour, and the music features pop-friendly riffing and melodies and some very pretty moments of introspective ambient post-BM guitar tremolo tremble. To Western ears, having to concentrate on the music rather than the lyrics (I can’t read Chinese), the song can seem very ordinary, almost as if a couple of musicians were sleep-walking through their parts.

The second half of the album, consisting of four songs, seems to be a unit in itself. “Lake of Solace (Part 1)” is a meandering, mostly acoustic-guitar instrumental with birdsong and other nature-themed field recordings: very pretty and pleasant to hear but at over 7 minutes in length, it’s too long and needs pruning here and there as there’s not a lot done in 7 minutes that couldn’t be squinched into 3 or 4 minutes. The second part is more bearable as it includes BM vocals and guitar-work but again there are long sections where the music seems to lose focus and dog-paddles aimlessly, and near the end the song descends into sappy syrupy music territory. “The Ballad of Nai River” seems to be an adaptation of a traditional Chinese song as the female vocal follows a Chinese melody and the only contemporary aspect is the acoustic guitar backing and the field recording of water drops.

For me the album doesn’t have much BM teeth and the band’s style is now better described as a rock and blues mix with some BM influence. The latter part of the recording emphasises more melodic and clear-toned music. While the album isn’t bad, it could certainly be improved with some editing for length on most songs. In the later sections of the recording, a bland quality is creeping in. I earnestly hope this isn’t a sign of DM bowing to pressure to satisfy the faddish demands of their home audiences.

Contact: Pest Productions

Heen Yadhar Al Ghasq: a surreal journey through black metal / Middle Eastern music fusion

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Al Namrood, Heen Yadhar Al Ghasq, Shaytan Productions, Qayamat-009 (CD) / Qayamat-010 (vinyl) (2014)

You’d think living in the heartland of fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam would deter most people from forming anything other than short-lived solo online bedroom black metal projects. Yet here’s a Saudi band that has already released several recordings including four albums. Al Namrood is the band’s name and the album under review, the trio’s fourth, came out early in 2014, demonstrating that this project is alive and certainly kicking!. And kicking – the percussion, that is – is what they do best!

The band’s style is a mix of crunchy melodic black metal, maybe some death metal / thrash influences and native Arab / Oriental musical styles and instrumentation. Generally the beats and rhythms are provided by Western instruments including a drum machine and those instruments that take the place of lead guitar tend to be native Arabian ones. Even the main melodies are of native Arab derivation and the band also employs chords and melodic or riff motifs with quarter-tones that lend a demented air to the general proceedings. Opening track “Estalahat al Harb” is a fine instrumental demonstration of this East-West fusion and its air of surreal, slightly chaotic confusion prepares listeners for what’s to come.

The sound isn’t as crisp as it could be to show off the richness of the sonic layers inherent in the music – I’d love to hear some of the jewelled tones of the oud and more of that resonant hand-drumming – but given the difficult conditions Al Namrood is performing under, the fact that this music even exists is a wonder so some technical imperfections in the recording are to be expected. What the musicians might lack in technical finesse, they more than compensate with energy, enthusiasm (maybe a little too much so: in some songs, the percussion is in danger of being punched right through), the most deliriously demented cartoon melodies and a choir of bloodcurdling guttural voices fighting for space in front of the mikes. The sense of humour these guys have is infectious and boisterous.

Some of the more memorable tracks include the brain-destroying, mind-melting “Youm Yakram al Jaban” and the flowing if more chaotic “Bat Al Thaar Nar Muheja”. “Um Al Qashaam” features the most thunderous beats and blast-beats along with almost laughably cartoony deranged quarter-tone melodies. Each succeeding song is crazier than the one before and I just wonder where and how the guys find the inspiration to think up the most bat-shit insane tunes and rhythms as each song wipes my brain clean of everything it thought it knew. I’m sure the musicians themselves can see the humour present in mashing together the most brutal metal rhythms and beats and Oriental tunes. For their part, Western listeners can experience something of the surrealism that folks in the Middle East have to live with, in societies at once ultra-modern and wealthy, yet still wrestling with an oppressive medieval political culture and the instability in nearby countries like Iraq and Syria.

As it progresses, the madness and the histrionics escalate further and the music threatens to drown under the sheer thunder and the almost-buffoonish melodies, rhythms and beats. Perhaps that chaos is part of what Al Namrood guys intend to say: that they live in an absurd world of unlikely pairings and polarities, and the only way to make sense of it all is to reflect some of that madness back at it.

The journey through the album is very exhausting and I’m not sure that I’d want to repeat it over and over. Maybe I’ll visit once or twice a year. I’d certainly recommend though that everyone who thinks they’re broad-minded about music, and music from the Middle East in particular, should listen to this album at least once.

Contact: Shaytan Productions

ION (self-titled): awe-inspiring and soaring post-black metal psychedelic transcendence

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ION, self-titled, independent release on CD (2014)

At the time of writing this review, I knew very little about ION apart from the fact that this trio is based in San Francisco and that this self-titled album is the band’s debut recording. The musicians’ days of being obscure may soon end if this album becomes better known. With each passing day, that happy state becomes all the more likely as “ION” is a soaring example of post-black metal psychedelic transcendence.

That the music is intended to be a totally immersive experience is apparent from the way the five tracks are linked together to form one over-arching work that encompasses many contradictions, dualities and polarities in musical structure, atmosphere and sound. Bursts of blast-beat aggression chaos give way to wide expanses of space interrupted only by squiggles of tone and echo background wash. Starkly sorrowful melodic riffs ebb and flow like waves upon a beach before dissolving into seas of buzzing guitar noise and frantic percussion. In short, the ION musicians range far and wide exploring their musical territory – and what a vast and varied territory that is, taking in wide plains of ambience, hills of frenzied tremolo guitar chord squiggle, chunky melody and rhythm mountain ranges and blast-beat torrents.

As the music progresses, the contrasts become ever greater: the loudest, angriest hyper-blasting black metal can calm and reduce right down to the softest acoustic-guitar twang, at times inaudible save only for reverb effects. Tones and effects may be suspended in a murky space, their connection to one another uncertain and occurring randomly, until with effort a melody may form as if from spontaneous generation from sound fragments. On occasions the music can be very pretty and shapely but this is not shoegazer post-BM: its ambitions are much grander and the path it must take tends towards high and low extremes in emotion and atmosphere.

Interstellar space ambience (“Embers”) proves to be no barrier to ION’s musical quest and aspirations; listeners may be confronted with the immense nature of the sonic universe looming in their heads and their own place within it. The music is at its most psychedelic, abstract, improvised and disorienting in later parts of the album where we are thrust into deep inner (or outer) space. As the space trip nears its destination, the guys exert themselves heroically to deliver an exhilarating and dramatic summation of all that’s gone before. The one thing that’s a little bit lacking here is a very thunderous percussion back-up as the drums at this point are a bit thin and tinny, and the guys have to rely on chunky guitar barrage and UFO lift-off and landing effects to make their way through the climax.

Fittingly for such an awe-inspiring musical landscape, there are no fewer than two lots of vocals, one typically BM-raspy and the other a deeper guttural death metal vocal. At this point in the band’s history, I am not sure what the lyrics of three tracks are intended to refer to and listeners are at liberty to interpret them as they wish: they hint at some dissolution of an individual’s material state to reveal that which is most essential about that person and whether s/he ascends to a higher plane of existence or something much lower, darker and baser.

The band that most often comes to mind for me when I hear this music is the UK-based Fen, especially in ION’s sound when the guys are at their most melodic and melancholy. Other bands that might be referenced as points of comparison include Altar of Plagues (their White Tomb phase), Wolves in the Throne Room for passion and drama, and other North American BM bands like Ash Borer, Fell Voices, Panopticon and Skagos who deliver strong BM with ambient elements and mystical, shamanistic themes or social messages. A non-BM band that springs to mind is Samsara Blues Experiment which engages in similar psychedelic space metal head trips but ION far out-strips that band for risk-taking. Fans of all these bands should listen to ION’s debut if they can get copies. At this time of writing, the album was self-released but Aquarius Records in San Francisco may still have some copies.

Contact: Aquarius Records, ION

Darkspace I: setting the controls aiming for the heart of the universe – and finding sheer dark space

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Darkspace, Darkspace I, Haunter of the Dark, CD001 (2003)

Finally I’ve been able to hear the first album in Darkspace’s trilogy of cold immersive space-ambient BM albums, mainly for the sake of completion. In comparison with the other Darkspace albums, this first set sticks closely to militaristic black metal, delivered a little too efficiently in the manner of machines inhabited and driven by an insane and malevolent spirit. That’s meant to be a compliment to the Darkspace trio of musicians themselves. All three recordings are inspired and powered by a vision of space and the cosmos as essentially indifferent, and maybe even hostile, to the existence of humanity; the message is that we are on our own and if we are to continue to exist, we must do so without help from external powers. A supreme God will not save us because such an entity does not and has never existed.

The beast is born in utter black cavernous emptiness amid shifting, groaning echoes, sighing whispers and cries of lost spirits. Suddenly the music jets off into the high atmosphere, all bristling noise and crunching jagged guitar battery riffs, eerie background synthesiser tones and a cacophony of gabbling demon voices caught up within the tight maelstrom. In the second track there is a sample of dialogue from the Stanley Kubrick film “2001: A Space Odyssey” in which the computer HAL is interviewed by the BBC and states that it looks forward to working with humans. As the track progresses, the music speeds up to a frenzied and extreme level, the screaming grows more demented, drums and cymbals are pounding away, and the synths sigh on as if in a frozen catatonic state.

The musicians concentrate in the main on building up an overwhelming, enveloping structure that sweeps up listeners and carries them aloft on an interstellar journey between their ears. You can’t help but be absorbed by it all. The evil and deranged atmosphere completely swamps you. Within the music, hideous beings converse and plot the course of the spaceship careening through the cosmos at multiple times the speed of light. One mistake, the ship lurches in another direction and the monsters scream and howl their lungs inside out and back gain. Lead guitar hollers away in a wormhole and drums bang on in a non-stop frenzy.

Admittedly the music is not varied and tends towards the obsessive and extreme in its single-minded focus. That’s the whole point of the recording: its very derangement and seeming lack of anything resembling human nature or anything organic mean that there is no concept of limitation where the music is concerned. Whatever direction is set for it, it continues relentlessly down that track. Everything takes place in a nihilistic universe; concepts of good and evil are neither here nor there. You’re not asked to love the music but you have to admire it anyway for its pure nature, steeped in what we would consider evil and malevolent.

It’s only in Track 1.6 that we get the first hints that the music might be slowing down just a little and a certain despair, a moment of bleak desolation, appears beneath the layers of compulsively grinding guitar texture. But these hints lead nowhere as the maelstrom moves with a force even it can’t control. On and on it goes, and even when the album appears to wind down and the music fades away, there’s still a sense of a never-ending journey into infinity and beyond.

Nevertheless whether this journey ever has an end or not, it is a journey worth taking for those brave enough to question the nature of the universe in which we live and who want to know more beyond what they’ve been taught to believe and found wanting.

Contact: Haunter of the Dark

Blaksmoke / Part 1: tiny packet of black metal energy

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Blaksmoke, Part 1, Soulthief (2013)

Sometimes I wish most BM bands would deliver albums as tiny and packed full of zest as this one. At just over seven minutes, Blaksmoke‘s debut full-length deserves to be at least twice or even three times as long. Some folks might even wish for longer – there’s so much energy on this teeny-weeny record, it could sustain a much longer effort – but we could be pushing our luck. This is a raw recording of rock-out black metal, very punk in its production and in the furious energy it zings out in all directions. The percussion is wild and all over the shop and chainsaw guitars grind away in search of a victim to zoom over and cut up.

Each track seems a lot angrier and more abrasive than the previous track until everyone, musicians and listeners alike, can take no more. This isn’t to demean the first track, simply called “I”, which is a cacophonic racket of bashing drums and lawnmower guitar on speed. Deep vocals roar around the joint as if trying to gain a foothold on the racing music and finding none. Occasionally a rhythm develops but this is only temporary. The second track is a growling song of spiky string scrabble and evil demon groans. Like the first song, Track 2 ends quite abruptly – recording and production finesse obviously isn’t a big priority with Blaksmoke. Given that one of the Blaksmoke guys, Wikkid, recorded the music, produced the album, distributes it and has two solo projects (Alcutraz and Wikkid) to tend to as well, perhaps we should thank our lucky stars that he has time to issue product of a good consistent standard like this recording. The third track is more relaxed (well, at first anyway) and more death metal in its ambience and style though without the pummelling blast-beat rhythms of that genre. Past the halfway point, something spooks the two musicians and they go off on a bonkers chaotic tangent, drumsticks whacking furiously, strings shredding manically and vocals swept up in the storm. Wonderful!

This is a tiny pocket of roaring primitive BM and I wish - I dearly wish! – that there’s a lot more of it where it came from.

Contact: Wikkid, wikkidblackmetal@gmail.com

Silence: plenty to say but a better and more powerful form of expression is needed

Official pack shot from http://depressiveillusions.com
Official pack shot from http://depressiveillusions.com

Echo of Emptiness, Silence, Depressive Illusion Records, CDR cut 1061 (2013)

For an album titled “Silence”, this recording turns out to have plenty to say over some 49 minutes. This is atmospheric and creepy black metal from Russian duo Echo of Emptiness. It can be an ideal record to play late at night if you’re in the mood: it has a very dark and intimate feel and you can easily think yourself the only human existing on this tiny planet as you listen to this music of melancholy and loneliness. The band’s sound is distinctive: the guitars seem to have a very compressed shrill and steel tone almost reminiscent of very reedy woodwind instruments even when playing tremolo. The texture of the music is furry and crispy at the same time. The vocals are a mix of grim BM style and clean-toned and the members sing in English.

The album consists of seven tracks but the ones that will be of most interest are tracks 2 to 6 as these are a mix of black metal and ambient. The other tracks are purely ambient tone pieces: wintry, cold and minimal, with no more than a bass melody or ominous sub-bass drone being audible, they perhaps take up more space on the album than listeners might like but I suppose their length is in keeping with the album’s themes of hopelessness, depression and shuffling off the mortal coil.

While they have a good sound, the black metal tracks tend towards slow and plodding in pace. There’s not much energy in the songs and for a good part of the album they drift in the grey zone between comatose and barely sitting up. A big part of the problem is the limp drumming, thin and soft in sound and not featuring much variety in playing, let alone power and speed. The vocals carry all the emotion and anguish and veer dangerously close to melodramatic hysteria. Songs like “Melancholy” resemble mini-operas in the way the voices alternate between BM and clear, as though a conversation in a dark cave is in progress. The band’s potential is revealed on “Exhausted by Life” when at long last the music speeds up but even here this has the unfortunate effect of revealing how much EoE misses out on not having a strong, focused and driving rhythm section.

I realise the album aims to recreate the feeling of suicidal depression, the lack of energy and motivation that accompanies it, and the fragmentation of identity but EoE have a lot of work to do to convince us listeners that their work is worthy of our time. The guys have atmosphere down pat and a good sound, and they show ability in experimenting with sound and mood. They need to work on developing a more powerful sound with forceful percussion that pushes the rest of the music and inspires them to create and play urgent music with a large range of emotional expression.

I don’t get much sense of the angst and pain of living with depression, and the torment it causes to sufferers. That is something the album should have tried to capture.

Contact: Depressive Illusions Records

La Mort du Soleil: a highly emotional and intense depressive rock album

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Sombres Forêts, La Mort du Soleil, Sepulchral Productions, SP035 (2013)

I reviewed the debut album “Quintessence” by Sombres Forêts for TSP several years ago and since then this Canadian act has had quite sparse output with follow-up albums released in 2008 and 2013. “La Mort du Soleil” seems an introspective, contemplative effort with a strong emphasis on atmosphere and intense emotion. Melody and riffs dictate the nature of the songs with less busyness and more space within. SF main-man Annatar allows the mood and subject matter of each song together to dictate its direction.

The music has a soft edge and a deep cavernous echo effect gives it a three-dimensional sculptural feel. Annatar’s singing is fairly dominant in the mix although his voice can be thin and a bit ragged. There may be post-BM influences in some of the music – certainly the BM tremolo guitars seem less constantly noisy though they are always present. Montreal’s famous children Godspeed You Black Emperor may be one source of inspiration. Sometimes the pace is relaxed, allowing for plenty of emotional drama to burst out. Lead guitar solo break-outs appear but don’t usually dominate the songs where they are present.

By themselves the songs are quite good but bunched together on the album they tend to sound very similar and could just about run straight from one into another; you would not notice much difference between one and the next. Riffs and melodrama are packed into each song densely and considerable anguish and agony are expressed as well. Over 52 minutes, so much unhappiness and personal torment delivered can either be exhausting or a complete turn-off depending on listeners’ mood. Very few songs let rip with explosions of BM anger and rage at an unforgiving and indifferent world that looks askance at individuals’ pain as they struggle through life. There is more melancholy and passive acceptance of dire fate it seems than there is of fury against so much unfairness. One stand-out is “L’Ether” which includes a thumping drum introduction, clear guitar melodies as well as tremolo BM-string texture streams and passages of acoustic guitar wistfulness. Other instruments prominent on the album include piano (especially on one of the middle tracks, “Au Flambeau”) and possibly violin and mandolin in some parts.

All tracks are long – quite a few go past the 9-minute mark – and arguably they could have been edited for length as within them there’s not that much escalation of emotion or other conflict that would result in a dramatic and memorable climax. The songs bang on the turmoil straight away and the emotion stays much the same from then on. Entire tracks are pretty much ongoing purges of sorrow and intense feeling.

For Sombres Forêts, this album builds upon previous work and extends the act’s range much farther into melodic post-BM territory. However many BM acts have progressed from depressive BM to depressive melodic post-BM rock in similar ways so this move for Sombres Forêts doesn’t come as a surprise. I think though if Annatar wants to stand out from the pack with Sombres Forêts and not give the appearance of following the herd, he must now consider sticking his neck out into musical territories far from BM.

Contact: Sepulchral Productions

The Last Winter: well, this could have been the winter to end all winters

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Wintercult, The Last Winter, Ukraine, Urgrund Division, CD (2013)

Let’s hope that in naming their second album “The Last Winter”, this Siberian duo were only thinking of the winter that’s been and gone (2013 – 2014) and not the winter to end all winters. Some titles on the album don’t seem too hopeful about that. The music has a definite air of finality: a scourging blizzard guitar drone, backed by doomy percussion and accompanied by distant howling phantom voices, forms the backbone of Wintercult’s style.

The title track sets the scene for what’s to follow: squalling noisy tremolo guitar, moderately powerful drumming that in speed varies between slow and medium-fast and which drives the music onwards, and those eerie muffled vocals fighting to be heard through the guitar texture layers. The music tends to emphasise melody, a relaxed pace and a fairly solemn mood. There’s the odd episode or two of relative calm where a clear-toned guitar melody may play over and over again. “Taedium Vitae” introduces a rhythm with death metal blast-beat influences but otherwise isn’t much different from the preceding song and could almost be a continuation of it.

“Eternal Solitude” has some distinctive riffing and a wavering rhythm in parts so it stands out above the rest of the music but not by much. The singing becomes more anguished and despairing than it does on most other tracks. Most songs on the album tend towards repetition and don’t generate much tension or passion. The insubstantial and generally monotonous vocals may have something to do with the lacklustre mood of most tracks. The effect is that no matter how much the instrumental parts in the songs vary in their details, the voices seem to be repeating themselves across each and every track as though one song is being played in different versions. There is not much atmosphere on the album either and the mood seems so blank as to be unnoticeable.

As the album plods on steadily, it seems to lose some traction after the halfway point and listeners’ attention can start wavering. “Anabiosis” is a very long piece for what it does, given that it springs nothing that’s not previously been heard.

Eventually when all is said and done, and the wraith voices fall silent, the air around you feels no different than before you started playing the album. The music may have been good in parts and there were some good melodies in quieter sections. But you never felt completely immersed in whatever world Wintercult was striving to reach: the music was too monotonous, the vocals too limited in range and atmosphere was lacking as well. The entire album really does sound like one song repeated over and over in different variations. I’m beginning to wish this album really had been the winter to end all winters.

In recent months, I’ve come across a real treasure trove of Russian black metal bands – most of them either one-person bedroom depressive BM projects or post-BM acts with eclectic influences from around the globe - on Youtube; many of these bands are from right across the country including places like Cheboksary (Ural region), Ekaterinburg (western Siberia) and even Nizhnevartovsk (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug). I don’t know much about Russia to be able to say what the abundance of such bands means – it could mean folks in some parts of the country really do feel bad about their circumstances or just that some young people have too much time on their hands during school and college breaks – and while the general standard ranges from abysmal to average and occasionally to astonishingly good, the popularity of the BM genre itself across the world’s largest country speaks well for its claim to be a global cultural presence.

Contact: Urgrund Division, urgrund.division@gmail.com

Wikkid’s The Intro: a movie-trailer to black metal psychedemonchaotica

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Wikkid, The Intro, Soulthief Musick (2013)

This micro-album of five songs could be heard as one song of five parts that themselves might have been extracted from much longer tracks. Think of it as one continuous piece that could be equivalent to a movie trailer featuring the best scenes from an otherwise ordinary or mediocre flick. Even the album title suggests as much (err … not the “mediocre” aspect though). Of the five songs, only three can be said to be Wikkid songs, the other two coming from another project Blaksmoke which Wikkid main-man Wikkidiablo oversees with another musician.

Set to heavy pounding machine-gun rhythms, “Smokelessfire” is a strong opener with stuttery spider guitar noise-drone and wolf-like guttural vocals thrashing about in the background. This is followed by a slower and more tortured piece of howl and screech and bursts of squally guitar cloud in a song that may owe something to the infamous Swedish sadomasochistic duo Abruptum. “Torment” is another jerky stuttering attack-dog critter with echoing multi-voiced demonic gabbles and squealing high-pitched guitars. All three songs are fairly free-form (though the rhythms provide backbone for the guitar and vocal screams to hang from) and have a strong experimental feel. It’s a real pity that they’re extremely short and a couple of pieces could actually afford an extra couple of minutes each as they are to sound completely self-contained.

The second half of the demo is given over to tracks from Blaksmoke’s first album (which is shorter even than the recording under review) and these are more conventionally song-like, relative to the Wikkid tracks, in their structure. The drumming is dominant in both tracks and sets the pace for the guitars to follow. The vocals are not so prominent but exist as background menaces held on tight leashes.

Wikkid’s half of this recording is a varied and chaotic collection of very different though equally malevolent and barmy songs. The Blaksmoke tracks have a rock-out orientation with percussion going mushroom-cloud explosive and radioactive, powered by plenty of bashing of skins and cymbals. The production on all five tracks isn’t great but it does impart a raw quality. The atmosphere seems intimate as though we’re privy to a secret ritual, and dark at the same time.

Overall the recording promises heaps more of that enthusiastic and unpolished creative racket from where these songs came, though some listeners might feel a bit miffed that a couple of tracks from another project were snuck in to fill up the recording. Why not wait until there are more songs to bulk up a Wikkid and Wikkid-only album?

Contact: Wikkid, wikkidblackmetal@gmail.com